Kuromukuro – 22

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With Kurobe Lab captured, its remaining staff brainwashed, and the Pivot Stone in Efidolg hands, the enemy halts its advance, allowing the good guys a measure of uneasy peace this week. Zell pays a visit to the Shirahane household to tell the story of how he met and befriended their husband and father Takehito.

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From the moment Zell jumps out of the shadows when Takehito tries to cut himself (to lure the “ogre” to his trap after many other baits failed), their entire interaction is pure gold. I love how unafraid Takehito is of Zell, and how Zell, while a little weirded out by this guy just runs with it, inviting him to his cave for some tasty boil-in-a-bag, showing him where he came from, and warning him of the Efidolg threat.

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Yukina’s father parted ways with Zell but got caught in a sudden snowstorm that claimed his life. Koharu would’ve just been a baby when this happened, but Yukina regrets calling her dad a liar, when he was right about everything. The “ogres” (or “oni”) that are a part of Japanese legend were actually ancient aliens.

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That night, as Yukishi says a prayer for Takehito, Muetta…wanders off, but not back to the Efidolg. She actually has no idea where she belongs anymore, only that it isn’t here. She can’t get the childhood memory of her homeworld out of her head, and the fact that memory may be fake doesn’t make it feel any less real or powerful.

Ken and Yukina go out to look for her, but the activated Pivot Stone lowers the temperature of the vicinity significantly, causing premature snow. Yukina trips and falls into a snowdrift, but Koharu’s ferret finds her, runs back to Muetta, then leads her Lassie-style to Yukina.

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Once again proving she’s not evil, Muetta strips down and warms the freezing Yukina up with her own body heat, causing Yukina to wake up very confused, but then very grateful for saving her life (and I’ll just say Ken really dropped the ball leaving Yukina behind without making sure she got back home safely.) When Muetta breaks down into tears at her frustration of not knowing where to go or what to do, Yukina gives her the only thing she can: a comforting hug and her belief that everything will be fine.

Like everyone else in this episode (who hasn’t been brainwashed), all Muetta and Yukina can really do is keep on surviving. Muetta notes that the premature Winter is the effect of the Pivot Stone, which will soon open a “star path” for the main Efidolg invasion force—if it isn’t open already. I simply don’t see how anyone survives if that force reaches Earth, so if anyone has an idea how to stop it and send the Efidolgs packing, now’s the time.

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Kuromukuro – 21

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Kuromukuro continues to blast through barriers it once held back from, building the diligent, detailed preparation of its first half. The care it took building its world, its technology, its characters and their roles relationships is all paying off.

There’s something irresistibly striking and engrossing about having witnessed the building of such a beautiful, intricate work, and then, in its 21st episode, it pins its ears back and smashes it all to bits without mercy.

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Ken saved Yukina, sure, but he was only able to thanks to Muetta. But that doesn’t change the fact that she’s The Enemy, and when they land, she’s treated as such despite Ken’s protestations. Then the “Ogre” Zell shows up, and Ken rushes at him reflexively, just as a fiery samurai who’s come face to face with his nemesis would be expected to.

But Zell does something wonderfully subversive: he presupposes that Ken is simply mistaken about him being the enemy, dismissing over four centuries of hatred and mistrust in a matter of words. In reality, Zell is also the reason Ken was able to save Yukina…not to mention the primary reason all his organs are still internal.

Zell isn’t done dispensing wisdom. He finally presents himself to the UN forces, and also solves the mystery of Muetta: she isn’t the original Yukihime, but a clone based on her genetic code, implanted with false memories a different personality…and the voice of Toyosaki Aki. This revelation seems to do a number of Muetta, and Yukina can’t help but feel for the “poor woman.”

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Unfortunately, these truths are the least of everyone’s problems. The most would be floating high above them, descending fast. The Lab and the surrounding town do their best to prepare and make a stand, but there can be no preparation, or victory, for what is coming, and arrives earlier than expected.

Efidolg mechas rain down from the heavens while the mothership looms menacingly. The three GAUS piloted by Tom, Shenmei, and Sebastian take a few foes out, but once the elite pilots show up in their fancier suits, the window on how long they can hold out significantly narrows.

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Ken, Yukina, Zell, and the Kuromukuro are occupied with Yorba, and Muetta is in custody, so her glongur stands by uselessly until knocked into the ocean by a raging Mirasa.

Then the mothership lands, dwarfing, then destroying the massive yet elegant arched bridge across the river, then literally driving stakes taller than mountains into the earth to form a perimeter shield that traps most if not all the evacuees in.

In every way, all hell is breaking loose, and it’s all the earthlings can do to keep from getting killed by the rubble of their own destroyed structures, to say nothing of surviving wave after wave of enemy mechas. The chaos and mounting hopelessness is palpable, and pulls you in.

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When Shenmei’s GAUS-3’s arm is ripped off, it lands on the Humvee that was transporting Muetta, flipping it upside down and trapping her in. Sophie, who witnessed the collision, rushes to free Muetta, and the gang composed of Yukina’s uncle, sister, and classmates stops to assist her.

Hopefully the altruism of these earthlings is not lost on her, for if there’s going to be any kind of counterattack or rather resistance to what’s shaping up to be a very successful Efidolg invasion, they’re going to need Muetta.

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That’s doubly true considering once the cactus-like personnel-sized mechas are sent in, firing tiny implants that go in the ears of earthlings and causes instant brainwashing and submission to the Efidolg. They are literally poaching all the talent.

