Yuru Camp△ Movie – Adulting Outdoors

Rather than chronicle another fun camping trip in a new place with the Outclub while they’re still in school, Yuru Camp’s first movie takes place in the not-to-distant future, when Rin, Nadeshiko, Aoi, Aki, and Ena are now full-fledged young adults with jobs (though notably no romantic partners).

They stay in touch through chat, but compared with their time at school they’re very far flung and their daily routines have changed. Rin’s at a publishing office in Nagoya, Nadeshiko works at a camping store in Tokyo, Aoi is a grade school teacher, Ena is a pet groomer, and Aki works with the local tourism department after her life in Tokyo didn’t pan out.

It’s Aki who is the catalyst that brings the five Outclub members back together with a bold proposal: take a derelict outdoors youth center with a great view of Fuji-sama and turn it into a campground. After Aki has (lots) of drinks with Rin (all drunk by her; she’s predictably now the lush of the group), she takes them to the spot, and at sunrise, Rin gets it; it’s a good spot.

The challenge, then, is how the five of them are going to navigate their day job obligations and distances and make this thing happen. Aki assigns everyone a role and wisely picks Rin as the team lead, as she’s the most experienced camper and thus perhaps the best organizer of the group.

They start small and realistically; trimming the overgrown grass and removing errant shrubs while discussing ideas for what they want on the grounds. Once a farmer friend of Aki’s shows them the proper way to to these things, and they get their hands on some machinery, the cleanup work accelerates.

It’s exciting watching the adult versions of these characters, already having eased into their new adult lives, banding together once more over something they always loved sharing with each other—camping—with the goal of now sharing that love with others so those people will share it, and so on and so forth.

It’s also comforting to know that both the chemistry and the comedic banter among the young women is still alive and well. A different movie could have had its individual members much more isolated and/or estranged (or even having families of their own) but this is rather the evolution of Cute Girls Doing Cute Things—Cute Women Doing Cool Things.

Once all the major cleanup and grading is complete, they decide to give the grounds a whirl by being the first to camp there. They find areas for improvements, and also ease back into their old dynamic of preparing a perfect campsite and cooking the perfect camp feasts.

The fact that these five young women are now old hands at camp cooking—not to mention they have a lot more cash than they did as kids—means Nadeshiko and Aki really go all out with the (still on sale!) salmon, with a light yet hearty cream soup and a full-on hot pot. The fact that these five young women are now old hands at camp cooking.

But like Yuru Camp’s first two seasons, the movie is not entirely without conflict, which comes in the form of a setback. Ena’s now-old pup Chikuwa brings her an odd piece of broken pottery, which eventually leads to a full archeological survey and excavation, which first delays and then completely nixes the campground plan. Aki, who brought everyone into this plan, has to make the call to everyone saying all their hard work may have been for naught!

And yet, because they’re adults, this isn’t the end of the world for any of them. It’s definitely disappointing, even deflating, but everyone aside rom Aki finds solace and stability in their day jobs. Rin finds out her senpai at work has been supporting her a lot behind the scenes so she could work on the campground project (both as team lead and covering it as a print and online serial for the magazine) and vows to work harder.

Aoi’s work story might be the most bittersweet, as the school where she’d started teaching just a couple years ago is closing down (possibly due to there simply not being enough kids to fill it), but gives the kids who are there all the love and attention she’s got. And I love how three high schoolers from Bizarro Yuru Camp come into Nadeshiko’s store again, looking to dip their tows into camping. Nadeshiko truly was born to get people into camping!

Those three kids’ simple but very doable plan to have a day trip with cup noodles inspires her to invite Rin to a special new spot: Rin has to endure a lot of climbing in the snow and ice, but the reward is the highest hot spring in Japan, which is tiny, but also breathtakingly beautiful, not to mention the absolute best thing after all the exertion.

There, the two old friends discuss how they really have become proper adults, who can do a lot more than they used to, not just regarding camping, but life in general. Nadeshiko also notes that even adults can’t do anything, but they can do what they can. She doesn’t regret the time they spent trying to get the campground off the ground, even if it didn’t work out. Neither does Rin.

It’s fortunate, then, that the campground plan isn’t entirely dead. With help from Ena, Aki prepares a new proposal that integrates the archeological site with the campground. The video presentation shows footage of the five women working hard and also relaxing and enjoying the outdoors, and is extremely persuasive.

The council votes to approve the plan, which means the Outclub is back in business, having only lost a couple of months. They cut the grass back down, the dog run is completed, they put a coat of paint on the distinctive aviary frame, and Aoi procures all the stuff they’ll need for the kid’s area.

When Aoi brings the fancy and very professional sign made by Akari (who is now in art school) and the five mount it to the entrance, it lends an immensely satisfying feeling of completion. They adulted the hell out of shit, and weathered the challenges that came their way. They did it!

Mind you, while getting caught up in all the excitement, they forgot to post the signs leading to the campground, so their first group of campers (many of them family and friends and thus more forgiving) get lost on their way there!

Not a problem, as the women work together to communicate with Rin while she rides out (not on her gramps’ motorcycle, which is in the shop, but her old moped) to locate and guide everyone safely to their destination. Crisis averted!

Once the sun sets and everyone is settled in, the five women stand at the top of the hill and admire what they’ve accomplished. Earlier, Rin’s Gramps gave the site his blessing. The group makes plans right then and there to reunite and camp there for New Years, when the sun rises out of Fuji-san’s peak. Rin, to the surprise of the other four, says she’ll also be joining them (albeit tentatively). Of course, she told Aki she’d “think about” helping with the campground too!

As the credits go by we get snapshots of that trip, on which Rin indeed accompanies the others, while we also get snapshots of them continuing their adult lives at their jobs. Aoi’s at a new school, Nadeshiko is still being the best dang camping store clerk ever, Rin is hard at work at the magazine, Ena’s grooming pups, and Aki is sticking with the local tourism.

A planned third season of Yuru Camp will likely return us to the present when they’re all still in school. But it was great to see everyone doing so well in the future. I got the same warm, fuzzy, cozy, calming, healing feelings I got from the show, only a little more adult-y. I honestly wouldn’t mind if season 3 picked up from here!

