Bloom Into You – 08 – A Friend and a Senpai

Yagate Kimi ni Naru is the finest school romance I’ve watched since Tsuki ga Kirei back in the Spring of last year, and I’ve known that for some weeks now. Both shows are wonderful to look at, but more importantly they feature some wonderfully fleshed-out characters and relationships, and the more I learn about both, the deeper I sink into the show.

It would have been so easy and expected for someone like Sayaka to launch a transparent full-scale war against Yuu once she determined she was a potential threat to her relationship with Touko. Not only did YKN not take that route, but continued to develop Sayaka as someone just as confused, frustrated, and yet still mostly happy as Yuu.

Watching Sayaka take “revenge” on her former senpai who so coldly dumped her was a thing of absolute beauty, and a perfect way to start the episode in which her and Yuu’s rivalry is laid bare (well, more bare). And how perfect was it that Touko swiftly delivered “payback” in the form of continuing to hold Sayaka’s hand?

Yuu gets the feeling that she and Sayaka have some things to talk about, and that the present chill is affecting their relay baton exchange game, so after school she invites Sayaka to join her for a repast of McDonalds. Sayaka almost immediately calls Yuu out for her “olive branch”, which could harm Sayaka’s image simply by dint of Yuu being her junior.

Yuu holds her own, saying she wouldn’t put it so “dramatically.” Still, the two come to a sort of mutual respect once they learn that neither is the person they expected: Sayaka isn’t so easygoing, and Yuu isn’t so timid and respectful. Both appreciate their directness with each other.

That directness breaks down when neither comes right out and says what they both insinuate by mincing words. Instead, Sayaka says she likes Touko very much “as a close friend” while Yuu likes her “as a senpai” … because what other possible way would they like her??? (Gee, I wonder.)

This first segment of the episode is called “Intersection,” which is fitting in many ways. First, Sayaka and Yuu find common ground and gain a bit more understanding of what makes one another tick, leading to them eventually getting the baton hand-off right.

But an intersection isn’t just a meeting, but a splitting into different directions. In the interests of being as open with Sayaka as possible regarding Touko, she expresses her hope that after the stage play Touko will be more open and “like herself”, dropping the Ms. Perfect act. Such a prospect frightens both of them, since they’re not sure what the hell they’d do in such an instance.

Would Sayaka finally confess her feelings? Would Yuu be left in the lurch? Neither has any idea what such a future holds? Regardless, I love every minute Yuu and Sayaka share the screen, especially now that they’ve reached a measure of détente.

The second segment deals with another common school romance trope: the Rainy Day Umbrella Share. It starts with Yuu Being Yuu, which is to say being super-kind to those she cares about, even if it means getting wet. When the guy Akari likes forgets his umbrella, she nudges her in the guy’s direction, though the two were going to walk home together. Akari is deeply grateful for the gesture, and off she goes with the guy, the two already looking like a couple.

This leaves Yuu stranded at school, as the only available loaner umbrella is useless. She calls her sister, but when Rei’s boyfriend answers, she says never mind; she doesn’t want to interrupt their date. She’s also hesitant to call Touko, not just because she doesn’t want to give her the wrong idea or just because she doesn’t want to burden her. There’s a number of factors that drive her hesitation; another reflection of her character that Rei has down to a T in a brief scene with her boyfriend.

When she says Yuu is great at getting on with things once she’s dipped her toe into the water, so to speak; it’s that initial hesitation that’s her problem. Now knowing pretty clearly how much Yuu’s friend Touko likes her sister, Rei expresses her hope Yuu will find the person she needs to give her those oh-so-important nudges—much like the one Yuu gave Akari so an opportunity wouldn’t be missed.

Much to Yuu’s surprise, Touko actually called her while she was on the phone with Rei, and shows up with an umbrella just when Yuu was about to call her. They walk together with Touko holding the umbrella, but once Yuu sees that Touko’s shoulder is getting soaked she insists on taking it; they compromise by holding it together.

