Urusei Yatsura – 06 – Earth, Lightning, Fire and Ice

Ataru is a man of simple pleasures. When it’s sukiyaki night at the Moroboshi house, he’s super-pumped. Unfortunately he’s never able to partake in the feast, as Lum grabs him and leaps through an inter-dimensional portal she made in his closet that leads to the Oni homeworld.

Lum is in battle gear, and soon so is Ataru. The lines are drawn between the Oni and the “Lucky Gods”. Ataru feels like some kind of bloody, horrific war is going to start, but the “battle” takes the form of…tower basket ball toss, an even not out of place on school sports days.

This is kinda boring to Ataru, until he spots a major babe in Benten, one of Lum’s old friends (Ishigami Shizuka). Back home, Ataru’s parents wait as long as they can, then eat all the sukiyaki, before hearing their son’s voice and freaking out. Cherry arrives to help them speak to their son, now allegedly dearly departed to the hereafter.

In reality, they can just hear him through the portal as he flirts with Benten. While she’s understandably “who is this guy” at first, once she realizes he’s Lum’s husband she decides to have a little fun at her expense and plays along. This results in Lum and Benten, the two basket minders, ignoring the game completely to fight over Ataru.

Before Cherry summons Ataru’s voice again, he has Ataru’s folks make more sukiyaki, at which point his mom has lost her patience and holds the tiny priest at knifepoint. He does the same nonsensical chanting as his niece Sakura, tuning into Ataru just as he’s facing his “punishment” as the weakest link on the losing team: being pelted with pellets by both sides.

As is typical of Urusei Yatsura, the next morning is a bit of a reset, but Ataru is in bed with a cold. Somewhat surprisingly, Shinobu is by his side tending to him, and Lum is nowhere to be found. Soon Mendou, Ataru’s friends, and Cherry are crowding the room, just as it starts to grow very cold and snowy.

Lum went to Neptune to visit a friend through the portal, so a bit of the icy world seems to be “leaking” into his room, including an avalanche’s worth of snow that buries Ataru. He’s dug up not by Shinobu or his friends, but by a new character who resembles a yuki-onna. She goes back through the portal and then down a deep chasm.

Starting with Ataru (who is pushed), everyone follows suit, and lands upside-down on the snow-packed surface of Neptune. There, Ataru reunites with Lum (in a smart tiger-print two-piece combo more appropriate for the climate than her usual bikini), who reveals the yuki-onna is her old friend Oyuki (Hayami Saori, of course).

Neptune is a world full of nothing but women, which makes it a paradise for Mendou, who is all to happy to dig snow for them endlessly. Meanwhile, Oyuki invites Ataru, Lum, Shinobu and Cherry into her futuristic mansion. Ataru can’t help but flirt with Oyuki, incurring the rage of both Shinobu and Lum (as well as Lum’s lightning).

Ataru begs to go somewhere where he’ll be safe from their wrath, praising Oyuki for being a pure, gentle, and above all non-violent maiden. However he soon finds that Oyuki, who ditched her outdoor robes for a revealing ice-blue one-piece, was planning to seduce Ataru all along. Things are about to get racy when the wall crumbles before them and B-Bo, Oyuki’s yeti attendant, takes exception to Ataru’s presence.

B-Bo chases Ataru through the Neptunian wastes and back through the portal to Earth, where news choppers capture the ensuing rooftop spectacle. Once the King Kong style incident is over, Ataru finds himself in a full body cast, tended to by both Shinobu and Lum, who hoped he learned his lesson about chasing every girl with a pulse. Of course, he didn’t learn, and will never learn—otherwise he wouldn’t be Moroboshi Ataru!

The third and final segment is the shortest, and takes place after the credits. At the end of the semester, Ataru has an announcement for everyone: he’s retiring. His teacher thinks this means he’s dropping out due to his upsettingly terrible grades, but it’s Mendou who shatters the fourth wall by assuming Ataru was retiring … as the main character of Urusei Yatsura.

Everyone goes along with this, because everyone wants to be his replacement. It results in a callback to every character large and small we’ve met so far in the first six episodes, each making their case. Finally Ataru has to disappoint them all: he’s not retiring from being the MC, but from the school presidency.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 03 – I’ll Stop the Rain for You

In the third episode, Suletta finally manages to verbalize what she wants, and how marrying Miorine might jeopardize that. It’s nothing so much as a list of normal things one does in high school: making friends, giving them nicknames, lunch on the roof … going on dates. Miorine doesn’t get why marriage would preclude that last part. Miorine also tells Suletta not to worry; the legal age for marriage is 17, and so they won’t get hitched until her birthday at the earliest.

All she needs to focus on is winning the duel, or they’re both finished. On a call with her confirmed mom, Lady Prospera tells her daughter that she didn’t raise no witch. The next day at school, Suletta gets all the attention for the wrong reasons from most of her peers, while Nika proves to be true blue, albeit one a little too into Aerial’s technical specs.

Guel, having test piloted his dad’s company’s new Darilbarde, hides his frustration with it being piloted by AI, with his usual arrogant front and paeans in two. We also learn Prospera blackmailed Guel dad at the inquiry with he knowledge of his assassination plot. Don’t mess with Suletta’s mom.

Suletta is overjoyed to be invited back into Miorine’s garden, but Miorine makes sure she understands that doesn’t make them best friends. Their garden time is interrupted again, but this time by the true-neutral Elan Ceres. He be devoid of outward emotion, but he gives Suletta her first contact from a boy and hopes she’ll fulfill the wishes on her list.

Elan, along with Shaddiq Zenelli, are members of the deulling committee, and bring Suletta and Guel together to go over the terms and stakes and officially approve the duel. There’s another haughty rich girl in the committee, Secelia, who mocks Guel following daddy’s orders. But Suletta scolds Secelia and defends Guel.

