Isekai Quartet – 02 – Roll Call

In its first two mini-episodes,  Isekai Quartet is content to let its audience bask in the sheer absurdity and awesomeness of watching characters from four of their favorite Isekai anime bounce off one another in a school setting. Their homeroom teacher, Roswall L. Mathers from Re:Zero, begins with introductions.

Ram notes that Kazuma, who is staring at “Barusu,” is wearing the same bizarre threads we know to be an IRL track suit. Little do both Kazuma and Subaru know that Ains Ooal Gown is also one of them, as is Tanya, but in different forms. I did enjoy Kazuma and Subaru’s reaction to Tanya’s very militaristic group’s introduction.

Since both OverLord and KonoSuba feature very similar fantasy races and spells, Aqua takes it upon herself to launch a preemptive attack on the Nazarick crew, since they consist of an undead, a vampire, a demon, and a monster. Momonga even recognizes the name of her spell, which he expects to be low-level, but actually hurts like a bitch.

Even more disconcerting to the guardians and their ruler is that Kazuma is able to simply bop someone as powerful as Aqua on the head and drag her off, scolding her for attacking her classmates. The next day, she has to stand in the hall with three water buckets, an ironic punishment for the water goddess.

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Happy Sugar Life – 06 – Losing the Moon

Shouko, who is consistently the most normal of characters in this show full of loons, encounters Asahi, and she isn’t one to just keep walking. At her heart she’s a “good girl”, even as she once made a habit of staying out late at night to fool around with men.

She’s also good enough friends with Satou that she knows when she’s hiding something. She’s just not ready to believe Taiyo’s accusations. Meanwhile, Satou tries to hem in Taiyo from further interference by offering to let him meet Shio, while the masochistic teacher is dedicated to finding proof Satou murdered her aunt.

Satou’s far-too-together demeanor at work continuies to elicit suspicion in Shoko, who walks the same shopping district she and Satou used to hang out looking for guys. Only this time, she goes to the park to find Asahi sleeping under a bench, and gives him more food. She has no ulterior motives, she has no hidden neurosis; she’s just helping someone in need.

She wants to know how Asahi got into this state, and he tells her the story of how his mother and Shio escaped the house where her drunk husband was beating her. Asahi stayed behind so “the devil” wouldn’t go looking for his mom and Chio.

Staying meant enduring beatings and KGB-style fingernail torture, but Asahi it was worth it; he’d take the abuse so Mom and Chio could be safe and free. He had his moments of despair, but ultimately endured until his father drank himself to death.

The unbridled joy of discovering this fact is quickly marred when Asahi goes to his mom’s house to find Chio has been kidnapped. His Mom, who from the look of the place was not coping well with living and caring for her kid on her own (even though the alternative would’ve obviously been worse; at least she’s not being beaten) simply tells Asahi it was “too late.”

Shouko scores a day out with Satou, their first time hanging out as friends in a good long time. They have a lot of fun, but Shouko has a mission in mind: she wants to know the truth. Satou is initially totally unwilling to tell her, since it’s something she doesn’t want a good girl like Shouko getting mixed up in.

Shouko forces the issue by telling Satou that she wants nothing else but to know what she’s involved in, because she loves her friend more than anyone else. These words seem to move Satou, and she invites Shouko to come to her house to learn what secret she’s been hiding with a non-existent boyfriend.

Even so, I’m not convinced Satou is capable of trusting Shouko with all of the dark things she’s done that even she herself has compartmentalized. Then again, I find it hard to believe Satou would do anything to Shouko in the presence of Shio—which calls to mind how exactly Shio’s kidnapping went down. More concerning is the fact the masochistic teacher is tailing Satou. I can’t see any of this ending well.

Happy Sugar Life – 05 – Crime and Punishment

Just as she senses something’s off about Shio, Satou finds her latest challenge at work in her kohai Su-chan. After expertly disarming an unruly customer, Satou notices someone’s been through her locker, and that’s when Su-chan tells her all of the obsessive things she’s done to try to be just like her, from copying her bag to wearing the same makeup and underwear.

But it’s not enough, and Su-chan thinks it’s because there are still pieces of Satou’s life she’s missing…her home life. For Su-chan, getting into that is like stepping on a pink macaron land-mine. But Satou has become very adept at dealing with people without violence (like that customer) as much as with. You can catch more bees with honey than with vinegar, after all.

So Satou calms down from the panic of Su-chan bringing up her home life…and proceeds to make out with Su-chan, confessing that she loves her “just the way she is” and ever-so-gently warning her to stop prying. Su-chan is so overwhelmed by the object of her infatuation all over her—and spooked by the warning—that she seems to fall in line. But who can be sure it will stay that way?