It also had some low-key poignant commentary on the preservation and revitalization of existing things—as well as the need to preserve and occasionally revitalize one’s old friendships! What better way to do that then to go camping, when we can be one with ourselves, rely on one another, and of course indulge in lavish outdoor feasts!

Urusei Yatsura – 10 – Autumn Red

Ataru’s mom arrives at school for parents day and just hopes she doesn’t run into anyone she knows. It’s telling that just like Shinobu doesn’t exist if another cutie is in Ataru’s sight, his mom doesn’t remember Shinobu’s mom! The two are flabberghasted by the gaudy arrival of Mendou’s mother via oxcart procession, which is promptly upstaged by the arrival of Lum’s mother, who doesn’t speak Japanese.

It isn’t until Lum arrives to hug her mom that Ataru’s mom can breathe a sigh of relief that Lum’s mom isn’t another one of Ataru’s girlfriends. As for Mendou’s mom, she doesn’t speak loudly enough for anyone to hear her so it falls to Mendou to tell Lum’s mom that his mom is challenging her to a duel. Only because Lum is translating, her mom mistakes it for an offer for her to marry Mendou, which she must bashfully decline!

While it’s fun to meet Lum, Shinobu, and Mendou’s moms, the second segment is the kind of story I’ve been waiting for for some time: something with actual substance and emotional resonance. We see Lum hard at work sewing something throughout the episode, then see how her routine of waking Ataru up ensures he’s not late for class anymore.

She joins Ataru’s family for breakfast and then walks (or rather floats) with Ataru to school. Lum notices the trees are changing color, while Ataru tries flirting with a random girl and gets zapped. All pretty standard Ataru/Lum stuff so far.

While Ataru tries to pick up other girls with his yo-yo skills of all things, Lum is still hard at work sewing something. The bottom line is, Ataru simply isn’t paying any attention to her, and anyone can see he’s taking her for granted as a partner.

That evening at home, he’s short and brusque with her, treating her like a nuisance before going to bed. Lum, apparently out of patience, says a solemn “bye-bye” and flies out the window, shedding a few tears along the way. The next morning he oversleeps, but Lum doesn’t wake him up; his mom has to.

In Lum’s place is a little plush Lum doll that she had been making, which in addition to being extremely well-made also happens to be absolutely adorable. In Lum’s absence, Ataru carries the doll in his breast pocket, close to his heart, and contemplates what it, and Lum’s absence, might mean.

As the maple tree on the way to school turns a bold red in preparation to drop its leaves, Ataru walks to and from school alone, and to Shinobu and other girls’ shock, doesn’t bother flirting with anyone. He’s not in the mood. The dude misses her.

When three days pass and still no Lum, Ataru finally tells the others she’s been missing. Mendou flexes the might of his family’s private police force on a fantastically elaborate and expensive womanhunt, to no avail. Ataru runs to the arena where he first grabbed Lum by the horns, and keeps running to places where they shared fun times.

That night, he cries himself to sleep with the Lum doll in his hands, and we cut to Lum on her parents’ spaceship. Turns out she had to return home to renew her passport so she could stay on earth. When her parents ask if she has any notion about returning home, she says she’s happy by her Darling’s side.

Reinforcing her affection for Ataru and trust that he cares for her too is the fact that the doll has a microphone embedded inside it, which enables her to hear Ataru crying himself to sleep over missing her. She holds the radio tight, no doubt eager to return to her new home.

The next morning, Ataru once again solemnly walks to school alone. By now the maple tree is dropping its brilliant red leaves, but a shadow streaks overhead, and Lum lets out a hearty “Darling!” from behind. Ataru is shocked at first, then so moved that he has to turn his head to avoid letting her see him shed a tear of joy and relief.

The falling leaves add to the drama and beauty of their heartwarming reunion, as the camera rotates lovingly around her and her elegantly falling hair. Ataru lies through his teeth about having almost been free of her, but she knows the truth, thanks to the bug in the doll that he’s kept so close to him.

While I cannot condone secret audio surveillance of one’s partner, in Lum’s case it’s justified due to Ataru’s unapologetic Don Juan-ish nature. But even if she didn’t intend to frighten him with her sudden departure, it’s very telling that for all the indifference towards her he’s shown, the minute she left his life, he was an absolute wreck.

Like Kevin in Home Alone, Ataru’s brief time apart from something with which he thought he was fed up made him understand how much Lum actually meant to him. When given the freedom to pursue any girl, all he could do was pine for her. She’s special, and he’s lucky to have her.

To Your Eternity – S2 08 – Baron Spring Roll

Bishop Cylira is on the ground, as is the entire assembled crowd for the execution. But Bon lies dead, his bloody severed head next to his body, so Ligurd!Fushi was too late, right? Wrong. Bon wakes up in the brick shelter Fushi built, flanked by his dead companions, but he himself is still quite alive, thanks to Fushi.

Appearing as Rynn, Fushi explains that she studied Tonari’s journal and developed an easily-replicated poison that knocked out the execution crowd and gave her time to rescue Bon and replace him with a dead copy. Fushi makes clear that he wasn’t clever enough to come up with such a plan, but his vessels’ assembled knowledge (not to mention wings) aided him.

While the Uralis royal family initially believes their son dead, and Bon watches from on high (a bit like Huck Finn at his own funeral) Rynn!Fushi presents them with the still-alive Bon, and they gang-tackle him with elation and relief. That said, now that the church believes him to be dead, he can no longer carry on as Prince Bonchein.

That’s fine with him, as he cuts his hair and shaves to hide his past identity. He now realizes that he’s happy just to be with his family, and no longer thirsts for the throne. Todo is also reported to have died serving his prince, so the now skinny-from-malnourishment Iris sees no further need to hide her true self.

Meeting Iris, the girl he met at the palace who gave him the flower handkerchief, briefly breaks Bon, due in part to how he treated her when she was Todo. After meeting with Chabo, he sulks in his bedchamber, then chews Iris out, as he can’t believe she and Todo were the same person.