Poor Rita saves her console-mate Beth from getting nabbed by a mecha, but she falls under their spell, as do countless other UN staff, soldiers, and townsfolk. Talk about complete and total domination.

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Shenmei’s GAUS is destroyed, forcing her to bail out with a super-cool inflatable escape pod, but such a feature doesn’t seem to be equipped on Sebastian’s GAUS. Either that, or he simply didn’t have time to eject when tackling Mirasa to the ground and blowing the two of them up when she tried to go after the bus carrying Muetta, Sophie and the other civvies.

Seb dies an Apparent Honorable Heroic Death, sacrificing himself to save them, but Sophie is crushed (emotionally, not literally). Ken, Yukina, and Zell grab Tom and retreat, completing an utter defeat I knew was coming but simply wasn’t prepared for how far it would go, so fast. So many of Kuromukuro’s safety nets are gone now.

The lab is toast, most of its staff dead or “turned”, the remaining heroes scattered with little more than their wits, and the Efidolg are now in possession of the final pivot stones. Assuming this is fairly close to Rock Bottom for our heroes’ fortunes, I simply thank goodness there’s five episodes left; this is a hole out of which it’s going to take some time to dig. And I can’t wait to see if, when, and how they pull it off.

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Kuromukuro – 20

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Now this is the kind of episode that fully delivers on the promise of Kuromukuro from the start. No more teasing: Yukina is finally stuck aboard an alien mothership, and while before we were only given bits of dialogue from the bigwigs sitting on their thrones on the bridge, here we get a grand tour of the massive vessel, with Yukina as our guide.

Lighting, sound, and visual design get top marks here, creating a suitably alien and oppressive but still wondrous atmosphere. Yukina also benefits, at least initially, from the ship (and its various automated crewmen) believing she’s Muetta. I say initially because it isn’t long before Mirasa finds Yukina and tries to kill her, laughing maniacally the whole time.

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A little less exciting, but still important, is Sophie’s continued chat with Zell, who reveals he’s third world that was conquered and dominated by the Efidolg. He doesn’t want what happened to his world (nothing good) to happen to Earth, and he’d also like some retribution along the way.

At the same time, Major Graham discovers the director’s “mutiny” and acts to restrain her, but as she says, she’s “already won”, because Ken is up in orbit, trying to save her daughter. All anyone down there can do, from Graham and Hiromi to Yukina’s sister, uncle, and friends…is wait.

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Yukina manages to find a hiding place where Mirasa can’t see her, then digs into the ship’s records to try to figure out a way off, to no avail. She also finds what looks either like a clone or artificial “Yukihime head,” disturbingly enough. I appreciate her determination to help herself out, sticking true to what she said to herself in the beginning of the episode: “I can’t have him protect me all the time.”

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When she finally finds some clothes and a weapon, she remembers the gruelling training she went through, and it serves her well, at least in terms of the stamina she no doubt developed, as well as her sword skills, which keep her alive against a Mirasa who may well be compromised from the stress of “Muetta” returning to announce her treachery.

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Little does Mirasa know, until the last possible moment, that Muetta arrived on the ship separately. She reports to her superiors, but can’t keep up the fiction that nothing’s amiss when the ship’s sensors detect Ken roaming the corridors looking for Yukina.

Muetta is immediately treated and attacked as a traitor, which is probably what she expected all along. I for one am glad she doesn’t try to turn Ken and/or Yukina over in exchange for essentially keeping her job and having her past mistakes forgiven. Then again, she’s never actually given the choice to betray Ken, because bringing him here in the first place is all the bigwigs need to condemn her.

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Eventually, Ken finds Yukina, steps in on her fight with Mirasa, and along with Muetta they hurry back to the hangar to make their getaway. Yukina allows herself to cry and embrace Kennosuke with relief and heartfelt gratitude, and her continued thanks makes Ken blush. Sure you were only “fulfilling a promise.” Right.

The Efidolg try to snatch both the Kuromukuro and Muetta’s glongur, but fail when the Ogre flies up into orbit to snatch them out of the enemy tractor beam, allowing them to return to earth. All’s well that ends well…except for the little matter of the Efidolg ship preparing to descend to the Earth’s surface. No rest for the weary…or recently-half-naked.

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Kuromukuro – 19

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Now that’s more like it. The last episode kinda dragged on, building to the surprise abduction of Yukina. But this episode takes full advantage of the severity of that cliffhanger: the Kuromukuro is grounded, Earth is more vulnerable than ever, and everyone is on edge, but powerless to do anything in the immediate present. After all, Yukina is in space.

Their only consolation, and hope, as it happens, is the fact they retrieved the wounded Muetta, whom Dr. Hausen determines has identical DNA to Yukina and Hiromi. They’re definitely related, though Muetta is very old.

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Hiromi is in full-on Mom Panic Mode, Sophie is given mandatory leave by the commander, and Ken is disgraced by how useless he feels. Sophie doesn’t have any sympathy for him moping in the canteen, but that’s for the best, as shortly after she’s alone, she’s contacted by the Ogre, who promises an encounter soon.

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Dr. Hausen is the only one truly happy this week, as he gets to study an Efidolg—or, at least, a human who’s had their memories altered and their body populated by advanced nanomachines. He determines that Ken’s blood is the best way to counteract the effect of Mirasa’s weapon, and after a quick transfusion, Muetta is awake and as feisty and combative as ever.