Meanwhile, Shouko is one of the only halfway decent human beings in this show. She takes a day off work and pays a visit to Taiyo’s house to see how he’s doing. She inadvertently enters his room, sees the dozens of Shio flyers, and freaks. Taiyo explains how the girl in the flyers is his purifying angel. Does that convince Shouko everything’s fine? Reader, it does not.

He then pushes Shouko against the door, grabs her too hard, and demands that she help him get Shio back from the one who is hoarding her all for herself: Satou. The unwanted physical contact and accusations towards her friend comprise the final straws for Shouko, who shoves Taiyo down and leaves, disgusted that someone “so hot” is so, well, disgusting.

But as she passes another Shio flyer in the street, the seed Taiyo planted begins to sprout—Satou couldn’t kidnap somebody…or could she? Shio’s brother Asahi appears behind her, no doubt to answer that question if asked.

Back home Satou finds Shio crumpled lying on the floor in the dark, talking about “punishment.” She confesses that while she was outside she did talk to someone, and believes her headaches and vision and need to draw a creepy image of her mother, who it seems was harmfully overprotective.

But Satou starts to think this bitter, bitter-tasting situation is her punishment, for lying to Shio. No, not about the people she’s killed, maimed, seduced, or extorted. Because she lied about loving someone else! That, to her, was the one and only crime she committed that is causing the bitterness.

After confessing, Shio forgives her, and the two seem back on the Happy Sugar side. But while Satou believes hiding and omitting things from her love isn’t lying, it ultimately has the same effect…especially if and when those lies are exposed. Too many people now have their eyes fixed on Satou’s life and Shio’s whereabouts. Her true punishment hasn’t really begun.

Overlord II – 05

Following his thorough intimidation of the Lizardmen, Lord Ains and his guardians travel to his newly-built forest stronghold. He learns it comes with a super-creepy throne made partially from human bones, and decides he’ll finally dole out Shalltear’s punishment by sitting on her.

Shalltear turning the intended pain into naughty pleasure, combined with Albedo’s violently jealous outburst in the next room, are both examples of OverLord silliness at its best. Things get even sillier when Ains uses a spell to see inside one of the village’s huts, only to catch Zaryusu and Crusch doing the nasty.

The Lizardmen elders and warriors, including Zaryusu, make their one last desperate stand against Cocytus, and are (figuratively) disarmed by his polite and respectful demeanor before being disarmed (literally), halved, and riddled with icy projectiles.

The comedy shifts from the silly to black, as Cocytus calmly, quietly explains how not a single one of his opponents’ magical or physical attacks will have the slightest effect on him; they’re simply too low a level to put a dent in his Guardian-class defenses.

That doesn’t stop Zaryusu & Co. from charging forward, even if it’s right into their grisly deaths. Zaryusu is the last to be killed, but Cocytus promises he’ll remember his name and that of his brothers as the names of warriors.

Back at base, Cocytus is praised for his victory by Lord Ains, and suggests the bodies of the dead Lizardmen be used for undead research. Cocytus makes a counter-proposal: raise Zaryusu, who had been such a valiant fighter, from the dead.

Something like that is well within Ains’ mighty means, but he wishes to make it a transaction, and so asks Crusch to spy on the other Lizardmen in exchange for the resurrection of her lover. (Her momentary assumption he wanted her body enrages both Albedo and Shalltear.)

Crusch agrees, and Zaryusu is brought back to life, and yet even here OverLord doesn’t shy away from having a bit of a laugh; Zaryusu’s speech is all high-pitched and messed-up, like he didn’t quite come back 100% right (rest will apparently restore his former gravitas).

But Ains got what he wanted: the allegiance of the Lizardmen tribes, and a mole who will alert him if that allegiance ever wavers, secured by a “spell” (in reality just a lie) that will kill Zaryusu if Crusch ever betrays him. All in all, some shrewd maneuvering by His Skullfaceiness.

Overlord II – 01 (First Impressions)

It’s been over two years—833 days—since I last watched or wrote about Overlord, so an immersive episode packed with exposition wasn’t the worst way to be introduced back into its world.

In a lengthy eight-minute cold open, we meet a good number of parties I either have fuzzy memories about or don’t know at all (I haven’t read the light novels).

But the bottom line is, many of these parties spread far and wide throughout the world know of Ainz Ooal Gown, which is precisely how Momonga wanted.

When we finally meet up with the big dude, he’s in Momon Mode, taking out a giant lizard with help from Hamasuke; Nabu by his side. It’s not a tough opponent at all, more of a warm-up, like this episode.

From there, he returns to the Tomb of Nazarick where Albedo is waiting for him, as eager as ever for praise and, well, more physical contact than Momonga’s player is able to consent to (seeing Alby and the other NPCs more as children). Still, Flustered Skullface is always welcome.

