O Maidens in Your Savage Season – 02 – Holey War

After Kazusa reads about masturbation at the bookstore (no doubt learning it’s natural and healthy and thus way less of a big deal than either she or Izumi are making it out to be, even if it was super-embarrassing) she finds Niina in the clutches of some mouth-breather, and gets a text asking her to follow, along with other instructions.

When Kazusa joins them at the cafe, Niina is acting like “a different person”, talking about having to “take on three guys at once” later, then asking the dude if he’d hook up with her “super slutty friend” instead. That’s when Kazusa declares, loudly and proudly, that her crotch is really itchy. The guy flees.

Turns out it was all according to a script Niina’s friend at a theater troupe gave her to use as a defense against the many guys of all types who have projected their fantasies on her due to her ethereal, girlish good looks, and in doing so push past normal social boundaries. It’s a sad but very accurate commentary on the need to know how to deal with such men; many of whom won’t take rejection well.

Because of her looks, Niina grew up a little faster than the other girls. As for Kazusa, she really only grew up when she walked in on Izumi, who her clueless dad invites over for pizza. Izumi and Kazusa have a mature and productive chat about it briefly tries to make Kazusa forget by grabbing her head and shaking it (the childhood friend rambunctiousness coming out at the worst time) but ultimately would prefer if she just forgot it ever happened.

Later that night, in the shower, Kasuza puts herself in Izumi’s shoes, and of all the things she’d want to cover if he walked in on her, she determines she’d probably most want to hide her face, as if like an ostrich with its head in the ground, it wouldn’t be happening if she couldn’t see it.

At lit club, Rika instructs each member to come up with ten more “literary” words to use in place of the inartful English word “sex”, since it’s an otherwise unavoidable word with the works they’re reading. Then the writer among them gets a call from a potential editor, telling her she’s not quite there yet, but coming by his place will “probably help her chances.”

Then Rika gets “bothered by the chidings of lascivious beasts,” causing her to hurt her crotchal area on the vault; one of the girls doesn’t laugh and wonders out loud if she just “broke her hymen”; Rika later admits to herself she “doesn’t know how to check”.

It’s just and overall unpleasant-as-hell experience, but as she’s washing her face in the sink, Amagi comes by and calls her cute again, even comparing her to a model. There’s no reason to think the kid is messing with her, but Amagi isn’t prepared for the praise, and flees in a cloud of dust.

Then, the inevitable: the girl who boasted to her friend she’d take Izumi’s virginity makes her move. Kazusa is instinctively ready to riot, even tossing out the lame excuse of “having to keep an eye on him while his mother is busy with work!” She ends up getting to watch the meeting thanks to Niina paying her back for “having an STD for her” the other day.

Izumi ends up turning Asada down, but when she learns he doesn’t like anyone in particular, gets him to agree to “think about it,” as she’ll wait for him “forever.”

After Asada leaves, Izumi spots Niina snooping and recording, but Kasuza comes between them and tells the truth: Yes, they were snooping, but he didn’t give the girl a straight “no.” Then she asks if he just wants to “do it” with girls, and Izumi doesn’t understand, she blurts out a variant of one of the club’s euphemisms: “Ess Eee Ecks!” before running off.

The next day, with the whiteboard full of vulgar words and phrases, the principal and vice principal, both men, declare that absent a faculty advisor to keep them in line, the lit club will be dissolved. Kasuza starts weeping form the news; she doesn’t know what she’ll do if there’s no lit club (answer: they can always meet up somewhere after school and in the summer).

But Niina knows better. She knows Kasuza’s tears that just won’t stop aren’t just about the threat of the club dissolving. She gets Kasuza to admit that a “storm is raging in her heart”, and that if she absolutely had to “do it” with someone, it would be Izumi, which indicates she likes him. This may be something we’ve known for a while now, but only then, on the riverbank, does she finally have the official epiphany. She’s in luuuuuuve.

Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro – 10 – Rumomoshpringa

This week, Momo asks a favor of Chio and Manana: to “assist” her in buying and consuming sweets. They’re a little confused at first, until they invite her to partake in their years-long tradition of sucking the nectar from flowers on their route. Turns out Momo is really into sweets, and gets really enthusiastic and hyper after eating them.

