Akiba Maid War – 07 – RocknPorkRolla

A week has passed since Nerula was gunned down in an alley, and Nagomi has run away from the Oinky Doink. The others, particularly Ranko, are worried about her, especially since Manami and the Maidalien war hawks aren’t finished. While Ranko is out distributing flyers, she spots a pink ninja who claims not to be Nagomi, but clearly is.

Since Nagomi insist’s she’s not Nagomi, Ranko tells this “mystery ninja” the situation: she and the Oinky Doink maids are worried about her. But if Nagomi fled out of fear to the oddly safer ninja café business, it wasn’t fear of being hurt or killed. It was fear of standing by and doing nothing while another friends of her dies.

This is a typical action movie protagonist pattern: after a great defeat, the hero withdraws, suffering a crisis of purpose. But outside forces, like Nerula’s grieving fans, conspire to bring her back to where she needs to be: at Oinky Doink, as the new kind of Akiba maid Nerula knew she could be.

But how? The ramen guy gives Nagomi the other piece of the picture to bring her around. It’s something he’s learned being in the ramen business with the reputation as someone whose ramen never changes: staying the same actually requires change. So Nagomi returns to the dojo and considers what that means.

That night, Manami and over two dozen of her henchmaids advance on Oinky Doink, outnumbering them over two-to-one. I knew Ranko and Zoya were worth ten of the average maid in fighting ability, but that’s still a lot of maids and a lot of bullets. The pig maids make use of homefield advantage and the element of surprise as much as they can, diverting and splitting up Manami’s maids.

This is the first time we see Shiipon and Yumechi in sustained action (their attack on the Sheep happening off-camera) but they handle themselves well. Even so, eventually the Maidaliens surround the Pigs, and Manami’s machine gun looks like a decisive advantage.

Ranko prepares to make a desperate charge to take Manami out or die trying (as far as she’s concerned protecting the café is worth it) but suddenly the elevator opens and a cloud of smoke gets off. Dozens of smoke bombs explode and disorient both sides. And through the smoke, Nagomin appears, prepared for battle.

With her almost preposterously hastily-acquired ninja skills, within seconds she’s disarmed Manami and claimed the machine gun for their side. Manami switches to her trademark bat, but once she’s in the pigsty, the maids of Oinky Doink and their ninja maid savoir are ready for her.

True to who she is, through the ensuing chaos, many bullets fly, but none of them from a gun held by Nagomi. Instead she uses the tools of the ninja trade, like kunai and nets, which buy her co-workers time to go on the offensive.

When the dust clears it’s just a wounded Manami and her lieutenant Miyabi, surrounded by the bodies of their fallen comrades. Miyabi gets Manami to retreat before they too are killed, but after Miyabi dresses Manami’s leg, Manami dismisses her and she departs in shame.

Nagomi shows up with Ranko as backup, and despite her sorry state Manami is still ready to throw down. But Nagomi isn’t there to fight. Nor is she there as a ninja. She’s a maid, and she reminds Manami what maids are truly all about: not dying in glorious battle, but serving their masters with moe moe kyun.

When Manami rises to shut the young whippersnapper up, Nagomi again uses her new ninja skills to lay the smackdown on Manami. Again, Nagomi demands that Manami feel the moe moe kyun, and she finally relents, deciding that pig hunting time is over.

Ranko lets Manami withdraw, and welcomes Nagomi back into the pigsty. But Manami gets a rude awakening back at Maidalien HQ. Not only did the boss Ugaki refuse to commit any more forces to this silly war, but she got all the Maidalien brass to agree to a merger with Creatureland.

Manami could not change like Nagomi did, and ends up gunned down by her former allies who are sick of her bloodlust. They want to make money, and they’ll make more if she’s dead than running around shooting people. So she meets her end in a swirling puddle of her own blood. Unfortunately for Oinky Doink, their next foe looks to be their own Creatureland masters.

This was a great step forward for Nagomi, but it wasn’t perfect. I kinda wish Manami had stuck around a bit, as small a chance as redemption for someone her would have been. Also, the animation of the raid, aside from some fun moments, was also surprisingly underwhelming, considering what I know the show is capable of from the premiere and the MMA episode.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War – 01 (First Impressions) – New Show, New Foe

After a brief scene with 12th Squad Captain Kurotsuchi observing hollow movements from his giant lab, two Shinigami from the 13th Squad, Shino and Yuki, arrive in Karakura City to relieve the substitute operating there. They are quickly in over their heads when the area becomes overrun with giant Hollows.

They’re saved by Kurosaki Ichigo, Inoue Orihime Ishida Uryuu, and Sado Yasutora, for whom the Hollows are only a minor annoyance. Everyone uses their signature move, culminating in Ichigo loosing a Getsuga Tenshou in Bankai mode. So begins the first episode of Bleach in over a decade, and I have to admit I was overcome by a combo of nostalgia and elation.

