Gleipnir – 09 – The Third Faction

The first third of this episode resembles a pleasant hiking trip (they even take a break to eat watermelon) through the woods, but it’s clear that the closer they get to the crash site, the more powerful foes they’ll encounter. When they take a detour around a site marked as turf by a rival group, that detour takes them to a very exposed riverbed, leading Claire to wonder if that was the enemy’s goal in the first place.

Sayaka may have stirred her troops with her speech—she’s clearly a good leader in that regard—but the fact remains she led her group into a potentially deadly trap simply by discounting the possibility her group could be outwitted by the selfish savages who inhabit the woods. Worse, her lack of any offensive capability make her an instant liability in an actual battle with a member of this third group.

This monster, Morita, runs ahead of his allies to cut Sayaka’s group off and stall them, taking Sayaka hostage and holding her limbs (and boobs) with his many arms. Due to the usual way things go in Gleipnir, I didn’t think Sayaka would ever leave Morita’s grasp with her life (or all her limbs attached). Enter Yota, who reveals his superior offensive capability for the first time by freeing Sayaka, ripping Morita’s jaw out, and leaving him in a defeated pile.

When Morita’s allies find him, they declare him useless and are excited at the prospect of putting him out of his misery and moving on, since they never liked him. But their leader, who unlike Sayaka is the most powerful among them, takes pity on Morita, rips out one of his own teeth to share in the pain, and promises he’ll make the one responsible pay dearly.

Taking the form of a massive gorilla, the leader rushes Sayaka’s group and punches out Isao, believing him to be Morita’s attacker before Yota saves Isao from being pummeled by a log. Yet even Yota has trouble with this guy, meaning the Weak’s last best chance of surviving this latest encounter is for Claire to climb into Shuuichi and do their thing.

After a couple straight episodes of interesting relationship dynamics, that’s all set aside this week for the sake of the plot moving forward. You could call that a demerit on a show where the characters are more compelling than the story, but it’s good to see the show strike a balance. After all the talk about external threats, this was a confrontation that needed to happen sooner rather than later. We’ll see how many of the Weak come out of it in one piece.

P.S. The sub-7 rating of Gleipnir on MAL is frankly a joke. This is easily a 7.6-7.8 anime at worst. Remember to keep taking those with a grain of salt!

Gleipnir – 08 – Filling In the Shadows

Claire and Yatou find Shuuichi and Chihiro (and Chihiro’s wallet), then return to the hideout where there are finally formal introductions of the remaining members. One of them, Isao, is a mild-mannered plant-lover who just happens to remember Shuuichi playing with friends at Yamada Cram School.

Shuuichi just happened to dream of the school, but woke up before he met any of his classmates. And yet Shuuichi insists to Isao that he was the only student at the school, which aside from being very odd (wouldn’t he just have a tutor?) reinforces the idea that his memories have been supremely messed with.

Claire is naturally suspicious of Chihiro, and doesn’t believe she doesn’t remember anything about the battle after she and Shuuichi were smushed. This scene is akin to your typical high school drama confrontation between romantic rivals, just as entering Shuuichi is akin to sex.

Claire insists she’s “irreplaceable” as Shuuichi’s partner, but Chihiro speaks with some authority that the two will never “become one” before walking away. Claire’s fear Chihiro might just be right—and dread of the loneliness that could result from that truth—likely conspire to keep her from taking a shot at Chihiro.

On the way home for the day, Claire brings up Shuuichi’s “experience” with Chihiro, including asking straight up if she was “better” than her, and even half-jokingly proposing real sex with him as a means of reasserting their exclusivity. What’s so heartbreaking is that the truth is, from a combat perspective, Chihiro was better.

Because Chihiro and Shuuichi shared the same goal in that moment (perhaps nothing more than a desire to survive their smushing), she was able to exact a transformation—and a closeness to Shuuichi—Claire hasn’t come close to achieving. She can say “you and I are one” all she wants, but Shuuichi and Chihiro really were a single entity.

As is expected of such a non-confrontational fellow, Shuuichi remains passive in this brewing love triangle for now. He seems destined to continue having women slip into his zipper as long as he ends up in situations where he needs to become stronger. Claire is right on one count: Shuuichi needs someone around to spur him to decisive action.

Who is best for that role depends on what he wants his role to be. And whether it’s encountering his classmate Abukawa burying a dog that was (allegedly) run over, or fixing Mifune’s bike, he wants to use his power not for himself, but to protect normal, powerless people like them. (Incidentally, Ikeuchi is spying on him when he’s with Mifune, and concludes he’s an inveterate womanizer.)

