Ao-chan Can’t Study! – 06 – WE HAVE THE MEATS

With Ao’s father having an apparent bout of writer’s block, Ao accompanies his managing editor Yabe Souichirou to a festival full of meat and boobs…for data gathering. There, Ao encounters Miyabi (despite her slight bust size) and Takumi, both of whom are working at the event.

Thus, Ao worries that the two are a couple. Miyabi, ever the opportunist, sees Yabe for what he is: a much better catch than Takumi. Still, as she considers Ao and Yabe to be a thing, she is content with Takumi.

Yabe and Ao are both a little off when it comes to interpreting things, which means Ao lets her dad-inspired dirty imagination run away with itself regarding Takumi and Miyabi. In reality, Takumi isn’t interested in Miyabi at all.

Once he’s on his break, he seeks Ao out, both because he wants to clear up any misunderstanding about himself and Miyabi, and because, frankly, he’s jealous of Yabe being so close and familiar with Ao. Whether it’s prudent for him to literally sweep Ao off her feet away from Yabe so he can get some time to talk with her…is another matter.

Still, once he and Ao are alone, he makes it clear he only cares about her, and is running out of patience. He must feel she’s strung him along long enough; if she’s interested, she should communicate that. If she’s not, she should say so and give him the opportunity to move on, whether it’s with Miyabi or anyone else.

As far as Takumi is concerned, there’s no one he’s particularly interested in other than Ao. Ao feels likewise…the two just have to find some way to end up on the same wavelength. Unfortunately, considering we’re only halfway into this story, I suspect more bumps in the road to follow.

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Ao-chan Can’t Study! – 05 – Be Kind to Virgins

Now, I’m not quite sure where Ao is when she passes out in the bath, leading to Takumi rescuing her and taking her home. After all, the love hotel didn’t accept high schoolers, which is why Miyabi fails to bed Takumi. Ao can’t believe Takumi hasn’t slept with scores of girls, prompting him to finally confess his virginity.

The announcement has a profound effect on Ao, as she now sees him in a totally new light. Far from fearing him as another normie man, she resolves to be nice to him since he’s a virgin, and even assumes she knows more about eroticism than him simply due to her father’s line of work.

Ao sees Takumi as so little a threat all of a sudden, she agrees to go to a restaurant to study English with him. When she later asks if he really wants her to be his first love, she ends up rhetorically and literally backed against a wall. Her whole facade of superiority collapses and she’s forced to flee in tears.

That’s when she spots Miyabi in a restaurant skulking and attaches herself to her, just like she used to when they were little kids, Ao got teased, and Miyabi was always there for her. Miyabi may have it in her head that they’re rivals now, but when push comes to groin-kick, Ao still considers her a friend.

Ao-chan Can’t Study! – 04 – A New Challenger Approaches

After waking from a recurring dream where a younger Ao is teased by her peers for the origin of her name (which is messed up enough) things only get worse for Ao, as her father presents her with a gaudy envelope left by a young woman. Inside is a photo of the girl in bed with Takumi.

Ao doesn’t understand why he’s chasing her if he already has a woman…unless he wants a threesome (he doesn’t). But his soccer senpai says Takumi attended to a mixer and claims he “went home” with one of the girls there. The “confirmation” leaves Ao a wreck…though her father didn’t help by painting the girl as resembling one of his “insatiable beauty” characters.

The girl in question turns out to be Takaoka Miyabi, one of Ao’s classmates in grade school who knew her raunchy name origin. Miyabi makes it plain to Ao: shit or get off the pot. Correction: just get off the pot; she wants Miyabi and she detests women who string men along, like she thinks Ao is doing

Of course, Ao isn’t doing that: her delaying is the result of her struggling with feelings she’s never felt, doesn’t understand, and which have been warped by her unorthodox upbringing. When Takumi calls her to assure her nothing happened at the mixer, Ao has already made up a narrative of what happened—and what’s happening—in her head.

So she tells Takumi not to talk to her at school anymore. He doesn’t, and avoids her, which neither of them like, and Miyabi swoops in and snags a date with him.

