Dororo – 24 (Fin) – Proof of Existence, Proof of Humanity

In the end, the brothers Hyakkimaru and Tahoumaru only had to endure one last thing: the missteps of their parents. When Hyakkimaru was born, Daigo decided to sacrifice him to the demons. Nui would have Tahoumaru later, but she never stopped loving her firstborn, and that ate at her second in its own way. Even Mutsu and Hyougou couldn’t replace the love of a mother that he always lacked.

As they continue their swordfight in the castle, Tahoumaru goes on about how the likes of Hyakkimaru doesn’t belong within the walls, and that unlike the post where Mutsu and Hyougou marked their heights over the years, there’s nothing there to prove his existence. This is ironic, as the castle itself is burning and crumbling around them, and all of that physical proof Tahoumaru values so along with it.

But even though Tahoumaru still has his human eyes, Hyakkimaru can still see the void in his brother’s heart; the same sense of lacking something as himself. They are no different, and despite their crazed fighting and bizarre modifications, they are both humans who have simply forgotten themselves, lashing out to fill those voids.

As Nui and Jukai enter the castle to try to stop the fighting, Hyakkimaru ends things on his own, not by killing Tahoumaru, but by sparing him. The demon eyes in his head still burn even after Tahoumaru accepts defeat, but he rips them out and offers them to their rightful owner. Hyakkimaru’s false eyes are ejected and his human eyes restored.

As a mass of demonic crystal surges with anger, the castle starts to come down, but both Nui and Jukai arrive in time to save him from being crushed by burning debris. He plunges his swords into the crystal mass, apparently exorcising the residual evil energy, but that also completes the destruction of the temple literally kept up by the power of those now-forsaken demons.

Jukai, Nui and Tahoumaru do not escape, but perish in the flames, while Dororo finds Hyakkimaru and the two climb up the well Nui used to gain access. Hyakkimaru sees Dororo with his own eyes for the first time and calls him—calls her—pretty, which really throws Dororo off. Biwamaru, who helped get them out of the well, stands with the two as they watch Daigo’s castle and surrounding lands burn in a purifying fire.

Once the flames recede and the smoke clears, Dororo is back in the village of survivors and invalids led by a few able-bodied individuals, including those he suggested start to live life without depending on samurai, using money instead of swords to maintain that life.

When they ask where that money will come from, Dororo says he’s got it covered. Dororo has decided, then, what to do with that fortune: use it to realize a community that runs itself, without fealty to some stern-faced lord.

As for the lord, Daigo is not quite ready to give up his quest to restore his lands to prosperity, no matter how many people, including Hyakkimaru again, he has to sacrifice to the demons in a new pact. That is, until Hyakkimaru takes a sword and instead of plunging it into Daigo’s back, pierces his helmet instead.

The helmet is a powerful symbol of Daigo’s status as something other than a mere human, so its destruction is a symbol of Hyakkimaru’s hope his father will live on as a human, something he too plans on doing. In the end, Daigo laments ever making the pact, as he now realizes he might have achieved prosperity simply by raising Hyakkimaru and letting him succeed him.

Bittersweetly, it’s not Happily Ever After for the duo of Dororo and Hyakkimaru. The two go their separate ways; Dororo to lead a new community in keeping with the legacy of her rebellious parents, and Hyakkimaru to learn how to walk the path of humanity after a lifetime of survival-and-revenge mode. With his new eyes, heart, and purpose in life, he has truly been reborn, and until he finds his way, it’s not safe for Dororo to be beside him.

However, the ending suggests that one day the two are reunited, as the young “boy” Dororo runs across a pier with a hopeful smile, he transforms into Dororo the older and more beautiful woman. At the end of the pier is a slightly older-looking Hyakkimaru, in all his human glory, welcoming her with a warm smile. It’s a shame a passing look is all we get, rather than an after-credits scene of the two conversing—but then again, perhaps their reunion is meant more symbolically, as something to which they both aspire.

