Renai Boukun – 08

Yuzu and Guri mount a daring rescue of Akane (armed with cosplay and retro dramatic music), only to find she doesn’t want to be rescued… naturally. The story is very standard issue, and on paper sounds like dozens of such rescue episodes. What makes Renai Boukun’s take on it fresh and watchable (if not outstanding) is its commitment to inserting punchy, often self-referential comedy wherever it can.

As the subtitle above demonstrates, Renai Boukun will often go to the trouble of pointing out the cliches it’s using, because characters like Guri are themselves knowledgable students of anime like the one they’re in. Guri’s status as a cupid, with her “love detection” ability, easily cuts through the stoic masks both Akane and her mother are wearing.

Akane’s mom may not ever break her stern, Vulcan calm, but when Akane herself has her blade pressed to Seiji’s neck, and he tells her he’d never be able to hate her no matter what, her eye highlights come back, and then some: shimmer, tears; the lot!

Renai is also shameless in its portrayal of Akane and Yuzu’s moms as aged-up versions of their daughters: they loved the same man, bearing the girls who now both love Seiji. Akane’s mom left her dad when her family calling beckoned, but she has to deal with the fact her daughter might not go down that very same path.

The moms are also even more powerful than their daughters, and their unhinged battle on the roof of Akane’s house surprises Seiji, even though at this point he’s used to getting stabbed (but likes the pain from Akane’s stabbing more than Shikimi’s).

As expected, by the end of the episode everything is back to the way it was, relationship-wise, only now Akane has the implicit approval to “do as she likes”, which is to keep loving Seiji. Seiji also feels closer to her now that he knows the whole truth about Akane and Yuzu’s family.

Akua got to fight some goons in suits. Coraly got to scare Akua shitless. Shikimi got to stab Seiji a bunch. Everybody’s happy! Well, until the very end, when Guri sees how close Seiji and Akane have grown, and no doubt ponders what, if anything, she can do to get Seiji to look at her the way he looks at Akane.

Little Witch Academia – 20

Despite Akko’s protesting (with backup from Andrew) Diana insists she has no choice but to perform the ritual before the transit of Venus behind the moon is complete. She goes into the ritual chambers alone, but is immediately impeded in her mission by Aunt Daryl, who wraps her in one of her many giant magic snake familiars.

No matter how much logic he tosses at Akko, she knows it’s not right for Diana to be dropping out; she’s clearly putting her own dreams aside for the good of her family. When they eavesdrop on Daryl and her twin daughters talking about how she had no problem stopping Diana, Akko has all the moral capital she needs to break with sacred Cavendish custom and enter the sanctum to rescue her.

Andrew helps, convinced that Akko is right. He remembers how passionate Diana became years ago when talk flew around she wouldn’t be able to perform magic. We know the spark of inspiration was the twin pillars of her mother and Shiny Chariot. But to her credit, Akko keeps Andrew out of the sanctum: she’ll bring back Diana on her own…all the way back the academy.

Akko proves she can mostly take care of herself, using her patented partial-transformation magic in rapid-fire mode to lure the snakes away from Diana and stay one step ahead until she regains consciousness and saves her.

With Akko bitten and poisoned, Diana sacrifices her chance to complete the ritual by healing and staying with Akko, who wakes up, then scolds Diana for staying there with her instead of continuing on with the ritual. But this is just Diana being Diana: kind, caring, and healing, just like her mother and the centuries of Cavandishes who came before her.

It’s no coincidence their conversation is held in a facility borne of that family “affection”, a secret hospital where Diana’s ancestors used their considerable magical knowledge to heal the wounded from conflicts that plagued history, without regard to whose side they were on.

Diana’s confession of her lifelong dream (to protect and preserve her family’s and mother’s names and the home they left behind) moves Akko to assure her she can still achieve that dream, restoring her family and complete her education at Luna Nova, as long as she…you guessed it, believes in her heart.

In this manner, two Chariot superfans—one current, one lapsed—come together to realize her credo that a believing heart can make anything possible. To that end, traditional and modern powers mingle, and Diana realizes the fifth word is Akko’s for the taking.

Reciting it summons Chariot’s broom, which they ride together to reach the site where the ritual is to be completed…only to find Aunt Beryl and her daughters waiting to disrupt Diana once more.

