Slime 300 – 03 – The Elf and the Fly

Just as Shalsha and Falfa are reading about the Elves of Hrant, one arrives at the door in a state of anxiety, demanding to be let in.

Her name is Halkara, and she’s a very successful apothecary and energy drink entrepreneur who happened to make a demon named Beelzebub mad when that drink caused an adverse effect. She also has a killer bod!

While her extra witch outfit is far too tight for Halkara’s three sizes, Azusa agrees to keep the elf under her protection, casting a barrier over the house and inviting the elf to join her foraging for medicinal herbs.

Azusa ends up learning a lot about the mushrooms of the forest, as well as the existence of a condiment very much like soy sauce. Halkara also accidentally eats an aphrodisiac mushroom (due to poor sorting methods) and starts involuntarily making advances on Azusa, who isn’t interested in a drug-addled tryst!

Halkara eventually recovers, and the matter is not spoken of. Then they find that there’s a huge reward poster at the guild for anyone who can locate Halkara. Azusa preps for a potential confrontation by having Laika take her daughters to safety, but Beelzebub was there all along in the form of a bee.

Beelzebub attempts to seize Halkara, abut Azusa won’t hear of it, and the two agree to take it outside and settle it with a fair fight. Beelzebub immediately makes use of her ability to fly, but ends up hitting the inside of the barrier and gets zapped. Azusa takes her in and heals her with magic.

After recovering, Beelzebub reveals that it wasn’t Halkara’s energy drink that made her sick, but overwork. She and the other demons actually love her product and only came to meet her in person and procure more. With the misunderstanding cleared up, Laika and the kids return.

Beelzebub still wants to have that fair fight sometime, while Halkara wants to move her production to Azusa’s province for tax purposes, so Azusa’s family swells by two. Her peaceful life is as lively and fun as ever, but the episode ends on a cliffhanger as Laika declares she’ll be returning to her own home.

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation – 08 – Growing Up Fast

Two years have passed since Eris’ tenth birthday, which means Rudeus’s tenth birthday has arrived. He can sense scurryings and murmurings around the Boreas mansion, but he doesn’t expect much in the way of a celebration. For one, he’s a member of the Notos branch of the Greyrats, one of four main families.

For him to be under Boreas protection invites “unwelcome misunderstandings”, so they’ve kept it quiet. But when the day arrives, after discovering Ghislaine’s rock-hard glutes (she takes her diversionary role very seriously) while inspecting her tail, Rudy is shown to the main banquet hall where the entire Boreas household is gathered to celebrate his birthday.

Eris presents him with a bouquet, and Rudy reacts with tears he had practiced, leading an overly-moved Lord Sauros to start an inter-Greyrat war for his sake. Even Eris’ mom Hilda is moved, first offering to adopt Rudy, then insisting he marry Eris! The big secret Eris and Ghislaine were concealing from Rudy is Aqua Heartia, a superb magical staff made in Asura that must’ve cost a fortune.

As the party winds down and a tuckered-out Eris is carried to bed, Phillip explains why Hilda has been so cold to him these past years: his brother in the capital took Eris’ older and younger brothers, as all male Boreas are raised in the main household.

He makes a seemingly serious proposal for Rudy to marry Eris and take over the Boreas household, offering to handle the coup. Rudy, wanting no part of power struggles, leaves their discussion as idle chitchat over wine and retires for the night.

To Rudy’s surprise, Eris is waiting in his bed wearing a nightie and with silkier-than-usual hair, worried he’d be lonely the night of his birthday and offering to share the bed with him. So begins the most uncomfortable scene in the whole series, which begins with Rudy imagining doing something to Eris. The Eris in his head yells “no” and he ends his fantasy immediately.

Then Rudy warns the Eris outside his head that if she stays with him he might “try something dirty (ecchi)“, to which she replies that “just a little” is fine with her. Alas, Rudy goes way too far, attempting to do far more than “just a little” and immediately receiving a beatdown for it. Lying on the floor, Rudy is filled with regret for forgetting himself in the moment. Eris ends up coming right back, and he prostrates himself in apology.

She forgives him because it’s a “special day,” but warns him it’s far too soon for such things, urging him to “control himself” for five more years when he’ll be a proper adult —at least in this renaissance-analogous  timeline. Taking her words as a promise that they’ll be properly together one day, Rudy swears off “indulgences”, only to remember that Sylphie is no doubt waiting for him…

Back at his home, Sylphie visits the Greyrats, and we see that Norn and Aisha have grown into adorable toddlers. Sylphie has an item she wants send to Rudy, and Lilia promises to send it, along with a box which most likely contains the “holy relic”—payback for saving her from having to leave the home.

Paul, meanwhile, has been inordinately busy hunting an increased number of monsters in the forest, which kept him from attending Rudy’s party in Roa. The double-ringed red orb in the sky has grown, and seems to be responsible for an unusual accumulation of mana which even Roxy can see in the sky from her royal post.

She’s not the only one who notices this. There’s a very badass-looking guy on a mountain who is able to tame dragons; the much goofier-looking, Zvezda-esque “Great Emperor of the Demon World” with the Japanese name Kishirika Kishirisu; and of course, Lord Perugius in his ornate flying castle. Sensing someone could be trying to undo the seal on the Demon-God Laplace, he dispatches his lieutenant Almanfi to investigate.

The looks in on these colorful previously unseen characters greatly expand the world of Mushoku Tensei in a matter of minutes, but they are only teases; it will be up to the show to flesh out these new players and whatever factions or masters they serve. No doubt this convergence of mana will bring them all crashing together…and who else would be in the direct center of it than Rudeus Greyrat?

He’s come to a large open field with Eris and Ghislaine to test out his new staff and show them Cumulonimbus for the first time. But before he can complete the spell, the sky becomes sickly and miasmic in color and pocked with vortices and eddies. Almanfi teleports, and Ghislaine crosses swords with him. He believes Rudy to be the source of the “disturbance”, but Ghislaine rightly tells him he’s mistaken.

Because she is a true Sword King, Almanfi stays his sword. But who or whatever is causing the disturbance takes things to the next level, as a column of blinding blue light starts to expand across the landscape, swallowing up Ghislaine as she orders Rudy to take Eris and go. Eris loses her footing and Rudy shields her with his body just as the light washes over them, leaving us to ponder what the heck is in store for them next.

