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.

Advertisements

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!

Overlord II – 10

This week Sebas must deal with the fallout of his individual actions which drew undue attention to him and by extension Nazarick. However, as expected, Lord Ainz is understanding, and also convinced of Sebas’ absolute loyalty when he orders the Butler to kill Tuare and Cocytus has to step in to stop him.

When Ainz asks Sebas how it benefits him to have Tuare come to Nazarick with them, Sebas says she can cook. This leads to bickering between Sebas and Demiurge about what kind of cooking is “worthy” of Nazarick, which reminds Ainz of the bickering his fellow players once engage in; a pleasant memory.

Tuare, for her part, is ready to follow Sebas wherever he leads, and wouldn’t mind even if he had to kill her for real, giving him her first happy kiss; possibly his as well.

Over at the palace, Princess Renner is getting ready to unleash Blue Rose on Eight Fingers, but knows she’ll need more men, so she invites Marquis Raeven to her chambers for a chat.

Her brother, the Second Prince, also tags along, and is a lot less antagonistic, especially when he learns just how much his sister knows about the complex political tapestry draped across the kingdom; not to mention when she shows her “real” side, which Raeven likes, but decidedly not if it means betrothing his five-year-old-son to her.

Renner intends to bear children with Climb, but her official, noble-born husband will make those children legitimate. Or something. It’s all…a little arcane? Bottom line, Renner has the troops she needs to bring Eight Fingers down, and she intends to add Gazef Stronoff to those numbers. It should be quite a raid.

Meanwhile, Lord Ainz ordered everyone from Nazarick back to Nazarick, but first orders Sebas and Solution to take care of a grain purchase for Demiurge’s sheep. Why neither Demiurge nor Sebas on his own could accomplish this errand, or why Tuare is left so exposed and vulnerable, is not explained. All we know is Tuare has been re-kidnapped by Eight Fingers, and Sebas intends to rescue her.

I’m certain such a rescue mission, for which Sebas orders Albedo to arrange assistance, will be entertaining, but it seems rather artificially created crisis borne out of abject stupidity on the part of all involved parties. It makes me wonder if the kidnapping truly was set up, perhaps so Ainz could further observe just how far Sebas’ attachment to one lowly human really goes.

Kino no Tabi – 02

Kino may be small, soft-spoken, and polite, but she’s also a powerful badass. As such, she knows that she must occasionally push herself as far as she can go, not only to explore her limits, but to keep her skills from getting rusty.

It’s with this in mind that Kino eagerly arrives at the “Coliseum county”, where newcomers must fight others, often to the death, in order to win their citizenship.

The eternal tournament could be called the ultimate diversion for a corrupt king trying to maintain his grasp on his little kingdom, which is rotting and falling apart at every turn. They don’t even keep the coliseum properly maintained.

All of this disrepair must be particularly distasteful to someone as obsessed with being on top her game as Kino, who is underestimated by each of her opponents but defeats them all with ease, without killing a single person.

The night before the final match, Kino tells Hermes to be near the arena so they can leave as soon as she’s done. Victory is never in doubt here, it’s only a matter of how Kino achieves it. Her finals opponent is a capable-looking fellow named Shizu, armed with a katana.

Kino lets Shizu get close enough to slash at her, but blocks his strike with guards hidden in her sleeves, and on his upswing, she trains a hidden pistol at Shizu, forcing him to concede defeat.

The crowd shouts “KILL! KILL! KILL!”, and Kino does kill…their king. Her question about spectators getting killed by stray bullets being of no consequence comes into play here, as does her homemade explosive round that explodes the king’s head, leaving no doubt that he’s gone.

As victor of the tournament, Kino gets to make a new rule for the games, and it’s this: everyone, not just newcomers, must fight each other to the death; the last person standing will be the new king. As she leaves on Hermes, the town starts tearing each other apart.

Shizu catches up with her by a lake and thanks her for killing his father; he was the prince who was cast out of the country and sought revenge, but Kino denied that revenge, taking care of the king herself. She also meets Shizu’s loyal talking dog Riku, whom I’d like to think whispered to Shizu that Kino’s a girl (her earlier “don’t call me boy” to the guards was another hint).

As for why Kino set the people of the town against one another and blew the whole thing up…I suppose a part of her didn’t like how they were exploiting misinformed newcomers looking for a verdant paradise, like the couple she and Hermes met on the road one day, and met just the woman another day (the man was killed in the tournament).

Now it’s a more fair, internalized system. Whether it makes the country a better or worse place is of little consequence; Kino is off to the next country.

