Koi to Uso – 11

With Yukari, Ririna, and Misaki making little progress in discerning who’s going to end up marrying whom, the three (plus Nisaka) end up at…a wedding. Subtle. Ririna and Misaki are also recruited by the ceremonial hall’s marketing rep to model wedding dresses. Also subtle.

The wedding itself is highly scripted and a bit stiff, with all the usual traditions and nothing in the way of really breaking the mold. The individuals actually getting married seem a bit lost in the procedure of the thing.

Still, a wedding is a wedding, and Misaki and Ririna have a blast, and are glad they were able to attend together. Misaki echos Arisa’s assertion that Ririna has become more open and easier to talk to, and Riri attributes this to her time with Misaki and Yukari.

Misaki also says she’d love to see Ririna’s wedding, all but surrendering Yukari to her. But Ririna can probably sense the lack of conviction in those words, especially when she peeks in on Yukari comforting a crying Misaki with a big long kiss.

I’m sorry, but at this stage, Yukari is being a big fat jerk here. I’m sure Yukari didn’t like seeing Misaki cry, but kissing her will only provide the briefest relief if he ends up marrying Ririna, which, that’s the case, he shouldn’t be kissing other girls. Get your fucking shit together, man!

Ririna seeing Yukari kiss Misaki casts a pall over the rest of the episode, as Ririna and Yukari’s families join forces to mudge their betrothed kids a little closer together at a splendid hot springs inn, even putting them in the same room together.

Their tour of the town demonstrates their easy chemistry with one another, and the fact they both genuinely enjoy each other’s company. They’re not exactly setting the world on fire with their romantic passion, but who cares? They’re a nice, cute couple!

So after witnessing Yukari and Misaki kiss, and Yukari telling her how he’s the person he is today because he followed Misaki and admired her from afar like a goddess…in the night, Ririna decides to tell Yukari she thinks he should choose Misaki over her.

If Ririna and Misaki weren’t such good people and good friends, they wouldn’t be falling over each other trying to sacrifice their happiness for that of the other’s, but Yukari’s persistent indecision—and his appalling indiscretion where Misaki is concerned—has also led us to this point.

The only satisfying way Yukari can respond to this by either accepting or rejecting Ririna’s concession. I’m fine with both, honestly. I may have sounded like a Ririna x Yukari shipper of late, but I’m fine with either girl “winning.” As long as someone wins, dammit!

Oh, and throughout all of this, why haven’t Misaki and Nisaka received their notices? Are Yukari and Ririna really that much older than them? The fact we have no idea who their assigned spouses are leaves me worried the show’s withholding that info for a last-episode cliffhanger—perhaps even a prelude to a second season I neither want nor need.

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Re:Creators – 21

Thanks to Magane, Souta was able to create a miracle in bringing Shimazaki Setsuna back to reunite with her creation Altair. But early in the reunion, I was filled with a constant uneasiness—and was no doubt meant to be—would the all powerful Altair truly accept this?

If not, how long would it take before the spell was broken, she breaks the train station world, and returns to the real world. What the heck will Team Meteora do then? Everything is on the line here.

Well fortunately, there are no further twists or turns or defeats for Souta and the team; this really is it, and as soon as Setsuna speaks, Altair is well and truly neutralized as a mustache-twirling, world-ending villain. She becomes something far more complicated and interesting; something she only could have become by meeting her creator.

Setsuna doesn’t transparently beg Altair not to destroy the world. Instead, she starts by apologizing for making Altair carry the burden of “curses” she carried with her until death and transferred to Altair. Without judging her, Setsuna earnestly thanks Altair for her efforts, even if they were ultimately misguided.

Setsuna also impresses upon Altair the fact that she is no longer simply her creation; she’s become accepted and loved by everyone as a “king” or “knight of the weak” who took her weaknesses and made them strengths. Altair will always have power, and never be alone, as long as those others exist.

So, realizing her presence is a miracle, but a “twisted” one that shouldn’t be (at least in her world), when the train alarm sounds, she walks to the same spot where she walked before and leaps out over the tracks. Only this time, because she’s not alone, Altair rushes in front of the train and destroys it with her Holopiscon.

When she finds no matter how much she hacks at it, the train will still come in a fraction of a second, Altair redirects the infinite power Setsuna and the world has bestowed on her, into creating Setsuna’s story from now on.

That means creating a world where she and Setsuna can live—them, and no one else, it would seem. Altair is no longer interested in destroying worlds, only creating one world where she and Setsuna can be together, and where her story can continue. They’re basically gods now.

