Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation – 20 – Odd Man Out

Back when the explosion that shatters the Greyrat family occurred, Lilia has the foresight to grab Aisha and hold her tight for the expanding blast. She ends up teleported into the water, but manages to swim to the surface before she and her daughter drown. She makes her way on foot to Shirone, only for Prince Pax to capture and imprison them once he learns Lilia knows Roxy.

While Rudeus intends for the Ruijerd figurines he’s crafted to improve the Superd’s reputation, this week they actually come in handy rescuing him from Pax’s clutches. Pax’s older brother Prince Zanoba, you see, happens to be a figurine otaku the likes of which Rudy knows well from his old life. Wisely Rudy only owns up to being the artist once he realizes Zanoba wants to praise him and become his apprentice.

Zanoba doesn’t care about Roxy like his perverted brother does, just the figurine of her, which we learn has a detachable clothes. As such, he cares nothing for Pax’s plots, and so is immediately an ally to Rudy by default. Meanwhile, we see Ruijerd, Eris, and Aisha’s side of things as they work with Shirone royal guards to free their families, whom Pax has hostage to secure their loyalty.

That shortsighted strategy backfires as expected, first when Rudy tells Zanoba to lower the barrier and Zanoba grabs Pax out of bed by the head and presents him to Rudy, revealing Zanoba is a “Blessed Child” with superhuman strength. Ginger is Pax’s last line of defense, but when she learns her family is safe, she turns on Pax, informing him she first swore loyalty to Zanoba to begin with.

Shortly after Zanoba and Ginger free Rudy, Ruijerd returns from freeing Ginger and the soldiers’ loved ones, along with Lilia, who is immensely happy to be reunited with both Rudy and Aisha. Basically, Rudy didn’t actually have to do anything to get out of his latest predicament, other than make that figuring of Roxy years ago. Everything else kind of fell into place.

Later, Lilia gives Rudy a big hug, along with the box containing Roxy’s underwear and a pendant Sylphiette made for him. Also, Aisha wants to join the “Kennel Master” on his continuing adventures, thus saving her from the “perverted clutches” of her half-brother.

After Rudy gives her his Dead End head protector, she either connects the dots about him actually being her half-brother, or decides to drop the charade. Either way, with Zenith and Sylphiette still missing, Rudy can go forward knowing at least one of his little sisters likes him!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation – 19 – The Man-God’s Fast One

Rudeus appears once again in his original form from his own world before the Man-God  Hitogami, a year after their last meeting. Rudy decides once again to let the Man-God guide him to his next objective, agreeing to trust him in exchange for helping find Zenith, Lilia, and Aisha. While we can’t yet say Hitogami has steered Rudy wrong, his true motivations remain unknown. Is he earnestly trying to help Rudy, or just seeking entertainment?

After much vomiting over the side of a ship, Rudy, along with Eris and Ruijerd, arrive at last at the Central Continent, and the capital of the kingdom of Shirone. As has now become commonplace, the “OP” consists of a sequence of vistas of the new land, along with a new song to accompany it. It’s big, it’s grand, and it’s awesome. It’s a city I’d love to spend weeks exploring.

Of course, Rudy doesn’t have time for that; he has a family to locate and rescue. Going off the vision Hitogami gave him, he searches the city for Lilia and Aisha, and finds the latter, now six years old, being bothered by city guards. Rudy uses his incantation-less magic to bear both him and Aisha away from the guards, and just like that, he’s reunited with a sibling who was only a baby when last he saw her.

Unlike Norn, Aisha is friendly with Rudy…but only because she’s not aware that he’s actually her older brother, whom she’s certain is an awful pervert due to Roxy’s underwear he’d been keeping that she found one day. It’s a little sad that Lilia taught her daughter not to rely on his brother, but Rudy follows the Man-God’s advice to use an alias rather than reveal his true connection to Aisha.

With Aisha safely under Eris and Ruijerd’s careful watch, Rudy accepts the invitation of Ginger York, a member of the seventh prince of Shirone’s royal guard, who escorts him to the castle of Shirone. He’s under the impression Ginger is taking him to see Roxy, who has been serving the prince, and is excited to see his master for the first time in seven years.

Alas, it’s only a trap. Lilia is indeed in the Shirone castle, the captive of Pax, the seventh prince.  But Rudy ends up falling down a hole into a king-class barrier meant for Roxy. Pax is determined to lure Roxy back so he can capture and have his way with her. Since Lilia wasn’t sufficient bait, he’ll use Rudy instead.

It’s understandable that, now that he finds himself in this predicament after following Hitogami’s instructions pretty much to the letter, Rudy considers the possibility the Man-God played a trick on him. But to what end? Is Rudy really trapped? I doubt it; a trap intended for Roxy means Rudy, who has far surpassed Roxy in magical ability, should have no trouble escaping it.

