Momokuri – 11 + 12

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Another week, another familiar rom-com scenario: the Summer Festival. While Momokuri’s didn’t come close to the heights of, say, ReLIFE’s festival, it was still Momokuri’s best episode to date, because it progressed, and characters came in contact with one another, so naturally and effortlessly. Not only was it a fine bit of slice-of-life, it also developed Rio’s relationship with Yuki.

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Momo and Yuki are having a fine time as a couple at the festival until they become separated, and Momo’s phone dies. Momokuri subverts the typical instance of a cute girl left alone falling prey to some wolves. In this case, the wolves are older women, and it’s diminutive-for-his-age Momo who is the prey.

Not only that, it’s “Prince” Rio who swoops in to save him from the “panthers”—more androgynous than ever due to her tan and boy’s clothes (provided so she could serve as protection for Ikue and Yuzuki.

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Despite looking like most like a boy (and a delinquent at that), Momo remarks how he’d rather see Rio in a yukata. Rio has spent much of her most recent years enduring those who say she could pass a a boy, so she’s heartened by Momo treating her like the girl she is.

Rio heads off on her own to look for Yuki, because a part of her wants to be one-on-one with her. It’s just as good, because when being with Yuki, Rio learns a little more about her rival-in-love, and determines maybe she’s not as weird as she thought. Indeed, she helps Yuki come to grips with feelings she’s not able to understand all on her own.

Like Momo and Yuki, she too was a bit lost early this week. But by the end, her stated desire for Momo to be happy above all else is evidence enough for Yuki that what Rio has isn’t just a like for someone, but love. Of course, Yuki isn’t aware that it’s Momo Rio likes. I doubt she’ll ever find out, either; this isn’t a drama, after all!

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Momokuri – 09 + 10

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After an exhaustive search for the perfect swimsuit (driving Norika half-insane), Kuri joins Momo and the rest of their circles of friends for BBQ. And that’s really all this episode is: a nice, pleasant, relaxing slice-of-life BBQ.

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Sure, it draws more attention to one of the other couples, which is non-romantic in nature and between cousins, with the guy somewhat worried about the girl being too close for too long. Ya know, ’cause their respective parents are siblings, and all.

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Moving along, the one person who probably relaxes the least (other than Momo) is Rio, who came in part to try to make some kind of tangible progress on the Momo front. Alas, as much as she stares into his soul, Momo considers her naught but a friend, if he considers her at all.

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Kuri brings her A-game to the BBQ, and even though it’s too cold to swim, Kuri wants to see Momo’s skin so bad she gets it into her head to show him hers, lifting up her skirt to reveal her red swimsuit.

Momo has nothing but compliments for said suit, but makes it clear the compliments he’s making are directed at the suit and not anything else. Bold “reveals” aside, these two can still awfully timid around one another, suggesting the next steps in their courtship won’t come quickly or easily.

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Momokuri – 07 + 08

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Rio’s long-distance admiration of Momo progresses when their eyes meet and Momo reaches out in friendship, seeing as how her two best friends know his two best friends. Momo also inadvertantly sets Rio’s heart aflutter when he compliments her height and figure.

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Of course, Kuri also knows Rio, and sees her as a potential ally in her quest to document Momo in every possible condition, such as, say, when he’s in the pool for P.E. Rio feels a hint of kinship with Kuri, but Kuri’s so damn much that it still weirds Rio out in a way Norika is clearly more used to.

Kuri’s desire to meet with Rio meant not walking home with Momo after a long time of doing just that (and only that), so when Momo sees Kuri with Rio, he gets jealous, and gets even more somber when she doesn’t walk with him to school.

Obviously, dude has no reason to worry, since he was the whole reason Kuri met with Rio to begin with, and when he brings up how he’s felt down while they’ve been apart, it gives Momo a nosebleed he quickly and expertly attends to.

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Hearing his lower voice, and his request she not call him feminine, Kuri starts to think of Momo as more than just cute, but also a boy, though she’s still not quite sure what to do about it. After a kick from Norika, she commits to asking him out on a proper date to the beach.

Before she can, Momo steals a march on her, inviting her to a BBQ, along with all of their mutual friends. They both revel in the fact they’re on the phone with one another, to the point Kuri thinks out loud, embarrassing both of them while at the same time being happy the words were said.

