Horimiya – 12 – The Mantis

This week it’s Christmas in Horimiyaland, and everyone is figuring out how—and with whom—they want to spend their holiday. It’s just too perfect that Yuki fell in love with Tooru having absolutely no clue that the boy’s family was freakin’ loaded. Money can’t buy you love! If anything, it intimidates a girl of more modest means like Yuki.

At a time when everyone needs Christmas cake, Izumi is scheduled to work through the holidays at the bakery, meaning he won’t be able to join Kyouko and her family. While she’s understanding—her boy’s fam gotta earn, nothing you can do about it—her dad, mom, and Souta are less forgiving. Never mind if it’s Kyouko’s the one technically dating him. They want Izumi!

Shuu and Sengoku were both convinced Tooru and Yuki were already an item, but by saying he only “recently” harbored a crush on Kyouko, Tooru he reveals he’s still in a transitory place: not yet far enough removed from the pain of not having those feelings returned, and thus not quite ready to look for love elsewhere. Compounding matters is that he likely considers Yuki his best mates.

Why else would he so helplessly waver when she asks if she can come to his place to play video games? Or sneak in the house like something elicit is afoot? Or so determined to keep the family’s statuesque personal assistant Yashiro’s nose out of his business? Like his other friends, Tooru likely doesn’t want Yashiro or his family to get the wrong idea in the present—even if it may well turn out to be the right idea in the future.

After they both calm down after tea and cake (from Izumi’s bakery!) and fire up the video games, Tooru lets slip that he’s “happy with the way things are.” And honestly, I really don’t see Yuki disagreeing with that. As they watch that loading screen, they both seem content and comfortable. No need to rush things.

There’s a bit of drama at school when Sengoku doesn’t immediately agree to spend Christmas with Remi at Remi’s, and for a very bizarre reason: her dad is into catching bugs and putting them in boxes. When it’s trifling things like this that come between lovers, you know it’s true love. Sengoku simply has to grow a pair. The bugs are DEAD, dude!

When Kyouko shows her parents her superlative marks (all A’s save gym and art…kinda the opposite of me!) her mom remarks how there will only be one more report card, and then she’ll graduate. As her parents bicker and Souta asks her to look at his marks, Kyouko gets lost in thought: What will her life be like after graduation?

But before that, it’s Christmas, and the episode doesn’t want to leave anyone out as it checks in on just about everyone, starting with a contact-wearing Yanagi and Yuki’s big sister, who have a cute little exchange by a big outdoor Christmas tree. Tanihara and his brother wrestle over a clear view of the TV.

In what is a promising development, Yuki and Tooru are hanging out together for Christmas. I’m rooting for you two tentative bastards….take all the time you need!

Motoko is studying hard even the night before Christmas, but Shuu makes sure she takes a fried chicken and cake break. Sakura urges Sengoku to stop being a goddamn wimp and go hang out with his adorable girlfriend on one of (if not the) most important nights for couples both potential and extant. On the latter front, Shindou asks his girlfriend to wait one more year for him to graduate, and she agrees.

The entire Hori residence—including Souta’s cute friend Yura—is united in their elation when Izumi stops by to drop off their cake. When he says he can’t stay, Kyouko is again understanding, but her family won’t let him leave without a hot drink, eventually stealing a whole hour of his shift at the bakery.

When they finally allow him to leave, Kyouko walks him home, despite not being dressed for the chilly night; she’s in slippers, for goodness sake! But there’s something she wants to say to Izumi, and mercifully it’s not to ask him to berate or hit her; that particular pothole on their relationship road seems to have smoothed out off-camera…and that’s fine.

No, Kyouko tells him the same thing he told her back when they first started going out: she still doesn’t know very much about him. But due in part to that and other factors, she wants to be with him even after they graduate. Izumi goes quite a few steps beyond agreeing, and proposes marriage! Whoa, boy! Immediately embarrassed by blurting out what is surely deep-seated but still premature desire, he shuffles off.

But Kyouko promises she’ll “make him happy”, something Izumi says is usually what the guy is supposed to say in such a situation—which ironically is the kind of cisnormative comment you’d expect from Kyouko! She insists she should be the one to say it, as she admits she’s self-centered and “only good at studying and chores” though she’s selling herself short.

These two lovable dorks then bow to each other, expressing how they’re looking forward to their future together. All I can really say to that is BAAAAAWWWW.

After the credits, we fast-forward to New Year’s, which Kyouko and Izumi are spending together at a festival. They get their fortunes, but they hardly matter, since they both agree that as long as the other person is smiling, it’s all gravy. They grab some amazake and reflect how they were the last people they saw at the end of the previous year and the first people they saw at the beginning of the new one.

Izumi wants every year to be like that. Izumi walks Kyouko home hand-in-hand, assuring her that they can and will indeed be together forever. And damnit, I believe him. And like them, I’m happy just seeing the two smiling together, shrugging off the anxiety around what would happen after high school, laying out their future, and sharing in the warmth, relief, and elation of knowing graduation will only be the end of their beginning.

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation – 08 – Growing Up Fast

Two years have passed since Eris’ tenth birthday, which means Rudeus’s tenth birthday has arrived. He can sense scurryings and murmurings around the Boreas mansion, but he doesn’t expect much in the way of a celebration. For one, he’s a member of the Notos branch of the Greyrats, one of four main families.