There, in the water, Altair finds a pair of glasses, but they’re not Setsuna’s—they’re Souta’s. Setsuna recognizes them as such, and without saying his name, tells Altair that she was drawn in the first place because of Souta, and others who liked her creations and wanted to see more.

Whether the Setsuna we saw was a combination of who she really was and Souta’s own interpretation of who she was, or one or the other, Souta poured his own heart and soul into creating her, which makes her basically the opposite of Sirius.

All Souta wanted was to “see the same world” as Setsuna. And he did, thanks not just to his own efforts, but to those of the other Creators, their Creations, and the people whose acceptance made them endure.

With one more strum of her Holopiscon, Altair and Setsuna are transported away to their own little infinite world, leaving the normal world safe and bringing a happy (if somewhat bittersweet) ending to Chamber Festival. The hosts sign off, the stadium roars with approval, and the creators and Meteora stand in the control room, basking in the knowledge they saved their world.

While Altair’s transformation was quite sudden, and doesn’t fully absolve the fact that she was fairly one-dimensional up to this point, the means by which she transformed were credible and even, at times, genuinely affecting, for which a lot of the credit goes to seiyus Toyosaki Aki and Ohashi Ayaka.

I also appreciate that the main conflict of the story came to a climax and was resolved with one episode to go, which means there’s time for a closure-giving epilogue.

Koi to Uso – 10

I probably say this too often…but that’s more like it! Interaction between Yukari and Ririna is bascially why I watch this show. I’m not a rigid follower of the orthodoxy of the Yukari Law, but they were deemed the best match, and everything I’ve seen of them suggests that despite a few bumps in the road, they’re realizing that too.

But what about that damned Shuu? What did she mean about notices and fated partners? Both Yukari and Ririna want to find out, so they call a “truce” and arrange a meeting. Yukari tries first but fails, and Ririna comes to comfort him while he’s feeling low on himself, and sure enough, she knows the kind of burial mound he’s building in the sand.

Ririna doesn’t have any trouble arranging a meeting, but when she comes right out and asks Shuu what she meant (in her usual Ririna straightforward way), she demands a change of venue to a cat cafe. There, while playing with badly-drawn cats, Shuu underscores her one and only goal: to protect Misaki.

Shuu didn’t use to think much of Misaki, until she found out she was in love, and has been awe of that part of her ever since, noting the way she “shines.” But while Shuu’s grandmother designed the Notice system and she herself is some kind of genius and tech whiz, Shuu is still simply taking a side based on her own feelings, which is not what the system is all about.

Yajima, who tracks them all down, makes Shuu understand in no uncertain terms that love between government-matched individuals can’t really compare to two people who just naturally fall in love…but that’s not the point and never was. Surely, for instance, there are other matters of compatibility she’s discounting.

Indeed, The System, in its dispassionate way, seems able to discover pairings that would never have naturally happened, such as that between two people as different in personality yet alike in their isolation as Yukari and Ririna.

And what do you know, paired together and given the chance, they seem to be doing quite well. So much so, that their affection for one another is starting to take precedence over the third party’s happiness, even if neither is interested in hurting her.

Misaki herself has already said many times she’s willing to live with the fact she wasn’t chosen. I wish Yukari would hurry up and state for the record who he’s choosing. But it’s good to see the episode begin and end with him and Ririna back on good terms, having come out of the first true conflict in their still-new relationship none the worse for wear.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 16

Action is the name of the game on this week’s Baha Soul, with thrilling chases, an intense arena battle, daring escapes, and high-altitude rescues. It all starts when Bacchus, Hamsa, and Nina start talking about how and why Bacchus left Heaven, mentioning the hippogriff. El waits for his chance.

As Alessand continues to side with Charioce and Dias holds out hope for their old captain, Kaisar is stuffed in a cage and released in the middle of the arena, where he must fight Azazel to the death. Azzy may not be quite clear about why he’s still alive, but he’s not just going to lay down for the fallen knight, who manages to hold his own even though he’s missing a hand. Jaime Lannister, eat your heart out.

Once Bacchus, Hamsa and Nina realize El is missing (with Nina wearing El’s clothes, suggesting El went to the unusual trouble of dressing her after stealing her clothes) and formulate a plan to retrieve him, using lots of wordless hand (and wing) signals but getting the timing all wrong, causing a startled El to take wing and fly off.