That night, Chihiro calls Elena, using the number she found on Shuuichi’s phone. She’s desperate for answers about what happened to the two of them, and Elena generously explains that what happened is Shuuichi’s special power, and how only someone who shares his goals can fully join with him, as Chihiro did.

Chihiro, it turns out, not only remembers the entirety of the battle while she and Shuuichi were joined, but was privy to all of his memories, many of which were full of “shadows,” or unnaturally erased details memories. Whether it’s the fact he had classmates at cram school, to the fact he and Elena were clearly in some kind of relationship, Chihiro is new link to memories Elena thought were lost.

I’ll just add that this episode was full of great dialogue between seiyus Hanazawa Kana and Ichinose Kana, whose voice many compare to a younger Hanazawa.

Chihiro could glean from those memories that Elena wasn’t a bad person, and pleads with her to join them. She’s assuming Elena is that same not-bad person, and it’s clear she isn’t; people change. Still, Chihiro’s revelations could pave the way for a possible redemption of Elena, provided a lot of conditions are met.

The next day the Weak reassemble and set out in search of more coins, with Sayaka noting the pattern of their locations indicates the path of the alien ship, which is their ultimate goal to 100 coins. Elena, meanwhile, told Chihiro “someone” (either her or someone she’s aligned with) already has 100 coins. So the Weak certainly have some catching up to do.

Speaking of coins, Claire reveals she’s been hiding one in a book in her apartment, meaning she can cash it in to gain her own alternate form. She may not know for sure what we know about the extent of Chihiro’s connection to Shuuichi (or how much “better” it was), but I’m sure she suspects the worst, and might feel like she’s suddenly being left behind. Things continue to get very messy indeed.

Gleipnir – 07 – Fell Deeds Awake

Claire’s pact with Sayaka, the leader of the Weak complete, so Sayaka tells her how she knows Elena. When she transferred to a new school after her lover committed suicide, Sayaka withdrew into herself, but Elena was always friendly, kind, and determined to draw her out. Sayaka sees Elena has having had a positive change in her wretched life, so she can’t simply can’t fathom the murderous demon-woman Claire describes.

Thanks to Ikeuchi’s voyeuristic recording abilities, Claire learns of Shuuichi’s whereabouts, but if she reacts to Chihiro climbing into Shuuichi, she sure doesn’t show it outwardly. Since Chihiro is involved, and Claire is now one of them, Sayaka sees their retrieval as a matter for the whole group, and has the best fighter of them, a fresh-faced 19-year-old named Murakami Yota, to join Clair in the search.

When Shuuichi and Chihiro pick up the scent of her wallet in the hands of Elena’s overpowered allies, Shuuichi decides he’ll make up for letting Hikawa die by facing the threat head-on rather than thinking only of saving himself. It’s a classic case of not knowing when to run. Shuuichi’s fear didn’t kill anyone; it kept him alive. What good can he do to anyone dead?

When Subaru, a blonde kid who can summon a two-headed beast he addresses as “mom and dad”, sneaks up on Shuuichi, the ensuing battle isn’t really a battle, but someone smashing a mere bug between their hands. It’s a sickening scene that took things to the Worst Case Scenario so quickly my head was spinning. It looked for all the world like Yoshioka Chihiro was history, being horribly smashed within Shuuichi’s body.

But it’s not the end for either of them. Instead, their bloody remains merge into a single berserk avenging form. Shuuichi is the raging id, lashing at Subaru’s “parents” and actually making a fight of it; Chihiro is the superego assessing things from a distance and attempting to reel her counterpart’s surging anger. It’s phenomenon we haven’t seen yet, but it has the effect of helping us understand more the bond between Shuuichi and Elena prior to his transformation.

As it turns out, the two were friends, and possibly more. Elena was apparently the one who first found the crashed alien ship, while Shuuichi was the first one to drink the energy shot that transformed him. This means Shuuichi’s memories of Elena are either lost forever or suppressed, and it took a third party in Chihiro to excavate them from his unconscious.

The fight with Subaru ends in a stalemate when Elena arrives to stop the fighting. She insists Subaru save the full extent of his abilities for when they’re needed. Threats from Subaru ring hollow, as Elena is certain that she won’t be allowed to die until this is all over.

The merged being eventually reverts back to an unconscious Shuuichi in Mascot Mode, and a fully-healed Chihiro sleeping inside of him. This is how Claire and Yota find them. Will Chihiro remember what she saw, and more importantly, will she be able to tell anyone? Will Claire be angry with Shuuichi for letting someone else “in”, or just be happy he’s alright? Things just keep getting more interesting…

Gleipnir – 06 – Turnabout is Foreplay

Thanks to the phone of Sudo, the green monster Tadanori killed last week, Claire is able to contact the Weak, a group of peculiar monsters who have allied together to collect coins in hopes of ending the sick game they’ve been forced to play. When the leader Sayaka asks Claire to transform, she climbs out of Shuuichi and agrees to join on her own, with Shuuichi only joining if it turns out to be safe.