It’s back! Bleach is back! The first television anime I watched regularly. It was going to be very hard to mess this up (unless they brought the freaking Bount back out) so I’m pleased to report that they haven’t. So far so good. And this episode doesn’t just look good, it looks great, more like the Bleach movies. The original has its charms and looked pretty good in its day, but this is a more visually modern and mature aesthetic, and I dig it.

The episode is also wise to show us not only the badass parts of our Bleach gang, but their down time as well, as Ichigo plays host to the recovering Shino and Yuki while Orihime, Uryuu and Chad drop in with a bounty of baked goods for breakfast. I only wish we’d gotten to see Karin and Yuzu too, but the bedroom was already pretty crowded before a pompous half-Quincy, half-Arrancar-lookin’ jamoke barges in and ignores Ichigo’s demands he get off his bed.

Something is rotten in Soul Society, specifically the Rukon District, where Madarame Ikkaku and Ayasegawa Yumichika are investigating an entire village apparently spirited away … by itself?  Then the office of the head honcho, 1st Squad Captain Yamamoto-Genryuusai, is infiltrated by a group of masked baddies.

Yama’s lieutenant Sasakibe is impaled by a giant blue beam that Yamamoto shatters, but before he can engulf the intruders in his righteous flames, they transport away, seemingly by being engulfed by their own shadows. They call themselves the Wandenreich, and they were there to declare war. The plan is to destroy Soul Society in five days’ time.

Back in Karakura, Ichigo kicks his uninvited guest Asguiaro Ebern out of his window and then leads him to the river where they can fight without too much collateral damage. Ichigo is confused by the fact Ebern uses Quincy weaponry but wears a partial Hollow mask. He also notes that Ebern is going out of his way to taunt and provoke Ichigo, even telling him he won’t be able to beat him without Bankai.

Sasakibe warned Yamamoto that whoever these guys are, they’re somehow able to seal Bankais. That’s not good considering it’s pretty much the ultimate weapon of a Shinigami. It looks like Ichigo takes the bait and is about to lose his, but he powers through Ebern’s ritual and slashes him with another Getsuga Tenshou.

A pissed-off Ebern withdraws through his shadow, and we get a glimpse of the Wandenreich’s headquarters, which looks a lot like Hueco Mundo. As expected, Ebern is a fairly low-level member of the Wandenreich, which means their leader is probably someone it would probably take Ichigo 5-10 episodes to defeat on the old show.

A big reason I stopped watching Bleach around the 160-ish-episode mark was that there was so much low-quality anime-only filler, and I’d kind of outgrown the deliberate, analytical, and often repetitive pace of the multi-episode shounen battles. At least in this episode, the new show’s structure has caught up with the times just as the visuals have.

More importantly, this arc is based on the final manga chapter, so I doubt it will be shuffling its feet. And to this day the first couple seasons of Bleach remain some of my favorite anime, though it’s been over fifteen years since I’ve seen it (aside from re-watching the first episode on the show’s tenth anniversary). Bleach is best when working at the top of its game, and this is a very encouraging start … but I am going to need to see Kuchiki Rukia at some point.

Summertime Render – 25 (Fin) – Good Karma

After all the trials, blood, death, loss and increasingly complicated “rules” of the Shadows that Shinpei has endured, it all culminates in a hard reset to the beginning, with him on that boat with Hizuru. From her perspective, they’ve never met, but she’s clearly intrigued (and a little disturbed) that he somehow knows her pen name.

When Shinpei arrives on the pier, he feels a sense of deja vu. When Mio comes streaming towards him on her bike, he instinctively prepares to catch her…but her brakes work fine. Mio’s fine, as are Tokiko and Sou. Shinpei knows he felt worried about them, but doesn’t quite know why; they’re understandably confused and a little hurt by him saying this!

And then there’s Ushio, who remains very much alive, because a Shadow never copied and replaced her. In this timeline there are no Shadows, and never were. He was brought back to the island by a voicemail from Ushio, which he somehow could sense had the same sense of uncanny worry he himself was experiencing.

He stops by the Kobayakawa konbini, which Shiori is minding (and yelling at the other kids to shut the dang ice cream chest). It’s just good to see her not as an instrument of dismemberment and death, ya know? She also says Ushio has been talking about him for a while now, insisting he was coming this year. The kids also note that the upcoming festival is lining up with “Haine’s” birthday.

After visiting the shrine, where an elderly (and not unnaturally youthful or evil) Karakiri is passing the role of fire-lighter to his son Yamato, Shinpei heads to the beach, where Ushio happens to be standing in a long white dress, looking lonely. When she spots him, Shinpei promptly apologizes for how he suddenly left the island.

Ushio admits that she too didn’t handle things right, and that the voicemail she sent was sent because she was suddenly desperately worried about him. Their making-up session is capped off by Shinpei fortuitously spotting her lost shell pendant in the sand. Ushio lets him tenderly tie it around her neck. All is well with the two now; water under the bridge.

At the Kofunes’ café, which is not Shinpei’s home and never was, since his parents are still alive, he discusses his “dream” with Hizuru, who is the only one on the island weird enough to think there might be something to it, like a shared memory of the island or memories from parallel worlds (in truth, it’s a little of both).