The problem is, Lilia is currently Prince Pax’s hostage. Rudy can’t act carelessly lest any harm come to Aisha’s mother. I don’t foresee Pax being a credible threat for long—I mean look at him—but at the moment Rudy does seem to be in a rather sticky situation.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Fruits Basket – 48 – Love is In the Air…and On the Stage

Just like that, it’s the day of the festival and the class play, totally reworked into something “Cinderella-ish”. After Kisa and Hiro arrive to join Momiji and Haruhatsu in the crowd, the first two-thirds of the episode is given over to the play…and it’s wonderful.

The scriptwriter did a masterful job rewriting the script to complement the cast, from making Tooru kind and meek stepsister to letting Saki just be “Sakirella”, regarded by the crowd as “sassy” and “a boss”. The crowd favorite is Yuki, who is resplendent as the Fairy Godmother—Ayame and Mine knocked it out of the park with the costumes.

By the time the big ball scene arrives, Saki is far more interested in Yakiniku than dancing with the prince (her first wish was to burn the castle down, but she settled for Yuki making her dresses for her stepsister and mother). As for Prince Kyou, the actor’s general reluctance to participate is used in the story, making the prince reluctant to find a princess despite his fellow prince (Arisa) helping him out.

Midnight comes, and Black Cinderella must flee, leaving a glass slipper behind and wishing she’d eaten more. At Arisa’s urging, Kyou visits every house in the kingdom until she comes to Cinderella’s house. Saki asks if he’s there to marry her sister (Tooru), which causes Kyou to explode. This works in the context of the play, but is another among many instances of reality seeping into the play.

When Saki launches into a dark monologue about the prince continuing to deceive himself and lock himself away in the castle forever, Tooru is compelled to speak out of turn, yelling “I don’t want….!” Of course, it’s not just her character who doesn’t want the prince to be lonely. This is Tooru expressing her objection to Kyou being locked away by Akito just for being the Cat…as well as her objection to Kyou being okay with it. Their dialogue’s close proximity to their real-life situation isn’t lost on either Tooru or Kyou.

After a deliciously feminist ending to the play (Cinderella doesn’t marry anyone and opens a yakiniku business with Tooru), the play is over, and Kyou couldn’t be happier…only to find that his Shisho is there, but Saki is flirting with him hard, using her sweetest demeanor and most dignified diction while around him.

Tooru meets up with Kisa, Hiro, Haru and Momiji, the last of whom capture the play on his camcorder. Tooru is glad for this, because it means Kureno will get to watch the DVD of Arisa. However, when Hiro lashes out at Haru (despite his efforts not to lose his temper), Kisa gets the wrong impression that Hiro likes Rin (Isuzu).

Released from his acting duties, Yuki checks in on the StuCo and is placed on patrol duty by an angrier-than-usual Nao. He overhears Machi being hassled by members of his fan club for her comments about Yuki not being a prince. He’s about to intervene, but Kanabe wisely restrains him; this is something Machi needs to work out for herself.

Eventually she does speak up for herself, first offering a curt apology when it is demanded, then elaborating on her read on Yuki, which is not only far deeper than the fans’ shallow infatuation, but also resonates with Yuki a great deal. She alone can tell that despite being around so many people, Yuki seems lonely. She can tell because she’s lonely too. Yuki blushes in the way a man blushes over a woman.

Kyou ends up joining Tooru with the others, but before they do, they share a quiet moment with each other, with that scene in the play still vivid in both their memories. But right at the edge of acknowledging their mutual feelings for one another, the two withdraw, neither allowing themselves to think about “it.”

If this were a one or two-cour romance, I’d say they were spinning their wheels, but Fruits Basket will continue for at least an entire third season and I’ve heard it could even extend into a fourth. So it’s so far so good with these two with two episodes left in the second season. I also continue to be intrigued with the Yuki-Machi connection, though I do hope they get to actually interact more down the road.

Check out Crow’s thoughts on the episode here!

Fruits Basket – 47 – Nothing Like a Prince

Yuki continues to open up to Manabe, expounding on the evolution of his relationship to Tooru. First she was a wierd classmate who lived in a tent, then he saw he could use her to rebel against the Souma clan. At some point, he started to realize strong maternal vibes coming off of her as a result of her showering him with unconditional love and kindness.

It started when she told him to become friends with her again even if her memories were taken by Hatori. And Yuki panicked when he felt this way, and immediately tried to deny and suppress those feelings, even trying to interact with her more “like a man does a woman,” creating a love triangle with Kyou even though the two men weren’t seeking the same thing.

It’s the first time Yuki’s able to talk at all about this being about more than competing or not being able to “beat” Kyou for Tooru’s heart, but rather feeling something other than romantic attraction and being okay with her and Kyou as a couple; after all, he’s observed the two together and is pretty confident they love each other.

The one thing Yuki doesn’t want is to waste the kindness and warmth Tooru gave so freely. He wants to use it to move forward and discover his own “special purpose in life.” He’s buoyed by being able to discuss it so candidly with Kakeru—who he notes is also a kind (in his way) person to listen without judgment. However, Yuki wisely doesn’t discuss any of this with Todou Miki!

Yuki sees a day coming that he’ll be able to tell Tooru how he truly feels and about the purpose he’s found thanks to her love and support. Until then, he’ll keep watching over her, as he does right after casually confronting Kyou about the hat, which causes Kyou to withdraw into his room.