These two episodes felt a lot more like a single, standard-length one, and with the BBQ not happening until next week, Momokuri has gotten very serialized. As long as things don’t get too complicated or dramatic…that’s what Orange is for! I like Momokuri because it’s simple, pleasant, and light.

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Momokuri – 05 + 06

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Sakaki Rio, Yuki’s tall, cool, athletic new rival, probably thinks the world is out of alignment, and she simply needs to click it back into a place where she, not Yuki, is by Momo’s side, “protecting his smile”, as anime characters love to do.

That Yuki simply slipped into Momo’s good graces with her Poodle-Maltese-esque cuteness and outwardly easygoing nature; but she doesn’t deserve Momo; not really. He’s Rio’s small, cute animal to protect.

But at the start of the episode, she’s at a distinct disadvantage. She’s in the supermarket. Yuki ends up in Momo’s room, then bed, then enjoys dinner with him. Definite FOMO vibes coming off Rio.

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It wasn’t always that way. She joined the tennis club because Momo thought she’d look cool playing. Then he quit, and she got stuck practicing with the older girls that craved her athletic prowess.

She lost her “in” with him, though she’s still in the same class as him and accepts his offer of ice cream in exchange for her study cards. But it’s clear Momo doesn’t see her at all the way Rio sees him, which is more how he sees Yuki. To Momo, she’s just…a friend.

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Whereas Rio’s effort to get closer to Momo (thru tennis) fizzled out, Yuki has gotten to where she is through relentless effort and persistence, without ever exposing too much of her perv-ier side to Momo. More to the point, he’s all but blind to that side of her-like assuming she was feeling ill when he found her in his bed.

What’s amusing about these two is that Momo is often worried that he’s thinking impure thoughts or being pervy and tries to check himself, while Yuki leaps into that arena with such gusto, she often needs her friend to pull her out, by, say, tossing out Momo’s used straws.

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When she inevitably gets found out by Rio, Rio doesn’t turn it into leverage, because she can’t, not without revealing her own hand to Momo (or worse, coming off as mean or vindictive). She’s also clearly a little afraid of Momo’s intense observation and intel-gathering methods.

But Rio also knows that there’s more to Yuki than she thought …much more, though not all of it necessarily good. Yuki is right that Rio understands how she feels about the addictively-cute Momo, but the sheer intensity of Yuki’s obsession overpowers any resultant shame. Rio just isn’t wired that way, but they both like Momo, so it will be interesting to see how she deals.

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 04

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Aha…so the man behind the attacks on Festa participants was…SILAS NORMAN. Wait, who? Julis’ opponent turns out to be Lester’s bowl-cut toady, with Lester himself unaware of the cowardly tactics Silas was implementing (Les is the sort to challenge his opponents face-to-face).

But I’m still grasping for reasons to care about Silas, or why he continually thinks he has the upper hand against Julis and Lester and that they’re DOOMED before his army of slow, lame golems. It’s like Crabbe or Goyle fighting Harry Potter instead of Malfoy, with substandard magic: nothing much other than shrug-worthy.

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He does have on thing on his side: numbers (and the fact Julis tends to block her own field of vision with her huge fiery spells, which…is actually a good point). So when her leg is grazed by a bullet the golems are able to bum rush her. Then Silas reveals he’s a sadist who wanted to “take his time” with Julis, because of course he is and does.

But before he can strike the decisive blow, Julis’ night in school uniform swoops in, halves the golems holding her down, and takes her aside. They then proceed to have a nice casual little chat together while Silas and his golems patiently wait. Again, Silas never struck me as anything resembling a credible threat (the episode refuses to respect him; why should I?), so this isn’t that strange.

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While Julis is initially upset Ayato came and put himself in danger for her sake, he tells her why: being by her side is the purpose he’s chosen, even if he has to do boring stuff like mop up Silas’ sad golem army, which is so easy with the Ser Veresta that he can do it while carrying Julis around.

The reveal that the army is structure like a chess game (Oooh, chess!) adds absolutely nothing to the tension; only the opportunity for Ayato to say “Checkmate!” at some point.

But he doesn’t! Instead, he says “Ripping apart the five viscera and severing the four limbs…Amagiri Shinmei-style, Second Sword: Nine-Fanged Sword!”…Not as cool. Plus, ya said “sword” twice there, brah.