It’s here where we meet Haine, who is a grown Ryuunosuke’s daughter and friends with Shiori. Mio comes down in her yukata and Ushio in her portable shrine garb, and the whole gang poses for a photo. Many among the group throw up peace signs, but they could also be victory signs.

That night at the festival, Hizuru is typing up a storm while laughing creepily and stuffing rice into her maw; Shinpei’s regaling of his “dreams” have cleared her writer’s block; we see her writing a novel called Summertime Render. Sou works up the nerve to confess to Mio—again—while Toki watches from the shadows. This time, Mio doesn’t automatically say no?

Shinpei meets Ushio on the beach with the takoyaki she ordered him to bring. When she sees he only brought two trays for the two of them, she recalls a promise he made when they were trying to “get through the little gap in the hospital”—something that might not have even happened in this world. They recite the promise in unison, that he’d “buy her 10 or even 100 pieces”, and a galaxy of fireworks erupt around them.

Whether in that moment they suddenly remember everything they went through to get to this time and place, or they’re simply glad they’re together again after two years in this timeline, they lean into one another in elation and relief. After lifting a three hundred year curse, they goshdarn earned a happy ending as a reward. They deserve it, and I couldn’t be happier that they got it.

Summertime Render – 24 – Everything Mattered

Ryuu and Shinpei are able to catch Ushio before she falls to her death, and she’s reverted to a child since her hair wasn’t quite enough to fully restore her. She’s well and truly out of gas and can no longer fight, but has one more ace up her sleeve.

If Ryuu and Shinpei can buy her two minutes, she’ll turn herself into a hacking shotgun shell that, once fired at Shide, will sever his connection to Hiruko and delete him. While stalling that long won’t be easy, it’s far from impossible, especially as Shide is the loquacious type and enjoys toying with his prey.

Ryuu and Shinpei do battle with Shide, who in addition to being very annoying with his monologues is also a tough customer due to three centuries of honing his shadow skills. Neither of the boys can match him for pure creativity, and Shin can tell they’re not going to make it if they don’t do something drastic.

That something is having Ryuu possess Shide’s armor, depicted as Ryuu literally wrestling with a mass of mud with eyeballs, resulting in Shide being frozen in place. The downside is that now that Ryuu is out of Shin’s body, Shin can feel all the pain Ryuu was suppressing. He nearly passes out, and then his body starts to disintegrate.

However, all this rash, all-or-nothing action pays off, as Ushio is able to finish the hacking shell. This leaves Shin having to get to the shotgun two meters away before Shide (who isolates Ryuu and tosses him away in a glob of mud) can charge and kill him.

He won’t make it, and Ushio can’t move the shotgun as she’s the shell inside, but Haine can, and moves the gun right into Shinpei’s hands. Ushio helps him hold it steady, they get the shot off, and Shide finally, finally bites the dust. His plans to both cause and witness the end of the world come to nothing.

This leaves Shinpei, Ushio, Ryuu, Haine, and lil’ baby Hiruko, whom Ushio attempts to delete. Instead her and everyone else’s data is transported to the real world of over 300 years ago, the very day that the original Haine finds the dead whale that is Hiruko on the beach.

Realizing that Hiruko sent them back to break the cycle, Shinpei scares Haine off before she reaches the whale, and then Ushio deletes it. Baby Hiruko vanishes, finally able to rest. Haine vanishes shortly thereafter, hoping that she and Ryuu can be friends again somewhere, someplace.

That just leaves Shinpei and Ushio on the beach, and what we know must be one more tearful goodbye. Ushio is a shadow, after all, and with Hiruko gone she’s not far behind.

Shinpei wants to disappear with her, but she throws a characteristic “dummy” his way; the time they got to spend together in the past few days made her—made them both—so happy, but she wants him to live on. Not to mention everyone is waiting for Shinpei back home in 2018. Ushio vows to use her remaining power to transport him back to his proper time, but that’s not all she aims to do.

It would seem she’s inherited at least some of Hiruko’s power, with which she plans to overcome the loops and re-draw the summer. So as Shinpei ends up on the boat to the island, his face landing in Hizuru’s chest, maybe it’s not goodbye, but more of a see you later situation. We’ll find out in the finale.

Summertime Render – 23 – Realm of the Dead

Haine has devolved into an eyeless, helpless child that Shide apparently has no further use for. But he does want her Observer’s Right Eye, which is now in Ushio’s head. He provokes Ushio and Shinpei into following him to through a tear in the cave wall into another dimension.

Ushio tells Shinpei if he goes in he’s not coming out, but with both Ryuunosuke possessing him and her by his side, he’ll be fine. But even if things go pear-shaped, he hastens to tell Ushio he loves her, he wants to be with her, and he will never leave her side again.

The remainder of the episode takes place in a thoroughly weird—and hauntingly beautiful—dream world: Haine/Hiruko’s true home. As a result of Ryuunosuke pushing his body too hard, Shinpei’s right leg is ruined, but Ryuu offers to control his body and taking on the pain.