Momonga then has a seat, unfurls a big map, and methodically points at each destination, as Albedo gives a report on all the various projects his guardians are working on, from the building of a Fake Nazarick in the nearby great forest, to the status of the investigation to find the one who used a World Item on Shalltear, forcing her to fight her master.

Shalltear is drowning her overwhelming guilt in drink, so Albedo suggests Momonga issue some form of punishment in order to exorcise that guilt, which he considers. He also sends Cocytus off to fight Nazarick’s “first war”, though the details on whom it’s against and where are not shared. There’s also a talking penguin with a very stern look on its face, which…cool, cool.

The episode closes out with a visit to the land of Lizardmen; specifically, Zaryusu, a supposedly disgraced yet respected warrior, and the grizzled chief of his tribe, inspecting Z’s first-of-its-kind fish farm.

Then inky black clouds coalesce and swirl above the village and a super-creepy ball of purple skeletal faces with red eyes announce it is a herald of the “Great One”, declaring death unto the lizards.

So yeah, was this episode a bit all over the place? Sure. But it was still fun. And after so much time, it was great to see the gang back in action (or planning future action) while meeting a few new faces.

Lastly, after the credits, we have a nice little auspicious note from original creator Maruyama Kugane thanking the fans of Overlord for making a second season possible, and dedicating the season to us; a gesture I appreciated.

Inuyashiki – 07

No Ichirou at all this week, giving the episode ample time to continue developing Hiro. The high of offing over 50 2channelers to avenge his mother has largely worn off, and he spends most of the time in bed. He remembers perhaps the first time he saw someone die—a track jumper—and how he felt a light going out when the life was extinguished.

A very patient and caring Shion still wants to believe Hiro is not the killer, but Hiro can’t go on that way, and tells her the truth, as well as shows her that he’s a machine now. When she refuses to accept it, he takes her for a harrowing ride and almost drops her.

Shion doesn’t explicitly beg for her life, she merely begs Hiro not to leave her and her grandmother. The indication being, no matter what he’s done, he has a home with them. Hiro looked very ready to drop Shion to her death, then proceed with the extermination of Japan’s whole population.

He does this because killing people makes him feel alive, and perhaps makes him forget that he’s not a person in the same sense anymore. But up there in the sky, Shion changes his course. She believes even if he doesn’t turn himself in, he can try to make things right by saving as many or more people than he’s killed. The flight is a baptism of sorts into the Church of Goodness.

Cut to the life of a salarywoman with terminal cancer being consoled by her co-worker/boss, considering jumping in front of a train like the guy Hiro once witnessed, but she doesn’t. She wants to live, so desperately that she heeds a tweet directing her to Hiro, who eradicates her cancer in moments. She’s back at the office, good as new.

Hiro doesn’t stop there, and Shion accompanies him as he heals one infirm or chronically-ill person after another, gaining their eternal gratitude. His twitter presence starts to expand, and before lone, he’s achieved the goal of saving more people than he killed.

Shion wants to keep it going. She and Hiro go on a celebratory flight, and when Hiro asks if this has gotten boring and Shion answers in the negative, don’t think I didn’t wonder whether he’d turn evil again and drop the poor young woman to her death.

Instead, Hiro seems to have filled the void left by his deceased mother with Shion, committing himself to her “forever.” Shion doubted she’d live a long life, but being with Hiro will likely change that, both from a medical and emotional standpoint. She’s no longer alone, and no longer has to worry about her cancer-prone genes.

All she has to worry about is the SWAT team stealthily arriving at her apartment in the middle of the night, likely ready to strike without regard to collateral casualties. Either Hiro can take them out without Shion or her granny getting harmed, or they do get harmed and he’s able to save their lives.

Either way, staying in that apartment is no longer an option. No matter how much good he’s done, it hasn’t erased the bad in the eyes of the law, which will never stop hunting him.

Inuyashiki – 06

Hiro manages to escape the cops without killing anybody, but the damage is done: his mother has seen him treated the way a terrorist would be treated, and that’s going to be hard to explain, especially when his face and deeds are all over TV, the internet, and word-of-mouth.

Hiro lands nowhere in particular, but it isn’t long before he comes across Watanabe Shion, who is willing to harbor him in the cramped apartment where she and her grandmother live. Shion, the poor lass, doesn’t believe the news…except the part about his “complicated” family situation.

This served to endear him even more to her; she’s an orphan. Both her parents died of cancer, and she believes she won’t live long either. Her classmates may ultimately conclude Hiro was a bad egg despite being cute and nice, but Shion can’t do that. And you really feel for her and yes, worry about something on the TV or internet setting Hiro off on another rampage.

