Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 22 –Nine Angry Hashira

This week we meet the seven remaining Hashira, a most colorful bunch in both appearance and personality. Unfortunately, when they’re all standing in one place they look a bit silly rather than intimidating, and they stand in one place this entire episode. Tanjirou is bound and lying on the ground the whole time, his voice of explanation drowned out by the competing egos of the entitled, arrogant Hashira.

This is an episode where nothing really happens. Everyone stands around, and for over half of the episode, they stand around talking about nothing in particular. This episode is meant to bring the Hashira up to speed about Tanjirou’s unique—and officially sanctioned—situation. We the audience are already up to speed. Thus, the Hashira look even more foolish for dominating the with their opinions despite being completely in the dark.

At the halfway point of this episode where nothing happens and nothing is said we didn’t already know, the venerable “Master of the Mansion” finally arrives. Where the hell were ya, buddy? He calmly explains to his “children” that Tanjirou’s traveling with Nezuko has been sanctioned by the Corps. Urokodaki, Giyuu, and Tanjirou have all vouched for Nezuko with their lives.

Considering the deference the Hashira show to the Master, the matter should be fucking CLOSED. And yet many of the Hashira won’t accept their Master’s decision. These are the same Hashira who only minutes before were barking and whining about Tanjirou and Giyuu “breaking the rules” all Demon Slayers were sworn to follow. Excuse me, but how is contradicting your boss and acting on your own following the rules?

Not all the Hashira are foolish. Giyuu is obviously on Tanjirou’s side. Shinobu is at least willing to hear him out. Kanronji Mitsuri, who seems to love everything and everyone, is fine with her master’s wishes. Tokitou Muichirou is indifferent, going whichever way the wind blows. But Hotheaded Wind Guy, Giant Weeping Monk, Everything Must Be Flamboyant Guy,  Snake Guy, and Hot Rod Guy form a caucus of dudes who have decided their Master’s word isn’t good enough.

Frankly, they are the ones who should be put in their place, for speaking and acting on matters they know nothing about. And yet, the Master gives them leave to make an argument convincing enough to overturn that of three people who have pledged to commit Seppuku if they’re wrong. Hotheaded Wind Guy (Shinazugawa Sanemi, yet another white-haired guy right on the heels of Rui & Co.) decides to make his argument by slicing his arm open and dripping it into Nezuko’s box to tempt her.

Leaving aside the fact Demon Slayer is playing fast-and-loose with these five Hashiras’ devotion to The Rules, as a practical narrative matter, you, I, and everyone else watching know full well that neither Tanjirou or Nezuko are dying anytime soon; they’re the goddamn co-protagonists, and this is not Gurren Lagann. So this is a big ol’ waste of time better spent formulating a plan for dealing with the real villain, Kibutsugi Muzan.

TenSura – 27 – Bonds Through Brandy

While we initially see the king in his standard position on the throne in full armor, Rimuru’s meeting with him is a far more casual affair, the two sitting across from a coffee table as equals. Dwargo is pleased to hear that Kaijin, the brothers, and Vesta have all found a place where they can exercise their talents to their fullest.

He also has nothing but good things to say about the apple brandy Shuna presents to him, which gives Rimuru to mention that they’re in trade talks with Eurazania. This impresses Dwargo, who is now at the stage of friendship with Rimuru that he has no need to check his drink for poison. Shion gets into it and demonstrates what a messy drunk she is, but Dwargo isn’t offended. Heck, he’s entertained.

The next day, Rimuru gives his big speech to the myriad peoples of Dwargon in his slime form. Shion is sufficiently sobered up to hold him up high so those in the back can hear his message of mutual respect and excitement over the new alliance between their nations. Dwargo later awards him zero points for coming off far too friendly and humble than a leader of a great nation should be, but the bottom line is, the speech is a success—the people of Dwargon have heard Rimuru and like him.

That night, Rimuru arranges a boys’ night out with the goblins and dwarves at the Elf Paradise hostess club. While I realize that deep down Rimuru is still a salaryman and takes these kinds of rituals seriously, the fact that Gobta and his fellow riders look way too young to be in such a club made the scene a bit awkward.

Granted, this isn’t a brothel, and if Rimuru, the goblins, and dwarves are literally objectifying them by regarding them as lovely jewels in a wood-lined treasure chest, at least the women don’t seem to be exploited; indeed, they’ll happily teast Gobta until his nose is drained of blood. The club manager is also happy to sell the apple brandy and research how much people will pay for it, so Rimuru gets another potential revenue stream out of the business.

I can also forgive the subtle skeeviness of the club scene because the boys are ultimately caught by Shuna and Shion, as one of the elves was too pure-hearted to lie about what they were up to that night. The two women are rightfully hurt that they wouldn’t so much as tell them where they were going, which only indicates they knew they wouldn’t be pleased about it, but that’s no excuse for their secrecy. Rimuru’s punishment is to endure a week of Shion’s cooking. Sounds fair!

From there we travel to what I believe to be the human kingdom of Falmuth, which, if King Dwargo is right, may someday be supplanted by Tempest as the continent’s main trading hub…whether Rimuru wants it that way or not. For now it’s a pretty bustling city, and Youm and his party of champions are walking along when his friend Isaac introduces Youm to his sister Myulan, the wizard we saw who is working for Clayman.

