Higehiro – 06 – Doing the Best We Can

Trigger Warning: This episode contains a scene of attempted rape.

With Sayu now working a part-time job, it was only a matter of time before the show’s first truly unsavory character reared their ugly head. Yaguchi Kyouya is that character, and to call him “unsavory” is putting it all too lightly. Just because he and Sayu slept together a few times, he believes he’s entitled not only to know where she lives now, but to sleep with her whenever he wants.

Yaguchi is a truly detestable scumbag in the SAO tradition of scumbag villains: a guy specially formulated to be loathed with extreme prejudice. There are moments when his presence in this show is so out-of-place compared to all the caring, compassionate, and protective people around Sayu, he feels like a caricature.

Lest I forget: Yaguchi and men like him who took what they could from Sayu and then discarded her are not only a crucial part of this story, but all too common in real life. Yaguchi shows no regard for Sayu’s agency or choices, blows past all personal boundaries, lies to her face about “just wanting to talk.” And the worst of it? When he attempts to rape her, she puts everything on herself, fearing the consequences to Yoshida and Asami.

That she’s of the mind that she has to let Yaguchi have his way with her so others won’t get hurt shows how far Sayu still has to go in being able to protect and value herself. And she would have absolutely been raped had Yoshida not taken it upon himself to read her text as a call for help. While I normally detest violence, I feel Yoshida goes far to easy on him; he should have to bear at least a shiner for his transgressions.

Yaguchi is absolutely wrong that they’re the same and the only difference is Yoshida isn’t sleeping with her. Yaguchi is definitely a criminal for having sex with a minor, while Yoshida’s harboring of Sayu is a lot more of a gray area. But worst of all to Yoshida is that at no point does Yaguchi think about Sayu. It’s all about what he can get, and why Yoshida isn’t getting it to.

Thankfully, Yoshida is firm enough to get Yaguchi to promise not to bother Sayu again, but we’ve already seen the value of this guy’s promises. Yoshida knows he may not know if he can save Sayu or how, but at least he’s trying! All the others did was hurt her more. They don’t get to protest his attempts to save her when they never tried.

When he returns to the room to comfort Sayu, she doesn’t know why she got so scared when he tried after they’d done it so many times before. Yoshida simply says that’s normal. She was right to turn him down, did and said nothing wrong, and needs to think about herself more. Seeing her not able to be the normal teenager she should be hurts, but becoming one starts with caring about herself.

The next day, Asami notices that something happened between Yaguchi and Sayu, and when Sayu won’t say anything, she confronts him. He tells the truth about what he tried to do to Sayu, then apologizes after Asami slaps him and leaves the break room, admitting he “got a little rough” (ya think?) Sayu asks why he didn’t tell Asami about them, and he says he promised not to if she brought him to her place. So I guess he’ll keep some of his promises?

Sayu doesn’t forgive Yaguchi—she never should, frankly, unless he shows serious signs of changing—but isn’t “mad” anymore, and is also present enough to make clear to him if he tries anything again she’ll be mad. His assurance he won’t seems more couched in the ferocity of her two “guard dogs” in Yoshida and Asami, but if there’s one quality of this guy I’ll put my faith in, it’s his cowardice, and if that means he really won’t try to touch her again, I’ll take it.

After Sayu’s shift, Yoshida texts that he’ll be at work late, so Asami invites herself over to her place to protect her. She stops by her palatial estate for some stuff, and we learn that she’s the daughter of a politician and lawyer who are almost never around, and Sayu’s the first friend she’s told about her house. By opening up a little about herself, she inspires Sayu to do the same, telling her plainly about how she came from Hokkaido and stayed at various guys’ places, including Yaguchi’s.

She continues that she kept running from place to place and nothing ever changed, until she met Yoshida and then Asami, and realized how “stupid” she was being. Heartened by Sayu opening up, Asami takes her to a special spot where you can see the stars despite still being in Tokyo.

As the two gaze at the stars, Asami tells Sayu more about herself, how she dressed up as a gyaru, but her parents didn’t understood she was doing it for attention she simply wasn’t getting from them. And while she’s expected to follow in her mom’s footsteps in law, what she really wants to study is literature and become a writer. That led to a huge argument with her mom.

That’s when her dad took her to this starry spot and assured her their worries are nothing compared to those stars. But while Asami knows humans are to small to be seen compared to the stars, they still have pasts and futures that matter. She knows Sayu’s past was rough, but she got through it to get to where she is: in a position to choose her future. It’s the second straight week of heartwarming girl talk, only this time between girls of the same age.

The next day after Yoshida comes home early, Sayu tells him that living with him, she’s finally able to start thinking about a future. She just needs a little more time. Yoshida will give her all the time she needs. She may have  met one too many Yaguchi Kyouya’s on the way, but those assholes are but insignificant specks compared to the growing constellation of good people she knows, who care about her and are slowly but surely teaching her to care about herself.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

SSSS.Dynazenon – 02 – What Are We Now?