After a quiet, polite dinner, and in a scene reminiscent of Leon, Hiro gets up and points his finger at the heads of Shion and her grandmother…but in a genius bit of cutting that leaves you hanging for just a moment…we see he didn’t go through with it, as he’s having a nice breakfast with them the next morning.

This is an 80-90% Hiro episode, but the bit with Ichirou and Andou serves as a nice, lightweight intermission from the tense and emotional goings-on with Hiro. Very lightweight, as it happens. Andou, being very scientific in helping Ichirou maximize his powers, has Ichirou interface with is phone so that he can communicate hands-free at any time, like an iPhone in his brain.

Ichirou’s bewilderment and panicky reactions are always a great source of laughs, and this is no exception, as Andou recommends Ichirou test the range of their comms, which he does by launching himself into orbit. An spacewalking astronaut spots him; whether this will be trouble later depends on whether there was any kind of video feed.

Back to Hiro, who doesn’t have much to do besides “watch” TV and surf the internet, specifically chat rooms like “2chan”. He gets sucked in and is unable to “turn off”. The online dialogue is naturally quite vicious, and in his absence, it turns against his mother, who is so upset and ashamed she commits suicide.

Hiro learns this on a breaking news graphic during a comedy show he was actually managing to laugh at. Turns out there’s no escape from his torment, even when he launches himself high into the sky to scream. As I said last week, losing his mother would mean losing the one thing keeping him tethered to a degree of humanity—though we’ll see if Shion steps in to fill that role.

My only nit to pick this week: Why didn’t Hiro locate and rush to his mother the moment the news dropped she’d committed suicide? You’d think he would have at least tried to resurrect her. Then again, if she was totally dead at that point, perhaps even Ichirou and Hiro’s healing powers can only go so far.

Hiro intends to take revenge on those who caused and celebrated the death of his mother. He slaughters a media circus outside his father’s house, sparing his father, despite his role in abandoning his mother for another woman. I guess he still has some boundaries.

However, there are certainly some boundaries that he can easily break through—like the boundary between the legion of trolls and real-life, real-time consequences for their words and attitudes.

Targeting a particularly nasty chatroom, a member of which gave the media his address and name, he first hacks in and tells them that he’ll kill them all. Then he kills the one who ratted him out (even though he insists he was only trolling), then systematically kills each and every member of the room.

The nature of their real-life isolation from each other made it impossible for anyone to credibly warn anyone else, and the speed with which Hiro works makes it impossible for anyone to even process what the hell is happening, let alone defend themselves.

While these trolls were undeniably assholes, they didn’t really deserve to be executed, and Hiro certainly wasn’t the one to pass judgment on them, considering the extent of his own crimes. The grand irony of it all is that if only he hadn’t been caught, Hiro might’ve actually stopped killing; and redirected his life to protecting and providing for the mother who bore him.

Inuyashiki – 05

Ando may have ended his friendship with Hiro, but in the eyes of the school, the two of them killed the guys who were bullying them, despite the absence of any physical evidence. The rumors take Hiro and Ando’s motives, the fact that just the right people died, and connect the dots. Of course, they’re only half-right. Ando had nothing to do with the killings, and he certainly didn’t ask Hiro to go so far to protect him.

After some aimless searching on the internet, Ando finds an uptick in “medical miracles” nearby, and remembers Hiro can heal people. At first he wonders if Hiro is the one both killing and saving people, but then considers that maybe there’s someone else out there with his abilities, only doing good instead of evil.

Remembering Hiro mention his superhuman hearing, Ando cries out for help…and a shirtless Ichirou is at his door in moments. It clearly relieves Ando to no end that Ichirou can do what he does. It means that perhaps they have a fighting chance of stopping Hiro – something both agree must happen.

Perhaps sensing that viewers needed a bit of a break from the hard stuff, this Inuyashiki doesn’t have any home invasion, grisly murders, or sexual assaults. Instead, much of the episode focuses back on Hiro, who seems to be taking a break from the home invasions as it’s all over the news.

His classmate Shion confesses to him, even after he calls her “pube-head”, and he thanks her and walks away. But I imagine Shion isn’t going anywhere.

We also get a closer look at his family life. Specifically, the fact his father and mother are divorced, and his father has a big fancy house and a whole other family. He attends his stepbrother’s birthday, then goes back to the tiny, drab apartment he and his mom share.

ne night, Hiro wakes from a dream that he gets a papercut, indicating he’s human again—something he dearly wants—his mom tells him she has terminal cancer and a month to live, so suddenly it’s a good thing he’s not human.

Ichirou insists to Ando that he’s no true hero; he does the heroic things he does like saving people because he’s afraid that his ability to do that is secondary to the overarching reality: that he is a machine built for killing and destruction.