Chio and Manana decide not only to help Momo, but end up joining in the sugary bliss. I’ll point out that I’ve watched shows in which Momo’s behavior wouldn’t be so unusual (Shokugeki no Souma and Dagashi Kashi come to mind), so it’s refreshing to have someone yelling about how “Hokkaido is in her mouth” be regarded as the weirdo they are.

After all that sugar intake, Chio spots the wee ass-finger-poker and decides to follow her. The girl, named Chiharu, leads her right to Andou, who turns out to be her big brother. Chiharu is pissed that a girl from Samejima Academy made him give up the biker gang life, but she’s mistaken about a great many details.

Do Andou and Chio have…something between each other? Sure, but it’s not as if she’s a succubus who has Chiharu’s once-cool, now-lame brother in her thrall. And yet, when he tries to “scare” her into punching him the way she did before by copping a feel, both of them are embarrassed more than anything else.

Enter Manana, whom Chio informed the poking girl was in her sights, and has come for some revenge. She punches Andou out cold simply because he’s in the way of that revenge, but an unconscious Andou still manages to reflexively rise up and protect his little sister, who now pretty much believes Chio when she says she hasn’t made Andou her sex slave.

The final segment is presented without dialogue in a nice change of pace, and chronicles Andou’s attempts to befriend a cat. It highlights both Andou’s basic decency and humanity, as well as his continued interest in Chio.

Owari no Seraph 2 – 06

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Unlike the foppish Lucal, Crowley isn’t above treating the humans as a legitimate threat, or at least a nuisance more pressing than a smattering of ants at his feet. Testing the power of the demon gear of a dead soldier on his lieutenant Chess, then cutting himself and noting it isn’t healing; he’s carefully assessing the advancing enemy before acting.

But this isn’t out of respect for a worthy adversary. In fact, judging from their casual attitude and banter, Crowley and his ladies are just as certain in the supremacy of vampires. Rather, Crowley suspects the humans are getting help from a high-ranking vampire traitor, and he has a pretty good idea that it’s either Ferid or Krul.

What would surprise Crowly is if his treacherous comrades were the ones having their strings pulled by a lowly human. Such a human might even hold his interest for a measurable amount of time, insomuch as a cool-looking bug would for you or me.

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As Crowley watches, waits, and thinks, Shinoa and Narumi’s squads stand by awaiting the other squads at a rendezvous point. The focus of last week’s battle, here they’re only around for a bit, to show Guren the teams have gelled nicely and that he was right to put Yuu under Narumi’s charge; the two are a lot alike and both enjoy the occasional joke.

But it’s easy to joke around a bit when you’ve come off your last battle unscathed. And the result of a squad that didn’t fare to well is the focus of this week, which could just as easily be titled The Passion of Aihara Aiko. Aihara’s squad of fifteen completed their mission objectives, but lost eight in the process, and Aihara is extremely upset and guilty about it, and her mask of stoicism quickly falls.

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Guren can’t wait for the other squads, so he takes Shinoa’s and Narumi’s and his own and head to city hall to rescue the hostages, leaving Aihara and her men to stay behind in case other squads arrive. Another decimated squad joins them, but so do a couple of Vampire Chinooks. Aihara takes one out with her bow, but the second drops its troops, led by Lacus, Rene…and Mika.

When the vampires capture all of Aihara’s men, she orders them to bite down on their suicide pills. Just like that, her unit is gone, and there’s only her and Mika, who pulls the pill out of her mouth before she can join her comrades. He wants one thing: info on Yuu. And he’s willing to spare Aihara to get it.

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As Lacus and Rene survey the area Aihara and Mika’s exchange is masterful. She’s initially defiant and tells him to go ahead and kill her, but she then gets the feeling there’s something different about this particular vampire while Mika knows she’s met Yuu.

The two then do a little bit of play-acting, with Aihara agreeing to “inform” on the other humans if he spares her life. In this way, she tells only Mika that Yuu is headed to city hall, but sends Lacus and Rene in the wrong direction, which is what both she and Mika want, for different reasons.