The first of many wonderful decisions made in this exquisitely directed and impeccably detailed second episode is that we catch a second look at the end of last week’s kaiju battle from Yomogi’s POV. It’s great to see this confused ordinary kid simply along for the ride as Dynazenon leaps, flies, and takes its opponent down.

After that, the dino-mecha vanishes, or rather reverts to its resting form of four toys distributed among the three new co-pilots by Gauma. When Yomogi says he didn’t even do anything, Gauma says it’s possibly Dynazenon recognized his innate aptitude.

Then immediately goes back to what he was doing before the attack: castigating Yume for standing Yomogi up, leading Yomogi to ask for calm. Gauma goes on to say a group called the Kaiju Eugenicists controlled the kaiju, and they’ll be back, so the group has to train. Everyone agrees to meet up tomorrow…even Yume.

The next day at school and in Koyomi’s room, everything seemingly reverts back to normal, except for the compression of classes due to the kaiju attack. Yomogi’s friends want him to hang, but he has work. Chise points out to Koyomi that if he’s a robot co-pilot then that means he’s technically employed.

After school Yume gets a piggyback ride from her best friend Mei on a grassy hill near the flood gate. We’ve never seen her so outwardly joyful, laughing until she’s out of breath before heading to training session, this time keeping her word. Mei, a photog, notices this sudden change in Yume’s attitude and snaps some gorgeous candid shots of her as she parts.

Yomogi, who’d classically be the one most “into” this new kaiju-punching mecha scenario, has to work instead, missing the first training session. When his manager what happened on his date, he says “way too much” happened, though none of it “erotically”. He then goes home for a soak and is shocked when Gauma comes in to join him in a far-too-cramped tub.

There’s a lovely juxtaposition between Yomogi and Gauma’s bath and Yume’s. Yomogi was thinking about what having “aptitude” for Dynazenon means, while Yume is thinking about apologizing to Yomogi. Her parents are arguing on the other side of Yume’s bathroom door, one instance of many of Dynazenon’s elite sound design.

From the tinny sound of voices on radio or TV, voices muffled through walls, far away, close up, outside and on the train, we hear voices in Dynazenon just like we do in real life. Also adding to the immersive realism are the extremely lived-in interiors. Like Gauma, we feel like an honored guest in the cozy, realistically cluttered home Yomogi shares with his mom and aging granny.

It’s also clear from this scene why Yomogi is working so much he’s missing all of Gauma’s training sessions: with no siblings or father, now that he’s old enough to work he wants to help support his family as much as he can. As odd as Gauma is, he still seems to get this, and isn’t hard on Yomogi’s choice to skip training for work.

But as we’re introduced to four suspicious figures near a wrecked station, he won’t be able to ignore his Dyna-duties for long. Yume tracks him down and decides to give him a one-on-one lesson on how to access his Dyna-vehicle. She starts by accessing hers: the aerial Dyna Wing, and he accesses Dyna Soldier. Then she merges with him, giving his robot the ability to fly and giving her robot arms and legs with which to fight.

The two combine quickly and without any fanfare, but it still feels like an intimate act, and it was foreshadowed by Yume piggyback riding on Mei’s back. Now she’s piggybacking on Yomogi, and their maiden flight together results in a very sweet and simple conciliatory talk from 40,000 feet travelling at mach 0.8.

Yume is sorry, and Yomogi isn’t mad. Yomogi asked “What are we now?”, referring to their combined Wing/Soldier form. But you could just as easily answer that “what they are now” … is friends. They were able to bridge the distance between them and start fresh…all thanks to robots.

In a very slick transition, their combined “Dyna Wing Soldier” flies behind a building as the camera pans down, and once we’re at ground level we see Yume and Yomogi walking together. They visit the collateral damage the kaiju battle caused, which distresses Yomogi, but Yume assures him it would have been far worse had they not fought and defeated the kaiju. In light of the mess they made, Yomogi wonders if they should hand off their Dyna duties to someone else—perhaps someone older or more experience.

Yume’s response is instructive: If you always go by the book, there are things you can’t protect. On the train home, Yume opens up to him about how her sister died, in an accident, at the flood gate where she spends so much time. It’s another momentous moment presented with sublime mundaneness. Kudos again to the sound design, as you can hear her voice bouncing off the metal walls of the train.

Just like that, smash cut to the kaiju of the week – initially so unassuming, taking up a tiny portion of the frame as it lurks under an overpass. Then Yuuga, one of the four too-cool-for-school “Bad Guy” kaiju users in marching band uniforms (a Trigger trademark) is chosen by the others to take command, and the kaiju grows to immense size.