When they take a rest under an awning, Yuu proceeds to dry Touko off with a towel, in a very warm and delicate scene. Yuu’s “pampering” makes Touko happy, but she’s worried she’s taking advantage of Yuu’s kindness and that resentment will build up in Yuu and curdle into hatred.

It’s a perfectly plausible scenario from Touko’s perspective, since she still believes Yuu when she says her feelings are still just one-sided. Of course, that certainly doesn’t seem to be the case, as Yuu betrays when she blushingly tells Touko how happy she was to be rescued by her and her umbrella.

Yuu quickly corrects by saying she “meant nothing weird” about it, and Touko thinks to herself “that’s more the Yuu I know.” But that’s the whole point: she doesn’t know the Whole Yuu…nor the Whole Sayaka. Both girls have acknowledged and accepted each others’ existences. Now comes the hard part: acknowledging and expressing Touko is much more to them than the words “friend” or “senpai” alone can express.

P.S. The piece of music that plays during particularly dramatic scenes reminds me of Uematsu’s “A Secret Sleeping in the Deep Sea,” one of my all-time favorite video game audio tracks. 

Bloom Into You – 07 – Plenty for Right Now

In middle school, a girl confessed to Sayaka. Sayaka thought it was weird, but went with it, and got very much into it, such that when she and the other girl were apart for a long time, her longing only grew. That made it particularly painful when they reunited and the other girl was just, suddenly…done with her. She laughs off what they did to be “what kids do”, and “just a phase.” But Sayaka’s heart was broken that day.

She decided to push the experience to the back of her head, and focus on her studies, enrolling at a co-ed high school where she imagined a boy would fall for and confess to her (or vice versa). But the heartbreak still stung so much she couldn’t quite focus enough to score the top grades of the class. So the role of freshman rep went instead to one Nanami Touko.

Whoever this Nanami was, Sayaka resolved to surpass her. But then she caught a look at her face and heard her voice, and she ended up never surpassing her, and moreover stopped caring about trying to. Despite never wanting to fall for another girl again, Sayaka fell for Touko.

Of course, Sayaka could never admit that to anyone, most of all Touko, because she could tell the burdens Touko bore even without knowing about the tragedy of her older sister. Touko was friendly and kind and approachable to all, but only to a point; she’d keep everyone, including Sayaka, at a certain distane to avoid exposing the old, flawed Nanami Touko she was hiding from everyone with her flawless facade.

Sayaka never thought she was special for detecting that other side, and so never seriously considered crossing that boundary to get closer to Touko, however much she might want to. Touko, in her words, belonged to no one. Rather, Sayaka carved out the role Touko’s right hand; her sidekick; her rock. Thus she could be pretty much closer than anyone else.

Touko is aware of this, and to the episodes credit, it takes time away from Sayaka’s head to spend some in Touko’s. Touko knows Sayaka is aware of “the other Touko,” but never oversteps any boundaries. Sayaka is only ever asking Touko to keep up that perfect version of herself while also supporting her in that effort. That’s the way things have been, that’s the way Sayaka likes it, and that’s the way Sayaka wants things to stay.

But now there’s a threat to that status quo named Koito Yuu. Sayaka didn’t consider Yuu a threat at first, and perhaps she still doesn’t; after all, Yuu hasn’t known Touko as long as she has. But at much as Sayaka prides herself on knowing Touko more than anyone, Touko and Yuu continue a gentle dance that is drawing them closer together. It frustrates Sayaka to no end that Yuu seems willing to so blithely cross the boundaries Sayaka established for herself…but still thinks she’ll fail, due to her “Touko belongs to no one” theory.

Touko’s reactions to calling Yuu “Yuu”—not to mention Yuu calling her “Touko-senpai”—make Yuu want to be more “aggressive;” to see how far she can make Touko go. Maybe, just maybe, if and when she does, Yuu will finally feel something as strongly as Touko does.

Like Sayaka, Yuu always thought it was puerile, weird or somehow not right for girls to like other girls. And it’s true that even in 2018 the LGBTQ community in Japan has it pretty rough, at least relative to other developed countries.

So it’s most gratifying that the show introduces a serious adult same-sex relationship in the form of the Japanese teacher Hakozaki Riko and her girlfriend, who owns the cafe where Touko, Sayaka and Yuu meet with Koyomi on writing the script for the stage play.