Before Yuki came home, Tooru and Kyou were having a flirt-fight in the entryway over his confiscating of her Cinderella script after she let Shigure know about it. Kyou still hasn’t committed to even participating in the play, and he certainly doesn’t want Shisho to know about it.

There’s also the matter of Tooru simply not being able to act like anything resembling an evil stepsister, as expected. She promises to work hard and even go without food in order to master the role, but it seems hopeless. With Ayame and Mine sure to provide some unique takes on Cinderella costumes and both Kyou and Saki also seeming miscast, the scriptwriter decides to scrap what she has and write a script that better fits the actors.

I’m all for that, and it’s great to see Ayame trying to support his brother in any way he can, once again making up for all the neglect Yuki suffered in the past, including from a then-indifferent big bro. It’s also fun watching Yuki’s classmates react to finally meeting his very different brother—while I’m sure Mine probably felt like she just struck gold upon meeting Saki and Arisa!

When Yuki goes off to look for Kyou for Tooru, he finds him sulking on the staircase. Kyou is going over what he said to Yuki when his hat was offered back to him. Remember: Kyou still considers Yuki not only a rival for Tooru’s heart, but the underdog, even if the truth is he’s running more or less unopposed.

As such, Kyou interprets Yuki bringing up the hat and the fact he gave it to Tooru to be another instance of looking down on him. When Yuki dares bring up Tooru (specifically why Kyou is making her worry by ditching rehearsal), all of Kyou’s insecurities come pouring out.

He lists all the ways he sees Yuki as better—having a living mom and dad, being needed and praised by others, surpassing him easily as he desperately struggles, etc. Had they ever deigned to open up to one another, Kyou would know all those things Yuki has “over” him are more curses than blessings. What I’d give for Kyou to watch last week’s episode and the first half of this one!

Instead, Kyou sees Yuki’s expression—one not of anger but of sadness, almost on the brink of tears—and sees it as yet another instance of looking down on him. So he punches a window and storms off. This results in another welcome interaction betweeen Yuki and Machi, as Machi contradicts her classmate saying he’s the least prince-like person she knows—again, because she knows Yuki’s pain.

Kyou finds Tooru sitting in the classroom after everyone else left, and his thoughts stray towards what she was thinking about before he arrived, when she was alone. When she excitedly presents Kyou with the revised script, I was fully prepared for him to dismiss it out of hand, or even slap it out of hers, like the old Kyou; like the Kyou who might’ve resurfaced after his rant to Yuki.

Instead, he draws ever so close to Tooru, and then agrees to do the play, warning her not to laugh at him! The two share blushing looks before heading home together. The now-explicit contrast between Yuki’s and Kyou’s feelings for Tooru paves the way for potential happiness for all three of them in the future. I’m also not discounting the potential for a relationship between Yuki and Machi—stranger things have and will happen!

Fruits Basket – 45 – It’s Fine to Be Buttoned Up Wrong

We return to Kaibara High as Yuki, Kakeru and the StuCo prepare for the Cultural Festival. Kakeru asks why Yuki has yet to acquire a cell phone, which requires a parent’s sign-off, and Yuki states it’s partly because his family is like shirt “buttoned up wrong”—an expression Kakeru loves.

As the they approach the office, a book flies through the window of the door, shattering the glass. Inside it looks like a tornado went off, and Machi stands alone in there, looking mortified. Kakeru asks the others to leave things to him, and Yuki notes that it’s not the first time.

What is Machi to Kakeru? Well, since he now trusts Yuki, Kakeru confides in him something the other StuCo members don’t know: he and Machi are stepsiblings, with the same father. He brings up a recent heated dispute over succession going on between their mothers, with Kakeru being the older male heir but whose mother was a mistress, and Machi being a younger female but her mother being her father’s wife.

Initially, Kakeru and Machi were caught in the middle at a time when Kakeru took everything his parents and other adults said as gospel. But eventually, he came to see how he was “mixed up in something dumb” and freed himself by acting out, which led his mom to withdraw him from consideration for succession. This means Machi stands alone as the potential successor—or would be, if her gender didn’t complicate matters.

As Kakeru puts it, he may be free, but Machi may not be. Trashing the StuCo office is akin to what he did one night during dinner, only in private; a dry run that lacks the stakes of the real thing. Yuki is able to put his own family troubles into perspective learning that plenty of other families have issues and are similarly “buttoned up wrong,” but also acknowledges that family can’t change, so you just have to live with it. Yuki ends up tossing up the pile of papers they had just reorganized.

It’s a gesture that says it’s okay to accept the things you cant control, and even laugh them off. Yuki then takes the application to his mom, who signs it without complaint. Before Yuki takes his leave, she says perhaps the most “parent-like” thing she’s ever said to him: “D-don’t spend too much time on the phone.” The surprise of hearing those words from her and the awkwardness with which she said them bring a smile and chuckle to Yuki’s face.