Everything would seem to be going to plan for Miyabi, who is, ironically using the very “manual” written by Ao’s dad, under a female pseudonym, that he also offered to his daughter. There’s just one problem: Takumi has no romantic interest in her, is concerned with Ao, and she can tell.

Fate itself seems to favor Ao when she and Takumi end up together in a haunted house—though it’s so dark they don’t realize who each other are until simulated lightning strikes reveal it. But their fight continues, as Ao insists Takumi find Miyabi and continue on his date.

Later that night, Miyabi is determined to take Takumi to a hotel and get a real picture with him; the one she sent Ao was simply photoshopped. Her impressive ‘shopping skills aside, she can probably no doubt sense Takumi’s distraction from Ao…and so asks what he’s going to do about her.

Takumi doesn’t know because he’s not sure whether Ao likes him or not, but the way he describes her flaws as things he’s not bothered by makes it clear he’s not over her yet. So Miyabi tells him Ao doesn’t like her, and is merely being “cocky” making him wait for her answer. But she assures him that her emotions and intentions are clear.

Quite the stirring soap opera hot pot we have simmering here! I must say I wasn’t expecting such a cliffhanger, or for a half-length episode to be packed with so much story. What will young Takumi do…take the easier route with a willing Miyabi, or try to make up with Ao and, in doing so, provide a means for them to gain more insight into each other’s feelings?

Ao-chan Can’t Study! – 03 – A Sucker for Kindness

“Even annoying things are cute if Horie’s doing them.” By the standards of Ao’s upbringing, Kijima’s intentions are virtuous almost to the point of chasteness. Even their male and female peers have less kinky ideas about the two than Ao’s twisted imagination.

This week, while on a class trip, Ao continues to realize the picture of Kijima in her head is not the same as the boy in front of him. When his hand ends up on her thigh, it’s because he’s reaching into a closet in which he has no idea she’s hiding.

When she stumbles and falls on top of him, of course everyone is there to witness her “attacking” Kijima. She insists that’s not the case, but when the group heads out for a test of courage, they make sure she’s with him.

Ao is not used to walking mountain trails alone at night, and so grudgingly agrees to Kijima accompanying her. While in the bathroom she sees a hand, and leaps out like a ninja; closer inspection, it’s just a latex glove on the floor (which…gross). But there’s a bigger issue: in her haste to flee, Ao’s skirt rode up her backside, and her panties are visible.

Kijima’s first instinct is to give Ao the news gently by dropping hints, because he doesn’t want to inadvertently hurt Ao. Of course, his efforts fail miserably, and his attempts to be firmer about her having  a problem “with her lower half” only skeever her out until she feels she has to run away from him.

She surrenders to his appetites, but of course she completely misunderstands: Kijima has no intention whatsoever of taking advantage of her, he was just trying to be kind, as he always is. Hopefully someday Ao can realize this…or at least realize when her panties are exposed!

Ao-chan Can’t Study! – 02 – Kijima Wants to Study

“I have no time to concern myself with sexual desires,” Ao thinks to herself, but her curiosity about those desires, along with her ill-fated attempts to suppress them, only puts them even more at the forefront. Matters aren’t helped by class chatter about Kijima being big…down there, to the point where it’s not comfortable for a woman.

Ao goes to the vaunted authority on such things, her dad, who gives her the brass tacks about long shafts, so to speak. She’s understandably mortified about such a scenario, but decides to “confirm” whether Kijima is really that big before outright rejecting him. Considering how well her first knee-jerk rejection worked out, it’s unsurprising that her clumsy attempt to “touch” Kijima while he’s sleeping leads to her hands in his (and they are big hands).

He tells her didn’t confess on a whim, but because he wanted to give it his all and do things properly. And so far, he’s been nothing but a gentleman, despite Ao’s weird thoughts. He admits there’ll be times when he too will be uneasy about certain things if they go down that road, but that doesn’t make that road any less worth travelling.