Sayaka, like several of the Weak, has the same body and face as her normal form, which means the alien doesn’t grant people a different appearance if that’s not that person’s particular complex. In Sayaka’s case, she sought the means to ensure she could punish those who failed to keep her secrets, as her friend did when she snitched about her sleeping with a female teacher. She also takes a particular interest in Claire’s body, laying her on the bed and groping her.

Meanwhile, Shuuichi waits in dog mode with the other weak, one of whom, a meek girl named Yoshioka Chihiro, takes a pointed interest in him, She’s an animal lover, so her transformation gives her cat ears.

Chihiro recruits Shuuichi to help him find her wallet in the woods (which sounds like a huge risk for the two to take considering who’s in those woods). She also insists on disrobing and climbing into Shuuichi—something about which I’m sure Claire would have a couple things to say!

When Claire asks if sleeping with her is part of the ceremony to join the group, the woman apologizes and halts her advance, then proceeds with the actual pact. But it’s clear her advances were in part an intimidating and dominating tactic—a more stark and refined version of Claire teasing Shuuichi with her body, now used against her.

The pact involves tying a choker made from her the woman’s hair around Claire’s neck. If she betrays her, the choker will tighten and off comes her head. It’s a very specific ability borne from a very clear vision of what she wanted, and it’s enabled her to build a coalition of people she can trust without hesitation.

And…that’s pretty much it. Sure, Shuuichi and Claire have their separate intimate moments with other people—which may or may not have ramifications for their relationship—but other than that it’s a lot of sitting, standing, and lying around talking or waiting.

There’s no urgency to the Weak or Sayaka’s actions, which is surprising considering they’re at a significant strength disadvantage even with Claire and Shuuichi on their side. I was hoping the duo would reunite in this episode following their respective “dalliances,” but no dice.

As for the wallet search, it seemed more than anything an excuse for someone else to climb into Shuuichi and doesn’t make much sense in the logic of a group on the run from a vicious enemy. Sure enough, that enemy finds Yoshioka’s wallet before she does. I kept thinking Yoshioka was somehow setting Shuuichi up, but it never happened, I’m sure he could’ve sensed any treachery once she was inside him.

Gleipnir – 05 – Man Gotta Have a Code

The cold open establishes the hazards of the woods where the Gatherers are gathered. One of them is searching for coins when she’s surrounded by a group who claim the woods as their turf. But if there’s no risk, there’s no reward. Claire believes the right strategy is to meet the danger head-on, lest the coins all get snatched up while they’re being slow and cautious.

Her strategy is soon put to the test when they encounter a demonic-looking Gatherer with swords for arms. But despite his evil looks there’s a reasonable man inside—a college student named Tadanori Sanbe. He reveals his identity as thanks for when Claire puts her life on the line to fight him; all others have run from him, and with good reason: he’s hella strong.

Claire wonders if she erred here, but when Sanbe reveals he’s a decent guy, and Shuuichi’s gun manages to pierce one of his arms, the duo splits up, with Shuuichi as the bait giving Sanbe a bear hug while Claire holds him at bay with the gun. Sanbe, who is very samurai-like in his outlook, takes the defeat in stride, and is also bashful around a half-naked Claire.

Their friendly chat is suddenly interrupted by another Gatherer in the form of a green Titan. He’s snapped photos of everyone and declared them his new slaves, and promises he and his friends will do all kinds of awful stuff to Claire in particular. This gives Sanbe the chance to reveal another part of his code: he won’t kill needlessly, but a threat from a scumbag is met by swift, deadly force.

Claire is delighted that Sanbe is clearly on the stronger side of the scale, so it’s great that he’s now on their side: he’ll help them collect coins if he can continue testing his strength and honing custom unique martial art. He has no qualms about partnering with two worthy adversaries.

It’s clear now that at least where fights are concerned, Claire is no longer the puppet and Shuuichi the puppeter: there’s true cooperation at play…not to mention Claire remains steadfast in her commitment to die with Shuuichi. Sanbe’s an interesting Chad-like addition to their weird little party.

Gleipnir – 04 – A Place Where She Belongs

Immediately after Elena’s Bad Side rips Shuuichi’s head off, Elena’s Meek Side comes out and apologizes for doing something so rash. Claire, her head now exposed, rushes Elena in a rage but is quickly overpowered and upended. That’s when Elena realizes it’s her sister inside Shuuichi. Elena disputes Claire’s assertion it was wrong for their parents to die since they were both immoral people. After receiving a phone call, she gives Claire a coin and withdraws.

