The Promised Neverland – 21 – More Important than Revenge

By arriving just in time with Mujika and Sonju, Emma is able to talk Norman down and get him to drop his knife. Despite all the time they’ve been apart and the things Norman has done and planned to do, Emma still feels absolutely certain that he doesn’t really want to do those things he planned, even going so far as calling him an “arrogant coward”.

The show deems that she is correct in her assessment, and that, when offered, Norman is willing to share the suffering, pain and fear with Emma, Ray, and the others instead of shouldering it all himself. Mujika then goes around the town administering her blood to those who have degenerated, not only curing them but ensuring they’ll never degenerate again.

As Norman’s plan to annihilate the demons of the village is reversed, Barbara prepares to kill a demon girl and her infant sibling, but when she sees herself in the cowering girl, she finds herself unable to do it. We’re to understand this is the first time she’s been presented with the opportunity to kill a demon child, and was all talk before.

Norman and Emma emerge from the burning town, and Norman tells his comrades the truth: he didn’t want to get revenge on demons, but to save his family. He used the ticking clock on his life to justify taking a path he wouldn’t have otherwise chosen. And he lied about not having succombed to the same Lambda drugs as all of them because he wanted to project reliability.

Barbara, who just stopped herself of her own accord from murdering a child, can’t very well argue, and says Norman is more important than revenge. Cislo and Zazie are also extremely understanding of Norman’s coming clean. Vincent isn’t, but the others tell him to stand down.

Upon returning to the hideout, the kids there tell them they just got word from the Grace Field radio: Phil and everyone else are being shipped. We cut to a scene with Petri and Isabella, who have sent the message as a trap, knowing the kids who escaped will come to the rescue.

What’s odd is that Petri is talking with the demons like Norman and the others just escaped from Lambda; presumably that happened weeks if not months ago. And don’t get me started on Isabella, who we were led to believe was on a short leash, and yet has been allowed to fail for quite some time now.

Of greater import in this scene is Petri’s announcement that the Lambda materials weren’t lost in the bombing, and the entire high-class farming system is poised to be replaced by Lambda-style farming through drug-induced brain enhancements.

Ray rightly suspects the message about the premature shippings is a trap to lure them there, but it doesn’t matter, because they still need to return to Grace Field if they want to save Phil and the others. The fact we haven’t seen one second of Phil or the others at the farm somewhat dulls those particular stakes…as do the developments at the hideout.

Vylk, the grandpa who’d regularly visit the hideout—and who Norman almost killed—and his granddaughter Emma visit so he can tell a story about a small piece of a pen a dying human was grasping, and the remorse he feels for not using his blood to save others besides his own family. When screwed into Emma’s pen, it not only provides blueprints for farming HQ and the gate to the human world, but a cure for the side-effects of the Lambda drugs!

That’s an inordinate amount of coincidence and suspension of disbelief in one little flash drive! But even with all this new information, and with almost everyone on board with returning to Grace Field, the one holdout—Vincent—ends up betraying everyone by using the radio to exchange intel for a deal. I guess he wasn’t moved by the embrace of the Emmas…

Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou – 19 – A Dream that Cleaves

At the bookstore, Rika declares her dream of experiencing a new way of life she’s never known, specifically high society at the fancy St. Lucia’s Academy. She wants to live that dream with Satoko, who thinks it’s way too soon to be worried about entrance exams. But Rika is committed, and when Satoko sees how serious she is, she agrees to start studying with her at once.

Rika and Satoko inform Keiichi and Rena of their plans to attend St. Lucia’s for high school, and the two senpais help them with their studying. But even that’s not enough for Rika, who stays up late into the night working on problems. Because Rika is everything to her and she wants Rika’s dream to come true, Satoko can’t help but get swept up in Rika’s wake.

Two an a half years of vigorous studying ensues, after which both Rika and Satoko are accepted to the academy. There’s a little bit of suspense in whether their numbers appear on the board of accepted applicants, and in that brief limbo, Satoko seems to consider the unthinkable: that she and Rika would end up going their separate ways.