Myulan requests that she join Youm’s party. When he says he has enough magic users (and one of his more sexist comrades mutters that they have no need for a woman) Myulan decides to demonstrate her power to Youm in a duel between them. Myulan wins in an total cakewalk, with Youm ending up waist-deep in the ground and enveloped in a magical wind funnel.

Youm is convinced not only by Myulan offensive capability, but the insights she can offer into improving his clearly-lacking magical defense. They shake hands to make it official: Demon Lord Clayman now has a mole in the party of one of Rimuru Tempest’s best human friends. [Grabs popcorn and apple brandy]…This should be interesting!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina – 12 (Fin) – The Multitudes of Me

Elaina’s final trip takes her to the suspiciously foggy “Country That Makes Your Wishes Come True”. Elaina enters the country wishing to become rich, and is utterly mystified when she happens upon a landscape comprised of all of the places from her travels thus far.

Things get even stranger when she enters Mirarosé’s palace to find no less than fifteen alternate versions of herself. Some of them represent individual personality traits she possesses, while others are just random like the gel and ghoul versions.

Hondo Kaede has a blast voicing all these different one-note versions of Elaina, but I have to admit…it’s all a bit much. The intros were fun, but the gimmick wore quickly. This wasn’t one of those dreaded Recap finales, but it did borrow elements from the previous episodes, without adding much new or compelling, which gave it the sheen of a recap.

Deemed “Protagonist Me” by her intellectual version, Elaina sits down on the throne and orders the others to go out and investigate, but all of a sudden the “Violent Me” everyone else had been avoiding bursts into the palace.

Violent Me’s hair is still short from being cut by the ripper, as apparently she never emotionally recovered from the events at the town with the clock tower. All the other versions kind of hang around while the Protagonist and Violent Elainas fight to a draw (as expected).

Only when both are completely exhausted of magic and can no longer fight does Elaina try to calmly discuss things with her violent self. While we heard Elaina wish to become “rich” back in the beginning, it seems the country interpreted that as becoming rich with different “experiences”.

As such, all of the versions Elaina has now encountered represent different paths and possibilities available to her on her journeys. She also believes her other selves wished for the same thing, which brought them all together to pool their stories into a single book: Wandering Witch.

Elaina then wakes up in a meadow; the whole ordeal with her versions was just an elaborate dream. She hops back on her broom and continues her travels, cognizant of and excited for all of the possibilities and choices those travels will present.

In an epilogue that seems to preview a second cour of Elaina I’m not sure it earned, Elaina (in plain clothes) bumps into someone with similarly ashen hair but green eyes. They’re both holding red books, and when they bump into each other, those books get switched. This person’s name is apparently “Amnesia.” Um…alright then!

It’s a curious yet also fitting way to end a show that was never quite sure what it wanted to be: episodic or serialized; lighthearted and comedic or dark and dramatic. It started strongly and had a couple of powerful episodes, but that lack of decisiveness and focus in the stories it wished to tell ultimately dulled its impact.

Read Crow’s episode 12 review here!

Cardcaptor Sakura – 32 – Serious Kero, Comical Li

This episode starts rather than ends with a cardcapture, and the rest of it deals with the lingering effects of the card. Because it’s the Change card, and both Syaoran and Kero-chan were in contact with it when Sakura sealed it, the two end up swapping bodies. As soon as I heard Kero speaking in a normal Japanese accent while Syaoran broke out the full Osaka dialect, I knew we’d be in for a rare treat. Even Sakura can’t quite contain her delight at such a development!

Naturally, neither Kero nor Syaoran find this remotely amusing, as they’re not exactly fond of one another. However, since the effects of Change won’t wear off for 24 hours, they’re stuck in each other’s bodies. Interestingly, Kero!Syaoran heads to his home while Syaoran!Kero stays with Sakura, leading to him blushing over her for the second time. As luck would have it, Yukito stays for dinner, but when Kero leaves the safety of Sakura’s room, he’s almost accosted by a cat!

Meanwhile, Kero does his best to make dinner, but the taste of the soup and the sound of his accent immediately cause Meling to be suspicious. After all, he’s the love of her life, so she’d be the first to notice if he’s not himself—which of course he isn’t! That suspicion only intensifies the next day when he animatedly gives the class video game pointers…despite the fact Syaoran doesn’t play video games!

Like Meiling with Syaoran, there’s no fooling Tomoyo regarding what’s going on, especially when she holds up her camera and Syaoran!Kero strikes a classic Kero pose. Similarly, Kero’s clumsiness in Syaoran’s body is plain for all to see during a soccer match when he runs on all fours. Syaoran doesn’t fare any better in Kero’s body—he can’t fly, and he’s accidentally carried off by Terada-sensei, who bought a plush toy for his niece that’s a dead ringer for Kero.

Meiling also learns the truth, and joins Sakura and Kero as they track down Terada, who exchanged Syaoran for a different toy. Kero then has to play a claw crane game for the first time in order to pluck Syaoran out of the glass box. He gets fired up and eventually succeeds, and the two put their differences aside long enough to enter an embrace while Sakura re-activates Change in order to switch them back to their rightful bodies.