Tsurezure Children – 09

This show, and this episode in particular, is brimming with wrong assumptions made in the heads of the young and in love. Those assumptions make progress slower than it would be if they could only properly communicate with the ones they like.

But again, these are kids, and it’s their first love, so rookie mistakes are to be expected. It’s those tiny steps in the right direction that make me not only stay invested in all these various couples, but gives me hope that some day they’ll figure it out.

Sugawara and Takano’s eyes meet so many times, both wrongly assume they’re bothering one another…but a tiny bit of progress is made when Sugawara tells her he was, in fact, looking at her. Takano said she was looking at him too…now she just has to say it to the correct person, not Gouda!

Few couples got off to a worse start than Kanda and Takase, but neither likes the distance that has grown between them, and so they make up. That they both wrongly assume the best they can get out of the other is friendzoned is a concern, but they are talking to each other again. Progress!

I’m on record in older reviews of her work as saying Ogura Yui’s trademark syrupy-sweet voice sometimes sounds like nails on a chalkboard, but I’m enjoying her work as Kamine, who is the most aggressive of the characters this week.

Unfortunately the body language she exhibits while struggling with the fact she “blew” her first kiss with Gouda is being wrongly interpreted by Gouda as having gone too far in kissing her. Kamine tries to force the issue by pretending to fall asleep on his lap, but for her trouble, Gouda nods off for real and they nearly touch faces.

Finally Furuya is sick of dragging things out, and wants to properly, seriously give Minagawa an answer. But he wrongly assumes that all of her different kinds of “likes” she throws at him (kudos to Hana-Kana here) is all part of an extended teasing regimen, when in reality, teasing is what gives Minagawa the courage to say the things she does.

When she says that none of the ways she says she likes him are adequate, she has Furuya close his eyes and…well, does she kiss him? Sure looked like it to me, but then she had those fingers up. Minagawa thinks Furuya should know whether her lips met his…and she’s right! Lips and fingers don’t feel the same!

Tsurezure Children – 08

Kamine and Gouda make more progress by learning that both are okay with the other being clingy and even a little possessive; everything in moderation. To that end, Kamine draws closer, cuddles, and holds hands with Gouda, who decides to surprise her by giving her her first kiss in the middle of which she unfortunately coughs.

But hey, it’s a kiss, out in public, which is more than Kana and Chiaki can manage. They try to work through the problem through the excessive use of soccer metaphors, and even when Chiaki thinks he’s angered Kana to the point she won’t speak, she still offers him “stoppage time” in order to kiss her. Unfortunately, she moves her head at just the wrong moment, and all he gets is her nose; a second attempt is thwarted by onlookers.

Meanwhile, Masafumi and Ryouko are one of the most comfortable couples, and even have to go to the library because they’re fooling around too much at home. But Masa still likes to keep Ryouko on her toes, asking if it’s okay to touch her boobs. His persistence eventually bears fruit (no pun intended), but he doesn’t go through with the feeling-up; he just wanted her to know that he’s holding back.

Finally, Kazuko once again comes upon Shinichi, who is battered and bruised after a fight with…someone; possibly (but probably not) the “god of romance.” Kazuko wants dearly to be his, and he hers, even whipping out her own ultra-speed moves to counter his. Shinichi is definitely the weirdest of the guys we’ve seen, but he seems to have found someone just as weird.

Tsurezure Children – 07

Jun’s sister Hotaru becomes Yuki’s next victim of teasing when she swipes her brother’s phone and impersonates him. Yuki instantly knows it’s her, and dispenses swift justice in a string of texts suggesting not only have she and Jun slept together, but she’s pregnant. Don’t touch your older sibling’s stuff!

Takeru and Ayaka are enjoying a walk home together, but Ayaka would like to hear the words “I love you” come out of Takeru’s mouth, and by the time she finally gets him to understand (he’s quite dense), the words sound forced…even though they’re not.

Few couples have hit a rough patch as bad as Takase and Kanda after he accidentally called her shitty. Takase wants to make things right, but Kanda won’t talk to her. Enter Shinichi, who after staring intently at Takase while the two are taking a piss (don’t do that either, by the way!) gives him advice…or Takase thinks it’s advice; Shinichi is really just rambling about himself. In any case, here’s hoping Takase doesn’t make things worse!

Finally we check in on perhaps the most hopeless couple, mostly because Takano believes the slight pain in her chest and her wandering thoughts are the result of a fever and not love, and Sugawara still doesn’t have the slightest confidence in clearly expressing his feelings for her, since she’ll only twist them into something innocuous and non-romantic. Not sure how these two will be able to break through their issues.

Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 12 (Fin)

aka121

Snow White with the Red Hair’s coda is titled “Goodbye to the Beginning”, and as expected, after the romantic fireworks of last week, Shirayuki and Zen merely settle into the new normal of being a couple. They don’t get married or live happily ever after, mind you; they simply enjoy the time they have alone together as much as they can, and still manage to have fun with other people around.

And because it’s “Open Castle Day” in Wistal, there are a lot of people around.

aka122

That being the case, Shirayuki and Zen don’t flaunt their love around to the masses. Only a select few close to them know (Mitsuhide, Kiki, and Obi), and rather than make this their big coming-out party, the couple more or less lays low. Shirayuki even makes sure her hair is covered in public, lest she attract too much attention. As Zen says, there are still a lot of idiots out there.

aka123

Even so, Shirayuki gets “captured” one last time: this time by a theater troupe whose leading lady has broken her foot and can’t take the stage. Shirayuki is swept into the role of understudy, and ironically has to dress up as a princess before the prince; perhaps a preview to the not-too-distant future when Zen makes an honest woman out of her.

Yet we also have one last sneering villain in the troupe leader, who wishes to expose Shirayuki’s red hair in order to increase buzz. Zen is having none of it, and crashes the stage as a masked knight to protect Shirayuki’s hair, as well as keep the stage prince from kissing her hand. That’s his hand to kiss!

aka124

After that excitement, Shirayuki and Zen get a little more time together, and Shirayuki gets to tell him a bit about how her grandparents raised her to be strong and independent, yet she still wants to rely on Zen, as he relies on her. In a neat little role-reversal, it’s Shirayuki who kisses Zen’s hand as a gesture of commitment to sharing her future with him.

Then they go out to watch hundreds of lanterns get launched; a striking final image for a show that was equally striking in its unblinking earnestness and warmth in portraying the coming together of two hearts from very different backgrounds, in a fashion more realistic than fairy-tale. I shall miss Hayami Saori’s Shirayuki.

7_mag

Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 11

aka111

I was hoping something substantial would come of Zen’s stolen kiss in the watchtower last week (God, that just sounds romantic), rather than serving as a tease. I was hoping that kiss would start something that couldn’t be undone. This week, AnS’s penultimate episode, confirmed those hopes and then some with the loveliest, most upliftingly romantic outing of the show, that looked every bit as good as it felt to watch.

aka112

It starts off with a speechless, stunned Shirayuki. Zen’s warm words of concern and his kiss have lit a fire in her heart, one that burns with a brightness and heat she didn’t know was possible. She’s got it so bad, she finds it difficult to even look at Zen, which obviously causes him to worry. Fortunately for both, Zen must off to Kihal’s island to negotiate a deal for the messenger birds. As Zen’s absence makes her heart only grow fonder, Shirayuki has at least a little time to process her feelings and figure out how to form a proper response.

While away, Zen shows the island elder’s he’s not a shitstain like their Viscount and impresses some kids, but while Kihal seemed especially nervous to travel with Zen, the two are never alone, dashing any possibility of a side-romance. As for Obi, he not only takes up an interest in Shirayuki’s herbalism, but also wants to help sooth her heart, which he suspects is troubled by something Zen said or did.

aka113

He’s about to take her hand to comfort her when Zen re-appears, saying he’s right on schedule but still shocking both Shirayuki and me with the promptness of his return, just when Shirayuki was seeking someplace to think in solitude. Obi gives her one last assist by urging her to run into the forest. It turns out to be an assist for Zen as well, as he’s able to follow her into the forest to talk.

Once he actually gets her to stop running and look in his general direction, they simply walk around, enjoying the forest breezes, and end up in the same spot Zen once hung out with Atri; a place he’s been uneasy returning to since, but feels totally at ease thanks to Shirayuki’s presence.

aka114

The opportunity for Shirayuki to tell Zen how she feels is here, and she doesn’t waste it. She tells him she loves him in addition to him being very dear to him and wanting to be his strength; her concern is whether it’s really alright to feel that way and look that way at Zen, to which the answer is obvious, since we’re in Zen’s head as much as we’re in hers.

Just as he lit a fire in her heart, she did the same to him, and he finally knows that there is someone out there who truly needs him, and doesn’t just go along with his wishes because he’s the prince.

The lighting, the music, the close-ups, and the gentle, precise animation as the two lovers draw closer together and finally kiss again, making official what had been an informal truth for some time; it’s all superb. As for Hayami Saori, it’s her best scene since Hatoko’s Rant in InoBato, though truly, she’s been on a roll all Summer with her work as Shirayuki.

I also appreciate that the mutual confession is now taken care of with an episode to spare, in order to bask in the afterglow, so to speak. Hopefully, Shirayuki can avoid getting kidnapped one last time!