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The Ogre rudely invades Sophie’s apartment, but properly apologizes, and explains that she was the only person he felt safe contacting. His comment about cosplay culture making it easier to move around modern Japan was pretty amusing, but the fact he’s finally here, with Sophie, ready and willing to explain all (or at least some) is very exciting.

He, or I should say, Zell, is absolutely an enemy of the Efidolg, but not yet an ally of the earthlings. Here’s hoping that will change, becaue the earthlings need all the help they can get.

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Ken knows he can’t do squat about Yukina without the Kuromukuro, and so breaks into Muetta’s cell to try to bargain with her. She agrees to co-pilot it with him, with the story that she stole it and captured him. It’s really the only play they have, and it gets them both what they want: Muetta, freedom from this place, and Ken, a chance to save Yukina.

What I’m glad about is that Ken needs help, and lots of it. He may be a samurai, but he can’t whisk Yukihime out of a high-security international installation on his own. The other civilian lab employees clear a path for them, ending with Hiromi herself giving Ken her blessing (and making him swear he’ll bring her Yukina back).

This is because Hiromi’s superiors told her to give up on Yukina. They proposed using Muetta to pilot Kuromukuro, with Dr. Hausen minutes from administering some dread medication that would likely not give her a choice in the matter.

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Don’t get me wrong: I’m not about to place Yukihime in the “Good Guys” column just yet, but I’ll pencil her in for now. The bottom line is she had few choices to get back to where she belonged other than going along with Ken’s plan, and once they’re up in orbit, Ken is at the mercy of her “people.”

But what makes be believe Yukihime might not bretray him immediately is the recording of…herself she sees once they fire up the Kuromukuro, which she’s amazed powers up so quickly even though it’s her first time. Only it isn’t: she recognizes herself in the recording. There’s an opening here, however small, for her to start entertaining the idea that Ken is right about her.

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That brings us to poor, poor Yukina. The only moment sadder than seeing her sister and mother despair at her abduction is seeing her look down on earth and call for Kennosuke…after asking for some clothes, of course. The Efidolg brought her there not as a hostage, but because they thought she was Muetta.

Mirasa quickly took it upon herself to try to finish what she started, but it seems Yukina was able to escape her stasis chamber in time. Despite her call for her samurai buddy, something tells me she ‘s not simply going to wander the ship, catching her death of cold, waiting for Ken to rescue her. She’s going to have to help herself out, and stay alive and free until help arrives.

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Kuromukuro – 17

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Ken and Yukina were actually able to witness Muetta’s fall on a video feed, so when all geoframe pilots are on standby, Ken is understandably anxious and unwilling to sit around doing nothing.

He doesn’t sympathize with the Efidolg, he just wants his beloved princess back. He wants her on their side. They simply have to channel his energy into something productive.

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The commander lets Ken and Yukina take the Kuromukuro out, and Yukina using its newfound recon toys to find…a bear, along with her commenting on how a walk by the river could be fun, keep things light and breezy.

It’s easy to forget how stressful a situation Yukina is in: co-piloting a giant alien mecha with a samurai whose lost princess looks just like her. You gotta keep your wits about you somehow; Yukina does it with wit.

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The leader of the Efidolgs sends Yorba down to retrieve their two agents, and he comes down in style, in the “Bluebird”, a huge flying geoframe with a dragon’s form, slicing through Earth fighters like they were warm butter and deflecting their missles.

This show has always done a good job showing how implacable Efidolg technology is…if only the people wielding it had the discipline to match.

(Also good? Never going too far up the chain of command, at least on the Earth side. I’m sure there are conference rooms full of suits determining our characters’ fates – I just don’t need to see them. The show seems to get that.)

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I can’t help but love an episode in which Ken and Yukina have to stop trudging in the river looking for Yukihime so they can stop an immense USAF C-5 Galaxy transport from crashing into the damn lab.

I also appreciate the valorous portrayal of the Air Force transport pilots, who complete their mission even though their bird is on fire and going down. We didn’t see the faces of the fighter pilots Yorba slaughtered, but thankfully we get to see the faces of some luckier ones, who survive thanks to the Kuromukuro.

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Getting back to Efidolg arrogance and suspicion being their undoing, Yorba isn’t satisfied with simply picking up Mirasa, though to his credit, he doesn’t buy her lame story about Muetta dying for a second. It’s almost as if Mirasa is lying for the first time, and it’s not her forte.

I’m not convinced Yorba is as concerned with avenging Muetta as he claims, but I’m willing to bet that’s as good an excuse as any to pick a fight with the black glongur that’s been giving his fellow Efidolg so much trouble. So rather than return to base with crucial information, he satisfies his desire for a real fight.

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He gets one, but at first, he tosses the Kuromukuro up above the stormclouds like a cat flicking a toy in the air, bashes at it while it falls then flicks it back up before it falls too far. It’s a battle Ken and Yukina can’t win without the power of flight…so it’s fortuitous that they gain that power, thanks to Mr. Ogre, who it turns out has a flying geoframe of his own.

Once the odds are evened, Ken gives Yorba a run for his money, until Yorba exercises the better part of valor. Back to the mothership he goes, a Mirasa richer but Muetta-free.

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As for the winged benefactor, he asks Ken to consider whether he’s been wrong all along about the “ogres” destroying the Washiba, then releases them at a safe altitude, convinced he’s not quite ready to hear the whole truth.