Hakozaki-sensei conceals this from her students when they ask how she knows the cafe owner, but like the intimacy of a first-name basis, the way the owner first greets Hakozaki before either of them are aware her students are there betrays the fact she’s hiding the true extent of her relationship. Ever the observer of human behavior, Sayaka also notices it in the way Hakozaki drinks her coffee at the counter.

While the other students are oblivious, Sayaka can tell something’s up, and her “suspicions” are confirmed when we see Hakozaki staying at her girlfriend’s place and kissing each other goodnight. It shouldn’t be such a big deal (again, this is 2018)…but it still feels like one. It’s not just what kids do. It’s not just a phase.

Sayaka’s isolation only intensifies when she hears Touko calling Yuu by her first name like it’s nothing. She stages a passive-aggressive protest, to no avail. Then, the next day, she visits the coffee shop and strikes up a chat with the cafe owner. She asks, as carefully as she dares, what her relationship is to Hakozaki-sensei. The owner states clearly and unequivocally that she’s her girlfriend.

Sayaka wasn’t prepared for such a frank, unambiguous response, but it’s something for which she’s greatly appreciative. It’s also liberating for her, and she opens up about her own feelings for another girl, even after having her heart broken by another (Touko’s name is left out of it, of course). It goes without saying (though Sayaka does mention it), but she really really needed to talk to someone about this, especially with someone who, like her, thought she should keep it a secret when she was younger.

When asked why she doesn’t simply confess, Sayaka lays out the reasons: there’s no room in Touko’s heart to accept the feelings of others; it would only be a source of stress for her; it could disrupt or even ruin what they have now, something Sayaka couldn’t bear. She asks the cafe owner if it’s okay to hide one’s feelings for someone in order to stay by her side…or is that just selfishness or cowardice?

The owner responds by giving Sayaka another coffee on the house…for being such a kind soul. Because that’s what she deems Sayaka to be. Someone who keeps her feelings hidden for the sake of her friend, who carries a lot of stress so their friend won’t have to, is very kind, in her book. Confessing wouldn’t be wrong…but neither is staying the course.

The truth is, Sayaka isn’t ready for things to change one way or another, so staying the course is the right path. Does Yuu get on her nerves? Absol-friggin’-lutely. Could it become more of a problem if Yuu and Touko get ever closer together? Of course. But as Touko makes it clear—almost as if she sensed Sayaka needed some reassuring on that particular day—is that she’s glad Sayaka is a part of her life.

If she weren’t, things would be too easy, and Touko would slack off. Standing in front of Sayaka helps her be the ideal person she strives for (which, as we know, is the person her late sister was). Wherever Yuu falls in the equation in the future, Touko will keep relying on Sayaka, which is, for Sayaka, plenty for right now.

RokuAka – 10

After a super-clunky third mini-arc finale, RokuAka rebounds with a strong opening for the fourth, albeit one somewhat hampered by a very obvious Wolf-in-Self-described-Fiancee’s-Clothing.

We start with a little housekeeping: Re=L enjoys a nice warm conciliatory dinner at Sistine and Rumia’s folks’; Celica travels to the depths of the library to peruse a map of what looks like Melgalius’s Sky Castle (hey, they didn’t forget about that!).

In that same library, Glenn thanks Sistine for saving him with Reviver, making her remember her mouth-to-mouth, which causes her to turn red as a hot poker.

All of this is preamble to the main event: the arrival of handsome young elite professor, Leos Kleitos, sent to fill in for a Alzano professor on leave. Leos also introduces himself as Sistine’s fiancee, going off of what Sisti believed to be just joking around when they were both kids—but Leos takes their childish promise seriously, and will harbor no dissent.

If Glenn is jealous, he copes by expressing shock that such a fine upstanding man such as Leo could possibly fall for such an “impertinent white cat”—a case of the pot calling the kettle black if I ever heard one. He sits in on Leo’s lecture, which is impeccable in its goal of clearly, succinctly teaching students how to become as powerful as possible as fast as possible.

