Fruits Basket – 13 – Yuki-kun, Adult Version

I always get antsy whenever Tooru’s hanging with Yuki in his garden, wondering what new devilry will come afoul of them. In this case, it’s a snake, but it’s okay, that snake is Souma Ayame, The Snake of the Zodiac. Being cold-blooded, he doesn’t do well when it’s cold, but you still have to wonder if he just used that as an excuse to hide inside Tooru’s shirt dress.

Ayame, who is actually Yuki’s ten-years-older brother he never once mentioned, is quite forward and ebullient, ordering Tooru to serve him lunch, then taking her out for gyoza when she doesn’t respond (due to Yuki telling him to check his rudeness). Turns out Ayame didn’t come to meet Tooru. He heard that Yuki interacted with Akito at school, and was checking in on him, knowing the terror he feels around Akito is on a whole other level as the other Soumas.

When he talks about how hard it’s been to reconcile his younger self (who was less interested in connecting with his baby bro) with his older self (who wants to repent for that younger Ayame) Tooru naturally parrots her mother’s advice about parents not knowing how to be parents…until they’re parents. But also the importants of remembering what it was like to be a child, such that as an adult one can empathize with the next generation.

Ayame is impressed with Tooru’s wisdom, and while Tooru doesn’t take credit, she definitely deserves it simply for absorbing every last iota of her mother’s wisdom (not something most kids do) and being able to so effortlessly apply it to others in order to sooth their troubles.

But as much as she might want Yuki and Ayame to close the yawning rift between them, it just doesn’t happen this time around. Part of that is Ayame is usually an unapologetic cad, and has been one since school when he was classmates with Shigure and Hatori.

He’s also possessed of a particularly silver tongue; whenever he broke the rules, either by growing his hair out or getting caught in a pleasure district, he could talk his way out of it with colorful oratory that would either inspire or annoy his foes into submission.

As Ayame and Shigure reminisce—and Yuki and Kyou sit there and stew—once gets the sense that all his bravado and good cheer on the surface is hiding that deep-seated regret for not being there when his little bro needed him most. Even if he was beholden to Akito like everyone else in the clan, shouldn’t he have put everything on the line to save Yuki…even exile or worse?

He didn’t, and that, much more than his salacious past and forwardness with Tooru, probably keeps that rift between the brothers as wide as it is. In the end, Shigure was more of a big brother to him than Ayame, since he at least got Yuki out of that hell.

Luckily for Yuki, Haruhatsu learns that Ayame is hanging around Yuki, and he informs the only one who Ayame listens to (since he’s always loved and admired the guy): Hatori, who shows up to collect Ayame, ending his reign of terror at Casa Shigure. Later at school Yuki makes sure to thank Hatsu.

And yet, just because a rift will never close doesn’t mean it can’t narrow a little. Yuki learning about Ayame’s devotion to Hatori does that somewhat, which Tooru takes as a sign they’re not an entirely hopeless cause.

Senryuu Shoujo – 12 (Fin) – The Day They Met

During a rooftop lunch together on a beautiful day, Nanako asks Eiji if he remembers the day they met, and the final episode proceeds to re-tell that reliably adorable story. It was indeed their mutual love of senryuu poetry that brought them together, as they meet, and are the only two young people, at a poetry workshop around Christmas.

When Eiji comes in late with a head of steam, everyone is content to take him at face value—as a thug. Nanako, on the other hand, claps when he quickly comes up with a senryuu asking Santa to stop his dad from smoking so much. They exchange pleasantries outside, but Eiji warns Nanako not to get too close lest people speak ill of her.

But Nanako isn’t interested in what others think of Eiji, she feels she’s connected with him on a major level, and can’t stop thinking about him. They don’t see each other at a workshop again, but begin exchanging senryuu on a public bulletin board, essentially becoming senryuu pen pals. Nanako arranges for them to meet up when the cherry blossoms bloom in Nishi Park—truly a poetic setting for their next rendezvous.

When she sees no reply on the board on the day they’re to meet up, Nanako asks around, but no one knows what has become of Eiji. She starts running in a tearful panic, worried she let the one person she connected to most slip through her fingers. But she had no reason to fret: Eiji shows up under the same cherry blossom she envisioned for their meeting.

Back in the present, as Eiji lazes in the sun and Nanako sits beside him, she simply casts a big, beaming smile at him, and the two of them couldn’t look more content, regardless of whatever relationship boxes Amane thinks they still need to check off. It’s a pleasant, cozy end to a feel-good series about two very different people with the same very specific hobby.