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Mika’s fine with leaving Aihara alone at that point, but she doesn’t want him to leave her alone; she wants him to kill her, because her squad, her family, is all gone, and she thinks it’s because of her. She has nothing left to live for. Mika refuses to do it, but she forces the issue by attacking him. She thanks him with her dying breath as she falls to the ground. Lacus and Rene shrug and head off.

Honestly I didn’t remember much about Aihara Aiko until this week, but I will surely remember her now, in this, the tensest and most affecting episode of Seraph 2. Her palpable despair, her sense of loss, her fleeting ‘dance’ with Mika, and the increasing unlikelihood she would come out of all this alive; all of it combined to form a sad but brilliant self-contained tragedy that underlines the challenges humanity faces in directly taking the vampires on.

It also underscored Mika’s single-mindedness. No Crowley- or Hiiragi-type big-picture stuff here: Mika wants to live happily ever after with his family Yuu safe in his arms. And woe betide any human or vampire who stands in the way of that goal.

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Gakkou Gurashi! – 07

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Mii-kun’s friend Kei was fond of the author/poet/essayist Kamo no Chomei (1153-1216), and his serene masterpiece An Account of My Hut (Hojoki):

The flow of the river is ceaseless, yet the water is never the same.

The girls of the School Life Club travel that river; the river of life. Even holed up in that room at the mall, Mii-kun was like a leaf drifting atop the surface river; living but nothing else. Now she has encountered other leaves on the river; now joined in a clump, they travel along the flow together. Sometimes the currents are arduous, but they’re stronger together, both in body and mind.

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The foam that floats on stagnant pools, now vanishing, now forming, are not long in their duration. So, too, it is with man and his dwellings in the world. They are the blink of an eye.

How true is that statement in the world of our club: one moment life in their world is normal, the next, everything has changed. A great number of bubbles in that foam popped that day, and continue to pop, but the girls’journey continues.

Those who are powerful are filled with greed; and those who have no protectors are despised.

The “powerful” of Gakkou Gurashi are the zombies, who are the embodiment of greed (they want only flesh…no doubt including brains). They prey on those who have no protectors. Rii-san, Kurumi, and Mii-kun protect each other, as well as Yuki and Taroumaru.

Possessions bring many worries; in poverty there is sorrow.

You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, eh? The girls’ possessions are few, but those they retain—from Rii-san’s hot plate; Kurumi’s shovel; Mii-kun’s Discman; Yuki’s hat; to the materials for letter-writing and distributing to a mysterious key that belonged to Megu-nee—as well as the friendships they share, bring them worry every day. Their greatest poverty is being the only living humans they know about, even as they assure themselves there are others out there.

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He who asks another’s help becomes his slave; he who nurtures others is fettered by affection. He who does not, appears deranged.

Mii-kun is only a “slave” as a result of being saved insofar as she has agreed to nurture Yuki’s illusions along with Rii-san and Kurumi. Rii-san, the mom of the group, is deservedly admired and loved by the others.

Wherever one may live, whatever work one may do, is it possible even for a moment to find a haven for the body or peace for the mind?

The club lives in the school, which is both a haven and a prison. They must ration food to keep their bodies alive, and they must kepe Yuki lucid and happy so that her smile can keep their minds at peace. Yet Mii-kun remarks this can’t go on forever; they ask too much of Yuki.

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It is a bare ten feet square and less than seven feet high. … I laid a foundation and roughly thatched a roof. … I have added a lean-to on the south and a porch of bamboo. Along the west wall I built a shelf for holy water and installed an image of the Buddha. The light of the setting sun shines between its eyebrows. … On the wall that faces the north I have built a little shelf on which I keep three or four black leather baskets that contain books of poetry and music and extracts from the sacred writings. Beside them stand a folding koto and lute.

The school by any other description; a shelter of modest dimensions and modest appointments, but full of thought and love and care. Solar panels, desk barricades, designated sleeping and eating facilities…

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Outside the hut is a fenced garden to the north and a rock pool to the south with a bamboo pipe draining water. The woods are close, providing plenty of brush-wood, and only to the west is a clearing beyond vines and overgrown valleys.