The psychedelic kaiju starts leveling city blocks when Dynazenon arrives, just as Yuuga & Co. predicted. Only as expected, this second kaiju is a lot trickier than the first. One can’t just punch it, because it can freakin’ teleport. Yuuga uses this ability to great effect by kicking the shit out of the comparatively sluggish Dynazenon while dodging all it’s counterattacks.

Gauma decides to audible “Disperse!”, and the four Dyna parts split, giving their opponent four targets. The only problem is, without any training Yomogi has no idea how to move his Soldier Dyna on its own, and as he wrestles with the controls his sitting duck Dyna’s arms flail around comically. If that wasn’t enough, his manager calls him from work, a fun instance of his normal life interrupting his new kaiju-bustin’ one.

When the enemy kaiju accelerates its destructo-beams and buildings start to crumble, Yomogi spots a bus full of innocent people in harm’s way, and realizes that whether he’s confident in his abilities or not, he wants to protect them. Yume suggests they do what they did before and piggyback into Dyna Soldier, and with Yume’s added agility is able to destroy the fragile wings the kaiju was using to teleport.

After that, he and Yume launch the kaiju high into the sky, where Gauma is able to finish it off with his Dyna Launcher Burst Missile. Team Dynazenon is now 2-for-2, with Dyna-teamwork making the Dyna-dream work. As they exit their robots and bask in their latest victory, Yomogi asks if Yume was close to her sister. She says they didn’t get along well, but admits that now she’s not so sure anymore.

Just as their regular lives are portrayed so simply and realistically with both sights and sounds, there’s a similar realism to the feelings Yume and Yomogi expressed here. There’s nothing over-the-top or melodramatic about their exchanges. Instead, they’re becoming closer little by little, at their own pace.

Unfortunately the pace of battles is likely to heat up, as the enemy kaiju users Gauma identifies as the “Kaiju Eugenicists” are steaming over their latest defeat. Our ragtag gang of good-hearted souls want to keep protecting what they can, they’ll need to step up their Dyna-battle game, ’cause these drum majors look serious, and the gloves are coming off.

Arte – 10 – For Her Sake

When Katarina invites Arte to a meal, it’s more than just servants preparing everything for them. Katarina is in the middle of everything, working hard with the help, and not thinking of them as mere servants. Arte’s never seen her more happy. What gets Katarina down is the prospect of returning home to her parents’ house, which has never felt like home to her, so how can she be happy there?

A large part of that unhappiness stems from Katarina’s disgust for the nobility’s inclination towards always wanting there to be a clear difference between themselves and poorer levels of society. Her egalitarian attitude was developed by osmosis when she was raised far from Venice by her wet nurse Buona, who had a son Gimo with whom Katarina was close. When Buona suddenly died (as people did with far more regularity back then) she was thrust back to Venice, separated from the only home and family she knew to that point.

Yuri tells her about Katarina’s past in order to contextualize his opinion on the matter: Katarina finding her happiness depends on her ability to accept that she’s in the place she’s supposed to be, where that happiness is to be found, and that moving forward is the only way to find it. Even so, Arte can tell there’s a serious lack of closure, so she offers to take Katarina to see Gimo.

As Arte observes how both Katarina’s parents and servants act around her, it becomes clear that no one is really looking at the girl. When she overhears Malta complaining about how expensive her dowry’s going to be, and Sofia not challenging him, Arte recalls how her own parents argued spiritedly about her. The difference is, while they disagreed on the details, they were arguing for her sake.

Yuri tells Arte that Gimo is on Murano Island, and maintains his utmost faith not in her, but in his decision to choose her. It’s an interesting distinction, but Yuri didn’t become the rich and successful person he is by doubting his instincts.

On the island, Gimo regards Katarina coldly, but mostly out of deference to his mother Buona, who told him he couldn’t have any more contact with Katarina, since she was a noble. Their being a family was a beautiful dream, but that’s over.

Gimo tells her that there are times when he has to do things he doesn’t like, but because he was able to face forward properly and move on, he knows Katarina can do the same. When she does, he’ll look forward to welcoming her back with a smile.

Upon returning to Venice, Katarina ends up in bed sick for three days, and Arte is dismissed by Malta for failing to live up to her expectations. However, Katarina appears before her parents, performs all the requisite aristocratic gestures perfectly, and begs them not to fire Arte.

While Malta and Sofia are shocked to see their daughter behaving so properly, Malta still bristles at the idea of changing his mind, until Sofia, her hands trembling, speaks up and offers her opinion to her husband for the first time, agreeing that for Katarina’s sake, keeping Arte around is best.

Katarina’s home was a house of closed hearts, but thanks to Arte’s sentiments on doing things for someone’s sake, Sofia and Katarina’s hearts are now open. Like Arte, Katarina is a modern young woman with modern ideas, and they’re steadily learning together the ways to strike a balance between their modern values and the customs and obligations of their class.