The next day, Machi returns to the office to apologize and promise not to trash it ever again (a promise she’s made before), and while Nao continues to fume and scold (he’s really annoying this week), Yuki follows Tooru’s example, asking Machi if instead of simply making such a promise not to do it, to help them understand why she did it.

The other members of StuCo (minus Nao) are impressed with his display of empathy and kindness, but Yuki realizes he’s late for his class meeting to announce the roles for Cinderella, which the class will be performing for the festival. Abstaining from the role of prince due to his workload, a reluctant Kyou is chosen as the prince and Saki(!) as (potentially “Wicked”) Cinderella.

As for Tooru? She’ll be an evil stepsister, and she assures Yuki she’ll work hard to be “more evil than the devil himself!” Uh…yeah. Uh-huh. Members of Prince Yuki hope her role as villainess will hurt her standing with Yuki, but they’re so clueless it’s almost sad. Arisa doesn’t see why they can’t do a more grown-up play, and she has a point: I just got done watching Sakura’s fifth-grade class perform it!

Shortly after returning to the StuCo office, Yuki accidentally ends up trapped in the storage room, the lock for which is broken. He knocks an open can of black paint(?) which splatters on the wall and his uniform, and suddenly memories of when Akito tried to ratttle him at the beach well up inside him, making him anxious.

Leaving aside whether Miki arranged for him to be locked in there (I’m not sure what her motive would be), it’s Machi who ends up busting through the door to rescue Yuki, stating that she didn’t want him to feel anxious, as if she could sense that indeed he was just that. He quietly thanks her and then goes off with Kakeru for some fresh air.

When he’s feeling better, he pays Kakeru back for his openness by bringing up something he hasn’t brought up to anyone yet, due to it seeming “pitiful and pathetic”: regarding what he “yearns for” in Tooru, which he only just learned was something he shared with Rin. While that thing is left unsaid, I’ll be using “familial love” as a placeholder until Yuki says otherwise, but it could just as easily be “the ability to take care of oneself and others, rather than just be cared for”.

While Yuki’s adventures in StuCo lag far behind Tooru’s new connection with Rin and their efforts to break the curse in importance, it was still rewarding to learn more about Machi and Kakeru’s ties, and see Machi and Yuki become a little closer since he gave her that leaf. I wonder if Yuki sees Machi as an opportunity to prove to himself that he can indeed care for and help others, thus paying forward all that Tooru has done for him. We shall see.

Read Crow’s review of the episode here!

The Millionaire Detective – Balance: UNLIMITED – 01 (First Impressions) – Anything’s Obtainable

Two men from completely different backgrounds start out hundreds of miles away, only to end up in the same car at the top of an opened drawbridge. Like a car gradually coasting down an increasingly steep hill, Fugou Keiji builds momentum slowly but surely, using a bustling Tokyo and a ticking time bomb to add to the difficulty level. And yet, nothing is really that difficult for Kanbe Daisuke, because his account balance is, for all intents and purposes, bottomless.

Daisuke has decided if things are going to be so easy for him, he should at least do some public good. Katou Haru, his future partner in the Metro Police’s Modern Crime Department, Second Division, couldn’t be more different than Daisuke. His credo is “money isn’t everything”, and his primary loyalty is to the ideal of justice for all, regardless of their assets. It’s simple, direct contrast that should make for a fun buddy cop dynamic.

Of course, first the show needs to bring these two together, and that’s where Yoko and Hiroshi come in. At first this pair of lovers are separate from the case involving classic cars, a wealthy Arabian prince, and a bomb. But after Hiroshi pooh-poohs a number of Ginza jewelry stores due to their tight security, he and Yoko end up inadvertently sticking up…a fancy chocolatier.

While Daisuke and Haru are essentially ciphers for their opposing philosophies this week, Yoko and Hiroshi are the beating emotional heart of the episode. Yoko’s gun is loaded only with paint rounds, but Hiroshi’s need for cash to appease the syndicate, and her feelings for Hiroshi despite his being a useless dipshit, lead them into a deeper and deeper hole, as they end up stealing the very van containing the bomb as a getaway car.

Daisuke quickly demonstrates how he does things by pulling the prince himself out of the fastest car in the parade—a mint AC Cobra—and paying over three times the prince’s offer on the spot thanks to his Augmented Reality/AI “butler”, HUESC. His character inhabits elements of James Bond, Tony Stark, Bruce Wayne, and Richie Rich, and he’s an appropriately arrogant asshole about throwing his monetary weight around. He barely acknowledges the presence of Haru in his car.

Using HUESC to hack the traffic control of a major chunk of Tokyo, Daisuke arranges things so both he and the van they’re pursuing have a clear path to the drawbridge mentioned earlier. When Yoko tries to cross, Daisuke has HUESC open the bridge, trapping her and Hiroshi.

Then, in a move that’s more vigilante than cop, he pushes the van off the edge of the bridge into the drink with the Cobra. At no point does he warn the occupants either of the bomb in the back of the van or his intent to sink said van, implying they’re expendable as long as the bomb is neutralized. Hiroshi bails out, leaving Yoko all alone, and it’s up to Haru to save her.