This enables Shinpei to walk, which he needs to do to find Ushio, whom they know is both still alive and no more than 50 meters away due to the shotgun she printed still being whole. Shinpei and Ryuu come upon a ball—Haine’s handball. They follow it into a Hitogashima frozen in time from when Haine lived.

There they find Ushio, apparently in great pain and in contact with Haine. But this Haine is different: she’s just a kind little girl like the one Ryuunosuke’s sister befriended years ago. Assured there’s no threat, Ushio introduces Haine to Shinpei and Ryuunosuke.

Haine tells them they’re in the realm of the dead, Toyoko. While the power of the awakened Observer’s Eye can only be fully utilized in the real world, Shide has brought Ushio here to steal the eye from her. Once he has the eye, he will transcend to a still higher dimension…and destroy the world.

Right on cue, Shide uses Baby Hiruko to summon one of Haine’s memories of her island being firebombed by a squadron of B-29s in World War II. Ushio’s hair shield protects them while Haine prepares to use her innate power to suspend the memory, giving Ushio a shot at attacking Shide. Without Hiruko in his possession, his armor will disappear, and she can kill Shide’s inner body within.

As you can tell from the screenshots, this episode is a trip, packed with gloriously detailed, imaginative, gorgeous, and frightening imagery, and an even more heightened reality when it comes to action, with Ushio using falling bombs as steps up to the plane where Shide is.

But as cool as this sequence is, it still isn’t enough to stop Shide, because the body she attacks is a hollow one – nothing but an empty suit of mud armor being controlled remotely through Hiruko. Gaining this new piece of information may prove costly, as Ushio passes out and starts to fall.

If any of this is wrong, I apologize, but the plot mechanics and rules of Summertime Render become more and more baroque with each passing episode. But this is such an engrossing spectacle and I’ve come to love these kids so much, I don’t really mind the growing complexity.

Summertime Render – 22 – Red-Eye

Ushio returns better than ever, and demonstrates how her hair-blades can erase Shide’s armor, leaving his inner body vulnerable. But while Shinpei appreciates her enthusiasm, Shadow Mio stops her from charging in, then transmits the careful plan Shinpei has set up. We get a little flashback to the morgue where Toki explains how they can use Guil to hide Haine’s handprint, making it impossible to track him.

Shinpei shoots himself while holding Ushio’s hands, creating a tenth loop inside Guil, who is in Hiruko’s Cave. They know Haine and Shide—both Shides—will find out soon enough where they are and what they’re up to, so they use the festival fireworks to blast through the mud barrier Haine created to get to where her main body is located. Shin’s team is truly humming like a well-oiled machine.

The closer they get to the main body, the louder and harsher Haine’s transmitting signal is to the ears of Shadows. Since he’s now hosting Ryuunosuke, that signal is particularly excruciating for Shinpei, but Ushio manages to help him by transmitting her signal at the same wavelength, neutralizing Haine’s. While Shide attacks Ushio (who uses her hair as a shield), Sou manages to ambush Haine (in her Shinpei form) and pins her, not with a shadow nailgun, but with the original she was unable to sense.

But while both of Haine’s inner bodies are killed and Haine’s body is sliced in half, it’s apparently not over. Ushio turns around to reveal she now has a red right eye like Haine’s, and Shin has one too. Shide reappears, ready to start some shit, and Shinpei has to ask himself: is he freakin’ immortal?

Even the best laid plans in this intricate chess game of feints and diversions are bound to face some setbacks, and the fact that killing Shide and Haine didn’t kill them is…problematic, to say the least. Not sure what they can do about that, especially with all their moves in this plan exhausted and no more loops to make a new plan.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Summertime Render – 21 – Everything Ends Tomorrow

The OP of STR’s Spring cour features a shot of Ushio looking alone and forlorn, which stands to reason: she started out the show having already died. But the OP of this Summer cour features her and Shinpei side-by-side in the sunlight, triumphant and proud. Ever since Ushio was killed by Karikiri, that new OP mocked me with its optimism, but no more.

While this episode starts of on a gloomy, rainy beach, hope is far from lost. Shinpei is still getting the hang of having Ryuunosuke possessing him, but being able to see two seconds into the future is sure to come in handy. As for the little seashell, Shadow Mio tells him it contains all of Ushio’s memories, but only Ushio can scan them. Shinpei then remembers: on the night of July 24th, another Ushio with no memories washes up on the shore…and she will again.

The night of the 23rd could still be anyone or everyone’s last, so the confessions come fast and furious. When Sou confesses to Mio, she initially pretends to be Shadow Mio, only to light up like a beet when Sou correctly guesses that she loves Shinpei. No biggie; they’ll still be friends. He just wanted it off his chest.

That inspires Mio to finally confess to Shinpei on the moonlit roof of their house. As expected Shinpei thanks her, but he has feelings for Ushio, while Mio will always be his little sis. Saying the words are a huge weight off Mio’s shoulders, though she still has to cry into Toki’s bosom while Shadow Mio points out that if they win and defeat Haine, Ushio will disappear and Mio will have her chance again.

