Alice to Zouroku – 02

Last week Sana met the ‘vinegar’ (Zouroku); this week she meets the ‘honey’, Z’s lovely, kind, and capable granddaughter Sanae, voiced by Toyosaki Aki. Sana is in Defense Mode at first, but Sanae manages to disarm her with a pig puppet, something, incidentally, Leon did to get Matilda’s mind off the trauma she’d just endured.

Sana didn’t witness her family’s murder, but she did witness…something very bad, which is why she had to leave the facility. But outside the facility is extremely hazardous, both in terms of what could happen to Sana and what she could accidentally do to others with powers she’s not 100% in control of.

Still, the Kashimura residence is a great safe house to demonstrate her powers writ small, so to speak, if “writ small’ means conjuring a whole herd of pigs upon seeing Sanae’s puppet, to creating a mammoth pancake when she can’t wait the nebulous “a bit” for seconds.

Sanae gets Sana into more contemporary clothes, fixes her hair by hand, and fills her belly. All the while, Sana inspects the home, which is a stark contrast from the cold, sterile research facility. Also, that big pancake, like any food, required a massive transfer of energy, leaving Sana tuckered-out.

When the research facility comes up in conversation, Sana starts to talk, which is the best way to process what happened, deal with it, and move on. She mentions how everybody was either very professional or very nice, and how she didn’t even know how to communicate before meeting the twins, expanding our knowledge of Sana’s abilities. Interestingly, the memories seem to be narrated in two voices: the young Sana, and an adult Sana voiceover.

When talk of what she found in the deeper levels of the facility (which involved huge crystals and lots of blood), Sanae is there to give her a needed hug. This new place may be ‘weird’, and more cramped and less clean than the facility, but it is where she currently belongs, at least until a proper plan of action can be formulated. Sanae makes sure Sana knows she is safe, and that everything will be okay.

Energized by her meal, her nap, and her hug, Sana is ready to take on the facility now, and when she decides they’ll look for Zouroku, she and Sanae end up teleported to, in quick succession: high over Tokyo, on a tarmac as a plane lands, clinging to a rushing freight train…and Antarctica.

It’s clear, then, that while Sana has immense power to conjure anything and travel anywhere, she’s still a long way from controlling her powers, either their level, or keeping whims from becoming reality. Tackling the facility in this state would be reckless.

In another example of the unpredictability of those powers, Sana and Sanae finally return to Tokyo, it’s to Zouroku’s flower shop, and the pigs come along for the ride, destroying the shop in short order. It’s another blunder, but far better for such blunders to occur in a controlled, safe environment than at the facility where many other ability-users will be deployed against her, even the twins.

Sana still has her ability-using ally whom we caught a glimpse of last week—she said they’d “meet again soon.” But I’m glad Zouroku’s granddaughter has been introduced to smooth Z’s rough edges, and the warm and cozy slice-of-life with Sanae and Sana was appreciated and a nice respite from what is sure to be more action and danger going forward.

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Dagashi Kashi – 07

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This week DK does a festival episode, only in this case, Kokonotsu and You are there bright and early before any customers arrive. Koko’s confusion as to why his dad is setting up a monjayaki pancake griddle for a candy stall is quickly cleared up by Hotaru, perched high in a nearby tree (a tidy reference to the Alice in Wonderland-themed ED).

We also get to see an annual tradition that’s very familiar to Koko: the okonomiyaki seller Tamai squaring off with his dad over selling pancakes. When You subtly threatens that she’d lose all the snacks people love using as toppings for her product, she quickly backs down, and the two make up. It’s all there, from anger to tears, and there’s comfort in knowing it will probably go exactly the same way next year.

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Turns out it’s Hotaru’s first ever festival, but with only 200 yen on her person, she has to find a way to procure more cash. Fortunately, she’s practiced precision candy die cutting for fun, and when she spots a stall, she immediately picks out the shape that will net her the biggest cash payout.

Kokonotsu and Tou are skeptical: even if Hotaru manages to do a good job, the die cutting stall guys are notoriously nitpicky and cheap. But to their surprise and mine, she’s actually really good at something (for once!), and earns the full 5000 yen (nearly $44). Furthermore, she Koko notices she looks really cute when she’s concentrating.

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Speaking of cute, in the second half of the episode Saya finally makes her appearance at the festival, resplendent in a yukata she spent a long time getting into. She wants to hang out with Koko, but Koko’s working his dad’s stall, and doesn’t realize how much she wants to be alone for him, so it’s up to his dad to notice Saya’s cues and send Koko off with her.

Koko does at least compliment Saya’s yukata – though only after she compliments his clothes. How it happened doesn’t matter; Saya is over the moon by being told she looks good, making the trouble of putting on the yukata totally worth it.

With that milestone achieved, the two simply have fun visiting the stalls, chowing down and playing games. It’s as near as makes no difference a date, even if again, Koko doesn’t realize the significance of spending time with Saya and only Saya.

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When Koko spots the goldfish scooping station, Koko does happen to notice a moment of hesitation in Saya, but she bids him proceed with scooping. Saya is remembering another time when Koko obsessed over the goldfish, all too confident he knew exactly how to scoop one, but ending up spending all his money with no result. The vender took pity on lil’ Koko and gave him a consolation fish, which he promptly gave to lil’ Saya.

So it happens this time. Just as Saya is done fondly reminiscing, Koko is broke again, and has a new consolation fish for her. The first fish he gave her is the giant one still floating (in a bowl way too small for it) in her family’s cafe. Regardless of whether he remembers, Koko again demonstrates his generosity and almost reflexive tendency to make Saya smile every chance he gets, which is enough for now.