At the foot of the bridge, a tearful Hiroshi is waiting there for Yoko, expecting her to forgive him for leaving her to die…which she does, as his mewling brings tears to her eyes. She just can’t quit this guy! Such a realistic depiction of a co-dependent relationship that benefits neither party.

Speaking of which, Haru manages to avoid falling with the van, but is just barely hanging onto the edge of the bridge. Does Daisuke lend him a helping hand? Readers, HE DOES NOT. He just stares at Haru like he’s an insignificant bug, until Haru’s grip gives out and he plunges into the drink. With the crisis averted, Daisuke simply saw no reason to muss his no doubt ruinously expensive suit dragging Haru up to safety.

The next day, all of the damages billed to the department have been paid twice over; a magical reset button Haru’s supervisor is all to happy to accept in exchange for Daisuke joining the Second Division. On the rooftop of police HQ, Haru confronts Daisuke, serenely smoking an expensive cigar on the helipad.

He condemns Daisuke’s methods as unbecoming an police officer, and warns him he’s no superhero, no matter how many lives he saved. Daisuke sidesteps lives altogether, and simply asks Haru “How much?” In a clever touch, we get an invoice of all the costs associated with the events of the episode before the credits roll.

Fugou Keiji is slick, stylish fun that pulls you in and takes you on a ride. It’s as inspirational (in terms of what’s possible given unlimited funds) as it is cautionary (showing what kind of person those funds makes you). I can’t wait to see how Daisuke and Haru butt heads in future cases, and what crazy expenditures Daisuke will rack up in the name of Getting Shit Done. This wasn’t initially on my Spring list…but it is now.

Isekai Quartet 2 – 12 (Fin) – Breaking a (Giant Metal Spider) Leg

IQ’s second (but by no means the last) season wraps up with two parallel performances: first, that of the school play Cinderella, to which Rem contributes a…shall we say unique version of Cinderella, who exploits the masochism of one of her stepsisters, derides the homebrew pumpkin carriage as “pathetic” (probably because Subaru is part of it), can’t help but ruefully laugh during her glow-up, and kisses her sister.

As that farce unfolds, the “Battle of Maidens” plays out in the schoolyard, with the all-female defense force all contributing their unique talents to keep Destroyer from ruining the play (and likely the school buildings as well). Raphtalia and Filo only need to hear the first few words of Reinhard van Astrea’s motivational speech (which he also gave during the giant whale battle in Re:Zero) to join in.

Aqua actually ends up scoring the coup-de-grace with a God Blow, echoing a similar battle in KonoSuba. As the episode flips from the battle to the play, it employs clever transitions that tie the two performances together. With a strong finale, Isekai Quartet remains a fun lightweight, pocket-size diversion. I honestly wouldn’t mind if they kept it up indefinitely, continually adding characters from popular isekai anime.

Isekai Quartet 2 – 11 – The Show Must Go On

The school festival is on, and immediately attracting characters from a sixth isekai anime, Cautious Hero. Sadly for Ristarte, Seiya deems it too risky to enter school grounds. While he may not be aware that an attack on the school by Mobile Fortress Destroyer is imminent, he’s not entirely wrong to be wary, but he surely possesses enough power to defeat such a boss.

Many of this week’s visual gags come in the form of the ridiculous costumes, in which none of the animal masks fit over the chibi-fied characters. Ainz in particular is just Ainz with a horse head plopped on top. Still, Raphtalia and Filo think Naofumi looks cute, while Albedo & other followers of Ainz are no doubt that much more smitten by his new look.

The issue becomes, how can the MCs participate in the play when Destroyer is out there, ready to…destroy? Simple: by relying on their friends, or in this case Albedo, Emilia, Visha and Aqua. Everyone mostly hopes Aqua won’t undermine the efforts of the other three. Tanya and Ainz then use reverse psychology to get Megumin to play the Fairy Godmother in place of the indisposed Aqua. Everyone has their roles, all that’s left is for the curtain to rise!

Isekai Quartet 2 – 10 – Who Killed Mr. Archie?

The Cultural Festival is approaching, which means Class 2 must choose a play and a food stall. The play chosen is Cinderella, with Ram(!) in the lead role and Rem(!!) playing the Prince. We also learn Naofumi will be Class 1’s Ugly Duckling.

The four MCs, meanwhile, will play…horses. They probably don’t mind stepping out of the spotlight in this instance, but Shalltear is not happy about her master’s lot. Master of food Visha spearheads Class 2’s choco-banana stand.

In the midst of lively preparations, bouts of destruction take hold on campus, starting with the hutch sheltering Hamusuke and Death Knight. While Reinhard and Beako are stumped for the moment, we Konosuba watchers know the culprit is the massive robotic spider known as Destroyer.

One wonders how such a huge foe is keeping itself hidden from everyone, but its next victim is “Mr. Archie”, Aqua’s affectionate name for the hand-painted arch it would seem Kazuma mostly worked on. Fretting over how long it took and how little time remains until the festival begins tomorrow.