For him to be under Boreas protection invites “unwelcome misunderstandings”, so they’ve kept it quiet. But when the day arrives, after discovering Ghislaine’s rock-hard glutes (she takes her diversionary role very seriously) while inspecting her tail, Rudy is shown to the main banquet hall where the entire Boreas household is gathered to celebrate his birthday.

Eris presents him with a bouquet, and Rudy reacts with tears he had practiced, leading an overly-moved Lord Sauros to start an inter-Greyrat war for his sake. Even Eris’ mom Hilda is moved, first offering to adopt Rudy, then insisting he marry Eris! The big secret Eris and Ghislaine were concealing from Rudy is Aqua Heartia, a superb magical staff made in Asura that must’ve cost a fortune.

As the party winds down and a tuckered-out Eris is carried to bed, Phillip explains why Hilda has been so cold to him these past years: his brother in the capital took Eris’ older and younger brothers, as all male Boreas are raised in the main household.

He makes a seemingly serious proposal for Rudy to marry Eris and take over the Boreas household, offering to handle the coup. Rudy, wanting no part of power struggles, leaves their discussion as idle chitchat over wine and retires for the night.

To Rudy’s surprise, Eris is waiting in his bed wearing a nightie and with silkier-than-usual hair, worried he’d be lonely the night of his birthday and offering to share the bed with him. So begins the most uncomfortable scene in the whole series, which begins with Rudy imagining doing something to Eris. The Eris in his head yells “no” and he ends his fantasy immediately.

Then Rudy warns the Eris outside his head that if she stays with him he might “try something dirty (ecchi)“, to which she replies that “just a little” is fine with her. Alas, Rudy goes way too far, attempting to do far more than “just a little” and immediately receiving a beatdown for it. Lying on the floor, Rudy is filled with regret for forgetting himself in the moment. Eris ends up coming right back, and he prostrates himself in apology.

She forgives him because it’s a “special day,” but warns him it’s far too soon for such things, urging him to “control himself” for five more years when he’ll be a proper adult —at least in this renaissance-analogous  timeline. Taking her words as a promise that they’ll be properly together one day, Rudy swears off “indulgences”, only to remember that Sylphie is no doubt waiting for him…

Back at his home, Sylphie visits the Greyrats, and we see that Norn and Aisha have grown into adorable toddlers. Sylphie has an item she wants send to Rudy, and Lilia promises to send it, along with a box which most likely contains the “holy relic”—payback for saving her from having to leave the home.

Paul, meanwhile, has been inordinately busy hunting an increased number of monsters in the forest, which kept him from attending Rudy’s party in Roa. The double-ringed red orb in the sky has grown, and seems to be responsible for an unusual accumulation of mana which even Roxy can see in the sky from her royal post.

She’s not the only one who notices this. There’s a very badass-looking guy on a mountain who is able to tame dragons; the much goofier-looking, Zvezda-esque “Great Emperor of the Demon World” with the Japanese name Kishirika Kishirisu; and of course, Lord Perugius in his ornate flying castle. Sensing someone could be trying to undo the seal on the Demon-God Laplace, he dispatches his lieutenant Almanfi to investigate.

The looks in on these colorful previously unseen characters greatly expand the world of Mushoku Tensei in a matter of minutes, but they are only teases; it will be up to the show to flesh out these new players and whatever factions or masters they serve. No doubt this convergence of mana will bring them all crashing together…and who else would be in the direct center of it than Rudeus Greyrat?

He’s come to a large open field with Eris and Ghislaine to test out his new staff and show them Cumulonimbus for the first time. But before he can complete the spell, the sky becomes sickly and miasmic in color and pocked with vortices and eddies. Almanfi teleports, and Ghislaine crosses swords with him. He believes Rudy to be the source of the “disturbance”, but Ghislaine rightly tells him he’s mistaken.

Because she is a true Sword King, Almanfi stays his sword. But who or whatever is causing the disturbance takes things to the next level, as a column of blinding blue light starts to expand across the landscape, swallowing up Ghislaine as she orders Rudy to take Eris and go. Eris loses her footing and Rudy shields her with his body just as the light washes over them, leaving us to ponder what the heck is in store for them next.

While I’m sure the series always intended to end this episode on a cliffhanger, the fact that the bedroom scene lingered on so long and past its welcome had the effect of compressing those glimpses of the bigger picture. Not that Rudy and Eris one day tying the knot isn’t critical importance…but they can’t marry if Laplace wakes up and destroys the world!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Read Crow’s review of episode 8 here!

TONIKAWA: Over the Moon For You – 04 – Never Gonna Let You Down

After a haunting cold open in which Tsukasa is staring at the moon and seeking a warm home, she comes home to an empty apartment. While she’s waiting for Nasa to come home she decides to pass the time with domestic chores. The place is already spotless, so she prepares to cook something.

That’s when the doorbell rings. Tsukasa assumes it’s her husband, but it’s Kaginoji Chitose, her “little sister” from her previous home, who has come to bring her back. The only problem is, Tsukasa has no intention of going back. Also, she’s married!