Arte – 09 – The Tiny Gourmet

Katarina proves to be a handful to Arte, who is still disoriented by Venice, where not only do people dress differently but the very air she breathes smells different. While Arte received a crash course in Venetian etiquette from Yuri, to her shock Katarina is actually exemplary at etiquette; she simply chooses not to demonstrate it in public—or to her parents—because it’s “such a pain” and she’d rather spend her time napping.

Arte’s new servant friend Daphne tells her all the other tutors quit because of Katarina’s lousy attitude. Yuri admitted to Arte that painters are “a dime a dozen” in Venice, so she must assume he hired her more for her potential as a tutor to Katarina. But what does she, Arte, bring to the table that’s new?

Arte finds herself thinking and worrying so much about her fitness as a tutor that she gets pains in her stomach. But when Daphne takes her to a church so she can see and sketch the wonderful works housed therein, she’s approached by a couple men who praise her work then mock Florence for stooping to letting girls be artisans.

Much to Daphne’s shock, Arte not only takes their mocking in stride, but laughs about it. Those misogynist pricks showed her that not everything in Venice is different, and she’s not any different than the young woman who overcame overwhelming odds in Florence. She just needs to do her best here, like she’s always done. Doubt and anxiety won’t serve her.

The next day, Arte dithes the local garb and dons her workshop frock, which itself surprises Katarina. But part of Arte’s new wardrobe also meant removing the kid gloves: when Katarina tries to nod off, Arte plucks her out of bed and parks her in a chair, and in that chair she stays until she explains why she won’t practice the etiquette she knows in public.

She refuses, but Arte isn’t about to be discouraged now that she’s regained her confidence. She’s dealt with greater challenges in the past, and in a battle of wills between Arte and Katarina, I simply can’t bet against Arte.

That night, Arte makes a crude dress for Katarina to play in, and destroys a barrel so that they can go hoop rolling together, something at which Katarina is already an old hand. While this shows the girl that Arte can let loose and have fun, she can still smell her ulterior motive, and so her lips remain tight despite having had a genuinely good time.

Katarina’s mother Sofia tells Arte how her husband never wanted a daughter, and how all of her upbringing was to ensure she wouldn’t embarrass the family prior to being married off. Sofia believes that’s the reason Katarina hasn’t opened her heart to anyone in the house.

That night Arte visits Katarina’s room, having seen her light on late at night, and discovers her deep, dark secret, hinted at before: Katarina has a passion for cooking, deemed a job for lowly servants. Arte tries to reach out, but Katarina assumes she’ll rat her out, and demands that she leave at once.

The next day we see that Katarina has opened her heart to someone; namely her uncle Yuri, who unlike her father doesn’t see her as a burden to be married off, but a treasure whose passions should be nurtured. You can tell how close they are by the fact they’re cooking together without a care in the world…only Katarina is certain this will be the last time they do so.

Alas, when she returns home and her parents don’t broach the sore subject, it’s clear Arte didn’t snitch. Arte assures her she didn’t come to take what she likes away from her. Hell, she can relate to how Katarina feels, since her own mother burned her drawings.

Now that Katarina knows Arte is Good People, she’s willing to open her heart a bit when Arte joins her for dinner, when we’ll surely learn more about her “complicated past.” Until then, Arte’s basic decency, kindness, empathy, and determination—not to mention brute strength—contributed to coax Katarina into lowering her defenses. I came away from this episode liking both of them more!

Iroduku: The World in Colors – 13 (Fin) – Back to the Future…In Color!

The structure of the Irodoku finale is simple: Everyone says their goodbyes before Hitomi heads off back to her proper time. Shou (“I loved…your photos”), Chigusa (“Uhh…Smile more, I guess?”), Kurumi (“Don’t make me cry!”), Asagi (“I don’t care, I’m crying!”), and Kohaku (“See you in 60 years!”) each get their turn as the star sand matures, but when it’s time for Yuito, both he and Hitomi hesitate to say everything the want to say, despite the fact this may be the last time they see each other.

Turns out Hitomi, or rather Hitomi’s unconscious magic, isn’t going to be satisfied with their sedate, half-assed goodbyes. The magical device starts to malfunction, and Hitomi is swallowed up into another full-dive illusion. Only Yuito jumps into the stream and ends up in the same place. He rushes about looking and finally finds her, devoid of color, and they embrace.

They thank each other for having such profound effects on each other’s lives before confessing their love to each other, saying all the things left unsaid before. Yuito was all but done drawing before she showed up, and Hitomi couldn’t see colors. Both had shut themselves into dark, gray corners, but now the walls of those corners have shattered and given way to brilliant colors.