Despite herself, Ao is touched (emotionally, dammit!), and returns to her dad for further advice. He understands how it must be tough to talk to him, but he wants to help, and so gives her a novel to read that also serves as a kind of “training manual.” Naturally the cover looks just like the cover of Kijima’s studying notes, and when the two come together in class the books get switched.

When Ao learns of the switch and reads Kijima’s apparent reactions to it, she gets extremely anxious, especially when he suggests they “do it” outside in the park, suggesting he’s into “public play.” Of course, Kijima hasn’t read the contents of Ao’s book, and so by “doing it” he’s only talking about studying together.

Bottom line, Ao’s belief that Kijima is some kind of crazed sexual animal is gradually eroding, and only her own dirty thoughts, obviously influenced by her illustrious father, only make things worse for her. This was a better episode than the first, but it’s still pretty inessential.

3-gatsu no Lion – 24

A new tournament bracket has been released, and Nikaidou is furious that he and Rei are in different groups…as if Rei had anything to do with the seeding. The only thing for it is for the two to win their respective groups and face each other in the finals.

Nikaidou then launches into a torrent of trash-talk, calling Rei arrogant and pompous, and their loudness almost gets them kicked out of the watching room where the other pros are watching Souya and Kumakura. The two are still kids, after all…they need to argue with shoji, not words.

A couple other younger pros start talking about Shimada’s mental and physical state after losing to Souya, and Gotou, who hears a bit too much of it, is having none of it, sticking up for the absent Shimada by saying unproven young whelps who may never get within a mile of a title match shouldn’t be running their mouths about those who have “been in the ring.”

Rei is glad Shimada is being defended, but laments that the defense is coming from the same person who has caused, intentionally and unintentionally, his sister to suffer. It gets to the whole idea of “chaos” in this segment, in which both humans and shogi are full of contradictions and paradoxes; all mysteries that will never be solved, but we must simply live with.

In a move that surprises all spectators young and old, Kumakura responds to Souya’s seemingly innocuous move made to force a reaction out of his opponent…suddenly resigns, giving Souya another successful title defense. It’s only after everyone plays through that Rei and the other see what Kumakura saw: that Souya had beaten him, seeing many many moves ahead to Kuma’s doom.

Meanwhile, Kyouko is performing all of the duties of your classic wife figure for Gotou, and we learn why: his actual wife is in a coma in the hospital.

Rei may only see a villain and a scoundrel (or at best, an uneasy ally against those who would drag Shimada thorough the mud), but Kyouko’s been around him a lot more time, and while she may be blinded by infatuation, she also sees a role to play in Gotou’s wife’s absence…especially if her prognosis is such that soon Gotou will be a widower.

It’s not pretty to see him getting along with, even sharing the bed with, another woman poised to “attack” him while his wife still draws breath, but who ever said humanity was pretty? Not to mention, without Gotou, Kyouko always seems lost and alone, and Rei can’t be the one to fill the hole in her heart.

But Gotou made a good point to Rei that echos his own thoughts about chaos: seeing everything in good and bad or black and white is a recipe for a poor understanding the world. Life isn’t Go! If I had to choose between the two games, it’s more like Shoji.

As for the man who gives his name to this segment, Kumakura: he’s lost again, but takes the defeat with a cool calmness that makes many of his peers swoon. Of course, that is a public calmness; below the surface boils a man who has been shattered into pieces having to collect them all and re-construct himself in time for the next title challenge.

It’s a thankless, cruel task, but it’s the only way he knows how to live. Not to mention, kicking the shit out of a wall is always a quick way to release pent-up frustration!

This episode had solid slice of life and some good internal stuff with Rei…but after only catching a brief glimpse last week, I definitely missed the Kawamotos.

I realize the show is probably following the source’s chapters and the sisters and their grandpa are just one part of Rei’s life, but they’re an important (not to mention adorable!) one, and I hope we get to spend more quality time with them soon.