The episode pulls a clever fast one when Syaoran arrives back at school to find Sakura and Kero have now switched (Sakura’s Osaka ‘lect is great, though I wish Kero had gotten a good HOEEE in)! Then Syaoran realizes he’s swapped with Meiling, only to wake up in his bed; it was just a dream, and Meiling is glad Syaoran is Syaoran—as he was meant to be.

While normally standing out with its gorgeous visuals, the success of this ultra-entertaining outing primarily came down to the performances of Hisakawa Aya (Kero) and Kumai Motoko (Syaoran), doing impressions of each others’ usual performances. They pulled it off without a hitch! Now if we could just get a Sakura-Tomoyo swap (desu wa!)…or Touya-Yukito for that matter!

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 01 (First Impressions) – Five Times the Tutoring Trouble

Uesugi Fuutarou is a studious loner from a poor family trying to have his frugal lunch when an unfamiliar redhead in the uniform of another school tries to take a seat at the same spot with a 1000-yen megafeast. When he starts rudely studying in front of her, she spots the 100-scored exam he blatantly left out in the open, and she gets an idea: this guy could help her study! Instead, he storms off, telling her she’ll gain weight if she keeps over-ordering lunch. Wrong answer, pal!

Fuutarou later realizes the error of his ways, especially when his sister Raiha informs him that a lucrative tutoring job is available, and the redhead is the client. It turns out this girl, one Nakano Itsuki, is one of five quintuplets who have transferred to the school, all of them in need of tutoring. His other initial interactions include the flirty, teasing Ichika and the friendly Yotsuba. The quiet Miku and hostile Nino round out the quintet.

When Fuutarou arrives at the sisters’ opulent penthouse apartment, he’s met with resistance at nearly every turn, with the exception of the kind Yotsuba, who tries to help him wrangle her skeptical sisters in a harrowing room-by-room gauntlet. Even when they’re drawn together at the coffee table, it’s only because of the promise of cookies—no one ends up doing any actual studying during his first tutoring session.

Nino even manages to get Fuutarou out of the house by drugging his water, but Itsuki accompanies him on a taxi ride home. That’s when Fuutarou’s secret weapon imouto Raiha comes into play, using her cuteness to get Itsuki to join them for dinner. That’s when Itsuki learns that Fuutarou’s family is depending on the five-fold tutoring fee he stands to gain to pay off debts.

In light of the fact she’d be hurting more than him if she refused, Itsuki agrees to let him continue his tutoring sessions, with the caveat that she won’t accept “tutelage” from him, but will seek to improve her scores without his help. That’s good enough for Fuutarou, but he has yet to realize the gravity of the task before him: all five of the quintuplets are failing, which is why all five transferred to his less prestigious school.

The Quintessential Quintuplets (lets call it QQ) aired back in Winter 2019, but I neither watched nor reviewed, and it seems I missed out. I figured “5/5” would be the appropriate time to correct that error, but unfortunately I’m a couple days off. No matter: QQ is a ton of fun right off the bat. The premise couldn’t be simpler or more obvious and familiar, but the execution is solid.

Production values are high, the character designs and personalities are distinct, diverse, and well-balanced, and the all-star voice cast is pitch-perfect. Everyone comes off as likable despite their flaws, and the comedy works more often than not.

Sometimes you just need a good high school harem rom-com (this episode is intriguingly book-ended by marriage scenes), and there’s no harm in looking back to the recent past for a shining example, which is what we seem to have here.

Astra Lost in Space – 01 (First Impressions) – The Final Frontier: Getting Along

ALiS immediately sets the mood and grabs our attention by throwing us into the inky nothingness of space to float with poor Aries Spring (Minase Inori). She has no idea how she got there, but is understandably terrified, until she spots someone approaching her with an open hand.

Now that we know how bad things are going to get for Aries, the narrative rewinds back to the day Aries sets of for the five-day “Planet Camp.” Shortly after arriving at the spaceport, her bag is stolen, but the very fit and valorous Hoshijuma Kanata gets it back…only to be arrested by cop-bots.

No matter, Aries and Kanata eventually join their six fellow high school students (plus one little sister with an alter-ego in the form of a hand puppet) at the gate and before you know it, they’re on a 9-hour FTL journey to Planet McPa.

The meetup at the gate and the trip paint the characters in broad strokes, but the bottom line is they’re all very different personalities—pretty typical for a Lerche show. Within a couple minutes of setting foot on McPa, those clashing personalities are immediately tested by a weird floating orb, which I’ll just call a singularity. One by one, it sucks up the students who can’t outrun it.

After a very trippy visual sequence, everyone finds themselves floating in space, near a planet that doesn’t quite look like McPa. You couldn’t ask for a more nightmarish scenario, especially considering these are just kids with zero experience in space. Fortunately, there’s a spaceship in orbit, just within the range of their thruster suits.

They head to the ship, open the thankfully unlocked hatch, and climb aboard. There’s a grand sense of adventure afoot, and the music really helps to sell it. That’s when they realize there are only eight of them—poor Aries is still out there, drifting further and further away.