Ando doesn’t agree with that assessment. He’s certain—as we are—that Ichirou is a true hero (the humbler the better), and they fly to a dump where Ando has Ichirou practice using his physical abilities, which certainly require fine-tuning after he makes a giant crater. (I loved the little chat the two were having on the way; with Ando complimenting Ichirou’s daughter.) Later, Ando accompanies him to a hospital and witnesses him saving a boy’s life firsthand, further galvanizing his opinion that he’s a hero.

While consoling his mom with a hug, Hiro succeeds in totally curing her cancer, and decides he’ll use his abilities to support her from now on. He lies about having invested his part-time job pay and made 3 million yen, and uses that cash to get them a new, fancy apartment with a view. His mom is grateful…but also a little scared. She should be.

After all, I can’t forgive Hiro for the crimes he’s already committed any more than Ando or Ichirou can. They are quite literally unforgivable, which means Hiro tries to skip ahead to redemption way too early.

When he hears his mother condemn the monster being reported on the news, he tries to come clean, only to find his mother incapable of understanding what he’s talking about. But it does fill him with guilt, to the point he resolves to stop killing.

That’s great to hear, but it doesn’t change the fact he’s already killed…a lot, and horribly. He must answer for that, which is why I was happy the cops showed up in force to arrest him. With his mother standing right there watching, there’s no way he could unleash his abilities on them. If he did, he would likely lose her (even if she isn’t killed in the fracas) the last person tethering him to his humanity.

As for who the “material witness” is, it’s strongly implied to be Ando, again doing what he can to help Ichirou stop him, but I wouldn’t rule out Shion, the girl he scorned, either. Whoever it was, Hiro is in deep shit…all of his own making.

Inuyashiki – 04

Inuyashiki’s fourth episode opens with a ruthless, towering yakuza boss ordering his men to dispose of the naked body of an overdosed woman on his bed, then making another yakuza perform oral sex on him as a form of submission. So…not a good guy.

Then things switch gears completely to the diminutive but lovely Fumino and her boyfriend Satoru, who love each other deeply and agree to get married and have kids. As nice as all that is, I immediately suspected this was either a flashback, and Fumino was that body, or she’s the yakuza boss’ next victim.

The latter turns out to be the case, as Fumino is suddenly abducted while walking home, and wakes up naked on the boss’ bed. He immediately gets on top of her, telling her he’ll “make her his”, but Fumino fights back, getting away and even managing to slash the brute’s wrist with his own katana. While his men tend to his wound she slips out.

She manages to get all the way back to Satoru’s worried-sick arms, but it’s not long before the boss, named Samejima, and his henchmen break into their apartment. Satoru begs for his and Fumino’s lives, promising to pay any price, no matter what it takes, but his pleas fall on deaf ears, and Samejima picks him up by the throat and starts to choke him out.

Enter the Hero, Ichirou, who no doubt heard what has been transpiring and will not have it. After sending the henchmen flying, he puts Samejima in a bear hug, but “shuts down” when a clip is emptied in his head. When he wakes up, it’s just him and a nearly-dead Satoru.

When his magic body won’t heal him, Ichirou uses CPR to revive him, and then uses Satoru’s phone to locate Samejima, who is enjoying a meeting with other yakuza bosses at a luxurious inn.

While his initial encounter with Samejima was not fruitful, Ichirou has clearly gotten the hang of flying and forcing his way through crowds. When Samejima takes him aside, Ichirou does what he should have done the first time: sock the guy in the face.

The other yakuza respond by emptying clip after clip into Ichirou with automatic weapons, but it only stuns him. He activates his flight mode, targets everyone in the inn, and takes out all of their eyes with a fusillade of particle beams.

It’s wholesale justice; Ichirou laying down the law, and before leaving, Ichirou makes sure he properly verbalizes what he’s done: deprived all of them of the means to walk, eat, see their children’s and grandchildren’s faces, touch them ever again…or even take their own lives.

Rather than execute them, he hopes they’ll live long lives, in such a state that he hopes they one day feel remorse for the horrible things they’ve done. I for one am not that optimistic, but at least they’ll won’t hurt anyone—including his family—ever again. The cycle of dead bodies on beds has been stopped; at least with this clan. Obviously, there are many others.

After contacting those watching her with Samejima’s phone, Ichirou locates Fumino, apparently heals her of the harm done by the drugs, and flies her back to her love, Satoru.

I’ll point out that Satoru is nothing special in the looks or money department—indeed, he’s very much a young Ichirou—but love, like that yakuza scum, is blind. Satoru and Fumino have good and gentle souls, and I was bowled over with relief and joy to see them reunite.

