Frightened of the power she’s unleashing, Izumiko vanishes into the realm of the gods. Masumi leaves Mayura and joins her there, professing his love for her. Miyuki finds Takayanagi, who Izumiko turned into a dog. Without Masumi, he has to summon Wamiya to take them to the realm. They fight waves of ghost soldiers as Masumi sinks Izumiko into the role as Lady Hachioji, with him as her lord. Miyuki manages to summon the power to reach out to Izumiko by cell phone. Wamiya sends Masumi away, and then turns into Miyuki, who tells her to say she needs him, and they return home. The curse is lifted from the academy, the ghost army withdraws, and Takayanagi regains human form. As Izumiko considers Miyuki’s proposition, he falls asleep on her shoulder.
This was a fun finale! Masumi turns into the bad guy and tries to steal Izumiko away, who is so scared of messing up other people’s lives she’s willing to spend the rest of hers isolated in some celestial backwater, with only ghosts as company. Takayanagi finally gets his comeuppance for being such a pompous dick all the time and is turned into a little dog! Better still, he and Miyuki – never exactly friendly – actually team up to save the day. Miyuki has to level up against a zombie army. The conspicuous use of cell phones throughout the series comes to a creative head as Miyuki makes the impossible possible: both he and Izumiko get reception in the godswood!
Throughout RDG’s run we got the feeling that this was consistent, quality work, and all the pieces were there, only they were too seldom taken off the shelf to use. So we were pleasantly surprised when the finale did just that. All the pieces fall into place with style, making for an exciting and often moving completion to a series that could ramble on at times but eventually got to a very satisfying point when it mattered most. RDG ended on a high, rather than a meh, and actually left us hopeful for an eventual continuation of the story. Miyuki and Izumiko still have to ensure Himegami doesn’t destroy the world (again) while at the same time figuring out what they truly mean to one another, beyond divine vessel and bodyguard.
Rating: 9 (Superior)
Houjou Academy commences preparations for the school festival, the main theme for which will be the Sengoku (Warring States) period, including a combat game commemorating the bloody 1590 siege of the nearby Hachiouji Castle. Takayanagi asks Izumiko to side with him rather than Mayura. Izumiko has a strange hallucination and wakes up in the nurse’s office, where Yukimasa warns her of impending trouble.
After learning a simple self-defense spell from Miyuki, Izumiko models for traditional clothing, which requires her braids be undone. However, the Himegami appears after she has re-braided her hair, while Miyuki is scolding Izumiko. Now fully “synchronized” with her body, Himegami can come and go and do as she pleases. Miyuki takes her to Hachiouji Castle’s keep, where he tells her who and what she really is.
Hailing from a country with less than three centuries of history, we are easily intrigued and even astounded by the histories of far older countries like Japan. We are also, sadly, dreadfully ignorant of most of it, despite our interest. This episode was made richer by the historical background, especially when you consider the forces that be may be using the entire festival, and the impending battle, to decide which school faction will advance in the competition for World Heritage. A “not so safe” battle is coming, and Izumiko will have to choose a side.
Even more fascinating is everything we learn about Himegami: how she’s not really a god (though she is god-like), but was once just another human, who lost her body many thousands of generations, and indeed three timelines ago, and fears the fourth, the one in which Izumiko is her vessel, may be her last chance to avoid the annihilation of humanity. This episode has to feed us a lot of new and important info, but it never felt anything like an infodump. The stakes have been raised significantly, making the petty conflict between Souda and Takayanagi seem peripheral, even irrelevant…though it probably isn’t.
Rating: 8 (Great)
- When Izumiko hear’s someone screaming “Milady!” prior to passing out, we can’t help but think she’s inhabiting the memory of the castle’s lady, during the siege in which the lord wasn’t home and thousands of women and children died horribly.
- Dressing Izumiko up in a period costume wasn’t just random, but a potential plot by someone who may have wanted to bring out the Himegami.
- Himegami has some nice fish-out-of-water moments in Izumiko’s body, taking note of her “stifling” braids, her exposed legs, and her unfamiliarity with the legal drinking age
- Himegami can draw Wamiya out of Miyuki to protect Izumiko. That being said, Wamiya doesn’t much like him!