Suletta may be pushy with her aw-shucks old-fashioned ideals due to the longtime isolation that galvanized them. But at least in this case (and most cases) she is correct, and Guel acknowledges and appreciates her gesture, all but thanking her when the two are alone in the life after the meeting. He also all but admits to liking her “gaining two” philosophy.

I’m glad these two had this moment together prior to the duel, as Guel has been given a lot more dimension in these last couple episodes. Unlike his father and bootlicking brother, personal honor is important. So he is not coming into this duel in a good place, considering he’s mostly just along for the ride in his new suit.

After a video call from Miorine basically wishing Suletta luck we see that Guel’s dad has made another “arrangement” to assure his son’s victory. His brother tells his dad such “tricks” aren’t needed for his Guel to win.

After Suletta half-heartedly states the dueler’s creed (helped along by Guel), the duel commences. The two mostly just feel each other out, but little does Suletta know that Guel isn’t even at the controls: the joysticks are moving on their own. Such is his dad’s desire to win, his son is merely ballast.

Then the “arrangement” occurs when a false heat error activates the dueling ground’s sprinkler system. The resulting “rain” dissipates Aerial’s ranged beam weapons, making it a close-quarters swordfight. Miorine protests, but Elan says such tricks don’t invalidate the duel, but are a part of it; a part of the duelers’ strength. He believes if Suletta is truly a “witch”, she’ll survive this duel even with the opponent cheating.

With that in mind, Elan also doesn’t stop Miorine from heading out into the dueling ground to correct the error causing the rain, which she learns was caused by Guel’s groupies, as she suspected. With the rain subsided by Miorine, her fiancé shifts into high gear, putting her swarm in play.

Guel protests the actions being taken by his suit’s EV, but his dad warns him to just sit there and let it win the duel for him. But Guel can’t do it; not after he was caught off guard in his first duel, or after hearing Suletta’s credo. Letting his dad decide everything is simply running, which will only gain him one. He wants this win to be his win, so he smashes the autopilot and takes the reins.

Suletta can tell that something has changed, and can also tell that Guel is good as hell at piloting a mobile suit. But she also knows she can’t lose; not with so much left on her school wish list. She takes Guel’s antenna, gains her second win in as many duels, and tightens her grip on both the holder title Miorine’s hand in marriage.

Miorine, or “Mio-Mio” as Suletta attempts to nickname her, releases all her built-up tension by smiling and laughing over Suletta’s victory. Suletta also gets a congratulatory text from Elan (which includes an exclamation point that just seems wrong coming from Elan). She then sees Guel standing outside his defeated suit, and exits her cockpit to meet him.

She first apologizes for underestimating him, saying he really was strong in their duel (Suletta wisely doesn’t say that she’s simply stronger than him, even if it’s true). Hearing those words from Suletta, as well as knowing that even though he lost, he lost with his own will and hands to a superior opponent, stirs something in Guel.

Maybe it’s also the way the dramatic light hits Suletta too, but he takes her outstretched hand with both of his, gets down on one knee, and exercises his will once more, in keeping with the ideals she taught him before the duel. That said, she most definitely did not expect that to result in him asking her to marry him.

Just as rejecting Guel and accepting Suletta as her groom was an act of Miorine’s own will and rejection of her father’s dominance over her life, Guel is also deciding he’ll fight how he wants and love who he wants. I’m glad Guel isn’t just a one-dimensional spoiled rich kid, and thrilled to see how his sudden proposal will make things messier for Suletta and Mio-Mio going forward.

But hey, going forward gains you two, or more!

Urusei Yatsura – 01 (First Impressions) – The Winner Takes It All

In this reboot of a sci-fi/rom-com anime from 1981 (41 years ago) we’re introduced to Moroboshi Ataru (Kamiya Hiroshi), an unrepentant horndog in a Waldo shirt who ogles a comely jogger mere seconds after reaffirming his love for his long-suffering girlfriend, Miyake Shinobu (Uchida Maaya). That status quo is suddenly shattered by an alien invasion of earth by a race called the Oni.

But these aliens are the sporting type, so they give humanity a chance to avoid subjugation: if a randomly selected human can catch the Oni’s leader’s daughter Lum (Uesaka Sumire) by the horns in a game of tag, the invasion will be cancelled. The human they randomly select is Ataru, of course. And Lum? She’s a total babe.

The game of tag is internationally televised and held at a soccer stadium packed to capacity. Unfortunately for Ataru (who is preternaturally unlucky having been born on Friday the 13th), Lum can fly, and proves extremely hard to catch.

He only has ten days to tag her, and those days go by utterly devoid of success. On the evening before the last day before humanity is doomed, Shinobu decides to give Ataru some extra motivation: if he succeeds, she’ll marry him. Ataru genuinely cares for Shinobu, so the next day he’s all vim and vinegar.

Upon finally catching Lum by the leg, he learns she has another power: electricity. But that doesn’t faze him. As his bride-to-be watches and he repeatedly shouts “Marriage!” he intensifies his pursuit of Lum, eventually grabbing her into an embrace and relieving her of her tiger-print bikini top.

Using the top as a lure, for the first time Ataru brings Lum to him, and uses said top as a distraction as he allows her to reclaim it while he reorients himself and grabs her by the horns, thereby winning the game of tag and saving earth from invasion.

Ataru is instantly a global hero, and he’s ready to marry Shinobu right then and there … but there’s one problem: all those times he shouted “Marriage!” while chasing Lum? Lum thought that meant he intended to marry her. And having lost the game fair and square, she agrees.