Instead, Satoko follows Rika to St. Lucia’s…and fucking hates it. She hates the stuffy atmosphere, the formality and strictness inherent not only the way classes are held but in how students interact. It’s just not Satoko’s scene, while Rika takes to the school and its intricate social structure like a fish to water. Before long Rika is surrounded by new admiring friends, and Satoko is left out.

When Satoko laughs her signature laugh when insisting she’s too busy to hang out with Rika and her fancy new friends, those friends call the laugh “unbecoming” and wonder how someone like Satoko was even accepted. Satoko’s grades drop, and she’s given a choice: attend an interminable study hall, or resign from the academy.

The study hall is full of girls from well-off families who are trapped: they cannot leave the school, but they can’t keep their grades up without constant study, allowing them no free time. A second-year tells Satoko “it’s not too late” for her to escape the study hall purgatory, but it’s clear Satoko has already been working as hard as she can.

As Rika glides along in her perfect fancy life, pointedly not tiring of it as Satoko predicted, Satoko begins to resent Rika dragging her along. Her precious dream has become a nightmare for Satoko. Rika wanted to experience this new life together, but they’ve never been further apart. Something’s gotta give!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 16 – The Webs that Bind

Tanjirou, Inosuke, and Murata continue to battle the spider thread puppets, leading me to wonder why these demon slayers don’t have individual styles like our leads. Once cut, their threads are quickly reconnected, and the Mother spider demon has no qualms about cruelly contorting their bodies until their bones break.

Murata urges the other two to head to the Mother while he handles his comrades. Tanjirou finally determines he can immobilize the puppets without harming them by tangling up their threads along branches; Inosuke follows suit. Meanwhile, Zenitsu wanders around wearily with his sparrow, calling out for Nezuko, who stays in her box this week.

The Mother spider demon was all business last week, but her demeanor changes on a dime to someone desperate to kill all of the slayers lest she face the wrath of “Father”. It seems the spider demon family dynamic is a toxic one.

Mother ends up killing all of her demon slayer dolls by snapping their necks, rendering all of Tanjirou’s efforts to protect them moot. Then she sics a giant headless demon with swords for hands on Tanjirou and Inosuke. Rather than fight on his own, Inosuke learns the value of teamwork, especially when your partner is as capable and unselfish as Tanjirou.

With her giant headless doll defeated, Tanjirou proceeds to the Mother’s location, where she’s been sitting on a rock controlling things all this time. Tanjirou descends upon her, and she immediately resigns herself to defeat, as it will mean she’ll be free of her unrelenting torment.

To her surprise, Tanjirou employs a form that separates her head from her body without any pain, feeling like nothing but a gentle, soothing rain. She expresses her gratitude for finally being given peace by telling Tanjirou that one of the Twelve Kiseki is on the mountain.

While it’s good to be presented with demons conflicted about their existence like Mother, part of me wishes she hadn’t been defeated so easily. It’s as if she had no offense or defense beyond her dolls and simply…gave up. In a way she was no more than a puppet of Father, who used threats instead of threads to control her.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou – 18 – Oyashiro Sleeps

At an undetermined point in time, the usual gang plus Hanyuu in the flesh witness Takano about to be arrested by commandos in the forest after firing a shot at them that misses. Tomitake arrives to order them to take her to the Irie Clinic for treatment, as she’s in the late stages of Hinamizawa Syndrome.

Shift to early June 1984: a year has passed since the many unpleasant Watanagashi loops and murders. It’s a new year at school, and the absence of Mion, who is now attending high school in Okinomiya, is deeply felt by the gang, to the point Rika and Satoko duck out of club activities because it’s just not the same.

Still, the fact is, June 1983 came and went without the town descending into chaos and destruction…which is good! The question is how, and can the peace last? Rika accompanies Satoko to the clinic, where Dr. Irie not only makes an inappropriate comment about what Satoko should be wearing, but declares that after a year of treatment, she has been fully cured of Hinamizawa Syndrome (there’s no mention of Satoshi).