Chitose is crying on the steps to Nasa’s apartment when he arrives, and offers her a hanky like a gentleman. Chitose mentions the person she’s looking for as a “glass butterfly”; so delicate and fleeting you might lose her if you blink.

As we’ve seen, Nasa understands that, which is why he had Tsukasa spend their first wedded night together. Despite his kindness, once Chitose learns he is the person Tsukasa married, she becomes engulfed in flames of outrage. Simply put, Chitose won’t let Nasa have her Tsukasa.

Tsukasa watches in amazement as Nasa takes total command of the conversation, having clearly studied conflict resolution and mediation among his many other interests. He puts on a high-level rhetoric clinic by not refuting what Chitose says, objectively address her concerns, and propose a practical solution.

Alas, Chitose isn’t interested in discourse, and has her chauffeur pull up, tie Nasa up, and drive them to her mansion, leaving Tsukasa in the dust. Nothing like a spot of abduction to spice up a dull afternoon, eh?

At said mansion, Chitose tasks her two maids, Charlotte and Aurora, to scrape up some tabloid photography of Nasa she can use to convince Tsukasa to divorce him immediately. Charlotte initially takes the request literally and strips; while Chitose covers her back up, Nasa flees.

He comes across a room that smells vaguely of his wife, and there he finds something not just special, but otherworldly: a genuine moon rock, displayed within a nitrogen-filled case to prevent oxidation. Charlotte finds him and swings a huge RPG sword at him, damaging the case and causing a leak. What a klutz!

Fortunately, Nasa is also well-versed in nitrogen museum cases, and is able to repair it, MacGyver-style as Chitose and the maids watch in amazement. Chitose explains that her great-grandmother acquired the rock to “soothe Tsukasa’s heart”—another new hint that could suggest Tsukasa is actually Princess Kaguya from the moon.

Charlotte offers her thanks by pressing Nasa into her bust, and Aurora snaps pictures and rapidly ‘shops them to look like compromising photos, just in time for Tsukasa to arrive. While her voice is calm and controlled, Nasa detects a threatening aura. Did Chitose succeed in torpedoing their union?

Uh, no…duh! Chitose pretends to be mad and takes Tsukasa somewhere private to talk, but in reality she’s giving Chitose the slip. She shows Nasa a secret passage and leads him by the hand to a beautiful but defunct church atop a hill. It’s there where Nasa realizes that while he knows next to nothing about his new wife’s past, it’s their future that matters.

To that end, he makes use of the gorgeously-lit church setting to make a formal proposal to Tsukasa, complete with a kiss. He’ll promise to share everything happy that happens to him with her, and also share in her sadness when applicable. Nasa may be a studied guy, but it’s clear his words come from the heart—and he can be counted on to keep his promises.

I was worried when Tsukasa and Nasa were apart for most of the episode and the focus was once more on new characters. But the madcap comedy of Chitose and the maids was surprisingly decent, and the episode finished strong when Tsukasa rescued Nasa and he proposed.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Uzaki-chan wa Asobitai! – 02 – Cafe Jazz

Sakurai seeks both employment and refuge at a serene cafe run by an old man for the last ten years plus. His business policy is to have a calm atmosphere for his customers, and Sakurai has proven adept at enacting that policy in his fine barista work.

That is, until a hungry Uzaki shows up wanting to tease Sakurai. Their ensuing bickering completely changes the carefully-cultivated atmosphere, but the owner doesn’t care; these two are surprisingly fun to watch. After two episodes, I tend to agree….tentatively.

Turns out Sakurai is also a big fan of cats and dogs, but has limited experience due to growing up and living without pets. When a friendly alley cat runs off, Uzaki tries to chase it but gets very awkwardly caught in a hedge. Her underwear is exposed and if she’s pulled out to fast her shirt will flip off.

This results in some very adult-sounding double entendres (“Are you pulling out Senpai? Hurry!” “Almost…there…just behave, will you?”) which two passing women overhear and obviously get the wrong idea and flee screaming. It seems at least once per week Sakurai and Uzaki will end up in one of these … entanglements.

Sakurai seems neither ready or interested in an intimate relationship with someone, but whether it’s the college dining hall or the cafe, Uzaki can’t leave him be, though for now it seems she’s strictly interested in friendship. She asks him to help her with a report, and when his boss says it’s fine, he acquieses to her request.

During this time Uzaki asks if she can come to his place, stating how she’ll cook meals and its proximity to campus. Sakurai’s mind can’t help but take such proposals to imply she wishes to co-habitate, but she’s actually interesting in coming by to play video games.

Both seem to be in a state of arrested development, with Sakurai so inexperienced with women he blushes at the very thought of one in his living space, to Uzaki with her impish energy and innocent motives.

Despite some fanservice, this ep prompted me look past her appearance (which caused the seasoned cafe owner to mistake her for an elementary student) and see what makes these two young people more alike than they’d care to admit—which is what makes them so fun to watch.

P.S. Looks like both Uzaki and Sakurai have friends! But still just one each, and they don’t have much to do…yet.

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – 01 – Otakus Reunite (First Impressions)

From the director and series compositor of Working!! (and Momokuri) comes another workplace romantic comedy involving two otaku who knew each other in both elementary and middle school suddenly realizing they work at the same drab office. Momose Narumi is a fujoshi, while Nifuji Hirotaka is a game otaku.