And Yukina? She hears a bit of her father in the Ogre’s voice, because let’s face it, he probably is her father. It’s as if he’s Darth Vader, only he’s been helping his kid all along, instead of waiting until the bitter end to do so.

But as he said, more answers will have to wait until a future encounter between them. Until then, after such a harrowing battle, I’d say Yukina and Ken have earned another break.

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Kuromukuro – 16

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This week, there’s almost equal time spent between the “good guys” and the “bad guys”, as Muetta and Mirasa fall from the sky to infiltrate the Kurobe Lab in search of the “Pivot Stone.” It’s a daring and professional operation led by Muetta, with Mirasa never quite matching her precise moves. For instance, Mirasa hits the water too hard on their landing, but Muetta saves her. By the end of their op she’ll wish she hadn’t.

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Another healthy chunk of “good guy” time is taken up by more Ken and Sophie, with which I have no problem. Its fun to watch the moment Ken realizes Sophie is trying to become a samurai, which she sees as swapping one form of bondage (doing as her parents say and going home) for another (being bonded by loyalty to her fellow warriors in Kurobe).

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What of Yukina? She’s plays only a bit role here, tagging along for Mika’s cosplay film with Akagi, Kaya, Carlos, and the nurse Marina. In a nice bit of narrative symmetry, Muetta and Mirasa also “cosplay” by dressing up in UN maintenance unis that will help them move further into the enemy base. But while Mika & Co. are just trying to have some fun, these two are grinding like their lives depended on it…because they kinda do.

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By sheer coincidence the Efidolg pair end up taking the same lift as Ken, and the smell of blood on the orange jumpsuits (another blunder by Mirasa) gives them away. Thus we’re offered another confrontation between Ken and “Yukihime” far earlier than I expected, and it goes pretty much how I imagined: Ken prostrates himself before the princess, hoping against hope he can jog her memory.

Alas, Muetta claims to have never heard of him, though interestingly she calls him a “peasant” later on. It’s very much up in the air whether she’s playing another role like Mika and Marina, fully brainwashed, or a true and loyal daughter of Efidolg.

Speaking of loyalty, when, in a hostage situation, Muetta seems prepared to kill Ken, it’s Sophie who fires the bullet that knocks the knife from her hand. When Ken shields a retreating Muetta and Mirasa, Sophie makes up her mind: she can’t trust Ken’s brand of loyalty with keeping him alive. She’ll stay in Kurobe and make sure he stays safe.

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In this regard, Sophie takes on a role similar to Yukina, another person intent on saving Ken from his own reckless impluses. It’s also a huge victory for the show, because getting rid of Sophie, or declawing her by giving her scenes in France, would not have been something I particularly wanted to see.

As for Yukina, the cosplay story, beyond being a parallel to the costumes Muetta and Mirasa don, doesn’t come to much other than “Yukina is special now and her normal high school life continues to suffer from that specialness.”

IMO a bit too much time was spent on this plot, though I commend Mika wanting to cheer everyone, including Yukina and Marina, up a bit (plus the costumes and locales were cool).

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Then there’s Mirasa. She started this thrilling, action-packed infiltration op following Muetta’s lead and calling her “sister” with deference and loyalty. She ends it by suddenly but inevitably betraying Muetta, shoving her knife in her belly so she can go home and take all the credit for finding the stone.

It’s another demonstration how bad and fundamentally immoral and messed-up the Efidolg are, more an advanced form of the everyday cruelty and brutality from feudal times much (though certainly not all) of the modern world has left behind.

But Mirasa’s treachery also forces a new choice upon Muetta / Yukihime. Assuming she survives her Fugitive-style jump off the dam (a good bet), she’ll be hurt pretty damn bad, and she’ll be alone.

Chances are the UN finds her first, and they’ll treat her. I wouldn’t even rule out such a fall ringing her bell to the extent some memories of Ken return (if they’re there, and if she doesn’t have them already). In any case, it will be Muetta’s turn to make a choice.

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Kuromukuro – 15

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The battle is over, the chaos paused, and disaster averted, for now. This episode deals with the aftermath of the last one, as Muetta’s stunning assault on the school has made a lot of people make up their minds about leaving town. Others, like Sophie, have hard choices to make, which include going along with the choices others have made for them.

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Sophie Noelle isn’t your typical stuck-up rich kid: yes, she’s very rich and kinda stuck up, but she’s fiercely loyal and kind to her allies and is also perfectly capable of taking care of herself – and making her own choices – despite her unadvanced age.

When she sees Ouma, a real-life samurai like the ones she’s always admired, begging before a food-ordering machine in the canteen, she happily pays for his meal in exchange for listening to her problem.

As he gorges with relish (Dr. Hausen’s hospital food just wasn’t doing it for him), Ouma makes a point about a warrior being responsible for themselves, and sticking with the decision they make to the end. He’s talking about flavors of popsicles, but Sophie still gleans insight. Staying or going is her call, not her parents’.

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For their stunning failure last week, Muetta and Mirasa are essentially neurally tortured by treatments that invoke persistent “primal fear”; both beak out of their torture and crumble to the ground, indicating this isn’t the kind of society we want running Earth.

Even after all the mayhem they caused, I still feel bad for them. They probably knew this would happen when they returned in shame, but they did so anyway, and they’ll gladly go back down to Earth, either to accomplish what they couldn’t before, or die trying.

We see that Mirasa’s a little more hesitant to do a space drop back to Earth, but once Muetta jumps, there’s little she can do but follow her. The choice has been made.