In any case, both souls, once having lost and suffered so much, seem to be in a much better place, and have stepped out of the darkness and doubt and embraced their respective selves. While I wish we’d seen more of Dororo-as-a-leader, considering where we started, this was a logical and satisfying enough place to end.

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 12 (36) (Fin)

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The final episode of Durarara!!x2 opens with almost total chaos: Shizuo and Izaya continuing to go at it, the Saika zombies storming Russia Sushi, and Mikado shooting himself in the head with his microgun.

Gradually, order is restored by various means, such as Varona stopping the duel in order to prevent Shizuo from becoming a “beast” like her. Izaya, for his part, eggs her on to kill him, lest she prove to him by not doing so that she’s just an ordinary human being.

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Simon then stops Varona from killing by tossing a flash-bang into the standoff. Then, all the Saika zombies and the bullets in Mikado and Masaomi are neutralized by Celty, now with her memories as a headless rider overriding her memories as a person and Shinra’s girlfriend.

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Shinra knows Celty is lying about not knowing anything about Ikebukuro, or them, but the head won’t budge on her decision to leave town after cleaning up all the chaos she believed she caused by being a disruptive supernatural entity in an ordinary human city.

When she finally gags Shinra and rides Shooter into the night sky, Shinra cashes in on a high school promise and has Shizuo launch him into the sky, so he can be the “villain.”

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And, well, I guess he is the villain—in that the spooky, powerful, supernatural dullahan should be allowed to leave down—only he doesn’t want that. So he uses the Saika ability he gained to separate Celty from her head once more.

The moment he does this, she starts to panic about the possibility of him dying, even when he’s softly and safely landed in a web of her shadows. I like how she held onto her smartphone, as if subconsciously preparing for the eventuality Shinra would foil her plan to slink away.

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And Shinra, we know, isn’t the only one who counts Celty as a valued friend and ally. She saves Mikado and Masaomi, so that Mikado can take a knife from Nasujima in Anri’s place—an action he makes reflexively but also perhaps as amends the way Celty tried to do.

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After Mikado is stabbed—more than once—the show starts wrapping up loose ends, from Kasane denying Ruri’s own attempts to atone for her crimes, to Varona heading back to Mother Russia, promising to duel Shizuo if she ever returns. Shinra and Celty are happily back together. Then Anri, in a rage, turns Saika on Nasujima for hurting Mikado.

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Niekawa stops her blow with her knives, surprising Nasujima, who thought he was controlling her all along (since she always called him “mother”, no doubt) but was mistaken.

While trying to escape Niekawa’s clutches Nasujima ends up crossing paths with the Kodata and the van posse, but before we know whether they run him over, he wakes up in restraints on a table, as Niekawa wheels tools of torture up to him.

As for Mikado, he wakes up. Just before he does, Anri admits to Akabayashi that she likes him, and those feelings are her own. She seems to have accepted that she’s a human; after that night it was a lot less rare to have Saika inside you, after all. Mikado, for his part, isn’t as concerned with whether his life to follow will be ordinary or extraordinary. What matters is that it’s reality.

The twins in the chat room don’t rule out more Durarara!! in the future, but while I enjoyed this latest arc, hopefully it doesn’t come too soon, for I’m little Drrrr‘d out.

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 11 (35)

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Her fate on hold for now, Celty is literally above the fray this week, as Erika gets in touch with Kasane, informing her of what Nasujima is up to, Shizuo and Izaya continue their fight in the streets, biker gangs from all over the region who have joined the Dollars amass, and Akabayashi considers Awakusu’s role in all this, if any.

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Now that Masaomi is on that roof, there’s no more reason for Mikado to hold any secrets, and he points his handgun at his best friend, while revealing his ultimate plan: to turn the Dollars into such a nasty group with so many enemies, it will end up collapsed, with nothing left but another urban legend.

The reason? The Dollars, which he founded to escape his ordinary life, have become, well ordinary again. At the end of the day, Mikado shares the same “creative destruction” philosophy as many other villains in anime: he’ll destroy the world as it is, and him with it, hoping it will give way to a better one.