Neiher Ataru nor Shinobu (especially Shinobu) like this, but Lum is absolutely intent on being Ataru’s wife. When he declares that he only loves Shinobu, he makes Lum cry, and when she calls Shinobu on the phone (this series is very much lodged in the 80s, tech-wise) both girls accuse him of two-timing.

That said, Shinobu is on board with Ataru’s plan to simply ignore Lum when she uses her alien ship’s jamming tech to intrude on their phone calls.When Ataru and Shinobu threaten meet in person, Lum creates massive electrical storms, but the lovebirds still manage to unite, which is when she takes her ship into the atmosphere to intercept them.

Normally, saving the world would afford the saver a life of leisure and ease; not so for the ever-unlucky Ataru. While he loves Shinobu, he also cannot deny his attraction to Lum, even though she has a tendency to electrocute him when she perceives him to be cheating.

It is here where I admit that the premise and the character dynamics are very much stuck in the 20th century, and perhaps that’s for the best. Compare this to the reboot of the even older Dororo, which respected its source while also bringing it into modernity.

Urusei Yatsura isn’t just retro in look (albeit with a 21st century glow-up), but also retro in sensibility. The show is loud, boisterous, and a a bit backwater. But it’s also fantastic-looking, brimming with infectious energy and charm, and is mostly just a big ol’ heap of fun!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 11 – A Mess Under the Hood

Ahhh, is there anything nicer than a scene of two lovebirds talking on the phone just to hear each other’s voices? That’s how the episode starts, and it’s like being wrapped in a warm, fluffy blanket. So serene…but also so bittersweet. After the credits the Iridous have arrived at their relatives’ country house, and Yume meets Mizuto’s second cousin, who happens to be an absolute babe—a megane babe, at that!

When the fam hits the river for a barbecue, Madoka again compliments Yume’s figure and swimsuit, while also noting she’s “watched over” Mizuto since kindergarten. Mizuto is off in the shade reading and being antisocial, as always, but Yume learns that when his mom died, he and his dad must have endured a good bit of hardship, making her that much more determined to protect their new family by rejecting her feelings.

Later that night Yume enters the study of Mizuto’s late great-grandad’s study to tell him the bath’s ready, and finds him reading an old book entitled The Siberian Dancing Girl. Mizuto notes that it is his great-grandad’s autobiography of when he was interned in Siberia. It was the first book he ever read start to finish, and reads it every year he comes to his relatives.

He invites her to read it, and she takes him up on the offer, reading it through in one sitting. By the end, she’s in tears, and notices an old dried tear right next to her fresh one. She can’t help but feel closer to Mizuto, having now read the book that shaped him, which no one else but the two of them have ever read.

The next day, Madoka has laid out yukatas for the fireworks festival, and notices Yume sighing profusely. She quickly diagnoses it as Yume being in love with Mizuto and…Yume can’t necessarily refute that! Instead, she opens up a little to Madoka, who proves surprisingly deft at analyzing Yume’s whole deal, invalidating her feelings and trying to find excuses not to be with Mizuto

Madoka also figures the only thing for it is some direct action. To that end, she finagles things so Yume ends up alone in a relatively small, dark room with Mizuto for at least a half-hour. She figures that should be enough time for Yume to build up the courage to say what she wants to say and then say it.

At first, all Yume can do is look forlorn and say “Mizuto”, but in her head the words are streaming like the river she sat beside. She recalls the weight off her shoulders when they broke up, but she’s full of regret over things she never did that she should have, like call him over the summer, or sharing Christmas and Valentines with him.

It turns out, Mizuto doesn’t have to hear Yume say any of these things. It’s all in her face, and in the tears that start to fall. So he calls her as Ayai—which was just her old last name but sounds so much more intimate when he says it—and says that just this once, they can go back in time. So they embrace, and just hold one another until it’s dark out. They’re not pretending, they’re just being two people, not collections of ideals.

When Yume tells him how she figured Madoka was his first love, he immediately shoots that down; he never had feelings for her. He then tosses a jab at her—something about having so much good for her “on paper” but being a “mess under the hood.” He then says her nose is running, and she reacts, only for him to be kidding. That makes her laugh, which allows him to tell her who his actual first love was without saying it. He just says she loved to laugh. She still does!

I’m officially convinced that this show suffers from a terrible title, especially the English translation. All it does is tell you the surface scenario: step mom, daughter, ex. This is about that, but it’s also about so much more, about everything that came before that, and has managed to make something so wacky on paper incredibly moving and compelling under the hood.

GODDAMN TEARJERKER™ CERTIFIED

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 10 – Lapping the Competition

Yume and Mizuto are home alone in the middle of a typhoon, reading alone in their respective rooms, when Yume encounters a cockroach, which renders her room no longer habitable. The two top students in their grade, neither of whom are particular fans of bugs, decide the only option is to sleep together in his bed.

While they start out back-to-back, Yume eventually shifts positions in her sleep, and when Mizuto wakes up and rolls over, he finds himself closer to Yume’s face than he’s been in a long time (not counting that recent time on the couch). He rolls back over, saying he has no room for “lingering feelings” in their new life together.

The next morning, Yume and Mizuto unconsciously act like a couple going through a rough patch, leading their parents to make that observation. Yume’s mom also suggests Mizuto buy a swimsuit for the upcoming family trip to Mizuto’s dad’s riverside hometown.

For their parents’ sake, the former couple proceeds with the swimsuit-shopping trip, and while Yume tries to “disguise” herself with the same glasses she wore in middle school, the fact she’s wearing her new, more form-fitting style would certainly give her away to, say, Akatsuki.

Mizuto waits outside the changing area, somehow not expecting Yume to show him the cute frilly pink bikini she’s trying on…but she does. When he says it merely looks “good” on her, “he thinks”, she asks him to say something nicer, and so…he compliments her devotion to her family.