While I’m sure the series always intended to end this episode on a cliffhanger, the fact that the bedroom scene lingered on so long and past its welcome had the effect of compressing those glimpses of the bigger picture. Not that Rudy and Eris one day tying the knot isn’t critical importance…but they can’t marry if Laplace wakes up and destroys the world!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Read Crow’s review of episode 8 here!

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation – 03 – Childhood Friend

Thanks to Roxy, Rudy is no longer a shut-in, which means he can now freely explore the boundless natural beauty beyond the Greyrat residence. Paul tells his son that a man’s strength isn’t for pushing people around, but protecting and befriending the weak—and if some girls are impressed in the process, it’s all gravy.

It’s the first of several moments Paul talks to his son as if he were much older, even though he tells him he worries about the ways he doesn’t act like the kid he is. This only makes sense: Rudy is Paul’s first kid, while Rudy’s emotional and social development was profoundly stunted by bullying and harassment. They both have plenty to teach each other.

As for making friends, the first three kids his age Rudy meets are bullying a weaker boy, and uses his water magic to disinterest them off. He learns they were picking on the boy for having green hair and thus resembling the hated Superd. In reality, he’s the son of a human and half-elf; the green hair is just a harmless genetic trait.

At first glance it’s clear to Rudy that Sylph (delicately voiced by Kayano Ai) is a drop-dead gorgeous bishounen. Having acted on his father’s advice to be a friend to the weak, his decision is also routed in his baser desire to meet hot babes, who will surely flock to this prettyboy. Sylph is delighted to have a friend, as Rudy is his first as well. They agree to meet up soon so he can teach him how to use the magic that got rid of the bullies.

But Rudy comes home late to find an angry Paul at the front door. He heard from the mother of one of the bullies that Rudy punched him. Rudy tries to explain the way an adult would to another, but Paul doesn’t want to hear excuses. When Rudy is insolent, he’s slapped, but instead of crying, Rudy becomes even more adult and logical.

He tells Paul how he’s worked hard to earn his father’s trust, and had hoped that would have in turn earned him the chance to explain his actions. He then assures Paul that next time he sees three boys picking on another, he’ll either ignore it or join in, as befits the “Greyrat Family Way.” Paul, knowing he’s been rhetorically beaten, apologizes and asks Rudy to tell him what happened.

Like I said, Paul is as new to being a dad as Rudy is to being a kid in this world. Both are going to make mistakes. What’s so wonderful about the exchange here is that virtually equal time is given to their respective analyses and growth as a father and a son. Paul thought he needed to be hard on a son who is already a saint-level mage, even though part of him was glad he finally did something childish.

Paul knows he wasn’t practicing what he preached and furthermore, Rudy was fully capable of exposing that hypocrisy. That said, their “fight” expand beyond the night, as Paul is contrite and reflects not only upon how he’ll parent going forward, but whether his own father felt the things he’s feeling. That he does this while nestling his head in Zenith’s shoulders also underscores that he’s not walking this path of parenthood alone.

Six months pass, and it’s summertime. Rudy and Sylph are still targeted by the bullies, but Rudy fights back every time. He gets the distinct impression that one of the bullies’ moms is using her son as an excuse to see Paul, whom she fancies. Rudy has also been training Sylph in magic, and he turns out to be an excellent student.

When Sylph asks Rudy to teach him how to cast a spell without incantation, Rudy wonders if, like the public myth about set mana levels, it’s easier to do than people let on. As someone in a new world, Rudy wants to be special in at least one or two things, but either it is indeed relatively easy to do incantation-less casting, or Sylph is pretty special himself.

The moment he pulls it off, Sylph practically blooms with joy, dancing and spinning with the water he conjured, then running as fast as his fair legs can carry him through golden fields. Rudy can only keep up and share in the pure, unadulterated joy. As they lie together in the reeds, catching their breath, Rudy reiterates how goddamn pretty Sylph is.

Then a pop-up storm starts to drench them, and they make haste for shelter at Rudy’s house. Rudy leads Sylph to the bath that Lilia already prepared, strips down to his birthday suit, and sets to work stripping an extremely reluctant Sylph down as well, urging him not to be bashful—they’re both boys!

Only…they’re not. As was fairly evident from the start, Sylph is a girl, and was never able to get out her full name: Sylphiette. For once, Rudy isn’t turned on by a naked girl. In fact, he feels awful, as well as stupid for not realizing sooner. As he bathes with his dad, Paul makes sure that even as his son starts getting more interested in girls that kind of thing, he needs to listen and heed them when they say “no”.

Again, Paul is glad his son is acting like the kid he appears to be—and emotionally, still is—in this situation. He knows his son will “make good use” of his failure, only to watch Rudy “apologize” by saying he honestly thought she was a boy the whole six months they’ve hung out, causing her to cry even more. At that, Paul wonders if his son is dumber than he thought!

A day or a few pass, Rudy can’t concentrate on sparring with Paul, and Paul knows exactly why. What he doesn’t know is that the 30-year-old in Rudy is similarly depressed about having seemingly pushed away the lovely childhood friend was hoping to meet someday. Rudy showed his whole ass (literally!), Paul is certain they’ll make up. He assures Rudy that women love men’s strengths and weaknesses, and showing your vulnerable side can help mend fences.

His dad later admits he’s getting into some pretty advanced romantic advice for his still-very-young son, but it’s all good advice, from someone who is clearly a good man who, while hella strong, understands his own weaknesses and flaws, be it as a father, a husband, or a man.

Sylphiette shows up right after Rudy and Paul talk, and Rudy approaches her weary and contrite. He tries a dating sim line about “missing her beauty”, all while on the verge of tears, fearing permanent rejection. Instead, Sylphiette tenderly takes his hands in hers, tells him she “doesn’t hate him or anything”, and asks him to just “act normal,” giving him a pat on the head for good measure.

That she’s forgiven him so easily baffles Rudy, but he’s also obviously relieved beyond belief. He admits to not knowing how to get along with her, even though that’s what he’s been doing the last six months. His adult brain looks outward into the future when he’s a man in need of a good woman, but for now, the gender of the first friend his age shouldn’t matter. They’re still young, and have all the time in the world.

Rudy and Sylphiette will learn together how to continue get along with each other. There will be times they’ll make each other angry, get into fights, and maybe not talk or want to look in each other’ faces. But they’ll also run through golden fields together, laughing, playing, doing magic, and simply reveling in each other’s proximity. They’ll falter and forgive together—that’s what friendship is all about.