They fall back into their old dynamic almost immediately, as reflections of each other that don’t have to put on airs. Narumi also seems able to hold her liquor, while Hirotaka smokes like a goddamn chimney. They may not be kids anymore, but they remain steadfast otaku, and seem to draw strength and validation from one another’s continued sustained to their mutual odd obsessions, even if, at least initially, Narumi has no intention of dating her childhood friend.

Narumi is a particularly lucky otaku salarywoman, because her office senpai Koyanagi just happens to be “in the fold”, having cosplayed as a man at many an event. Koyanagi also happens to be a great fan of Narumi’s fujoshi work. Narumi took a risk by being open about who she is and what her interests ares, and it paid off Koyanagi is even cooler than she initially imagined.

As for Hirotaka, he’s slightly better at his job than Narumi, but that may well be a factor of him being with the company longer. Narumi left her old company due in part to having dated and broken up with her old boyfriend who worked there once he found out she was an otaku. Hirotaka has no such qualms, as he is himself an unapologetic otaku, and is all too happy to wait for Narumi to finish her work so they can go out for drinks.

It’s also Hirotaka who proposes Harumi should just date him. She herself voiced frustration over always “making the wrong choice” when it comes to love, so she’s willing to defer to Hirotaka in this case. He offers her a blindingly logical argument for why she should choose him: he will accept her for who she is, and she can do the same. He can also accompany her to events like Summer Comiket. It’s a match made in otaku heaven, really.

WotaKoi is a brisk and breezy little show that doesn’t waste a lot of time getting its main couple together. Their exchanges are easy, casual, and comfortable, and their pairing up feels both inspired, inevitable, and thoroughly reasonable. They sport a great effortless chemistry, and I’m eager to see how their new “alliance” works out.

Saekano 2 – 09

After the high spirits attained by watching Tomoya and Megumi finally reconcile last week, the angst and despair prevalent in this latest installment of Saekano presents a stark contrast. It’s a place we know the show is as comfortable with as the goofier comedy, and it’s fairly apparent by the end of the episode that whatever happens, things won’t be the same…or at least they shouldn’t easily revert back there.

After meeting Utaha after her graduation and presenting his proposal, which she reads and gives high marks, Tomoya asks if she’ll be on board for the new game, and Utaha says she can’t. She can’t for precisely the concessions Tomoya offers to persuade her to do it: he will only ask her for as much as she can handle when she has the time.

Essentially, Utaha cannot work for a producer who won’t push her to make sacrifices and challenge herself. Because of Tomoya at its head, Blessing Software is no longer a place where Utaha can feel she’s being the best creative she can be. That realization was probably reached on her own in some form, but it was certainly helped by the meeting she had one month ago.

In that meeting, the famous, ultra-successful and popular Kousaka Akane offers Utaha the task of writing the story for the newest in a celebrated, 20-year-old line of RPGs, Fields Chronicle. Not only that, Kousaka offered Eriri the job as character designer. In fact, she wanted Eriri more than Utaha. And Tomoya is just now hearing about this.

As Tomoya stews in despair and wonders if this is all really happening, we rewind one month. Utaha talks with Eriri about her slump, and about the same issues with Tomoya she brings up with him a month later.

Ever since her art from the winter villa, she hasn’t been able to draw anything as good, but takes comfort in knowing Tomoya will give her all the time she needs, and forgive and stick with her if she never draws anything again.

Utaha can relate – she once “lost herself to a guy” and it negatively affected her ability to be the best creative she could be, but Eriri won’t admit that’s what’s going on, even as she states Tomoya will never be the asshole producer-type he actually needs to be to get the most out of his creatives.

Then Utaha’s editor tells her about the meeting Kousaka wants with her, and Eriri comes along, not because she’ll be willing to hear anything Kousaka wants to say, but to try to stop Utaha from being drawn into Kousaka’s web and agreeing to the RPG project.

But while Eriri ostensibly came to provide a stronger front against the older, more experienced, and more successful (and therefore seductive) Kousaka, neither she nor Utaha come out of the meeting unscathed.

Kousaka may be drunk when they arrive, but she’s perfectly lucid in her no-nonsense approach. She’s makes it clear it’s Kashiwagi Eri she wants more than anything, and if Kasumi Utako can’t bring her on board, she isn’t needed. Eriri tells Kousaka it’s too big a job and she’s in a bad slump, but Kousaka laughs in her face and calls her trash.

While one could easily dismiss Kousaka as a horrible person, there’s no doubting her passion for her work and the work she spearheads, and it’s clear this is a knock-down, drag-out cage-rattling. Eriri’s piddling excuses are of no consequence to her; no doubt she had the same excuses before she came into her own as an artist.

It’s also a big deal that after watching Eriri and Utaha go at each other as near-equals for nearly two seasons, the proven pro Kousaka considers Eriri the superior talent, the end. That’s gotta sting for Utaha, who hasn’t always felt superior but has rarely hesitated to push all of Eriri’s inferiority buttons in their interactions.

So I don’t think she’s wrong in trying to get both Eriri and Utaha to give up on silly little small-potatoes doujin work and really push themselves. That being said, it wasn’t fun watching the two get put through the ringer like that.