For this latest act of treachery, Diana’s relations are punished not by her or Akko, but by the system itself, and are quickly encased in trees. As she did with Akko, Diana stays true to her family’s legacy again by putting judgement aside and helping others before herself.

By the time she’s saved Daryl and the twins, the Venusian eclipse is over, but Diana still gets a momentary nod of approval, so to speak, from her family’s founder, Lady Beatrix. She may not have quite completed the ritual, but it’s clear to all who will lead the Cavendish family’s future.

Until that time, Diana is free to return to Luna Nova, much to Akko’s delight. She also gives Akko a ride home on her broom, which is the perfect time for her to express her gratitude for what Akko did…softly, and only once. Still, Akko heard her, and after their shared experiences this week their bond has never been tighter.

After charming and fun but inconsequential episodes involving the B-characters, this Diana-focused two-parter was a welcome and worthwhile outing that brought two rivals closer together and brought Akko one word closer to potentially changing the world.

I also appreciated the bonhomie that’s gradually developed between Akko and Andrew (who will be back, at least to give Akko her hat back). While I would have preferred if Diana’s full fleshing-out arc had come sooner, it’s better late than never, and well worth the wait.

Little Witch Academia – 19

In a move that initially feels like she’s been underutilized in the show thus far, Diana makes the decision to drop out of Luna Nova Academy, effective immediately. The Cavendish family is in dire straits, she is the only one who can right the ship, and the window to assume the mantle of family leadership is closing, and won’t open again until the stars literally align years from now.

In true form, Akko either rejects whatever reasons Diana has or doesn’t bother to ask what they are: she’s only concerned with whether this is really what Diana wants. It’s clear Diana isn’t happy about leaving. But pride in her once-great family, and love and obligation to fulfill her now-deceased mother’s wishes outweighs her desire to stay in school.

Akko doesn’t make Diana’s departure any easier, so she throws Akko’s own main goal—the Words, and her inability to find them as quickly as she claimed she would—back in her face. There’s a nice meta nature to this: Akko has futzed around with Amanda and Cons but has yet to find the fifth, “history and tradition”-related Word.

There’s also the fact that Diana always thought she would be the one entrusted to the task of unsealing the words and opening the gate. But she ruefully accepts that Akko is the “chosen one”, and not her.

When Diana arrives at a huge but increasingly deteriorating Cavendish estate, we’re officially in Magic Falling Aristocrat Land, complete with Diana’s drunk aunt, Daryl. She and Diana exchange hollow pleasantries, barely bothering to hide their mutual disdain.

The sense is immediate that not only would Diana not have to deal with the collapse of her family before she finishes school, but that Daryl, the proxy head, has no desire whatsoever for Diana to come in and start mucking about the lifestyle she and her daughters cling to: sucking up what’s left of the Cavendish fortune and grinding its name into dust.

Naturally, Akko isn’t taking Diana’s goodbye lying down, and she’s clearly unconsciously drawn by the possibility the fifth word will lie in her interactions with Diana and her family. But whether it’s too slow, out of magical range, or the writers simply forgot, she doesn’t take the broom Cons made for her last week.

When she’s had her fill of travelling by foot, she thumbs a lift, and is reluctantly picked up by none other than Andrew and his father, who happen to be on their way to the Cavendish Manor. An initially tense, awkward backseat scene is lightened when Andrew refutes his father’s claim Akko “ruined” his party, while Akko tells Andrew the reason for their “fated” encounter: she’s going to bring Diana back.

Akko’s arrival with Andrew and his father certainly surprises Diana (Andrew’s line about finding her by the side of the road is at once cruel, hilarious, and true), but in this nest of vipers, it’s Diana who does what she can to keep Akko safe, claiming her as a guest (and as much a witch as she is), and getting her dolled up for dinner, after which she’ll go straight to bed and leave first thing in the morning. (Diana also hides her pried Shiny Chariot card from Akko…we know she was a big fan too!)

Akko holds her own in deflecting barbs from one of the few Cavendish maids left (her communist tendencies were well-documented from the faerie strike episode), but Akko also learns from the maid that Diana’s parents died when she was little, and she immediately feels guilty for all the awful things she’s said to her. Diana is also known within her family as being “kind” like her mother, in keeping with the Cavendish motto: “Affection.”

