Flying Witch – 04

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Makoto, Kei and Chinatsu attend the cherry blossom fair, eat many pleasant snacks, tour a haunted maze, and finally meet a strange-looking woman wearing a suspicious hooded full body coat reading fortunes by the road. The woman’s name is Inukai-san and it’s quickly revealed that Akane playfully changed her into a half-dog during the previous festival and Inukai is desperate to return to being fully human.

After a lengthy and roundabout introduction, Makoto agrees to help Inukai, but the magic is beyond her ability to undo. However, before everyone can get too upset, Akane shows up, explains that the whole mess is Inukai’s fault (due to being very drunk) and says the spell will wear off eventually. Everyone is sad but accepting, and Inukai flies off into the night.

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As always, this week’s Flying Witch was packed with lovely details and little exposition. In one example, Mokoto mixes an interesting potion without explaining what she’s doing or how it would work — and the transformation process, which fails, happens entirely off-camera.

The resulting humor is pure deadpan, but soft, and the world-building is natural. It’s even more interesting in contrast with the opening act, which focuses on the cherry blossom fair itself, and is packed with the characters telling us about the fair, its food, and what they like about it.

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Flying Witch continues to remind me of a travel show. The slow pace, pleasant suggestions about what I may like about its setting and people and why, just have that style.

Even without that unique style, it exudes pure charm and surprisingly witty dialog, often sneaked into the background: when we learn that Inukai is Kei’s type, only Makoto seems to notice, but neither she nor Kei are dominant in the frame, and her reaction isn’t given significant visual consideration. It’s subtle, natural, part of the flow. Awesome!

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Flying Witch – 03

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Flying Witch continues to engross and enchant with a deft, gentle touch. It excels at showing life at the pace a Yokohama girl transplanted into the boonies would see it: much slower, but pleasantly so. I appreciate the dialect barrier: she has no idea what her uncle is saying, so it’s good her cousins do.

When Makoto wants to start a garden, Kei and Chinatsu help prepare a patch of the field out back, neglected since their grandmother’s passing. Like their dad’s accent (and their lack of same), the family’s move away from farming is a sign of the times, but the show doesn’t dwell on it in a negative light; it’s just the way things are.

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Similarly, when Makoto, city girl, sees a pheasant tantalizingly close up for the first time, she and Chito just can’t resist trying to catch it. Makoto exerts almost as much energy chasing the thing (which has nothing to do with her witch training) as she does preparing the earth. But the three get the job done, and now it’s up to the soil to absorb the nutrients, which will take, you guessed it, time.

It’s a testament to just how calm and quiet this show is that Chinatsu later describes Makoto’s world-wandering sister Akane as a typhoon, even though Akane isn’t particularly forceful or stormy or a burden; she’s just not at the same pace as this quiet country life.

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Akane is a mover and a shaker, living as a nomad (currently in Africa); giving everyone unprocessed gifts of cacao, salt, and oil; and correcting her modesty by agreeing with her sister that she is, in fact, a big deal in the witching community.

But like the signs of the times, the show makes no bigger a deal of Akane than anything or anyone else. It’s a rare anime instance where hearing bits and pieces of the larger witching world is more effective than showing everything. It leaves the imagination step in to wonder.

Akane hears (from Chito…the cat) that Makoto hasn’t used any magic since moving there, and only flown on her broom once. This confirms what I’d already suspected: not only is the show downplaying more overt forms of magic, but Makoto herself still isn’t comfortable with them.

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That’s okay with Akane, and even sees it as a boon for her sister, not having to rely on spells the way she does. That being said, she wants Makoto to cast spells from time to time, lest her powers dwindle. I like the the idea that the magic a witch possesses must be nurtured and polished like any non-magical skill.

To that end, Akane shows Makoto and Chinatsu one of the simplest beginner spells there is: summoning a witch with a girl’s black hair, fire, and an incantation written on paper. Makoto uses her own hair and ends up making a huge column of black smoke that summons all crows, which is what happens when a witch’s hair is used.