Fearing Shuuichi did not survive his beheading, a tearful Claire prepares to shoot herself, thus honoring their promise to each other. She’s stopped when Shuuichi’s head wakes up. He may not currently be what one would consider “alive”, but he’s not about to let Claire kill herself before he’s dead for sure. It’s a damned close call, but a sign that Claire still takes their promise seriously.

They meet the alien at the abandoned motel, and he gives them a bit of an infodump, though to be fair, the two could use one, as much in the dark as they are. Meeting Elena raised more questions than it answered. He uses the coin Elena gave Claire to produce a healing drink from the vending machine that fuses Shuuichi’s head back to his body.

As he heals, Claire climbs out of him, and the Alien is impressed with her bod. Heck, because he copied the ideal male body so accurately, he even gets a little horny, asking if he can cop a feel before Claire kicks him. Then he uses one of her hairs to copy his body, to show Claire how the coins make you transform into your “ideal self”.

Of course, in Shuuichi’s case, he transformed into Elena’s apparent ideal version of him: the manic cartoon dog strap on her bag. But if they “gather” 100 of the Alien’s coins, which are the embodiment of his fellow aliens in data form, they’ll be able to transform into an invincible superhero, able to bend the world to one’s will.

When Shuuichi’s neck is repaired and he transforms back into a human (with a nasty neck scar) Claire pulls him into a dramatic hug, so glad she is that he’s okay. She tells the Alien they’ll give the offer some thought, and they take their leave. When Shuuichi laments that they’re in such a big mess, Claire retorts that her life has never been better since she met him, and found a place by his side (and yes, inside his mascot form).

As his bond with Claire continues to evolve and deepen—one could say they’re becoming even more of a single unit—Shuuichi finds his personality evolving along with it. At school, he doesn’t suffer bullies and easily overpowers one.

He can smell Mifune coming and makes her attempt to find out what’s up with him as awkward as possible by asking her a not-so-hypothetical question about what she’d do if the world were ending because someone she knew gained the power to end it. Mifune can only nervously laugh it off, but he’s pleased by her very normal answer: she’d do everything she could to protect her family and friends and to get the bad guy to stop.

Shuuichi greatly values normalcy, as much as Claire doesn’t value it. But it’s clear he’s already left the world of the normal, swept into the orbit of the very abnormal Aoki sisters, perhaps never to return. He doesn’t want Claire to die, and yet he doesn’t exactly seem happy about the turn of events that has to tightly tied their fates together.

This results in him musing in meta fashion that he’s not the main character here, and there are things at work of which he and Claire have yet to scratch the surface. But a good start is the mountains where the Alien spaceship crashed. Not only will they find more coins, but more Gatherers like them, and more answers.

It will be dangerous, but Claire assures Shuuichi that he shouldn’t worry, because he has her, ready willing and able to make up for his weaknesses, act when he can’t, and if it all goes horribly wrong, die beside him so they’ll never have to feel alone again.

Gleipnir – 03 – Total Sunday

Claire is eager to learn more about Shuuichi’s beast mode, but since it’s a hot summer day, she strips down to nothing before entering him again. This is a bit too scandalous for Shuuichi (more than a girl climbing inside him, apparently), so they compromise: she’ll wear her school swimsuit.

It’s clear Claire has fun teasing him with her killer body, but I’d hardly call this behavior sadistic—”teasing” is an adequate description of it, especially when she tickles him with his own hands. Also, she probably wouldn’t do it as much if Shuuichi didn’t have such reliably amusing reactions.

Their relationship has softened considerably since their first fateful encounter, and it’s likely due to the fact they’ve become one more than once now. It’s no longer antagonistic, nor does it smack as “we have no choice” reluctant cooperation. It’s starting to feel more like a partnership.

It’s a lot more like…two high school kids who never really fit in, hanging out and figuring this stuff out together. Neither is prepared for when Claire unzips the sleeve containing her sister’s uniform. It’s soaked with the stench of blood and the death of untold number of people.

Still, Shuuichi is desperate to learn why he came to be in this predicament and if it’s possible to reverse it, and when he’s one with Claire he feels a measure of her fear along with his own. That empathy-through-communion steels his normally timid nerves, and he resolves to help her find Elena, no matter what dangers or horrors come their way.

Claire admits she didn’t expect him to grow a pair, even calling his attitude “cool.” She clearly sees him as more than a tool to be used, just as he still notices the high school girl in her when she inspects her face in the fridge door. Heck, during their stakeout, she even admits unbidden that she’s still a virgin, erasing an potential rich avenue of Shuuichi-teasing.