Ichirou slinks off into the night, claiming he’s “nobody special”, but in reality, he was this couple’s savior. It’s good to see him getting better at this hero thing, especially not getting overwhelmed by the sheer amount of evil in the world and the impossibility of stamping it all out. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do as much as you can, and he will.

And so, Inuyashiki continues its M.O. of putting its audience through hell before showing them a glimpse of heaven. Whether it was the intro of Ichirou as a feeble sadsack or the stunningly awful but thankfully temporary twist in Fumino’s fate, the show has no qualms about putting characters and viewers alike through the ringer, but rewards us for sticking around by delivering breathtakingly righteous justice to evildoers.

Only Shishigami Hiro has escaped retribution…so far. But the strongest yakuza boss in the world is a cakewalk compared to Hiro. If Ichirou can’t defeat him and he can’t defeat Ichirou, they’ll have to figure…something else out.

Classroom of the Elite – 01 (First Impressions)

As per a reader’s suggestion, I’ve decided to contribute to our Summer ’17 “reboot” by taking a look at a show I initially overlooked—Classroom of the Elite.

We follow Ayanokouji Kiyotaka, who has enrolled at the prestigious Tokyo Metropolitan Advanced Nurturing School, which sports a 100% college and employment placement rate. Aside from being built on reclaimed land in the bay, TMANS is a fully self-contained “high school city”, and its students given free reign and a generous monthly stipend of 100,000 yen-equivalent points ($903). It’s a neat and efficiently-explained system.

While cliques quickly form, Ayanokouji fails to make any friends, aside from the girl who insists on being friends with everyone (Kushida Kikyou) and the girl who is friends with no one by choice (Horikita Suzune). Thankfully there’s no onslaught of characters: these three are the focus, and rightly so.

Kushida, desperate to make friends with the last holdout, conspires with Ayanokouji to meet with Horikita at the school’s Starbucks. Horikita immediately suspects she’s been set up and storms off, while Kushida sticks around with Ayanokouji, and seems to think that Horikita and Ayanokouji are “close”, even though neither of them would charactarize it that way (aside from their physical proximity in the classroom).

Ayanokouji and Horikita have a lot in common. They use few words (he has trouble getting them out, she prefers not to talk), and both are reasonably thrifty, spending very little of their points over the first month. Meanwhile, all of their Class D classmates spend wildly and talk, goof off, and sleep in class regularly, conduct their teacher Chabashira doesn’t call them out for.

But one of the great things about this first episode is that while laying out this school system, there’s tension that builds amongst all the “debauchery” and carefree-ness. Like the other shoe is about to drop, and it’s going to be a doozy.

That other shoe…turns out to be the fact that monthly stipend is not 100,000 points. It’s just a starting number; henceforth students are judged by merit, and the next stipend determined accordingly; in this case, ZERO. Despite having done pretty well for themselves, our protagonists receive the same valuation as their slacker classmates.

At least they instinctively understood that the money and many temptations around them were all a test that most of the class failed. If they keep failing, they’ll go nowhere, so some serious shaping up is in order. That’s a hell of a hook, ensuring I’ll be back for the next episode.

Prison School – 08

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Yours truly should have known, but my “manly feelings” were also manipulated, as I, like Shingo, stopped worrying about what was or wasn’t too good to be true and actually roll with the idea of a random girl at Shingo’s school being legitimately into him. After all, Chiyo can’t be the only one who likes having the guys around, right? Well, it’s not really a yes or no question.

But let’s just say for most of the episode and all of last week, Anzu was putting on an act. Unlike Chiyo, who puts herself at risk trying to warn Kiyoshi of the impending plot afoot (writing it in Go stones…so refined!), Anzu is acting on behalf of the Underground Student Council, in exchange for Mari’s recommendation she be named to the executive committee next year. She was a part of DTO…but by the end, she’s almost responsible for foiling it.

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Why does she do that? Well, everything was going according to plan, with cheek-pinching about to move on to something else, until Shingo just cant sit there and watch some random kid in the park get sand thrown at him by his friends. When he yells at them too harshly, they cry, and the kid who was getting bullyed throws sand on him. 

This isn’t just a show about T&A. It’s a show about fate and justice; friendship and forgiveness. The confessions that take place in that park aren’t of love between Shingo and Anzu. Shingo confesses to being a snitch, and can’t betray his friends anymore. But then Anzu ‘fesses up about being appointed by Mari to seduce him as part of a plan to get the boys expelled.