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Even last week’s hectic episode managed to still have some moments of levity, and the comedy is ratcheted up a little more here, what with more funny “Ken vs. Modern Times” moments, Carlos’ family troubles, and what I believe to be the first time an anime scientist was only joking about dissecting someone (…or was he?), or the scene where Yukina thinks he’s saying he’s dead, when he’s sad that he’s fully recovered.

In the beginning of the episode Yukina is with Ouma, but he’s unconscious, so she goes back to school, where we see Mika isn’t letting current events get in the way of her goal for a cosplay film (and enlists Kaya, Ryouta, and Carlos to help her), while other classmates wonder if Yukina’s an alien too.

When Yukina finally finds Ouma to scold him, he’s already healed. She pivots to the uncomfortable subject of the princess who looks just like her. Ouma tells her she’s nothing like her, but the Efidolg warrior is “without a doubt” Yukihime.

The question is what he’s going to do when they meet again, whether she’ll even give him a chance to speak before trying to kill him, and whether he’ll again fail to properly defend himself from the woman who was once his only reason for living…because now he has two; three if you count his friendship with Sophie.

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Kuromukuro – 14

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They’re not playing around, Kaya

Kuromukuro’s second half picks up right where it left off, with Ken suffering a serious wound by Muetta/Yukihime’s hand. She goes after Yukina too, but a huge cloaked ogre jumps in to be her opponent, eventually chasing her off. Sophie and Sebastian also spring into action, surprising their ordinary classmates with their skills.

It’s a state of extreme chaos, where no one can think more than a few seconds ahead. It’s here we see the importance of training and poise under duress (the school nurse, for instance, simply isn’t ready for the wound Ken suffers).

As for Kaya, well, he’s not alone in trying to convince himself this is all some kind of harmles cosplay fun…until a UN soldier saves him from Muetta’s blade. Even so, he keeps the camera rolling, putting the recording of this momentous event over his own life. Priorities.

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“So just DIE already, idiot!”

Speaking of priorities, Ken’s, after his wounds heal quickly but not completely, has his all wrong as well. He wants to “save” the woman who tried and will keep trying to kill him, meaning he’s always going to be a liability against her in a fight.

The fact his wounds are still open and he keeps coughing up blood all tell Yukina he’s breaking his promise not to go off and die. But she sticks with him to make sure he doesn’t, and it’s her advice in the heat of the battle with Muetta and Mirasa that saves the good guys from defeat.

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Sure, talk about “warrior’s honor” when you’re fighting in a mecha with 8 arms

She notices from the way the two Efidolg geoframes are fighting that they’re not working together, and may not even like each other. And she’s right; Muetta wants the glory, and doesn’t consider Mirasa a warrior of equal standing.

Yukina suggests that the Kuromukuro, along with GAUS 1 and 2, pick on one opponent at a time, working together to wear it down while the second one founders. Before long, Mirasa’s frame shuts down, and rather than let the three turn on her, Muetta grabs Mirasa and heads for the nearest atmospheric lift back to orbit.

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Nothing like a cool, refreshing aloe vera drink bath after a battle

The two pilots failed in their mission because Muetta prioritized personal revenge over the mission’s successful completion, while Mirasa prioritized her own honor. They only lasted as long as they did because Ken was never going all out, both because he didn’t want to harm the woman he’s convinced is Yukihime, and because he’s in such rough shape.

Indeed, he can’t keep the blood down moments after the two enemies escape, and after he’s held back by a GAUS from following them up to their space station. No good can come from him going up there alone, especially in his state.

Instead, it’s time to heal, repair, then re-assess and coordinate priorities. If Muetta is Yukihime, that certainly seems to be news to her. As for the Ogre, I don’t know where to start with him. Is he the same guy Ken saw centuries ago (and drew an awful picture of), or is it Yukina’s father in disguise? Whatever the case, events keep proving her dad right.

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GATE – 24 (Fin)

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Rescuing Pina and the Emperor from Zolzal felt like a couple of loose ends to tie up, since there was never any doubt about Itami, reunited with his original Recon Team and his girls, were going to be successful. This, the final episode, seems to understand this, and doesn’t draw out the rescue needlessly, but has fun with the relative ease of the operation.

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Basically, Itami has Rory, Lelei, Tuka, Yao, and his team, which makes him all but invincible. All he has to do is talk when they enter the throne room. Zolzal sics a particularly ill-fated ogre on them, but Rory and Lelei dispatch it with ease—did Zolzal forget these guys brought down a Fire Dragon? 

His meager guards, who don’t particularly want to mistreat Pina or fight Rory the Reaper, are absolutely no match. Zolzal doesn’t try going out in a blaze of glory—he’s too much of a coward. Itami plays with his fear by adding paranoia to his problems: pointing a sniper at him, telling him he’ll be watched from now on.

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The conditions Itami gives him for not getting a bullet in the head are simple and non-negotiable: Pina goes with him; the emperor too; and Lelei’s assassins are called off. All Zolzal can do is accept, bitter as he is, he’s powerless here, and it’s particularly satisfying to watch (though I was kinda hoping he’d resist a little more so Kuribayashi could have at him).

After that, all Itami & Co. have to do is get out of the palace and city walls before they’re all closed, and this too proves not very difficult, thanks to the speed of their vehicles and a helping hand from a friend with a LAV, a bazooka, and a mined entrance that blows behind them, taking out all horsebound pursuers. Mission Complete.