But that’s just it: Leo is teaching students, not necessarily recruits for the magical branch of the military. He’s teaching them how to use these powers, but leaving out how not to let them use them, something that fits more with Glenn’s philosophy. The contrast isn’t lost on Rumia, who almost seems to read Glenn’s mind about his disapproval of Leos’ approach.

Leos also finds in his private chat with Sistine that not only is she not someone who’s simply been standing around waiting for him to come and sweep her off her feet; she’s one of those students not necessarily interested in becoming a solider. Indeed, she’s still very much committed to keeping her promise to her gramps and exploring the Sky Castle.

Apparently oblivious to the irony of someone who puts so much weight in what Sistine said as a young girl about marrying him one day, Leos dismisses her dreams of pursuing magical archaeology as worthless in no uncertain terms. And this is where Leo’s calm facade shatters: to him Sisti is someone who should fawn before him, accept his offer of marriage without hesitation, and let him hone her into a powerful military weapon.

Glenn, eavesdropping not on his own but at Rumia’s behest, can only take so much of Leo’s verbal abuse before he leaps from the bushes. Leo tells him to mind his own business, but it’s Sisti who says it is his business, for she and Glenn are “lovers who have sworn our future to each other!” The announcement comes as a bit of a surprise to Glenn (and everyone) but it’s really a long time coming.

Sisti has feelings for Glenn, and has deemed he’s worthy of them. And Glenn is quick to swoop in and accept the mantle of lovers, perhaps going a bit far with details, but all in the noble service of irritating Leo. By the end of the confrontation, Glenn has challenged Leo to a duel.

And just as he lobbed barbs at Sisti when he saw that Leo wanted her, Glenn looks forward to one day marrying Sisti, which means marrying into money, which means not having to leave the house or work. It’s a veneer of the old bastard, but I’m not buying it anymore, and I’m not really meant to. It’s just how he confronts the world.

Albert can see through him too, but for a reason that only the OP had spent much time hinting at: Sistine reminds Glenn of his and Albert’s old comrade, Sara Silvers. We don’t get a clear look at Sara’s face, but we do see the similar hair and the fact Glenn calls her “White Dog” and blushes in her presence.

It’s clear Glenn had feelings for Sara, but she was apparently killed in action while they were on a mission to eliminate a drug called “Angel’s Dust”, which Al has on authority is somehow back and in the city. Angel’s Dust can apparently turn people into “ruined husks for others to control”, which sounds right up the RDW’s alley…along with Leo, for that matter.

But it’s also made clear that Leo was also putting on an act at the academy, and that it was his job to get Glenn to challenge him to a duel. He succeeded, and his shadowy contact—who I’m going to go out on a limb and guess is related to Glenn by the look of him—is happy about that…which can’t be good.

But more on that next week. Till then, we’ve learned the depth of affection Sistine has come to feel for Glenn after all their harrowing adventures, and that won’t change just because a prettier face from her past shows up. Also, maybe Rumia doesn’t get kidnapped this time, yeah?!

Ao Haru Ride – 12 (Fin)

ahr121

You’ll probably call me naive or even masochistic for holding out hope someone would confess to someone in this final episode, but I still steeled myself to expect a phone ringing before Futaba could get the words out after that excruciating pause. The interruption turns out to be her stomach growling.

ahr122

While that’s pretty dang disappointing, it’s not the end of the world; in fact, it’s probably a good thing: Futaba only just opened up that door; shoving a confession in there on the same night is a bit much. Opening the door at all is still a huge victory for Futaba, who hints to Kou that his brother might need to be told he doesn’t resent him for being away when their mom was sick.

ao123

That leads to a really great scene with the Tanaka men all under the same roof eating dinner together like a family for the first time in who knows how long. With Futaba’s cool rushing-to-the-rescue expression and words of encouragement still ringing in his head, Kou takes small first steps to reconnecting with his brother and dad.

ahr124

So now Futaba and Kou’s friendship has deepened and maybe started turning towards something more, so it’s a shame there are no more episodes to see how that goes. As if to acknowledge things aren’t quite the same, the two act very self-conscious and shy around each other, unsure of how to act after all that hugging. But Kou shows again how much of an effect Futaba had on him by agreeing to take the study groups seriously, resulting in him scoring higher than the other four.

ahr126

Summer arrives, and with it comes a concerted effort by the show to set up a potential second season, what with the Tanaka/Shuuko/Aya triangle being reestablished, Yuuri reiterating to Futaba her intention to court Kou, and another shot of that random kid Futaba accidentally groped. I know of no firm plans for such a season, but I wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to another Blue Spring Ride.