This leads Iris to run to the tea table to scarf down enough food to get fat again, but Bon stops her, apologizes for his harsh words, and asks her to stay at the castle with him and his family.

Fireworks memorializing Prince Bon light the skies, Iris agrees, and the two commit to taking care of Chabo; a new found family of three. It’s a beautiful, fairy tale ending for Bon, now known as Baron Spring Roll, Iris, FKA Todo, and Chabo. All thanks to Fushi.

As Rynn!Fushi prepares to depart for her next destination, Bon mentions how he said he’d reward her for her service. Bon probes her by asking how she’d feel if all her lost friends were immortal. But after asking this, Fushi feels a pang of pain—it’s Kahaku.

Distraught over the fact the Guardians are disbanding due to Fushi’s condemnation as a heretic and how he was rejected by the woman he loved (Parona!Fushi), Kahaku got ruinously drunk in the stables and tried to cut his Nokker arm off, but failed. The Nokker arm then grabs a knife, not to hurt anyone, but to communicate with Fushi.

It tells her that the Nokker are simply trying to “help everyone”, including their brethren imprisoned by the Beholder. Nokkers are souls, and wish to free the souls of humans from their bodies. “In death you can be free,” etc.  It also says that Fushi can revive the dead, but Bon erases those words from the dirt before they sink in for Fushi.

Finally, the Nokker arm reports that the next target for the Nokkers will be the head church of the Church of Bennett. That means the church’s only hope is the one they just executed for being a servant of the devil. Fushi heads to the church regardless; humans are humans, and they need his help.

Bon prepares to leave the palace for a while, perhaps to help Fushi, and Iris tells him she’ll wait as long as it takes for his return, which is hopefully before Chabo gets lonely. Bon also says that Fushi said he’d be happy if all his lost friends were immortal. If only he knew he could bring them all back if he wanted…

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Made in Abyss – S2 04 – Finding Their Treasure

No sooner does Reg come face to face with Princess Faputa than she jumps on top of him, and he sees that she’s not as, shall we say, abstract as most of the other Hollows, but rather is much more like Nanachi. Flashes of memories of Faputa run by in his head, but he can’t remember anything. Not only does Faputa know Reg, she knows him as “Reg”, even though that’s the same name Riko gave him a long way up ago.

More to the point, she considers him her Reg. She pierces his navel and threatens to look down his trousers, but Reg manages to slip away. She asks if he plans to “live in the same time as the ‘human child'”, even though he’ll remain when they die, and Reg doesn’t hesitate: he’ll stay with them till the bitter end.

Meanwhile, as Nanachi is touring the market, Majikaja explains how the village of Iruburu knows everyone’s desires—”signals of the soul”. When Nanachi says they value Mitty, Riko, and Reg most, Majikaja lets on that Mitty is actually here, in the villlage, and also name-drops Vueko’s friend Belaf.

While Faputa came on a bit too strong for Reg’s taste, the fact remains they’re sure to meet again, and soon. After all, she has the answers he’s always dreamed of knowing about where he came from, who created him and why, and who he was back then. That said, seeing how Faputa treated him, he wonders if learning too much would change who he is, and he likes who he is.

When Riko finally gets over the worst of the runs, she calls out for Reg and Nanachi, whom we both know have become engrossed in other things and in their distractedness left her alone and unprotected. It doesn’t take long for Riko to get jumped by a gang of Hollow ne’r-do-wells who once again squeeze Meinya too hard, and threaten to squeeze her too.

Needless to say, my heart fell into my feet once all those slithering appendages ensnared Riko. Thank goodness, then, for the rehabilitated Maaa, who springs to the rescue, saving Meinya and Riko, then escaping the cave when the Balancing envelops the bad actors. Having had her fill of handsy Hollows, she prepares to head into town with Meinya, but then invites Maaa to join her, having proven they’ve got her back.

She squeezes herself into a very hip and popular Hollow restaurant, orders something a Hollow with a mouth is eating, and proceeds to get something she was not expecting. The proprietor tells her it’s spicy roasted testicles, and after a beat or two Riko realizes the Hollow spoke in her language. She’s not the only one there who can, either; sitting near the end of the bar is a towering, venerable-looking Hollow called…Wazukyan.

So, we’ve got Irumyuui becoming Faputa, Wazukyan becoming…that thing, and when Majikaja leads Nanachi to where Belaf is, we learn he’s become a kind of armored serpent-dragon thingy. Of course, Nanachi isn’t there to see Belaf. They’re there to see Mitty, who is stuffed rather ceremoniously in a decorative pot and seems as pleased to see Nanachi as those dead red eyes can relay.

As Nanachi drinks in their reunion, Vueko’s voiceover comes in, saying that once someone finds “their treasure”, their value “transitions” and their journey ends. For Nanachi, that treasure is Mitty. For Reg, it’s recovering his forgotten past. For Riko, it’s finding her mother and/or the ultimate journey’s end—the bottom of the Abyss.

Then we see that Vueko has hardly changed at all, other than growing longer hair, ditching clothes, and wading for who knows how many years in the very black mass of goo that goes about doing Balancings. We’re sure to see more of Vueko’s pre-goo experiences, but for now the past and present have officially merged.

P.S. “Those Everyday Feels”, the track that played when the Layers of the Abyss were first introduced and accompanied the first season’s Next Episode cards, makes a comeback this week. It’s one of the simplest but most stirring of Kevin Penkin’s tracks, and also one of my faves.

Summertime Render – 08 – Curry Rhythm

Shinpei finds himself in a similar situation as Akari in Virgin Road—his loops aren’t as repetitive as he expected. New and unexpected things are happening, which means the utility of his foreknowledge (beyond broad strokes) is limited. Rather than meet Ushio the day of the festival by the water, they reunite right there in his kitchen. Not only that, Ushio knows that something terrible will happen on the 24th.

Perhaps whatever of the original Ushio is in this Shadow was drawn to his curry, but the why doesn’t matter; she’s there. At first, Shinpei follows Minakata’s advice, and even prepares to kill “it” when Ushio is wide open. But he can’t, because even though her shadow tickles when he touches it, this Shadow also happens to be Ushio Reincarnate.