When Rika asks why he said before that sufferers could never be healed after a certain stage, he believes that changed because the root cause of the syndrome somehow changed somewhere along the way. Rika knows what changed: after a millennium, Oyashiro stopped mistrusting humans.

Rika intends to make a new era of peace in Hinamizawa official, so after she performs her offertory dance, she has Kimiyoshi and Oryou join her on the stage. She’d met with the other two main family heads the previous night, and they all agreed to make a joint announcement that the Dam War is over and Oyashiro’s curse wasn’t, like, a thing.

According to Rika, Oyashiro is happy with the town and returned to his slumber. With the weight of the priestess, Kimiyoshi and Oryou behind them, the words reach the people of Hinamizawa. Confident that new wind has lifted the town’s sails, Rika has Satoko join her at an Okinomiya book store, where she buys St. Lucia Academy study guides for the both of them.

It’s been Rika’s dream to attend the academy longer than Satoko knows, and now she wants to make that dream a reality for the both of them. Surely nothing bad can come of that in an arc called the “Village-Destroying Chapter”, eh?

Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou – 17 – The Dice Roll for Thee

After a cold open in which Takano shoots Rika and her friends, we cut to a different version of the scenario in which Takano tells her she was going to kill everyone, but didn’t, and was leaving town with Jirou. What follows is a lot of stuff that comes out of the blue, but may have been happening off-camera for many loops.

The Tokyo Bloodhounds and Mountain Dogs are rival elite tactical groups, with Jirou being a member of the former. With Dr. Irie’s cooperation, the underground research lab is shut down, even though he has yet to find a cure for Satoko’s brother Satoshi’s “Hinamizawa Syndrome.

Honestly, I was pretty confused by most of this, and assume that’s because stuff similar to this went down in the original Higurashi. But whatever all these events mean, the bottom line is there have still been no demon-ing away or gruesome murders on this loop, days after the festival. So why is Rika so uneasy?

It’s simple: the events of the present loop are so far out of the usual norm, her only conclusion is that “someone else” is rolling the dice of fate. She considers killing herself with the blade shard, but decides to stay put for now. Satoko can tell she’s down about something, but urges her not to look gift horses in the mouth and simply enjoy these moments of happiness while they last.

Rika ends up taking everyone’s money in a game of poker at school, and her “punishment” for them all is to arrange a party for Satoko’s birthday, which falls on June 24 (usually once the shit has hit the fan). Satoko seems a little uneasy about being the center of attention, but still accepts gifts from Keiichi, Rena and Mion.

When it comes time for Rika to present her gift to her, Satoko instinctively ducks and covers, apparently knowing it was a gag gift containing a boxing glove on a spring. Rika lifts the box to reveal it’s just a teddy bear (not unlike, if not the same bear Satoshi sought to give his sis), and asks how Satoko knew. Satoko’s eyes turn red and she pulls a gun on Rika with an evil smirk. I guess we know who’s “rolling the dice”, but why, and to what end?

Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou – 16 – Escaping the Doom

In the fifth and final loop before Rika calls it quits, Satoko wakes her up in bed as usual, but she has a heavy fever and hurts “all over”. Turns out she’s already dead right out of the gate—she just doesn’t know it yet. In this loop, Satoko is the neck-scratcher, and has already killed everyone else. The Oyashiro-sama in her head has told her the priestess-hood must pass from Rika to her.

What awful sin has caused Satoko to be compelled to disembowel a conscious Rika and hack away at her guts with a ceremonial staff? The simple reason that Rika wished and dreamed of leaving Hinamizawa, abandoning Oyashiro-sama and everyone she knows for a sophisticated life elsewhere. There is no greater sin for a priestess than to forsake their deity thus.

But before she dies, Rika expresses her sorrow and guilt and essentially begs for forgiveness, which Satoko is sure Oyashiro-sama will bestow upon her if she’s serious in her contriteness. The younger and older Rikas converse in an idealized Hinamizawa and wonder why their dreams ever strayed from the village. Then, as Satoko embraces her, hopeful that things will be better next time, Rika closes her pinky and snaps.