8_ses

Ao Haru Ride – 11

ahr111
Not sure what this exchange was all about, but I warn you, show: I’m in no mood for new characters!

Most of the first half of this episode expounds upon the daily grief, emptiness, and hesitation to care that Kou has felt every waking day since losing his mother. The manner in which he lost her: very slowly; while he was mostly alone with her; while working so hard to get good grades and a good job that he didn’t spend as much time with her while she was healthy; that he didn’t even catch signs that she might not be well, even though he was doing everything for her; that his brother told him to look after mom, and he failed.

ahr112

These are the reasons Kou is the way he is, and the reasons he changed so much from the boy Futaba fell for in middle school. And for once, the show comes up with a metaphor for us: it isn’t so much how Futaba puts it: that the door to his heart is closed and double-locked, it’s that the door doesn’t have a doorknob or keyhole. He’s not just keeping people like Futaba and his new friends out; he’s trapped inside, and doesn’t know the way out of there.

ahr113

Doorknob, lock, or no, Futaba is determined to break through that door no matter what, not just to let herself in, but to bust him out of the emotional prison he inadvertently built. Futaba is more determined than she’s ever been, to the point that Yuuri doesn’t really seem to have that much of a chance. She may know about Kou’s grief, but when push comes to shove she didn’t have the guts to do what Futaba does, descend upon him like a storm that will blow the door to his heart open.

ahr114

As clouds gather in the sky, it takes grabbing Kou, falling upon him, and embracing him tightly, as well as finding the right words to convince him, but Futaba seems to finally make some progress, giving Kou the “permission” he’d always been seeking to feel for someone or something again. That no hole in his heart can’t be filled, even if it takes more than one, or dozens, or hundreds of smaller things to fill it. It isn’t going to be easy, but Futaba is there to stand with and support him in the gradual but necessary process of forgiving himself and moving forward.

9_ses

Ao Haru Ride – 10

ahr101

No one likes being left out, especially when it involves two people you’d rather not be together alone, as Kou and Yuuri are to Futaba. The fact that the same weird vibe is coming off them, and they make the same pause before assuring her “it’s nothing”, only make her more suspicious about it being not nothing, which it isn’t.

ahr102

“It”, in fact, is the very thing Futaba wanted to know: more about Kou. She didn’t know his mom died, and the shrine is what he showed Yuuri (Yuuri later confesses she was glad she knew something about Kou Futaba didn’t). When Futaba learns what it was, she feels like a selfish, awful person for needing everything to be about her feelings. That leads to tears that Kou can’t help but dry, and they come the closest yet to a kiss before Tanaka pops into the kitchen, ruining everything.

ahr103

Kou has to go out for his job, so Tanaka takes Futaba home, and getting the feeling she’s someone who wants to know, he’s very generous in filling in some of the blanks in regard to how the present Kou came about from the one she knew, as well as why Kou is cold towards his older brother. Basically, Tanaka was busy teaching his first year of school, leaving the younger Kou alone in the hospital to sit by their mom as she slowly died.

ahr104

Kou bore the brunt of the full force of slowly, steadily losing someone he loved before his eyes, while Tanaka only got the odd glance, busy as he was. That experience made Kou who he is today: someone reluctant to make friends; to get too close; to fall in love again. As much as he may care for Futaba, part of him is paralyzed by that fear: that if he tries to care about something again too much, he’ll lose it.

ahr105

Futaba has made it pretty clear: she wants to be with him. She lost him once, and doesn’t want to lose him again. She also sees through his cold act to the kindness he’s always had, which Tanaka confirms. Futaba’s challenge is to get him to believe it’s alright to open up and get close again; that happiness is worth some degree of risk. That won’t be easy, especially with a still determined Yuuri also gunning for him.