There’s no hint of malice in this Ushio…until of course her swimsuit disappears, giving Shinpei a peek of the Full Ushy. Shinpei trusts this Ushio, who also wants to protect their family and friends like the original would. That means keeping her secret from Mio, though how Mio doensn’t hear her hollerin’ from the next prefecture I don’t know.

The first Mio to peek in is the real one, but the second is Shadow Mio, switching up her game by entering the Kofune household for the first time. She goes straight for Shin’s heart, but Ushio comes between them, sacrificing herself to save Shin for the second time in as many encounters. Nezu then manages to blow Shadow Mio’s head off from outside with a sniper rifle.

Shinpei uses that moment to stab Mio’s shadow, but before she vanishes she still tries to convince Shinpei that he killed the real Mio, demonstrating again how one can’t trust a Shadow for a moment, because that moment might be your last. Even so, Ushio is different—Shadow Mio even considers her a traitor—and when Hizuru in Ryunosuke Mode comes in to kill her, Shin shields her.

Hizuru naturally assumed Shinpei has fallen for a Shadow’s tricks, and they have no reason not to. And yet, even she has to admit there’s something different about her. Not only that, she has to credit Ushio in some form with bringing her to the island in the first place. She still has the recording telling her to go back, find Shinpei, and save everyone.

That said, Hizuru still isn’t ready to trust Ushio quite yet—she only just barely trusts Shinpei—lest the evil Shadows either “fix” Ushio (by making her evil like them) or use her like a conduit to foil her plans to rescue the island and kill her. Before they part for the night and possibly longer, Shinpei tells her not to die, like she did the first time they met on the island.

The next day, Shinpei recruits another person he can trust—Sou, whom Ushio surprises by popping up behind him in a disguise. Sou’s reaction is only the latest in a long sequence of excellent contorted faces that are this episode’s specialty. Sou is a self-pitying mess, but Ushio literally kicks him out of it, telling him that they don’t have a use for crybabies in their quest to save everyone from the Shadows.

Whatever he regrets, he can make up for it now. Can these crafty kids, with help from an author and hunter, prevent that future calamity at the festival? Judging from this series’ two-cour run, perhaps not at first. More loops are almost assured, but Shinpei has already made progress. Perhaps he and his friends will make a little more before Return By Death kicks in again.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Vanitas no Carte – 22 – Période Bleue

And so we descend into the heretofore untold story of Vanitas, AKA Number 69. He’d already been one of Dr. Moreau’s child experiments/torture victims when poor little Misha arrived. But rather than keep his head down and endure Misha’s screams, he volunteered to undergo the procedure in Misha’s place. Moreau, the quintessential mad scientist, is moved by his gesture.

So is Misha, who is pretty well-adjusted for someone who had already endured untold sexual assaults by his mother’s wealthier clients. Despite his aloof demeanor, Vanitas becomes a reluctant protective big brother to Misha. In a first act full of darkness and unspeakable cruelty and evil, it was nice to see these two children could find a moment’s warm relief under their dingy blanket.

I’ve long not been a fan of Moreau for always looking like the extra-stylized/simplified/cartoony version that other characters sometimes slip into for moments of levity. But after watching him this week do the things he does with a smile, it absolutely adds to the terror surrounding the character. He is an unhinged Mad Hatter with a Cheshire Cat grin. To his eyes, this grim, brutal world is a magical paradise of innovation.

I also felt a deep pressure in my stomach watching the “ordinary” human researchers doing Moreau’s bidding without emotion. You get the feeling they’re not under any duress (i.e. Moreau keeping their families hostage) but simply doing their jobs and following orders like good proto-Nazis. Moreau is outwardly mad, but they must be too to be able to do what they do to Vanitas and Misha.

Fortunately, they receive swift justice when Moreau’s procedure to convert the boys into “quasi-members” of the Blue Moon Clan so he can open the two Books of Vanitas. The resulting explosions kill everyone and leave Moreau crippled, and the mysterious black-skinned, white-haired vampire who claims responsibility for the chaos is primed to leave…until Misha begs them to take them with them…and when given the choice, Vanitas agrees to go with them too.

When the mysterious person introduces themselves as the Vampire of the Blue Moon, Vanitas’ chasseur training kicks in, asking them what they’re doing. They simply reply that they are helping them, since they asked for help. All of the exhaustion and the stress of the procedure catches up to Vanitas, and he passes out.

He comes to in a comfy bed of one of the vampire’s human acquaintances. When Vanitas asks how that’s possible, the vamp makes it clear that the more occult-aligned folks have always preferred consorting with vampires than the church. When the vamp asks Vanitas why he was calling out for his mother, he tells the story of what happened to his parents.

He was the bastard child of a successful doctor who abandoned his old family for his mother, a performer at some kind of traveling show. He says his mother died giving birth to him, and when vampires attacked, his father died protecting him. When the church and then Moreau took him in, he learned that humans were far more terrifying monsters than the vampires he’d spent his life loathing.

More importantly to understanding Vanitas’ character through all that tragedy and pain is the fact that he never tried to escape Moreau’s clutches for the same reason he tried to protect Misha: because he didn’t want someone else to experience that pain and trauma in his place. He is, as the vampire says, “a truly kind child”.

And yet even in the present Vanitas believes he’s no one who should be loved. In this act, we see the vampire who will later be known as Luna, Vanitas, and Misha becoming a family. We learn that Vanitas soon surpassed cooking and cleaning skills, while they made sure Vanitas and Misha got both an education and the opportunity to be boys and have fun.

But Luna knew that it couldn’t last like this for long, as both Vanitas and Misha would one day succumb to the strains against the natural world caused by Moreau’s experiments on them. So they offered their adoptive sons a choice: die as humans when the time comes (which could be in days or years), or become official members of the Blue Moon Clan when Luna turns them.