But that’s putting the cart before the horse. In the early morning of July 24th, Shinpei first runs a quick explanation for the looping by the gang, explaining how there are two Ushios and then showing them the shell that actually points them towards her sea-bound doppel. Everyone has their role in his plan, but bottom line: getting Ushio back is crucial.

Haine and Shide know that too; after all, Haine copied a good deal of Shinpei. As the shrine festivities commence, the two mutter possibilities to each other, resulting in Haine sending Shide’s doppel into the sea with a fleet of shadows in hopes of finding and destroying Ushio before Shinpei can get to her. Shide fails.

Before opening her eyes, Ushio relives those painful moments on the day Shinpei left. But then she hears Shin calling out to her and opens her eyes, and finds both Guil (with Shinpei inside) and Shide’s double bearing down on her. Guil scoops her up, surfaces, and leaps into the sky. Shide slices Guil up, but the Ushio scans the shell and slices Shide up good with her lethal Rapunzel hair.

Yes, Ushio is back, she knew Shinpei would bring her back, and she’s ready to kick some ass. I’m ready to watch! It’s about time the good guys got a solid win, and while I’m sure another setback (or sacrifice) is in store, I’m hoping the promise of the OP with that shot of Shinpei and Ushio together in triumph holds true to the end.

The Rising of the Shield Hero S2 – 12 – Savage Burn

After some glimpses of both Naofumi and Kyou’s past lives in the real world—the latter having nothing but contempt for those days and said world—we see the transported Cardinal Heroes of this world just managing to hold their own against the new Waves of Catastrophe, while Naofumi, Raphtalia, Filo, Rishia, and Yomogi enter Kyou’s lab. They’re met by three of the late Kazuki’s ever-loyal attendants in chimera form, and Raph makes quick work of them with her katana.

After that, Kyou does his gloating villain thing and then sends a zombified version of Kazuki after them. While Raph and Filo deal with him, Naofumi and Rishia break through and reach Kyou. Kyou is good enough at what he does to enrage Naofumi enough for him to draw upon the Rage Shield, which quickly takes control of his persona and even tries to choke out Rishia, saying some horrifyingly mean things about her in the process.

Rishia doesn’t take the insults personally, but insists that the rage shield release Naofumi immediately. But what ultimately quells his rage and frees him from the shield’s hold is an echo of Ost, who asserts that he doesn’t need the shield’s flames. Naofumi wakes up flanked by Raph and Filo, accepting the anger he feels for Kyou but letting it pass and moving forward—much to Kyou’s consternation.

Wielding the Vassal Weapon of the missing Mirror Hero of this world, Naofumi ethers Kyou, not because it’s the right thing to do or because it will save this world, but for himself, of his own free will. Even as he is defeated, Kyou seems to think that Naofumi’s troubles are far from over, so he should enjoy his victory while it lasts. After one last appearance from “Ghost Ost”, Yomogi thanks Naofumi for defeating her friend gone entirely astray.

After that, the Waves of Catastrophe vanish and Naofumi’s party is reunited with Kizuna, Glass, L’Arc and Therese. There’s talk of returning to L’Arc’s palace and having a celebratory banquet, but a one-minute countdown sudenly begins on Naofumi’s HUD, the result of having defeated Kyou and retrieving the Spirit Tortoise’s power; the reason he and his party were able to travel to this world.

Kizuna tears up as she accepts the fact their goodbye must come far sooner than she thought, and Naofumi invites her to come by his world anytime she likes, assuming she’s able to do so. Back home in their world, Naofumi is given a medal and the title of Viscount by Queen Mirelia, and learns that the other three Cardinal Heroes made themselves useful while he was gone by repelling the Wave that appeared at the same time it did in Kizuna & Co.’s world. But while things are relatively peachy, other problems remain to be dealt with, like a new awakened Guardian Beast, the Phoenix.

While there’s still an episode remaining, this felt like a finale, and not a great one. Things felt incredibly rushed, Naofumi moving past his rage felt like a retread of last season; the occasionally fun Kyou was profoundly one-dimensiona, and while Ost was a warm and loveable character, her emotional involvement in this episode and arc felt unfinished and unearned.

While it wasn’t without a couple of decent episodes, I’m sad to say this second season has proved to be a pale shadow of his predecessor. That said, there’s one episode—and an entire third season—to come. Maybe they’ll be better.

Bokutachi no Remake – 12 (Fin) – Back to Hard Times

Now that we know that Tomioka Keiko has the ability to send Kyouya back and forth through time, the question becomes, does Kyouya want to go back to the past or remain where he is? As Keiko says, there are few people who can claim they’re as happy and successful as he is. But Kyouya concludes that he didn’t want to go back in time to make a happier future; he wanted to experience pain and struggle alongside the talented creative people he idolized.