The garden where the club grows vegetables to supplement their packaged rations is on the roof of the school. The “woods” are the devastated, potentially lethal city beyond the school’s walls; the “clearing” is the schoolyard where the zombies roam much like wild animals; predators to be respected and avoided, but ultimately to coexist with. They too flow within the river, only they lurk below it, having drowned.

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Knowing myself and the world, I have no ambitions and do not mix in the world. I seek only tranquility; I rejoice in the absence of grief.

The club members could easily lapse into a state of hermitry, never venturing too far form the school or too long in the woods, where they know they could meet their death. Yet Rii-san, Kurumi, and Mii-kun all purport to have ambitions vis-a-vis the world. Things won’t be like this forever. It is a dream they will one day wake up from. That hope keeps them going.

Meanwhile, Yuki rejoices in the absence of grief; inadvertantly refusing to fully acknowledge the real world. She is the ideal of tranquility and peace of mind no undeluded person in this world will ever hope to achieve. There’s a close call when Yuki thinks about who was in the car after rescuing Mii-kun, but a few white lies and she finds Megu-nee right where she should be.

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The dew may fall and the flower remain, of the flower may wither before the dew is gone.

The girls, Yuki excluded, face their mortality every day, see places and things that may, and in all likelihood will, outlast them. The choice they face is whether to despair at their seemingly inevitable end, or to embrace the relative beauty and peace of their present. situation.

The fact that Hojoki, words written by Chomei eight hundred years ago, is a testament to the fundamental truth of the ceaseless river upon which we only drift a short while. But hopefully Rii-san, Kurumi, Mii-kun and Yuki will see many more evenings together.

The question is, will Yuki ever emerge from the hut of tranquility her mind created, where she currently resides?

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Gakkou Gurashi! – 06

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Miki wakes up in school to find Yuki standing over her, and then introduces her to “Megu-nee”, someone Miki can’t see, handing the invisible person a bottle of water that just falls to the ground. Miki wonders if her horrible experience at the mall was all a dream, but once Yuki shows her the music room—bright and clean to Yuki’s eyes but trashed and blood-stained to Miki—she realizes it was no dream.

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Miki’s arrival means a disruption of the School Life Club’s routine, and also a potential disruption of Yuki’s presently stable condition. After being with Yuki for a while, she understandably has lots of questions for Rii-san and Kurumi, and she’s not entirely okay with “playing along” with Yuki’s illusions. That’s when Rii-san breaks out her threatening face, but it’s not played for comedy.

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To Rii-san, Miki doesn’t fully understand the situation yet, or know Yuki well enough, to decide that it’s time for Yuki to “wake up.” Indeed, without access to profesional help or drugs, the way things are with Yuki are probably for the best (as long as she doesn’t descend too deep into fantasy). It’s not ideal, but it’s the best they can do.

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More than that, though, to Rii-san and Kurumi, Yuki is more than just the crazy girl who sees things (like their dead teacher Megu-nee) that they have to keep an eye on and take care of. She also represents their beacon of hope, something crucial in their particular situiation.

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Rii-san, Kurumi, and Miki can’t escape from the despair of their daily lives the way Yuki can without trying. And because Yuki is convinced the school is just fine and they’re in a club, she and she alone comes up with ways to break up the monotony of survival, like the mini sports fest this week, or the trip to the mall last week that led to the discovery of Miki and Taroumaru.

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When she first arrived, Miki probably figured a good way to repay the girl who saved her was to help her “get better” from her illness, rather than accept and perpetuate her illusions. But now she realizes the three people who aren’t seeing things need Yuki there, seeing the people and places they can’t, reminding them of the world that was, and maybe one day will be again.

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Understanding this, and that again, this situation is not ideal (ideally, Yuki would get professional help), but it’s better than simply living day-to-day not dying and fearing death. So she joins the School Life Club, and to her surprise, Rii-san welcomes her with an open hand, which may just be the first time Miki has embraced a girl’s hand since her friend Kei pulled away from her to go search for help.

Kei may be gone, but Miki is no longer alone. And she’s very glad about that.

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