On their way home they pass by the very quiet side street where they kissed for the first time, at the very same time of day. When the wind knocks Yume’s hat off, Mizuto naturally lunges toward her, resulting in the two ending up in a very similar position to that magical day.

Yume even closes her eyes and prepares her lips for another kiss, seemingly overcome by the atmosphere…but Mizuto hesitates. Later at home, Mizuto and Yume converse awkwardly, trying to keep up appearances, leading their folks to remark how they’re like “a couple working up the nerve to pop the question”.

While it seems like their parents are oddly perceptive, the fact is neither Mizuto’s dad nor Yume’s mom have any idea about their real past. That’s probably for the best, as considering how nice they both seem, it would pain them to know end to know their marriage inadvertently put their kids in such a strange, even cruel situation.

Speaking of cruel, when Isana comes over for the umpeenth time during summer break to watch a movie with Mizuto, she reclines on the couch, rests her head in Mizuto’s lap as he strokes her hair. They’re a picture of a couple destined for a fifty year-plus marriage, so comfortable Isana thinks nothing of scratching around her bra area in his presence.

After the movie Isana gets up, but continues to monopolize Mizuto by engaging in a lively critical conversation in which Yume cannot hope to participate. When Mizuto asks for tea without saying please, Yume serves him some…in her mugwhich Isana immediately identifies as an indirect kiss.

The movie and discussion cause Mizuto to suddenly nod off, but rather than falling into Isana’s lap, his head falls into Yume’s. Isana briefly considers kissing him since the opportunity is there, but as it would be her first kiss and Yume is right there, she wisely thinks better of it. How horny is this girl?!

Looking down at the sleeping Mizuto in her lap, she realizes why he hesitated, both when they were in the same bed and when they almost kissed in their first kiss place: they both feel the same longing for the way things were, and wanting to go back to those times, but believing it not worth destroying the new life they have together.

Later, Yume’s mom wants details about what’s up with Mizuto and Isana (who earlier said she wouldn’t mind being fuck-buddies or FWB with him). Isana indulges her mom, who then tells Yume she can’t let Mizuto leave her behind; she needs to find a boyfriend for herself.

While lying in bed contemplating her mom’s words about getting a boyfriend, Yume says, out loud, that she doesn’t see herself with anyone but Mizuto, which surprises her. So far, the two have maintained the position that they can’t go back to the way things were, but that’s increasingly easier said than done.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

A Couple of Cuckoos – 16 – Full Throttle Sachi

Sachi wants to know more about this Segawa Hiro girl her dear brother loves so much he’s willing to date her even while engaged to Erika. Rather than talk to Hiro, she ropes Erika into a day of stalking. Once it’s determined that Hiro is a perfect superhuman (who even delivers a 100-yen-coin she found on the street to a police box) she confronts Nagi about it, telling him he’s too good for her.

I’m not sure how Sachi’s inner logic works, but by saying this to Nagi she’s implying that she’s not too good for him. At the same time, she decides she’s going to attend the same high school as Nagi, Erika, and Hiro, presumably to become closer to her brother’s ideal of Hiro. Naturally when she shows up in her sailor uniform she creates as big a stir as Erika’s arrival.

While Hiro gives Sachi a tour of the school, Nagi and Erika follow and try to listen in. When the our ends and Sachi’s first question is about how Hiro feels about Nagi, he can sense something’s up and runs to confront them both. Only neither of them have anything to say, because apparently they’ve become friends with a shared like of…him.

Nagi, Erika, Sachi and Hiro then have lunch together, making Nagi’s friends going all meta by drawing up the diagram of relationships in their imaginations that’s pretty much spot on with that of the show, including their conclusion that Nagi isn’t exactly living an easy carefree life.

It’s one thing to want to go to Nagi’s expensive college prep school, but quite another for their family of modest means to afford for both her and Nagi to attend. Nagi and Erika accompany her to the Umino diner as moral support, but their parents are surprisingly fine with it. They’ll be able to afford for Sachi to go to Nagi’s school…if they sell the diner.

Sachi protests along with Nagi; this parent martyrdom won’t stand. Sachi and her mom then get fired up, and the men of the family back off. It ends up being the third woman in the family, Erika, who is able to quench the flames and suggest a third way: Sachi will work hard to get accepted to Nagi’s school, while the folks’ll come up with a way to pay without selling the diner.

Saying they’ll just “figure it out” seems like a cheat, especially when it’s suggested from Erika, whose monthly cosplay wardrobe probably exceeds what the entire Umino clan spends in a month. But that’s not the biggest problem with the episode, which is its central figure: Sachi.

Sachi is two basic things: a brother complex in human form, and a serial copycat. She follows through whatever she sets out to do, but has no hopes or dreams of her own. She only wants to do what her brother has done, following but never leading. It was like that when he won at swimming, reading, and running, and now she’s doing it with school.

Sachi is cute, but she’s a painfully dull and shallow character, her hot-and-cold attitude towards her brother is rote and tiresome, and there’s zero change she wins the Nagi sweepstakes. That makes any episode that focuses on her to this extent feel like a slog.

Summertime Render – 17 – Hands Not for Hurting

Since we’re now only 17 episodes into a 25-episode series, it was only a matter of time before the momentum slowed a bit and our intrepid band of shadow hunters took a bit of a rest. This week we get a calm-before-the-storm episode that allows for moments that deepen our understanding of these characters, as well as give them an opportunity to bond more, for better or worse.

Ushio worries she may go crazy like Haine did in the memory of Hizuru’s she saw, but Hizuru promises she’ll kill her if that happens. Shadow Mio, who knows all the little ways Mio Prime hates herself, urges her to tell Shin her feelings before it’s too late. Sou’s pops hid the truth from him because he knew his son’s heart was too good to bear the darkness. Tokiko suggests that Shin, who has developed pronounced bags under his eyes, to catch some shut-eye while he can.