Aqua has an extended temper tantrum, and can only be snapped out of it by a determined Rem, who substitutes Aqua for Subaru in an abridged reenactment of her seminal “Return to Zero” scene from Re:Zero episode 18, a rare instance in which we see both her eyes.

I knew as soon as Aqua said “step one” that it was coming. As for the faculty, they seem to know a lot more about why they’re all here, and leave it up to the students whether it was the right choice or not. Between those words and Destroyer, something big is on the horizon during and/or after the festival.

Fruits Basket (2019) – 01 (First Impressions) – Anywhere Can Be Home

Honda Tooru’s backstory is almost comically tragic: her father died of an illness when she was three, and one day her mother was killed in an auto accident. The only relative who’d bring her in was her pensioner grandfather, for whom she didn’t want to be a burden.

Then his house needed months of renovations, so he told her it might be best if she moved into a friend’s house…only she felt too bad about staying at her one friend’s tiny apartment or to be another mouth to feed at her other’s. So she started living in a tent she bought on sale.

Unbeknownst to her, this tent is on private property belonging to the Souma family, one member of which, Yuki, is in her class. When they cross paths while she’s exploring her tent’s surroundings, she meets Yuki’s older cousin, Shigure.

When Yuki and Tooru walk to school together, his fan club, “Prince Yuki” aren’t having it, and give her a multi-pronged verbal attack. She’s saved by her yankee BFFs, Uotani and Hanajima, who you’ll remember, are not aware that their lovely friend is essentially homeless. But they have her back. In exchange, she helps them ace Home Ec by doing all the cooking, which she’s of course happy to do.

After school, Yuki walks with Tooru and they discuss the Zodiac (a subject first broached when she saw Shigure’s Zodiac knickknacks). In particular, Tooru voices her love of the Cat, even though it has no official place in the Chinese Zodiac. Tooru declares the Cat an “idiot” and that the math was never there for it to begin with. Before Tooru rushes off to work, Yuki tells her to look out for her health—no doubt sensing how thin she’s stretched.

After Tooru gives her appalling sad life story so far, through which she’s remained strong, upbeat, and committed to taking care of herself and burdening no one, we see her working so hard at her job that her older co-workers consider her a godsend.

Later that night, as she’s walking (or more accurately teetering) “home”—to her tent—she’s spotted by Yuki and Shigure, on a stroll of their own. That’s when she first learns she’s squatting on Souma land. Shigure can’t help but laugh at the absurdity of a high school girl living in a tent…but as Yuki says, it’s not that funny. And it isn’t! It’s heartbreaking!

It’s doubly heartbreaking because no one, not even someone as strong-willed and determined as Tooru, can go to school, keep up with her studies, and work as many jobs as she can to pay for that school, all while living in a tent. When Shigure hears a wolf howling, that indicates to him that there was a landslide nearby; possibly near her campsite.

They rush there to find her tent buried under a huge mound of earth, but because the photo of her mother is in there, she starts clawing at it, despite the fact she’s already running on fumes and about to keel over from fever and exhaustion. Shigure makes sure she’s in bed at their place while Yuki employs thousands of rats to help him dig out Tooru’s effects.

Wait…thousands of rats? What’s that about???

Before falling asleep, Tooru tells Shigure about how her mom only had a middle school diploma, and wanted her daughter to experience high school life rather than go right into the labor force. Tooru also recalls the last morning her mother was alive. She’s haunted by the fact she was studying all night and so slept in and didn’t get to say “itterasshai.” 

It was the one and only time she never said it, and that was the day she was killed in the accident. Like I said, Tooru’s story would be ridiculous if it weren’t presented to straight-forwardly and soberly. Once she’s out, Yuki admits that compared to her, he’s spoiled beyond belief.

After a dream of her mom that has her waking up with tears in her eyes, her first thought is to recover the picture, only to find Yuki outside, picture in one hand, and her other stuff in the other. He says there’s an extra bedroom on the second floor, and she’s welcome to stay there until the renovations at her grandfather’s are complete.

True to form, Tooru doesn’t want to be any trouble to them…but she isn’t. Besides, he and Shigure were just talking about how their household is in dire need of someone who is good at cooking and cleaning; Tooru likes doing those things—she even cooked for her mom! So it’s not like she’s going to be a freeloader.

All she has to do, Yuki says, is be Tooru and “go at her own pace.” That moves Tooru, because her mom said those same words to her.

It doesn’t take long for Tooru to learn that she’s not going to be the main source of trouble here, nor a source of strangeness. There’s plenty of that in the Souma family, as while they’re airing out her new room, a guy named Kyou who was lurking in a tree bursts through the ceiling and picks a fight with Yuki.

In the ensuing chaos, Tooru trips on a piece of wood and lands in Kyou’s chest in a kind of pseudo-hug. Kyou instantly transforms…into a cat. Her first thought is to rush him to a hospital, but a piece of wood falls on her head, and she falls into both Shigure and Yuki, transforming them into a dog and rat, respectively.

So there you have it; the secrets out: the Soumas are a family of animals representing the Chinese Zodiac, who normally have human form, but transform when hugged. Shigure understanding the wolves’ howling; Yuki’s inherent hatred of cats, it’s all explained. But more importantly, Tooru is no longer on her own.

