The Detective Is Already Dead – 09 – Foregone Conclusion

We’ve now arrived back at that scene on the boat where Siesta, Kimihiko, and Char—who is still not really a character—are headed to Secret Evil SPES Island. It’s as clear as it is by the name of the anime that this will be Siesta’s last mission, especially since Char keeps telling Kimi he’s going to regret not hugging Siesta or having her pat his head.

Kimi and Char go off on their own armed only with guns against an enemy they know to be superpowered. Seems kinda dumb! But then the entire excursion into the deeply unimpressive SPES HQ is a bit of a waste of time, unless you got anything at all out of the deadpan monologue of SPES’ space plant uber-boss. I was just waiting for Kimi to go back to Siesta. When he does, she’s only playing dead…at least at this point.

It’s a trick as cheap as much of the animation, framing, and general direction of the final showdown between Hel and Siesta/Kimi. Giant vines pop out of the ground, but they’re mostly a series of still shots. Our heroes move awkwardly and stiffly across the barren, boring battlefield. Hel reveals that she’s a personality created by Alicia to deal with all the torture, or something.

Then the giant stupid monster comes out of nowhere and tries to eat Kimi, only for Siesta to dive into harm’s way, push Kimi aside, and get killed. Yet even this is so oddly and sloppily presented that finally witnessing how the Detective who was Already Dead dies elicited no more than a shrug, and a bit of a yawn.

As if there weren’t enough clichés in this episode, it ends with Kimi waking up in his bed, presumably in the present when he’s rolling with Nagisa…but who knows? It’s a bit frustrating to think that all these episodes that took place with Siesta, and indeed made up the bulk of this cour, were just one long flashback that undermined the show’s premise. Sure, the Detective is Already Dead…but we’re spending most of the time with her still alive. Now that she’s gone, I’m not sure I care where this show goes next…

The Detective Is Already Dead – 08 – She’ll Steal Your Heart

This episode starts off with a gag—that the carrots in the curry Kimi made are too hard. They’re hard because he couldn’t find the kitchen knife, which Siesta confirms is still missing. Siesta is rather harsh and perhaps even a little possessive of her Sidekick when she informs Alicia that her services as substitute detective are no longer required. Kimi disagrees, and allows Alicia to continue investigating beside him.

Then sirens blare, and the next victim of the heart-stealer is revealed. Siesta, Kimi, and Alicia visit the grief-stricken mother of the woman, and regrets only taking and never giving to her daughter. Siesta is again harsh and clinical in questioning the grieving mother, causing Kimi to interrupt, while Alicia comforts the mother by assuring her that it wasn’t a one-sided relationship.

Siesta and Kimi have a tiff and go their separate ways for the day, but Alicia isn’t far behind, and Kimi presents her with a gift—the ring she liked at the curbside jeweler—and she asks him to slip it on her finger as a groom would. Siesta returns to apologize, only to see the two together, wish them every happiness, and storms off in a fresh barely-concealed huff.

Needless to say, Kimi has become quite fond and trusting of Alicia, in spite of the fact so much of her is still shrouded in mystery. In place of all the things he doesn’t know, he fills his heart with all the things he does, including that she’s a good person, and completely misses how she suspects she used to be a bad one. Turns out the ring was a tracking device, and Kimi soon finds a stabbed but not killed police officer…and Alicia on the ground with a gunshot wound.

It was when Alicia first said she was once bad that it first popped into my head she was Hel in a different form. That’s because everything I’d seen so far pointed to that. So I fully expected the episode to zag instead of zig, and pull something completely different out of nowhere; once again to prove it doesn’t really care about process or clues so much as the final twist.

Instead, it just zigged—Alicia is Hel, or at least the innocent, kind surface side of Hel. She’s been unknowingly switching into Hel Mode and stealing the hearts of the victims. Once she put the pieces together for herself, Alicia was left with nothing but the inevitability that her fun with Kimi had to come to an abrupt end.

Just as her reveal as Hell was earned, so is Alicia’s tearful goodbye to Kimi before turning into a knife-brandishing Hel. It was truly heartbreaking after all the moments—both tender and fraught—they’d shared, and become a kind of big-brother/little sister detective duo.