Alderamin on the Sky – 05

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I’m on the older side, so as I watched the magnificent origin of the relationship of young Yatori and Ikta unfold, I couldn’t help but think of Captain Picard and Guinan (I also thought of Muppet Babies, for what it’s worth). In addition to the fact that TNG had an Oscar-winning actress on TV before it was cool, one of the great big unanswered questions of the show was the history of those two.

All Guinan said to Riker when Picard was captured by the Borg was that what they had was “beyond friendship, beyond family.” That sums up Yatori and Ikta perfectly. One was raised from birth to be a knight, which is no different from a blade. The other was raised into a world of science and deep, distant thought about mysteries once left to the comfort of theology.

Yatori decides to study abroad with Ikta as his father Sankrei was a celebrated military mind whom she sought for enrichment. What she got was a lifetime companion who not only made her more whole, but whom she made more whole as well.

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Japanese can be at times wonderfully onomatopoeiaic, as I was reminded when Ikta conveys how “stiff” Yatori speaks, even to a fellow kid like him. But throughout their early interactions, Ikta never tries to impose his will or philosophy upon Yatori; instead, he shows her parts of her world and levies suggestions on how she might become something more than the Igsem blade she was forged to be.

A sword, after all, is only an inanimate object; no mater how much intense training Yatori undergoes, she cannot deny her flesh, her blood, and the emotions all humans possess. Indeed, Yatori is as much a sponge as a blade, benefiting greatly from her exposure to Ikta, his father, and the scientists associated with them. She also learns to play, which for Ikta means outsmarting adults.

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It’s really quite invigorating to see these two at an early age right after seeing Ikta bring Yatori down from her killing fever last week. This episode painstakingly explains the bond these two share not with idle exposition, but by telling a story in its own right; a story of two very bright and talented kids bouncing off one another.

Just as Yatori had never met a kid quite like Ikta (nor met any kid period, for that matter), Ikta had never come across such a stern, stiff, duty-obsessed girl. It’s refreshing how quickly they hit it off despite their profound differences in upbringing.

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Their bond is formalized quite by chance, when the adults they followed to a remote locale for a geological survey forgot their gear and turned back to retrieve it. Yatori and Ikta end up on their own, up against a pack of starving wolves, who are treated by the show with the same respect one would show a group of starving people.

Yatori and Ikta have no quarrel with the wolves, but they cannot allow themselves to be killed and eaten for the sake of the wolves. They are meant for greater things. I love how Ikta calls out for Yatori when the first wolf corners him, and Yatori comes through like the knight she is.

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But this is not simply a tale of Ikta coming up with a game plan and Yatori carrying it out. It isn’t simply the knight saving the damsel in distress (who is Ikta in this case). Rather, when the desperate wolves infiltrate the house, and Ikta and Yatori must retreat to a smaller space ton ponder their next move, Ikta rejects Yatori’s pre-programmed intent to protect him at the cost of her own life.

That won’t do at all! For Ikta, any outcome where one of them dies is no good. Chivalric training aside, he rejects the notion that Yatori must lay down her life so that he might live. Having met and gotten to know Yatori, Ikta knows she can be more than a blade.

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So he proposes they look at it another way: she is not the hero and he the recipient of heroism: they are together the right and left hand of a single entity, one far smarter and stronger than either of them alone.

Yatori, still young and relatively impressionable (as well as quite a smart cookie in her own right) can pick up what Ikta is putting down. They work together to outsmart and defeat the remaining wolves, forcing the survivors to retreat.

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In the process, they burn down the whole damn house, and eat what’s left of the dried meat they have on hand. Yatori says it feels like they’re eating the wolves’ meat, which for Ikta is definitive proof that she can, indeed, be more than just a blade.

Not long after that unforgettable, life-changing experience, Ikta and Sankrei go missing…but one day Ikta returns, and Yatori is happy, for it is neither her brother nor her lover nor her dear friend who has returned to her: it is her other hand.

The best part of Alderamin is Yatori and Ikta’s relationship. I’ve said it before, and this episode went and capitalized on that strength, with exceptional results.