9_mag

Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 10

aka101

Shirayuki is finally herself again after recovering from Garack’s liquor prank, and by chance meets another beautiful young woman who, like herself, is committed to walk a path of her own choosing. This woman, Kihal Toghrul, has come to Wistal to ask Zen to weigh in on preserving a bird unique to her island’s culture which her new lord has decided to hunt for its gorgeous plumage.

Kihal, jaded by her dealings with Lord Brecker (a bit of a smirking dick), doesn’t think she’ll get anywhere with Zen, and indeed, Zen’s hands are tied as far as curtailing a lord’s activities on his own lands. However, Shirayuki backs Kihal up by mentioning the bird’s possible value to Clarines, with its potential to deliver messages faster than by horse.

aka102

A test is set up, which is almost immediately corrupted by Brecker, who tries to strike a deal in which he’ll support Shirayuki in secret if she helps kill the test, and locks her up in a room when she refuses. Brecker spews the typical “status is everything” monologue that Shirayuki’s heard before. Not one to take lip from old assholes, Shirayuki puts Brecker in his place before leaping out the window to the lake below to recover the bell Brecker tossed away.

The bird points out the location of the bell to Shirayuki, who grabs it and sends the bird back right on time for the test to be a success. It would have been even more successful were it not for Brecker’s callous meddling, which gets him arrested. (I’d point out Obi was pretty dang hands-off as her bodyguard this week, leaving her alone with Brecker and all).

aka103

When Zen rides to the watchtower and hears everything that happened from a guard, he races to the room where Shirayuki is resting and drying off. The arm injury she sustained from diving into the lake almost brings him to tears, and when she assures him she would never have hid it from him, he finally reaches a breaking point that was a long time coming, and kisses her; not on the hand or the forehead, but on the lips.

This is Zen acting on how he feels, and Shirayuki made it possible. This particular act was private, but whether it was a passionate impulse or a premeditated act of conviction, there’s no going back now. At least, I hope it isn’t laughed off, because I’m eager to see what happens if and when their relationship goes beyond mere friendship and mutual respect and into the realm of the romantic.

8_mag

Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 09

aka91

This week Shirayuki is still drunk, but also conscious enough to start wandering around on a mission. Of what sort remains a mystery until Obi figures it out (after swatting the Clarines equivalent of a paparazzo): her drunkenness has brought her guilt over Zen’s punishment at Laxdo drives her to want to ride there; only problem is, she can’t ride a horse.

Zen offers to take her, but qualifies that he’s just recently back from there, and produces the proof: some rare herbs that only grow in snow, and a detailed journal of the health of the garrison, both prepared by Shuka, the fortress’ herbalist-in-training. It’s enough to appease and please Shirayuki, though she wouldn’t have gotten far anyway, as she passes out again.

aka92

Since this show has trained us to expect a flashback whenever Shirayuki passes out, we get a brief continuation of Mitsuhide’s recalling of the tragic events with Zen and Atri. Turns out Zen thought something was off about Atri too, but wanted to believe that gut feeling was overly suspicious. Losing Atri and being wrong shook Zen to the core, but it was ‘Hide who told him nobody will ever get close to a prince who prioritizes his suspicions. Essentially, Zen wasn’t wrong, or unprincely, to hope he was wrong about Atri. He was just wrong to have no backup plan.

I think that’s why in the present Zen keeps Atri’s arrowhead in a prominent spot in his desk drawer, which Hide spots, triggering the flashback. Since Atri has no grave, it’s a memorial, but also a reminder to take extra care in vetting those he’d allow close to him. It’s what he believes he’s achieved with Obi, which is why he presents him with a royal ID and the official role of royal messenger, though he’s still expected to keep an eye on Shirayuki whenever Zen can’t spare one.

aka93

Obi purports to be like us, merely observers, not participants, in the goings-on within Wistal Castle. However, Zen seems to be welcoming him into the same tight-knit fold already consisting of Mitsuhide and Kiki (whose story we have yet to hear, unless I forgot about it :P). The episode ends with a wonderful atmosphere of everything being right in the world, with the stars shining down, Shirayuki peacefully sleeping it off, Zen and Obi drinking together, and Hide and Kiki sparring.

And that’s all fine and dandy…except that this episode also felt a bit too stagnant; that we’re going over and over the same themes about Zen finding the right balance of warmth and authority, and surrounding himself with those he trusts. He mentions a path he’s on, similar to how Shirayuki puts it; and indeed, she’s on that path, as well as all his trusted friends and attendants. Rather than talking about it more, why not let’s get back on that path and continue down that path, shall we?

7_mag