I’m fascinated by the fact that the power of a witch can be expressed in such a subtle way as her hair burning differently than a non-witch. It’s another detail that enriches the world of the show, a world grounded in reality with little flourishes of magic you’ll miss if you’re not looking.

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Flying Witch – 02

 

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Part travel guide to the magical world of the countryside, part cooking show, this week’s Flying Witch is leisurely and incredibly comfortable. I’ve never been so transfixed by a show with so little drama or humor and has no stakes at all.

What happened? Makoto finally makes it home from school on her own and spends a pleasant afternoon with Chinatsu-chan. Then the Harbinger of Spring arrives and poor Chinatsu is terrified by his mask and great size.

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Later, after learning about the Harbinger’s job (to bring spring) and receiving a gift of spring flowers from him, Chinatsu’s heart warms and she asks if he will return soon.

The second act is presented in 3 small parts. First, Makoto dreams that Nao is marked with a sign of great luck only to wake up, having no idea what the class is being quizzed on. Second, as they walk home talking about witch dreams, Kei stops and shows them Bakke growing beside the road, which they pick for dinner. Finally, Kei deep fries the bakke for Makoto to try while Chinatsu alludes to this being a sign of being an adult.

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Flying Witch reminds me of taking a casual walk with a friend in spring. It’s crisp, un-strenuous, and surrounds you with subtle details to admire and talk about. When picking bakke, Kei reminds us not to pick near utility poles because dogs pee there. While cooking bakke, Kei reminds us that the bubbles on our chopsticks mean the oil is hot enough to cook.

Slow bites, warm smiles, loving conversation.

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It’s worth watching: because each character feels ernest and specific. Its characters are cute, but not KAWAIIIIII over the top and when they are nice, they are nice, not absurdly selfless.

Its all so welcoming, there’s no reason to criticize it for a lack of overall plot, lack of conflict, or clear purpose. Flying Witch is just Makoto’s happy life, observed closely, as if we were sharing the space with her.

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Flying Witch – 01 (First Impressions)

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Like Shounen MaidFlying Witch has a very self-explanatory title, and is also a lighthearted slice-of-life tale about a young person starting a new chapter of their life.

In this case it’s an of-age witch, Kowata Makoto, moving out of her parents’ house in Yokohama to live with her second cousins in sleepy Aomori, where she’ll remain until she becomes full-fledged.

She also brings along her black cat Chito, though he only speaks Cat, not Human. Still, the first thing that came into my head was Kiki’s Delivery Service, only Makoto isn’t living all the way on her own and doesn’t have to worry about money and such.

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I like the excitement of moving to a new place and basking in its newness, though by God Makoto has a lot of moving boxes!

I also like the very realistic way her younger cousin Chinatsu is initially weary of the new freeloader, especially when she hears her talking to her cat.

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That changes when the two girls go out shopping, Makoto picks up a bamboo broom, and starts levitating above the ground, a magical scene full of quiet awe.

Once Makoto takes her on a ride around town (which we unfortunately don’t get to see), Chinatsu’s weariness is replaced by the sheer glee of, well, having been flown around on a broom by a real witch.

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Another girl who doesn’t initially warm to Makoto is her cousin Kei’s childhood friend Ishiwatari Nao, who first meets Makoto while the latter is on her broom.

‘Alarmed’ and ‘cautious’ are the best word to describe Nao’s attitude, though Makoto makes it clear that besides being a witch, she’s just a normal girl who would like to be friends, and would hope that Nao bear with her occasional lapses into…witchiness.

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The latest comes when Makoto smells something and starts bushwhacking in a random lot to procure a “present” for Nao that turns out to be a Mandrake root.

Both the horrifying screams of the root and its bizarre cooing and squirming thoroughly creepy Nao out, and who can blame her? Makoto is her first witch acquaintance.

Flying Witch is a calm, quiet, earnest slice-of-life with tinges of supernatural-ness and comedy dispersed throughout, and Makoto is a kind, likable Amami Hibiki-type with a healthy tinge of eccentricity. A nice little feel-good show if you have the time.