Akko also proves again that she cleans up nice, but her questionable dining etiquette earns her a simple wordless glare from Diana, one of my favorite moments of the episode.

The classiness and elegance of the evening starts to erode when Aunt Daryl reveals her reason for inviting the Hanbridges: she would like to sell them some prized, priceless Cavendish heirlooms, including the tapestry of Beatrix, one of the Nine Olde Witches who founded the family and was involved in the Grand Triskelion business.

It’s a very distasteful business, especially when Daryl all but begs a departing Hanbridge for money, offering a discount. This is what has become of the Cavendish family, other than Diana: a collection of people who have abandoned pride for greed. Daryl is only interested in maintaining her fancy quality of life, even though it’s unsustainable, considering there’s only a finite amount of Cavendish treasures she can monetize.

For her part, Daryl blames the sorry state of the family to her all-too-kind sister, Diana’s mother, and her insistence on helping others for free, as befits the Cavendish motto. But even if Daryl isn’t responsible for getting the family in this mess, she certainly has done nothing to get out of it.

That’s why Diana believes she must perform the ritual and become family head as soon as possible. Akko almost gets lost int he midst of this family drama, but there’s no way she won’t play a role in resolving it, no doubt unsealing a word and maybe even bringing Diana back to school in the process.

Renai Boukun – 07

After establishing its kooky cast, Love Tyrant has proceeded to explore more and more serious dramatic stuff with the trappings of a quirky comedy. Guri first attempts to test out Akane’s “heartache” theory about love by stabbing herself with one of Akane’s kukris.

But after her desire to go to the festival is rebuffed by Seiji, who already has plans with Akane, she goes off on her own and is approached by The Perfect Guy, who is kind, patient, and respects her interests—the opposite of Seiji, leading her to question whether Seiji’s even worth her time.

A lovely festival date with Mystery Guy leads to a romantic setting in which he leans in for the kiss, only to have his eyes shoved into his brain by Guri; a reflex, she says contritely. Nice Guy is nice, but isn’t Seiji, and kissing him feels wrong.

So when she happens to bump into Seiji, who came to festival as per her original wishes anyway, she kisses him, it feels right, and she proclaims that while Seiji may have his issues—not handsome, stubborn, quick to anger, boring, insensitive—but she doesn’t hate him after all.

It’s good to see Guri and the show point out Seiji’s flaws, but also demonstrate how love is more than an equation of pros and cons. As for Perfect Guy, he was under a spell from Maou as part of his larger plan to recruit Guri, which, sure, fine.

Someone else who loves Seiji deeply in spite of his flaws is Akane, but unlike the cupid Guri, she’s supposed to have no need for love. In fact, giving her heart to Seiji is a serious crime against her family, and her mother Suo soon has her captured and bound, and gives her an ultimatum: break up with Seiji, or else.

What ‘or else’ means, precisely, I don’t know, as Akane is technically immortal. As is Seiji, as demonstrated when a group of thugs try to kill him in broad daylight in the park. He’s rescued by his tough little sister Akua, who is then totally freaked out by Coraly, because who wouldn’t be?

(I for one actually have a soft spot for Coraly because my roommate’s cat looks just like him…without the human face of course.)

Shikimi arrives to tell Seiji and Akua what Suo has done with Akane.  In solitary confinement, Akane remembers not giving a hoot about anyone’s feelings and keeping her heart to herself, as her mother wanted. Until she met Seiji by chance in an alley, and for some reason when he says she’s kind, it resonates, and whether she liked it or not, she fell for him right then and there.

Though it definitely weighs down what had been a lightweight rom-com, I appreciate the show elaborating on Akane’s feelings and showing their origins and how she must choose between love and family. I also like Seiji (and Akua!) teaming up with Shikimi to rescue Akane (even though Shikimi is clearly up to something).

Meanwhile Guri and Yuzu don’t have much time together in the second half but they make the most of it, first with Yuzu’s takedown of the cat maid cafe Guri brought them to, then in planning a sleepover, then ditching that plan to join the fight to save Akane.

Rokudenashi Majutsu Koushi to Akashic Records – 06

With its sixth episode, Akashic Records has unfolded in a steady pattern: a first episode of setup (in this case the magical competition) a second episode that raises the stakes (the attempted plot to kill Rumia) and a satisfying third episode that brings everything together with style and panache.