With insufficient fuel for a two-way trip in their suits, Kanata decides to use a tether to reach Aries, and we return to the end of the cold open, with Kanata reaching out to take Aries’ hand…only his rope is just too short. Disaster! Whatever to do? Kanata decides to go for broke and detach himself from the tether so he can grab an eternally grateful Aries.

But while they’re safe for the moment, there’s another problem: on the way back Kanata runs out of fuel, but his trajectory is five degrees off, meaning he and Aries will fly right past the ship. It’s time for the others, putting aside their initial differences to create a human chain outside of the airlock that snags Aries and Kanata and pulls them aboard.

That’s when they learn of several more problems—there are always more problems in space than in…not space, after all. They’re 5,012 light years, or more than three months, away from home, with only enough water for 20 days and only enough food for three.

With the aid of Zack Walker, he of the 200 IQ and spaceship license, he manages to calculate a route that will enable them to resupply at planets within twenty days of one another…but there’s only one possible route. Even so, the fact that there’s a remotely feasible plan bolsters everyone’s spirits.

With hope in their hearts (and probably very little food in their stomachs) Kanata is chosen as their captain, and they all take their places as the ship’s FTL activates, and they head off, through hardships, to the stars, on a very simple mission: Get Home Safe.

The last act seems to blow by extremely fast as solutions present themselves almost too easily, and while many members of the cast showed different sides, the jury is still out on others, but over all this was a strong start to a good old-fashioned space adventure. No convoluted factional conflicts or supernatural chosen ones…just nine kids probably in over their heads, but who have no choice but to grow up and do the best they can.

Koe no Katachi – (Film Review)

Koe no Katachi isn’t just the redemption story of a guy who bullied a deaf girl in elementary school, got caught, became ostracized, and came a hair’s length from offing himself. It’s more than just the tale of a deaf girl trying to do the best she can to fit into a world in which everyone else can hear. It isn’t just the story of a little sister being so worried about her big sister that she neglects her own life.

It’s all of those things, and far more. It’s really a story about all of us, because we all have flaws. We can’t always fix those flaws, either due to lack of understanding or guidance. All of us have at some point or another hurt others, or been selfish, just as others have hurt us or been selfish themselves. These are not unique qualities to have, they are the things that make us human.

Can people truly love themselves, or anyone else, completely unconditionally? Rarely. There are always conditions and compromises, and transactions. Words fly and are heard or not heard, but actions are felt, and ultimately they define us. Not one action or two, but all of the actions in one’s life, good or bad. And the sequence of those actions are crucial.

Ishida Shouya WAS a colossal dick in elementary school. He DID bully Nishimiya Shouko mercilessly until she had to transfer out. When confronted with his crimes, he DID lash out at his friends, who then turned on him one by one. But he’s trying to make things right; he’s trying to make amends. And he’s lucky; Shouko is as kind and forgiving in the present as she was in the past; almost to a fault.

And yet meeting Shouko again, seeing that she harbored no ill will, and even seemed interested in being friends with him aftrer all that happened, changes everything for Shouya. One by one, he makes friends again, through acts of kindness, forgiveness, and selflessness. Yet he learns that friendship isn’t a right attained by fulfilling qualifications or conditions, but about the simple gesture of reaching out and grasping someone else’s hand.

Of course, friendships can and almost always do get a lot more complicated. Back in elementary school, Shouya likely did what he did not just for personal amusement, but for approval and acceptance. When those things suddenly didn’t work, and in fact had the opposite effect, he was suddenly un-moored, and left with nothing but his own regret for all of the pain he caused.

But as long as there are other people in the world who will even consider sharing the same space or breathing the same air, recognizing pain and sharing it is the best way to go. We are social creatures. We may hurt each other sometimes, but we need each other to survive; to help each other live.

Whew…that’s probably enough pretentious babbling like I’m some kind of expert in psychology or sociology for one sitting! It’s just that Koe no Kotachi, as I said, is far more than the sum of its parts, and even those parts are phenomenal in their construction and presentation, be it its fully-realized and complex characters, KyoAni’s seemingly more obsessive-than-usual attention to human and environmental detail, marvelous dialogue, voice acting, music, etc.

Koe no Kotachi is BIG, and it’s often messy, much like life. There are moments of despair and disgust, but also moments of grace and astonishing beauty. Scenes filled with hate and loathing mixed with scenes of love, understanding, and camaraderie.

It’s immensely though-provoking and impeccably performed. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry (probably more than you’ll laugh) but mostly it will tear your heart to pieces and then meticulously reconstruct it, bigger and better than ever. Mostly it’s just really really good. I highly recommend it!

Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 03

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R to L: Snow White, Eren Yeager, Shion

The Japanese government mandates that at least one episode of romantic comedies must be a cultural festival episode, but Kiss Him Not Me didn’t treat it like legal compliance; it put quite a bit of effort and its own wonderful brand of energy into it, making for twenty minutes of television that felt much longer, but had me wishing by the end it was longer still. All the positive aspects I mentioned in the first two eps apply here, and then some.