8_ses

Golden Time – 07

gold71

Kouko has to go to the police station to sort out her bike theft, and she introduces Banri as her boyfriend to her father. The next morning, Kouko is waiting for him at the station and they walk to classes together. They start dating, but Banri continually ignores Linda’s texts. His neighbor Nana, Linda’s friend, tricks him into coming home to tend to an apartment leak, but he finds Nana and Linda there. He invites Linda in, where they exchange apologies. Linda explains how they knew each other and why she blamed herself for his fate. Kouko calls him, saying Mitsuo is in trouble.

OMGOMGOMG, Banri and Kouko are a couple…EEEEEEE!..Right? Whoaaa, hold your horses: we’ve been down this road before. We know how it sometimes ends. And as soon as we saw the episode title, “Masquerade”, or suspicions only heightened: could Kouko only be pretending to be in love with Banri? But lest we forget, this is a show where the characters are given ample time to explain their actions and feelings, and at the police station, she convinces us that what she’s feeling is real. And then we’re off to the races. There’s a joyful thrill in watching the two interact as a couple, and Banri really takes to the extremely affectionate, dopey lovey-dovey atmosphere of their nascent relationship. In short, he’s over the moon; stupidly happy, and we’re happy for him.

gold72

This episode did what few contemporary anime dare to do, especially this early in a long run: put two people who like each other together, for which we’re grateful. Things even take a turn for the amorous when Kouko finds Banri’s “box ‘o’ stuff”, culminating in Kouko confessing she wants to lose her virginity in Paris. It’s such a Kouko moment, and for all their interactions, you get the feeling that yes, she is a little weird and perhaps a bit clingy, but neither we nor Banri have a problem with that. Right now, they’re exactly the people they need for each other, and aside from a few subtle foreboding details here and there (Kouko’s dad’s talk of her “targets”, and Banri lying to her about the leak), it looks like it could work. Golden Time resists the urge to immediately pull the rug out from under everything.

That’s despite the fact it meets all the necessary conditions to plausibly blow up Banri+Kouko. Yet it doesn’t pull the trigger—not yet at least—but lets us savor the warm, fuzzy glee. Thanks to Nana (proving to be an excellent supporting character), the awkward silence between Banri and Linda concludes amicably. The tension in that room oozes through the screen as the camera closes in on Linda…but while she’s fiercely honest with details about the past (including Banri confessing to her), she doesn’t end up confessing to him. For one thing, she doesn’t feel she deserves to (remember: she was only late to the bridge, not an out-and-out no-show); but it’s also not crystal clear whether she loves him in quite that way. It’s good she didn’t confess, because she has yet to learn that her previous assumption about Banri dating Kouko is no longer wrong.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Mitsuo went to get his head shaved, but ended up getting his hair bleached.
  • Mitsuo can’t face Chinami at the moment, which concerns her, because she didn’t mean to reject him for all time. There’s is still a slight arc, but we hope it goes somewhere. Love for everyone! Except 2D-kun, AMIRITE?
  • Banri could have avoided quite a bit of stress by stashing that box somewhere before answering the door. Although in the end, Kouko didn’t mind it. More adult behavior.
  • We’re not sure how Banri didn’t realize the woman in the elevator was Nana. Still, it was a hilarious scene. 
  • Nana is voiced with authority by Satou Satomi, who was cast against type here (at least from what we’ve watched of her).

Kamisama Dolls 13

Kukuri, singing the song it sung when Kyohei was its seki, saves Hibino and Kyohei and destroys Magatsuhi. Mahiru flees. While unconscious, Kyohei dreams of the past with Aki, Mahiru, and Senou. After he found Aki with a dead Senou, he threatened to kill him with Kukuri, lashing out at anyone who interfered, but without trying, Utao took control of Kukuri from him. He wakes up proclaiming Hibino is his, and Hibino just happened to be by his side. On the roof of the hospital, they kiss, and Hibino tells him not to worry about involving her in his troubles. Utao can no longer move Kukuri. Aki pays him Kyohei a visit, telling him he’s headed to the village, where he and the Elder Hyuga will reawaken the giant monster he defeated in the past. Kyohei takes the challenge.