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Shounen Maid – 01 (First Impressions)

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Shounen Maid seems like a high-concept excuse to, well, put a boy in a maid costume…for some reason, and so I wasn’t optimistic about this show from the start.

But when the titular future boy maid Komiya Chihiro attempts to burn the letter his recently deceased mother wrote him because it’s too vague, I knew we were dealing with something with a lot more wit and nuance than I initially suspected.

There’s also something great about introducing his uncle and new ward Takatori Madoka by showing him cowering in fear from a little puppy who got away from its owner.

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Chihiro may be in elementary school, but he’s had to grow up much faster than most of his peers, both with a busy mother who was always away, leaving him to do the housework, and then dying, leaving him alone in the world…or so he thought.

In reality, Chihiro’s mother Chiyo chose exile from her very wealthy family in order to have and raise Chihiro—to live the life she wanted, not one chosen for her. Learning this makes Chi feel partially responsible for his mom’s death, which is ridiculous, but he is just a little kid, and this is a lot to take in.

I also liked how big and grand and imposing Madoka’s mansion is portrayed when Chihiro first arrives. His exposure to this kind of gaudy lifestyle is completely alien to him, but imbued in his personality is a desire not to accrue debts from anyone, even his uncle.

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But more than big and imposing, Madoka’s manor is a pigsty of the highest order, something Chihiro learns by accident when hiding in the kitchen, then noticing the appalling mess. Detail-oriented, fastidious youth with a solid work ethic that he is, Chihiro pulls up his sleeves and cleans like there’s no tomorrow.

All the while, it’s clear he’s not just cleaning because he can’t tolerate messes (though that’s part of it); he’s also staying busy in order to not be a burden to anyone, as well as to take his mind off the fact he’s homesick for a home that no longer exists.

Inspired by his hard work, his Uncle Madoka makes him a frilly uniform, of a design informed by Madoka’s work as a costume designer. There’s clear contrast between Madoka’s carefree attitude and Chihiro’s serious-beyond-his-years, “Those who don’t work don’t eat” philosophy; both guys are products of their upbringing.

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But when Chihiro is too exhausted to clean anymore, Madoka and his assistant Shinozaki Keiichirou take over, cleaning a room meant to be his. He makes them clean it over again when it’s not done to his satisfaction, but he appreciates the gesture and is glad, if a little overwhelmed by suddenly having a room and a (HUGE) bed all his own. This big, unfamiliar house is gradually becoming his home.

He also sees Madoka working hard on his costumes; often so hard he neglects food and sleep, so Chihiro fixes him a snack in the night. Sure, sometimes Madoka’s “hard work” is composed of indulgent little side projects like a cat mascot suit for Chihiro, but the arrangement that has been struck is beneficial to both parties. Madoka gets a maid (and occasional model), and Chihiro gets a home and a job to avoid feeling indebted.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 06

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All ye Izana+Nagate shippers can rejoice, if only briefly, as the two settle into a lovely little domestic situation, complete with Izana making Nagate dinner and tripping on the tatami. The hungry Nagate has the choice of saving the onigiri or Izana, and in the moment when both she and the onigiri are in the air, I wondered which he would save. He made the right choice.

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Their honeymoon doesn’t last long, however, as Tsugumi manages to find a path into Izana’s house and lets herself in, having made creepy noises beforehand that made Izana happy to see Nagate’s face. What I imagined was residual damage from deceleration was only their friend trying to reach them.

Tsugumi may be awkward within Sidonia, but out in space her thrust enables her to accelerate eight times the speed of the Type 18s, even if she meekly admits she has no idea how she can do it.

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Not as far as I can throw you, mate.

Discovering the how she can’t explain is certainly one of Kunato’s objectives, along with Ochiai, Yure, and Kobayashi. The mad scientists and megalomaniacs with dwarf planet-sized chips on their shoulders are now running Sidonia, and I’m not sure they’re the best people to keep the colony safe. More like they’re about to plunge it into oblivion to satisfy their hubristic desire to dominate the Gauna.