- After spending the better part of a day with Himegami, at its end, all Miyuki wants is for Izumiko to come back. The episode ends without her returning.
Mayura tests Miyuki by sending ninja after him who are controlled by Masumi, and he must either find the true Masumi or break his barrier. He can do neither and is saved when Suzuhara tells him where Masumi is, and the test proves he’s a newbie just as he claimed. Manatsu gets a message that Tabi has fallen ill and heads to the stables to tend to him. Masumi fills in for him on the trip, but Mayura isnt happy Manatsu has gone alone. After Kisaragi performs a purifying dance, but Masumi is strong enough to resist it. The next morning Izumiko and Miyuki visit Manatsu, and learned he’s euthanized Tabi. Mayura confronts him, not wanting them to be apart, but Manatsu didn’t want her to “choose” him. The spectre of Tabi coalesces, and Manatsu mounts him and rides off.
This week we delve, along with Izumiko and Miyuki, intot the depths of the very unconventional Souda family. Mayura is one of the most powerful people in Houjou Academy, but draws much of her strength from the bond with her triplet brothers, one of whom has already passed away. She shows no mercy in testing Miyuki, and is only mildly apolgetic after she’s proven wrong. In her mind, she had to know one way or another, and it wasn’t something she was going to trust his word about until he knew he was who he said he was: a novice mountain monk. If she were serious and counted Miyuki as an enemy, it’s made pretty clear he wouldn’t stand a chance. This goes against expectations, in that we thought we’d see some new power of his awaken.
Still, we don’t mind that that didn’t happen, either; it means he’s been honest in his doubt these last few episodes. Instead of Miyuki, it’s Manatsu who undergoes a transition this week, after Tabi dies. He actively decides to put Tabi down, to let him rest and spare him further suffering. He does it because he’s exercising his powers as a human to bypass fate and end things on his own terms. He’s mindful he and Mayura and Masumi can’t always be together (even thought Mayura doesn’t want to think like that), so in the final twist of the episode he contemplates joining Masumi in the “in-between”, so that they can stay together. Which sounds an awful lot like suicide, something Mayura won’t abide.
Rating:7 (Very Good)
With his late brother Masumi’s help, Souda Manatsu is able to cow Takayanagi and his homonculi to avenge Mayura’s injury. Takayanagi takes down the website and withdraws from the council president eleciton, which is won by Kisaragi Jean Honoka. When Yukimasa joins the school’s faculty to protect Izumiko, Miyuki is angered and separates himself from her. But when Izumiko falls in with the “shadow student council” led by former president Murakami Hodaka, Miyuki comes for her right before she performs a dance for them. The Himegami speaks through her, imploring Miyuki not to let her come to life, or it may spell humanity’s extinction.
Thanks to Yukimasa, Izumiko learns the truth about where she is and why: she, like the other students at Houjou Academy, are members of an “endangered species” of humans who can communicate with the gods. If such humans were to become extinct, some say the human race would die out with them. We kind of like this concept: it certainly amplifies the importance of both Izumiko and her classmates. All are one of, and the last of, their kind. They must never forget who they are or what they’re capable of. Unfortunately, Yukimasa’s mere presence threatens Miyuki and Izumiko’s bond, at least until Izumiko is in potential danger and Yukimasa isn’t there to save her.
RDG is putting forth some of the trappings of an unlikely romance between Miyuki and Izumiko. It certainly hasn’t progressed very far, but it has progressed, and in a very organic and elegant way. One reason Miyuki likely hates Yukimasa is that he reminds him how weak and inexperienced and full of doubt he himself is. He hates himself because he doesn’t know what he should do or if he can do it, and Yukimasa showing up is almost a confirmation that he can’t be trusted with Izumiko’s safety. Yet his fondness and personal duty to Izumiko proves stronger than both hate for Yukimasa and doubt in himself. Regardless of any other considerations, he’ll stand with Izumiko. And she wants him by her side. Sounds like the makings of love to us.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)
- Souda Masumi threw us for a loop: he’s a he who was just happening to assume the form of a girl.
- When she sees Miyuki speaking to Mayura, and Mayura’s hand on his shoulder, Izumiko seems to experience jealousy for the first time.
- Himegami’s warning to Miyuki sounds like a call for him to possibly go against Yukimasa’s plan, if Yukimasa plans to revive Himegami, that is. We don’t know yet.