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He’s well on the way to doing just that if someone doesn’t stop him, but here’s the thing: he doesn’t want to be stopped; not by Masaomi, or Anri, or anyone else. Mikado has backed himself into a corner, but it’s exactly where he wants to be when all the pieces he’s set up start lashing out.

Meanwhile, the story of Kasane falling for (!) Shinra seems like something that belongs in a much quieter episode. I appreciate that Kasane realizes Shinra’s feelings for Celty are real, and that she figures if she won’t be loved by anyone, she’ll love him, but as far as Shinra’s concerned Kasane is just a glorified obstacle on his journey to find and reunite with his one true love. The connection with Mikado’s situation is that Celty may have the power to stop him. The problem is, it may be too late.

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Masaomi, knowing how Mikado would be holding his gun by the book, slaps it away and starts trying despertely to beat some sense into him, but Mikado has gone well and truly cuckoo (he’s even aware Izaya is using him, but doesn’t mind).

When he shoots Masaomi in the thigh with a hand-mounted micro-gun, he retreats even further back into that corner, now believing if he could shoot Masaomi, he could shoot Anri. Rather than end up in that scenario, he turns the little gun on himself. He doesn’t see any other way to stop himself from doing worse things and causing more trouble for more people.

And considering he shot at both the police and Awakusu, he may not be wrong. I just wish he was, and that Masaomi and Anri and whoever else could tell him there’s still a way out of that corner; he can come back from the precipice; that no amount of trouble he causes will hurt his friends as much as killing himself will.

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KonoSuba – 10 (Fin)

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Yes, it’s the quickly waning Winter’s first Fin, coming so early it feels wrong. Not because we haven’t dealt with 10-episode series before, but because I was having so much fun! KonoSuba really made the most of its ten, though, cementing its title of Best Comedy of 2016 So Far. And it ends in appropriately grand fashion.

The biggest threat to the Beginner’s City arrives just in time for the finale, but like every other threat before it, we’re not meant to take it all that seriously. Instead, it becomes a matter of now if but how the spidery bastard will be taken down, and at what cost.

While vowing to face the Destroyer head-on as a knight, Darkness reveals her true name (Dustiness Ford Lala(or Rara)tina) and status (rich girl whose family is repsonsible for the protection of the city and its environs). She gives a pretty cool speech, but the serious tone is nicely undercut by Kazuma scoffing at the silly, cliche name, as he should.

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It’s interesting, then, that when I look back, Darkness didn’t actually do anything to defeat the Destroyer. Instead, it’s up to the other girls—Aqua, Megumin, and Wiz—with Kazuma offering moral support.

The girls aren’t sure their abilities will be enough against the hulking foe, but once Aqua gets into the spirit of things (and yells loudly enough), the Destroyer’s shield shears off like a tissue in the wind.

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With the shield down, it’s Megumin’s turn to contribute, and surprisingly, she forms a tandem with Wiz in launching dual explosion spells at the Destroyer, knocking it on its ass.

Darkness stands unmoving in front of the thing as it skids toward her, but like I said, doesn’t really do anything (but looks cool not doing it!) With that, Megumin is down, as expected.

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But in keeping with the show’s spirit of lampooning every aspect of RPG fantasy shows, the battle is Far From Over, as the Destroyer activates a self-destruct countdown that will wipe out the town. Darkness jumps at the chance to be ravaged and defiled by whatever is inside the mobile fortress, and rushes in alone without a plan.

I guess this is when Darkness comes in handy, as she motivates her fellow adventurers to, well, venture in behind her. Mostly though, the men of the town don’t want the Succubus brothel destroyed, which is an honest motivation! It’s good to know what you want to protect.

Kazuma takes a reluctant Aqua by the hand and goes in, and it isn’t long before they find the Destroyer’s creator, having died in his chair long ago, a journal handily nearby to offer some insights about his life. Strangely, Aqua determines he died without regrets.