Remaining out of sight and utilizing Shuuichi’s strong sense of smell, they eventually encounter Elena coming off a train. While Claire’s original plan was to talk to her sister, to try to understand why she killed their parents, but that goes out the window when she’s in their sights. Claire pulls Shuuichi’s big gun and prepares to shoot her, but Shuuichi stops her at the least minute, exerting control in a moment Claire is acting on instinct.

Then things get weird. Elena appears to be a beast like Shuuichi, but she can take numerous forms, and her human form evaporates into her smoke demon form as she gloms onto the back of Shuuichi like a predator about to make a kill. Only…she stops, and suddenly adopts a much meeker personality. Hanazawa Kana handles both the good and evil Elena quite ably, mirroring her dual performance of Nadeko in the Monogatari Series.

This suddenly human-again, polite, contrite Elena tells them that she understands how they feel and doesn’t mind if they want to kill her, but that they should go somewhere out of the way so as not to bother bystanders. Once in an isolated field, she bows her head and apologizes. To Claire and Shuuichi’s surprise, she believes she’s talking only to Shuuichi, and is apologizing for making him take that form.

When Claire lets out a yelp of surprise, however, It’s no more Miss Nice Elena. She transforms back into a smoke monster, sensing Claire inside Shuuichi and furious about it. She declares that Shuuichi’s insides “belong to her” and rips off Shuuichi’s head, exposing Claire to mortal danger.

This was all but unavoidable. Neither Shuuichi or Elena could avoid searching for answers, even if it meant getting into this latest life-threatening situation. Whether or however they manage to get out of it, the handsome “alien” with the coins only living things can see got it wrong: the inhabitants of Earth are hardly “all good people.”

Gleipnir – 02 – Entering the Emptiness

When fellow “monster” Hikawa threatens Clair, Shuuichi freezes up, and Claire hits Hikawa’s eyes with pepper spray. Rather than fight, Shuuichi gathers Claire up and escapes out the window. We learn that Hikawa was her school’s ace runner, and became a “monster” by depositing the star coin in the vending machine and wishing to run faster.

Hikawa wasn’t prepared for the monkey’s paw-like downside of her wish, but now she seems accustomed enough to it that killing Shuuichi and Claire is no big deal. Did gaining monstrous physical traits make her into a monster, or was she one before those traits manifested?

Whatever the case, Shuuihi absolutely sucks at fighting, so when Claire finds a zipper on his back, she unzips him and finds nothing but a fleshy pocket inside. And while Shuuichi stopped himself from going to far with Claire after rescuing her from the fire, Claire dives right into that pocket and finds that it fits as snugly and comfortably as a glove.

As a result of “becoming one” with Shuuichi, Claire can now control his body, and her moves are a lot sharper than his was. Shuuichi finds he has no control over his body, but his thoughts and sensations are merged with Claire’s, forming a symbiotic pilot-vehicle pair. While this isn’t conventional sex, it’s definitely a weird supernatural analog.

A brutal fight with the berserk Hikawa ensues, and Claire gets better and better at controlling Shuuichi’s mascot body. Before long, Hikawa takes a couple of hard licks and wears down. Claire puts her leg in a hold and threatens to snap it if Hikawa doesn’t tell her everything she knows about the star coins.

Hikawa ain’t talking, so the leg goes snap, and then Claire draws the mascot’s gun—which is real, it turns out—and blows Hikawa away. Shuuichi’s desperate pleas for her to stop go ignored, and when the threat has passed, Claire emerges from the mascot’s interior a sticky but satisfied mess.

A week passes, and both Claire and Shuuichi go back to their ordinary lives without any developments. Whatever went down, it seems they weren’t seen and aren’t suspected by anyone. The two meet in private, and Claire tells him other “monsters” are out there and both of them individual lack the strength to fight them; they have to act as one.

Claire also has a personal interest in this whole mascot monster business—her sister Elena is one, and she’s eager to find her. She also promises Shuuichi that whatever happens, she’ll die with him so he won’t be alone. When he asks what she’d do if he wanted to die now? She leaps off a warehouse balcony, hoping to “see him soon”. Shuuichi is able to catch her, but if he hadn’t, she’d have died right there.

Half a year ago, Elena visited the vending machine, but asked the boy inside to give her wish to someone else…someone she “wants to be with.” The strap on her bag is a tiny version of Shuuichi’s mascot form. What’s the connection? Why him? And will Claire gradually wear down his basic decency and make him a monster, or will he continue to let himself be her puppet?