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This KHNM took its real life otome game theme to its natural next step: growing mutual resentment among the boys. The four of them are only together because they like Kae. Kae, a fujoshi, its perfectly content to keep things this way, but they aren’t. They want to court Kae properly, which means they need alone time with her (the last thing she wants).

It’s a great dynamic, and I’m glad it comes to a head so quickly in the series, and so organically, as a result of the give-and-take of the otome scenario. Kae formed a coalition so her class would vote for a cosplay cafe, and she gets to dress up all her boys the way she sees fit. But in exchange, she has to tacitly accept it when they set up time slots for alone time with her during the festival.

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To the show’s credit, despite her amazing physical transformation, Kae remains steadfastly Kae, even if she often manages to hide her baser instincts from the lads. She worries she won’t do well alone with guys, and then she goes and doesn’t do well alone with the guys. It’s the English title in a nutshell: She wants them to Kiss (or do other romantic things with) Him, not her.

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It doesn’t help that the guys are a little overeager. Nana backs her into a wall and they come close to a kiss, Mu achieves an indirect kiss through chopsticks; Iga takes her hand in his, then puts it on his knee; and Shi leaps into her arms in the haunted house, resulting in a fall and his face in her bosom.

It’s all just too much for Kae, who is completely un-inoculated against such romantic gestures. She rushes into the arms of her friend Akane, lamenting how impossible it all is. A-chan was initially amused that Kae had four dates with four hotties, but she’s quick to drop the ribbing and offer support when it turns out badly.

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But while A-chan is grabbing Kae a drink, Kae is accosted by three less-than-savory classmates, who make her guys’ aggressiveness seem coy by comparison. These guys aren’t even trying to be subtle: this girl’s hot and they’re going to get as much out of her as they can.

Then she gives one of them an uppercut, which both he and she thought was overreacting…but how the hell else is a girl supposed to act when there are hands all over her and a crotch in her face?

They chase her down the hall, but she’s rescued by Iga and Nana in the nick of time. Soon Mu and Shi are also there and the four locked in combat with the punks. Kae stops gawking and spluttering and yells, at the top of her lungs, “KNOCK IT OFF!” 

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Kae’s four guys hear her, and realize that and how they erred, and apologize, and all agree to take things slower so as not to overwhelm her again. Thus we return to the status quo, as expected, but it was a fun ride. The show didn’t want us to forget not just that these four guys really like Kae, and not just in a buddy-buddy way, but that when it comes down to it, they also don’t hate each other’s company.

When the time comes for the bonfire dance, the four agree to drop the romantic pursuits for the day and give Kae a little something for tolerating their forwardness (and the brawl, for which there was somehow no punishment). That something turns out to be another dream come true not just for fujoshi Kae, but her fujoshi BFF Akane: the four pair off and dance with each other.

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Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 02

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After just two weeks, Kiss Him Not Me is shaping up to be my top Fall comedy (Euphonium is my top drama), as it manages to pack so much fun in its episodes. This week efficiently covers the sports underdog and study group scenarios with vigorous aplomb and a unique, contagiously feisty energy.

The members of Kae’s ‘he-rem’ are already very well-defined: Igarashi (Iga) is the friendly athlete; Mutsumi (Mu) is the kind, mature senpai; Shinomiya (Shi) is the smitten kohai; and Nanashima (Nana) is, well, so I liken him to the tsundere of the gang.

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I say this because of the four, Nana is least amenable to carrying around otaku tokens she gave them on their group date, and when she tries to translate her newfound ease of motion with a soccer gig, he’s the most skeptical. Mind you, he’s not far off base: As self-described “indoor person”, Kae soon finds out lighter isn’t stronger.

I’d also point out that for someone typically uncomfortable with anime, Nana picks up on Kae’s Captain Tsubasa reference about being friends with the ball, even getting combative about her arrogance (Tsubasa practiced 24/7). But when Nana hears the same girls who recruited Kae shitting on her disappointing showing in practice, he can’t help but rebuke them and help coach Kae up, a dedication that surprises the others.

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Everything is resolved with a big come-from-behind draw, (not win, mind you) when Kae decides to use her nigh-impossibly backwards kick to score the equalizer in extra time (managing not to hit herself in the face, showing improvement.)

While not a true victory, it demonstrated Kae’s dedication to trying hard at something totally new, as well as Nana’s willingness to prove Kae’s haters wrong and instill some soccer knowledge in a girl who suddenly makes his heart skip.

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With sports out of the way, the episode effortlessly moves on to exams. If Kae fails her next round, she’ll have to take summer classes, grenading her summer plans, all involving otaku events such as formally saying goodbye to her beloved Shion, who is as far as she’s concerned as real a person as any of the boys.

Studying is not Nana’s strength, and because first-year Shi studies at second-year level, the two are almost constantly at each other’s throats, getting the whole study group kicked out of all public venues. This leads Mu to suggest they all study at Kae’s house, requiring Kae to do a super-quick cleaning session (referring to her room as the “Sea of Rot”, perhaps referencing Nausicaa). 

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The otaku gags fly freely, from Kae’s Shion pillow and sheets and store cut-out, to the pristine shrine she keeps in her room. Kae’s mom embarrasses her by using a makeup gun, and Kae’s brother (who resembles the other main lead in Kae’s anime) tries to scare off the lads, but to no avail.