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 13

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Yes, this show is still around, and yes, I’m still watching! Who would have thought that Benio not only had an evil overpowered brother who needs to be defeated down the road sometime, but also both their parents were killed by an overpowered Kegare that’s the equivalent of an Arrancar in Bleach: a kegare with human (or humanoid) form. This girl just has the worst luck.

But hey, someone’s looking out for her, and that someone is Rokuro. After getting the lay of the land, he peaces out of Magano with Benio at his earliest convenience, since Benio is in no condition to fight.

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He uses a med-talisman on her, and she wants to head right back in there, but he tells her to eat first and cheer up, assuring her that her late parents would much rather she kept living than die trying to avenge them.

As he goes in to get a better idea of who they’re up against in Kamui, Benio actually listens to Roku and eats his stone-cold oyakodon, which actually isn’t that good at all, but Benio still scarfs it down. As she does, she really does cheer up, remembering all the positive reinforcement and support Rokuro has offered her over their time together.

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Back in Magano, Rokuro learns that Kamui is primarily concerned with being “entertained”, and with his demon gauntlet thingy, Rokuro seems able to provide the absolute minimum quantity of entertainment for Kamui to reconsider killing him quickly. Roku has potential, after all, and anyone or anything that can land a blow on Kamui is someone he isn’t in a hurry to kill. That would be boring!

Of course, it isn’t long before Kamui turns up the difficulty level a tick, and Rokuro is shot back and bloodied with ease. That’s when a reinvigorated Benio returns (albeit hopping on one leg) to relieve him.

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Benio certainly has a head full of steam, but it’s been abundantly clear for a while now that neither she nor Rokuro can accomplish much on their own; they have to combine their power in order to make progress.

And progress that make, as Rokuro catches Benio from out of the air, the two combine their spiritual energy (or whatever), her sword gets bigger and meaner, and they deliver an epically crushing blow to Kamui.

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Kamui survives, but a limb lighter, and decides he’ll withdraw for now and wait for these two to become stronger, or, if they produce a Miko, send him or her to face him. It doesn’t really matter, as long as he’s entertained.

I actually like the guy’s philosophy; it’s at least more interesting that just a mindless killing machine. Guy’s got a code, and he’s got priorities. He even remembered Benio’s ‘rents, and how they were one of his only victims who actually sacrificed themselves for someone else, namely their daughter.

Turns out the encounter between Rokruo+Benio and Kamui was all but set up by Arima, to further bring the two together, and you can hardly argue that it worked like a charm.

Benio wakes up in bed with Rokuro, in the lovenest Arima prepared for them, no more willing to follow through with the plans Arima made for them than before, but still no less grateful for Rokuro’s support. Her parents told her being scared is okay, because they’re not alone. And she’s not alone here.

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 12

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Rokuro and Benio’s relatively placid domestic life continues this week, with Rokuro working hard to control his gauntlet in the cellar while Benio prepares dinner.

Only “dinner” turns out to be your classic steaming purple witch’s brew, which all bad cooks throughout anime are able to replicate exactly. It would be one thing if that was the only point of the joke – but Rokuro goes too far in asking “what kind of family” Benio had that led to her thinking ohagi and curry, and Rokuro apologizes.

He’s also grateful Benio made him some goop, even if he can barely choke it down. He decides the only way they’re going to be able to live together is if they rotate cooking duties, and he believes he’s the better cook, and aims to prove it.

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Seems like a pretty tame episode, right? Well, I thought so too at first, but as soon as Benio went out running on her own, I almost immediately assumed a kegare would appear; one powerful enough that she couldn’t take it on alone, and requiring Rokuro to step out of the kitchen and let his culinary masterpiece go cold in order to rescue her, yet again proving that neither she nor he do well taking on foes by themselves, but fare far better when working as a single unit.

And that’s exactly what happens. But you know what? I’ve never had a problem with this show’s derivative-ness or predictability, because as I’ve stated in previous reviews, I like the slow but steady growth of Rokuro and Benio as twin protagonists of equal stature that I’ve come to be emotionally invested in. That, and the aesthetic, and the awesome soundtrack.