So even if, say, Aki decided she wanted to start drawing again, the fact remains that she, Tsurayuki, Nanako and Eiko all had their futures changed by Kyouya’s over-meddling, and that will never sit right with him, so it’s back to the past with him. It seems Keiko, whoever or whatever she is, brought Kyouya to this alternate future to teach Kyouya a lesson, in addition to giving him the choice to go or stay.

After a heartfelt sequence of final scenes with Aki and Maki, Kyouya is ready to go back. Keiko sends him back to the same time he left, when Tsurayuki dropped out. Aki and Nanako aren’t sure what to do about it, but Kyouya adivses that they all stay the course. If there’s a way to bring Tsurayuki back into the creative world, he’ll find one, but this time he’s not going to be so forceful and so certain.

Just as the members of the Platinum Generation put their trust in him, this time Kyouya is going to trust in their ability to shine and fluorish without undue interference or compromise. When Nanako is given an offer to work for another doujin group, she sheepishly asks him if he’ll proverbially hold her hand. Having seen what becoming overly dependent on him did to Nanako’s future, he insists she try being independent on this project. Even if he comes off as rude or mean, it’s in Nanako’s best interest.

He’ll still support her, but he won’t let her rely on him entirely again. Aki proves trickier, as she hits the very same rut that would define her future self as she transitioned from a creative life to a domestic one. Kyouya realizes that asking her to work so hard and compromise her artistic vision for the game took a toll, and that coming out of the rut won’t be a fast or easy process, but it will and does eventually happen, and without undue meddling from him.

Kyouya ends up literally bumping into the girl who will one day become Minori Ayaka, sporting her natural black hair color. Akaya seems embarrassed when Kyouya sees she has the game he made along with some promising sketches, but there’s no disputing she’s dedicated to being the best goshdarn illustrator she can be, inspired as she is by Shinoaki’s work. This must feel gratifying to Kyouya, as by abandoning that possible future he also feared he undid the good he did for Ayaka’s future.

But then, that’s just his ego talking; the same ego that thought he was singularly, personally responsible for upheaving everyone’s lives, when in reality it was a whole host of variables. It’s the same with Ayaka; she’s going to be alright, especially if the artist she adores continues to draw, as Aki does.

As for Eiko, Kyouya now realizes that she considers herself more than just a friend, creative colleague, and confidant. The future Eiko loved (past-tense) Kyouya, that means this past Eiko is in the process of falling for him, if she hasn’t already. Her blush as she admits she’d drop everything to help him if he was ever in trouble says a lot.

But Kyouya isn’t interested in dating Eiko, at least not at the moment. His primary goal is to undo the damage he did to Tsurayuki’s creative motivation. His confronting Tsurayuki as he exits a theator marks the beginning of his Remake Version 2.0, and even hints at a possible second season (though there hasn’t been any announcement of one, so who knows).

If this is the end, it’s a moderately satisfying one, as it has Kyouya on a sustainable path where he’s aware of his “power” and no longer breathlessly achieving happiness at the cost of others’ success. Even as he’s reverted to a younger version of himself, he’s grown as a person and a friend to these talented people. And so the struggle continues.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

To Your Eternity – 20 (Fin) – Goodbye For Real

It’s a quiet, contemplative finale for To Your Eternity, as Fushi tracks down Pioran and finds that she’s barely scraping by. Yet he’s reluctant to reintegrate himself into her life, as he fears she’ll simply be the next victim of the Nokkers, as Uroy, Oopa, and Mia became.

Fushi happens to have assumed all three of their forms, and he’s in Mia’s when Pioran finally gets wise to his, well, tentative stalking. He may be in the form of a girl, but Pioran immediately identifies him as Fushi, her old immortal friend. Just when he was trying to say goodbye for real, Fushi ends up back in Pioran’s orbit.

The creator narrates that he’s watched over Fushi, Pioran, and the donkey for a good while, and watched as Fushi continued to develop a full sense of self. When Fushi asks what Pioran wishes more than anything else, Pioran says she’d like to be young and beautiful as she once was. Fushi feels a nobility in Pioran, and being by her side is a noble enterprise.

But eventually the Creator’s warning comes to pass: eventually all mortal things wither and die. Pioran develops short-term memory loss and dementia, periodically cursing Fushi while begging him to kill her or leave her behind. Fushi doesn’t; he simply continues caring for her as they travel nowhere in particular. One day, Pioran is nearing death, but lucid enough to call out “the one following Fushi around”—the Creator.

She begs him to let her be reborn into something “that can be more useful to Fushi.” One thing I’ve always wondered is who is the girl in the OP with the purple-grey hair strolling on the beach. Now we learn, it’s Pioran, made young and beautiful again by the Creator, if only for a brief time before dying…and being transformed into an orb like Fushi.

Fushi mourns the loss of Pioran, and when he conjures the paper and pencil he uses to document his days, he comes across a parting note from the departed Pioran: “Do what you want to do, like I did!” He seems to take those words to heart as several decades pass. We encounter an adult Fushi having apparently just defeated a Nokker and laughing over his victory.