3-gatsu no Lion – 26

As Hina cries in her big sister’s lap, Rei catches us up on the reason for her tears, as well as her missing shoe. It’s a harrowing, all-too familiar and common story: some girls in her class with nothing better to do started bullying her longtime friend Chiho. While everyone ignored it or pretended nothing was happening (even the teacher), Hina, like a Fire Sister, kept talking and eating with Chiho.

Eventually, the bullying got so bad Chiho stopped coming to school, and her mother decided they’d move to where her father works, pulling her out of school. When the girls who started all this make light of that in gym class, Hina pounces on their queen bee in vicious rage, to no avail.

Now Hina is the target of their bullying, and she’s terrified of going back to school and being alone, just as she’s distressed that she couldn’t do anything for Chiho. After scaring Momo with her crying, Hina runs out into the night, and Rei very slowly chases her (what can you say; kid’s not an athlete).

Rei makes no bones about it: Hina is the reason he’s above water; she is his lifesaver; and after gently taking her hand, he promises he’ll always stay with her, no matter what. After all, for all the distress and pain it’s caused her, Hina is quite correct that she did absolutely nothing wrong in trying to defend Chiho. That it was beyond her ability to stop the bullying, or that she’s the new target, does not change that simple fact that she’s a good person.

Fully appreciative of her fragile state and need to not be alone, Rei spends the day with her at the libarary where they look at books, something he’s been doing a long time and the reason he’s so good at shogi at his age.

While she’s looking at Japanese sweets books, Rei is looking for the name of the “ladybug bush” of his dark earlier years: “Silverthorn.” He also finds the scientific name of the Asian Ladybug that populated those bushes, and Hina notices the kanji for that name also means “heavenly path.”

Rei takes her to the bush and places a ladybug on her hand, and it climbs as high as it can before flying off toward the sun, demonstrating why, long ago, people gave the bug that name.

As the beetle flies heavenward, Rei would wish nothing more than to unleash hell upon those who have done this to Hina; but just as she walks the heavenly (i.e. just and rightous) path, he knows so must he. Tearing those bullies limb from limb won’t solve anything, and probably onlu make things worse for Hina.

Evening arrives, and Rei escorts Hina home, where Akari and Momo are waiting for them and invite Rei to join them for a sumptuous dinner consisting of all of Hina’s favorite foods. Their Gramps is there too, and gravely asks Hina to sit down and listen.

Akari told him everything that happened…and he praises her heartily for what she did. He knows from the papers how serious bullying can be, so he has nothing but joy and pride in knowing Hina would go to bat for her friend despite the dangers involved; something most adults wouldn’t do. He echos her own earlier words that she did nothing wrong, and should be proud of herself.

Now, I watched his monologue in a very dusty room, so you can imagine I needed a lot of Kleenex nearby, just as the Kawamoto sisters did. Both Gramps’ words of encouragement and Akari’s meal were things they knew they could do for Hina. Rei wracks his brain over what he can do, but simply being there for her, by her side, and assuring her he’ll never leave it, is already enough.

3-gatsu no Lion – 25

After Matsumoto and Smith mess around with the towering Kumakura’s huge shoes, we see a shogi den settled down for lunch in June…when I guess it’s to hot to eat outside? As he munches on his healthy yet high-class meal, Nikaidou rants about how Rei must get to the finals of the Newcomer Tournament so they can face one another, then proceeds to analyze Rei in a manner that’s far too accurate for Rei’s taste.

When Nikaidou tells him it stands to reason he’d know his deepest depths like no one else, because they’re not just rivals but best friends, Rei, a paragon of stoicism to that point, freaks out and books it out of the room. “Leave him be,” an older player says, “it’s funnier that way.” And to a geezer like him who was one, teenagers are funny, with their needless emotional outbursts and poor organization of priorities.

But what I took out of the first half of “June” is that Hey, Rei is his Nikaidou and Nikaidou is Rei’s. Rei has a friend. Not the only one, either! That fact might embarrass him, but that’s progress, and it took a lot for him to get to that point.

In the second half of “June” we get a welcome cut to the Kawamoto residence, where Grampa makes his first appearance this season (his love of and fawning over Momo will never get old, because let’s face it, Momo deserves all the love). He’s holding a brainstorming session for new sweets after the success of the last one.