Even if they’re not to-a-man comfortable with her passion (like Mu), they are willing to keep open minds, and are rewarded by having a good time. Mu confidently mans the rudder of this stormy sea of otakuness, asking if everyone can pray at Shion shrine with her, pointedly asking Kae’s bro to beat it, and insisting everyone help Kae carefully pick up the BL stash that means so much to her. The result is, the study group works, and Kae avoids extra classes.

Her new challenge: Summer Vacation, already packed with otaku events, just got a lot more full, as her gang will surely want to supplement that stuff with their own preferred Summer activities, from going to the pool to exploring castles. Kiss Him Not Me offers an embarrassment of riches, and Kobayashi Yuu continues to do superb work voicing the multifaceted Kae.

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Kiznaiver – 07

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While Ruru wasn’t literally killed by Maki (obviously), her mother is glad Maki feels guilty for abandoning her as a friend, making her write the final chapter by herself. Half the house is a shrine to Ruru, so the tension runs high in the mother’s presence. They may have known Ruru was going to live a short life due to her chronic illness, but that doesn’t make the pain any less difficult to bear.

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This week we also learn how Maki and Ruru —two loners—met for the first time and became more dear to one another than anyone else. They filled in each other’s manga weaknesses (Ruru’s writing, Maki’s art), and rose quickly as their audience soared.

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But it seems Maki was never a fan of Ruru “joking” about jumping off high ledges, faking a seizure, or getting more romantic with her. Though the last one, Maki knew, wasn’t a joke, nor was she not interested.

Ultimately, it seems more like Maki cut herself off from Ruru in order to be spared the even greater pain she’s endure if Ruru died when they were lovers. This is a very tense but lovely scene because it’s so intimately shot, but also interspersed with art from their manga depicting the same actions.

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The other Kiznaivers don’t know most of this…because Maki hasn’t told them, but also because they haven’t come out and asked. They come up with a plan to become her friend at all costs, not leaving her alone until she realizes there’s no point in resisting any longer; it’s six-against-one, after all.

It’s just really nice to see how much these six have gelled as a group, and how they basically became friends through osmosis, without even realizing it. Chidori in particular notices how Kacchon is changing, but for the better, and how he doesn’t simply allow Tenga to walk all over him, but rather likes having him around.

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As blue and lost as Maki is right now, the six still want her around too, especially Yuta, who tries to use the manga to learn more about what happened. The final chapter is one that Maki never read, and she assumes Ruru “cursed” her to love her and no one else forever and ever.

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That turns out to not be the case, as Ruru, treating the final chapter she wrote alone as a kind of indirect letter to Maki, telling her if remembering her ever gets too painful, it’s okay to forget, because she loved her smile and wouldn’t want her to stop using it.

Yuta manages to get Maki to come out for fireworks, but she’d rather watch everyone swim in the ocean instead. To everyone’s shock, Yuta doesn’t hesitate in running as fast as he can into the water and splashing around like a goon.

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Once Maki has read and understood Ruru’s wish for her, the smile returns to her face, the first smile we’ve seen that wasn’t sinister or fake. And the Kiznaivers feels something that isn’t pain – a weight being lifted from Maki’s heart. She can’t be friends with any of them, she says—because they’re already far closer than friends or lovers.

I enjoyed the resolution to Maki’s impasse with the other Kiznaivers. It felt earned and realistic that these people who so badly want to be her friends would eventually pull her out of the darkness and into clarity, closure, relief, and understanding. It’s also neat how the story of these last couple episodes serves as a real-life extra chapter to the manga Maki and Ruru made together.

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Kiznaiver – 06

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In the OP, which I consider the most excellent of the season, the Chidori is the final of the seven Kiznaivers to run across the screen before the title splash, giving her a certain prominence. But in both of the OP’s character “roll calls”, the one in the middle is Honoka Maki, and in the second one, there’s a dramatic visual stab (and the presentation of the Trigger logo) when she appears.

This, and some of the mysteries surrounding Maki and the someone she says she “killed”, has had me thinking the whole time that the most significant character story to date would eventually come from her, not Chidori. Another piece of the puzzle falls into place in a powerful flashback where Maki’s friend (and apparent manga partner) Ruri nearly leaps to her death before being pulled back by Maki.

Ruri laughs uncontrollably, doubtless because of the profundity of what had just transpired—Maki may call her stupid, but still saved her when it mattered. But Maki is just stunned. Why did Ruri do that? What if she tries it again when she’s not there?

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Maki is toeing a similar line in the present: she may act all aloof, but she still comes to Kiznaiver get-togethers when invited, even if she leaves early without partaking in somen. Nico tries to follow and be friendly with her, but when she calls herself stupid, Maki can’t help but be reminded of Ruri saying the same thing, gets upset, and runs off. But now that she and the other six Kiznaivers’ hearts are connected, everyone feels her pain, and they can’t just forget it.

While she’s still a far more sterile personality, Noriko also seems a bit lonely as the mayor warns her of increasing difficulties in keeping the experiment under wraps. Her time is running out—perhaps in more ways than one, judging from her in-car self-injection—but she’s committed to delivering results. And hey, it’s not as if she hasn’t made real progress with the Kiznaivers.