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Before Benio runs into the Kegare-of-the-Week, while on her run the talk of proper dinner and family sticks in her head, and she recalls the day six years ago when she watched her parents fighting and purifying Kegare, a duo like her and Rokuro, only with the same masks and twin swords. We also learn where she gets her love of ohagi from (her Dad).

Unfortunately, that’s also the day her parents were killed, by a Kegare that could talk, and offered her the grim choice of which parent he’d spare from death. Obviously, she couldn’t choose in the ten seconds he gave her, and he crushed them both.

And whaddaya know, that smart Kegare, known as Kamui, just happens to be the Kegare who crosses Benio’s path here. Not only that, he’s specifically searching for the Twin Star Exorcists. That’s a lot of coincidences!

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But whatever, Rokuro and Benio were only brought together because of a prophecy, and because the head honcho believes they’re fated to be together and conceive the Miko. By fighting Kamui alone to get revenge for her parents, Benio is going against that prophecy, as well as getting into the very same situation as six years ago: with Kamui giving her ten seconds to choose—only this time, it’s how he’ll kill her.

Naturally Benio isn’t going anywhere, but she can’t do anything here, so it’s up to Rokuro, who delivers a furious punch that blasts Kamui away long enough for him to cheer Benio up and tell her everything will be okay. They’re going home; she’s getting patched up; and then he’ll wow her with his gastronomic excellence.

But, of course, that one punch doesn’t keep Kamui down long. If anything, he’s only lightly annoyed a human was able to do such a thing to him. The fight isn’t over, but with Benio in such bad shape, how on earth is Rokuro going to be able to deal with him alone? More importantly, that oyakodon has to be stone-cold by now, right?

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Kiznaiver – 07

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While Ruru wasn’t literally killed by Maki (obviously), her mother is glad Maki feels guilty for abandoning her as a friend, making her write the final chapter by herself. Half the house is a shrine to Ruru, so the tension runs high in the mother’s presence. They may have known Ruru was going to live a short life due to her chronic illness, but that doesn’t make the pain any less difficult to bear.

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This week we also learn how Maki and Ruru —two loners—met for the first time and became more dear to one another than anyone else. They filled in each other’s manga weaknesses (Ruru’s writing, Maki’s art), and rose quickly as their audience soared.

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But it seems Maki was never a fan of Ruru “joking” about jumping off high ledges, faking a seizure, or getting more romantic with her. Though the last one, Maki knew, wasn’t a joke, nor was she not interested.

Ultimately, it seems more like Maki cut herself off from Ruru in order to be spared the even greater pain she’s endure if Ruru died when they were lovers. This is a very tense but lovely scene because it’s so intimately shot, but also interspersed with art from their manga depicting the same actions.

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The other Kiznaivers don’t know most of this…because Maki hasn’t told them, but also because they haven’t come out and asked. They come up with a plan to become her friend at all costs, not leaving her alone until she realizes there’s no point in resisting any longer; it’s six-against-one, after all.

It’s just really nice to see how much these six have gelled as a group, and how they basically became friends through osmosis, without even realizing it. Chidori in particular notices how Kacchon is changing, but for the better, and how he doesn’t simply allow Tenga to walk all over him, but rather likes having him around.

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As blue and lost as Maki is right now, the six still want her around too, especially Yuta, who tries to use the manga to learn more about what happened. The final chapter is one that Maki never read, and she assumes Ruru “cursed” her to love her and no one else forever and ever.

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That turns out to not be the case, as Ruru, treating the final chapter she wrote alone as a kind of indirect letter to Maki, telling her if remembering her ever gets too painful, it’s okay to forget, because she loved her smile and wouldn’t want her to stop using it.

Yuta manages to get Maki to come out for fireworks, but she’d rather watch everyone swim in the ocean instead. To everyone’s shock, Yuta doesn’t hesitate in running as fast as he can into the water and splashing around like a goon.