Gleipnir – 01 (First Impressions) – The Minx and the Mascot

Kagaya Shuuichi is ordinary, or rather wants to be perceived as ordinary, and takes great pains to maintain that ordinariness. He lets cute girls borrow his work, sneaks a peek up a girls skirt when opportunity knocks, and continues wearing glasses even though he doesn’t need them.

He also turned down a decent college recommendation to pursue … something else. A girl who seems to like him gets it instead, but knows he was the first choice. Unfortunately, what this poor girl doesn’t know about Shuuichi could fill volumes.

I guess it’s not so much what Shuuichi is pursuing that made him turn down college, but what he is enduring. He’s suddenly been granted a highly elevated sense of smell, like a dog, and when certain conditions are met (which I’m sure he takes pains to avoid) he transforms into a giant cartoon mascot dog.

One night he smells fire, and finds a pretty girl passed out in a burning garage. He transforms and rescues her, but seemingly enchanted by her smell, starts pulling her underwear down before stopping himself, transforming back to a human, and fleeing in a panic…without his phone.

Having potentially set back his program of maintaining normality for years, Shuuichi plays dumb at school until he comes face to face with the girl, his phone in her hand. Considering his refusal to own up to sexual assault on an unconscious woman, and that he considers gaslighting her, I’m not that sympathetic with his predicament!

The girl, first-year student Claire Aoki (Touyama Nao), has no intention of letting Shuuichi off lightly. The underwear aside, she was trying to kill herself in that garage (or so she says), and he ruined her plans. After kicking him off the roof to watch him transform, she indicates her intention to blackmail him.

Claire also seems committed to making Shuuichi uncomfortable as possible whenever possible, as exhibited when she takes him to her apartment and strips down to change right in front of him, threatening death if he moves. They’re interrupted by the invasion of a mysterious woman who is after the weird gold coin Claire possesses. The attacker can also transform into a part-woman, part-beast, and proceeds to kick Shuuichi’s inexperienced-in-combat ass.

Gleipnir is the name of a delicate yet immensely strong dwarven-made chain that holds Fenrir back until Ragnarok, when he’s free to devour Odin. If Shuuichi’s mascot mode represents Fenrir, his human form is that chain. But unlike its Norse namesake it’s quickly fraying, thanks in part to Claire helping it along. Or Maybe, ironically, maybe it’s Claire who is the true Fenrir here, a wolf in model’s clothing. Shuuichi broke the chain and unleashed her by getting rescuing (and assaulting) her. There’s no going back now!

Gleipnir looks and sounds great (thanks to composer Sakata Ryouhei and a great Mili ED), with a taut, tense and gripping story. The dread of Shuuichi’s misfortunes is weighed against the reality of Claire having a legit beef with him. The cuteness of his mascot form contrasts with the horrifying nature of his transition. We’ll see what hell she puts him through, and if it ever rises to the level of Aku no Hana pitch-blackness.

In / Spectre – 12 (Fin) – What a Lovely Day

Whew…Rikka doesn’t play any last-minute trump cards, and Steel Lady Nanase vanishes in a wisp of smoke; the forum have had their say and decided she wasn’t a realy ghost—even though she was.

It turns out Rikka was aware she was dueling with Kotoko and Kurou all along, and emails the latter to congratulate their victory…and warn them that This Isn’t Over. But for now, Kotoko can celebrate her momentous, hard-fought win with Kurou and her youkai associates.

That said, having exerted so much mental energy outwitting Rikka, Kotoko has to rest for a while…a while that turns out to be 28 hours. While she’s asleep, Kurou goes behind her back and has a dinner date with Saki, the scoundrel!

Just kidding; the two have a very proper and cordial dinner as a form of closure on their relationship that ended so abruptly years ago. It’s also an opportunity for Kurou to tell Saki that Rikka is basically trying to create a god who has the power to turn her into a normal human.

The next morning, Kotoko is furious and suspicious about Kurou’s goings-on, and punishes him by getting his only remaining clean shirt wet by pouncing on him straight from the bath and shaking her hair on him, then tumbling around in the bed.

This is why I was so glad the Steel Lady story was wrapped up last week: so we could watch more of this fascinating and endlessly rootable couple interact and bounce off one another. Kotoko is such a formidable firecracker, she practically requires an immortal as a partner.

The two check out of the hotel as it looks close to rain, and Kurou assures Kotoko that he and Saki are so over (which is the truth after all) by comparing her to Princess Iwanaga from the KojikiWhen she’s offended (the princess was sent away because she was homely), he makes an appeal to her surpassing beauty.