But as I predicted, love is the answer here. Saying she loves Yuito and hearing that he loves her back is enough to restore color to her world; this time, permanently. In the moments before she’s sent back to the future, she can see everyone and the town in color for the first time.

Kohaku privately remarks that it wasn’t her time magic that sent Hitomi back; it was Hitomi’s own unconscious magic simply wearing off. Shortly after Hitomi disappears, Kohaku gets a text from “Kohaku Level 77” in the year 2078: Hitomi has returned safe and sound.

Her life-changing journey thus at an end, Hitomi finds herself on the same hill where she left her granny, and they embrace tearfully. Kohaku (she insists Hitomi call her that rather than “Granny” since they became such good friends in the past) then presents Hitomi with a time capsule containing all the photos they took together.

It was probably already there, buried in the yard, before Hitomi left; Kohaku always knew she’d become a great enough mage to send Hitomi back. She’s just glad her action led to Hitomi finding happiness. Finally, she shows Kohaku the children’s book she read as a child—the only thing she saw in color. Turns out, it was written by Aoi Yuito.

After leaving flowers at her mother’s grave, Hitomi, brimming with the confidence her time in the past awakened, reconnects with her friends with school and starts an all-new Magic Photography Arts Club. As for where the 70ish-year-old Yuito and the others are…the show does not disclose that, nor does Hitomi seem in a hurry to seek them out.

That seems strange, since one would’ve thought Kohaku would have kept in touch with one if not all of them, and one would think that due to advances in technology people would live longer than they do in 2018. Alas, this finale wasn’t about Hitomi reconnecting with her friends from the past (other than Kohaku), nor her rather uninspiring romance with Yuito.

It was about Hitomi leaving that dark corner where she shut herself off, embracing all of the new colors in her world, and resuming her life in her time. She got what she needed in the past. Now it’s time to build a new happy future for herself.—MagicalChurlSukui

Re:Creators – 12

For an episode that purports to have new urgency by doing without the usual OP, this was a jet-cooling return to the less-than-stellar form of some of Re:Creators’s earlier episodes, in which far more is told than seen, things we already basically known are repeated to us so the characters can catch up (almost never a good look), and stakes and details are painstakingly set for a pivotal battle…later.

First off, Souta completes his confession, which was a little puzzling to me, because we, the audience, learned nothing new about what happened to Shimazaki, unlike last week. We knew he chose not to do anything to help her, and that eventually led to her offing herself, and that he ran away and tried to forget about her.

There’s at least a little bit that’s new as we get more interactions between Alice and her creator, whom she’s even more disappointed in after watching Selestia’s creator demonstrate his love for his creation by quickly revising her in the battle. She wants the same thing for herself, so she can save the world, but her creator says it’s up to her.

As he dangles from her flying horse high over the forest, she gets him to admit an embarrassing truth: he actually does love his creation, doesn’t want it to be cancelled, and believes it’s a world that’s worth Febby sacrificing her blood to protect.

She releases him and tells him to draw what he wants for the time being. The bond they’ve forged may make it difficult for him to join the other creators, so perhaps she succeeded in taking a potential weapon against Altair off the board.

Speaking of that weapon, the static group in the boring beige conference room has a nice long chat about Altair’s power and myriad, constantly-multiplying special powers, thanks to fandom. Clearly many a consumer felt a connection to Altair’s aesthetic and background, and she’s all too happy to draw power from people living in the very world she intends to overturn.

There’s great discussion of some clever concepts, including using the resources and reach of the (dubiously reliable) government to build up their own levels and abilities, as well as construct a kind of “birdcage” in the story world with which to capture Altair.

To maximize their power and have any chance against her, they have to create a gripping narrative that will capture and, more importantly, hold the interest and stir passion in their audience. They have to save the world with a story.

Altair may be singleminded but she’s no fool, and wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there’s a plot afoot to stop her using the same means from which she draws power. But she’s confident she still has the upper hand in the situation (no doubt fueled by the deep-seated despair that brought her into existance in the first place).

She also has a new member of the team to replace the KO’d Mamika: Celestia’s partner, whom I highly doubt Celestia will want to fight. With his arrival, and the popping up of two or three more creations she hopes to get to first, Altair likes her odds in the battle that’s coming.

Re:Creators – 11

Meteroa and Celestia quickly recover from the injuries sustained in last week’s battle. Matsubara is by Celestia’s bedside when she thanks him for the drawing and story that ultimately induced Altair’s retreat. Matsubara believes the people who deserve more of the credit are the masses who saw and liked the art. He also clarifies that he wrote her story as proof he lived, not simply for fun.

While taking Souta on a head-clearing, exhilarating ride in the Gigas Machina, Kanoya talks about how differently the creations all seem to approach their reason for being, but notes they’re all the same in that all they can do is what they’re meant to do: save the world, in the case of heroes (and threaten it in the case of the villains).