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She learns why when she reads the journal: the dude was a scientist or engineer who didn’t expect his team to procure the coronatite core he needed to complete the Destroyer…but they did, so he finished it.

It went out of control and destroyed the world, with him trapped inside, but for whatever reason, the situation doesn’t really bother him, and he dies satisfied and fulfilled…The End.

This is the part of the episode I laughed at most, not just because of how hilariously absurd a perversion of the “confessionary journal” trope this was, but because the narrator’s voice and delivery is so funny, as is the reaction by Aqua, Kazuma, etc.

To stop the self-destruct, they have to transport the coronatite out, but to do so Wiz needs a lot of magic and life energy. Kazuma volunteers, hoping the experience will “make him an adult” (something he proudly reports to his parents in his head), but Wiz doesn’t french him; she just sucks him dry until he looks like a shriveled old man.

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It does the trick, though: Wiz transports the core away (to an ominously random location). But it still isn’t over, because without the core the Destroyer starts to overheat, which will eventually engulf the city in flames. Kazuma’s solution: blow it up before it does.

Only problem is, Wiz is out of magic, as is Kazuma (back to normal!), and Aqua can’t transfer her holy magic to the lich without making her disappear. Enter Megumin (on the back of a helper), who won’t disappear if she gets magic from Aqua.

Kazuma serves as the conduit between the two, and once Megumin has what she needs, she lets loose her biggest boom yet, a blast that sure as hell looks like it consumes a good portion of the town…only it doesn’t, which is good!

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After that last blast, the Destroyer really is defeated for good. Victory! Time to celebrate, and for some guys to get married!

The party’s mansion escapes the crisis unscathed; Aqua has her patch of grass to nap on; Megumin has what looks like a new staff; Darkness can rest easy her town is safe; and even though he’s been through a lot, Kazuma is finally upbeat, considering everything that’s happend to be a trial to prepare him for the real adventures he’s about to begin.

Except that doesn’t happen. Instead, authorities arrive to arrest Kazuma on the charge of subversion of the state. That coronatite core he had Wiz teleport away to a random location? That random location was the overlord’s mansion. Furthermore, he said he’d take responsibility. Looks like his formidable luck ran out at the worst possible moment. But of course it did!

KonoSuba was a fine collection of fantasy anime send-ups, which never felt like it was trying too hard. It was a show with a plot you could completely brush off because you knew full well it wasn’t what mattered.

And while the characters weren’t the deepest in the world, they were satisfyingly specific, rootable, and never failed to entertain. I’m sad to say goodbye, but it seems there will be a second season down the road, so it’s really just a see-you-later to this Wonderful World.

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Owarimonogatari – 12 (Fin)

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Yeesh, I’m running out of shows to watch, fast! With the conclusion of Owarimonogatari (which I thought was ending next week for some reason), Only One Punch Man remains on my Fall list. And like Asterisk and RKC, the main event of this finale is a duel; this one between Araragi and Shinobu’s first minion. Before he steps into a battle that might end in his death, he gives his girlfriend a call, and she knows and says all the right things she should.

She saw Kanbaru’s feelings early on as a burden, but wants to be someone able to tolerate and bear that weight, as part of her wider self-improvement kick that also includes becoming Araragi’s bride. When they exchange “I love yous”, I really felt the love and the committment these two have to each other.

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When Araragi arrives for the duel at the designated spot, the First is somewhat incredulous about Shinobu’s commitment to Araragi, for allowing him to show up in such a “weak state.” Izuko sets the rules: they’ll stand back to back on either side of a non-lethal electrified kendo sword, take ten steps, then turn around, and the first to score a hit on the other wins, regardless of who gets the sword first.

A wrench is thrown into the works when Tsubasa sends Araragi a pic, and Izuko throws further wrenches into the works by saying both Tsubasa and Senjogahara are in potential danger and require Araragi’s immediate attention (I’m a bit fuzzy on all the past series but I do remember a Nekomonogatari running at the same time as this).