Oh, wait, what? A second season is forthcoming? Well, ya’know what, that’s okay with me. After all I’ve invested in this excellent cast, I’d hate for it to end so abruptly. Once Magatsuhi was dealt with and everyone was out of danger, this became a much more laid-back, relaxed episode, almost as if it were winding down in preparation for hibernation (I’m unsure whether it will continue airing during the Fall season, or if it won’t be back until next year). That’s fine though. Cliffhangers aren’t mandatory by any means.

For all the trials ahead for our man Kyohei, and despite the fact Mahiru’s kakashi was wasted and Utao lost control of hers, this was also a surprisingly upbeat episode. Kyohei and Aki’s final scene together was awesome; these two can never escape the fact that they’re brothers, any more than they can escape Kurakami. This wasn’t the time for a final duel with tons of shouting; that’s yet to come. And Kyohei and Hibino finally lockin’ lips, with Hibino making the first move? Well, better late than never!


Rating: 3.5

Kamisama Dolls 12

Kuuko springs Aki and frees Hibino. Hirashino corners Kuuko and Hibino, but Kuuko pushes Hibino outside and grapples with Hirashino, killing him with his own gun in a struggle. Hibino is met by Mahiru on the roof, who has a bone to pick with her vis-a-vis Kyohei. She gets carried away and throws Hibino off the roof with Magatsuhi, but Kukuri catches her in the knick of time. Utao and Mahriu have a sustained duel, ending when Kukuri lands a blow that makes Mahiru lose control of her Magatsuhi. Now out of her control, it grabs Hibino again. Kyohei saves Mahiru from its swipe, then rushes to Hibino’s aid, only to be ensnared himself. As it crushes them, he remembers the day he told his parents he’d be leaving the village, then meeting Hibino in school. Entering the battle, Kirio accidentally knocks Kukuri out. The episode ends with Kukuri waking up, but rather than singing Utao’s song, it’s singing Kyohei’s.

Rape threats…gun grappling…seki duels, kakashi group battles…flashbacks…this episode had a little of everything. Once again, Mahiru takes the lion’s share of screen time, and she’s still a horrible selfish brat, but she becomes a little more sympathetic once Utao manages to beat her Magatsuhi. Cornered, beaten by a little kid, she’s an emotional wreck. When she loses control of her Magatsuhi, she panics. As I said, bringing her in so late was a bold move, but I’m still glad it was done; her presence and her feelings for Kyohei help get both Kyohei and Hibino thinking about what they are to one another. It also forces Kyohei to stop trying to escape the village.

I thought a lot more was to be done with the diet member, but his death makes me question what his purpose was. Also, while she’s really fun to watch and listen to, Kuuko is again really only around to kill him and save Hibino. Her only goal at this point is to be involved in all this intrigue – the embedded journalist, as it were. But she did kill a man in the middle of Tokyo – one would think there’ll be consequences. The cliffhanger was well-played: it would seem empty kakashis respond to whichever seki is projecting the strongest emotions, in this case, Kyohei’s. I just hope that after all this soul-searching and exposition, the finale will me more than just another episode of Save Princess Hibino.


Rating: 3.5

Blood-C 9

Murphy’s Law is in full force as a crustacean-like elder bairn kills Saya’s entire class, getting cheap shots in as she battles it. When it takes Yuuka, her last close friend, she goes into red-eye mode and viciously slays the beast. Only the class chairman survives, along with Tokizane, who skipped school. After her teacher asks her if she killed everyone, Saya wakes up, numb with loss, but also lost herself; beset by images in her head whenever she tries to remember anything.