After a momentary blush she scolds him for being superficial, then suggests they head for her house to meet with her parents, casually taking Kurou’s hand and holds it tighter and tighter. Honestly, I could watch this pair of lovebirds playfully bicker for another two seasons! Hopefully we’ll get at least one more, since there’s plenty of potential for more supernatural mysteries, not to mention a Rikka rematch.

Read Crow’s review of In/Spectre Episode 12 here.

Somali and the Forest Spirit – 06 – Love Never Lies

When Uzoi tells Somali what she’s doing and why, Somali doesn’t take it lying down. She screams so hard she hurts Uzoi’s sensitive ears and runs. While fleeing, Somali falls off a cliff into a pond, and Uzoi jumps in and saves her.

As Somali whimpers, soaked and cold, Uzoi extends one of her harpy wings around her, inverting its previous use as the prelude to an attack. When Golem and Haitora arrive, Somali protects Uzoi from her dad, while Uzoi crumbles into her dad’s arms, lamenting that she just couldn’t do it.

As we gathered last week, Haitora is nothing but glad she couldn’t do it, and we learn why when he delves into his past to explain to Golem why he’s not deserving of Uzoi’s love. For he was once in her position, after he and his wife and daughter were forced to flee their small human settlement when it was raided by “grotesques.”

Trapped in a cave with no food or water for days, a desperate Haitora happens upon an adult harpy—Uzoi’s mother. And because he and his family is starving and there’s no other option, he kills the harpy without a moment’s hesitation, then drags the body back to the cave. “We have to be like them” to survive, he gravely tells the family in his failing voice.

They all tuck into the raw harpy meat, and within a few minutes, both his wife and daughter suffer unspeakably agonizing deaths before his eyes. This is the kind of graphic horror I came to expect of Made in Abyss, and it’s just as unsettlingly naturalistic in its depiction here.

As we’ve learned, Uzoi has great hearing, so she hears Haitora’s confession to Golem and learns her whole life with him was based on lies. Even after Somali lazily forgives her friend for trying to kill her and drain her blood, Uzoi (whose name sounds a lot like usoi, Japanese for “lying”) faces existential despair and emptiness in the wake of Haitora’s words.

She’s so depressed, in fact, that when they come across a dragon twister while traversing the desert, and the winds pick her and Somali up, she takes one last pained look at Haitora and lets go, in that moment preferring death to living a terrible lifelong lie any further.

The moment also confirms to Haitora that Uzoi heard him last night. He wants to rush out to save her, but Golem insists they stay put until the storm subsides, using his fancy eye to calculate where the girls are likely to survive grave injury by landing on the soft sand.

When Golem spots the girls later, they’re being attacked by an aggressively territorial canterbird. He quickly formulates a plan wherein he serves as a decoy to allow Haitora to get the girls to safety, but Haitora quickly adopts his own plan, hoping to give what’s left of his wretched life leading the canterbird away. To his surprise, upon being cornered the canterbird is stopped…by Uzoi.

Unwilling to let him die without talking to her, Uzoi would much rather he stay alive with her, proving true Somali’s earlier words that “love doesn’t lie.” Love isn’t always happy, or clean; even Somali is aware of this if she doesn’t know her father is dying. Sometimes those who love each other wound each other, but the scars can’t be ignored, even if they’re deepened by confronting them.

Hayami Saori puts on a clinic performing this scene, which comes as no surprise if you follow her voice work. When you need a character to deliver dramatic dialogue movingly and convincingly, Saori-chan is someone you can always count on. Even so, she never ceases to amaze me with her remarkable vocal talent.

Haitora, realizing he was only trying to take the easy way out, re-commits to living with Uzoi as long as he humanly can. Not out of obligation to atone for his past sins and lying about them, but for a more important reason: he and Uzoi are family, and they love one another, period.

But even if he’d been persuaded to drink Somali’s blood (something he’d never do after what happened with his family) it likely wouldn’t have worked. Harpies are magical creatures, so it’s likely magic is needed to heal him. If you need magic, you’ll need witches, whom we glimpse in the preview.

Fruits Basket – 24 – The Rosary

When Kyou’s mother committed suicide, everyone blamed him because he was cursed with the Cat spirit; everyone but Souma Kazuma, who took him under his wing and trained him without judgment. It was Kazuma’s grandfather, after all, who carried the spirit before Kyou, so even though he himself didn’t know what it was like, he was close to someone that did, and had empathy for them both.

Now Kazuma is back, and while he doesn’t show it around the others, Kyou is elated. He assumes he’s to go back to living with his shishou and continue his training. But Kazuma is there for something else. He’s seen Kyou with Tooru, and believes it’s time to tell her the truth about what Kyou is, even if Kyou would prefer to keep running away from that truth.