That night Nezu tries to sneak out but Ushio catches him and insists on accompanying him. Turns out Nezu is putting the last of his affairs in order before shit starts going down. Ushio learns that he keeps the Shadow of his wife Kaoru pinned in his garage, having not had the heart to kill it until now.

Shadow Kaoru is beastly like so many of the Shadows, but Ushio urges Nezu to hold his fire, as her hacking might be able to restore her. Nezu’s not interested; Ushio may still be Ushio, but his wife is gone; this is his “wife’s enemy” who copied her body. So Ushio gives Nezu his privacy, and sheds tears for two more lives among the countless ruined by Haine’s appetites.

The next morning the group splits up to investigate various family homes in hopes of reducing the number of Shadows as much as possible before the festival. The two Mios are put in the same team, and Shadow tries to egg Mio on, but she clutches onto Sou as a sign she won’t let Shadow push her buttons.

Mio also has a thoughtful gift for Ushio: hairs from her original body that she found around the house. Ushio is able to use them to restore the length of her hair (adorably done with a Sailor Moon-like aesthetic) and, perhaps all too death-flaggy, tells Shin she has something to say to him when he and Ushio return.

Shinpei and Ushio end up having to kill the Shadow of their old teacher, nicknamed Bucchi, and Ushio remembers when she beat up a couple of bigger boys teasing her for her blonde hair. Bucchi, ever the gentle soul, told Ushio her hands weren’t for hurting people, but for holding hands, patting heads, and the like.

Unfortunately, Ushio doesnt’ really have a choice in her present scenario, though it’s arguable that the Shadow’s are “people” so much as unrelenting killing machines bent on wiping out the village. So she and Shin work together to save three kids from Shadow Bucchi and her two Shadow sons.

The little kids mock Ushio and Shinpei for looking like a classic couple, to which they respond in unison that it’s “not like that.” Isn’t it though?

In a creepy moment, Ushio seems to be taken over by…someone, neither Haine nor Shide, but maybe another deity observing what’s going on and briefly using her as a vessel. The two teams then regroup and report on their investigations. Turns out the Shadows don’t seem to be preparing a direct attack on them, but are primarily focused on the upcoming festival when the great slaughter and feast is to commence.

Naturally, if the festival can be cancelled, there won’t be a convenient huge group of people ripe for the picking. To that end, Shin heads to the shrine maintained by Karikiri—a place where he just happened to die the first time. Karikiri welcomes Shin warmly, but whether he’s a friend, foe, or neutral party in this struggle remains to be seen. I just hope that’s Ushio on Shin’s wrist, and he’s not really alone up there.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Devil is a Part Timer!! – S2 E04 – The Traveler King

With Gabriel promising to return tomorrow, Maou and his generals and frenemies adopt a fortress mentality, sending the normal human Chiho off while Ashiya and Urushihara stay on stanby at Suzuno’s. That leaves Maou and Emi together with Alas Ramus at his place.

While Emi is weary of this arrangement, and can’t commit to allying herself with the devil, she will do what it takes to keep Alas out of harm’s way, so in that regard her and Maou’s interests are aligned. When they turn in for the night, Alas makes sure to grab both of them close.

While initially uncomfortable with the proximity, Maou and Emi bask in their “daughter’s” unbridled love and exuberance, while Emi is genuinely moved by Maou’s bittersweet improvised tale of a traveler who became a king.

Emi gets a literal rude awakening around 5:00 in the morning from Gabriel, who was simply lying in the room waiting for them to wake up (ambushing a sleeping couple is beneath him). Gabriel continues to be a paragon of reasonableness, but makes it quite clear: he’s leaving with either Emi’s sword or Alas Ramus.

We learned from further explanation form Suzuno earlier that as the Guardian Angel of the sephira Yesod of the Tree of Life, Gabriel has a claim to both sword and Alas, as they are shards of Yesod. But that doesn’t matter to Maou, who planted and nurtured the seed that became the apple that became his near-as-makes-no-difference daughter.

When saved from death and reborn (you can see himself in his bedtime story), Alas was a symbol of hope he gained, so Maou offers his head in exchange for letting Alas at least stay with Emi.  Gabriel laughs at Maou and Emi in marital synch one minute, and is choking out Maou the next. He’s out of patience.

But while Emi’s sword can’t do much against Gabriel, and Maou is far to weak to stand against him, Alas is more than up to the task. All it takes is hurting her Papa to send her glowing with rage and blasting out the side of the wall, taking ol’ Gabe for a violent aerial tour of the city at near-dawn.

Emi gives chase, and when she gets her sword shattered by Gabriel, Alas backs her up—as long as Emi tells her she and Papa will be together with her forever. After Urushihara cows Gabe’s Angel guards with the sheer power of his former archangel status, Suzuno takes Maou on a ride to where Emi and Alas are an unceremoniously lobs him at Gabriel.

While grabbing and restraining Gabe, Maou tells Emi to hurry up and kill the two of them, something Emi isn’t going to do even without Alas being right there watching. So Gabe shakes free, leaving Maou to fall. No one can get to him to stop his fall…except for Alas.

Emi then whips out a fresh sword and her armor (complete with a partial maho onna-kishi transformation sequence) to warn Gabriel to get lost, even managing to slice his cheek and make him bleed. But before he goes, he makes it a point to admonish Emi and tell her to reflect on “what sort of being she is”.

Emi returns to earth exhausted but none the worse for wear, but the damage is done: Alas is gone. After saving Maou, she said she wanted to be with them forever she’d have to say goodbye “for now”. Maou is devastated, but as Chiho learns while having coffee with Emi, by “for now” Alas meant only for a short while, as she has now fused with Emi’s sacred sword (now a dagger).