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Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 02

They may lack emotion, but they still know to pretend to be a Good Samaritan to get some alone time with dinner
They may lack emotion, but they still know to pretend to be a Good Samaritan to get some alone time with dinner

Humans think they’re real hot shit, don’t they? Even a quiet, mild-mannered, normal kid like Izumi Shinichi is utterly convinced the inviolability of human life is absolute, and that the grisly murders of people by “things” like his right hand must be opposed and the things responsible stopped. But his hand, which names itself “Migi”, doesn’t see a problem: his brethren are eating; that’s all.

It definitely a plus that Shinichi's love interest is Hana-Kana
It definitely a plus that Shinichi’s love interest is Hana-Kana

At least you know where evil and hatred stand, but there is no evil or hatred in the parasites; they’re merely carrying out their natural biological process. Humans just happen to be on the wrong end of the fork. Now they know how cows, pigs, and a multitude of other animals feel. But still, Shinichi thinks it’s different.

"YOU WON'T LIKE ME WHEN I'M ANGRY", or "MEIN FUHRER, I CAN WALK!"? How about both
“YOU WON’T LIKE ME WHEN I’M ANGRY”, or “MEIN FUHRER, I CAN WALK!”? How about both

And, of course, it is different. Humanity’s belief in its own primacy may well be just a matter of chemistry and biology itself, but like Shinichi, we are humans and so seeing so many of us turned into mincemeat, no matter how flawed they might be, its unsettling and just plain not okay. Especially when the next victim could be someone you care about.

Don't cross me, Shinichi. Don't ever cross me.
Don’t cross me, Shinichi. Don’t ever cross me.

For Shinichi, that someone is Murano Satomi (Hanazawa Kana), and she happens to like him to. After Migi sinks a half-court shot on the court, she formally forgives him and asks him out for pancakes. I’m really enjoying their fumbling yet tender courtship, and of the high school milieu in general; even in the midst of such grisly murders; it speaks to how mass media and the internet have desensitized us as a society to the horrors in the world.

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The sounds Migi makes when morphing are best described as…skin-crawling

But Shinichi’s interactions with Murano underscore to him and us just how much he stands to lose if he leaves the mincemeat murderers be. That all threatens to become moot when a full-body parasite encounters and corners him, then invites Migi to “transfer” to his body and share his host, which will enable them to live longer. Again, Shinichi comes just an inch away from dying. He may not look it, but he’s livin’ on the edge.

"Hop on, there's room for two!"
“Hop on, there’s room for two!”

And that right there is the first sign that these things have a semblance of community, even if they lack empathy for other life. Because they value their own lives, and joining forces will lengthen their lives, logic dictates that they should join forces; there’s no need for emotional input. Migi declines and instead kills his brethren, explaining he didn’t know the transfer would be successful, and stating once more: “I value my own life.”

Migi NOT saving Shinichi's life, only saving his own life...and Shinichi's too
Migi NOT saving Shinichi’s life, only saving his own life…and Shinichi’s too

While one could argue that a little of Shinichi’s empathy is seeping into Migi and a kind of rudimentary emotional bond is forming, we also can’t rule out that Migi will only continue to protect Shinichi as long as it serves his purposes. The enemy remains within as well as without, and as I said, it’s an enemy with no hatred or fear. Or anything. The parasites can’t very well be the “demons” Shinichi labels them without those things.

So pleasant...how long can it last
So pleasant…how long can it last

It’s really humans, or at least a lot of them, (or even everyone, at moments) who are the closest thing to demons, says Migi. Shinichi’s Adorable Pancake Date with Murano takes a dark turn when the encounter youths trying to hit a cat they buried in the sand with rocks. I couldn’t help but think Shinichi was thinking “Ya see? It’s little shits like you give our species a bad name!” before scaring them off and rescuing the cat in front of the animal-loving Murano.

Just go get eaten, punks!
Just go get eaten, punks!

Here’s the thing: the parasites aren’t punishing people for misdeeds; their targets are random. This isn’t karma, it’s merely nature. Even so, Shinichi wants to use Migi’s power to protect as much life as he can. He isn’t someone who can just stand by when he might have the power to do something. Migi is dubious; no doubt because of the risks involved.

For all the gross twisting and meshing of body parts, the show can still pull off something sweet like Shinichi and Murano holding hands for the first time with aplomb
For all the gross twisting and meshing of body parts, the show can still pull off something sweet like Shinichi and Murano holding hands for the first time with aplomb

Both after the basketball shot and after this incident with the rock throwers, Murano is warm and affectionate, but she also seems to need Shinichi to say he really is Shinichi. And to a casual observer, it would appear like he’s under the influence of some kind of love potion. She’s not used to him being so…capable, though it’s not as if she doesn’t like this new side of him.

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“I’m going to switch to your left hand, if you don’t mind. That okay?”

Two episodes in and I’ve now seen the show consistently excel at delivering both skin-crawling body horror (with philosophical subtext) and charming, realistic, but probably doomed romance. For all the gross stuff it does with body parts. The soundtrack also continues to distinguish itself, in that it always seems to bring the right music for the situation. I even heard a bit of Vangelis inspiration in there. It’s as quirky and eclectic as the rest of the show.

No...HUMAN BEING...makes love like this.
No…HUMAN BEING…would make love like this.

The final scene where to full-body parasites—a man and a woman—stand naked in the moonlight, about to perform a human mating ritual. It will be completely devoid of love (or any emotion at all), but they’re probably doing it in an effort to better emulate human behavior. In other words, if Shinichi wants to put a stop to them, he’d better hustle!

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