As for Tomoya? I can’t say I feel bad for the guy. For one thing, it was presumptuous enough to ask a writer and artist of Utaha and Eriri’s caliber to help him make one game. For another, he doesn’t have the proper producer mentality (in part because they’re all friends) to properly push them.

Even if the final two episodes deal with Tomoya getting them back, I’m not sure it will feel like a victory to me. A second game might be an accomplishment for Tomoya and Megumi, but it would be stagnation for the creatives. They’ve already proven themselves. Time to move on to bigger things…provided that’s what they really want, of course.

Saekano 2 – 08

~Revised from an earlier review~

Here it is: the much-anticipated episode in which Tomoya tries to make up with Megumi. He, and we, spend the entire episode with Megumi and only Megumi, for what feels like the first time in a long while. He ultimately succeeds, and she even ends up in his bed (get your head out of the gutter)!

I know full well no matter how “far” Tomoya seems to get with one girl or another, he may never actually choose one. And yet I can’t deny that one of the reasons I’ve stuck with the show is that there are episodes like these (and the previous ones with Utaha and Eriri) in which Tomoya comes very close to choosing, to the point where the featured girl is his choice of the week, and all others fall away.

Megumi straight-up dismisses the possibility she might like Tomoya, which is discouraging both to me and to Tomoya. But the truth is, Megumi’s dismissal of the possibility feels more and more hollow as the two to share a night of food (and underwear) shopping, cooking, talking, bathing, and finally sleeping over, that wouldn’t be out of place for an old married couple.

Megumi is reliably adorable throughout, and Tomoya is lucky to be in her presence. Entering his house first (where his parents are away), giving him a taste of her curry, wiping food off his face—this is the Tomoya and Megumi I love so much: glorious in their mundane domesticity.

The longer we spend with Tomoya and Megumi in such intimate environment, the less certain Megumi’s earlier rebuff of Tomoya’s “tentative” theory about her feels. I mean, if these two aren’t a couple, then nobody is, right?  I’m not taking crazy pills here.

While quick to reject Tomoya at the mere mention of being jealous of him and Eriri, Megumi couldn’t help but show her hand both then and throughout the episode. Tomoya is his usual dense self in accepting the rejection, but the evening he proceeds to share with Megumi surely have him questioning the finality of that exchange in the A/V room.

Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 12 (Fin)

With the Impure King defeated and the Kyoto Saga all but in the books, I was up for pretty much anything Ao no Exoricst wanted to do in the post-battle epilogue episode. It turned out to be chock-full of nice character moments, and felt like a thank you to the audience for watching. For instance, there’s no such thing as too much Mamushi, and her lovely scene in which Juzu comforts her kicks things off nicely.

Rin comes to in a room with Kumo resting beside him, but he soon spots Shiemi lying right next to him. They have a nice exchange, until she seemingly permanently friendzones him, and we learn that Renzo, Izumo and even the ventriloquist kid are also in there. It’s a need little gradual reveal.

After Mephisto has a chat with Yaozou (who gives all credit for the victory to Rin), a seemingly tipsy Shura comes onto him, but he sniffs out her intent, and soon she has a kunai at his throat, wondering if the Impure King was yet another test for Rin (which it most certainly was). Mephisto isn’t forthcoming with details, but his polite threat sends Shura flying off him, then warning him she has her eye on him…from a safe distance.

The next morning, Bon is headed to the room where his dad is resting, only to find him in an inn uniform sweeping the floor. It would seem Master Tatsuma has hung up the sutras, and wishes to live a simple life helping out around the inn. This irks Bon, who thinks it’s up to Tatsuma to re-unite the Myoda sect.

Turns out, neither Tatsuma nor Bon had to do anything for that to happen, as Juzu announces his intention to marry Mamushi. I’ll admit I wasn’t really shipping these two, but I can’t deny they work as a couple, and the scene in which he convinces her to agree to the marriage represents a nice melding of tradition and modern sensibilities. The protesting from Mamushi and Juzo’s siblings are also delightful, while Mamushi’s eyepatch is very chuunibyou.

The students have the day off, so they spend it together, this time not fighting for their lives, but sightseeing in Kyoto, the city they all helped to save from turning into the toxic forest from Nausicaä. It’s mostly a montage of stills, but they’re pretty stills that contain a lot of nice little character moments. I also liked how Rin’s friends did a running gag of having to do what the “son of satan” says, or else he’ll fry them.

Finally, Yukio meets Rin by the riverbank so Rin can tell him he’s still committed to becoming an exorcist and leaving his little brother in the dust, despite being the son of satan. Yukio doesn’t approve, and he has lots of good reasons, but Rin’s going to keep training nonetheless. So he tells Yukio he can go ahead and keep having his back, and he’ll have Yukio’s in return. With that, the brothers return to the group and they continue their pleasant, and well-earned, day off. Not a bad way to end.

Sousei no Onmyouji – 21

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After the life-changing ordeal that was the battle with Yuto, and Rokuro’s gift of new hairpins for Benio, it was as good a time as any for this 50-episode series to have a time jump. It’s been two years: Mayura is now an exorcist-in-training, donning hot pants and being clumsy; Ryogo and Haruka continue to be a couple, and Roku and Benio are now a reliable and staggeringly effective duo.