We know that Vanitas chose to live his remaining days as a vampire, even if it meant dying tomorrow. This, despite saying humans are the ultimate monsters. It’s as if he knows he could only right the wrongs of humanity by remaining a human as he began his crusade of healing curse-bearers, thus bearing his own self-imposed curse, a product of his deep-seated kindness.

As for Misha…whether he is still human or not isn’t as important as what he’s after, and how he’s willing to hurt Vanitas to get it. Misha’s already done far more than Vanitas would typically forgive, sharing memories of their past with Noé. Noe and Vanitas’ relationship has been irrevocably altered. How will Vanitas respond to these actions by his long-lost kid brother?

The aquatope on white sand – 24 (fin) – Fishness as usual

The eight-word review? It stuck the landing with heart and soul. Aquatope wraps with three big events, the first of which is the most workmanlike. The entire staff is mustered to stock the new White Sand Dome, and it unfolds mostly without dialogue, just showing us just how complex such an operation is, and how speed and efficiency is balanced with the utmost care and delicacy with the living things they’re welcoming to Tingarla.

The second big event is the first wedding ceremony. We start with Kaoru and Chiyu joining Kukuru, Fuuka, and Karin in preparing the little personal touches that make the ceremony special and memorable, like name cards that feature a sea creature that matches the personality of the named. The barefoot magical affair goes off without a hitch; even Suwa can’t help but smile at the success, both in terms of getting a couple married and getting their family and friends interested in aquariums.

The third big event is the Grand Opening of the White Sand Dome, for which there’s a line going out the door and all the staff are out on the floor to greet them. Karin is now an attendant, and Kukuru’s grandparents attend and are proud of the growth they see in Kukuru. That said, she still wonders if she made the right choice to stay in PR and asks her gramps what she should do. His wise-as-usual advice: do yourself the favor of turning the path you chose into the correct one.

Kukuru and Fuuka take a break at the White Sand Dome, and Fuuka recalls how when she first got to Gama Gama she felt like she was drowning in a dark sea, which is just how Kukuru felt after Gama Gama was razed. But neither of them feel that way anymore. They love Tingarla, and right on cue, the same “effect” once thought to only occur at Gama Gama happens in the White Sand Dome, as Kukuru’s parents and twin sister join her and Fuuka in reveling in the sea life.

The fourth and final big event is, of course, Fuuka departing for Hawaii (specifically Oahu, as we later catch a glimpse of Honolulu). The difference between their last airport farewell and this one is like night and day. There’s no frowns or tears, all smiles and heads held high. Kukuru says “off you go” to Fuuka like she’s leaving for school for the day, not two years. “I’ll be back,” Fuuka replies in the same casual way. By the time Fuuka is in the air, Kukuru is already back to work at Tingarla.

As I suspected, the two years practically fly by, both in that we get a time jump to Tingarla’s third anniversary and the day Fuuka and Kaoru return home. There are a lot of subtle changes you’d expect, both in Kukuru’s hairstyle to her more confident demeanor at her desk. You can tell she’s taken on what’s in front of her with all her heart, and thrived.

She’s not alone: Kuuya has embraced his role as chief attendant and senpai to his old friend Karin. Udon-chan is now Tingarla’s chef. Kai is back as an attendant, and Choko has found a pretty young mate. Suwa has promoted her from Plankton to Nekton…though honestly I would have been a lot happier if he just called her by her damn name.

While in the taxi back to Tingarla with Kaoru, Fuuka gets out to stop by the shrine to Kijimunaa that she and Kukuru set up in a little wooded area not far from the aquarium. Fuuka gives the deity an offering of Hawaiian Macadamia nuts. These last two years, she and Kukuru have continued to do what’s right, and everything has worked out.

In scene where the two run straight at each other and embrace, I had all the feels. I could feel the love between these two young women; I could feel the relief they were back on the same island together; and I could feel the strength and wisdom they’ve both amassed, finding and nurturing their new dreams. The spirit of Gama Gama lives on in both of them, and as Gramps said, the hardships they both endured eventually led to wondferful rewards.

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation – 20 – Odd Man Out

Back when the explosion that shatters the Greyrat family occurred, Lilia has the foresight to grab Aisha and hold her tight for the expanding blast. She ends up teleported into the water, but manages to swim to the surface before she and her daughter drown. She makes her way on foot to Shirone, only for Prince Pax to capture and imprison them once he learns Lilia knows Roxy.

While Rudeus intends for the Ruijerd figurines he’s crafted to improve the Superd’s reputation, this week they actually come in handy rescuing him from Pax’s clutches. Pax’s older brother Prince Zanoba, you see, happens to be a figurine otaku the likes of which Rudy knows well from his old life. Wisely Rudy only owns up to being the artist once he realizes Zanoba wants to praise him and become his apprentice.

Zanoba doesn’t care about Roxy like his perverted brother does, just the figurine of her, which we learn has a detachable clothes. As such, he cares nothing for Pax’s plots, and so is immediately an ally to Rudy by default. Meanwhile, we see Ruijerd, Eris, and Aisha’s side of things as they work with Shirone royal guards to free their families, whom Pax has hostage to secure their loyalty.

That shortsighted strategy backfires as expected, first when Rudy tells Zanoba to lower the barrier and Zanoba grabs Pax out of bed by the head and presents him to Rudy, revealing Zanoba is a “Blessed Child” with superhuman strength. Ginger is Pax’s last line of defense, but when she learns her family is safe, she turns on Pax, informing him she first swore loyalty to Zanoba to begin with.

Shortly after Zanoba and Ginger free Rudy, Ruijerd returns from freeing Ginger and the soldiers’ loved ones, along with Lilia, who is immensely happy to be reunited with both Rudy and Aisha. Basically, Rudy didn’t actually have to do anything to get out of his latest predicament, other than make that figuring of Roxy years ago. Everything else kind of fell into place.

Later, Lilia gives Rudy a big hug, along with the box containing Roxy’s underwear and a pendant Sylphiette made for him. Also, Aisha wants to join the “Kennel Master” on his continuing adventures, thus saving her from the “perverted clutches” of her half-brother.