Last week ended with Re=L trying to kill Glenn, but that’s just her nature: rush in headfirst without thinking. Fortunately for Glenn and Rumia, Albert is there to hold Re=L back, and the two court mages decide to help their old buddy out with protecting Rumia and foiling the Imperial Guard’s plot.

Many times, we cut away from the end of the competition to Glenn simply running from the Guard with Rumia in his arms. Albert and Re=L take over for Glenn, with Albert saying everything Glenn would say if he was there, keeping Class 2’s heads in the game. Everyone performs like he hoped when he selected them, including Sisti, who makes use of his altered spell advice to defeat her opponent in a duel and grasp victory.

From there, a nifty little twist takes place: the representatives of the winning class get to be presented their award by Queen Alicia herself. In this case, that’s Albert and Re=L…only it ISN’T. Albert and Re=L switched places with Glenn and Rumia back when they met, using self-illusion magic to assume each other’s forms.

That puts Glenn, The Fool, right where he needs to be to (quietly) unleash his Fool’s World spell, nullifying the conditional cursed necklace around Alicia’s neck. Before that, Alicia has to say some very harsh lies about ordering Rumia’s execution and that she never loved her.

That really puts poor Rumia through the emotional ringer, but Rumia’s a tough gal, and once it’s no longer deadly to do so, Queen Alicia lets her true feelings be known, and that in turn leads Rumia to accept and return her mother’s love in a tearful, cathartic embrace.

As for the ringleader in the Guard’s treachery, Eleanor Chalet, a heretic mage of the Researchers of Divine Wisdom, is surrounded by the real Albert and Re=L in a dark alley, but uses a spell to escape before they can place her in custody, offering only one vague, if titular clue, about why she was so keen on killing Rumia AKA Ermiana: “Akashic Records.”

If a RDW traitor could pose as queen’s chief handmaiden, it means the good guys will have to exercise constant vigilance. Albert and Re=L bid goodbye to Glenn, though considering she’s featured heavily in the OP and ED in an academy uniform, I wouldn’t be surprised if Re=L returns, posing as a student in Glenn’s class to assist him in keeping Rumia safe.

After thanking Glenn for helping to save her, along with her mom, and for keeping his three-year-old promise to have her back, Rumia and Glenn head to the tavern where the rest of Class 2 has already gotten the victory celebration started. In fact, I was totally caught off guard yet delighted by the fact Sisti managed to get wasted (on brandy cake of all things!) and is in full-on Lovey-Dovey Shironeko Glom mode with Glenn.

That would be enough discomfort on his plate, but as a final insult, the class ended up spending his entire reward, as well as the three-month salary he won in the bet with his fellow teacher, on the night’s food and drink bill. Not to worry, however: he’s sure to get more homemade meals from Sisti.

Rokudenashi Majutsu Koushi to Akashic Records – 05

What seemed most likely to be the conclusion of the magical competition turned out to be something else entirely: something far more significant than Glenn’s wager with Halley; something far more interesting, too.

It starts simply enough, with a lunch break in which Glenn reminds us what a bastard he can be by taking advantage of the fact that Sisti thinks he’s Rumia so he can nab a bite to eat. That being said, he transformed to give Lynn a pointer about illusion magic, so he’s really only a half-bastard.

Quite surprisingly, Glenn and Rumia are approached by Queen Alicia VII, who can’t help but take advantage of the fact her biological daughter is right there before her. Unfortunately, Rumia isn’t in the mood to talk or be conciliatory; she politely tells the queen she’s mistaking her for someone else and bolts.

I can’t say I blame her! Rumia may have just won the Mental Defense round, but that was nothing compared to her dilemma this week as her “former” mother all of a sudden gets in her face. Glenn tracks her down when Sisti is worried about her, and helps Rumia work through the conflicting feelings. For his part, Glenn tells her there’s no way to avoid regrets 100% in life, so one might as well make choices that are true to who they are.

Meanwhile, our two mysterious bluish-haired folks are on the alert after hearing about suspicious activity with the Imperial Guard: Albert and Re=L. Not long after Alicia talks with Glenn and Rumia, she is taken into custody by said guard.