There are people—strange, supernatural people, but people all the same—who have opened their home to her, and won’t hear of her roughing it any longer as she works herself into another fever. And while neither Yuki or Shigure represent a pig, their place is a mess, which is where Tooru’s skills come in. It’s a mutually beneficial situation.

I’m happy for Tooru, and can’t wait to see how her new housemates handle her discovering their secret. I may have gotten into this show nine weeks late, but it’s right up my alley, with a winning premise reminding me a lot of Kamisama Hajimemashita. Of course, that show is based on a manga first published seven years after the original anime adaptation of this show, so this has the older pedigree.

In any case, there’s a lot of warmth, moving drama, lighthearted comedy, and plenty of potential for romance here, and I’m looking forward to catching up with the rest of the anime-watching masses on what looks like one of the Spring’s consensus best.

Sarazanmai – 01 (First Impressions) – Secrets, Lies, and Butt Stuff

“The world is full of connections,” muses Yakaza Kazuki at the start of things. Yeah, no duh, Kierkegaard. That’s especially true in Tokyo (Asakasa specifically), where many people are connected both by technology and the relatively small amount of space they share. There’s one connection in particular Kazuki never wants to lose.

Turns out that connection is a ritual exchange of selfies with the local idol, Sarakappa, who is constantly keeping the folk appraised of the latest Asakusa news via the public video screens. While Sara herself is taking a selfie, she happens to catch someone breaking into a car. That someone is Kuji Toi, who chases after her.

Instead, Toi encounters Kazuki, notices he has the same phone strap as the girl, and lunges at him with his ruler-cum-slimjim. Kazuki happens to be grabbing at statue of the Prince of the Kappa Kingdom, and in the ensuing violence, the statue is destroyed, releasing a great gust of wind.

The next day at school the two lads hear a clear ringing bell no one else can, and start compulsively acting like kappas, dousing themselves with water, doing a sumo dance, or eating cucumbers. Neither knows what the heck is going on.

The ringing leads them back to the destroyed statue (now a crime scene), where they are introduced to the actual Prince of the Kappas, Keppi, whom they awoke with their roughhousing. Keppi seems level-headed enough…until Toi dares to call him a “frog.”

Keppi reaches into their anuses (yep) and extracts their shirikodama, an organ containing desire, then gobbles them up and transforms them into kappas themselves. When Kazuki’s best mate Enta arrives to see what’s up, he ends up calling Keppi a frog, so he’s transformed as well. It’s a very gross process!

The gross weirdness continues when Keppi assigns them their mission: extract the shirikodama from a “zombie kappa” in the “Field of Desires,” a realm between life and death where no humans can see them, but where the kappa and zombie kappa dwell.

This particular zombie is hoarding stolen “Kappamazon” packages, and his deep dark secret is his compulsion to empty the boxes and place them on his head while naked. The three kappa-lads work together to sing a musical number, blast through the zombie’s defenses, reach and enter his anus, and successfully extract his shirikodama. Again, quite gross!

After the extraction, before they pass the shirikodama to Keppi, the three undergo the titular “Sarazanmai”—a connection of mind and soul between the three. Within that state, Toi learns that Kazuki and the girl he saw were one and the same, and Enta learns his best friend cross-dresses as an idol, all to send selfies of himself as Sara religiously.

The other two learn Toi is a car thief, but Toi isn’t outwardly ashamed by that, but after the initial embarrassment has passed, neither is Kazuki. Even when Enta tells him he’s cool with his “quirk”, Kazuki insists he isn’t asking for understanding, only for his secret to remain his and his alone…which is fair.

Post-ED (a lush merging of live-action footage, augmented reality lightwork and animation with a very catchy peggies song) there’s another strange incident involving two very pale, stylish cops extracting something from their prisoner, but that will have to wait until next week.

Sarazanmai is nothing if not visually bold and doggedly inventive with its madcap brew of mythology, symbology, philosophy, and sociology you tend to get from the work of Ikuhara Kunihiko. Its narrative isn’t always the easiest to follow but you can be assured it’s going to look and sound cool and explore ideas few anime do (especially when it comes to contemporary social issues), which definitely helps.

Non-fans of kappas (or, incidently, Ikuhara) probably need not apply, nor should anyone who is uncomfortable with the occasional…stylized anal extraction. But there’s a lot to like here so far.

Overlord III – 06 – Incapable Nobles and Dirty Jobs

Far from Nazarick and Carne lies the vast, mighty, and vibrant Baharuth Empire, led by the dashing young “Bloody Emperor” El Nix, and backed up by his Court Wizard Lord Fluder and his Four Imperial Knights, whose titles represent the four elements.

El Nix orders both parties to investigate Jaldabaoth, whose recent attack on the Re-Estize has led the empire to delay their annual war with the clearly militarily inferior kingdom, as well as Momon, who defeated him. Of course, we know “Jaldabaoth” was merely Demiurge, and Momon is Ains.