Again, Siesta comes in to do what is necessary, tackling Hel!Alicia before she can kill Kimi, then preparing to shoot her in the head before Kimi pulls his gun on Siesta. His heart may still be beating in his chest, but there’s no denying that Alicia stole it anyway. How else could he point a gun at Siesta?

Kimi was emotionally compromised. He’s a human being; it happens. Siesta doesn’t hold it against him, nor does she impose some kind of punishment for him losing objectivity. On the contrary, Siesta admits that Alicia was so trustworthy to her that she didn’t start suspecting her until the most recent victims, meaning she didn’t have the knowledge to act before anyone was killed. Call me crazy, but I like the fact that while Siesta is legendary, she’s not perfect.

But as both Kimi and Siesta were trying to do the right thing and were momentarily at odd with one another like never before in their three-plus years together, they’re soon reunited when Chameleon abducts Hel!Alicia and dares them to follow him to his not-so-secret private island base (which…what a stock villain move). They have a comrade to save, and they’ll do it the best way they know how: together.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Detective Is Already Dead – 07 – Wallowing in Sentimentality

Alicia takes to the mantle of Substitute Legendary Detective like a fish to water, donning a gumshoe’s coat and plaid cap and running all over downtown searching for the Eye of the Sapphire per Siesta’s instructions. Kimi does his best to catch up, but is constantly losing sight of the Mini-Sherlock. She’s just happy to be outside for the first time in a while, leading her to wonder why she hadn’t been outside for so long.

A couple weeks pass, and Siesta recovers from her injury, so the three go out for celebratory drinks. In Alicia’s case they’re all non-alcoholic, but something tells me the dark red liquid in a wine glass Siesta is enjoying isn’t just “juice.” Alicia is also somewhat frightened of just how in-sync Kimi and Siesta are, and is about to call them a couple of lovebirds when she’s abruptly cut off.

Alicia ends up heading to bed first, leaving Kimi and a Siesta who’s not quite done partying. After somewhere around ten “last” drinks, Siesta is hopping on her bed in a loose bathrobe and slurring her words as she spouts nonsense about melons so unlike Siesta, Kimi assumes she’s speaking in some kind of higher codespeak he can’t quite pick up.

There’s nothing to decode in her desire for him to sleep beside her. While she teases his forgettable face, she places her hand on it when she says she’ll never forget their three years spent together, and proposes that after so much serious talk they try doing something…“not so serious”.

We don’t learn how far the two got—or if Siesta passed out right after making her proposal—but when she wakes up next to him all sobered up, she prepares a syringe with a memory-wiping compound. Fortunately, Kimi is saved by the doorbell. It’s Alicia, who managed to solve overnight the real case Siesta apparently gave her: to discover that Kimi’s left eye was injured, and an eyepatch needed for it to fully heal.

Now donning his new “daring pirate” look while out and about with a slightly jealous Siesta, Kimi gets a call from Detective Kase, who assures him they actually didn’t meet two weeks ago. Instead, the Kase he met had the lighter she’d already given to him, so it was an impostor.

It could have been Hel, who sat this episode out so Kimi could play Alicia’s babysitter by day and Siesta’s Casanova by night. Not that I minded this in the least—Kimi and Siesta’s interactions remain the heart and soul of the show—but I imagine some heavier-weight material is in store for us next time.

Crow’s on the case with some thoughts on episode 7 here.

The Detective Is Already Dead – 06 – Monsters and Maidens

Once Siesta busted through the walls of the huge complex beneath the Houses of Parliament, I knew we were in for some gleefully bizarre action. After explaining how she really doesn’t care about her sidekick enough to beg the government for a top-secret humanoid weapon, she puts Kimi in the only seat in the cockpit and sits on his lap as the pair go up against Hel and her eldritch abomination.

While in theory this would be a pretty cool battle, the execution greatly suffers, with both storyboarding, animation and sound contributing to an underwhelming spectacle. Rather than sitting on the edge of my seat, I was distracted by the fact the show had just written checks it could not cash. To borrow a Top Gear phrase: ambitious, but rubbish.