The two are clearly court mages and former colleagues of Glenn’s, have have both a casual rapport with one another (considering how often she lets him pull her hair) and confidence in their abilities (Re=L is all for a fully frontal assault).

It isn’t long before Rumia is tracked down by the guards, accused, tried, and convicted of attempting to assassinate the queen right then and there. Glenn is knocked out and she’s tied to a tree to be executed, and as is typical of Rumia, she’s ready to die…

…But Glenn wasn’t knocked out that badly, and uses flash spells to get the jump on the guards and rescue Rumia…even though Rumia isn’t sure she should be rescued, poor girl.

Once a safe distance away, Glenn contacts Celica, but like the queen, she’s being held hostage by the Guards, which means Glenn is on his own. Only, not really, because Re=L and Albert show up just when they’ll be the most useful; an ace in the hole, if you will.

We’ll see if they consider Glenn a hostile, or if Re=L will stand down shortly after her aerial attack. Whatever the case, between Glenn, his old buddies, and his capable students, I like their odds of saving Alicia and Celica from the Imperial Guard…Unless there’s a good reason Zelos is restraining the queen and Celica, of course.

In any case, it’s another nice setup for both another high-stakes hostage situation and a proper introduction of Albert and Re=L.

3-gatsu no Lion – 21

3GL has proven time and again it doesn’t have to stick to one story per episode to excel, and this is one of those split episodes that really resonated with me. The Lion King Tournament took up so much of the show’s—and Rei’s—attention and energy that the fact it’s over now feels like a great weight has been lifted, and now life goes on, which we get to witness a slice of.

Rei accompanies Shimada to his hometown of Yanagata, and as he’s known as a “rainbringer”, the Human Shogi can’t be performed outdoors. It is, however, still performed, on a stage in an auditorium, and I have to say I really dug the tradition and pageantry involved in such a production. The town’s pride and devotion to shogi is evident in every one of the human shogi pawns’ faces.

As for Shimada, he may have brought gray clouds and rain, but indoors, the various Yanagata shogi festivities seem to recharge him, to the point that by the time he’s leaving, he’s ready to start his climb to masterdom all over again, realizing he’s been rushing and failing to enjoy the ride.

At the same time, hearing that Shimada came up with a community shogi program that benefits otherwise isolated elderly folks adds another dimension to Shimada, who has now gotten more development than any other shogi player besides Rei.

The next segment has nothing to do with Shimada, but is focused on the Kawamotos as Gramps mines his granddaughters for inspiration. He’s trying to craft another “signature sweet” to supplement the already popular “baked crescents”.

He trusts and respects the sisters’ opinions, at least to a point: when they start getting too non-traditional, he bristles. That being said, he also loves Momo’s suggestion of using gum, though that’s probably just ’cause he loves Momo and would call her a genius even if she suggested something truly heretical, like Hershey’s Kisses.

Later, Akari and Hina decide to splurge at a sweet shop, but end up going overboard with extras, sending the check skyrocketing to a sum that could have been used to feed the family for a week. As they say, those places are at trap, and they’ll clean you out and leave you fat, but that doesn’t mean the treats they push aren’t great anyway, or that it’s wrong to treat oneself once in a while.

Later, Hina is the one with the eureka moment, developing a versatile and cute daifuku snowman confection. Clearly the apple didn’t fall far from the tree, as Gramps admits the sisters’ mom was the one who came up with the Baked Crescents. Family, for Gramps, is not just obligation, but a font of inspiration. And the shop stays in business thanks in part to their ideas and energy.

In an exceedingly adorable closing scene, Hina calls Rei, then hears his phone ringing at the door; he happened to be arriving by surprise. It’s nice to see the two so in sync. There’s also a nice positive “karma” in Rei showing up with excess Yanagata treats from Shimada, as if the universe is re-filling the coffers Akari and Hina’s parfait run emptied. But more than anything, it’s nice to see Rei reunited with the Kawamotos.

Hibike! Euphonium 2 – 09

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Kumiko isn’t able to wallow in helplessness over solving her family’s problems for long: her band-mates have a new project for her! Why are Natsuki, Nozomi, Mizore and Kaori all going to her? Why else: Kumiko has proven to have a knack for stealthily helping people with their issues. She can act as coy as she likes: the results of her work are clear for all to see, and this week she’s celebrated for it whether she likes it or not.