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Pina, who clearly likes her shining knight Itami but isn’t too overt about it (note how she got self-conscious about her skimpy burlap shift when he showed up), but she also has bigger matters than romance. Her father wakes up, not the worse for wear, and declares her crown princess, giving her the mandate to steer the empire where she will, whether towards peace or to civil war with her brother.

It would have been nice if Itami’s crew had, you know, captured the leader of a potential resistance against the legitimate government, but they leave Zolzal alone, which was the one problem I had with the operation, considering how easily they could have taken him into custody/killed him.

But that’s no big deal; whatever he scrounges up won’t be any more of a match against the SDF-backed pro-peace faction than the Special Region ever was against the might of the modern Japanese military.

As for Tyuule, we see she’s not crazy after all; just unfulfilled. She suffered and schemed so mightily and actually got the empire to fracture, and yet tears fall from her face. I guess it wasn’t quite worth it.

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With that, we have a nice little crowning ceremony for Pina, after which all of the various guys show off their new girlfriends / lovers / caretakers / fiancees, to Kuribayashi’s shock and Shandy’s envy.

Itami doesn’t attend that ceremony, because he’s done enough, and now he just wants to go to the doujinshi convention in Tokyo, putting his hobby ahead of his work as usual. I like how he places equal importance on his affairs in otakudom than he did with all the various adventures in the Special Region.

But it isn’t long before his three girls track him down, all with their own Tokyo plans for him. The masses notice these idols and crowd around them in adoration, and a cop sneaks them off in his squad car, even though Itami doesn’t want to leave the convention.

And there you have it, a usually lush and diverting story of our world connected to another one, where the JSDF fought, and fought well.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 07

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When two heavies in judo outfits confront Takeo while he’s on a pleasant stroll with his adorable GIRLFRIEND, I’m not concerned, because a.) two guys aren’t nearly enough against Takeo, and b.) they’re clearly there to ask him for help. Takeo says yes before he even finds out what they want: for him to join the team, replacing their injured captain.

Agreeing to commit to judo for a month is all well and good…but it will seriously eat into his Yamato time. Like a good boyfriend, he defers to her wishes. Like a good girlfriend, she tells him it’s fine by her. She’s legitimately glad he’s helping the team…not to mention she really wants to see him fight!

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The training is grueling—for the other judo team members, as Takeo tosses them about like ragdolls!—but that training is punctuated with texts of encouragement from Yamato, which he responds to with similar enthusiasm. It’s all very cute, especially when Yamato not only waits for Takeo outside his place with gourmet onigiri (“I can make other things!”), but confesses that she sneaked a look at his sparring—and loved every minute of it.

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There’s a slight chink in the mood when, after spotting a groper warning on a lamppost, Takeo brusquely tells Yamato she shouldn’t come by like this anymore. A chastened Yamato goes to Suna with a double shipment of scones, worried Takeo “doesn’t like her anymore”, but Suna sets her straight, assuring her it’s just another misunderstanding, and counseling her not to get so hung up on little things.

Yamato can hardly help it though, now that she knows what it’s like to be in love—mentioning the rush she gets from the bottom of her heart at the sight or thought of him. It’s a feeling she never wants to lose. She loves him so much, she creeps herself out, and even sees him in the stars, which would creep Suna out if a.) he wasn’t such an understanding and tolerant guy, and b.) he didn’t start seeing him in the stars too!

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Not that Takeo is any less crazy about Yamato. After a hard day of training, he just wants to hear her voice, so texts her and gets an immediate phone call from her. Suddenly on the spot, she starts by introducing herself and then improvising, but she gives him exactly what he wants: her voice.

On the day of the big match that will put Takeo’s school over their rival by one game in the historic series, Yamato (and Suna, for that matter) is hilariously dwarfed by all the huge bodies, but small as she is, her presence is crucial to Takeo’s success.

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When his old grade school buddy Tsuyoshi (who is about the same size as him, surprisingly) sees Yamato, he believes he’s already won, since Takeo has started “wasting his time” on romance. But he couldn’t be more wrong. Takeo may not know exactly what strength is, but Yamato’s presence increases his focus and his resolve to do his absolute best. He’s there first and foremost for her, not the judo team or glory. He wants to put in as much love and effort into his judo as she’s put into her cooking.

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After a spirited bout that excites everyone, not just Yamato, Takeo manages to throw Tsuyoshi down and win the match, putting his school over the top, 3-2. Afterwards, Takeo thanks a Yamato who is already close to passing out from excitement, taking her hands into his and making it plain that he won because she was there cheering for him.

Then the two of them and Suna drop some acid and look up at the sky and spot more constellations…of themselves! And Suna! And a macaron! (Seriously, Yamato would do well on Food Wars…) Takeo was crazy strong before he met Yamato, but now that she’s in his heart, and he in hers, he’s become even stronger. And I’ll tellya what else is crazy strong: this frikkin’ show.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 06 (Caught Up!)

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Due to watching so many romantic anime in which little problems needlessly snowball into bigger ones, it was refreshing to see one resolved in relatively short order. My theory was also proven correct, thanks to the intervention of a somewhat nosy but increasingly understanding Ai. But I don’t want to underscore the difficulty Yamato had in presenting her case to Takeo, which is why she hesitated so much.

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I imagine he’s been operating under the assumption that she’s good and pure because she sees the goodness in his heart and loves him despite his looks. In truth, Yamato likes Takeo’s body, from his eyebrows and full lips to his broad shoulders, rippling pecs, and huge hands. She well and truly has the hots for him, and wants more physical contact, not less.