What keeps this sequence from bottoming out all together is the huming chemistry and always entertaining (if sometimes florid) banter between the Legendary Detective and her sidekick. Yet even as they remind us not to take the mecha/monster battle too seriously, the peril and urgency is suddenly ratcheted up when the battle takes to the skies of London.

It’s here where I kept thinking this could be it; when the Detective who is Already Dead…would die. She even ejects Kimi from the mecha and collides with Hel and her monster in a big explosion as the two combatants fall to the ground in a cloud of dust, smoke, and flame. Somehow, Kimi is able to meet right back up with Siesta, and gives her a hug, telling her never to do that again.

In a heartbreaking moment considering what we know, Siesta promises Kimi she’ll never suddenly willfully die without telling him anything. Then she defeats Hel rather easily by using a pocket mirror—one of her special “tools”—to cause her to stab herself with her own sword. She’s about to finish her off with a bullet when Hell yells “Chameleon!” and then vanishes. Clearly, she had a sidekick…so I guess Kimi was going to be her second?

Hel may not be dead, but neither is Siesta; instead she’s suffered a broken leg, which results in a cast and her and Kimi cohabitating so he can take care of her. She’s loving how much he’s loving this suddenly intimate situation, even if he tries valiantly to hide it. Why else would he head out to buy juicier apples?

It’s that little shopping trip that leads our trouble magnet of a sidekick to the next case, this one involving his discovery of a twin-tailed loli in an Alice dress and striped stockings sleeping in a wooden crate on the sidewalk. Voiced by Kugimiya Rie, the girl’s name is even Alicia, but other than knowing she’s Kimi’s age despite looking ten years younger, she doesn’t remember who she is or why she woke up in a box.

Kimi comes home to a Siesta who was not only wearing an apron (thus fulfilling Kimi’s lifelong dream), but preparing to bake a pie with the apples he was supposed to come home with. Instead, he comes home with an amnesiac girl who ate all those apples, and Siesta’s understandably a bit-miffed.

No matter; Siesta, Kimi, and Alicia discuss the situation over Darjeeling tea and apple-less apple pie. Siesta decides that this is their next case, but since she’s laid up with her injury, she asks Alicia to be the Detective in her place (she doesn’t pick Kimi despite his experience because he just has “the face of a sidekick”). Alicia agrees when she learns she can boss the sidekick around all she wants.

But just as this case gets started, a new one rears its head: Detective Kase barges in without knocking and smokes indoors while reporting that the heart-harvester has struck again: Hel is still at it. I guess we’ll see how Alicia fares as the Substitute Legendary Detective…or maybe the show will switch gears entirely and return to the present. I really don’t know anymore, and I guess, for now, that’s part of the fun.

Read Crow’s episode 6 review here.

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 19 – Commencement of Hostilities

The War for Fuutaro begins not with a whimper, but with the bang of a two-stroke engine and the flash of a headlamp. Nino, ready to give up on Fuu once and for all, tells her stepdad she and her sisters are going to keep living on their own a while. Stepdad is poised to shit on the new home they made, but Nino is rescued by Fuutarou, her white knight on his motorbike steed.

Motorbike rides through the city are tailor-made for romantic scenes, as Nino is literally embracing Fuu from behind, and they’re all alone on their buzzing island. So after she finds his exam scores in his pocket (the lowest he’s ever had, though he doesn’t blame them) and he’s thinking about the end of their student-teacher relationship, Nino shoots her shot, telling him she loves him.

Fuutarou doesn’t react at all, which both confuses and frustrates Nino as they join the other sisters. There are other signs of hostilities commencing between sisters even as they share bites of their disparate deserts as thanks for helping each other out. Ichika realizes Miku said she’d confess if she had the highest scores, but Ichika got them…so does that mean it’s okay for her to confess?

As Miku seemingly shot herself in the foot with her wager and Ichika wavers, Nino keeps going for it, joining Fuutarou in the back and even helping wash the dishes with him, another lovely domestic activity. On her way out, she tells him to forget what she said on the bike, that it must’ve troubled him and she went too fast.