Just when Azazel is about to put Kaisar down, Favaro, in the stands all along in a very puffy disguise (and clean-shaven), throws him Rocky, and Kaisar quickly gets the upper hand and “runs Azazel through” (though his precise strike doesn’t really touch Azzy).

As Favaro’s matador-like theme plays, he unleashes his crafty bounty hunter arsenal of crossbow bolts and smoke bombs, giving the three lads cover to escape, as Charioce reclines in his throne, seemingly unconcerned.

Nina catches up to El in a hovering platform in a very pretty chase through Heaven, but when she tries to pounce on him in mid-air she misses and starts to fall down and through the celestial barrier. Naturally, El descends at top speed to catch her, because he’s still, in her words “Mugaro”, despite having changed “a little bit.”

The two of them are then saved by Bacchus and Hamsa, who called Hippogriff and skedaddled just when Heavenly guards surrounded them. Back to Anatae they go, where El intends not to fight, but to bring peace.

At a very picturesque meeting spot, Rita unites with Kaisar, Rocky, Favaro and Azazel. The latter tries to slink off, claiming “this is as far” as he goes; but Kaisar tells him if they all work together, they can save demons as well as humans and gods from Charioce’s havoc. I loved Rita’s smile when Azzy walks by her, Kaisar’s words having worked. And all it takes is a look to bring Favaro along for the ride.

Not long ago all of the main cast was imprisoned in some way. Now, suddenly, they’re all free (for now) and in strong groups (again, for now). Will the two groups stay apart, or combine to create a force even Charioce will have trouble with? Will Nina’s continued Charioce conflict jeopardize the whole enterprise? Can El succeed without using force (which we know is limited in its scope an duration before he collapses)? We shall see.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 15

Another face from Genesis makes his first appearance in Virgin Soul: the fallen angel Lucifer, who holds court with a handful of elite demons. He convinces them to hang tight as they’ve been doing since the fall of Cocytus. He saw what happened to Beelzebub; he has no more confidence the humans will be able to control the power they’ve stolen.

Azazel is also back, in the worst-kept secret in anime. Like Thor in the upcoming Ragnarok, he’s fighting in the arena as a gladiator, but he’s not quite sure why he’s bothering to remain alive. Meanwhile, the elder dragon manages to just get Jeanne and Nina through the barrier into the land of the gods—by throwing Bacchus’ wagon like a baseball.

Speaking of Bacchus, Sofiel has him try to make some headway with El, who has been “pouting” ever since the gods’ defeat at Anatae. When Jeanne and Nina arrive they receive a cool welcome, and are struck by how sparsely inhabited the otherwise gorgeous lands are.

A guardsangel intercepts them, and when she hears Nina comment on how the place isn’t as “bright and sparkly” as she expected, takes them to what amounts to a mass god grave, with each streaking blue light representing a god fallen. They sacrificed themselves to save the surface world from Bahamut, only for Charioce to launch a crusade against them.

It’s good we get some perspective from a rank-and-file angel; it further demonstrates the mission El believes only he can accomplish: righting the evils in the world below to preserve both humanity, god-kind, and demons like Azazel, the one who saved him after he and Jeanne were separated.

That brings us to the most heartwarming/wrenching reunion of Shingeki no Bahamut’s run: the reunion between mother and son. It’s nicely balanced by the comedy of Bacchus and Hamsa thinking Nina is crying about reuniting with them rather than “Mugaro.” (Bacchus and Hamsa are also prove useless yet amusing in trying to get through to El before).

El proudly regails her mother of how he ended up hiding among demon slaves, and was about to be sold to humans who would do gods-know-what to him before Azazel freed him and the others. El followed his mom’s advice to stick with the first person to help him, which was Azazel.

Now, El, believes, it’s his turn to save everyone…but Sofiel (who was also elated to see Jeanne) is doubtful El has enough power to achieve what he’s aiming for, deferring to her superior Gabriel’s judgment. She’s loyal and dutiful to Gabriel, and with good reason, but El thinks Sofiel is wasting her time.

El is supremely confident of his abilities, especially now that his mother is safe and by his side. And with a wry smirk, he makes it clear he intends on making everyone else into a believer.

P.S. Nina is upset that Charioce is doing so many things that make everyone hate him, because she can’t stand the thought of everyone hating him. Sure, fine.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 14

For the record, I am not on board with Nina x Charioce. Simply put, the show hasn’t made Charioce likable or sympathetic enough to overcome the significant evils he has committed against humans, gods, and demons alike.