Creations like him who save the world only exist because worlds that have to be saved exist. Kanoya recognizes and respects Souta and the other creators’ role as the makers of those worlds, whether as proof they existed, or any number of different motivations creations simply don’t have access to.

Kanoya gives Souta a lot to think about, and at the first meeting with Meteora back on her feet, discussing how a change in strategy is necessary, Souta provides the reason why: Altair’s creator is already dead, and he killed her.

From there, we travel back to Souta’s first contact with Shimazaki Setsuna, when she praised his drawing of Celestia. He liked her drawings, and she liked his, so they started an online friendship that eventually led to an in-person meetup.

When they meet at the station, we learn Shimazaki’s real name isn’t Setsuna, but Yuna, that Souta is exactly how she had hoped he would be. Yuna is also kind, beautiful, and adorable, in a way that makes watching her and Souta enjoy the day together, while knowing her ultimate fate, that much more heartbreaking.

Their day is suddenly infused with danger and dread but also intimacy when they arrive late to a presentation and Souta decides they should go up to a catwalk for a better view. Yuna slips and almost falls to her death, but Souta grabs her (thankfully well-made) purse strap and saves her.

The two are suddenly in each other’s arms, heavily breathing, and Yuna is excited by how much of an adventure the day has become. Souta then lends her his glasses, which she takes without hesitation and asks how she looks.

We know that despite the sweet start to their relationship, things gradually turn bitter, and while we had the broad strokes of how and why Shimazaki ultimately offed herself, it’s instructive to get the heartbreaking details.

Souta, who is, after all, only human and just a kid, gave in to envy and resentment as Shimazaki’s popularity on their art boards took off while he stagnated. Souta found he couldn’t be the supportive voice Shimazaki wanted and needed, and he drifted further and further away.

His supportive voice would’ve been of great help to Shimazaki with enduring the storm of hate that hit the boards when another poster—possibly also jealous of her—started the rumor of her plagiarizing work. From there, the mob was off to the races, viciously attacking her and suggesting she kill herself.

Throughout all this, Souta was merely an observer. While he initially felt he had to step in and try to help Shimazaki, he felt paralyzed by a number of things: the possibility of the mob turning on him, as well as the slight satisfaction he can’t deny he got from some of the criticism.

So while Souta didn’t plunge a sword in Yuna’s chest, he did nothing to stop others from doing so. It was a choice he made; the kind of choice Kanoya said creations don’t have; and it was the wrong choice.

Now the world is a place where Yuna is dead, her creation is loose and on a quest of vengeance. But his choice to come clean with the others wasa good one; hopefully the first of several he and the others will make and bring an end to Altair’s tempest.

Re:Creators – 10

Believing Chikujouin’s lies about Meteora being Mamika’s murder, Aliceteria goes all out against the sorceress, who borrows several missiles but can’t connect on any of them. Alice also counters Meteora’s summoned weapons with sommoned warriors of her own, who surround Meteora menacingly and try to catch her in a tangle of red laser beams.

Souta calls Kikuchihara, but she and help may not arrive in time, so it’s up to him to try to stop Alice, and he actually gets her to at least pause by coming between her and a wounded Meteora.

He tells her that far from being entertained by the horrors in her world, he’s always felt sad about them, has rooted for her to win a better future for that world, and looks up to her as a lofty role model: a paragon of chivalry, courage and honor. I appreciated Souta finally putting his life on the line for his friend rather than staying on the sideline, even if he’s only armed with words.

Like so many creations now in Souta’s world, Alice doesn’t feel like the heroine Souta describes. She’s something different, and someone she believes doesn’t deserve his esteem. But however flawed and fallen a person she has become, she takes stock in the fact she’s still a knight, and will still avenge her friend’s death, come hell or high water.

While this is taking place, Mirokuji is fighting Chikujouin, who considers their sparring a form of flirtation, and gets him to agree to hand over his female samurai Hangaku (whom he calls a “curse”) if she beats him.

Once Alice has had enough even of the innocent Souta’s talk, she lunges at him, but this time it’s Meteora who gets in the way, taking the full force of her strike. It’s the only one Alice gets, however, before the timely arrival of Celestia. She’s to neutralize Alice, and Kanoya Rui is floating above it all in his Giga as a last-resort.

Just when we thought Rui was going to have to be the difference in this battle, Altair appears and attacks him with a clone of his own Giga, thus neutralizing him. Blitz takes his place by Altair’s side, and suddenly all the (living) players are on the field at once.

Altair also guides Alice’s weapon so it impales Celestia, delivering a seemingly mortal wound. It’s up to Matsubara to throw caution to the wind and quickly “revise” her character by having Marine post a new illustration of her, full of power and resplendent in flames.