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“You’ve always done well.” “There’s something about you.” “You see through people.” “You act like you don’t notice things, but you do…and when it matters most, you always have the right words.” All meant as praise, all of it well-earned. There’s no pretending she isn’t something she is. Kumiko facilitates. She connects. She breaks through to the heart of matters, often forcefully if need be. And she inspires the likes of Reina to want to just as forcefully “peel off” her mask.

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Reina has a lot of choice moments this week, not only when she’s so lovingly and earnestly describing Kumiko, to getting adorably flustered when Taki-sensei rises and shines before her eyes. But she also sees the photo on Taki’s desk, of him with another woman. As talkative as Reina was with Kumiko before seeing that photo, the silence on the train ride home afterwards is deafening.

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Kumiko can’t help Reina on this right now, she’s faced with her toughest challenge yet: Tanaka Asuka. Fortunately for her, Asuka wants to talk, perhaps because she too has witnessed what Kumiko can do. The close-ups of Asuka when Kaori ties her shoe then walks off are downright scary, while the tension in the early parts of Kumiko’s visit to her home is palpable.

But when it comes down to it, Kumiko isn’t there to be tutored, and Asuka isn’t there to tutor her. Instead, Asuka finally opens up to Kumiko, telling her how Masakazu Shindo “was” her father before he and her mom divorced when she was two. She tells her how her determination to make the nationals was borne out of a “selfish” desire to get her father to hear her play. How she hates her mother, but can’t do anything about it.

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It’s here where we see Kumiko, who had entered this mission utterly lacking any semblance of confidence or certainty, goes into, well, shall we say “Euphonium Mode”? She sees through Asuka’s misdirection. She notices her feints and her subtle leadings. And she even has the right words to say at the right time…not because she knows what to say in this situation, but because it’s what she truly believes.

We know from her inner monologue, she wants to hear Asuka play. And so Asuka plays us out, during the end credits. And Kumiko demonstrates another ability we know she’s getting pretty good at: bringing out genuine smiles. The fight to get Asuka back is far from over, but it’s off to a promising start.

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Hibike! Euphonium 2 – 08

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That ominous cold close of Mamiko leaving the Oumae household was a taste of what was to come this week, with Kumiko getting so caught up in family unrest it literally makes her sick. That being said, she isn’t all that involved in said unrest, merely a witness, and not a happy one at that. Her sister Mamiko, who inspired her to get into music, now wants to become…a beautician.

Her Dad warns Mamiko that if she quits college, she’ll be cast out and cut off. Mamiko blames her folks for making her quit trombone (which, to Kumiko’s shock, she never wanted to quit), but Pops only accepts partial responsibility; to him, the blame rests on Mamiko for not being more forceful about what she wanted to do.

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Back at school, Asuka returns to practice, but just as quickly stops coming again after inviting Kumiko to her place to help study for exams, which would be a first. Kumiko quickly becomes quite ill, making the band two euphs down, while Taki informs the band that if Asuka can’t show up for practice, Natsuki will take her place at the Nationals. It’s kind of unsettling how quickly Asuka disappears from this episode halfway in.

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Kumiko is sent home by her friends, and after an odd encounter with the third-year Aoi, she ends up in bed, waking up to find Reina quietly sitting by her bed, waiting to spring into action and take care of her. Reina has taken a bit of back seat to others of late (though she hasn’t become as obscure as Shuuichi), so it’s nice to see her here, and to see how far these two have come in their friendship.

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Reina even gets to witness Kumiko getting fed up at her sister when she barges in to turn off a euph CD. Kumiko doesn’t hold her tongue, and lets Mamiko have it regarding her earlier assertion she never wanted to give trombone up. Mamiko retreats, telling her little sister she’ll “never understand how she feels.” Yikes.

But that’s not where things are left. Mamiko runs into Shuuichi in the lobby on her way out (Shuuichi, whose mother heard Mamiko was quitting college). Shuu’s voice proves crucial in getting Mamiko to introspect, and that night, Mamiko comes back in Kumiko’s room – not to complain or fight, but to ask for a recording of her Kumiko’s music.

There’s been a rift between these two sisters for a long time, not helped by their frustratingly implacable father who only seems to know how to sow and escalate rancor in the household. Maybe they can reconnect through music?