After Rudy gives her his Dead End head protector, she either connects the dots about him actually being her half-brother, or decides to drop the charade. Either way, with Zenith and Sylphiette still missing, Rudy can go forward knowing at least one of his little sisters likes him!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The aquatope on white sand – 13 – #aquadulting

We return to Aquatope with Kukuru in a new apartment, in a smart pantsuit, saying her usual prayer (this time to her parents’ shrine), starting her very first day at the brand-spankin’-new Aquarium Tingaara. Umi-yan and Kuuya are already working there, while Kai is in the same group of new hires as she is. But while Kai is assigned to the fish team, Kukuru is assigned to…marketing.

The director has high hopes for her in PR, where Karin is already working. Have you ever, due to various circumstances, ended up in a job you had no idea you’d be doing? Well, that was me about five months ago, and it’s Kukuru here.

Working at an aquarium, but not tending to the marine life? It almost seems like a cruel joke, and Kukuru doesn’t get it. That said, when Karin frees her from the mountains of manuals her director Suwa gave her and takes her on a tour of the modern, impressive facilities, the little kid in Kukuru immediately resurfaces. (This still, by the way, is my new desktop wallpaper, the previous one being the sky after the typhoon).

But she gradually learns that kid has no place at Tingaara. Here, not even Umi-yan can keep ice pops in the feed freezer. Gama Gama was loosy-goosy, and a lot of outsiders like Suwa and Chiyu (who is magnificently smug throughout this episode) believe that had a lot to do with its failure. Tingaara is a strict, by-the-book, professional enterprise, perhaps wound a bit too tightly.

Even so, after dinner at the restaurant where Udon is now working and training, Kai reminds her that Fuuka dove into the world she knew nothing about when she started working at Gama Gama. He himself didn’t originally really want to work there, but did so because he wanted to help her, and eventually came to like it. He thinks if she tries something new and sticks with it, she might have a change of heart.

Reinvigorated by his words, Kukuru goes back to work with her head held high, doing the work that’s in front of her. It seems like preparations are ready for a behind-the-scenes tour Suwa assigned to her, but as he puts it in a very public dressing-down in the office, she really only did the work she knew how to do. He suggests she cease relying on experience working at a failed aquarium and nicknames her Plankton…smaller than small fry.

After getting chewed out and again having her commitment and seriousness questioned by Chiyu, Kukuru leaves the aquarium exhausted and discouraged, declining Karin’s dinner offer and instead sitting on the beach alone. She starts to cry, not knowing how much more of life at Tingaara she can take.

Then, out of nowhere, Fuuka arrives, precisely when Kukuru needed her the absolute most. While they were still together in last week’s episode, the way Aquatope totally turned Kukuru’s life on it’s head and everything she endured made it feel like months had passed…which indeed they did! All of that also makes their reunion that much more heartwarming.

Kukuru has had a rough couple of days, but there’s a reason Tingaara’s director assigned her the role he did. Hopefully seeing Fuuka will remind Kukuru of how rough she was on her in her first days at Gama Gama, and how Fuuka didn’t give up, and ended up thriving.

Tingaara may seem like a cold, cruel, nasty, grown-up place—or at least most of the humans who aren’t Kukuru’s circle make it feel that way—but that doesn’t mean it will stay that way. Kukuru may struggle and fail a lot more before she finds the right wavelength in which to thrive, but I’m excited to watch her find it!

Sonny Boy – 11 – Excelsior

I would have been content with episode 8 being Peak Sonny Boy, but I knew it probably had at least one more ten or Lister in it. So we come to the Achingly sad, joyful, empty, bursting, whimsical, utilitarian, lonely, warm, humdrum and epic episode yet. It begins with two humans, a dog, and three cats celebrating the life of Nozomi—the episode confirming what I’d feared without using words (though the explicit words come later).

After preparing the funeral venue with the kind of mirth Nozomi would have totally gotten down with, the sun eventually goes down, no one comes to mourn her, and Mizuho and Nagara set her shrine into the sea to be carried away to parts unknown. Mizuho starts to cry, but Nagara is both too awkward to comfort her and a steady emotional rock sitting beside her.

When live takes away a Nozomi in This World, it gives you a Rajdhani, and while I missed Nozomi more than I thought I could miss a fictional character, it’s to Sonny Boys credit that it softens the blow by bringing back the smartest and one of the kindest and most empathetic characters in the show. He’s been on his own for over 2,000 years, but he’s still Rajdhani. You could say he’s mellowed out a bit.

Mizuho, Nagara, Rajdhani embark upon the most ambitious project to date: Project Robinson, an Apollo-like program with just the three of them, Yamabiko and Nyamazon as the people involved (meanwhile Apollo involved 400,000 people, or more than the population of Iceland). Robinson is Mizuho and Nagara’s ticket out of This World and back to their own, where they figure about two years have passed, but they’re ready to go home anyway…because it’s home.

As work progresses on the Vehicle Assembly Building (an exact copy of the one in Florida), Rajdhani regales both Mizuho and Nagara with some of his more memorable travels to far-flung worlds. In one, a guy refused to accept reality and became trapped in a world of his own embellishment, starting with the depiction of the one he loved.

In another, the entire population of students ate neither plants nor animals but simply fasted—something you can do when you can’t starve—until challenged by a meat-eating devil. And then there was an inventor who invented “death”—or at least as close to death in the world they came from as you can get in This World—which is pretty similar.

The inventor who invented “death” had become “Buddha-like” in Rajdhani’s words, a “well-adjusted person” who was content with what was in front of him. And yet, that was the literal end of his life, for even the most complacent or enlightened humans still age and die.

This World is inhumanly, inhumanely static, which means there comes a point when existence…well, isn’t necessarily a curse, but simply doesn’t matter. Rajdhani admits that he feels like he’s being drained away by time. He calls life “an endless exercise in vain effort”, yet it’s that very meaninglessness that makes every moment in life so precious and brilliant, because each one of those moments is the only one that was, is, or will ever be.