Satoko wakes Rika up as usual, only this time outside. Rika’s guts are where they belong, inside her body, and the whole gang is in their bathing suits for a day of summer fun in the river. It’s Higurashi’s version of a beach episode, portraying the Sonozaki twins in bikinis and the other girls in school swimsuits.

As the sun goes down, Rika talks to Satoko about a realization she hand about two very long, very different dreams she was having. One dream was painful while she was liviing in it, but looking back knows it was full of “shining wonders”. In her other dream, she never noticed those wonders, and was punished for clinging to an “ungrateful” dream (the one where she leaves town for a fancy school).

Rika concludes by saying she loves Hinamizawa, and everyone in it, and Satoko, almost serving as a proxy to Oyashiro-sama, embraces her once more, glad to have heard Rika speak such words. With Rika no longer dreaming of being anywhere else, her curse is seemingly lifted. No one gets the neck itch, nobody kills or dies, and everyone watches her perform the Watanagashi dance.

Then Rika spots Tomitake wandering into the woods and she stops him to say something about her and Takano, only for Takano to emerge from the trees. She wants to talk to Rika too. I wonder what about, and if and how this latest loop, so ideal and peaceful so far, will suddenly go sideways.

3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 15 – Glue Won’t Fix This

Hikari can’t believe how peaceful his life is, post-cultural festival. He didn’t say anything stupid to piss off Iroha, and things seem pretty five-by-five at home too, with his brother Kaoru asking for money to take Anzu on a date but promising to pay him back, while their mom has taken up yoga in an effort to get back some of her past splendor (I can relate to Hikari’s discomfort; my mom was also quite the looker in her youth, which is why I am a looker).

But that peace suddenly shatters, and not due to anything on the girlfriend or school side. All this time Hikari’s family was just humming along in the background, but we barely saw his dad. Turns out, they barely saw him too. And while Hikari and Iroha are at a family restaurant they overhear a young woman telling an older man that it would be wrong to keep seeing each other. The older man turns out to be…Hikari’s Dad.

Hikari keeps what he knows from his mom, but she finds out when his dad tells her, and all of a sudden his family life has become a soap opera. Hikari wants his dad to stand up for himself or at least offer some kind of defense beyond a flaccid “I’m sorry”, to no avail. Hikari has a dessert picnic with Iroha to get out of the house, but when he returns things have escalated and divorce papers are literally on the table.

If his mom divorces his dad, she’ll take one of the two kids all the way up to Hokkaido with her, which means some serious upheaval for that kid, not to mention being separated from their girlfriend. When Hikari meets with Itou, the latter is still twisted up in a knot over what went down after the festival with Ayado (she ran off after he said what he said and can’t even make eye contact with him now). But even Itou recognizes that Hikari’s also in big trouble.

Hikari is cursed with a little brother who, despite still being in grade school, already possesses logic that meets or exceeds that of a full-grown adult. Hikari is honest with him that he can’t move to Hokkaido because of Iroha, but his bro has Anzu, so there’s no simple answer of which kid should go.

Hikari has one-on-ones with both his dad and mom, and learns that his dad still loves his mom but isn’t sure he deserves her anymore (mirroring Hikari’s own frequent feelings vis-a-vis Iroha). His pops also gets quite poetic, noting the irony of a glue researcher being unable to keep the bonds of matrimony together. But isn’t that because, like Hikari with friends, he’s just not trying hard enough?

When his mom leaves a note saying she’ll be out of the house for a while, Hikari is the one to track her down, insisting she reconsider as he doesn’t want the family broken up at all. But all he seems to do is convince her that he’s the son she should take with her to Hokkaido. Unless Iroha is willing to move with him, it’s going to be the dreaded long-distance relationship. So much for peace!

Kino no Tabi – 03

While resting before trying to figure out what to do next, Kino hears some rumbling in the distance. An earthquake? An avalanche? No … a country.