The post catches fire itself, gaining thousands of likes and follows, thus imbuing Celestia with the power of that illustration, combined with his written words describing it. While it strains credulity for such a post to go viral so quickly, it’s neat to see the creator ability finally make a difference in a battle.

I also like how Matsubara considers it a matter of pride as a professional creative that his protagonist not lose to the creation of an amateur doujin artist (though it’s a dig at someone whose full story we’ve yet to see, so I’m still reserving judgment on her).

In the act of revising Celestia, Altair is somehow adversely affected, and seemingly shifts slightly out of sync with the world, the opposite of what she was going for. She beats a fast retreat, as the stars are “not yet in alignment” for her.

It would seem she’s been foiled, but only temporarily. Worse, once she dissipates, Celestia reverts to her pre-revised state, complete with acute blood loss and gaping chest wound; she’s rushed to the hospital where hopefully she’ll be okay.

And even worse still, We learn the end result Mirokuji’s battle with Chikujouin: she stole Hangaku from him, which surely drops him way down on the Creation Power Rankings. Still, everyone is still alive (for now) and the world still stands intact; that’s not nothing.

Re:Creators – 09

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While I’ll truly miss her if she’s truly dead, Mamika’s bleeding out marks the first time Re:Creators should be lauded to finally committing to something that will be very difficult to take back, assuming it sticks to its guns with her loss.

As luck would have it, the first one the dying Mamika encounters is Chikujouin, who hears the dying words Mamika wants Alice to hear, then doesn’t hesitate to rearrange them for her own entertainment, telling Alice when she arrives that it was Meteora, not Altair, who killed Mamika and is trying to destroy the world.

Normally I’d protest a character like Alice being so conveniently gullible and obtuse, but in this case I’ll allow it: in addition to being a rigid, noble knight, she’s in emotional turmoil after witnessing the untimely death of another friend; her only true friend in this world.

Felling she’s on a roll, Chikujouin calls in Souta, who arrives right on time at their meeting spot and buys her a soda.

This is a nice world. The food is delicious, the drinks are good, the sky is deep, the air is fresh and everyone is so stupid!

Just as Chiku is the perfect antagonist for generally moral people like Alice—or Souta—this world is the perfect playground for Chiku, and she can barely contain her glee with this fact. Sakamoto Maaya continues to  bring a playful, invigorating joie de vivre everyone else lacks, which gives her more serious, threatening moments more impact.

There’s a creepily predatory vibe to Chiku’s verbal and physical stalking of Souta, growing closer until her legs are wrapped around his head and he’s facing her crotch, subverting what would be the cause of blushing and/or a nosebleed in a comedy.

Still, Chiku seems to abandon Souta as a messenger to Selesia furthering the lie about Meteora being the villain, as she admits Altair is the true mastermind. Just when Chiku seems ready to do another number on Souta, Mirokuji Yuuya arrives. Chiku mockingly plays the troubled maiden before the “bad boy”, but Yuuya has a comeback even she has to admit is pretty cool:

“You’re not a person. You’re just a laughing peice of skin hanging over a bunch of lies.”

While Yuuya keeps Chiku busy, Meteora arrives to comfort Souta and apologize for not getting the truth out of her sooner. She tells him not to forget the mistakes he’s made, whether he was to blame for Shimazaki and Mamika’s deaths or not, because “the world requires choice and resolution”. It isn’t the time to give up and despair, wallowing in the rotting bath of past mistakes. Rather, he must keep learning from those mistakes; discovering and striving to do what’s right.

When Meteora tells Yuuya about Chiku’s cause-and-effect-reversing power, he uses his summon to counter it, but his battle with her is interrupted by the arrival of a furious—and grossly misinformed—Aliceteria February, who doesn’t look ready to stand around and hear all the whys and wherefores. In light of the impending confrontation, and what she told Souta, I wouldn’t rule out Meteora letting Alice kill her, if only to convince her she’s not the true enemy.

In any case, Chikujouin has made a fine mess that she’s quite proud of. She’s living the dream in this playground of a world, and regardless of her alignment (or lack thereof), it’s fun watching a master work.

Re:Creators – 08

I found last week’s episode a bit plodding and tedious, but as Altair’s identity is discovered by all and a confrontation of ideologies mounts, this week’s sequence of emotionally-resonant conversations and its closing confrontation earns it a higher grade.

The briefing to the group proper on what they know about Altair so far kinda goes off the rails when Yuuya’s creator appears with a dismissive, aloof atitude, and Yuuya, sees it as provocation to sic his esper on him. Blitz’s artist is also there, but these are merely intros for people who may or may not play key roles later.

Showing Yuuya as an unpredictable hothead was nothing new, but I appreciated Meteora’s meet-up with Souta, in which she senses he’s trying to get something off his chest and tries to make it as easy as possible.