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Hibike! Euphonium 2 – 07

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As BSG’s President Roslin said, “Alright…Next Crisis!” Kumiko may be dealing with a widening rift between her and her sister, but that takes a backseat to a more pressing issue that affects the entire band. It’s also the reason we’ve gotten so many close-ups of Asuka’s sadface: her mom is making her resign.

Taki-sensei refuses, but after her mom slaps her (an incident Kumiko happens to witness), the mother and daughter go home, and Asuka returns to school bright and cheery like nothing happened, she just plain stops showing up to band practice.

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The sudden loss of Asuka, and all the swirling rumors about it, instantly, negatively affects the band’s performance in practice on the eve of a very public performance at a big train station. Taki is not pleased with this, and basically peaces out and leaves President Haruka to deal with it (which is the right move to make, rather than continue trying to focus a clearly rattled band).

Haruka steps up to the plate (well, the lectern), and performs admirably, telling the band, essentially, that all this time they’ve built up Asuka as someone “special” and irreplaceable; but that’s not really the case. And now it’s up to them to support her for once, by bearing down and putting on a show they, and she, can be proud of, in hopes she comes back. That’s all they can do.

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The day of the station gig, sure enough, Asuka is there with a bright smile, ready to see what the band can do in her absence. Haruka wrests control of a massive, unwieldy baritone sax and belts out a badass solo. Taki suggested the solo to “shake things up”, and it worked: the performance boosts the president’s and band’s confidence as the Nationals draw nearer.

Asuka’s future with the band is still unclear, but the band will survive. As for Mamiko, there’s something very foreboding about the episode ending with her putting on her shoes and walking out the door of her family’s home.

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Orange – 13 (Fin)

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Naho vows to give Kakeru chocolates on Valentine’s Day and make sure he knows her feelings, but even though her letters state all of the various opportunities, she still manages to blow by almost all of them without success, which is obviously done to heighten the tension. It works!

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But this isn’t like the squandered opportunities of the past. This is it, with just a day before he commits suicide in the original timeline. She has to get those damn chocolates to him, or at least make up with him. A particularly one-dimensionally evil Ueda Rio provides one last obstacle to Naho, but she doesn’t back down, and by the end of the episode’s first act, victory is hers. It’s a satisfying scene that cuts through a lot of the murk that had built up.

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With apologies, hugs, and tears thus shared, Naho and Kakeru are back to normal; no, better than ever, and all the happier for it. Kakeru even blurts out that he loves her, and she doesn’t blush and run off.

But the hour of his past death is still ahead of them, and the circle of friends remains concerned enough to consider either breaking his bike or waiting at the site of his once-and-hopefully-not-future demise.

Again, we see the future friends planning out the logistics and agreeing to send their letters to the past. Again, it seems a little odd to call so much attention to such a mysterious and hard-to-swallow process that is never fully explained anyway (because it’s time magic).

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In any case, because they’ve changed the future so much, the timing of Kakeru’s attempted suicide is altered somewhat, and because Hagita actually sabotages his bike, he’s on foot when a truck nearly hits him.

Kakeru is wandering the night wanting to die, just like last time, because of the power of the unsent text on his mom’s phone he found. But unlike last time, Naho and the others have had an equally powerful cumulative effect on him, to the point it doesn’t matter that they’re too late to stop him, because he stops himself. He doesn’t want to die after all.

From there, everyone runs to him, thinking he’s been hit but relieved to find he isn’t, and when they have to explain why they’re all there, they finally let him in on the future letters, even giving him letters from their once-but-no-longer selves. And there’s a big ol’ group hug, baaaaaaaw.

Those former selves are still chillin’ in the future, content that they did all they could to make Kakeru in an alternate world a better chance to stay alive, for the benefit of their alternate past and future selves. They created a new world, where Kakeru could live and be happily ever after.

 

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Parting thoughts: In its first three to seven weeks, Orange could almost do no wrong by me, so enthusiastic was I by a show that had the potential to be AnoHana or Toradora! quality, with Hanazawa Kana as its able lead.

But the show eventually regressed a bit as the angst was heightened, and my enthusiasm waned just when it was growing for those other shows. Orange could also be a little cheesy at times (I continue to have mixed feelings about the huge smiles of various characters),  and it never maintained the (in hindsight unreasonable) heights I envisioned for it, but it still really wowed and moved me for a solid half of its run.