Emi presents Chiho with her very unique predicament of wanting to defeat the Devil King someday, but not being able to do it with a weapon that’s also his child! Emi’s fine with that; she’d rather Maou and Emi simply continue to get along, even if watching them grow kinda-sorta closer thanks to Alas leaves her out in the cold romance-wise.

Alas also insists Emi not let Papa suffer longer than he needs to, and has them reunited that evening. To Emi’s surprise, seeing Alas again actually brings tears to Maou’s eyes; Chi-sis explains to Alas that people also cry when they’re happy.

We find out that Gabe told Emi he hoped she’d prioritize the world’s safety, and then learn that Lailah, Emi’s mother, was the one stole Yesod in the first place. Could Emi’s mom be the woman who saved Maou’s life? There’s a lot of intrigue (and potential dread) on the horizon, but Alas wielding her innate power has at least bought this little pop-up family a little more time to be happy.

Summertime Render – 16 – One Mio, Two Mio, Red Mio, Blue Mio

Once successfully hacked by Ushio and disconnected from Haine’s control, Shadow Mio is no longer a killbot, but retains her distinct deadpan delivery (in contrast to the real MioCoy’s higher, more bubbly lilt). As with Hikasa Youko and the two Minakatas, credit is due to seiyu Shirasu Saho for producing two distinct Mios.

Times may be desperate, but there’s still room in STR for a little bit of comedy as the two Mios act like opposing twins (and seriously throw off Sou, who as we know is in love with Mio). Mio II offers further insight into the nature of Shadows. Since she’s a “child”, she can only birth one child Shadow, and if Mio I doesn’t die in six days, Mio II will revert to black goo, essentially dying.

Mio II also has a little fun with Shinpei, whom she’s killed perhaps dozens of times, but points out she hasn’t killed him nor does she wish to. She also knows that Mio I is in love with him, and almost spills the beans but for the arrival of the truck. It’s interesting how there are aspects of Mio I’s personality baked into II, but she’s also her own person. She even asks Shin if he has a girlfriend in Tokyo, something Mio I could never ask.

Bottom line, Mio II is now on the good guys’ side, which is certainly a boon, and she promises she’ll keep her original safe. Shin decides their next objective is to track down Tokiko and Sou’s father and confront him about Haine’s true plan. That means heading to the clinic, which is also the Hishigatas’ home. They find all the furniture has been erased, as if the Shadows were trying to hide something.

While the Mios, Tetsu, and Nezu wait in the truck, the rest of the group heads deeper into the bowels of the dark abandoned hospital, freaking out Ushio even in Wristwatch Mode. These scenes have a great atmosphere and dread; if last week was a gory thriller, this is a slithering horror movie where you never know what might creep up behind you.

They find Tokiko and Sou’s mom’s wheelchair, but in the basement morgue where Ushio’s body is supposed to be, the body has vanished, and along with it the possibility of Ushio recovering fully from the battle. They follow an alternate underground tunnel to Haine’s nest, and find Tokiko and Sou’s mom lifting their dad by the neck and choking him out…never something kids need to see their parents doing.

Ushio runs up to the mom and hacks her, releasing her from Haine’s control, and she passes out, but the dad isn’t breathing. Tokiko and Sou show they’re doctor’s kids by administering CPR, and for their trouble their dad knocks the little Derringer out of an enraged Sou’s hand and shoots Tokiko with it for being disloyal. At first I was like “Oh no, they didn’t kill Tokiko again…”, but turns out it isn’t Tokiko…it’s Mio II.

Tokiko let Mio copy her, probably well aware her dad might pull the very shit he tried to pull. Back in the truck, Tokiko tells Mio that when a Shadow copies you they copy everything—right down to the depths of a person’s heart—but she’s fine with it. She’s done with secrets and hiding things. She’s lkely glad that one of the Mios truly understands just how much she means to Tokiko.

Having saved everyone, Mio II asks Shinpei if he trusts her now. He says he does, and if she doesn’t believe him she can copy him. But there’s no way Mio II would do that, as learning the inner depths of Shin’s heart would confirm to her that while he loves both Mio and Ushio, he’s only in love with Ushio.

Even after he’s been defeated, Sou’s dad keeps ordering no one in particular to kill for him. Then Mio tries to copy him but fails, because he’s already had a Shadow of himself made and died, giving him immunity. This comes as a shock to him. Then his assistant Negoro appears deeper into the cave, carrying Ushio’s body.

Ushio wants to go after her, but Shinpei tells her to stop, as she’s clearly trying to bait them on behalf of Haine and Shide. Shin’s been through enough that he’s not going to fall for the usual tricks anymore. Now that Tokiko and Sou’s dad knows the Haine have released the Hishigatas from her service, he has no further reason to hide anything, and reveals the location of a buried safe, which they dig up.

Back in the morgue, Ushio gives both of Tokiko and Sou’s parents all of the amassed information from the loops, as she did with everyone else. Now the mom finally knows she’s a Shadow. Pops reveals Haine’s ultimate goal is to “go home” with her amassed Shadow family, to a place far beyond the ocean where time doesn’t exist. He and his wife, and eventually Tokiko and Sou were to all become Shadows and join her in that eternal country.

He also tells Shinpei that if he achieves his goal of killing Haine, all Shadows will die, including Ushio. In response to this, Ushio says she’s ready to die if it means eliminating the threat to her family, friends, and island. She considers the time she’s lived since being killed to be “bonus time” anyway. It’s such a noble, selfless, and brave sentiment that Shinpei is ashamed for thinking his Ushio would feel any differently. It’s probably a big part of why he loves her.