When Momo is asked what goes in the water, she first says “duck”, but a duck on top of an agar sweet could easily fall off, while a duck encased in that agar would look like a dead one. Then Momo suggests a sandal, recalling a time she lost one while Akari was walking with her near the water. Gramps instantly declares her a genius and a prodigy.

But there’s something off about this scene: Hinata. She doesn’t say a word, and has her head down as she scribbles into a notebook. At bathtime, Akari finds her sitting alone on the stoop, and when asks what’s wrong, Hina says “nothing” and shows her sister a smile that’s probably forced, because it’s gone again when she’s alone in the bath, looking up at the moon.

So what’s up with Hina? I can guess, considering she’s entering adolescence, but little did I know the next segment would serve as a dark preface to that question’s answer. In the present day Rei notices a plant with the same leaves as a “ladybug bush” he noticed when he was a little kid being teased, bullied, and ostracized at school.

As we know, Rei chose shogi to please his stepfather, willing to endure the hate from the man’s biological children because he had no choice. Now we know to the extent Rei, Shogi Prodigy is not the product of a nature or nurture, but pure, elemental survival.

Rei had no safe haven from the hatred of classmates or stepsiblings. He made himself more invisible and indifferent to prevent escalation at school, but trying to ingratiate himself with his stepparents and not feel like a burden only intensified his siblings’ resentment towards him.

As much as Kyouko’s been humanized in the present, the villainous version reappears in these flashbacks, as someone who couldn’t give a shit Rei’s problems, either the loss of his family or the continued abuse he faces at school. He’s a creepy eyesore to her. No wonder it’s still hard for him to talk to her today!

Shogi wasn’t a dream or aspiration, it was a life raft. Instead of reacting to the horrible things in his life, he buried his nose in shogi books, studied feverishly, and played like his life depended on it, because he thought it did. A perfect and devastating visual is of him desperately treading water in a dark sea, with nothing to cling to but a floating shogi board.

Things are much better for Rei now; he has friends, a surrogate family that loves him unconditionally, and even a place to hang out at school—but though he still carries wounds and scars that may never heal. More importantly to the closing act, a product of his ordeal is that he can spot the warning signs of others enduring the same from a mile away, as he instantly does when Hina enters the room.

She’s missing her left shoe (in a weird, prophetic echo of the shoe Momo suggested for the dessert), the sock is filthy, and her face is a raw mess of tears. For the show to so quickly and concisely reassert all the crap Rei had to go through, only to visit it upon one of the kindlest, gentlest souls in the show in Hina, is almost too much to bear, especially when the episode ends before we’re able to learn the details or see her be comforted.

I guess the details don’t matter; it would seem she’s now going through the same thing Rei did. I can only hope that if she cannot find a solution at school, at least going home won’t just add to her shit sandwich. Unlike Rei, who only had shogi, she has Rei, Akari, Momo, and Gramps. Being a teenager is usually terrible for everyone, but it’s still worse for some than others.

Made in Abyss – 02

Wherever he came from—Riko believes he’s from the furthest depths of the Abyss…in a nice way!—she along with her friends Sigy and Nat, know that the arrival Reg is huge. Bigger than the discovery of any other relic in the Abyss to date. He’s like ten relics in one, and more importantly, he walks, talks, and even blushes when Riko gets too close.

Her hilariously embarrassing report on the results of her very thorough examination of Reg’s every nook and cranny notwithstanding, they determine the safest place for him to hide is in plain sight, so they give him a whole backstory and Leader accepts him to the Orphanage, and eventually a job cave-raiding.

The ruse goes swimmingly, with Reg fitting in nicely at the orphanage, and growing close to Riko, who sees him not as some relic, but a friend and member of their big family. Then news comes that some elite cave raiders—among them Black Whistles—have completed their descent from the place where Lyza the Annihilator fell.

Who is Lyza, you ask? Only one of the most famous and distinguished explorers of her age…and yeah, Riko’s MOM. Leader was old enough to remember what a drunken, short-tempered mess Lyza was…but also reveals to Riko that she was born on that expedition, deep in the Abyss, protected by a relic that minimized the effects of the Abyss’ “Curse.”

Lyza also abandoned the expedition to recover a prime relic—The Unheard Bell—to ensure baby Riko got back to the surface and survived. So she has, albeit with an eye condition that requires crystal lenses to avoid headaches. Oh, and some rather large shoes to fill!