I liked these earnest kids and their mission to save their friend, I’m glad they succeeded, and I look forward to the anime movie that continues the tale a little further.

Qualidea Code – 12 (Fin)

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Qualidea Code wasn’t always (or really ever) the prettiest, but it was the best-sounding (musically at least), and also never seemed to stand still. It improved right up until the end, at least as far as resolving a major issue early on: a mysterious, faceless, malevolent enemy.

By this final episode, the enemy is no longer faceless, or malevolent (though some mysteries about what they are or where they come from remains unknown to the end, thankfully). In fact, it seems strange to call Airi and Asanagi enemies at all; merely a party with a different agenda.

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Placing them in a grayer area, and resolving their story in a more nuanced way than “kill bad guys” went a long way towards helping me mostly overlook the fact that the show seemed to have run out of budget this week, as huge swaths of animation are simply missing.

I didn’t even mind Aoi’s sudden but inevitable (and heavily telegraphed) “betrayal.” But just like Asanagi, who turns out to be her father, her decision to side with him and Airi is borne out of love, not hate, so it’s hard to condemn what she does.

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That doesn’t mean I don’t want Ichiya and the others to succeeding in ridding the world of the Unknown, and watching them fight desperately, initially without their worlds, made for a thrilling final battle, despite the animation shortcomings. Asuha headbutting Aoi, and Hotaru holding her sword in her mouth were among the highlights.

In the end, everyone gets a boost in power thanks to the return of Canaria’s song, which gets a slightly different (but still very danceable) arrangement for the finale, in which Airi is killed by Hime, who remembers learning which conditions would allow Airi to die contented.

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In the end, Airi does not mind leaving her mortal coil, for she achieved what she wanted: she and Asanagi were able to make another, entirely new life: Aoi. Asanagi does not die, but stays with his daughter.

The Kasumis visit their injured mom, who is ecstatic they’re safe and sound. The dimensional tear is sealed, the skies return to blue, and the heads and subheads of Kanto all vow, in their own way, to rebuild what was toppled.

While we don’t get to hear Ichiya’s answer to Canaria’s question “how do I look to you now?”, we didn’t need any words from him to know how he feels: She’s all he needs.

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Orange – 12

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This week we finally get glimpses of life from Kakeru’s perspective, both events Naho and the others weren’t present for, and in the re-telling of important moments we’ve already witness from the point of view of others. More importantly, we see the “initial” future that leads to his suicide. Here, Kakeru finally opens up, and it’s a dark, brooding place.

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Kakeru is clinically depressed, and can’t forgive himself for what he thought as sending his mom over the edge into suicide. It’s shocking to see him make an actual attempt, since it’s the realized fear of both us and Naho & co, who at the end of the day can only see a small part o Kakeru’s daily life, and only what he chooses to show them, which isn’t much.

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Even when he finds his mom’s old phone containing a lengthy apology for what she did to him and an explanation for her actions, he’s so stuck in his head on that bike ride he ends up getting killed, even if that wasn’t necessarily his desire at the time.

All the other events unfold as Naho’s letter said they would, bringing us to that sudden end. But the last thing he sees in his head is the face of Naho, whom he thinks would probably be sad if he were to die. But he can’t be sure, and in any case isn’t sure anything actually matters.

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That brings us back to the present of the “second” timeline, in which Naho and the others have worked so hard, unbeknownst to him, to keep him safe and happy. But like last time, the New Year’s fight with Naho is an open wound that’s hard to heal, even though Naho knows she must.

We check in on her alternate future self and the others deciding to send letters out to sea, hoping the black hole in the Bermuda Triangle will swallow them up and send them to the past.

This is…a pretty ridiculous plan; frankly I kinda wish they had kept the means by which they received the letters a mystery rather than try to clunkily lay out the practicalities of actually doing it. It’s enough that they wanted to reach out to their past selves to try to change things; I didn’t need the details.

In any case, Naho feels like she and Kakeru are drifting further and further away. The awkwardness and helplessness are palpable. So she goes for broke and asks that Kakeru wait until Valentine’s Day. She’s decided she’ll make her stand there. Whether it causes Kakeru to hate her or causes her pain is irrelevant. She’s not going to lose him again.

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