Neither this country nor any of its inhabitants are ever given names—the people only introduce themselves by their title(s)—but it is the coolest country Kino has visited yet: a country that moves.

Technically, that makes it a gigantic vehicle, so Kino does what one does when a vehicle approaches: thumb a lift. While the country-tank is initially a menacing thing, a kindly voice asks Kinos her intentions.

She’s then welcomed aboard with open arms by the immigration and diplomacy officer, who has a comfortable room available, with a bed with clean white sheets Kino probably hasn’t seen in a long time.

After beholding the consequences of shushing Hermes (who warned Kino to dry her hair before going to sleep) and fixing her bed-head, Kino continues her tour of this wondrous, awe-inspiring place full of contradictions—the same contradictions that face every country.

The country is powered by an advanced, self-maintaining reactor, but in order to avoid overheating (or perhaps a straight-up meltdown), the country has to be kept constantly moving, meaning the drive motors and caterpillar tracks must be carefully maintained.

But that’s not the only reason they keep moving: the people of the country, like Kino, want to explore the world as she does. The only difference is they all go together as a country, and take their country with them. That means leaving quite a mark, but the people have long since made their peace with that.

While maintaining the motors and tracks must be quite a feat, the scenes of life Kino sees are of a peaceful country where families relax in the lush rooftop park and schoolchildren paint murals on the country’s outside shell. Contemporary cars are driven around, and tablets are used. It’s a very comfortable living.

Throughout this flowery tour I kept waiting for the catch, but in terms of the people turning on Kino or becoming threatening in some way, that never happens. These are nice people, but their country is a huge nuisance what with the tracks it leaves, particularly when butting up against a conventional, immobile country.

Still, the leaders have no problem allowing Kino into their command center. After asking for and being forcefully denied passage through the country, those leaders simply shrug and order the country to press on. That means firing a laser to obliterate the border wall in their path.

While armed with artillery and missiles, nothing the other country has is any match for the moving country, which mows down everything in its path. Those aboard it can only apologize and assure them they’ll be out of their hair within half a day.

When the other country finds something they can damage—the children’s mural—the moving country goes on the offensive. Wishing to minimize casualties on the other side as much as possible, Kino steps forward offering her assistance.

She heads out to a vantage point, armed with her persuader sniper rifle, and efficiently destroys all of the missile guiding sights—without killing their operators. She also takes out a couple of stray missiles for good measure.

With that, Kino cements her role as a friend of the Moving Country…but she said at the start she was only there for a sightseeing visit of 5-10 days, and when those days are up, she bids the country farewell.

On to the next, not-moving country, but Hermes relays to her the very distinct possibility the next children’s mural will feature her fighting off the missiles.

And while the Moving Country is extremely intrusive to other countries its path happens to intersect with, it’s not like they have a choice! If they stop, the reactor blows. If they just drive around in circles, they’ll eventually lose their minds.

Moving is how this country survives. There is a cost to that survival, but it is acceptable. If they wanted, they could easily conquer and subjugate any other country or countries they wished, but they don’t. They only destroy what they must to keep moving.

Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 22

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Since Shirayuki’s visit to Tanbarun and Zen’s little excursion to rescue her from pirates, quite a lot of work has piled up at Wistal Castle. But this isn’t just a “Back-to-Work”, “Stay Busy to Keep from Getting Blue” episode: it brings up a crucial duty of Second Prince Zen Wisteria: he must, at some point, take a wife.

As Shirayuki’s herbalist work has piled up, so too have requests for marriage interviews from various highborn ladies from around the kingdom and beyond. Lord Haruka doesn’t give Zen the option to reject the process altogether, but he does give him some leeway: meeting with one potential wife will suffice…for now.

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From the list of suitable candidates, Zen chooses…Kiki. Turns out, she’s a count’s daughter. Zen, of course, can’t order her; he must make a heartfelt request to aid him in his stalling tactic. Because Kiki likes Zen and wants to do what she can for him and Shirayuki, she agrees, even though she hates dresses (since they make it hard to carry a sword).