It makes no further progress in convincing me this week…aside from showing that he won’t allow a Black Knight gut his barber after accidentally cutting his neck with a razor.

Another mark against him is that he has Kaisar imprisoned and seems to be having him tortured for information. Still, Kaisar is a lot tougher than his endless eyelashes suggest, so I’m sure he’ll be fine.

His spirits—and those of his visiting lieutenant, Dias—are also surely lifted by the news that Jeanne is free, and the men hold out hope the noble Orleans knights will rise again…one day.

Meanwhile, Nina and Jeanne arrive at Dragon Village, where Nina is swarmed and greeted warmly by her many siblings and friends, and the two ladies can have baths, haircuts, and a new change of clothes, as well as ask the village elder (a very old and tiny lady) how to reach the Land of the Gods.

Nina’s Charioce conundrum inevitably comes up, though obviously she doesn’t refer to him by name; otherwise Jeanne would surely drop the talk of “embracing contradictions” and tell Nina to get over that mass murdering, enslaving, poor-tipping despot.

Being around so many smiling, laughing, happy children also makes Jeanne wistful of the time she still had El; she seeks out Nina’s mother in the night, who is more than willing to provide an understanding ear and a shoulder to cry on.

I loved, well, the love evident in this scene; suffused with maternal instinct and affection. Nina’s mom even brings up her daughter’s tendency to transform and rampage when around “men like her father” as a coping mechanism.

The next morning the elder has agreed to show them the way to the Land of the Gods—her own back. She transforms from tiny old lady to massive, grizzled dragon, with a back more than broad enough for Bacchus’ entire carriage, complete with hippogriff.

I am pleased, at the very least, that the Charioce issue can at least be tabled, as the more pressing issue is reuniting a mother with her son—righting yet another wrong perpetrated by the prettyboy king who imprisoned her. I maintain that if the show wants me to feel anything other than contempt for the dude, it’ll have to make one hell of a pitch.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 13

As it turns out, Charioce wasn’t being overconfident about his chances against the gods. Sure, it looks like a rout at first, but once the human king activates his secret weapon Dromos, the battle not only sways in man’s favor…Gabriel straight up runs with her tail between her legs, leaving her (very insubordinate) army to be wiped out. El tries to keep fighting, but he ends up being the overconfident one, and is rendered unconscious in a blast from Dromos.

It would appear the weapon worked almost too well, as Charioce doesn’t really seem to know what he should go do with himself after the gods retreat. That’s mostly because the winds literally blew Nina into his arms. When Nina sees that Jeanne, Kaisar and Rita are in danger (and who knows about Favaro; he’s blown elsewhere), she insists the king hug her.

Nina hopes she can appeal not to the cold, evil king, but the warm, kind young traveler who danced with her. He acquiesces to her demand, and before you know it boom, she’s a dragon again. This certainly seems to prove that only Charioce can transform her now.

The Black Knights try to capture her with a colossal golem, but Nina the dragon is far stronger than Nina the girl, and Nina the girl is redonkulously strong. As such, whenever it seems the golem has her number, she finds an extra store of strength with which to stay in the fight.

That fight ends when she finally dives through the golem, blasting a hole through it that deactivates it for good. Then the dragon approaches Charioce, who touches its head, casuing Nina to transform back into a (naked) girl.

Nina appears with the wagon to pick up Nina and Jeanne, while Kaisar distracts the guards, who quickly beat up and re-capture him. Favaro is still at large, which is why when the wagon is safely in the air, Rita jumps out to go “check on” the lads.

Left only with orders to look after one another, Jeanne decides her best next move is to head for the land of the gods, where she might be able to see El. She doesn’t know how to get there, but Nina remembers her granny talking about the place often, so they decide to head instead to Nina’s home village…which should be fun.

Meanwhile, Gabriel is a nervous wreck after having seen Dromos, which she didn’t think the humans would be able to build at all, let alone so quickly. That begs the question what the heck Charioce did to make that happen, and considering it’s the worst threat to the balance of the world since, well, Bahamut, it clearly falls under the category of “things safe in no ones’s hands.”

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 12

The plot of this episode couldn’t be simpler: as Rita, Nina, Jeanne, Favaro and Kaisar escape the prison, the battle between humans and gods commences—and quickly turns into a rout, forcing Charioce to use “The Device”, a WMD cure that looks far worse than the disease and which I have little confidence he’ll be able to control.