Riko being presented with Lyza’s ornate White Whistle caused all the reminiscing, and gaining new insight into her mom (and her own beginnings) from Leader only increased her desire to become a White Whistle of her own. It feels like destiny.

That feeling likely isn’t diminished when Riko is brought before unsealed documents that were with Lyza’s White Whistle. Among them is a sketch of a robot boy just like Reg, as well as a note saying “At the netherworld’s bottom, I’ll be waiting.” That there’s no mention of Lyza’s body ever being recovered only increases the likelihood she may still be alive somewhere down there.

Maybe Lyza sent Reg up to the surface to protect Riko and help her reach the depths of the Abyss where she was, in a way, made (i.e. born). Is she ready to descend that deep? The grown-ups think not. We’ll see.

Macross Delta – 23

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Now that everyone is on Windermere, the this episode has a strong “this is it”, “last-level” feeling to it, where things are going to end one way or another, but hopefully in favor of Walkure and Delta. If they reach the capital and have a tactical show, they’ll win.

But there are serious obstacles, and they make that outcome still feel distant: everyone is scattered across the region, and everyone is constantly on the run from Winderemeran pursuers, including the Aerial Knights.

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There are still some welcome moments of peace, however, such as when Freyja leads Hayate and Mirage through caves she used to play in as a child (yikes), and the surroundings and proximity to her home village dredges up memories of singing Ranke Lee songs as a young child.

We also, somewhat amazingly, see Mikumo eat with others for the first time, with Maki and Reina teasing her and bringing out some more human reactions in her. They think she’ll only become a better singer once she actually starts having more human experiences.

Then we have Freyja and Mirage, envying one another for being able to go so far for Hayate’s sake, before their talk is broken up by Hayate.

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Mikumo unveils her criminally underused rocket petticoat and martial arts skills to allow Maki and Reina to flee, but Hayate, Freyja and Mirage are caught (and almost killed) by Bogue and the Knights, while Roid confronts Mikumo (in a kind of creepy stalker-y way) and says the trigger words that knock her unconscious. Looks like this mission isn’t going to be as easy as it looks on paper, which is as it should be.

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For all of Bogue’s bluster, King Heinz wants the prisoners alive to stand trial before execution, so Lord Lloyd indulges Hayate’s desire to see what they accuse his father Wright of doing with his own eyes. Upon seeing the still seething crater that was once the city of Karlisle (where Bogue’s sister served), Freyja starts to sing a song to soothe the souls lost there, but Bogue knocks her down.

Neither she nor Mirage can change the Windermerans’ long-standing belief in what went down here, and when more evidence is sought, they bring them to a chamber where Wrights’ VF-22 is on display, where his body was found and from which the dimensional bomb was deployed.

That just about seals the deal, right? Wright totally did this horrible thing? Perhaps, but like Mirage, I wouldn’t rule out a heretofore unrevealed motivation…was the same weapon being developed in Karlisle, for instance, and did Wright save the rest of the planet by destroying it?

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If there’s anything else there, there’s only a few episodes left to educate us and complete the picture that still seems to be missing some key strokes. As for Lloyd, it would seem his designs are to replace the ailing Heinz with Mikumo. Mikumo has said again and again that as long as she able to sing, that’s all that matters.

That philosophy will certainly be put to the test, as will her loyalties and human willpower, as Lloyd isn’t just going to let her sing, but make her sing to further his plans for galactic domination. Here’s hoping there’s enough humanity in her to resist. If not, she might soon be fighting against her former comrades in Walkure and Delta.

In any case…that’s way too many pairs of glasses.

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Macross Delta – 22

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Well, with a big battle coming up and the show deciding to check in once more on Cassim, it was pretty clear from the cold open that this was going to be the swan song for, to date, the most three-dimensional Windermeran on the show.

But first, a note about the shot that establishes the Chaos fleet the last two episodes: could it have killed them to zoom in a little more and let us get a nice look at that fleet? It’s a nitpick that expresses my desire for a big space/aerial battle after a string of episodes that were more about developing characters. And we got one.

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After a quick chat between two of the simpler characters in Macross, Mikumo (who lives to sing) and Hayate (who lives to fly), everyone salutes Captain Johnson and the Elysion enters a fold gate. All of a sudden, we’re back in the shit, as Chaos teams up with the liberated Vordorian military to strike against Randall.