P.S. Read Crow’s write-up here!

Horimiya – 02 – Your (First) Name.

The first Horimiya was so nice I watched it twice, and if anything it was even better because I didn’t have to take mental notes for a review, I just slipped into it like a warm cozy blanket and enjoyed. I enjoyed so much, in fact, at no point during the two viewings did I realize that Hori didn’t know Miyamura’s first name!

But before that, Hori and Miyamura are strolling along the shopping district when she overhears the theme song of an anime Souta likes, and starts singing along. In addition to showing off Tomatsu Haruka’s lovely singing voice, she also charms Miyamura to no end, even though she herself is embarrassed.

It’s such a gorgeous and realistic little moment in these two’s normal lives, not just because she felt so carefree with Miyamura she sang in front of him without thinking. Memorizing songs your kid siblings (or kids, if you’re a parent) is just a thing that happens IRL. You think I care about “Let it Go” enough to memorize the lyrics? Doesn’t matter, because my nieces watched Frozen literally hundreds of times!

Back to first names: Hori suddenly realizes she doesn’t know Miyamura’s when her perpetually busy mom stops by the house unannounced. Voiced by Kayano Ai in Full Mischievous Mom Mode, Hori can’t conceal how much Miyamura has been over of late since Souta is right there to fact-check. That said, Hori’s description of him as “dark villain in a detective movie”? *Chef’s kiss*

While a more structurally complex episode than the first, Horimiya hews to storytelling best practices. A “what’s your first name” scenario could be drawn out across a whole episode, but it manages to resolve things in just a third of one. Hori’s Wile E. Coyote-like attempts to learn without asking fail hilariously, particularly when she has the gall to ask Tooru, the guy she just rejected, about Miyamura!

With her mom around, Hori has a surefire way of hearing Miyamura introduce himself, but her mom seems to sense she’s trying to take a shortcut and save face, so she diabolically sends Hori off on an errand when Miyamura stops by. Finally, with Miyamura directly asking if something’s bothering her, and if it’s because she has a crush on someone, she has no choice but to come clean.

Miyamura Izumi has a good laugh at her expense. Souta calls her lame, and Miyamura has known her first name was Kyouko all along. But at the end of the segment, she’s able to cast aside the histrionics and laugh about it with them. The bit doesn’t go on any longer than it needs to, and now Hori has a piece of paper with Miyamura’s name, so she has no excuse to forget it!

The next segment introduces three new classmates, bringing the total to seven. All three are in the Student Council, and include President, Top-Ranked student, and Hori’s childhood friend Sengoku Kakeru, his gorgeous girlfriend/StuCo mascot Ayasaki Remi (M · A · O), and the VP, Kouno Sakura.

The StuCo and Kakeru in particular seem to have no qualms pushing huge heaps of StuCo paperwork on Hori, despite her not being a member. Worse still, much of the work she’s tasked with doing should be Remi’s responsibility. Hori’s friends can tell all the extra work is weighing on her, but she seems stubbornly determined—and oddly obligated—to do it anyway.

Later that afternoon, while Miyamura is minding his own business in the hall, thinking about whether to bake Hori a cake to cheer her up, Remi races past and barrels into him, spilling a huge box of papers everywhere. Then Remi has the temerity to ask him to watch where he’s going. Dude was stationary, kid! When he notices she left a stack of papers behind, she says it’s cool to just toss them.

The next day, Miyamura arrives to find a potential dust-up in the hallway, as Kakeru accuses Hori of losing track of the budget papers. She rightfully pleads innocence, and while Kakeru admits both sides share some responsibility, he still demands an apology. Hori seems on the verge of tears as the crowd around them prepares to make their own conclusions.

From then, it’s Miyamura to the rescue, handing his bag and glasses to Tooru for safekeeping, pushing through the crush, and delivering a swift headbutt to Kakeru, then producing the missing budget papers. Remi is revealed as the party responsible for their being misplaced, and turns on the waterworks.

But like Miyamura lying to Tooru last week, or the first-name thing this week, this is just another thing, and all parties are able move past it. The StuCo bow in apologetic unison, Yuki gives Hori a relieved hug, and Hori thanks her pierced knight in tattooed armor.

As for why he headbutted Kakeru, well…the guy was simply pissing him off. Me too, Miyamura! But we also learn the reason why Kakeru and Hori’s dynamic is the way it is. It reveals that ever since they were little tykes and through grade and middle school, Hori consistently bullied and messed with Kakeru.

I for one am glad Kakeru isn’t just a one-dimensional bad guy, but something more nuanced, and with reason and history behind his manner. He vowed to Hori that he’d make something of himself in high school and she’d no longer be able to mess with him, and so he has; he’s the academic top dog and loved by virtually everyone.

Miyamura is a new wrinkle in their long-standing relationship, and even though Miyamura has no intention of delivering any further headbutting, Kakeru still shrinks into a anxious ball when Miyamura greets him in the morning. Maybe Kakeru, like his childhood friend, also sees the detective movie villain in him!

The third and final segment (lotta bang for the buck this week!) could also have been stretched into an entire episode, but Horimiya’s writing is tight and efficient enough that it’s able to basically tell three episodes worth of story in one. This one focuses on the fact Hori’s birthday is coming up, concurrent with spring break.

Souta asks Hori if Miyamura (whom he thinks of as a brother now) will be over every day; Hori gently warns her little bro that the day may come when Miyamura won’t come over anymore. That could be for a variety of reasons, from the two of them drifting apart, to him finding a girl(or boy)friend, to them simply graduating and ending up in different places afterwards.

The bottom line is, Hori is as sad as Souta about the prospect of Miyamura not coming around anymore. Fortunately, that prospect should be a ways off, if it ever comes. Miyamura comes by with a cake (natch) as well as a very personalized and thoughful gift: a CD of “all the popular music young people like right now” (I love how she phrases it as if she were some old lady).

Between school, housework, and caring for Souta, Hori confessed to have fallen behind on musical trends. She told Miyamura this back when she was singing the anime theme. He not only remembered, but got her exactly what she wanted. She’s amazed he did this, but she shouldn’t be. As Souta tells her earlier, exhibiting quite the precociousness, she should be more honest with herself.