In response, Fuutarou genuinely asks: What is she talking about? He couldn’t hear whatever she said on the bike due to the wind. She tells him never mind and scoots off, seemingly glad he didn’t hear her since it means things can go back to the way they were. But then Nino, and QQ, does something I didn’t expect: she marches right back to the kitchen and tells him she loved him.

She has him recall her saying there’s one girl on the planet who’d fall for him, saying “That girl is me. Too bad for you!” Just excellent stuff. I’m so proud of Nino. Poor Ichika can only listen in horror from behind the wall.

Nino says she doesn’t expect a response, but if I were Fuutarou, not giving one wouldn’t sit right with me. Alas, he’s so thrown for a loop he’s unsure how to proceed, and her confession just sits out there. A day or so later Fuu encounters Miku at a supermarket she insists she went to not to see him, but…to enter into a contest with a grand prize of tickets to an onsen.

Because of that white lie, and all the more practical lesser prizes, both Miku and Fuu enter into the contest…and to their mutual surprise, both of them win! While Fuu takes his family and looks forward to being away from the quints to rest and think on things, he learns the quints are on vacation with their stepdad, who’d prefer if it was a vacation away from Fuu.

Nino approaches Fuu like it’s no big dealio, and it’s not—for her! She did what none of the other quints who like him had the courage to do: risk everything by making those feelings plain. With the ball in his court, Nino can relax and keep pushing to become “girlfriend material”. When she calls him Fuutarou, Miku immediately perks up. Also, Itsuki wants to speak to Fuu later.

That night, Fuu finds a note in his cubby saying “courtyard, midnight”, but finds Itsuki in the lobby instead. She asks him straight-up what he thinks their relationship with them (the sisters) is. When he uses the tired “partners” line, she says it’s time to “put and end” to that relationship. Confused and distraught, Fuu takes hold of Itsuki…and gets flipped head-over-heels by the old man at the desk—who is the quints’ grandfather!

The next morning, Fuu calls Itsuki, who assures him she never met with him last night. They meet at the baths, where Fuu tells her about the impostor, who I’m guessing was Miku (because it sounded most like her). Whoever it was, they were trying to do what Nino was initially going to do: separate from him altogether to avoid the heartbreak of rejection.

Right on cue, Nino prepares to join Fuu in the mixed bath (Itsuki is over on the women’s side), but Fuu, having been fooled last night, ruins things by asking her who she is, even though he was pretty sure it was Nino. Itsuki tells him she wanted to ask why the others are acting so odd, something even the typically dense Fuu has noticed.

When Fuu says they’re not “partners” working toward the same goal anymore, Itsuki corrects him: after all they’ve been through, can’t they both admit that what they truly are now is plain old friends? For Itsuki and Fuu, perhaps. But for those who have fallen in love with him, it’s not that simple.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Episode Seven Quintuplet Ranking:

  1. Nino: Comes out with guns blazing, but all of these early victories make me fear that she’s being set up for some kind of fall down the road. The future aside, the motorbike ride, kitchen re-confession, and mixed bath visit were all sublime. I recommend Fuu marry this girl yesterday. Total Points: 28 (1st)
  2. Itsuki: Seems to be cementing her role as Fuu’s trusty pal and confidante, as well as continuing her role as Ambassador to the United Quintuplets. If this is a long-game strategy, she hasn’t shown her hand, but hey, they’re talking! Total Points: 24 (2nd)
  3. Miku: Between losing to Ichika at exams and to Nino at…everything else, Miku seems to be in dire straits. At the same time, she hasn’t given up yet… Total Points: 17 (5th)
  4. Ichika: …Which is more than I can say for this one. Ichika continues to harbor a negative, defeatist attitude. She couldn’t capitalize on the opening Miku gave her because she was waiting for someone to tell her if it was okay to act. Then again, there wasn’t much she could have done against Nino. Total Points: 18 (Tied for 3rd)
  5. Yotsuba: If it wasn’t Miku disguised as Itsuki in the lobby, maybe it was Yotsuba. It’s how I explain why recedes into the shadows after the bakery celebration. I’m not really sure what (if anything) she’s up to, but it’s not happening on-screen. Total Points: 18 (Tied for 3rd)

BokuBen 2 – 10 – Naming A New Star

Nariyuki wakes to find he and Fumino have the house all to themselves. Fumino is by the sink preparing breakfast like an idyllic wive. It turns out she’s terrible at cooking (and cleaning), but Nariyuki doesn’t care, and neither would I. As with her studies, Fumino is working hard at something she’s not great at, and her energy and enthusiasm are contagious.