Demi’s plan to make Nazarick a great country and make Ains’ name known throughout the known world is grand and intricate, and involves Ains going to the imperial capital Arwintar as Momon of Darkness, with Gamma AKA Nabe in tow, the Adamantite adventurers on the prowl once more.

Meanwhile in the kingdom, the eldest son Prince Barbro attempts to insert himself in a position of power above his younger brother and his sister Princess Renner, neither of whom seem too concerned. Barbro takes offense to a commoner like Gazef having his father’s noble ear.

Gazef endures Barbro’s barbs and later spars with Brain Unglaus as a delighted Climb observes. Gazef is by the king’s side, while Brain and Climb are by the princess’. Big or small, they’ll doubtless all have roles to play in this new arc.

The episode than shifts to yet more new faces: the four members of Fortnight, one of the many teams of “Workers”—mercenary adventurers unsanctioned by the guild. Workers do the jobs official guild adventurers either can’t or won’t do. In this case, the “dirty” job is to investigate a certain tomb. I wouldn’t be surprised if the name of this tomb rhymes with “Jazamick”; then again, maybe not. We shall see.

Fortnight (note the different spelling from the popular video game) is composed of the fighters Hekkeran and Imina, the crusader Rober, and the mage Arche, daughter of one of the “incapable” (i.e. incompetent) noble families that Emperor El Nix has stripped of their nobility. Arche is a third-tier magic user who can also detect the levels of other users.

She uses these talents to make money to pay off her family’s debt, but when she returns home to find her father still spending money he doesn’t have on trinkets, she decides to officially freeze her folks out (her mom doesn’t get to speak), and vows to take her little sisters and make her own way—which would mean no more dangerous adventuring.

The other members of Fortnight declare other reasons, but you can tell they care about Arche and want to help her and her sisters stay above water, though if she leaves them they’ll definitely miss her magical prowess.

The next day, Fortnight joins a bunch of other Worker teams of various dispositions on the grounds of their client, Count Femel. They are also introduced to Momon and Nabe, who’ll be joining them on their quest.

Their presence makes me less sure that the tomb they’ll explore is Nazarick, but whatever tomb it is and whatever’s waiting for them, with Momon and Nabe around, the Workers are going to get a good show.

Tada-kun wa Koi wo Shinai – 06 – Teresa Can’t Fall in Love

For a show called “Tada-kun Never Falls in Love”, it’s somewhat stunning how little romantic development there’s been between Tada and Teresa, not to mention how little Tada-kun there’s been.

His interest in Teresa has been so…peripheral (one or two moments excepted) that the sudden appearance of Prince Charles—Teresa’s fiancee back home—feels premature. Why throw a wrench into the works when there have been barely any works?

Thankfully, Charles isn’t a tumbling dickweed despite his status and his Aventador rental(?); he seems to genuinely care about Teresa, and he has the looks and charisma to win over every skeptic at school. He doesn’t even make the mistake of blurting out the blindingly obvious fact that Hinako is HINA!

You get the feeling Charles isn’t interacting with Teresa’s Japanese friends out of obligation or a sense of royal patience. Even if his coming to Japan flies in the face of Teresa’s original intent for going—to get away from her other life—one can appreciate how her trip there might’ve felt to him like a warning sign, and how coming there allayed those concerns.

When Ijuuin invites everyone to a fancy celebrity gala and neither Charles, Teresa, nor Alec can attend, only for their previous engagement is that very party, seems to be the universe once more working in Teresa and Tada’s favor, even if the two have done precious little with such opportunities (with good reason, considering Teresa’s obligation to marry Charles).

It’s here at the party where it should be plain that Teresa isn’t just a mere foreign transfer student, but someone quite a bit more…important. Nevertheless, Tada treats her like he’d treat anyone else, and when she wanders off on her own after washing a drink off her dress, and she and Tada are caught in the rain, he does the appropriate thing and give her his jacket to keep her warm.

As Charles and Alec dance to pass the time, Tada and Teresa simply shoot the breeze, enjoying one another’s company. But while Tada is being as open and honest as someone who “never falls in love” can be, Teresa basically continues to sit on a throne of lies (or at least omissions).

Teresa and Tada look for all the world like star-crossed lovers, what with the fact they both stared up at the same North Star as kids. And Tada is once more swept into the background when a panicked Alec arrives to scold Teresa.

Charles is not nearly as worried (unlike Alec he recognizes she’s an adult, if an easily-lost one), but the sight of him taking Teresa by the shoulder and walking off is the first time we’ve seen anything resembling anguish from the oh-so-stoic Tada.

What Tada has yet to learn (and will he ever?) is that Teresa has already decided that when she’s done this Japan trip, she’s going back home marrying Charles, and becoming queen once the present monarch kicks the bucket. It’s all set in stone.

With this episode, the title of the series can be viewed in a different light: it’s not that Tada isn’t capable of falling in love—he’s on his way to doing so with Teresa—but he never falls in love because in the one instance he did, it’s with an unattainable woman.

But as Teresa looks up at the North Star after retiring for bed, one gets the feeling she might feel lost, despite her stone future. After all, that’s what people do when they’re lost and the North Star is in view!

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