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On a more personal level, Tsugumi’s new pilot Mozuku can tell that Tsugumi really likes Nagate, and I imagine her performance and efficiency increase when he’s around. That makes Nagate a valuable asset to Mozuku’s brother…for now. But when they’ve developed a new chimera who’s faster and stronger than Tsugumi, all bets will be off. Tsugumi’s sentience, and desire to live a peaceful life with Nagate, mean nothing to these people. She’s a tool, and Nagate is grease.

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That grease is on a mission to find a new home on the outer wall, leading him to the Residence Bureau and its enthusiastic, yellow pantsu-wearing realty officer. I’ve said this show is a bit clumsy with comedy, but one beat that elicited a good chuckle was Nagate’s “I’m not looking up your skirt” look as he rapidly turns away the moment she turns around. Her “You lucky dog!” line refers both to his dispensation to live wherever he wants (owing to his rank and status) and the fact he got a peek.

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Both the residential office and the hobby shop Yuhata frequents are nice world-building moments that expand the scope of Sidonia beyond the military we see every week. People are going about their normal lives amidst all the shooting and fighting and exploding outside. Showing us these places lend the episode a distinct calm before the storm feeling to this episode.

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Izana is understandably disappointed when she learns Nagate is moving; the liked the thing they had going on, she’d given him a spare key, and she was just about to tell him he could stay for good if he wanted to. But Nagate isn’t leaving Izana; he’s inviting her to move in to his house with him and Tsugumi, and she accepts, after making him squirm a bit. Izana has always had the best facial expressions on this show, and she displays some great ones here.

Did I mention the new house perched on the outer wall is amazing? Sidonia regularly elicits “I want to go to there” feelings, but rarely as strong as here. It’s also nice to see Nagate actually reaping the rewards of putting his life on the line day in day out for Sidonia. Tsugumi’s wish to sleep in bed with him is sweet, if a little weird. Nagate may either want to set some house rules or procure a bigger bed.

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We transition from domestic bliss on the outer wall to an epic multi-shot pull-in to a research facility where Ochiai and Yure’s new Graviton Beam Emitter is about to be test-fired. In addition to providing a sense of the ships humongous scale (though peanuts compared to their ultimate target), the bright lights on the ship’s barren, crater-pocked surface evokes the iconic moon scene in 2001.

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The bring white lights give way to the piercing red of the unsettlingly Gauna-ish light of the beam, which punches a 100km-wide hole in a passing dwarf planet the crew thought would be a good target for mining. Nope, just target practice. The ambitious new class of leadership is interested in one thing: taking out that giant Hive Cluster. If it means hundreds of people will die horribly, so be it.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 05

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Isshiki Satoshi is as mercurial and competitive as he is friendly and welcome, so even though it’s the middle of the night and the rest of Polar Star is out cold, he’s too restless to go to bed. He heard Souma at the opening ceremony go on about how he wants the top spot. Time to put up or shut up.

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Naturally, Souma’s just fine with that, and appreciates the chance to show off his mad cooking skillz to Satoshi and the others. His basted mackerel rice ball in kelp tea tears the proverbial clothes off everyone who tastes it.

Souma isn’t afraid to punctuate the deliciousness of its dishes with ample, unisex nudity. It’s also a surefire way of knowing when Souma’s hit the mark.

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Then you have Megumi, who totally missed the cook-off and wakes up to a baffling scene that freaks her out. The humor on this show isn’t subtle, but it is effective.

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The next morning (I also like how differently everyone wakes up), Souma is eager to hit Satoshi with a challenge of his own, gunning to take over Satoshi’s seventh seat on the Elite Ten. But obviously it’s not as simple as that. That being said, I like how everyone except Souma and Megumi were totally apathetic about Souma’s Big Bold Challenge because they knew it wouldn’t be happening then and there.

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There’s procedures to be followed, and people to assemble: a adjudicator to certify the challenge, an odd number of judges, and an agreement between contestants about the conditions. Souma also needs to stake something of equal value to Satoshi’s seventh seat, and even staking expulsion if he lost wouldn’t be enough, not to mention Satoshi doesn’t want Souma expelled.