But while Nariyuki appreciates Fumino’s heartfelt efforts to be a good guest (and quasi-housewife), he’s still worried about the rift between her and her dad. She’s working so hard to pay back his family’s kindness, she comes into the bathroom to wash Nariyuki’s back—and falls asleep on it! When she wakes up, and won’t go back to sleep, Nariyuki suggests they go on a date.

He takes her to a spot with a great view of the stars, and reminds her how inspired he was when he heard her talk profusely about them when they spent that night in the hotel. She may think all hope of reconciling with her father is lost, but he suggests that if she conveys her passion for the stars to her dad the way she did with him, she might reach him.

He also takes her hand (after she almost slips and falls) and, in a kind of quasi-confession, assures her that he’ll always support her with everything he has. It’s definitely one of the more beautiful and touching moments between these two…I just wished it was more explicitly romantic. I mean it looks and sounds romantic, I just don’t know if Nariyuki’s is thinking that way in the moment—that this is the woman for him. That’s a shame, because she so is.

Fumino confronts her father, who opens their conversation with another harsh barb about her lack of resolve, but Nariyuki’s pledge of support keeps Fumino strong and on point. After telling him why she loves astronomy so much and wants to keep at it, he still won’t budge…so she suggests they ask mom.

She produces the laptop, the password to which turned out to be her father’s name, “Reiji.”  There’s no golden thesis on its hard drive, just a single video file of their wife and mother. On it, she apologizes to Reiji for the lack of a thesis, but as it turns out, she was as bad at math when she was young as Fumino is. Her love for Reiji that helped drive her to work hard enough to succeed.

Furthermore, she makes it clear that she wants Fumino to do what she loves, not what she might be naturally good at. Reiji learns the password is his name because Fumino wanted to discover a new star with her mother and name it after someone they both loved more than anyone else: “Reiji.”

Fumino’s mom’s third apology is to her daughter, since she knows due to her ill health she may one day make her very lonely. But the urges Fumino not to despair, for one day someone wonderful will come around who will support and inspire and drive her to excel at her passions, just like she did with Reiji.

For Fumino, we know that person is Nariyuki…obviously. Sure enough, he’s loitering outside her house, too eager to see how things went to wait for her to return to his place. They sit on a bench together, and she tells him everything that went down, and she simply lets herself have a few moments gently leaning against him. He thinks she’s nodded off again, until she says, perfectly, “I’m awake.”

Reiji ends up attending the parent-teacher conference with Fumino, and agrees to her future plan to become an astronomer. We also learn from Nariyuki that Reiji was in contact with Nariyuki’s mom, both to apologize for letting his family business spill out into her home and to ask earnestly how Fumino is doing. He brings up the one and only time he struck her, and felt ashamed and perplexed ever since.

Nariyuki’s mom, a widow herself, basically gives Reiji advice similar to what her son gave Fumino: confront her, and convey to her the truth: that he’s terribly worried about her, and that his objections come from a place of love. Only by knowing each others intentions and emotions behind their words and actions can the two come to a mutual understanding.

Speaking of which, Nariyuki and Fumino sadly remain in denial about the state of their relationship, at least when Reiji directly confronts Nariyuki about it. It’s still the case that Fumino doesn’t want to rock the boat for Rizu or Urara, but she’s proven she not them, could be the best match for Nariyuki. She’s more than earned a little selfishness.

BokuBen “Best Girl” Power Rankings
As of Episode 10

  1. Fumino
  2. Uruka
  3. Rizu
  4. Kirisu
  5. Asumi
  6. Sawako
  7. Mizuki

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.

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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