This is the end of the story of Fushi…but apparently only until Fall 2022, as a second series is planned for that time. We’ll see how his struggle with the Nokkers progresses, who else he meets who changes him and whose form he eventually assumes, and how many other ways this show will make me cry like a baby. If Pioran is still around in some form, it would be great if they could reunite. Fushi and Nokker!Hayase…less so.

While many episodes suffered from an untenable schedule and pinched production budget, and the Jananda arc was ultimately the weakest, this final episode marked a successful return to the series’ exploration and reflection on mortality, morality, and family, and made me excited for what’s to come.

To Your Eternity – 19 – Killing With Kindness

We begin the penultimate episode of To Your Eternity with Hayase…doing a good deed?! That’s right, she’s using her not inconsiderable combat prowess to defeat the Nokker Zombies before they can kill innocent men, women or children. When a Nokker tries to infect her, she flexes—both literally and figuratively.

The Nokker stops in Hayase’s arm and seems to listen when she tells it that appearing before Hoshi in such a gross, unpleasant form is Doing It All Wrong; if it wants Fushi as she does, it will have to treat it with kindness. Their little confab is broken up when Oniguma!Fushi steps on Hayase…but once again stops short of killing her.

While Fushi doesn’t kill her, he’ll wish he had restrained her in some way before the day is out. Perhaps he’s distracted by the fact Tonari and Sander are in mortal danger. He bails them out of a bad way by using his Gugu form to burn the entire corpse pit. But while the bulk of the immediate Nokker threat is neutralized in those flames, his Creator tells him three Nokkers still remain on the island.

Those Nokkers were once Oopa, Uroy, and Mia, but you can’t really say it’s them anymore, as we already saw them chilling in Paradise last week. Nevertheless, it won’t be easy for Fushi to put their overthrown bodies out of their misery.

That’s when Hayase, who as I said wasn’t sufficiently neutralized, scoops up both Tonari and Sander, drugs them both, and threatens to toss them into the flaming corpse pit…unless Fushi accepts her offer. You see, she wants to keep him “clean” and “pure” as a being who can neither kill nor be killed. She’ll gladly kill and sully herself for him.

But Hayase never picked up on the fact that her go-to sedative doesn’t work on Tonari for long, and Tonari decides to pull Hayase down into the flames with her. With three of her friends dead and what she perceives as a lifetime of missteps to answer for, ridding Fushi of his greatest adversary in exchange for her life seems like a square deal.

Fushi disagrees, swooping out to save both Tonari and Hayase from certain death. And for once, he’s the one to knock out Hayase with the same poison he once accidentally knocked out the others.

Speaking of the others, when Tonari gingerly picks up a sword with tears streaming down her eyes, ready to put down the husks that were once Oopa, Uroy and Mia, Fushi steps in to do it, having both summoned the courage and not wanting Tonari to have to do the deed.

During a solemn private memorial, one of the elder islanders asks their ostensible leader if she has any words for the people. Tonari says to stop the killing…especially after everyone saw what became of them making piles of corpses.

After wandering the island offering foot and supplies to anyone who needs them, Fushi takes his leave from the island, knowing it’s only a matter of time before the Nokkers return again. He bids Tonari and Sander an very understated farewell, if you consider how many pitched emotional moments they shared previously. Maybe that’s the point; they’ve been through, and lost, a lot. They’re tired.

One person who is tireless in her obsession with Fushi is Hayase, who wakes up elated to find she’s sharing a boat with Fushi. She confesses to Fushi how much she loves him and has always loved him ever since she first saw him, and offers to show him what that love means.

Fushi is understandably repulsed by Hayase and her offer, and pulls a trick I’d say would be cruel for anyone other than Hayase, considering the shit she’s pulled these last nineteen episodes. Fushi clones the rowboat and paddles away, leaving a tied-up Hayase stranded in a becalmed sea nowhere near land.

But as he returns to the mainland (and to Pioran) guided by Tonari’s owl, a Nokker core—perhaps the very one who spent some very formative minutes inside her arm—hops onto her boat and attacks her. Is this finally the end of Hayase? I’m loath to predict that, but the preview suggests the fighting may be over, even if the dying isn’t. But then death, like pain, breeds growth.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Meikyuu Black Company – 07 – Operation Eternal Capital

Just as Preston seems to be enjoying Moonlight Fantasy more for the interaction of its endearing cast and not necessarily its world-building or plot, I too prefer when MBC keeps things simple.

That didn’t happen this week, as the meeting with the Demon Lord—who is Rimu’s twin sister—sits on her throne and delivers one long and convoluted infodump about What’s Going On, What’s At Stake, and Ninomiya’s crucial role in Saving the World.

The Demon Lord’s exposition is actually accompanied by actual imagery of a temporal war between the forces of natural order in the world and the corrupting expansion of Raiza’ha that left unchecked will render the planet incapble of supporting life.

But that conceptual ambition isn’t matched by sufficiently impressive visuals. Also, the bottom linie is Ninomiya is standing around either nodding his head or adding his two cents here and there.