That brings us to a flashback on the beach with Nagara and Nozomi, before her ill-fated trip to War. He’s showing her an earlier version of Project Robinson, which he’d been working on in Rajdhani’s absence. Nozomi ponders the ramifications of suddenly returning home after two years, how they may be different people than who they were, and how she may even be dead.

But one thing Nozomi the Compass knows for sure: the first thing she’ll do when she’s back in their “original” world (that doesn’t involve eating something) will be to seek Nagara out and re-befriend him without delay. It’s after remembering this moment with Nozomi, who promised they’d be friends in any world, that Nagara finally breaks down. And even after over 2,000 years of absorbing knowledge and wisdom, Rajdhani still can’t do anything but sit next to him…and that’s okay.

The completed heart of Project Robinson is revealed as the Saturn V rocket that propelled human beings to the moon, something that remains such a staggeringly awesome achievement, especially considering how long ago it happened. The Saturn V is perhaps the most awesome thing humanity has ever built, and it worked…more than once, is something of a miracle.

And while there were certainly political considerations to be made—the Soviets beat the U.S. to space, so apparently the U.S. had to beat them to the moon—so much labor was put into a mission of pure peaceful exploration and discovery. That the fruit of all that labor brought science closer to the cusp of the unknowable and infinite that our simple carbon-based bi-pedal species had ever come before or since.

It was a simply glorious achievement that makes me misty eyed just thinking about it…so it’s especially fun to see three high schoolers pull if off with a dog and three cats. The Robinson rocket is a 363-foot-tall metaphor for spreading one’s tender, untested new wings and leaving the nest, which is what Mizuho does by leaving her three cats behind. They can’t come back with her to where she belongs, but that’s okay. They did their job. She’ll be okay on her own.

Well, not entirely on her own; she has Nagara. And for an episode in which he mourned the loss of his first friend Nozomi, he smiled and laughed more in this episode than any previous ones. He wouldn’t be the person he is without Nozomi, which is why on the spaceflight up into the infinite, near the boundary between This World and That, he still has a compass watch with arrows that never move, representing Nozomi’s inspiring, indomitable will.

We don’t know what awaits Nagara and Mizuho on the other side any more than they do, but that’s entirely okay. I haven’t had the slightest idea what Sonny Boy will throw our way from one week to the next; I highly doubt it will try for predictable, obvious, or boring in its (assumed) finale next week.

As Rajdhani said, Nothing matters in This World…but once in a while, cool things do happen. Sonny Boy shows us that experiencing those cool things alongside people you love can make what shouldn’t matter…matter.

RABUJOI WORLD HERITAGE LIST

Tokyo Revengers – 13 – Crossing the Bridge

Why? Why is this show still going on? Why did Hina have to die, again, and in the most horrific, heart-demolishing way? What was Kisaki Tetta up to all this time? These were the unavoidable questions going into Revengers’ second cour, and this first episode of that cour had to do a lot of heavy lifting to convince me to stick around Takemichi’s tragic party, rather than executing a tactical Irish exit.

Rather than pass or fail, I must give Revengers…an “Incomplete”. This is purely a bridge episode, literally called “Odds and Ends”, though I appreciate that it’s a little rude to call Hina’s funeral a “loose end”. But the episode starts out by making us relive Hina’s final moments again, which I did not appreciate.

We know for a fact Takemichi isn’t going to let Hina’s death pass; not as long as he has the ability to go back and fix things. Where he and Naoto went wrong is thinking simply saving Draken would fix everything, all while pretty much forgetting about Kisaki Tetta…which was very weird.

Leaving Kisaki completely alone was never going to pay particularly positive dividends in the future, and even if we grant that Takemichi is an idiot who might well not consider Kisaki, Naoto let the joy of getting his big sis back distract him from the fact they had much bigger Toman fish to fry before they could secure a future for Hina.

Takemichi’s plan to become the leader of Toman and “bring it down” from within is an admirable one, but aside from being able to take the odd beating or stabbing we just haven’t seen the level of fighting ability, cleverness, or charisma needed to be one of the captains, let alone the boss. This isn’t something you can get by asking nicely with dog poop on your head.

Also, it’s been clear from the start that Takemichi has clear boundaries when it comes to being a gang member. But outside of murdering Kisaki Tetta (and possibly that Hanma guy too), I don’t’ see how you eliminate him as a threat. And since the days and months run parallel in the two timelines, Takemichi can’t go back any further in time to do what needs to be done.

So yeah, it was an uneven return to Tokyo Revengers, a judgment perhaps best exemplified by an extremely dull montage of Takemichi working and sitting around his still-messy apartment waiting for Naoto to call, all while extremely dramatic music is playing. This show has never been interested in showing its work, but Takemichi’s still just winging it doesn’t bode well for Hina’s future.

Tokyo Revengers – 12 – Hina We Go Again

I knew two things going into this twelfth episode of Tokyo Revengers: this wasn’t the last episode, and Hina was most likely doomed…again. I was hoping to be proven wrong, but when nearly half of the runtime is spent watching Takemichi and Naoto very gradually make their way to Hina’s place, it didn’t bode well.

It was very in character for Takemichi to reconsider seeing Hina at the last second, thinking that it would just be odd for someone she dated twelve years ago to show up one night with her little brother. Fortunately, fate smiles on our crybaby revenger, as he bumps into Hina and she recognizes him instantly.

Once his tears finally subside, their reunion is painfully awkward; so much so that Naoto prepares to ditch them to figure things out themselves—they are adults, after all. Then Takemichi clings to Naoto’s leg, and for some reason Naoto gets it in his head that taking the two out on a drive will be a better idea than keeping Hina away from any and all cars, considering how she died in the previous timeline.

No, instead, as a very obvious and extremely menacing black Hummer follows them, Naoto drives Hina and Takemichi around until he’s called away by the station, so Hina has to take over driving duties alone with Takemichi. Takemichi, meanwhile, notices she’s wearing the four-leaf clover necklace he gave her twelve years ago…yet inexplicably chalks it up to some kind of coincidence.