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Of course, Anzu was only one of Mari’s variables in her devastatingly intricate scheme, which involved using Meiko’s voluptuousness and lack of punishing Andre to drive him mad until he’s chasing cardboard cutouts, and finally, the real thing. When Meiko offers to whip him if he just comes through the fence, Andre can’t help himself, pushes through the wire (which had already been cut), and is guilty of the boys’ second breakout. If Shingo doesn’t get back in time, that will be three strikes, and they’ll be out. Baseball Metaphor!

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In the time Anzu’s spent with him, culminating in those shared confessions, she can no longer play him any more than he can play Kiyoshi and the others. So she does everything she can to get him back to school on time. At first, their getting along seemed all to easy, then was revealed to be an artificial fondness that then became real. I just hope this isn’t the last we see of these two.

If Mari and the council have their way, however, it will be…and the boys won’t get to experience “seaside school” in the summer, when the girls hold a wet t-shirt contest. While I’m almost positive that’s just bullshit to get them riled up, the fact they believe her so intensely is pretty hilarious.

In fact, it’s that dream of transparent tops that move Kiyoshi, Gakuto, Andre and Joe to put their wishes and hopes together and chant for Shingo’s on-time return. Shingo is almost hit by a truck, but avoids it, and that truck happens to be the laundry truck for the school! Almost as if the universe is rewarding him for his honesty, eh?

Well, not quite: the kicker in DTO is that the other four inmates were put to work adjusting how the door to the stockade opens so it slides rather than pushes in, so Shingo can’t open it, and he’s outside when his time runs out. Dayum, that is one ice cold checkmate.

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Happily, as they await their impending expulsion, Shingo prostrates himself and apologizes profusely for what he’s done…and he’s forgiven, just like that. Well, until he mentions details of what happened with him and Anzu; then they lay into him, but when they’re done, they’re all of them satisfied and even. Mari may have gotten them expelled, but she failed to break their brotherly bonds.

Mari all but smacks her dad in the face with the official school regulations and how the boys are indeed guilty of breaking out three times. Chiyo is there to argue their case, but her pleas are shouted down by Kiyoshi and her confederates. This is one of those times you’d really wish her dad the chairman had some backbone, but considering how awkward and awful he feels about Mari seeing so many overt glimpses of his fetish, he probably feels he has no moral ground to stand on, even if Chiyo were to back him up in the pro-boys corner.

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So, is that that? Will the end of the week after next be all she wrote for our lads? Or is the festive victory celebration by the council—complete with cake, sparkling cider, and Meiko getting her thong caught on the door after doing fingertip pullups—premature? For her part, Anzu tells her boss how she ended up failing her mission when she fell for the target, but Mari lets her off the hook, while ordering surveillance on her as soon as she’s out of the room.

As for the boys, because their bonds have never been stronger, and their hopes somewhat miraculously reached Shingo, they belive anything is possible. They’re not done yet. They’ve got allies in Chiyo and maybe Anzu and the director, they have each other, and they have at least a couple of weeks. Can they somehow overturn the verdict of the council? Will they turn DTO’s victory into a defeat? I hope so.

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Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – 10

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Well, let’s just get this out of the way: Kousei’s performance STINKS. He’s literally all over the shop; shifting wildly from the same old soulless human metronome, to banging on the piano like a child wailing in pain, to stopping completely. But none of that matters. This was still a HUGE leap forward for Kousei; life-changingly huge. And it all came down to Kaori.

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The ‘ghost’ of Kousei’s mom kept going on about his “punishment” for rejecting her and her dreams, but more than before, the cuts of her and the deep dark sea are interspersed with cuts of Kaori. She’s in his head more and more as the performance goes on, all but replacing Mom. He keeps his head up, looks at the lights as if they were the shining stars, and tries to finish the performance, even if he can’t be proud of it.

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It’s still a struggle, but after he stops, he again remembers Kaori turning around and saying “Again!” At this point he’s lost the audience completely and disqualified himself from the competition, but his pause in the music is a crucial ‘reboot’ of sorts for his psyche. He fell, but he gets back up and gets back to the ivories, with Kaori constantly in his heart.

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Once he’s playing again, albeit very badly, it occurs to him that Kaori and only Kaori is the one he’s playing for; the only one he wants to reach, just as she reached him so powerfully, both through her performances, but also simply by being there for him, guiding him out of the dark. He starts to channel those emotions through the piano, and his notes ‘shimmer’ as he begins to project to the crowd the imagery of the practice room as Kaori softly dozes.

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Again, his playing changes. It’s not enough to make everyone forget the ugliness before, but it’s still plenty compelling, which is a lot to say for a pianist with a reputation for sticking to the sheet music. Everyone has this priceless “Huh? WTF is going on?” look on their faces, except for the few in the crowd who matter.