Ninomiya, Rimu and Ranga actually arrive at the Demon Lord’s castle as Raiza’ha of the future is about to bring about the end of the world, so at the end of her spiel it’s time for the three to return to the past from whence they came.

Well, Ranga comes from the future, but he’s all in on going back in time with Ninomiya and Rimu. The DL does give Ninomiya a Matrix-like blue-or-red choice, but rather tan return safely to Japan, Ninomiya accepts the challenge of the mantle of savior of this world.

Upon returning, Ninomiya learns he and Rimu were gone a month, and not only is he penalized for the unapproved time off by his boss Belza, but his accommodations were assigned to another employee.

Since he arrives just in time to save Shia and Wanibe in the Dungeon, he, Rimu and Ranga take it upon himself to crash at Shia’s (admittedly pretty nice) apartment until further notice. She’s not particularly thrilled—and is perplexed by the sudden appearance of the extremely cute Ranga—but she’s also a nice person, and so accepts the freeloaders.

That night, the gang avails themselves of a rare instance of Raiza’ha footing the bill at a traditional business dinner and drinks, though Ninomiya must foot the bill for Rimu and Ranga as they are not Raiza’ha employees.

Ninomiya wants to be above socializing with the “rabble” but he knows the consequences of letting Rimu go hungry for too long, and so accepts the additional debt on top of the cost of being AWOL for a month.

In a show as irreverent towards The System as MBC, it’s not surprising that Ninomiya would be sent back to the past as the world’s only hope of salvation only to be treated like a problem employee by the very company that will be responsible for the worlds destruction in 300 years if he didn’t come back.

He also faces a rude awakening as he commences Operation Eternal Capital, as the difficulty of the Dungeon that leads to the ancient ruins has increased quite a bit since he last tackled it. That said, with the power of Rimu, Shia, Ranga, on his side (and Wanibe too, I guess), his Meikyuu Black Company is putting its best foot forward in this quest to save the world.

I just wish the production values were doing the same, but this was a distractingly janky-looking episode, especially when contrasted with the smooth CGI go-go-dancing of Rimu and the Demon Lord in the new ED.

To Your Eternity – 18 – Paradise Bound

Tonari, who has become somewhat fond of Fushi beyond his utility as a tool for advancing her interests, wasn’t about to leave him to the tender ministrations of the “hag” Hayase. So she rows back to the island to save him, only to discover he already freed himself from the pit, which wasn’t half as deep as Pioran’s prison wall was high. Faced with having to explain why she’s there, Tonari tries out her best tsundere act.

The seas aren’t suitable for heading back out by boat, so Tonari and Fushi spend the night in a cave beside a campfire. Tonari asks about what exactly the man in black is. Is he a thoughtful god, trying to stave off the world’s destruction by creating Fushi? Or is he a demon, and the Nokkers are the servants of the real God(s) tasked with stopping him?

She also owns up to her father having been a murderer, and how she came to see him no differently than any other lowlife on the island: deserving of death. But she doesn’t see herself any differently, as in her mind she kills anyone she doesn’t like. She believes the island has poisoned her heart.

Fushi tries to cheer her up by saying that even if both their “parents” are or were demons, the two of them still do what they want to do. Being in that cave is proof of it: Tonari wasn’t about to let herself be saved at the cost of Fushi, while Fushi wasn’t about to let himself live out his existence as Hayase’s toy.

That night, Tonari dreams a familiar dream of a happy home with a living mother and father proud of her for the books she writes. Upon waking up, Tonari decides she’ll need to come up with a new dream, a new story less grounded in the past. She envisions herself, her crew, Fushi, and Pioran all relaxing and loving life on the beach.

It’s a lovely, idyllic image, and also the last upbeat image to appear in the episode; it’s all downhill from there. That morning when about to cast off, the Creator notifies Fushi that the Nokkers are attacking the town. Despite everyone worth saving on the island already off of it, Fushi heads towards danger, turning his back on an exasperated Tonari.

To his credit, Fushi isn’t doing this because the Creator is goading him to do it—it was Fushi who asked him to warn him when the Nokkers returned. It’s just that Fushi always has and probably always will blame his existence for the death of all the people who’ve died around him. If he can lesson that even a little, he must try.

The thing is, Fushi is cursed to be just too goshdarn likable to be left alone by those who enter his orbit. When he arrives at a hellish scene of corpses being reanimated into zombies by the Nokkers and wreaking havoc, it isn’t long before Tonari comes to help, and the rest of her crew also show up to help the both of them.

It strains credulity just a bit that they not only returned to the island so soon, but knew exactly where Fushi and Tonari were. What should be a devastating emotional climax is once again undermined by the fact barely any of it is animated, as with two episodes left the show is blatantly running on fumes.

Finally, the fact we’ve seen Mia, Oopa, and Uroy as Nokker zombies every week leading up to this episode, so we knew exactly what would become of them. Thile their souls may have passed to a paradise similar to the one in Tonari’s new dream, their bodies remain on Jananda; shambling nightmares Fushi isn’t strong enough to put down.

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