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Yuta, still trying to maintain his normal life with his ladies, happens to be shown the same manga Maki created, made immensely popular when readers learned she and Ruri were middle schoolers. I like how Yuta is freaked out by the huge eyes, unimpressed by the hodgepodge of themes, but at the same time feels this is a window into Maki that, along with their new connected hearts, can help him get somewhere with her, in terms of helping to lift some of that pain and gloominess.

Maki, for her part, stubbornly rejects any kind of help, even when Yuta offers it unsolicited when her former editor asks her to sign off on a documentary of “Charles Macking”, her nom de plume.

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The editors ignore her refusal to permit such a project and arrive at school to film her. When the cameras are stuffed in her face and everyone hears she’s Charles de Macking-sensei, she starts to lose it right quick. Fortunately, the other six Kiznaivers are given a mission she’s not aware of to “save her”, and they do—at least temporarily, from the camera crew.

It’s great teamwork, but it does nothing to solve the underlying pain Maki feels. Indeed, she seems to be repulsed by any attempt to help her, perhaps because she feels responsible for Ruri’s death, and thus feels she’s no longer worthy of friends, happiness, or pity.

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Maki’s covered it up with her antisocial personality up to this point, but now her comrades know her game, and they aren’t about to accept her continued self-punishment. But rather than pester her more—she still needs to recover form the shock of that camera confrontation—they decide to try to learn more about Ruri, the person whose death caused Maki to fall into this state whom we know precious litle about, besides the fact she was a little bit of a daredevil.

As for Kacchon, he branches off from the others momentarily to express his disappointment with Nori-chan, most likely for giving them a mission involving Maki without Maki’s knowledge; a mission that saved her in the immediate but if anything made her emotional state worse. Noriko, for her part, is as surprised by Kacchon’s words as he is for saying them. She’s being pressed from both sides. I wonder what will happen, and if and how she’ll change, as conditions grow more desperate.

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Kiznaiver – 05

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Humans, particularly while young and coming into their own, need bonds, if for no other reason than to define their place in the world, and make them aware they’re not the only person who matters. Adolescence by and large, makes kids extremely arrogant, and that arrogance is manifested seven different ways among the Kiznaivers.

Let’s go ahead and add Sonozaki to the mix as an eighth teenager who internalizes the universe. The latest trial the actual adults have for the adults-in-training (which include Sonozaki) throws her for a loop. She isn’t at the mountain inn retreat out of duty, she’s there because Kacchon invited her.

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With another test looming in the background, the retreat still begins with a pleasant casualness and subtle excitement of the eight kids simulating a household for the first time. Divi-ing up the chores, getting to know  more about each other bit by bit; Tenga’s scheme to help the “emotionally heavy” Chidori; Maki and Yuta’s intriguing dance; Nico’s sidelong glances…the bonds are being enriched without the aid of shared mortal danger. It’s all very absorbing.

In fact, the first shared zap of physical pain doesn’t come until Sonozaki smacks Kacchon in the cheek while the two are keeping each other company alone in the dark. She’s not reubking him, just killing a mosquito, but Chidori sees what she wants to see (already suspecting Sonozaki is an interloper) and races off into the night in tears.

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I knew informal assigning of individual original deadly sins to the Kiznaivers was a risky (and not entirely necessary move), but it’s interesting to see the very complex emotions on display between Maki (AKA “firewood”) and Yuta as they share a scene in the kitchen.

Yuta is surprised Maki makes good omelette rice for him, as if feeling sorry that he’s hungry (his dietary restrictions kept him from having dinner with the others). He sparks a conversation about how he got fat, then invites her to share something about herself.

Maki, who I labeled as “pride”, seems reluctant, committed, even, to avoiding showing her true self to anyone. Yuta has seen reason to doubt her stuck-up facade (like the fact she made him dinner), and takes the bait when she asks him if he likes her chest.

“Chest”, though, is only her metaphor for the thing no one normally sees, and if it was seen, could change one’s feelings about the person completely. Maki is haunted and tormented by a ghost from the past in her private moments. That’s what she’s still trying to hide, but now that she’s a Kiznaiver, that may no longer be feasible.

It’s not the first think Maki and Yuta say to each other that means more than one thing. Maki takes things in a more explicitly amorous direction, saying things like “not caring if she breaks”, using the term from the ghost’s voice. Yuta thinks she’s only talking about masochism and sex, but after she jumps him (and inadvertently makes him admit he’s still a virgin), their liaison is interrupted by Yamada, their teacher.

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Yamada and Urushibara arrive (not informing the Kiznaivers that they brought Kacchon’s Kizuna’d bullies with them) and another high-stress test begins: a purported Test of Bravery so common to these kinds of inn/camping retreat episodes. One bully bashes in the room with a chainsaw, the other weild an axe and corners Chidori in a cabin.

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Fueled by fear and adrenaline, the six Kizzys other than Chidori rush out into the night and find their own graves, but when Nico hits a Gomorin and it goes down easily, they calm down a little, confident they can do this.