Both express their happiness in that moment with wide but also tentative smiles, as they both look outside the window and watch the sakura petals falling. If it’s Hori’s birthday, it means spring break is almost over, and they’ll be in their third and final year of high school soon.

For such an ostensibly jam-packed episode, the fact this moment is given such time to breathe and fill the space says a lot about the deftness of Horimiya’s direction. It also says a lot about the writing in terms of what isn’t said in this closing scene, simply letting the joy of being together in the present become tempered by the uncertainty of future. Frankly, Miyamura and Hori should stop worrying so much about the future and try to enjoy life in the present!

Yes, it’s something to think about, but it cannot dominate their thoughts, nor always mar otherwise happy times. Heck, the fact they’re so apprehensive about a future in which they’re not together should be an obvious sign of their feelings for one another. If they’re so concerned about time, then they should get a move on with acknowledging those feelings and making them known to one another.

TONIKAWA: Over the Moon For You – 03 – Not Your Usual Bath Episode

Tsukasa is impressed to find Nasa has a fully-stocked fridge, but her opinion goes down a peg when she learns he cooks only for optimal nutrition and minimal waste, and after exhaustive research determined the only thing he should ever make is hot pot!

She remedies that monotony by using the same ingredients to whip up an eclectic feast that shows her hubby that cooking can and should be as much art as science. Nasa even references Food Wars while watching his wife work her culinary magic!


After breakfast, it’s time to hit the bathhouse, but Nasa’s taste in toiletries (i.e. the bare necessities) again fall short, necessitating a quick stop to the store for skin toner, serum, and lotion. Nasa is amazed at the complexity of a woman’s skin grooming routine, as it explains both why her skin is so beautiful and why she smells so nice.

The extra characters dam finally opens this week as we’re introduced first to Kaname, who despite being a year younger than Tsukasa practically runs the family bathhouse with her sister (who is Nasa’s age). Naturally, someone who’s known Nasa for years is shocked that he’s suddenly married, but even more upset that he hasn’t properly proposed, or bought Tsukasa a ring, or planned a ceremony!

When Nasa brings up the fact all of those things are wasteful and inefficient, Kaname, wise beyond her years, responds that’s irrelevant. No one will hold him to account if he doesn’t make those gestures, but he still has a primary responsibility to make his wife happy however he can.

Nasa assures Kaname he’ll do just that, because, and he proclaims this loud enough for all to hear, he loves Tsukasa. She comes back to grab the toiletries from him just as he’s saying this, and while she tells him it’s embarrassing, it also makes her happy. Her delivery and face are enough to make both Nasa and Kaname blush!

Once in the bath, Nasa is soon further teasted by Kaname, who for some reason has to clean the part of the bath where he is. She overheard his childhish monologue about this being a “bath episode”, but thankfully that’s not what he or we get. Sure, Kaname gets a good look at Nasa, but that’s nothing new; they go way back.

While there are subtle shots of legs and cleavage, the fan service is kept to a minimum, and instead Tsukasa is introduced to Kaname’s older sister Aya, who is gorgeous but easily mistaken and confused, and has a low opinion of herself, as she repeatedly promises to kill herself for walking in on Tsukasa’s bath.

She ultimately offers to make up for it by washing Tsukasa’s back, during which time she likens her skin to “silk” before questioning why the secretion of a worm is appropriate compliment, then goes too far in the other direction by saying her skin is like “an IPhone X,” which I’ll just say is a really good joke!

Nasa dreams of when he was laid out on the pavement bleeding to death in the cold when he suddenly wakes up in a massage chair to the cold feeling of a bottle of milk on his cheek, put there by his wife. Then Tsukasa watches Nasa and Aya interact, and witnesses the blatantly easy chemistry and bonhomie between the two.

Aya, for her part, isn’t aware they’re married; she just knows they’re “family”, but Tsukasa understandably gets a little self-conscious, as despite her quirks Aya is a true beauty. When she mentions Aya’s looks, Nasa proceeds to gush about Aya. He noticed the change in mood, which he chalks up to the fact he and Tsukasa just walked past a church where a wedding is taking place.

Because of this, when Tsukasa comes right out and says it would be nice if “he called her pretty”, he mistakes it as being in the context of being a bridge in a wedding gown at a ceremony. That means Tsukasa doesn’t understand his response—that he needs to think about it, and even runs off to do some research and “make the impossible possible!”

It’s the first misunderstanding between the two, and yet nothing that should cause bad vibes going into next week. Instead, there will be bigger fish to fry, as a straw-blonde girl in a huge limo has found Tsukasa, someone she’s apparently been seeking. Marriage is all about balance, so after Tsukasa met Nasa’s people it’s only fair for him to meet Tsukasa’s!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Star Trek: Lower Decks – 08 – Out of the Space Loop

Hoo boy, this was one extra-stuffed, extra-caffeinated episode of Lower Decks! We begin by being thrown into an unknown situation with the core quartet: a sinister dungeon, then an alien trial on K’Tuevon Prime in which they are apparently being forced to testify against the senior staff.

One by one, they must speak into a Horn of Truth about the events of a specific stardate, starting with Mariner, who regales the court of a day when she and Boimler are late for bridge duty and have no idea what’s going on, only that the aliens they’re dealing with consider gratitude an insult.

Unsatisfied with her testimony, the aliens suspend Mariner over a vat of eels. Rutherford is next, and one would think his cybernetically-enhanced memory would be perfect, that is not the case as on that particular stardate his implants were undergoing constant system updates that caused multiple blackouts.

Everytime he comes to, it’s in a totally different situation. One minute he’s in a Cerritos corridor, then on a stolan Vulcan warp shuttle, then a kind of starship museum, then in outer space clinging to the hull of a cloaked Romulan Bird-of-Prey, and finally at a Gorn wedding.

Needless to say, Rutherford gets suspended over the eels along with Mariner, and it’s up to Tendi to tell her story. She was the assigned cleaner of the conference room when Ransom and a team of handpicked commandoes are briefed on a top secret mission. Ransom wrongly assumes Tendi is a cleaner cleaner, as in part of their covert operation.

The op unfolds as follows: they use the stolen Bird-of Prey acquired by Rutherford & Co. to slip past Warbird patrols, transport down to Romulus, and retrieve a secret “package”. Tendi shows off some Trek Fu on some Romulan guards, and the team manages to get out without detection.