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When Silas limps away on his last functioning golem, Ayato prepares to put Julis down and go after him, but Julis has a better idea: cast a flying spell and pilot Ayato to Silas up in the sky. Finally, after beaing nearly defeated way too easily by Silas, Julis gets to do something besides hang around in Ayato’s arm while he does all the fighting.

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He delivers one more blow, halving Silas’ lifeboat and sending him plummeting to the streets to be arrested by Claudia. (Lester is never seen again, for the record). But Ayato and Julis can’t enjoy the lovely sunset or their victory for long, because an imprisonment spell restraining Ayato’s powers takes effect, making him pass out. It was a spell cast by his sister, perhaps in order to protect him from himself.

He then wakes up in the lap of Julis, who is totally okay with having his head in her lap. What ultimately saves this episode from sixdom is the fact that the whole battle with Silas was a kind of audition for Ayato, to prove to Julis once more that even if she thinks she can go it alone, he’s going to be there for her. It wasn’t the toughest battle, but then again, Julis did end up restrained and almost taken out.

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So when Ayato requests to be her partner in the Festa, she eventually agrees, trying and failing to hide her blushing happiness the whole time. It’s all very nice. But more importantly, these two lovebirds are still chess pieces for someone, and that someone is Claudia.

While I don’t think she’s evil or anything, she is ruthless in getting her way, which means ensuring Ayato and Julis become a powerful pair who will go far in the Festa, as well as handing a viciously bloodied Silas off  to her “Shadow Stars” for further interrogation (i.e. torture). I almost feel bad for poor old Silas OH WAIT NO I DON’T.

Finally, Silas was only ever a pawn himself, for the rival school Allekant, a confident, scheming representative of which we meet for the first time, watching Claudia on surveillance video. Clearly, Silas wasn’t her only piece on the board.

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 03

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Don’t look now, but despite the lack of asterisks or wars, The Asterisk War is not only eminently watchable, but getting better with each passing episode. We pick up at Ayato’s evening rendezvous with Claudia in her sumptuous Page One chambers. But it’s nothing so course as a liason, nor has Claudia tricked Ayato; she has a job for him. There’s someone out there injuring Festa participants, and Julis is their next target. Because he’s developed such a good rapport with her, Claudia is depending on him to keep an eye on her, should she come under ambush.

Speaking of ambushes, Claudia offers a sexy reward for his service, but which also serves her own desire to see the look on Ayato’s face when she offers it. Claudia was probably expecting Ayato to flee from her advanced advances, as the young lad probably doesn’t know the first thing to do with such a beauty as herself. Yet in her comments about him not paying attention to her (or at least the attention she wants) there’s a tinge of jealousy. She wishes she had a guy who cares about her the way Ayato seems to care about Julis.

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The next morning, Ayato does know what to do when he sees Julis’ out-on-the-town clothes, which she claims she just “threw together”: compliment them. Good Ayato! They proceed to have a lovely date that gives the two a chance to bond more, and for Ayato to prove he’s as tough as Julis thought (staring down the still-ridiculous Lester at “WCDONAID”) but also labeling him “unfathomable.” Um, I think that’s Ayato’s line for you, highness!

What the date mercifully lacks is unfortunate trip-and-fall accidental groping silliness, or overt tsunderity on Julis’ part (no running away in tears or embarrassment, either). Instead, there’s a lot of smiles shared between the two, suggesting Julis isn’t so quick to deny actually she’s enjoying herself on this mission to repay her debt, and Ayato is obviously not going to complain about hanging out with a beautiful princess. She even wipes ketchup off his face without blushing.

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The highlight of the date has to be at the end, when they witness a rival school brawl that the sharp Julis quickly sees is actually another ambush. Her line about going to “grilling them for answers” and Ayato’s game reply, “keep it to medium rare or so” is a wonderfully dorky buddy action movie exchange, but it shows how far the two have come in just a few days of interaction.

Julis deals with the thugs without any trouble, but spots cloaked figures in the woods and goes after them, alone. Ayato, naturally, follows her, becomes another one of their targets, but eventually forces their retreat without a head-on confrontation, with the parties obviously loath to reveal who they are. Ayato is fine except for a ripped shirt, but Julis thought his participation in the chase was “a bit careless.” Again, that’s Ayato’s line!