At first Ai confronts Yamato with suspicion, but ends up agreeing with all the things Yamato says about Takeo, and totally understanding Yamato’s situation, and tells her to go to him and tell him everything she told her; he’s not so fragile he’d cast her aside. Yamato runs off, a huge weight lifted from her shoulders.

Her sudden and adorable faceplant, from which she shoots back up after a beat before continuing on her way, really underscores how pumped up she is, so eager to get to Takeo that she forgets the rudiments of ambulation.

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It might have been better for Ai if her initial suspicions were right; that Yamato was deceiving Takeo or having an affair, because this is the episode in which Ai realizes she’s lost Takeo—not to a hussy, but to a genuinely good person in Yamato, and she hid her own feelings for him too long—partially because they’re three grades apart.

Still, their age difference didn’t matter when Takeo made a “from the mouth of babes” compliment on a beauty she didn’t know she had. She had a growth spurt long before he did, and her tall, lean frame was mocked by classmates as reminiscent of a school statue with the same build. Takeo didn’t know anything about that; to him, she resembled a calla lily. From that point on, Ai was smitten.

But like Takeo aimed to do with Yamato, she decided to wait for him to “grow up,” but waited too long. Ai can’t hold back how upset she is about this, and heads back to college early. She’s happy for Takeo, but devastated that her long-time love has found someone else; someone just as worthy as she is. Good on you, show, for making Ai more than the cliched rival, but a tragic figure in and of herself.

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Ai and Suna find Takeo rescuing a cat from a tree, and tell him Yamato is headed to his place, in tears. They don’t have to say another word, as Takeo demonstrates his impressive running speed and endurance. He meets Yamato in front of his house, where he tells her whatever has been troubling her, she can tell him; she can tell him everything. And she does: She wants to hold hands; he wants to be cuddled; she wants to be kissed by those lips that won’t quit.

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Those are all big steps for her and Takeo, but Takeo assures her they’re steps they’ll take together. Now that she sees she had nothing to worry about, Yamato opens up more to Takeo about how she’s not the good person he thought she was: she found his address by asking around his school, and even left her cell in his house on purpose.

Learning of these tactics doesn’t disappoint Takeo; in fact they make him happy that she went to such lengths to get closer to him. His reassurances move Yamato to tears, something Takeo promised he’d never make her cry again, but Yamato tells him happy tears don’t count. After spending the last few nights worried the truth would cost her Takeo, tonight she’ll be grinning ear to ear knowing the conflict they overcame ended up deepening their relationship. They’re in a good place again, thank goodness. On to the next crisis!

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In the hilarious omake that closes the episode, Takeo, anticipating a kiss in the near future, decides he needs to practice on real human lips; lips that will remain sealed about his practice. Naturally, those lips belong to Suna. I find it ironic that every girl in their school, along with most other women in public, want nothing more than to lock lips with Suna, but it’s Takeo who actually gets to do it—albeit through a layer of plastic wrap!

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Ore Monogatari!! – 04 (Belated)

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Gosh dang…it is indeed Spring…and that might be the best episode I’ve watched all Spring. There’s certainly no more adorable and rootable couple than Takeo and Yamato. I get on people for taking selfies, but Yamato is allowed, dammit!

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The episode starts off with Takeo still reeling over the happiness in his heart over snagging an honest-to-God girlfriend in Yamato who is herself utterly devoted to him. She derives as much joy from telling her friend on the phone “I’m with my boyfriend!” as Takeo derives from hearing the words.

Yamato asks if Takeo would be okay with doing a Single’s Meet with her; all he has to do is wrangle five of his single friends. He has way more than five, because he’s a great guy. And when Yamato’s five friends lay eyes on Takeo for the first time, their reactions are…understandable, considering they’re products of society, naturally attracted to Suna.

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Whether it’s saving Yamato from falling by plucking her up like a ragdoll, carrying huge loads in their way, or opening a non-twist-off bottle, Takeo’s feats of strength don’t impress them so much as…well, scare them. Like the mom with the baby whose stroller Takeo took to the top, the mom is scared of the big bad-looking guy, while the hot guy next to him gets all the love, even though he doesn’t want it. Suna only smiles and laughs in reaction to something Takeo is doing, which makes the girls swoon.

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Takeo is also a somewhat naive guy who thinks Yamato’s friends will be good people because she’s a good and genuine person. Suna warns him about such assumptions, and then they’re shattered altogether when Takeo and Yamato overhear two of her friends talking shit about him behind her back, calling him “barely human” and a “gorilla.” It’s cutting stuff, and to it’s credit the episode doesn’t hold the elephant in the room back. On the surface, to most people, Takeo is a frightening bear-man.

This is a fact Takeo knows all too well, to the point that the insults roll right off him; he’s heard it all, both to his face, behind his back, and in people’s eyes. He’s more upset about Yamato being hurt, causing her to exclaim to them “He’s really super-cool!” before running off.

Fortunately, Takeo is able to head her off in no time, as his gait is significantly longer, and assures her everything is fine. He brings out one of his simple yet powerful sayings, about their being “all kinds of people”, without whom they wouldn’t have met. Yamato, bless her, finally wonders if maybe she just didn’t properly explain to her friends how cool Takeo is, blaming herself for their ignorance.

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Then…the frikin’ cafe EXPLODES.