Having failed to get what he wants, the alien consigns Tendi to the vat and all three are dumped in. That’s when Boimler saves them by telling the court that they are Lower Decks, the senior officers almost never fill them in on what’s going on, so they truthfully don’t have the info he wants.

Boimler goes even further to state that oftentimes even the senior staff doesn’t know what’s going on, such as whenever Q(!) shows up. But that’s okay, part of Starfleet’s mission of exploration is facing the unknown and…muddling through.

But it turns out this isn’t an alien trial at all…but a party, held by Magistrate Klar to honor the senior staff for rescuing him from Romulan captivity. As is the case with all Lower Decks episodes, it’s a subversion of the old Trek trope. Back on the Cerritos, Freeman promises to do a better job of briefing the Lower Decks, but as Mariner aptly puts it, “knowing things means more work”, so it’s probably better to keep things need-to-know!

So yeah, there was a lot going on this week—almost too much for 24 minutes—but it was still a hell of a fun ride, and the trial/party conceit held together all the loosely connected vignettes well enough.

Stray Observations:

  • The design of the “party silo” is heavily influenced by the Klingon courtroom in Star Trek VI.
  • There’s a mention of Roga Danar, a supersoldier from the TNG episode “The Hunted.”
  • Mariner warns Boimler if they wash out of Starfleet they’ll end up on Earth where all there is to do is drink wine (at Chateau Picard) and eat soul food (at Sisko’s dad’s New Orleans bistro).
  • Boimler suggests a Crazy Ivan, which is really more of a Submarine thing.
  • Shaxs warns about a Denobulan parasite that infects the peen from the same planet as Dr. Phlox on Star Trek Enterprise.
  • Tons of Trek ship references this week. The Vulcan museum contains Starfleet shuttles from both TOS and TNG, the Vulcan ship from First Contact, the timeship Aeon from the 29th century, a Klingon battlecruiser, a yellow Work Bee, a Ferengi shuttle, and a Jem’hadar attack ship.
  • The shuttle they use to airdrop into the museum is a Vulcan Warp Shuttle of the exact kind that transported Spock to the Enterprise in The Motion Picture.
  • Rutherford is asked to distract the guards with the “fan dance”, last performed on screen by Uhura on Nimbus III in Star Trek V. He really should be nude when he’s doing it.
  • The eels in the vat sound just like the Ceti Eels Khan uses to control minds in The Wrath of Khan.
  • Dr. Crusher’s ghost lamp pertains to the very bad TNG episode “Sub Rosa”.
  • Q shows up! Voiced by the inimitable John de Lancie. Love how he adds a little more floridness to his animated Q.
  • Klar is voiced by another Trek guest star, Kurtwood Smith. Known primarily for That 70s Show, he was the Federation President in Star Trek VI and Annorax in “Year of Hell”, my personal favorite Voyager two-parter. If he was going to yell “DUMBASS!” in a Trek episode, this would have been it. Alas…
  • When the guy tells Klar he only paid for the party silo for 22 minutes, exactly 22 minutes of time had passed in the episode.

The Millionaire Detective – Balance: UNLIMITED – 09 – Old Tricks Are the Best Tricks

This episode begins encouragingly, with Haru and Daisuke in the same room together. Unfortunately, they’re soon separated again, as Daisuke refuses to return to the station and tosses his badge, telling Haru the case is a personal family matter he’ll be handling in his own way, i.e. ostensibly alone, but really with the help of Suzue and his bottomless purse.

Back at the station, the Second Division is on the job, even as the First Division now led by Hoshino takes Haru in for questioning. No doubt awakened by his old friends’ deaths, Kiyomizu shows his underlings that the dice Cho-san always had on him were in fact a nifty transmitter-receiver set, and Cho-san’s last act before being killed was planting the transmitter on Shigemaru. Natural Po-lice to the end.

After mostly goofing off for most of the show, it’s awesome to see the Second Division misfits pull off through pure pluck and resourcefulness what it costs Daisuke hundreds of millions of yen to achieve. Even deprived of official cars, under the pretense of “going out for lunch” they slip out one by one to the “kabob truck”, actually an old surveillance van with an antenna.

As the lanky Kamei contorts himself on the van’s roof to get the antenna into position, Saeki works her computer mojo to attain a clear enough signal to hear. It’s the boat-loving Yumoto who first recognizes a marine motor, and then they hear sweagulls and a huge steam whistle. That means in the 10km-range of the die, the Oura Wharf is the only place Shigemaru could be.

Haru isn’t able to participate in this awesomeness, but he tells Hoshino the whole truth and nothing but the truth, which Hoshino can’t really believe because he still resents Haru for washing out of the First Division. However, upon searching Takei’s desk, he find’s Haru’s letter of resignation from two years ago; after killing the bank robber’s accomplice he’d become unable to fire his weapon. Thanks to Takei, he remained a detective with the Second Division.

Daisuke’s much more expensive solo investigation bears fruit when Suzue finds Shigemaru’s car, but assumes it’s a trap…and it is. Upon entering the car to read a letter bearing his name Daisuke is hit by nerve gas; thankfully he was wearing a protective mask.

As Suzue tracks surveillance footage of Shigemaru, HEUSC starts painstakingly deleting all the camera data in the city. With their video trail suddenly dried up, Daisuke suggests they create their own surveillance network with the power of Balance: UNLIMITED.

As Haru and a newly convinced and contrite Hoshino head to the wharf, he gets a video message offering cash prizes to anyone who turns on their video camera and spins around in place. In addition to reminding be of the excellent Gatchaman:Crowds in clever hijacking of mass technology, it’s a wonderfully whimsical workaround.

But the fact is, it is almost totally unnecessary. Had Daisuke kept in touch with Haru and his police colleagues he would have learned the position of his father a little bit quicker and with none of the cost. Haru actually beats Daisuke aboard the huge cargo ship in the wharf where Shigemaru’s signal is located.

Hoshino is there to tell Daisuke Haru is aboard, much to Daisuke’s surprise. He also tells Daisuke about Haru’s past, and that while he’d “stopped being a hero” after the bank incident, thanks to Daisuke he seems to have gotten his spark back. Daisuke listens as he puts on a Black Panther-like nanotech suit Suzue calls an “Active Support Veil”, one of the highest-tech toys we’ve yet seen.

Plunging his apparently amphibious Bentley Continental into the sea, he catches up to the ship and stows aboard, using his suit as camouflage until he locates Frantz Weinski, bodyguard of an international arms dealer and apparent accomplice of his not-dead dad.