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That night, it’s Julis’ turn to invite Ayato to sneak into her chambers from the window, and when she tells him they’re going to “get it over with” and orders him to “remove his clothes”, well, Ayato’s mind understandably races. No worries, Julis simply wants to mend his shirt with her sewing skills. Get your head out of the gutter, Ayato!

Then there’s this very nice scene with Ayato patiently waiting as Julis sews away, and he notices a photo of her with her friends from her home country. Julis then gives away more of her backstory then she probably thought she would that night, explaining to Ayato how she was once a palace-escaping tomboy who ended up in trouble in a dark alley. She was saved by a group of other young girls (girl power) who lived at a nun-run orphanage (more girl power). She became fast friends with the girls, without telling them who she really was (though not ruling out that the nuns knew).

The orphanage has since fallen on hard times, and since she’s unable to secure funds for a “money-losing welfare program” with her name (her royal family is only a puppet regime of the Integrated Empire), she’ll make the necessary money with her own power, in this “vulgar, insignificant city” that also happens to be the one place anyone can get what they desire.

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Claudia is here to restore the academy to greatness. Julis is here to save her friends’ orphanage. So…what’s Ayato here to do? He hasn’t been quite sure of that…until the end of the episode, when he says “good morning” to Julis, but she’s distracted by a suspicious letter and soon runs off on her own again. With her debt to him officially repaid, has she reverted to treating him aloofly like everyone else, not wanting a friend?

Claudia doesn’t think so; on the contrary. Julis is leaving Ayato out of whatever she’s running to not because she doesn’t trust him, but because she’s trying to “protect what’s in her hands.” Ayato can now count himself as one of those things. But he gets a say too, and it finally occurs to him why he’s here: to protect her right back.

Claudia tosses him Ser Veresta and he rushes out after Julis. She’ll probably protest his presence, but she can’t simply lock up otherwise capable people she cares about for their protection, when they can be of much more help by her side. Like post-credits CGI Claudia, I’m looking forward to seeing how far Ayato and the Ser Veresta go.

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Not only has Saya begun to doubt whether she can keep her promise to protect everyone (so far, she has good reason to), she isn’t even sure when she made the promise…or to who. Now the dog has decided to start talking to her, but isn’t ready to give her any definite answers…only that he’s supposed to fulfill a made wish. Her father is comforting, but silent. The restaurateur is still a little creepy, and her teacher seems to know too much.

From time to time the series has transitioned to the scene in the mansion with the floating orbs of blood. Finally, we see that Saya herself was once in this mansion, staring across the table at Mr. Ominous Voiceover. We don’t exactly understand the nature of the request yet, only that he meant for Saya to be an experiment of some kind. I can’t help but speculate that this guy may be responsible for her red-eye superpowers.

She definitely need them this week, as the latest elder bairn is not only very chatty and mocking, but also has eight arms that threaten to julienne (Sayenne?) her. She goes into red-eye mode and bisects him, but not before he lets off some very self-doubt inducing slogans. Also, Tokizane shows up just when she’s coming out of her trance, kneeling in a pool of blood. Something tells me he isn’t freaked out.


Rating: 3.5

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Saya is good at killing elder bairns, and by extension protecting her friends and her town...from a distance. But as it’s been demonstrated, once an elder bairn has a victim in sight, Saya can’t do much to save them. She can’t fight and protect Nene at the same time. And so Nene becomes the first of Saya’s classmates to die. The scene is portrayed with all the necessary horror. We knew it was pretty much inevitable, but it still hurts to watch (though less bloody thanks to network censors).

Just when you thought, well, she has an identical twin, they wouldn’t kill off both in the same episode…well, they do. Nono doesn’t just die, she’s possessed by her own shadow while pleading for Saya to tell her where her sister is. The shadow consumes her and Saya, and when Saya defeats it, Nono is torn to pieces in a rain of blood. I cannot overstate the gruesomeness – especially when neither Nene nor Nono had anything to do with this elder bairn business until that cliffhanger. The contrast from the lighter moments of the series couldn’t be more stark. Hell, they couldn’t be more lannister.

Fumito is as creepily supportive as ever, Tokizane wants Saya to spill the beans about what’s troubling her, and that little doglike animal that’s been showing up so often finally talks to her, telling her to “wake up”. Saya is coming to grips with the fact she’s little more than a deadly weapon with no free will of her own, not a shield that can protect her friends. And I don’t think it’s helping her sanity. One thing’s certain: the lighthearted school moments are over with.


Rating: 4