They park at the Tokyo waterfront, where she has a memory of being with “the one she loves”. Takemichi learns that it was he who dumped her twelve years ago. Considering how easily he almost ended up sleeping with Emma, you’d think he’d remember what a jerk his past self was. Hina, meanwhile, often said how it felt like there were two Takemichis, and the one she fell for was really his future self.

Even so, this is apparently too much for Takemichi, who runs off to the public bathroom, where he thankfully steels himself to confess to her, no matter how badly he’s afraid it will go. It will and does go bad, but not the way he expected—otherwise, he would never have left Hina alone, let alone tell her to go back to the car.

On his way out of the bathroom he bumps into someone he recognizes is the present-day Hanma, who promised Valhalla would ensure Toman never had any peace. He’s confused why Takemichi “isn’t in the car.” Uh-oh…

Turns out Akkun is behind the wheel of the Hummer that tailed them, and he drives right into the back of Naoto’s car with Hina—and only Hina—inside. A bloodied, tearful Akkun says he’s sorry, but he couldn’t go against Kisaki—any more than his alternate present-day self could. He even repeats a lot of the same lines he said, further torturing Takemichi.

He’s able to get the door of the burning car off, but Hina can’t get out; the front of the car has crushed her legs. Takemichi hugs her and says he’s always loved her, which makes her happier than he can imagine, but shortly after that she pushes him out of the car, which then explodes.

It’s extremely shitty to find Takemichi back at square one, with the added tragedy of having to witness Hina’s horrific demise this time. It’s also extremely annoying and lame that Hina once again has to suffer and die so our protagonist can grow (…again). While he managed to avoid one possible route that would lead to Hina’s death, now he knows there are others, and it will take at least another trip back to eliminate them.

Had Kiseki or Hanma known that Naoto is the one who enables Takemichi to travel back in time—or that he’s even able to do that—they would probably have made sure Naoto was in the car too. But the fact they carried out the plan without Takemichi in the car means they too left a loose end hanging, and that loose end is bent on exacting revenge by becoming the damn leader of Toman.

The Promised Neverland – 20 – Emma

Instead of being slaughtered for meat, Norman was introduced to Peter Ratri, his “new father”, and asked to assist with his research. No matter how much they up the difficulty of the tests, Norman always scores perfectly.

Peter is trying to wrest control of the farms from James, presumably his brother or father. Norman also observes how gently he’s treated compared to the other children at the Lambda facility, who undergo all manner of horrific surgery and used as fodder for experiments.

Norman eventually meets Vincent, and together they clandestinely plan a prison break, which is initiated when Norman grasps the king while playing chess. He gives the surveillance camera a blank look, immediately followed by the blast of an improvised bomb.

Norman and Vincent rush through the facility, now in total chaos, and save what humans are still able to be saved, like Cislo and Barbara, the latter of whom asks Norman if he’s a “god” when he frees them. Standing over his great victory, Norman tells the captured demons he won’t stop until their kind has “died out from this world”.

I’m glad we were shown these events, as in this case where it’s important to see the horrors he saw, showing is better than telling. I only wish Norman and his comrades hadn’t spent so much of the last couple episodes spouting so much exposition, which in hindsight feels redundant.

Still, we get a very foreboding shot of a robed Norman at sunset, looking quite a bit like Anakin Skywalker after being seduced by the dark side. He doesn’t care if he has to be a god or a devil if it means Emma and the other children will be able to live in safety and peace.

This episode suffers from a considerably less interesting middle act involving the four days and change Emma, Ray, Gilda and Don are searching for Mujika and Sonju. They basically trudge from one point of the forest to the other in their demon disguises, coming up empty until they reach final search area.

Naturally, this area is crawling with those giant creepy wild demons, and naturally Emma almost gets her head bitten off not once, but twice. The first time, Ray shoots the demon in just the right eye to bring it down. The second time, Sonju and Mujika arrive In the Nick of Time.

But before Emma can even get out how they need the two demons’ help, there’s a blast from afar: Norman has started the operation a day early. Bombs detonate all over the town, releasing the degenerative drug in a sickly purple cloud. It spreads and affects the demons precisely as Norman calculated, turning them into wild vicious beasts that rip each other apart.

This creates a horrifying situation in which demons watch their loved ones degenerate, but beg other demons of sound mind not to hurt or kill them, only to themselves be killed by those transformed loved ones. Soon the streets are full of the cries of terrified children, their mothers and fathers either dead or transformed and about to kill them. It is the scene of hell.

As his comrades stand atop brick columns watching their vengeance unfold with glee, Norman enters the town square and finds one of the young demon girls alone, scared, and crying. Norman, determined not to waver, prepares to kill her with a sword, but he’s stopped in his tracks when her grandfather—the same elderly demon who visited the kids’ hideout—calls out the girl’s name: Emma.

A fresh cloud of the drug falls over the square, infecting the little one but not the old man, who Norman suspects to have devil’s blood like Mujika, and is thus immune. He stabs the old man, but he has Emma drink his blood, reversing her degeneration, and begs her to run.

Before Norman can re-commit to killing the old man or the demon Emma, someone calls to himhis Emma, with Ray by her side. Thanks to Sonju’s horse they managed to make it back to town just in time. When Norman sees Emma he starts to tear up, and when Emma sees him she sees him as the little boy at Grace Field House, in whose hands a bloody sword just doesn’t look right.

While Norman has the intellect to know what exactly to do, and that it may be the only way to save Emma and the others, and he even possessed the will to do the horrible things that needed doing, he still doesn’t have the heart to follow through, at least not without the wavering we saw.

I’ve heard many rumblings about how dissimilar and inferior this second season is to the first due to the fact it’s passed over large swaths of the original manga’s story and basically doing its own thing. I’ve also learned that this was apparently the author’s choice to do this, so it isn’t as if his work was getting short shrift against his wishes.

Whatever the case may be, a second season that takes place after escaping the farm was always going to be a thoroughly different kind of show, despite the same title, and that’s certainly proven the case. But now that Norman, Emma, and Ray are reunited once more in the epicenter of his grand plan, I remain thoroughly engaged and excited to find out where in the world things go from here!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Read Irina and Crow’s discussion of episode 20 here. They know their stuff!

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