But while Daisuke gets the jump on Frantz, upon confronting his dad, who stares down at his son from the bridge, an “Allodium antenna” is activated that causes EMP-like burst, deactivating Daisuke’s suit and thus his tactical advantage. Frantz smashes his earring and Suzue loses all contact; I wonder if she’ll stay away or take a helicopter out to sea.

Before his phone is fried by the Allodium burst, Haru gets a text from Suzue asking him to look after Daisuke. Just like that, the two detectives are back together, having chased the same trail by very different means. I liken those differing means to two very different consecutive James Bond films.

In Die Another Day the spy tech reached its peak of goofiness with the cloaking device-equipped Aston Martin “Vanish” (a pun on the car’s real name, Vanquish). Casino Royale, on the other hand, was a return to basics, and Bond’s “toys” were similarly stripped down, until by Skyfall he had the same old DB5 with an ejector seat.

If Daisuke was Die Another Day Bond when he boarded the ship, now he’s just a well-dressed man with no tech at all. Haru is unable to immediately rescue him from Frantz because he still can’t fire his gun. But he’s there, and Shigemaru pointedly says his son is not to be killed. It’s a big ship, and if there’s a way to save his partner that doesn’t involve cloaking suits or revolvers, I’m confident Haru will find it.

Rent-a-Girlfriend – 06 – Doubling Down

Despite her strict warning that any attempt at hanky-panky and Chizuru will see him in court, Kazuya can’t sleep in the same room as her. Not sure whether she’s still awake, he starts talking about how while he’s ready to tell the truth to their grans, he likes the person he’s becoming with her, and doesn’t want to stop renting quite yet. To his surprise, she agrees but “ending the lies” must remain a top priority. If he doesn’t want to hurt his gran, he’ll need to find a real girlfriend.

Unfortunately, since Kibe is close to his gran, Kazuya and Chizuru have to maintain the lie for now. That means his friend Kuri also believes Chizuru is for real, and invites the two to a double date with his new girlfriend. While walking by himself, wondering how Kuri could score a girlfriend, he bumps into a girl who I was sure from the start was that girlfriend. Of course Kazuya accidentally gets a peek at her underwear, so her first impression of him is that he’s a perv.

The next day it’s confirmed: Kuri’s girlfriend is Sarashina Ruka. Kuri’s date involves a rock-climbing session that enables him to show off his skills—he believes manliness is key to winning a woman’s heart). The climbing also has the side-effect of having the girls in unconventional positions while wearing tight pants, something Kazuya doesn’t think was accidental on Kuri’s part.

At one point Ruka asks for Chizuru to go with her, and she comes right out and accuses Chizuru of being a rental girlfriend. Chizuru dismisses the idea, and later even demonstrates they’re a real couple by “kissing” in front of Ruka (in reality her hand kept their lips apart). But Ruka ain’t buying it, and when Kazuya later tails her in an attempt to explain matters, she’s buying it even less.

And then of course, there’s the suspicion I harbored since learning Ruka and Kuri were dating: that she is also a rental girlfriend. The question is, if she is indeed a fellow rental, why is she so determined to ascertain the truth about Chizuru and Kazuya? Does she not want Chizuru on her terf…or is she vexed by the sense the two are something more than a rental and a client?

 

Rent-a-Girlfriend – 05 – Grandma Gambit

Kazuya dives in and rescues Chizuru from drowning, which is a big deal, even if the two weren’t in a complicated relationship that has long since blown past professional detachment. They wash up on an islet, and Chizuru wakes up first and realizes what Kazuya did for her…then notices Kazuya isn’t breathing.

Chizuru administers CPR—and mouth-to-mouth—and Kazuya comes to, none the worse for wear. Both Chizuru and Kazuya appear to have difficulty separating the romantic from the practical (in the case, from a kiss of life). On the way to hospital Chizuru later recalls Kazuya’s heroism and can’t help but turn beet red.

Things are relatively simple on at least one front: Mami’s. She doesn’t take kindly to being stood up (especially after hearing how Kazuya was indisposed) and rolls up her window without speaking to him. That’s probably not all, but it suffices for now.

In a masturbation scene that goes on way too long, raunchy images of him with Mami are gradually replaced in his head by much purer images of Chizuru. He concludes that he’s fallen for her beyond the point of no return, which means their imminent “breakup” will hurt him more than he’d hoped.

Leave it to Kazuya and Chizuru’s grandmas to make sure things don’t get any easier for the kids. Kazuya joins his gran at a hot springs hotel in Gunma to celebrate her discharge from the hospital, and the moment Chizuru’s grandmother appears, it’s clear the two set things up so their grandkids would have a room all to themselves, to enjoy their youth and have sex—both old ladies lament how reserved the kids are.

After simmering in anger and frustration, Chizuru decides to let go, at least for the duration of the trip, and enjoy herself to the fullest. That means availing herself of the baths (where she and Kazuya’s gran have a nice heart-to-heart), and lowering her guard so she and Kazuya can have a pleasant meal together.

This is a new Chizuru who is neither pretending to act like his girlfriend nor the “off-duty” version of herself who openly loathes him. As a result, Kazuya gets to see and hear a genuine laugh from Chizuru. When bedtime arrives, Kazuya proactively starts to make himself scares before she asks him “what the big deal” would be if they slept in the same room.

This episode much clinches it, if it wasn’t already pretty obvious: Chizuru doesn’t dislike Kazuya, nor is she indifferent towards him. I’d go so far as to say she likes the guy, and realizes that Kibe is right that he’s not a bad guy. That may all be true, but it doesn’t mean she wants to be his real girlfriend, nor does it mean she should feel obligated to do so, grandma angle or not.

This isn’t a matter of her not being honest with her feelings or stubborn in giving into them, but a matter of her having a good thing going with her rental business and not wanting any boyfriend at the moment.

I initially assumed she had the job so she wouldn’t be a financial burden on her family. But the fact she mentions she’s a low on funds suggests she’s paying for something expensive and important to her (either that, or maintaining her girlfriend persona is an expensive business, which it most likely is).

For all the sides of Chizuru we’ve seen, there are still things we don’t know. As a new character is introduced next week, I hope we don’t lose sight of her.