Dr. Hishigata’s wife Chitose tells him that even if she dies, he still has his children and the people of the village to care for. Dr. Hishigata also isn’t done revealing secrets. Inside the safe is a list of all the people he diagnosed with “Shadow Sickness”, but actually became food for Haine. That list includes Shinpei’s parents, who discovered Haine’s cave and were killed for threatening to expose it.

Finally, Pops also knows the true identity of Shide: he was once his ancestor Hishigata Shidehiko, the founder and first director of the Hishigata clinic. Family ties, indeed. One Mio stronger in number and armed with all this information, it’s going to be an interesting final nine episodes spanning the final two days before the Shadowpocalypse.

The Devil is a Part Timer!! – S2 E03 – Family Matters

With the mission of keeping a smile on Alas Ramus’ face, Maou and Emi play the roles (in Emi’s case, reluctant role) of mama and papa for the mysterious child. They buy her a hat to keep the sun off her face, one of the countless things parents must think about when caring for their child.

Unbeknownst to either Maou or Emi is the fact that Suzuki, Chiho, and Ashiya are tailing them. Suzuki wants to see Emi’s face while she’s on a date with a man, Chiho is curious and a little worried, and Ashiya just wants to make sure Maou doesn’t spend too much.

Alas seems particularly drawn to bright colors, such that watching a colorful power ranger show suddenly activates a purple crest on her forehead and makes her drowsy. Maou and Emi take her out of the show, and while Maou goes to obtain a cold drink, a mysterious woman in white appears, seemingly heals Alas, and disappears before Maou returns.

With Alas feeling better, Maou and Emi take her up into the Ferris Wheel. Suzuki and Ashiya follow, but Chiho is held up when she helps an old lady with the ticket machine, so the other two end up nice and cozy in what Suzuki describes as “a private room in the sky”. Suzuki x Ashiya shippers: it’s time to eat!

When Emi tells Maou to spill the beans about what’s going on with Alas, he tells her how the day his clan and parents were slaughtered, a passing angel took pity on him and saved his life. To Emi, this means an angel was indirectly responsible for letting the Demon Lord rise to power and conquer Ente Isla.

Alas, he surmises, could be an incarnation of Yesod, one of the sephiroth, or cosmoplastic orbs of the Tree of Life. That means Alas is beyond angels and demons, but in her own special category. Whatever she is, she needs to be cared for, and Maou and Emi do a good job throughout the day.

However, that day is interrupted by unwanted visitors: Urushihara and Suzuno are captured by Gabriel and his heavenly regiment. Gabe has a simple ultimatum for Maou and Emi: hand over both Alas Ramus and the sacred sword. Neither are interested in handing over either.

When Gabe resorts to brute force, Chiho appears and shields Maou from further harm, bowing and shedding tears on his and Alas’ behalf. Disinclined to look or sound like the “bad guy” (he is an angel after all), Gabriel decides to withdraw for the time being.

However, he promises he and his heavily heavies will be back first thing in the morning to collect the child and the sword. With that threat looming, Maou asks Emi to stay at their place tonight, an offer that flusters both her and Chiho. Time for a sleepover!

The Devil is a Part Timer!! – S2 E02 – Bringing Up Apple Baby

Alas Ramus is an Ente Isla name, but while that’s her apparent origin, the reason for the child suddenly appearing and imprinting upon Maou and Emi as her Mama and Papa remains a mystery throughout the episode. But since this circle of frenemies is made of kind and decent people, the mystery (and the ramifications of whether she really is Maou and Emi’s offspring) are secondary to the need for Alas Ramus to be cared for.

Those unable to take the child in give good reasons, while Suzuno steps up, citing her extensive childrearing experience. But Maou decides that his “castle” will be her home, even if he isn’t sure he has what it takes to be a dad (nor Ashiya and Urushihara her uncles).

Chiho doesn’t like the prospect of Maou having a kid with someone who isn’t her (eventually, in the future, mind you) but when her friend at school asks her how her confession went and she wonders if Maou can’t see her as an equal but only someone to be protected, she takes it upon herself to be the best goshdarn auntie she can be.

When she arrives at Maou’s Ashiya is looking gaunt after Alas cried basically all night. He is also genuinely grateful from the bottom of his heart that Chiho showd up with all the necessities one needs to take care of a young toddler. At her job, Emi is pressed by Suzuki about this new child in her life, and under duress produces the line of the episode: “It’s not like that! Um, I mean, it kind of is? But it’s not!”

Rika can tell that Emi is actually fired up about hanging out with this kid and offers her some free amusement park tickets. Meanwhile, Big Sis Chi and Suzu arrive at MgRonald with Alas in Chi’s arms, it looks to everyone in the shop that she’s holding her and Maou’s love child. Kisaki effortlessly holds Alas in her arms and takes them into the back room.

She’s not mad, just concerned: she knows Maou and Chiho are good kids, but society thoughtlessly leaps to conclusions fast, so she warns against doing anything that will cause rumors that might make things unpleasant or even harmful to them. When they’re on their own, though, Maou earnestly asks Chiho if he can keep relying on her, the only human in Japan he can trust. Chiho, realizing he doesn’t just see her as a damsel, is moved to happy tears.

When Kisaki presents Maou with three amusement park tickets, he and Emi end up with six—enough that even if the two of them take Alas for a day of fun while playing the roles of her parents, others are able to tag along and observe…and they do. Emi also makes it a point to hit up the salon and dress up to the nines for the “big day.”

Ashya and Chiho encounter each other fortuitously and decide to combine their recon efforts; they’re soon joined by Suzuki, who took off work for what she expects to be one hell of a cute “family date”. But the trip to the amusement park is almost sure to be interrupted by a guy I’m assuming to be Gabriel, who heads through a gate with several guards on a mission to restore the “Tree of Life” to its “proper form”. He must be talking about Alas Ramus, whose names mean “wing” and “branch.”