- Her lips were really red.
After her possession by Himegami has no ill effects, Izumiko and Miyuki return to the village. Her classmates ask her to deliver a souvenir to Wamiya, as an apology for them forgetting him. Wamiya asks her about Miyuki and gets upset when he learns she’s changed her mind about hating him. Using classmates as puppets, Wamiya has Miyuki attacked. Miyuki and Izumiko escape in a car driven by Nonomura, but Wamiya chases them in the form of a crow, and forces them off a cliff.
Wamiya gives Izumiko an ultimatum to stay in the village with him, demonstrating his power by creating a storm over the village. Miyuki doesn’t believe he’s capable of fighting Wamiya, but Izumiko stands up to him, and makes him submit to her. Izumiko decides to attend Houjou Academy with Miyuki, and performs a dance to release the crow god – Himegami’s familiar – from Wamiya Satoru. Later, Izumiko arrives at Houjou with her folks, and meets her roommate, Souda Mayura.
Suzuhara Izumiko and Sagara Miyuki are weak beings, but by this episode’s conclusion, neither intend to stay that way for long. In fact, after Miyuki protected her last week (if only by staying by her side and taking her hand), this time it’s Izumiko who saves Miyuki (and Nonomura) from the wrath of a nasty crow god that is the embodiment her wish to make a friend who understood her. That friend – Wamiya Satoru – is really a familiar to Himegami, who if brought to heel by a confident Izumiko, will go out of control.
That doesn’t happen, and the harrowing experience Izumiko and Miyuki share strengthens their bond, as they’ll continue on a path together for some time. The dance Izumiko performs to release Wamiya is what pumped this up from a high 7 to an 8; it was a truly beautiful, lyrical sequence that reminded us of Yuna’s sending dance in FFX. Both it and her taming of the familiar showed both us and Miyuki that there’s more to Izumiko than meets the eye.
Rating: 8 (Great)
- All episode titles contain the phrase “First [something]”, and each episode has thus far delivered on putting Izumiko in a new situation.
- We like how far Izumiko and Miyuki have come in only three episodes. Miyuki’s naked contempt has evolved into cordiality and reverence, and he’s far more amenable to staying by her (and by extension the Himegami’s) side, since it will make him stronger. Also, her dance enchants the hell out of him.
- That Lexus they went off a cliff in is really safe!
One morning, the shy, passive Suzuhara Izumiko decides to cut her bangs. At school, it gets mixed reviews, and when her class must gather info on the net using computers, she ends up using them as a conduit to video-chat with her father in America, then disables power to the whole school with her mind. A helicopter lands and Izumiko is taken away by Sagara, who turns out to be a mountain monk charged with protecting her. She learns that she is the “Himegami”. Sagara orders “reinforcements” in the person of his son Miyuki, who isn’t keen on hanging out with the dull Izumiko.
This episode starts off establishing the beautiful environs of a village in the Kumano mountains. We found out this was directed by Shinohara Toshiya, who also helmed The Book of Bantorra, but while that series was awesome, it was a bit lacking in production values; not so here. Like Tari Tari and the excellent Another, this series not only looks, but sounds and feels fantastic. Despite all the natural beauty, there’s a deep melancholy about the beautiful but unpopular Izumiko (appropriately voiced by Hayami Saori), which stems partially from her never having made a decision for herself. If her life is like the river in her village, she’s never once paddled against the current…until she decides to cut her hair and makes a stand about where she wants to go to high school.
What’s also engrossing about this series so far is that it doesn’t come out and explain exactly what makes her so special. We see an awesome sequence where she finds herself underwater in the computer lab, and then she knocks out the power in said lab when she snaps out of it, and we hear a lot from Sagara, but not too much. Like Izumiko herself, we’re still mostly in the dark about who the Himegami is and why she must be isolated and protected. But we certainly feel her pain. Sure, she has nice friends who defend her from bullying, but they don’t even have her phone number, and she doesn’t even have a phone. She wants to take control of her life, but isn’t sure how. Her dubious “manservant” Miyuki doesn’t have high hopes for her, but who knows: she may just surprise him, herself, and a lot of others when all’s said and done.
Rating: 8 (Great)