Speaking of controlling unknown quantities, Sofiel continues to worry about how Gabriel is using El as the linchpin of their attack. Gabriel, apparently quite jazzed up about going to war, dismisses Sofiel’s wordless concerns with a sidelong glance. But Sofiel is still full of doubt and apprehension; we should keep an eye on her.

Down in the depths of the imperial prison, Rita has no trouble re-springing Nina and Jeanne, and the three women embark on a harrowing escape from an almost unreasonably vast and relentless garrison of guards.

The chase is depicted from a variety of different areas of the prison, and from many different angles, colors, and speeds, keeping things from getting repetitive. It’s a positively rousing adventure, and it’s especially satisfying to watch the ladies taking care of business without help from, say, Kaisar and Favaro, who are still locked up on the men’s side.

None of them escape before Gabriel’s giant celestial donut appears ominously in the skies over Anatae. Charioce has a giant, impressive and deadly-looking force waiting for the gods, but one piercing glance from a fully-operational El renders all the humans’ (and subjugated demons’) fancy toys inert.

From there, the heavenly shock troops are deployed, and waste no time demonstrating why You Do Not F*ck With The Gods. Each one of them is able to take on entire platoons and battalions. It’s enough to make Kaisar’s younger Orleans comrade essentially call for a timeout; though no such halt in the battle is forthcoming. The humans asked for a war, and Gabriel has given them one.

Our heroine trio eventually make it to the other side of the prison, and Favaro decides it’s ready to reveal the secret ability of Kaisar’s metal hand as an explosive device when the right gang sign is made and words spoken. Kaisar is, not unreasonably, quite cross upon learning his hand was explosive all this time, and would like the next one Rita makes him to not have that “feature.”

Both those means of escaping their cells and the moment when Favaro and Kaisar finally cross paths and team up with Rita, Jeanne, and Nina, makes for some warm and laugh-inducing levity in an otherwise intense outing.

Naturally, Favaro makes an inappropriate comment about Nina’s “development”, and Kaisar and Jeanne’s reaction upon reuniting made me a shipper on the spot. The band has gotten back together at the perfect time: when the sh*t is categorically and profusely hitting the fan.

Gabriel has backed Charioce into a corner, but he doesn’t waver in calling for the activation of the previously-mentioned “Device”, which rises out from beneath the prison (destroying said prison in the process…collateral damage much?) and resembles a Laputa core. It seems poised to fire upon the god donut.

It’s the kind of bahamut-like escalation it will take the maximum effort of our heroes to overcome—possibly even a sacrifice or two.

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu 2 – 12 (Fin)

Its first season shows us the past, and most of its second season showed us the present. This week is all about the future, both of the Yakumo and Sukeroku names, the families connected to them, and of rakugo itself. In all cases, that future looks bright, thanks to the inspiration of those who came before.

First, we have a Shin in his late teens or early twenties, and he’s the spitting image of his grandfather Yakumo, even though they’re not related by blood…or are they? The resemblance is uncanny, Konatsu is committed to taking the truth to the grave, as is her prerogative.

In other news, Konatsu has become the first female rakugo performer in history, which is awesome, because it’s something we know she’s always wanted to do, and she’s also very very good at it (sadly though, we don’t get to see her perform).

Interestingly, it doesn’t seem her and Yotaro’s daughter (and Shin’s little sister) Koyuki is interested in following the path the rest of her family has walked, and is content to listen to them work their craft.

As far as Shin is concerned, Yotaro, now the Ninth Generation Yakumo, is his Dad—he helped raise him, after all. That is very clear in a quiet, private scene between the two. As it’s very possible he carries both the blood of Sukeroku and Yakumo, Shin seems to strike a nice balance between their two extreme styles. And the little boy Shin we’re accustomed to comes out when his dad encourages him before one of the biggest performances of his life.

That performance is part of the grand re-opening of the Uchikutei theater, which had burned down years ago but now has been completely rebuilt (only now, no doubt, is up to code). Seeing the new Yakumo IX on the stage with his wife and son (and Master Mangatsu) is a triumphant moment, and the full crowd suggests Yotaro has succeeded in restoring rakugo from the brink it was dangling from when Yakumo VIII died.

Now it’s a more inclusive, less stodgy, and more welcoming place, without sacrificing the things that made it unique. Even Konatsu realizes she was foolish in her earlier thinking that she’d upset some kind of “harmony” by entering the world of rakugo.

It must be that much more encouraging for Matsuda, the only character to inhabit all three timelines. He’s 95 and wheelchair-bound, but seems as warm and cheerful as ever.