I must say, I really wasn’t expecting that, but there was foreshadowing earlier, what with the bucket and boxes blocking the hall and the locked emergency exit. This establishment has lots of fire code violations, which lessened the randomness of the incident. In any case, with the two girls who talked shit about him still inside the burning building, Takeo doesn’t hesitate to rush in to save them.

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He’s able to carry one of the girls out to safety, then uses his big body as a shield to protect the second from getting smashed by debris, allowing her to run out on her own. After calling fire and ambulance, Suna calls Takeo, and tells him he’d better come out of the cafe soon, because Yamato has to be held back from going in after him by her two friends.

There’s true love in action here, people. Not only between Yamato and Takeo, but Suna and Takeo, who tells him with a voice that almost breaks that his life will be too boring without him. Like the Hulk, Takeo summons an extra reserve of strength to slip out from under the debris and blast out of the cafe window in dramatic fashion.

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Yamato rushes over to him and is almost lost in his arms as they embrace, with Takeo completely oblivious that his back is still on fire. The girls he saved thank him, and all the girls’ hearts skip a beat when he shoots them a look of affirmation, in spite of themselves. Takeo may not be their type, but now they know he’s a great guy and the right match for their Yamato. And they know they were wrong to insult him.

I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to have a non-harem romantic comedy in my stable; one where the guy and girl don’t get lost in tangled webs of misunderstandings and omission and hesitations and love triangles. This couple is alright; heck, Suna sees them old and wrinkly talking about how much they love all four of the seasons.

But more than taking the roads less traveled, no other show this Spring captures how gosh-darn good it feels to be in love and be loved back. Food tastes better, the air smells fresher, and the sun shines brighter. Things that are indisputably awesome: Takeo; Yamato; Suna; and this show.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 03 (Late)

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From Braids to Boots, the Cute Won’t Quit

To her credit, Yamato does what I was hoping and attempts to tell Takeo about her feelings directly—doing so while looking even more ridiculously cute then usual. She clearly put a lot of effort into looking as cute as possible. But still convinced she likes Suna, Suna is all Takeo talks about, causing the cutie to tear up and flee. “What the hell just happened?” Takeo asks himself.

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I love it when sometimes a character tells another one exactly what I’m thinking, which is that Takeo’s delusions have to be set straight. Suna is the one to deliver those words, which come as a great relief. Suna is a smart, no-nonsense kinda guy who’s not going to let a misunderstanding persist on if he knows about it and has the power to stop it.

He’s also a hell of a friend, and always has been. It may be true that he “stole” all of the hearts of the girls Takeo liked, but that’s only because Takeo is horrible at reading people. All those girls talked smack behind his back, and Suna didn’t like that, so he turned them down out of a sense of loyalty and justice.

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Unlike those other girls, Yamato is different; she’s worth pining for. The only problem is, Takeo’s skull is too thick to notice, and he doesn’t believe Suna’s claim that Yamato really likes him. He really has to hear it from Yamato’s own mouth, so when Yamato comes by Suna’s place, Suna tries to hide him under his bed, in an impeccably timed sight gag that had me in stitches.

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Yamato sits down on the bed not knowing she’s adding a trivial amount of weight to a load Takeo can easily handle. She then helpfully proceeds to reveal all. Takeo thought the best he could be was a friend and confidant to Yamato, but that’s the exact role Yamato herself has assigned to Suna! She cried because she worried for a moment that Takeo’s constant praise of Suna was a roundabout way of turning her down.

When Suna asks her if this means she’ll give up, she says emphatically that she won’t, and loudly proclaims her like of Takeo. Suna has a little fun with the situation, making Yamato repeat herself several times to make sure it sinks into that thick skull of Takeo’s before bringing him out from under the bed.

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Rather than be outraged or mad that she was “manipulated”, though, she’s so glad to see Takeo there, she gathers the courage to confess once more, to his face, knowing he’s there. That in turn inspires Takeo to confesses right back to her. The two turn beet red and gaze at each other, both obviously relieved and elated beyond belief.

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It’s a gorgeous, momentous transcendent scene, made all the more impressive by how soon in the series it happens. Suna doesn’t seem fazed in the slightest as he studies quietly at his desk amidst the practically floating lovebirds. Heck, he was a regular Cupid this week!

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Just like that, Takeo and Yamato are a couple, and not just a cute or novel one, but a realistic one. Here are two people of very different sizes and appearances who both have tender, beautiful hearts and souls within, which they’re both able to see in one another. Once Takeo knows he’s allowed to like Yamato without worrying about heartbreak, they basically just lock into place.

The touching story of the red and blue ogres hews very close to that of Takeo and Suna, and one could say Suna sacrificed himself for his friend’s happiness, but he doesn’t see what either he or the blue ogre did as all that noble or special. He’s a stoic, logical fellow who also happens to want his friends to be happy. Takeo makes him happy, in part, by making him laugh.

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If we assume Yamato is just under five feet tall, that would make Takeo about seven feet tall

It’s no one-sided friendship; what it is is one of the best anime bromances I’ve seen. It’s amazing how much development these two got in just these first three episodes. The very fact you have two guys and one girl has me fearing a resurgence of triangle drama in the future as circumstances evolve, but for now I’m just going to enjoy this…and look forward to watching the Spring’s best couple in action.

The events of this episode more than validate my decision to pick this show up. I heard it was good, but I didn’t think it would be this hilarious and lovely and moving. I’d have done myself a serious disservice had I passed on it all Spring. Thankfully I only have three episodes before I’m caught up. Bear with me!

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