I loved Hisomu’s contrasting  looks throughout this ordeal; delighted rather than terrified by the sight of the graves and wielding a bucket and ladle instead of weapons. Maki’s outrage at Yuta talking big while cowering behind her was also a nice touch. This couple’s been through a lot tonight.

But the central figures of this test, not surprisingly, are Chidori and Kacchon. When Bully #1 is zapped by Nico’s blow, Bully #2 (#1’s childhood friend) is unmasked as well before Chidori, and collapses in a pile of woe-is-me, why-must-I-be-the-only-one-suffering tirade that hits very close to home for Chidori.

Hearing her own problems expressed almost verbatim from another has an immensely powerful effect. Chidori takes after the bully and lays it all bare: if the bully wants to die, he’d better give Kacchon his money back first.

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For the first time, Kacchon realizes the emotional pain of the all the bullying he endured expanded to Chidori. He only now knows the pain he endured and pretended didn’t exist at all was also hurting her because now their emotional pain is being shared as well. Not just between these two, but all seven Kizzys.

Now that he knows the error of his selfish ways, when Kacchon finds Chidori (in the middle of her tirade when she brings up how Sonozaki is also adding to her pain with her interloping), he demands the money back. He takes the stand Chidori always wanted him to take on his own. Now Kacchon gets her a little more.

What’s interesting is how connected Chidori and Kacchon truly have been for so long, not to mention Maki and Yuta (through their secrets); the Kizuna System is merely a catalyst to help them break through their inner shells and come to terms with the fact that everyone has their problems, everyone suffers, and knowing of each others’ pain and sharing in it, and being able to move past it (or make use of it) is a crucial element of life.

Those worried about a Tenga-Chidori thing can probably breathe easy for now, if Kacchon and Chidori’s closing scene together is any indication. And now it’s clear getting through the summer is another metaphor; for getting through adolescence.

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Kiznaiver – 04

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With the seven assembled, things slow down quite a bit as they get to know each other a little better, either voluntarily (Nico) or reluctantly (Honoka). And everyone is a little uncomfortable around Hisomu, mostly because the ways he senses the world and derives pleasure are so different from theirs. But…are they, really?

When the group breaks off (Kacchon, Chidori, and Tenga were already home), Yuta and Honoka have an exchange very common for them, with outwardly polite compliments by the former parried by icy insults by the latter. Yuta’s vanity and Honoka’s unpleasantness seem to feed of one another. Honoka can like it or not, she is bonding.

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As for Kacchon, after the girl in his dream turns her head and reveals herself as a younger Sonozaki, he becomes way more fixated on her. This irks Chidori, but only because she clearly still has present-tense feelings for Kacchon and is jealous.

Jealousy is envy, which made me wonder: for all of Sonozaki’s talk of new deadly sins, do these seven still represent the old ones? Here’s as close as I got:

Honoka: pride
Nico: covetousness
Hisomu: lust
Tenga: anger
Yuta: gluttony
Chidori: envy
Agata: sloth

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Anyway, when Sonozaki appears to inform the seven they’ll be going on a summer ‘training’ camp and to eat a giant plate of fried rice to deepen their bonds, Kocchan goes after her, asks that they exchange emails (as the seven did earlier) and invites her to join them.

As someone getting used to (knowingly) sharing bonds of friendship with others, a part of him (perhaps fueled by his dream) may wonder if Sonozaki’s distance is intentional or even necessary, or if a part of her would like to connect. That connecting with others line has haunted Kocchan and drives him to include Sonozaki in their camp getaway.

Sonozaki also reveals to the group that she and all the Gomorins around town are members of the Kizuna Committee, a group that “for various reasons” is growing smaller but hasn’t “given up” on its core mission of cracking the code for world peace.

It’s not a ton of useful info, but it does indicate she’s not alone in this operation, only one link in the chain, and that she is one of the true believers who will stick around to the end.

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As for accepting Kacchon’s invitation (and his gentlemanly offer to carry her bag), Sonozaki seems to be proving his theory (about her not necessarily minding connecting with someone, even him) right. Honoka is dubious as always, however, and wonders if there’s a connection between Hisomu’s sudden late addition to the group and her increased presence.

Then there’s Chidori, who doesn’t like Kacchon’s interactions with Sonozaki one bit, no ma’am she does not. Well, she has no one to blame but herself for backtracking on her confession by strongly insisting (to someone she knows will usually take what she says at face value) her love for him was in the past.

Then again, maybe it took Kacchon’s heightened ‘flirtation’ with Sonozaki for her to realize that. One thing is clear: whatever pain is being derived by her jealousy for that situation isn’t being shared among the other six.

Tenga doesn’t have to be connected to read what’s written clearly all over Chidori in thick black marker, and his offer to help her (along with her delayed acceptance of that offer) suggest one more mini-alliance among many that have sprouted up in the septet.

Some decent character moments, but the lack of action and slowed pace was conspicuous this week. The school counselor and teacher seeming to recruit Agata’s former bullies is only touched upon without much explanation, so I’ll reserve judgement on that until we learn how they’ll be used. If one one thought the bullies were gone, but like Yuta’s girlfriends, it would seem they still have a role to play.

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