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Once Maki has read and understood Ruru’s wish for her, the smile returns to her face, the first smile we’ve seen that wasn’t sinister or fake. And the Kiznaivers feels something that isn’t pain – a weight being lifted from Maki’s heart. She can’t be friends with any of them, she says—because they’re already far closer than friends or lovers.

I enjoyed the resolution to Maki’s impasse with the other Kiznaivers. It felt earned and realistic that these people who so badly want to be her friends would eventually pull her out of the darkness and into clarity, closure, relief, and understanding. It’s also neat how the story of these last couple episodes serves as a real-life extra chapter to the manga Maki and Ruru made together.

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Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider – 11 (Fin)

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Subete ga F ni Naru was a fun, engrossing, and above all thought-provoking show from beginning to end. Even though the main mystery has been solved, this episode trudges onward with some very long but solid character interactions: first between Saikawa and Miki Shiki, then between Saikawa and Moe. By the end, has introduced a whole new brace of head-scratching mysteries to ponder during the digital end credits.

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Dr. Magata makes good on her promise she and Saikawa will meet again far sooner than Saikawa expected, considering she’s on the lamb, but something he said in their sensory deprivation meeting intrigued her to the extent she felt the need to visit him in person and chat a little, before surrendering herself to the police. That something was “You can’t smoke underwater,” and she opts to try one of cigarettes (her first ever).

They talk of life and death; her view (though she doesn’t say it’s the only view) that the latter is the natural state of things, while life itself is “a kind of illness” that death cures. She also considers the human compulsion to want to interfere in the lives of others—or to want one’s own life interfered with by another—is essentially what love is.

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As we see the ship at sea for the first time since the pilot, I pondered what it represented, as Shiki tells Saikawa that they have similar “structures”—other selves created to protect “the real him.” But Saikawa isn’t Shiki, nor does she believe he could ever become her. At least, he’d need “far more than one hundred years” to do so. It’s not meant as an insult, just a fact, and Saikawa accepts it as the two part.

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The Lego Shiki leaves him with is another question mark, but after pondering his encounter in his office (during which time Moe tentatively enters, makes coffee, and promises to leave right afterwards), he realizes the three “policemen” who surrounded her weren’t policemen at all, but guys she hired to act that way. Shiki is still out in the wind. Saikawa laughs out loud, not just because she got him once more, but because I think he’s happy she’s still free.

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His talk with her got him thinking: “love has no single shape.” It could be being killed, as it might have been for Shiki and her daughter. Or it could be solving the magic trick someone else loved outsmarting others with, then being the one who saves the life of someone who had no one else,  and telling silly jokes that make her irritated or tear up.

Saikawa makes no bones about him and Moe being very different people, but that doesn’t matter; two people don’t need to be the same to be in love. He’s willing to accept all of Moe’s “contradictions” if she’s willing to have him. This was a love that has been brewing for some time, but only his experience with Dr. Magata shook him out of the impasse they were in and take the next step into something like a romance, which Moe has been ready to take for some time.

The camera plays with the positions of Moe and Saikawa as they go on an apparent date together, only showing them separate from each other at first, not quite in the same location at once, until they are in the frame together. Moe also learns that Gido is Saikawa’s little sister, so she never had any competition to begin with (not to mention Saikawa never wanted to kiss her).

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On that happy note, we leave Saikawa and Moe, and shift to a time and place we know not when or where. Shiki is on a camel in the desert with her daughter, teaching her that even though humans do not really exist for the sake of people and things around them, they cannot help but assign such reasons to exist as for the sake of others, or to help everyone. “They always want an answer”, and that want drives them. We cut to the two of them in the kitchen of her locked apartment in the lab, where Shiki urges her daughter never to stop seeking those answers even after she is gone, which is strange, because the theory was that she outlived her daughter when she murdered her.

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The final shot is the most perplexing, but not negatively so: “Michiru” introduces “Kishio”, the apparent name of her daughter, in that seascape with the giant shipwreck. Where is this place? Did it ever exist, or is it just in Shiki’s mind? We saw Shiki interact with Saikawa in the real world, but these last scenes threaten to upheave all that came before. Then again, Shiki did speak of dying without suffering and not fearing death.