Basically, she sees it as finally making him choose a girl once and for all: Shinobu, Tsubasa, or Senjogahara. Araragi…stays put. He delegates the duty of checking in on the others to Kanbaru, who is only too happy to oblige. Of course, we know she’s already helped immensely by beating Shinobu in an argument.

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Speaking of Shinobu, she seems to revise Izuko’s duel by splitting the non-lethal sword in two and replacing it with Kokoro-watari, making this a duel to the death again. Araragi, who had faith in the other girls not to hold it against him for staying put, and knowing he won’t get to the sword in time, lets the first take it, then affixes a talisman to his suit. He may not have “hit” him, but he did “touch” him before he was touched, making him the winner. Also, that talisman turns the First into jelly.

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Araragi prepares to put the suffering First out of his misery, but he’s stopped by Shinobu, finally meeting the re—and now re-de-assembled first minion, whom she calls Seishirou, face to face (his face is the only recognizable bit left), just as Kanbaru pleaded with her to do. Rather than let her second minion kill her first, she apologizes to Seishirou and says goodbye properly, with a firm rejection: she likes someone else now. She dumps Seishirou…then eats him.

And that’s that. Or so Araragi recounts to Oshino Ougi in his room. In this epilogue we’re finally aware that all this time Araragi has been narrating this arc to Ougi, listening with relish.

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Strangely, Ougi wonders if Shinobu really at all of Seishirou, including his suit of armor; the titular “Shinobu Mail.” Araragi is pretty sure she did, but doesn’t seem 100% certain, and that little bit of uncertainty is a thread Ougi seems eager to pull on, pondering whether Izuko used the armor to forge another Kokoro-watari (and shorter Yume-watari) leaving Araragi with Seishirou’s last name, Shishirui.

Araragi exits his room to find a traditionally-dressed Ononoki, who scolds him for not coming up with merits for being with Shinobu instead of the Seishirou; or for believing “nobody becomes happy” when he’s her minion, something he still believes because of the misfortune that could be brought on everyone, including Shinobu herself.

Ononoki doesn’t want him being content with putting up with misfortune, but “aiming for the happy ending.” Embracing misfortune is negligent and not trying to become happy is cowardly, in her mind.

In Araragi’s final sililoquy, he remains unconvinced anyone is happy, but is comforted that there’s still plenty of time ahead of everyone. As the first demonstrated quite forcefully with his four-century-long suicide, given enough time, anything is possible, including happiness.

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Owarimonogatari – 11

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Araragi’s meeting with the First One is cordial, but becomes increasingly tense when he learns what his predecessor wants: for him to “break up” with Kiss-shot. Now that he’s back in the picture, he wants to go to her, make amends, and take his place by her side, while regaining the sword he “lent” her.

Araragi, believing this a legitimate parlay, almost takes a sip from a poisoned sports drink the First gave him, which is all Araragi needs to know: the First wants him out of the picture, one way or another. The negotiations are only a formality, and Araragi isn’t able to come up with any cinvincing benefits for the First to stand down and let him remain Shinobu’s minion.

Izuko arrives with Gaen Episode to save Araragi, but negotiations are over: it will come down to a duel between Araragi and the First, with the specialists working out the details.

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Araragi got nowhere, but when he returns to the shrine, he sees Shinobu sitting on a supine Kanbaru, telling her if she apologizes for what she said, she’ll be forgiven with no harm done. But Kanbaru is defiant, and she’ll repeat those words over and over until they stick: it’s up to Shinobu herself to face the First and settle things one way or another, not Isuko’s or Araragi’s or anyone else’s.

For much of the argument that ensues, Shinobu’s little hand tightens menacingly across Kanbaru’s head as she reproaches a lowly baby human for daring to say she knows the slightest thing about the situaion. She thinks Kanbaru is being silly; that nothing can be gained, only lost, by personally confronting her former master.