Souta still dances around matters far too much for my taste, but it’s definitely a start, and Meteora shows how she’s morphed from a fish-out-of-water game character to a warm, patient, understanding person who considers Souta a friend and hopes he feels the same.

Despite their wildly clashing worldviews (and for the record, Alice’s take on the “world of the gods” isn’t all that unfair or inaccurate) Mamika continues to embrace Alice as a dear friend; one she believes in an hopes will believe in her.

Alice does, and can, as she can tell from her words and actions that for all her naivete Mamika has a strong and pure heart. But Alice is caught off guard when Mamika suddenly jumps off the skyscraper they’re both perched on (Tokyo City Hall) and heads off on her own, indicating it could be the last time the two friends see each other, either on the same side, or at all.

Chiku’s been busy tailing Souta during his meetings with Mamika and Meteora, and she’s pretty sure not only that Souta knew Altair’s creator, but that the creator is dead, and Souta feels at least partially to blame. Not willing to wait for him to spill the beans, she used what he’d given others to paint a larger picture for herself, and Souta’s reaction makes it clear she’s spot-on.

As such, Chiku now has leverage on Souta, and isn’t about to let him get away with avoiding the reckoning she feels should surely await the protagonist of a world as messed-up as Souta’s. So she swaps contact info and promises him they’ll go on a “date” soon. Unless he wants to be exposed, he’ll do as she says.

As for Mamika, her ultimate destination this week is Altair’s lair (an ‘Altlair’, if you will) to confront her with the knowledge she’s gained, affirm that she considers her a friend too, and offers to help “save her soul”, and that of her creator. For all the talk of creators and/or creations expressing their affection for one another, Altair is having none of it.

She hates everyone and everything and wants to destroy it all, and her response to Mamika’s olive branch is to launch a fusillade of sabres into Mamika’s body. If talk failed, Mamika was always prepared to do what was necessary to stop Altair from destroying anything or anyone else, so she casts Magical Splash Flare in a thrilling finish to the episode. No matter who emerges from the resulting conflagration, things will never be the same.

3-gatsu no Lion – 07

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And endless succession of episodes in which Rei wanders around alone with the wind in his face, wallowing in despair and self-pity over everything he’s been through and all the choices he’s made, was going to get old fast. That would be too dark and brooding, and keep us at a distance.

I wanted in, so to speak, and I got in, thanks in part to a jauntier, more playful week of 3GL, and in part to Hina’s crush Takahashi. While Rei is initially intimidated, Takahashi is actually a great admirer of Rei, and comes to him for serious advice about where to steer his life.

That Takahashi essentially comes out of nowhere to have such a profound effect on Rei and how he looks at the world is of no consequence. I like how a childhood friend of Hina, whom Rei often looks to for comfort, peace, and perspective, is inadvertently responsible for showing Rei “the light.”

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Takahashi’s seriousness, forceful determination, and earnest attentiveness to any and all Rei has to say, gets Rei to open up despite himself, breaking through a barrier he’d never crossed before, letting someone in to his inner thoughts and doubts, and receiving gratitude and further admiration in return.

Even when Takahashi, invited to dinner (much to Hina’s exasperation; however she delivers a sumptuous repast), shows Rei a video of his loss in shogi (a video that exposes Rei’s “secret”/omission to the younger sisters that he and Nikaido are pros), Takahashi does it not out of malice, but to hear from the person who made the move why he made it, and what he thinks about such a move now.

Even when Rei says it was a bad move, and Nikaido almost seems to come through the TV and yell at him directly, over and over, that he needs to “take better care of his shogi and himself”, Takahashi doesn’t dismiss his father and grandfather’s assertion the move wasn’t bad, but was even “aggressive and manly,” qualities Takahashi can relate to on the road to a baseball career; a road that requires similarly bold moves.

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Nikaido’s on-video obnoxious commentary gets Rei so riled up he raises his voice for the first time, yelling at the TV as if Nikaido was there. Rei is amazed to find Hina smiling wider than ever at his outburst, as if it was a privilege to witness. And maybe it was: seeing him display so much passion, even to protest his “best friend” saying far too much to the camera, spurs Hina to ask Rei to teach her how to play shogi.

That’s when Nikaido actually comes out of the TV and appears in person at the Kawamoto household to add some humor and humanity to Rei’s stiff explanation of the game. He even presents a book he presumably wrote and illustrated in which all the shogi pieces are realized as cats, charming not only Hina but Momo too (who already regards Nikaido AKA Bodoro as a kind of demigod).

Rei has finally tasted what it’s like not only to have his thoughts and feelings listened to and validated, but what it’s like to lose it in front of people he cares about, and to share his amassed wisdom to an eager audience. All in all, its a pretty good week for the kid. Here’s hoping he keeps it going.

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