After getting so many satisfying answers and explorations of philosophy, existence, life, death and time…there are still more questions. But as is the case with so much in life, we must be content with the answers we have, and with the fact that we’ll never find them all.

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Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen – 09

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It’s with a semi-heavy heart that I bid adieu to perhaps the strangest Fall show I’m watching. Its episodes are usually fairly fun, but has lacked substance and cohesion. The show’s M.O. is to introduce two or more new cute female characters per week, and the show has gotten very crowded and unfocused as a result.

This week it’s two of Kuon’s “sisters” from her homeland, who baby her like a couple of mother hens. Their treatment of her is over-the-top to the point of incredulity, and we’re talking a show were almost everyone has tails and fuzzy ears. I will say I liked the little mini-arc the Big bird and tiger had, but it’s all just so darned random.

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Random, but at the same time, very workaday. Much of this show has been Kuon and Haku eating and bathing while encountering the new characters of the week, many of whom have stuck around, leading to a huge entourage of people, many of them princesses.

It was  also nice to have Haku inadvertently demonstrate how well he’s come to know Kuon by visiting all of her usual haunts, and going somewhere he knew she’d never go (the BL bookstore) only to find her hiding there. But it’s not much we haven’t seen before, and nothing that reignited an interest in continuing the show for a whole second cour. As you can see, I can barely scrape together 250 words about it. That’s when you know it’s time to say sayonara.

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Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen – 08

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You have to give Utawarerumono credit where it’s due: it certainly knows how to surprise with its content. One episode we’re following Haku as he becomes entangled in one princess or another, the next, he’s on an undercover mission with Ukon and Atui to investigate corruption aboard the Eight Pillar General Dekoponpo’s immense pleasure barge.

It’s all quite wacky and out of left field, but it works, because Haku works so well as a protagonist with an inscrutable talent for being in the thick of things without even trying, and because the characters that surround him are as bright and quirky as he is unassuming and laid back.

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Sure enough, their time aboard the barge reveals a huge, apparently illicit gambling operation centered around duelling giant insects. That doesn’t stop Atui from getting really into the gambling, along with Kosuri, who makes a cameo as another party seeking corruption.

When the bugs get loose and have to be dealt with, Dekoponpo quickly flees, and his sycophantic valet Bokoinante tries to load as much loot onto the lifeboat as possible. These two characters are cartoonish and one-dimensional, but remain amusing in their banter nonetheless.

As for Atui, she proves again she’s a capable warrior, even if she just violently lashes out at her targets with her eyes closed (she doesn’t like bugs). As for her getting covered in a sticky white substance, well…I’m not sure that was entirely necessary.

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As for Haku, when he goes to the general’s office to find hard evidence of corruption, he encounters a furious Bokoinante who has come for his master’s favorite golden statue, which helpfully serves as a shield for Haku when Bokoinante slashes at him.

In any case, Kosuri and Ougi are the ones who end up with the evidence and quickly alight from the ship, while Atui’s spazzy attacks bust a hole in the hull, causing the whole barge to sink. Quite the collateral damage; hopefully Dekoponpo is well-insured.

Haku is saved from drowning by Ukon, but only after he drops the heavy golden statue he wanted to keep. The rest of the giant bugs are dealt with by troops under Oshutaru’s counterpart, Mikazuchi. In the end, they don’t collect any evidence, but as Ukon says, “it’ll all work out.”

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Back home, a strange fog comes upon Haku, along with two mysterious cloaked ladies who invite him to come with them through what seems to be an interdimensional portal. After a trip through some trippy caverns, he ends up in a strange indoor garden, where a familiar-looking woman serves him familiar-tasting tea.

Then an old man asks Haku to tell them all about his experiences since waking up in the mountains with no memory. Word is certainly getting around about Haku and his hard-to-describe but undeniable value to those around him. But I can’t pretend this episode wasn’t all over the place, because it was.

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