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Furthermore, it’s an insult to her present master. Basically, Shinobu only wants one minion—Araragi—and will accept no arrangements in which she has two. It goes on like this for some time, but Kanbaru remains unblinking and forthright in her belief that Shinobu is wrong. It doesn’t matter how much fancy archaic terminology she uses or excuses she offers, Kanbaru thinks she’s covering for her fear of what facing the First will affect her.

But Kanbaru is able to wear down Shinobu because she can relate to the First as the “second choice”, because she herself wasn’t Araragi’s, Senjougahara was. Shinobu rejects her comparisons with human relationships, but runs out of ammo when Kanbaru tells her every possibility she can think of is preferable to doing and saying nothing, even if she or the first are killed in the process…or even if she ends up choosing the First over the Second. The ball is in her court.

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It isn’t that the duel between the First and Second isn’t still on—it is, and it will take place in the school courtyard—but when Shinobu eventually gets over the fact she soundly lost an argument to a girl nearly five centuries younger than her, she may be able to stop the boys from fighting over her. Note that if you strip away all the vampire stuff, this is about a pushy, needy old ex-boyfriend wanting to get back with his girl, but the girl having moved on with a new man.

Meanwhile, Kanbaru continues to lie on the ground where Shinobu left her, with a slight cut on her head from where she squeezed her, and Araragi delivers her BL novels and bra. Kanbaru, not unreasonably wants to be rewarded by her upperclassman for the service she provided for Araragi—doing what he probably couldn’t have done (again, because he’s not the “un-chosen one” the way she and the First are). Whether it’s by him feeding her as she reads, or him putting her bra on while she reads, it’s all good for her.

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Owarimonogatari – 10

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No show is better at stylishly embellishing otherwise static conversations—that’s really most of Monogatari in the first place—but unlike Sodachi Lost arc, I’m nevertheless starting to feel some exposition fatigue.

Gaen Izuko takes a seemingly very long time to explain how the ashes of Shinobu’s first minion gathered here and formed the raw material to create all the apparitions Araragi has encountered. The first was drawn to the second, and at the shrine where apparitions are most likely to gather, they did.

Shinobu, who initially wanted to visit Fujiyama, was instead redirected to the place where the first and second minions were. This all created a perfect storm for apparitions, which in turn drew specialists like Meme, Kagenui, and Kaiki. Izuko pooled their investigations and sent Yotsugi to “clean up the ashes”, but she failed because of the proximity of Araragi and Shinobu to the shrine.

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With all these naturally attracting things naturally attracting each other, and the first one being drawn to the second, as well as empowered by seeing Shinobu, Izuko wants Araragi to “inheret responsibility.” Dealing with the first is his duty. Yotsugi will be available to help him, along with Shinobu, Kanbaru, and “one more assistant” Izuko needs to pick up, accounting for Yotsugi’s latest report on the swordless samurai.

Izuko then leaves Araragi with some breakfast money and shuffles off to get him, wanting to solve this problem as soon as possible before the first one powers up to a level uncontrollable by all but possibly Kagenui (and Izuko would rather it not come to that, due to the bad blood between them).

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Araragi instead uses the money to buy some BL light novels for Kanbaru (though not a bra). Kanbaru and Araragi’s discussion of the 21-novel series is more than a little meta-, since the Monogatari series is about that size but unlike  Brutal Garcon Huff Huffs a Half-Blood Boy!, they all have pretty vague titles like “Ghostory” or “Endstory.”

The episode then delves into observational comedy, laying out the dilemma a young man faces when purchasing possibly embarrassing content from a bookstore. He tries to both hide the BL and disprove the rumors he’s into lolitas by snatching up some “mature ladies” magazines (both of which feature a woman who looks a lot like Izuko!) but the employees still end up laughing at him.

Then, just when our guards were down, Araragi bumps into a smallish kid with long black hair who looks like he could be around fifteen, and talks with a higher-pitched version of Araragi’s voice. It’s the other one, and Izuko was right: the two minions are extremely drawn to each other. We’ll see how their next encounter goes.

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