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Now that he’s found something to replace the ragged gaping hole in his heart his mother left, Kousei can play with confidence and passion, although perhaps still too raw to make any headway with the judges. But again, that doesn’t matter: this was never about Kousei jumping right back into contention; that’s still a ways off. It was about breaking free, severing his puppet strings, and going his own way, for the sake of the girl he loves.

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It would appear his music did in fact reach Kaori, who is moved to tears along with the little girl with the cat. Heck, even his Mom seems to be proud of him moving on in the end. After all, the villainess in Kousei’s mind was a ghost of his own making, forged from guilt and regret over how things with her. That ghost wasn’t something to be defeated, but rather transformed, as Kousei transformed himself this week.

It doesn’t do justice to say he’s merely ‘back’; thanks to Kaori, he’s been reborn; better than ever. Births may be messy and harrowing, as his performance was, but both herald the start of something new, amazing, and full of possibilities. As long as Kaori remains alive.

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Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – 09

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Let’s dig right in, shall we? First of all, I was not expecting the cold open return to the middle of Emi’s performance, and some of it was simply elaborating upon things that were already made clear last week. That being said, the extra attention paid to Emi, and in particular her childhood, provide a baseline with which to compare the very, erm…different childhood Kousei experienced. The modern arrangement of the Chopin matches her past self’s bright-eyed outlook nicely.

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More on that later. I do like how Emi storms off the stage, grabs Kousei by the scruff, and is on the cusp of saying…something important to him, but almost seems to chicken out and runs off to change, disappointing Takeshi. Still, her mission was accomplished; Kousei did hear her, and he was moved to the very core.

Meanwhile…damn, Kaori takes a lot of drugs! Did you put that scene in there to remind us she’s a very sick girl who’s going to die just when Kousei loves and needs her the most? Is the titular “lie” ultimately the lie that everything will turn out just fine? You’re a cruel show, Uso.

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Cruel, perhaps, but also the king of building tension and anticipation to the point our stomachs hurt right along with Tsubaki. Takeshi and Emi may be disappointed in the relatively ‘simple’ Chopin piece Kousei will play (chosen at random by Kaori) but even they’re smacking their lips at the opportunity to see him play again for the first time in years. His slow walk to the stage is full of triumph, as Kousei’s heart and soul and musical will all seem to have been jump-started by the other performances.

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But those of you who thought this would be the day Kousei shook off all of his past trauma regarding the piano thanks to both his friends and admirers…well, you were probably disappointed, but tough noogies. Shame on you anyway; we’re not even halfway through the series; it’s way to early for Kousei to be getting over anything.

There’s an interesting symmetry that further supports why Emi’s story occupied the cold open: Emi was a little girl in the crowd who got extremely inspired by Kousei in the past. Kousei spots a little girl in the crowd and gets extremely rattled in the present. Nice!

But long before Kousei saw the girl with the cat I knew Kousei was going to have a rough time this week. There’s no doubt that Takeshi, Emi and Kaori have moved him deeply, but in the blinding light of their awesomeness, he only temporarily forgot about the darkness lurking even deeper in his psyche that kept him away from the piano in the first place.

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Far from a tale of how Kousei gets his groove back, this episode intercuts Kousei’s initially competent but emotionless performance with scenes of his past when he was abused by his ailing mother (note the same ridiculous pile of drugs Kaori had).

And let’s not beat around the bush here: Kousei was and remains a victim of brutal, unyielding physical and emotional child abuse, and his mother was a coward and a brute undeserving of such a loving, devoted son. Maybe she knew that herself, and so worked so intently on beating that love out of him.

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Takeshi and Emi’s stories of how they got so good at the piano were full of envy, resentment, and longing, but they had it way easier than poor Kousei. And they were embracing music as a means to better themselves (so they could stand on the same level as Kousei), while Kousei purely played to make his mother better, a notion borne from emotion, which his mom hated above all else.

To her, emotion could only corrupt composer’s intended notes. The sheet music had to be followed precisely without the slightest error or embellishment.

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She finally succeeded in making Kousei snap. After a public performance she attended that he had been looking forward to making her happy with, she has nothing but scorn and cane blows for him, and he tells her to just die already. And so complete was her abuse, Kousei blamed himself and those words for her ultimate death shortly thereafter.

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Initially, he kept practicing like nothing was amiss, but one day his ‘punishment’ arrives in the form of his mother’s ghost, taking away his ability to hear the notes and plunging him into the sea. That is again where he finds himself during his attempted comeback.

It’s all in his head; it’s all scar tissue built up by his awful mom, but as long as he blames himself for her death, as long a part of him believes he deserves this punishment, no amount of inspiring peer performances will help him recover what he’s lost. We saw both Kaori and his mother in possession of pharmaceutical galaxies, but it might be Kousei who’s most in need of medication…not to mention therapy.

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