Rent-a-Girlfriend – 04 – Don’t Let Reality Win

As Mami and Kazuya kiss, all of his time with Mami flashes before his eyes, from the moment they meet to their first kiss. As Mami’s “lost” bracelet lies in a very intentional spot for her to pick up at will, she asks Kazuya to forgive her, as she just “couldn’t control herself anymore.”

This keeps the possibility alive in Kazuya’s head that a reunion with Mami isn’t just possible, but also what Mami wants. Even if this encounter is 100% a calculated move by Mami as part of her breakup scheme, a part of me couldn’t help but wonder if a part of Mami really does want him back.

When Kazuya gets a call from his gran telling him she’ll be out of the hospital soon, it gives him another opportunity to properly end things with Chizuru. His friends also give him an opening when they pepper Chizuru with questions about where she lives and plans to hang out.

But when he sorta-half comes clean and tells them they’ve been planning to break up, his best friend Kibe won’t let it slide. He starts beating Kazuya up, accusing him of fawning over Mami and generally being a wishy-washy, self-centered dirt bag. He tosses out this exquisite line: “Yes, your brain’s a dumpster fire, but at least make it burn for your current flame!”

Kibe also puts some of the blame at the feet of Mami, accusing her of leading on a guy she dumped despite knowing full well he’s a fool who will fall for it every time. Mami’s eyes narrow without going “empty” as they’ve done in the past, and half-heartedly pleads ignorance, but Kibe seems to have her pegged despite her attempts at subterfuge.

The issue is, Kibe doesn’t know the whole story, which is that Chizuru didn’t choose Kazuya, but the other way around. Chizuru knows this, which is why she regrets the beating Kazuya took but is proud of him for taking the first step to separating the two of them.

She calls what he did a bold move, and that he can be a man when he tries. When he apologizes for all the trouble he caused her, she rebuts that being a rental girlfriend is her job, and she had fun. When he walks off, ready to cut ties with her, there’s an unmistakable look of doubt in her face. She’s not doubting whether Kazuya will really go through with it, but whether that’s she truly wants.

Things get more complicated—again (don’t they always?) when Kibe takes Chizuru aside for a chat. He explains how he’s known Kazuya since they were little kids, and so knows full well what a dumbass he can be. He describes his friend to an absolute T that Chizuru can’t help but recognize. Then Kibe tells a story about a supposed weed that grew in Kazuya’s school planter.

He kept lovingly tending to until it bloomed into a different and more beautiful flower than everyone else’s morning glories. It was a combination of dumb luck and Kazuya’s refusal to stop dreaming and give in to reality. It’s also a touching enough story to make Chizuru a little glassy-eyed. Kibe certainly has a way with words!

Kibe basically gives Chizuru the extra opportunity her previous moments of doubt seemed to be searching for, in the form of ferry tickets. That said, she decides to use one ticket and five Kazuya the other simply because she can’t not after Kibe’s speech. The rest of their plan holds: they’re going to separate and not interact anymore.

Kazuya seems increasingly enthusiastic about putting all the fakeness aside, even as Chizuru is experiencing not second thoughts, but apparent seasickness combined with the fever that had been brewing throughout the episode. She asks Kazuya to let her be, despite that not being the best thing for her in her current state, on a boat.

Kazuya gets a call from Mami, who tells him she’ll wait as long as she has to for him to join her at the pool on the fourth floor of the hotel. She’s blushing heavily during the call despite not having to put on a physical performance for him. Is this a means of cynically ensuring he breaks up with Chizuru, a case of her genuinely desiring more romantic contact…or both? I see ambiguity, but that doesn’t mean it’s there.

What isn’t ambiguous at all is that Chizuru is not well. She stumbles to the railing for some fresh air when the ferry hits a wave, she loses her balance, and then dramatically falls overboard. Thankfully Kazuya is in the vicinity when it happens, and he dives off the boat to save her. Risking his life to save hers…so much for a clean break!

Uzaki-chan wa Asobitai! – 02 – Cafe Jazz

Sakurai seeks both employment and refuge at a serene cafe run by an old man for the last ten years plus. His business policy is to have a calm atmosphere for his customers, and Sakurai has proven adept at enacting that policy in his fine barista work.

That is, until a hungry Uzaki shows up wanting to tease Sakurai. Their ensuing bickering completely changes the carefully-cultivated atmosphere, but the owner doesn’t care; these two are surprisingly fun to watch. After two episodes, I tend to agree….tentatively.

Turns out Sakurai is also a big fan of cats and dogs, but has limited experience due to growing up and living without pets. When a friendly alley cat runs off, Uzaki tries to chase it but gets very awkwardly caught in a hedge. Her underwear is exposed and if she’s pulled out to fast her shirt will flip off.

This results in some very adult-sounding double entendres (“Are you pulling out Senpai? Hurry!” “Almost…there…just behave, will you?”) which two passing women overhear and obviously get the wrong idea and flee screaming. It seems at least once per week Sakurai and Uzaki will end up in one of these … entanglements.

Sakurai seems neither ready or interested in an intimate relationship with someone, but whether it’s the college dining hall or the cafe, Uzaki can’t leave him be, though for now it seems she’s strictly interested in friendship. She asks him to help her with a report, and when his boss says it’s fine, he acquieses to her request.

During this time Uzaki asks if she can come to his place, stating how she’ll cook meals and its proximity to campus. Sakurai’s mind can’t help but take such proposals to imply she wishes to co-habitate, but she’s actually interesting in coming by to play video games.

Both seem to be in a state of arrested development, with Sakurai so inexperienced with women he blushes at the very thought of one in his living space, to Uzaki with her impish energy and innocent motives.

Despite some fanservice, this ep prompted me look past her appearance (which caused the seasoned cafe owner to mistake her for an elementary student) and see what makes these two young people more alike than they’d care to admit—which is what makes them so fun to watch.

P.S. Looks like both Uzaki and Sakurai have friends! But still just one each, and they don’t have much to do…yet.

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 11 – Their Own Campfire

There are two distinct sensors that can’t be tripped when she and Fuutaoru are trapped in the storage shed, potentially overnight: the burglar sensor on the door to the shed, or the sensor in her heart. It’s a corny line, but it’s said internally, where as we all know all manner of corny things are said in the comfort of our own heads, so it’s fine. It’s also adorable, and another reason why Ichika has pulled away as my favorite of the five Nakano quintuplets. That, and amazing lines like “No enjoying my thighs!”