The Devil is a Part Timer!! – S2 E01 – Back on the Job

This episode of The Devil is a Part-Timer—the first in over 3,330 days—is all about reorientation and re-acclimation. We’ve got Team Maou, consisting of former Demon Lord Maou Sadao and his two generals Ashiya Shirou (now an anal-retentive househusband) and Urushihara Hanzou (now a NEET).

On Team Hero we’ve got the ever-irreproachable Yusa Emi, who lives in luxury compared to the former bad guys, and her elegant ally Kamazuki Suzuno (who shares a wall with the lads). Then there’s Team MgRonald: Maou, Sasaki Chiho (who harbors a crush on him) and their cool boss Kisaki.

We’ve also got Sariel, originally there to retrieve the Hero Emilia’s sacred sword, but now addicted to “Big Mags” but unlike the guy in Super Size Me does not wear it well.

Being gradually re-introduced to everyone, I had a feeling of things gradually coming back to me. I didn’t re-watch the first season…though I probably should have, as I’ve watched literally hundreds of series since. But in it’s leap from the Obama to Biden administration, I can report the show has lost none of it’s charm.

Ashiya futilely attempting to school Urushi on the finer points of housework (like how to work a…semi-automatic washer?) is fun, especially since these dudes used to be evil generals. Emi visits Suzuno and overhears their mundane bickering. Chi-chan jumps at the chance to help Maou when it rains and he forgot his umbrella.

The episode is full of little cozy laid-back moments…right up until an unknown creepy presence asserts itself.

The whole gang comes together in the outdoor hallway as the culprit behind everyone’s side glances finally makes its appearance: a cockroach, AKA Taro-kun, AKA Blatella Germanica, hilariously pixelated for our benefit. I truly love how that’s the biggest “threat” in this episode!

Hanzou and even Maou shrink before the sight of the rampaging insect, but it’s ultimately Suzuno who puts an end to all the excitement with her hairpin hammer, smushing the bug with authority and style. The episode could have had her miss and kept the madcap battle going, but it didn’t need to, and I’m fine with that.

Near the golden hour of another hot summer day one year since Maou & Co. arrived on Earth, the gang calls a collective truce to burn some flax stalks Chiho brought in preparation for Bon. The serene scene is interrupted by the appearance of a gate, out of which pops…a giant golden apple.

Maou and Emi then start lobbing insults at each other, leading to Emi drawing her sacred sword. She has every intention of slicing Maou in two, but he shields himself with the apple, which sprouts tiny arms that stop her strike dead. Out of the apple pops a tiny girl who sneezes and falls right to sleep.

They bring the girl inside, where she awakens, introduces herself as Alas Ramus, and proceeds to call Maou and Emi her “mama” and “papa”, like a baby animal imprinting itself on unwitting bystanders.

Only once all the familiar faces are accounted for does a new face show itself and shake up the status quo. I did not expect this show to ever return after so long, but by the end of this episode I’m very happy it did!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

A Couple of Cuckoos – 12 – Not Yet

With Nagi and Sachi successfully making up, Erika decides she wants to take Nagi shopping after school…only he already has “something important” to do. That consists of having a study session with Hiro at the library, where they spend most of the time exchanging notes.

After that, Nagi is concerned with where else they can study more, but Hiro wants to show him more about herself, so she takes him to a kickboxing studio. Nagi isn’t completely physically incompetent, and thus impresses with his punch. Erika happens to walk by and see how much fun he and Hiro are having.

The last few episodes, Erika has been pretty okay with Nagi doing his own thing, and even said she’d root for him and Hiro, whom she adores. But actually seeing the two together has an effect she didn’t anticipate. She tries to counter that effect by reasserting their technical status as fiancés by announcing they’re going on a date together.

Just as Hiro did at the theme park, Erika takes the lead, buying Nagi some expensive clothes, taking him to a pet store to hang out with some reptiles, and finally going on an exhausting evening run. After each leg of their date, she stares at Nagi and looks disappointed. She eventually tells him: she saw him smiling like a goofball with Hiro, but he never smiles at her!

Nagi takes Erika’s problem to its logical conclusion: she got jealous and pissed seeing him and Hiro together, which means she likes him. Pointing this out doesn’t help matters, but Erika doesn’t outright deny it, simply saying “It’s not that I like you!…Yet!” before storming off.

Nagi, however, remains on the park bench until well after sundown, contemplating how Erika feels and how he in turn feels about that. He can’t deny his heart is racing, which makes him wonder if he likes Erika, and whether what he’s feeling for Hiro is love.

Nagi resorts to googling “love” then going back home for the first time in forever to consult his mega dictionary, but ends up finding a box full of love letters from his dad to his mom. Like, all of them were from his dad.

The letters are dumb, sappy, embarrassing…but his dad kept writing them, and his mom kept accepting them, and eventually accepted and returned his feelings, despite being seemingly out of his league. Sensing his son is questioning his love, he tells him to close his eyes and “ask his heart”—the one he loves should show up in his mind’s eye.

Nagi does this, and for the first time, all three girls appear at the same time, albeit with Erika in the center. Naturally, this is extremely confusing for Nagi, who has operated the entire first half of this series under the impression he loved Hiro and only Hiro. But between Erika and him living together and being pretty goshdarn great together and his realignment of how he sees Sachi, Nagi is finally seeing the full, multi-girl picture.

Of course, this is just the initial awareness stage. It remains to be seen whether he accepts that he has feelings of various levels for Erika, Hiro, and Sachi, or that one day a choice will have to be made that might break two of their hearts (or all three). But it’s a satisfying development nonetheless, and I liked his text response to Erika: he doesn’t like her either…yet. For both of them, “yet” is a shield, but it’s also a kind of invitation.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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