And while Kiki’s name will be kept out of public discourse, it doesn’t take long for rumors to spread across the castle that Zen is meeting with somebody. Even Shirayuki hears this (unbeknownst to Zen), and no matter how hard she works, she can’t shake the uneasiness. Ryuu and Garack can see it practically emanating from her in waves.

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We already knew Kiki cleans up nice (her skin is even more “Snow White” than Shirayuki’s), but we didn’t know that she was in a dress when she and Mitsuhide met for the first time. Mitsu assumed she was a lady Zen was interested in, but the next time they met, she was sparring with Zen, and he mistook her for a “noble boy”.

The misunderstanding wouldn’t be cleared up right then and there, but Mitsu and Kiki would nevertheless spend five years having each other’s backs and protecting their prince. Obi can’t help but notice that seeing Kiki with another man—even if it’s Zen, and not a serious omiai—makes Mistu uneasy. Mitsu won’t go so far as to profess his love of Kiki, but he’s definitely glad they met, and the feeling is mutual.

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The interview doesn’t last long, and soon Zen is back to hittin’ the books, but when Obi lets slip that Shirayuki knows about the interview—but he didn’t inform her that it was with Kiki and just for show—Zen races to Shirayuki’s side to apologize and comfort her in one of their tender scenes.

Later that night, Izana informs Zen he’ll be taking a wife soon, which will make Zen next. The future of the kingdom rests on the choice he’ll make. Left unspoken throughout both this episode and the entire show, and yet always on my mind, is the fact Shirayuki is a commoner, with nary a drop of noble blood to her name, which would make any possible official arrangement with Zen extremely tricky at best and impossible at worst.

To my surprise and delight, Izana rekindles my desire to see the two lovebirds tie the knot in the end, by endorsing Zen’s decision and pledging his support as an ally, not an obstacle. He’s seen what Zen’s love for Shirayuki led him to do in her name, without tarnishing the royal family. He’s probably also weighing the immense cost of refusing him, but Zen has proven to him beyond doubt he’s serious about marrying Shirayuki and no one else.

Note, Izana doesn’t say it will be easy to convince everyone else—including their father the king—but this is a promising start to the fairy tale ending I desire.

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Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 21

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I find it somewhat amusing that all three of the shows I’m watching this Winter peaked and wrapped up big arcs with four episodes to spare. ERASED, Grimgar, and Shirayuki have nothing left to prove to me. As such, I feel like I’m in bonus time, and thus more forgiving of pleasant but less-than-crucial episodes like this little number, which explores the bonds this group of young people have forged after so many adventures together.

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And I’ll admit, it’s nice to see everyone back together after some time apart during the pirate stuff, and the Tanbarun stuff before that. Mitsu and Kiki continue their subtle dance, while Obi continues to be bewitched by Shirayuki, even with Zen standing rather firmly between them. It’s not your typical triangle, not only because Obi isn’t expecting anything to happen, but because he actually likes Zen too.

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The outsider-of-the-week is Trow, a pretty but very capable young lass from his past, who just happens to be staying at the same inn by chance. At first they pretend not to know each other, but later Trow greets him by testing his skills, then asking him to join her on a job to retrieve a runaway heir squatting in an abandoned mansion (what is with all these abandoned mansions just lying around in anime?).

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It’s a good thing Obi agreed to tag along, because while demonstrating her devastating bicycle kick on one of the whelp’s hapless guards, she slips and nearly falls to her death, but Obi catches her. Trow is somewhat bemused that Obi now has a master—it’s implied they were part of a crew that were their own bosses and did what they wanted. She wouldn’t mind teaming back up with Obi, though she doesn’t beg or insist; it’s more of a “would be nice” request.

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When a worried Zen, Mitsu, Kiki and Shirayuki come to the conspicuous mansion to retrieve Obi, Trow understands better what her old friend has now, and why he won’t leave the life he’s made with them. Sure, Shirayuki & Co. may be on the overly nice and worrying side, but Trow gets it, and they part ways.