As Yotsuba, Miku and Itsuki notice that both Ichika and Fuutarou are missing, Ichika tries to pass the time chatting with Fuutarou, only for him to be preoccupied with making a fire. What finally gets his attention is her telling him she’s thinking of quitting school—something she couldn’t tell any of the sisters. To her surprise, he doesn’t judge or condemn her. Instead, he lauds her for finding something she wants to do, and envies her for having the requisite options.

Ichika needed someone to tell her it’s okay, and he does so, unaware of how significant it is coming from him. Then he successfully starts the fire, and Ichika assents to calling off their dance at the school campfire. However, that doesn’t preclude them having their own little campfire dance right then and there, and further driven by her heart, she holds out her hand with the brightest smile we’ve seen from any quint to date.

If that invitation to dance didn’t cause your eyes to shimmer at least a little, you might be a Grinch! But then Fuutarou brings up the campfire legend that Ichika did not know about, and she withdraws from him, overcome by guilt for inadvertently hurting Miku. In the process, she knocks over a big log, which almost falls on her before Fuutarou swoops in to rescue her, locking the two in a romantic dance-like pose.

When the log falls it damages the door, trips the alarm, and activates the sprinklers, but fortunately it’s switched off before security is called. Unfortunately for both Fuutarou and Ichika, Miku and Itsuki are the ones who deactivate the alarm and unlock the door, discovering Fuutarou and Big Sis in what could artfully described as in flagrante delicto, through no fault of their own.

The next day, both Ichika has caught cold (due to the sprinklers) but Fuutarou is yanked out of bed by Yotsuba to go skiing. When he meets Miku on the slopes she’s cold towards him, as neither she nor Itsuki 100% believed his and Ichika’s explanation of last night’s events. Mostly, Miku is frustrated with her predicament: if she and her four sisters are all “equal”, what is she supposed to do with her feelings for Fuutarou if Ichika has already taken steps?

Yotsuba proposes a game of ski-tag, Ichika eventually joins the others, and while she’s skiing beside Fuutarou makes sure he hasn’t/won’t tell anyone else what she told him about quitting school. Not knowing how to stop, Fuutarou crashes, and ends up in the vicinity of where Nino was snowboarding. When wiping his brow, the band-aid she put on “Kintarou’s” forehead comes off and she finds it.

Once again, I wish he’d simply reveal to Nino that Kintarou is an invention and that he’s the cool guy she likes, only with different hair. But at least when he hides from her (and Yotsuba, as the game of tag is still on), he ends up in the same igloo as Miku, and in the warmth of that space her frustration gradually fades. It’s a lovely, cozy, disarming scene between the two.

Miku proposes a handicap against Yotsuba, but he doesn’t want to ignore the work she put into being the most athletic quint. He wants to be “fair, not equal” in their treatment of her, and that’s when a light bulb blinks on in Miku’s head. She doesn’t have to feel restricted by the notion that she and her sisters are all equal. All is fair in love and war!

As Itsuki skis all by her lonesome, Miku gives Ichika a call. Hopefully some air can be cleared in the last episode of the season…and I’m not talking about ski jumps! Whatever happens, I’m just not ready to say goodbye to these characters.

As expected, Ichika’s extended time with Fuutarou gained her top ranking in the penultimate episode, giving her an insurmountable 11-point lead over Yotsuba going into the finale. Miku’s igloo scene gave her a boost this week. Yotsuba, Nino and Itsuki rounded out the episode ranking.

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 10 – The True Test of Courage

Yotsuba is determined to have “no regrets” when it comes to the school camp. So far, that’s translating to finding excuses to be with Fuutarou, including joining him for the test of courage. Does she just want to have fun with him and make happy memories, or does she want to confess her feelings—it’s not entirely clear, because it’s probably not entirely clear to her. So she’s content to spend time with him. The problem is, she has four sisters limiting her share of Fuutarou time.

After scaring Itsuki with his creepy clown mask and spurring Nino to chase after her, Fuutarou is concerned the two ran towards Chekhov’s Cliff, and chases after them. He only finds Nino, but since he’s still wearing a blonde wig, she mistakes him for his bad-boy “relative”. Rather than telling Nino the truth (which would have been more dramatically satisfying), he pretends to be the fictional “Kintarou-kun”. Basically, he chickens out here.

That’s a shame, because he’s selling Nino short if he thinks she wouldn’t come around to being less hostile and more understanding with him if he knew about his past and that the photo was of him. He pays an immediate price for keeping her in the dark, as when he rescues her from falling off the cliff, she asks him to be her campfire dance partner. He’s only saved from having to answer by a sobbing Itsuka emerging from the woods.

Meanwhile, Ichika and Miku (who saw right through Fuutarou’s disguise) both want to dance with Fuutarou, but both are clearly uncomfortable hurting one another. Still, when Miku insists Ichika be the one, she doesn’t refuse it, and simply hopes Miku won’t regret the consequences of that choice. Fuutarou has no way of knowing the “sacrifice” Miku made when he asks her where Nino was, drawing her ire.

Fuutarou starts to become worried that all of the quints are angry at him and that he has to exercise damage control lest it cause problems for tutoring. While Fuutarou is moving logs with Yotsuba (another exercise she reeled him into) Ichika pitches in, both in helping him with the logs (Fuutarou isn’t the strongest guy) and with advice on how to talk naturally to her sisters.

Then the subject of the campfire dance comes up, and Fuutarou heartlessly puts it out there that they should call it off. Granted, he’s oblivious for Ichika’s feelings for him (not to mention Miku’s), and assumes Ichika doesn’t want to do it. But dude, you were just going on about communicating better!

His words cause Ichika to cry, but he recovers by wrapping his warm coat over her while they hide from Yotsuba and the others. They’re not sure why they’re hiding (again), but as a result they’re both locked in the storage shed, another rom-com standby that gives a couple-in-waiting a chance to clear the air and/or make things clearer. Either that happens next week, or QQ twists things in another way.

P.S. With just two episodes left (damn!), here’s where the “Best Quintuplet” Rankings sit:

Scoring is inverse to the ranking, i.e. the first-ranked quint gets five points, while the fifth-ranked quint gets one. As you can see, Ichika surpassed Yotsuba for the lead after the fireworks and never looked back, while Nino rallied from the bottom to tie Yotsuba for second place. Either of them could potentially catch Ichika, but it will take some doing.