After Shin opens with a very good performance that demonstrates why he will be an excellent Sukeroku and/or Yakumo one day, Yotaro performs “Shinigami”, a Yakumo VIII original, as a tribute. And what do you know, the old man visits him at the climax of his performance, leading me wondering momentarily if Yotaro had been taken to the far shore himself!

Thankfully, Yotaro is fine, and he and his family and friends celebrate after the show with a flower viewing by the riverside. Matsuda mentions how he saw his master to the far shore (apparently during a near-death experience of his own back then), and Higuchi waxes poetic on Yotaro’s contributions to helping prevent rakugo from dying with Yakumo.

Yotaro, however was never concerned that rakugo would go anywhere, with or without his help. It’s too good for that. And I tend to agree: various humans can argue over whether the art of rakugo is something that must be vigilantly protected from disappearing, like tending a delicate fire.

But fires can be rebuilt and reignited, and there will always be those who want to sit in an old theater (or a newly rebuilt theater) and hear someone tell a funny, raunchy, or moving story that will transport them somewhere else. Rakugo is eternal.

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu 2 – 11

For all the sorrow and tragedy and pain in his life, things turned out pretty well for Yakumo, AKA Bon, and as it turns out, he really did die under ideal circumstances: he died in his sleep, peacefully, painlessly, surrounded by those who loved him, listening to his grandson doing rakugo.

This episode, perhaps the finest in the entire run of the show, takes place entirely in the purgatory-like place the recently deceased go before crossing the Sanzu River to the hereafter. This requires a fare, which, big surprise, Sukeroku hasn’t been able to afford yet.

The show had always teased an interest in depicting a more fantastical world than that of the living, and in this place people can change their age at will, time is kinda hard to put a finger on. Yakumo is initially annoyed that once again Sukeroku is sponging off him, even after death, but once he’s a boy again, he quickly falls back comfortably into the very deep brotherly bond they shared.

The afterlife is suitably lush and otherworldly, but also borrows heavily from traditional Japanese aesthetics, which makes sense considering the characters we’re following. Sukeroku makes sure Yakumo understands how grateful he is for raising Konatsu.

The reunions don’t stop with Sukeroku, as Miyokichi died at the same time. While she’s cast away the “role of a woman”, she and Sukeroku are still a married couple, working together to earn fare across the river. It feels like, from their perspective, they only recently got here, just like Yakumo.

Yakumo wanted more than anything to apologize to Miyokichi for dumping her so heartlessly, but she holds no grudges in this place. In fact, she can now reflect on the mistakes she made in life, namely latching onto one person rather than rely on, and be there for, others. She’s also amused to no end by Yakumo talking like an old man, since he died as one.

The three travel together for a bit along that seemingly endless scaffolding, and Yakumo mentions the food is tasteless and unsatisfying. Sukeroku says it’s because they’re dead, but if he wants to be satisfied, he knows just the place: the very theater that burned down two episodes ago has arrived in the afterlife as well. It had a soul, after all. Even better: it’s a packed house with the biggest billing ever: All the masters of all generations…and Yakumo is on the bottom. He’s gone from grizzled old master to fresh new arrival in this place.

Sukeroku decides to warm the place up with a performance that really does seem to give flavor to the sake, meat, and onions he pretend-drinks and eats (never has his jaunty entrance theme, which Yotaro inherited, sounded better or more significant). “You can’t take this taste with you when you die!” also has new meaning. He’s still got it, in this place, which has gone back to exactly the same as it was in the old days.

There’s also a magic cushion (I’ll allow it) which brings the person from the living world the performer wants to listen the most. In Sukeroku’s case, it’s his daughter Konatsu, who appears the age she was when he and Miyokichi died. For Yakumo, it’s his grandson Shin, about the same age as his mom, and just as enthusiastic to hear Yakumo’s rakugo.

Yakumo takes the stage as his old self, but has never looked happier, beaming at his reunited family and full of energy. In a playful mood, he performs “Jugemu”, and Miyokichi and Shin “sing” along the comically long name. His story continues as the camera leaves the old, drafty, but brightly glowing theater, which slowly fades out of focus.

Yakumo then finds himself in a fine boat, packed and ready for his journey across the Sanzu. Sukeroku sees him off, and Yakumo makes him promise he and Miyokichi will join him soon, once they save up enough for their fare (the one thing he apparently can’t share with his friends, even if he wanted to). That could be a year from now, or it could be yesterday.