So, after establishing a very pleasant, chummy atmosphere at Saya’s high school – a safe haven of sorts – the last few episodes have methodically, mercilessly, and effortlessly torn to gory shreds any sense of security and virtually all solace. All is lost. Saya proves yet again that while she excels at slaying elder bairns, her everyone-protecting skills leave much to be desired. Of course one can hardly blame her; circumstances couldn’t be worse, as the venue is rife with defenseless, horrorstruck students. It doesn’t take much for them to all become corpses or simply piles of miscellaneous pieces in pools of blood. It’s sickeningly visceral, horrible stuff.

It’s also obvious that if we ever get straight answers about who exactly Saya Kisaragi is, what her true role is, who she promised, and why she keeps eating grimauve, it may not be till the bitter end. The series continues to keep its cards close, and despite all the hints the dog is throwing her way, Saya remains extremely confused about her raison d’être. If she is the town’s protector, well, she’s failed. Dozens of people are dead and she couldn’t stop it. At this point, I’d be questioning whether what I’m doing is right or even beneficial too.


Rating: 3.5

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 8

Yune and Claude stop by the Blanche residence, and Alice takes Yune by the hand and wisks her off. If it was ever in doubt, this episode confirmed that she sees Yune not so much as a human friend, but as a doll-like ideal of a childhood dream she had. It’s pretty odd that this girl made up a story about meeting a Japanese girl, then meeting her by chance years later. Is she an oracle?

In all seriousness though, while she and Yune chatter away about folk tales and rice balls, Claude is just standing around waiting, when he’s cornered by Camille. From a flashback and her general behavior around him, she had an unrequited love for him. The cold way they interact here confirms that they share some complex feelings, not all good. Camille resents her role as a family bargaining chip – she won’t be marrying for love – but she’s resigned to that life.


Rating: 3.5

Kamisama Dolls 6

After lots of excitement in Tokyo, Kamisama Dolls heads to Karakami village this week for some peace, quiet, and convalescence. Kukuri is repaired by the Utsuwashi (kakashi mechanics), we meet some new faces, and Utao’s master confirms to her that Kirio is indeed her younger twin brother. The two were seperated at birth (not literally, they weren’t conjoined twins) and he was raised by the Hyuga.

To make an SAT analogy: Utao : Kirio :: Kyouhei : Aki. Kirio and Aki are bitter that Utao and Kyouhei had easier lives. That bitterness has twisted both of them, but it may not be too late for Kirio. Koushiro seems to want to take care of Kirio, which makes you wonder where he’s been all the years the Hyuga master has beaten him. Also, as HIbino gets more involved with the Kugas, she wants to know what happened with Kyouhei and Aki in the past.

Overall, this is a nice respite, with much lighter fare than previous episodes. This series continues to excel with facial expressions – particularly Utao and Hibino’s faces are extremely emphatic – and quick action animation, as demonstrated with the comedy/fanservice setpiece where Utao tries flying Kukuri with Kyouhei and Hibino riding along. It involves both Kuga siblings pulling on either end of Hibino…meh, I guess you had to see it. :P


Rating: 3.5

Kamisama Dolls 3

Both Kyohei and Aki have pretty similar pasts, but while Aki has chosen to stew in his anger and self-hate, Kyohei wants to move on, and wants a normal life. So did Kyohei kill too? If he did, why is only Aki in jail? In any case, that normal life grows more abnormal by the day. Not only is Aki pestering Kyohei at every turn, he even threatens to kill Hibino. This pisses off Kyohei.

But then another seki named Koushiro shows up with a teleporting kakashi, presumably to drag Aki back to the village. He manages to take him down, but Kuuko of all people is tangled up in the battle, and ends up dragging an unconscious Aki away; perhaps for information later. In any case, I like how Aki isn’t just a one-dimensionally evil guy; he’s clearly had a rough life. Even Kyohei pities him, and buys him some food.

As for lil’ Utao, there was a lot of unnecessary bumbling around at the cafe, but this was redeemed by the actions of yet another seki, who looks a lot like Utao – an older brother, perhaps? He does so by making a truck swerve off an overpass, and Utao deftly uses Kukuri to shield herself, Hibino, and bystanders from the falling truck. She may be a total klutz at waitressing, but when it counts, she’s turning out to be a decent seki. Rating: 3.5