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But that turns out to be only a means of diverting and splitting Lloyd’s forces, as Delta and Walkure’s true desination is Windermere itself, by way of a fold gate opened on Alfheim. The only way to open that gate is for Walkure to give the protoculture structure everything they have.

At first, Freyja doesn’t do that, because she’s still scared Hayate and/or Mirage will go nuts. But after a quick slap by Mikumo, combined with the urgings of Hayate and Mirage, Freyja is back in the game.

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Turns out she was right to worry: the song does make Hayate go berserk, just when locked in a dogfight with Cassim (who is fighting like this is his last battle, because it is). Just as Hayate and Mirage helped snap Freyja out of her funk, Mirage and Freyja snap Hayate out of his Var before irreparable damage is done, and the battle resumes.

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By the time Hayate has his senses back, the platoon has bought Walkure adequate time, the gate opens, and they fly through, emerging in Windermere’s atmo. Two Aerial Knights: one of the twins and Cassim, follow, and take out Walkure’s shuttle.

Remembering vividly what happened to Flay in Gundam SEED I naturally worried about the idols’ transport getting hit, but they all survive the attack, with Arad and Mirage catching Kaname and Freyja out of the sky.

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All that’s left is for Hayate to stay alive long enough for Cassim to burn (or freeze) out, which is what happens. Interestingly, no other Windermerean defense is around, allowing Hayate and Mirage to land their planes so they, along with Freyja, can pay respect to their fallen adversary and acquaintance.

Cassim’s time may be up, but Hayate, Freyja, and Mirage’s Windermerean adventure has just begun. Freyja is finally home. There’s still quite a bit left to do, and Lloyd probably isn’t going to roll over and let them destroy his life’s work. We’ll see whose wind prevails.

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Macross Delta – 21

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The HayMirFre triangle was set aside entirely this week; instead the episode focused on Kaname and the roots of Walkure, starting all the way at the beginning. It’s a long story, but the ladies are incarcerated until further notice, so there’s time to tell it. It’s a story that was only hinted at before, and digging deep into the group’s history mitigates the fizzling out of suspense from last week’s infiltration.

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The last couple of episodes have been full of uncertainty for all, but the flashbacks this week are instrumental in showing that this has almost always been the case. When Kaname was first hired by Chaos, nobody knew what they were doing. Once idols with fold receptors were collected, their first “shows” were utter failures. Even Makina and Reina don’t get along for a long time. Two other Walkure members quit due to stress.

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It’s also instructive to see just how ragtag Chaos was long before Hayate and Freyja joined it. Kaname was simply a survivor on a war-torn planet; Makina from a family of skilled mechanics and engineers; Reina is a genius hacker. None were born idols; they grew into it, as did the symbiotic relationship between Walkure and the Delta Platoon, leading to the rescue of a young pilot named Messer from a battle on Alfheim.

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Of course, one member of Walkure was born an idol, with no other dream but to sing. That, of course, is Mikumo, who was introduced to the others quite suddenly after Claire quit, and has a powerful and immediate impact on them all.

Even Reina and Makina bond over her transformative power of song, which she uses to introduce her self rather than, you know, speaking to them. When Mikumo is suddenly singing in the brig where the others are being held, it’s a neat (if somewhat jarring) segue out of the flashback and back to the present.

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Back on Windermere, Lloyd has Heinz use his newly amplified song to put thousands on Al Shahal in a coma to do research, but Heinz’s frail body can’t take the strain. When Keith discovers the Heinz is riddled with the same frozen malady that claimed his father, only far earlier in life, he is furious, and confronts Lloyd, who pretty much confesses to murdering King Gramia (to east his suffering), and that he and Keith cannot “fly in the same skies”.

Lloyd goals are about far more than preserving the fatherland and expanding the empire. As Berger finds out, he may be after the ability to join the minds of all mankind into a network; unlocking perhaps the most powerful ability of the protoculture. If Gramia, Heinz, and even Mikumo or Freyja are the eggs he has to break, so be it; he must have his omelette.

But he’s running out of time. Mikuno’s “issues” were fixed aboard the medical frigate, and while she now knows she has no childhood memories because she’s a genetically engineered clone, she’s no less committed to singing for the cause she was created to serve.

Delta and Walkure are headed to Windermere. Whatever anyone’s personal issues or doubts, there’s a galaxy out there that needs saving. Time to get to work.

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