While en route, the ferryman reveals himself as Matsuda, who may have followed his master into death after nodding off himself, and he couldn’t be happier to be by his side again, chaffeuring him to the very gates of heaven.

It’s a fitting end to Yakumo’s story, and a achingly gorgeous episode full of joyful and tear-jerking moments, from Miyokichi first seeing Yakumo, to Konatsu hugging her mother, to Yakumo taking the stage one last time and meeting Matsuda on the boat.

The preview indicates the last episode will be an epilogue that jumps forward in time, perhaps to an older Shinnosuke with a red-haired young woman who may be his younger sister. That should be fun, even if it doesn’t come close to approaching the greatness of this, Yakumo’s farewell.

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 25 (Fin)

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This was an episode full of tying up loose ends, the most important of which being Subaru presenting himself before Emilia a better and more useful man than the last time he saw her. He even gets to be a badass action hero! But as a loose-ends episode, it works very nicely, even if it’s not perfect, and leaves a lot hanging in the air (likely for another season, but not anytime soon).

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The first loose end is Betelgeuse, who very annoyingly won’t go down much of the first act. I was pleased Subaru used the Witche’s curse to expel Betelgeuse from his head so Julius could finish him, especially since we got a good look at the Satella herself. She does look a lot like Emilia…if Emilia were all black with a purple outline and glowing eyes!

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I rolled my eyes a little when moments after defeating Betelgeuse, Juli and Subie get a call from Felis another problem fresh out of the blue: an unaccounted-for sack full of fire stones.

There wasn’t any doubt that sack would be stashed in the wagon Emilia and the village children just happen to be riding in, nor was there the slightest chance, even in an often sadistic show like this, that this latest particular bomb would go off.

When Subie and Otto are acting like a comedy duo in a wagon Otto has nitrous’d with his magic in the last episode, it’s reasonable to assume things will work out.

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The whole rescue attempt felt like an excuse for Subaru to confront Emilia as the one who led the army, something she only just learned about from some snot-nosed kids who don’t know how to keep their damn mouths shut. Betelgeuse’s extended demise further delayed the inevitable reunion, and by the time Betel had become a Ghibli Goop Monster with his head on fire, I had long since had my fill of the manic bastard.

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But the how of how Subaru came to triumphantly reunite with Emilia didn’t mar the fact that this episode took great strides to repair what had been an estranged relationship not just between these two, but between myself, representing the non-manga-reading audience, and Emilia. Takahashi Rie does a great job reintroducing Emilia-tan to us, as she gets to express a good number of powerful emotions during the final ordeal.

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Subaru basically gets to make the perfect series of gestures to reunite with Emilia, swooping in, grabbing the bomb, and running off to get it away, but not before telling Emilia he loves her. After smashing the whales, the giant fallen tree is the gift that keeps giving, as its trunk largely shields Subaru from the blast he’s still pretty close to when the stones detonate.

It is here when Emilia, still processing everything Subaru has done for her these last few days/weeks, completely unbidden, springs into action, rushing into the danger, desperate to find Subaru alive and alright. And perhaps because the show is finally done torturing us, he is!

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From there, there’s no long, sprawling epilogue, showing what becomes of who. Just a simple scene of Subaru lying on Emilia’s lap, the two of them overjoyed to be together again.

The way Subaru describes it, Emilia is made happy for the first time by the prospect of “special treatment.” This can’t quite match the Rem Confession episode in emotional power, but it comes darned close with much less time to work with.

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I also appreciated that Emilia doesn’t have an instant reply to Subaru’s confession. It’s all well and good to say “I love you too”, but loving and being loved are so new to her it’s going to take time. Time Subaru assures her she has.

Subaru doesn’t wake up back in front of that convenience store, but merely admires Emilia’s tearful, radiant smile, as the episode fades to white and we’re treated to an extended mix of the original ED.

All in all, an imperfect but still solid and satisfying, and entertaining finale. If a second season comes along one day, I’ll surely be tuning in. If not, it was a fun ride. Often stressful, enraging, and heartbreaking…but also fun.

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Ushio to Tora – 39 (Fin)

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No more dancing around the matter at hand: this is the final week of Ushio to Tora (for the forseeable future), so if Hakumen’s going down, Hakumen’s going down today. And I couldn’t be happier; frankly, I’d gotten a bit tired of its raspy, evil voice-of-many-voices.

The souls of the recently deceased like Hyou and Nagare aid Ushio against a Hakumen who has been exposed as jealous and terrified; a Hakumen that never wanted the existance it got, but couldn’t escape, and so became more and more twisted.