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The time jump also means the love triangle is now in high school. Mayura and Benio learn that Rokuro has become pretty cool guy, and it’s nice to see a character who was so flawed and incomplete come more into his own, much like Ushio in Ushio to Tora.

Old crushes who rejected him are now smitten, and Mayura wants Benio to piss or get off the pot with regards to acting on whatever feelings she has for the guy. She has, after all, had the advantage of living and working with him for over two years. Also good to see Mayura won’t be giving up until the fat lady sings (or the Miko is born).

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Roku isn’t the only one who’s grown, as Benio is a lot more comfortable at least bringing up the possibility of conceiving a child with Rokuro…’way way way down the road’. Furthermore, she’s open about wanting to cherish the sentiment of that future. The two years they’ve spent together have had a profound effect.

This is the kind of long-game gradual development a long show like SnO can bear. There may have just been a two-year shift forwards, but nothing that we see her is out of the blue, but informed by everything that’s come before. Oh, and Han Megumi, so awkward as Five, was born to voice Benio, as her pipes provide a great balance of toughness, forthrightness, and vulnerability.

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As fate would have it, the couple gets a kid and the opportunity to train as parents far far far earlier than they expected, when after a routine exorcism trip to Magano, the gang finds a tiny young girl in the middle of a ruined playground, surrounded by an ethereal light.

Just like that, we get a little Amaama in our Sousei. The little girl mostly acts like a little girl: mimicking everyone and not giving clear answers. Where she isn’t like an ordinary little girl is her ability to quickly absorb and apply information.

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Rokuro takes an instant shine to “Sae”, as he deicides to call her when she points to those particular sounds on newspapers. Benio, less so, but she proves a lot better with the kid than she initially gives herself credit for.

Considering their personalities, Roku was always going to be better with the kid (as he’s more of a kid himself), but if there’s one person who appreciates Benio’s Ohagi-man, it’s Sae.

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But yeah, Sae is suspiciously smart, reading whole books, scaling up and building a cardboard dinosaur skeleton, and even picking up a bit of English. She’s also suspicious because of where she came from (Magano), how Seigen looked at her (with a stink-eye), and what’s going on around her (a worsening epidemic of some kind of fog-like infection).

The 12 Guardians are also on their guard due to the possibility someone named Kasukami (said with the same dread as “Voldemort”) is gathering Basara to wreak havoc. Is Sae really Kasukami in mini-configuration? Is she a Basara, like Kamui? A very full and enjoyable episode leaves us to ponder these possibilities. A strong start to the next chapter for the Twin Star Exorcists.

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 20

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If it’s wrong to be immersed in this particular slice of formulaic shounen entertainment, I don’t want to be right. This episode put wasn’t perfect, but it got use through the epic battle between Yuto and the twins with a decent variety of twists, then capitalized on all of the good work it’s done with Roku and Benio to bring the arc to a close.

I’ve been clear about my dislike of the one-dimensional Yuto, but he’s made much more interesting by Benio’s assertion he’s hiding how much damage they actually did to him—without lessoning the threat he still poses as long as he remains on his two feet.

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I was hoping Benio could have ended things with Yuto with her new awesome Kegare legs, but she blasts through all her power too quickly, and Roku has to step in and save her. When Roku just can’t watch Yuto beat Benio anymore, the episode turns his power knob up to 11.

He can fight on the same level as Yuto, and he’s healed when Yuto blasts a hole in him. Furthermore, since they’re in Magano, all of the spirits of Roku’s friends whom Yuto turned into Kegare literally have his back, and he gains the final boost he needs to blow Yuto away.

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Blow him away he does, with a big ‘ol authoritative energy beam…but Yuto isn’t dead. C’mon now, there are 30 episodes left! Also, he merely “fell into darkness.” He’ll be back, but he’s gone for now, and Roku and Benio really can go home and have that ohagi. So I’m happy.

Could I have been happier? Sure. Why didn’t Yuto ever think to break Roku’s legs, or broken his instead of Benio’s? If he had, Benio would have had to save Roku, not the other way around. But I’ll let it go; both of them saved each other; who got the last lick in is not of much consequence.

What mattered was that SnO get the aftermath right after the battle ended. And what had been a nominal 8 up to the end of the battle rose to a 9, thanks to doing just that.

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Roku wakes to a smiling Benio. They meet with Arima and the 12 Guardians, the latter of which threaten discipline. But Benio helps reinforce the facts: the guardians wouldn’t have gotten there in time, their friends and family were threatened, and Seigen failed. So no punishment.

However, Arima’s nice-guy mask cracks more than once in this meeting, as he reiterates Roku’s true mission, which isn’t to train or become stronger or even fight or exorcise anyone or anything; it’s to marry Benio and conceive the Miko.

Roku turns the issue around by first going up to Benio and proposing to her, but then asking what exactly a newborn baby is going to be able to do about calamities that will arrive before he’s a glimmer in Roku’s eye? He isn’t going to wait and put such a burden on an infant. He’s going to keep getting stronger and make sure the Miko has as little left to do in the world-saving department as possible.