Obi seems content to forget about his past with Trow and move on, though more because he likes what he has now than due to any hardship or trauma. He likes who he is better now than then, and doesn’t need to rehash his past. Of course, that doesn’t stop Shirayuki from being curious about Trow because, let’s face it, Trow is a pretty cool gal!

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Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 20

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This was a quiet, leisurely episode, especially after last week’s excitement on the high seas, but few shows do quiet and leisurely more pleasantly than Shirayuki, and in any case, a little rest and celebration is in order. Shirayuki and Zen are invited to the village headquarters of the Lions of the Mountain, whose chief, Mukaze, is indeed Shirayuki’s father. She remembers seeing him at her grandparents’ bar years ago, but held on to that memory in case she ever saw him, since those grandparents went against Mukaze by saying he was alive after all.

What I like about their reunion is that there isn’t any rancor or hard feelings; Shirayuki is just glad she had the opportunity to meet her dad, and vice versa. We even learn that his wife, Shirayuki’s mom, was once betrothed to Mukaze’s relative, but he stole her fair and square and was then banished. Not all that different from Shirayuki herself being “selected” by the earlier, awful-er iteration of Prince Raj!

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It’s not just a time for Shirayuki to catch up with her dad; Kiki manages a genuine “thanks” for Mitsuhide worrying about her. I’ve always enjoyed the rapport and, if we’re honest, love between these two badasses, even though it’s not romantic love. They care about each other, and it shows when it counts.

As for Obi, he’s so down about letting Shirayuki down by letting her get nabbed, he spends much of his time in the forest alone…until Shirayuki goes after him, to assure him she doesn’t blame him for what happened; it was an unavoidable, unfortunate situation all around.

Obi knows she doesn’t hold his failure against him, but that doesn’t make his failure any more acceptable to him. Even so, Shirayuki asks that he be her guard next time they visit Tanbarun.

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A night of light drinking and carousing ensures, with Mitsu, Obi, and Kiki matching drinks, Shirayuki talking with her dad and Kazuki. Later. Mukaze finds Zen on his own and has a conversation he’s probably been looking forward to, the “what are your intentions towards my daughter” talk.

Mukaze first asks if Shirayuki loves him, then realizes he’s the wrong one to ask, and instead asks him how he feels about her. Zen is forthright in declaring his love for her, leading Mukaze to shout “I won’t allow it!” – but he’s only joking, and always wanted to say that. Worse for Zen, Shirayuki overheard everything, and when he spots her on the stairs, the two turn an intense beet red that really pops in the blue-filter night.

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When it’s time to go to bed, Shirayuki asks Zen to stick around with her a little longer. Uh-oh, I thought…but only for a minute. These two aren’t really going to do anything until they’re good and married, so instead they spend a few hours simply chatting and enjoying each others’ hard-won company. Shirayuki is the first to doze off, whereupon Zen puts her to bed and gives her a tender goodnight kiss straight out of the fairy tales.

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Mukaze expresses his happiness that his daughter has found a place where she’s happy (even though it’s not where he is), and sees her off. Shirayuki, Zen and Co. then head back to Tanbarun, where Prince Raj is elated to see her once more, and the rescheduled ball is still on.

Raj’s little siblings again try to start some shit, but they are stayed when he tells them he doesn’t want Shirayuki at the palace “forever”, because that would be boring. It’s one of Raj’s better lines, delivered with his trademark snap, and is essentially a mic drop to the meddling twins.

A lovely ball ensues, with Raj having the orchestra play the piece chosen by Shirayuki, and the two having a nice dance together. Zen watches from afar, and is surprised how far Raj has come. Rajs owes a lot of his growth to his time with Shirayuki, including the predicament she ended up in.

When she was out of danger, she taught him how to be more self-aware and selfless and less presumptuous; in times of crisis he brought out his courage and stalwart determination to secure her safe release from baddies. Now they’re at the point that when Shirayuki’s hair grows out again, she’d be happy to show it to Raj, because now she considers him a friend, and the feeling is mutual.

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