Kazuma doesn’t see much point in dragging things out. After informing Tooru, he takes Kyou’s arm and removes the rosary of red and white beads that never leaves his arm. Once it’s off, his true form is revealed, and it’s a truly terrifying, monstrous form with a smell to match. Throughout the transformation, Kyou recalls how Akito reacted (how you’d expect Akito to react—with utter disgust and rejection).

He expects the same reaction from Tooru, and while she’s initially frozen in shock, and later nauseous from the sight and smell of him, she still dutifully chases after him, completely forgetting that she just got over a cold!

Assuming she’s only there to have pity on him and offer hollow comfort, both things he’s sick to death of, he tosses her aside, hoping to hurt her enough so she’ll never forgive him. This strategy fails, of course, because we’re talking about Tooru here.

Kyou is weary of Tooru’s comfort (the “lukewarm bath” in which he’d gotten too pruny) because that’s what he got from his late mother: she gave him the rosary, checked his arm dozens of times a day to make sure he was wearing it, and wouldn’t let him outside. He could never trust or accept the love she insisted she had for him because she worked so tirelessly to hide his true form, sweeping it under the rug like it didn’t exist.

Even though his mother told him all the time that she’d die for him, that wasn’t what Kyou needed, or needs. What he needs, and what Tooru ultimately provides, is not an assurance she’ll die for him, but that she’ll live life with him. She doesn’t claim to have all the answers, but she won’t look away or turn away from him, even in his true form.

Tooru fears Kyou never returning to Shigure’s house more than the reality of his true form, so she takes hold of his misshapen limb and doesn’t let go, until he transforms back into human form, and then into his cute Zodiac cat form, and they return to the house together triumphant and to Kazuma’s relief.

In this regard, Tooru has emerged as his new proverbial rosary; one that doesn’t hide what he is but accepts it and is committed to living with him anyway. And however dark the future gets, he’s able to move past his dark past because she’ll be right there facing that future beside him.

BEM – 02 – It’s a Nice Face

Bela, or “Annabella”, as her high school friends call her, may be a youkai, but she has a human form and dreams of one day becoming a real human. So she “practices” by going to high school, having friends and interacting with them, including teasing a young man who likes making very nice drawings of her.

But when a woman in her late twenties recognizes Bela as Mary, someone she went to high school with, the question arises: where exactly did Bela get her human face? As it happens, she got it from the corpse of Mary Russell, which is now nothing more than a skeleton when Sonia and the police find it. But who killed her?

After a very weird (and animation-wise, pretty lazy) canvassing montage, Sonia is no closer to learning the actual truth, just that different people say the opposite things about Elaine, the blue-haired woman who recognized Bela. The next day, Bela is assaulted by three guys at the mall, but who comes to her rescue but Elaine.

Elaine then proceeds to tell Bela her side of the story, in which Mary was blamed by their mutual friend (and queen bee) Dominic Vali for stealing her jewelry, then punished by being forced to undertake a test of courage in the Outside, and ends up never returning. Elaine says the piece of jewelry Bela wore when they first met, along with the one she gifts to Bela, were made by Mary, who dreamt of becoming a jewelry-maker.

The more Bela thinks on it, the more she wants to tell Elaine the truth, since she seems like a nice person. That turns out not to be the case, as she has both Bela and Dominic meet up at the cemetery where Mary died, just so a hitman she hired can kill them both.

This entire scene feels like it comes out of the blue, but more importantly, it’s just patently silly that the bad guy is some kind of “bowling greaser monster.” Both Bela’s transformation, youkai design, and the ensuing battle that ends with Bela victorious, are pretty mediocre.

The disappointment continues when Bela (who doesn’t bother to change after transforming back into a human) pays Elaine a visit, and Elaine immediately drops the nice lady act and becomes a leering villain, complete with a “covering one eye” move. When she cops to having Mary and Dominic killed, Bela loses her cool and transforms into a kind of Alien Queen-type monster, only lamer.

Bem ends up intervening before Bela kills Elaine, and also calls Sonia to arrest Elaine, the culprit in the case of Mary and Dominic’s murders. Basically, by helping the cops clear homicides and assisting them in other ways, Bem hopes to one day become human. Bela shares that dream, and despite being very aloof about it, so does Belo (he does play video games with kids “his own age,” after all).

Bela comes away glad she learned more about Mary Russell, whose face she took, and hopes to honor her memory by leaving the youkai life behind. But who knows when or if that will happen. In the meantime, while BEM is pretty solid in some areas (the jazzy score for one), it seems odd that a show heavily featuring monsters would do such a bad job visualizing said monsters and their battles.