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Still, despite the fact Souma isn’t ready to take on Satoshi, he’s still eager to take on somebody, and once he starts racking up wins, he can start going after bigger fish like Satoshi…or Erina. While Satoshi and the others are explaining the particulars of the formal challenges, called Shokugeki. They go down a lot like Iron Chef, but with more dire consequences for the loser, in this case the hot pot society’s entire clubhouse is demolished so Erina can build another kitchen for her personal use. Dayum, dis bitch is COLD!

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But the hot pot guy wasn’t anything resembling a challenge to her, only “trash.” Not only that, a dark-skinned girl with an American flag bra is itching to face the other challengers not worth Erina’s time. She apparently specializes in meat, and Souma will surely have to get through her before he can challenge Erina.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 04

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Souma is assigned a room at the Polar Star Dormitory, which he hopes will be as swanky as the rest of the academy’s facilities. As it’s a stately neoclassical manor,  it is quite swanky…but the crows give Souma a cold welcome.

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The creepy aura continues inside, where a strange girl chases game through the shadows while an old glowing woman greets him. Turns out they’re just all about energy conservation, as in conserving it for top-notch kitchen facilities, where Souma is to make something for the aged caretaker, Daimido Fumio, in order to be admitted to the dorm.

It’s yet again an opportunity for Souma to showcase his particular specialty thus far: cooking something spectacular out of whatever he happens to have on hand. He has a keen enough grasp of the fundamentals and enough experience in the kitchen cooking for real people to properly harness his creativity and resourcefulness.

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And in the best and most hilarious “food-llucination” yet, Souma’s mackerel hamburg steak and squid egg soup are powerful enough flavors to transport Fumio to the past, specifically, to the moonlit night she lost her virginity. Yowza, she was quite the catch in her day!

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Thus admitted, Fumio immediately has a little fun with Souma by refraining from warning him it’s the girls’ turn to bathe, so he accidentally walks in on a naked Megumi, who, coming from a small conservative town, now believes she’ll never be able to marry. Or she could look at the incident as a transaction: he saved her, he saw her; now they’re square!

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I thought this episode of Souma really captured that unique blend of loneliness, excitement, and anticipation of that first night in a new place; a place that doesn’t feel like home yet—look how sparse that room is—but definitely feels right, like it could feel like home, and will, before he knows it.

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That poignant moment is interrupted by the sudden intrusion of a dorm-mate looking down on Souma from the ceiling tiles, and all of a sudden the creepy aura is back. Not only is this a beautifully composed shot that came out of nowhere, it also had me LMAO.

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The ceiling weirdo is second-year Isshiki Satoshi, fetching Souma for his welcoming party. What do you know, not everyone at Totsuki is a stuck-up asshole! Well, we knew Megumi wasn’t, but now we have a whole dorm full of friendly, colorful, weird creative-types. That warm feeling of home and family missing from Souma’s empty room is here in abundance.

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The Castle In the Sky-style speaking tubes in every dorm are a nice touch…especially when used by Satoshi to invite Megumi to his room the creepiest way possible so he can share food with her.

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It’s cute how Souma and Megmi are seated next to each other and chat together before fully joining in the fun, like a veritable dipping of one’s toe in the water. Everyone else in that room are strangers now, and it’s probably more overwhelming than Souma lets on (we didn’t see any of his friends back home), so the fact Megumi, also his next-door neighbor is beside him is probably a nice thing.

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After generous consumption of “rice juice” (Fumio isn’t nearly as strict as I thought, allowing the students to have drinking parties for new residents), the group goes increasingly friendly and eventually break out the food, showing off their own unique specialties, and also go on about how Polar Star was once essentially the headquarters for the Elite Ten, of whom we learn Nakiri Erina is ranked tenth.

The post-credits surprise is that friendly, goofy, nothing-but-an-apron wearing Isshiki Satoshi is actually better than Erina…he’s seventh-seat, something he reveals to Souma when everyone else is passed out. But unlike Erina, he wants Souma to show him what he can do, and whether he has the potential to rise to the top as he did. In other words, the perfect senpai…even if he’s a little creepy at times.