Benio are of the same mind on this, so Arima indulges them: they have two years to become stronger than the 12 Guardians. The consequences if they can’t? Marriage and babymakin’.

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Make no mistake: neither Roku nor Benio are ready for those things yet. But right here and now, they are a couple, and both have gotten more and more comfortable with that after everything they’ve been through and how they’ve come through for one another.

After all of that, and then enjoying a festival together, and after Roku buys Benio a new pair of sakura-themed hairpins, Plan B looks less like something they’ve always want to avoid, and more like something they’ll want anyway, when they’re ready.

Oh, and Mayura is going to be an exorcist, so she can stand and fight beside her friends. Good to hear; someone with such inventive expressions shouldn’t be kept on the sidelines.

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Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge – 06

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This week Tanaka catches cold from getting soaked several times by the rain, even though he had an umbrella. He thought the rain wasn’t heavy enough to justify opening it, and by the time it was it was too late. He also tries to develop a rain barrier by standing out in the rain, but that doesn’t go so well.

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Shiraishi looks at the rainy day and sees an opportunity for the cliched but still desirable experience of walking with a loved one while sharing an umbrella. When she actually gets her wish, she’s a bit frazzled by how suddenly it happened.

She’s also a bit to excited for Tanaka to get any closer to her, and she’s content she’s as close as she is. Unfortunately, that means half of Tanaka is exposed to the rain, and the next day he comes in with a hoarse throat, a bad cough, and a mask.

Shiraishi sees this as another opportunity to take care of Tanaka, but he doesn’t want her to catch his cold, so asks her to stay away in a manner that could be construed as cold if we didn’t know who was saying it. The thing is, we don’t see Shiraishi again the rest of the episode, so she obeyed his wishes!

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Instead, the second half of the episode is dominated by Echizen, who is an awesome delinquent with a gentle heart and old-fashioned notion of romance. In one of Sick Tanaka’s numerous attempts to communicate wordlessly to save his voice, he is loath to write Echizen’s name in Kanji, and instead writes a note asking if she could change her surname to Ohta or Tanaka.

Echizen sees this as nothing less than a proposal and a demand for her to choose one of the two guys, and she stresses over it immensely. Indeed, she shows her more tender, vulnerable, bashful side, one previously only seen when interacting with Miyano.

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She weighs the pros and cons of marrying Ohta and Tanaka, and almost cuts her long skirt. She worries about being too tall for Tanaka, but then he says he likes her height. She worries about not being able to see Ohta as a man, but then he saves her from tripping and carries her when she falls down the steps.

The fact that Echizen becomes a completely uncoordinated klutz when worrying about these things further deepens her character into something far more than your run-of-the-mill Yankee. But the show smartly doesn’t let the misunderstanding extend beyond this week, as Echizen comes out and explains her bizarre behavior as the result of Tanaka’s note.

Tanaka and Ohta explain he was sick and only suggested the name change because he was too lazy to write “Echizen.” But they both decide it’s easier anyway to simply address her as Miyano does, as “Ecchan,” thereby perpetuating her smittenness.

While Shiraishi+Tanaka and Echizen+Ohta make the most sense, it was fun to see the doors open for other possibilities, even if they were one-sided and the result of a misunderstanding. And I’m never going to complain about the occasional doe-eyed Echizen!

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Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry – 12 (Fin)

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The night before her fight with Ikki, Touka asks Shizuku to ask him to withdraw, a request she never ends up relaying. Touka makes the request out of concern for Ikki’s health after all he’s been through. But even if he doesn’t withdraw, she’s not sure she can be proud of the outcome, since it’s all been fixed by the adults.

But she can only control what she can control, which is having a fight she can be proud of, something Uta is sure Ikki wants as well. There may be one-dimensional adversaries in RKC, but Touka is most certainly not one of them, and no matter what the peripheral circumstances, she wants to fight Ikki.

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It’s nice to see even fleeting doubt in Touka, whom Ikki places on a pedestal as the paragon of self-assuredness and conviction, while he wallows in despair following his father’s quiet but devastating takedown of him. He’s never been lower, not knowing what he can do with his “empty worthless sword.” Never underestimate the power of a father’s candid words to his son.

At the main arena, Ikki’s battle with Touka is the Main Event, with a packed house, helicopters circling, and TV cameras rolling. It’s all been arranged, Gladiator style, to maximize Ikki’s humiliation should he be defeated, which Akaza believes is a foregone conclusion, after the “softening up” they did on him…and the fact if Ikki fails to show up in fifteen minutes, he forfeits.

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But Ikki is on his way, filthy and beaten and exhausted as he is, he still manages to remember his master’s advice: if he’s frustrated about the fact he’s the weakest, hold onto the feeling, since it’s proof he hasn’t given up. He always chose to take those words as the Gospel, and he’s not about to stop now.

Then he faints, but he wakes up to Shizuku smiling above him. She’s not going to tell him to withdraw from the fight; instead, she’s assembled all of the people rooting for him, who put their dreams in his hands. He’s responsible for taking their defeats and going as far as he can, for the sake of those dreams. Oh yeah, and Stella advanced to Seven Stars, so if Ikki wants to keep his promise, he must, too, even if the odds are extremely against him.