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Ushio’s parent’s also finally unite, but at the end of the day, all the amassed allies of Ushio can only do so much; it’s Ushio and Tora and the Beast Spear that must defeat Hakumen once and for all.

In a last-ditch effort to kill them without fear, Hakumen gouges out its own eyes and goes by the smell of the spear. Tora counters this by stabbing himself with the spear, hiding its scent long enough to disorient Hakumen. Ushio and Tora go in for the kill, drive the spear through Hakumen’s skull, and end it.

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Hakumen goes out not cursing the victors, but wishing someone, just one person, could say its name—it’s real name, which we never learn—in a soft, quiet voice, as something other than the wretched monster it was throughout its existence.

Not long after Hakumen evaporates into the either, Tora, whose spear wound was mortal, also passes away before Ushio’s eyes, content that he already “ate” Ushio and he’s full now.

Put another way, Ushio filled Tora’s once empty, black heart (which had been thoroughly wrung out in his past life) with experiences and people Tora cared about and fought to protect. Now it’s time to go home to his family, who is no doubt waiting for him. Tora’s death was a surprise, but a welcome and noble one.

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When it becomes Ushio’s turn to pay the piper and become the next Tora, the souls of Jiemei and Giryou bail him out by leaving the Beast Spear (which shatters into dust) and entering his body to keep him from transforming into a beast.

Back to being a human, he falls from the sky, and his dad catches him as Mayuko watches. But Tora isn’t coming down; she never got to change him back to a human. Ushio got a happy ending, but Mayuko most assuredly did not. What did she do to deserve such a raw deal?

Oh, and Saya has to say goodbye to Omamori, who goes in her place in order to close the gate from the inside. It’s the right move; like Tora, Omamori has lived far longer than her friend, and so it’s only natural she be the one to go. Ushio and Saya have their whole lives ahead of them.

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With that, there’s even more loss, as the bulk of monsters turn to stone in order to prop up a sinking Japan—not purely for the humans’ sake, mind you, but because they love the country too. Thanks, youkai! Also, some like Kagari and Raishin remain behind so the humans aren’t lonely. How thoughtful!

Of the life that stretches far ahead for our young protagonists thanks to their efforts and the sacrifices of those dear to them, we see precious little, which keeps a good finale from being a great one. I liked how Kirio wants to step in to fill the void in Mayuko’s heart, but Ushio and Asako didn’t meet until the end credits, and only then wordlessly as they walk to school with the other two.

While I can’t help but feel a little disappointed by the lack of quality Ushio x Asako time at the end, the fact remains this was a tight and often moving finale. Things got a little heavy in the home stretch, but Ushio to Tora was worth the watch.

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Ushio to Tora – 38

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Despite the title “The End”, this week is not the end; just the beginning of it for Hakumen. The united counterattack is now in full swing, with supernatural and military forces working in concert to make Hakumen’s life increasingly difficult. Even better, the battle is being broadcast to Japan from a news chopper, lessening the fear of those who didn’t evacuate (like Asako and her fam).

I must say, after so much darkness and dread, I was glad to see the mood of the show brightening along with the skies around the battle. The irreverent chatter between Ushio and Tora flies as furiously as the cameos, which, to be honest, are a bit out of control; but are to be expected, as the end, titles aside, is very quickly approaching.

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Hakumen is a little slow on the uptake, and in assessing exactly why things are going so bad, determines that Ushio and Tora are the cause. If they can be smitten once and for all, Hakumen can crush everyone else’s spirits and get back to wreaking havoc. So Hakumen unleashes a Malboro-esque poison cloud, isolating and trapping the duo.

All everyone else can do, from Asako to Mayuko to Hinowa and the Moritsuna siblings, is keep fighing; keep doing their part; and trust Ushio and Tora will be okay.

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And they do do okay. Ushio’s armor is shattered and he comes close to his soul shattering as well, but he’s not like the other wielders who turned into azafuse, and both he and the spear are able to calm themselves, buoyed by the knowledge, and Tora’s confirmation, that Hakumen is not only terrified of his adversaries (for their ability to unite humans and youkai, among other things)—he’s also insanely jealous.

Hatred, pain, fear, and death are the only things Hakumen has ever known, and perhaps believes they’re the only things in the world. But seeing what Ushio and Tora have been able to accomplish; watching all the assembled friends and allies fight with everything they have for their sake; even watching the beast spear reassemble itself to fight again; it’s no surprise the increasingly puny bastard would be a bit envious.

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