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Noragami – 06

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Yato’s quick return to greatness is further impeded by two obstacles that rear their heads this week: the beautiful walking armory Bishamon (Sawashiro Miyuki doing her standard Tough Chick routine), and the increasing difficulties Yato is having with Yukine. You can hardly blame Yukine, who isn’t even sure he should be on Yato’s side, considering Yato’s Dark Past, which includes killing one of Bishamon’s regalia.

As Yukine continues to think impure thoughts and steal that skateboard he had his eyes on, he’s doing damage to Yato in the form of a growing “blight” on his neck, and we imagine would kill Yato for Bishamon if it gets out of control. For now, dealing with problems on all sides, Yato goes into survival mode, telling Yukine to shut up and shape up, and thanks to Sekki’s power, is able to avoid most of Bishamon’s whips, bullets, and…lions.

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Hiyori is as conflicted as Yukine at the moment about whether she can trust Yato, but she has no choice; she’s stuck between shores and needs his help if she’s to avoid full phantom-hood. So she remembers his advice to seek the help of Kofuku and Daikoku, and after some brief wrangling and some cool “Yatolocation” Hiyori and the cavalry arrive just in time to save Yato. Even Nora pops her head in to deliver an assist.

Even so, this rescue was provisional: Kofuku did it because Hiyori begged her for help, but Bishamon will be back and will be just as eager to kill Yato, and the compatibility problems with Yukine continue, to the point Nora pesters Yato to use her instead. Yato hasn’t once apologized for his past, and even said he killed Bishamon’s regalia because he wanted to. But something tells us he’d rather not have to rely on Nora too much. Almost as if Yukine is his fresh start.

7_very_goodRating: 7 (Very Good)

Noragami – 05

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Hiyori has taken a liking to Yukine, and doesn’t want Yato corrupting him, so she invites Yukine to stay at her gigantic house, where her maid and parents can’t see him, which is just fine for her. She’s also undeterred by the prospect of someone who is (or at least was) an adolescent boy living and at one point sharing a bed with her. To Hiyori, he’s a little brother that needs better shelter than the musty old shrines where Yato crashes. More importantly, he needs love and kindness, something she has in spades.

But considering Yato is the one who receives the stings whenever Yukine experiences temptation—be it for Hiyori’s boob or a five-finger discount skateboard—Hiyori has things backwards: it’s technically Yukine who is corrupting Yato, in terms of physical harm, at least. And while Hiyori may have a highly mobile soul, she remains a naïf when it comes to the extent of the god-regalia (or god-shinki) dynamic. Yato makes it clear that regalia are the conduit through which gods are able to fathom human morality, something gods aren’t subject to. It’s also a way of documenting the amount of sin a regalia commits, which goes into the calculation of their eventual divine punishment, something Yato warns comes to all, including Yukine.

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While we liked the scenes in which Hiyori was treating Yukine as her adoptive brother, and we know she’s sincere in her desire to care and protect him, the reality is she isn’t powerful enough to do so. In the darkness, trouble will always come looking for Yukine, and when he wanders off on his own, his own compassion almost leads to him being snatched up by a phantom. He meets the lost soul of a young girl killed by a hit-and-run (by the leading cause of death for young girls in animeland…anime drivers are monsters!), and witnesses her becoming possessed by a phantom. It’s a heartbreaking twist, but ends up serving as a powerful wake-up call to Yukine and Hiyori alike.

Neither of them are strong enough to stop the phantom, and it’s too late to save the girl, so when Yato arrives, the only course is to kill her, freeing her from everlasting hell. Even in sword form Yukine protests and wavers, but Yato uses him to rend the phantom anyway. Once the darkness takes someone, it doesn’t give them back. Under these circumstances, Hiyori is still being way too reckless with her body, while Yukine now appreciates that his best chance at surviving a dangerous world is by continuing to work with and learn from Yato. Meanwhile, a beautiful lion-riding, pistol-wielding god has taken notice of Yato’s activities and new regalia. That should be an interesting meeting!

7_very_goodRating: 7 (Very Good)