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The fight itself? It ends surprisingly quickly. After exchanging their mutual excitement for fighting one another and Ikki vows to “beat her strongest with his strongest”, he casts Itto Shura immediately, but puts everything he has into one swing, while Touka banks everything on her undefeated Raikiri. Like AsteriskRKC breaks out a special animation style for the singular occasion, but its battle is, as I said, far briefer, but still plenty exciting.

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Then there’s the traditional long pause before we know who won, but c’mon, we knew Ikki was going to win, right? …Right? Well, that’s what he does, he wins, in front of a crowd of thousands and an audience of millions around the world. Akaza tries one last-ditch attempt to deprive Ikki of what he is due (and, incidentally, his life as well), but Stella closes on him fast, blast him out of the way, and embraces Ikki before he falls.

He’s able to stay conscious long enough to publically propose marriage to her in front of those cameras, achieving what he had always dreamed to: present Stella as the one he wishes to share his life and soul with, in front of everyone who matters, along with everyone who doesn’t. The display is enough to move Stella’s father to call Ikki’s, insisting they no longer use their children as pawns in their games.

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Touka, who looked pretty rough after the fight, recovers along with Ikki, who regains his freedom and the admiration of his school. Touka names him school flag-bearer for Seven Stars, and wishes him well. No bad feelings here; he really did beat her strongest with his. Of course, even after the tournament, there’s still two more years of school, during which time Shizuku promises to teach Stella how to be the ideal Kurogane bride, having already assessed her fitness to join the family and determined Stella a worthy match for her big bro.

As far as I know, RKC isn’t continuing for a second season like Asterisk, despite the possibilities for further epic battles and romantic progression. That’s a shame, because I thought RKC was the better show. But I’m also not choked up about it, because the show built up the finale well and delivered a solid payoff. It truly reached the greatest heights of chivalry!

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Kamisama Hajimemashita 2 – 12 (Fin)

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Kami-Haji wastes no time piling on the adorableness in its final episode. Lil’ Nanami is button cute, just the kind of person you want to hold and squeeze and protect for all time. But we learn along with Tomoe that that cuteness is tempered by a steely resolve to look out for herself and be wary of men; advice given by her mother, who herself could not escape a life of bad luck with a crappy excuse for a man. We also learn that the women in her family only ever bear more women, all of them beautiful.

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Tomoe is positively transfixed by this educational foray into Nanami’s past, and even though Mizuki tries on numerous occasions to nudge him to put an end to it, Tomoe watches on, even as things go from bad (Nanami’s mother dying, as expected) to worse (Nanami living with her awful dad, who does nothing but goof off and burn their house down). The things that happen to Nanami are almost comically cruel, but for all the slapstick mixed in with the narrative, the episode never makes light of her plight.

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It also makes it clear these are the experiences that made Nanami the young woman she is today, and that something great and beautiful can come out of all that suffering and hardship. With that, Mizuki again confronts the lil’ Nanami to try to coax her back to the present, and again, she flees from Mizuki, who if we’re honest doesn’t have the most trustworthy aura about him.

Tomoe is different, though. Even though he’s a man, Nanami seems to trust him implicitly. Is it the connection she has with him in the present shining through here, or the connection between her family lineage and the god who granted them beauty at a heavy yet bearable and character-building cost?

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Tomoe isn’t just a fan of lil’ Nanami because she’s adorable. He also likes the fact that everything she desires is clear to him here in her flashback world, as things she concentrates more on appear with more detail and in greater focus. Seeing everything she wants to clearly, and having the power to grant it all, Tomoe’s devotion for her grows. Here, when asked if he truly loves her and is someone she can count on, he can answer directly: yes he does.

Heck, he even proposes marriage, and she accepts…but when the grown Nanami wakes up, she’s seemingly forgotten everything about her dream, which deflates Tomoe quite a bit, because he thought he’d actually made progress.

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He laments the fact that the happy-go-lucky yet delicate girl he was able to confess to so easily was lost in the twelve years since, especially when she’s able to single-handedly convince the zodiac sheep to allow the new year god to shear him. Then Nanami surprises Tomoe again and makes him rethink everything when the Year God furnishes her with a photo of her mother.

Now, that wouldn’t seem such an impactful gift, but considering her mother died when Nanami was very young and all photos of her were lost in the fire (a heartbreaking fact), it means multitudes for Nanami to finally see her face clearly. And in doing so, Tomoe sees that neither Lil’ Nanami nor her mother really vanished; they’re still within Nanami.

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Back at the Shrine, Nanami is back to work on her talismans, and Tomoe is back to work denigrating their poor quality, earning her defiant scowls. But when relaxing after a long day ushering in the new year for worshippers and the like, Nanami settles down for some tea and TV with her shrine family, whom she’s been with now for a year.

When she steps outside, the falling snow reminds her of what a shadowy figure once said to her in a half-forgotten memory of the past (which we know to have just happened at the Torii gates), in which Tomoe tells her younger self she won’t always be alone and wary, but be “the lady and mistress of a household more rowdy than she could wish for.”

And so it’s come to pass. She has a family, without having resorted to marriage she’d sworn off. And yet, when asked again, Nanami adds the qualified “probably” to that swearing-off, opening the door for Tomoe, if he wishes to walk through it.

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