Golden Kamuy – 01 – The Weak Get Eaten, But These Peeps Ain’t Weak (First Impressions)

It’s 1904: The Russo-Japanese War, three years before my older grandfather was even born. Sugimoto Saichi is in the trenches, and earns the nickname “The Immortal Sugimoto” for…well, refusing to die. Bullets always miss or glance off him. He’s never in the path of a cannon or mortar.

His vitals always manage to avoid enemy blades. Even when he rushes the Russians head-on yelling “JUST TRY AND KILL ME!”, they fail to kill him. One might say this particular quality of his is a blessing, but all it means is he gets to live on as everyone around him dies.

Among the dead who leave him behind is his old friend and war buddy, who is survived by a wife with failing vision and a child. Sugimoto nearly killed a superior, so he’s cashiered out of the service, and must try to scrape together a living in a place where the gold rush has long since run dry.

While panning in a river for the dregs of that rush, an old drunk keeps Sugimoto company, telling him what initially sounds like a tall tale about a man who stole a mass treasure of gold from the native Ainu and killed a bunch of them. He was imprisoned, but tattooed pieces of a map to the treasure on other prisoners who then escaped, promising them a half share.

When the drunk realizes he’s said too much and tries to kill Sugimoto, Sugimoto clobbers him and forces him to flee…but now Sugimoto is more certain the man wasn’t just telling tall tales. That’s confirmed when he later finds the man’s corpse. He was killed and buried by a bear, but his body bears the map tattoos.

Of course, it’s not that simple: a bear returns, apparently to reclaim its meal, and Sugimoto isn’t ready…but thankfully someone is. Up until now things like timing, physics, and coincidence had served The Immortal Sugimoto, but here and now he finds himself face-to-face with the personification of his luck and salvation: a petite Ainu woman who introduces herself as Asirpa.

Out there in the wilderness, I’d much rather have Asirpa by my side than Sugimoto, especially considering its him, not me, who’d more likely escape death once again. She not only determines that the bear they just killed wasn’t the one who killed the prisoner, but that the man who tattooed him never intended to share the treasure. That man also killed Asirpa’s father to get the gold in the first place.

Because this is just barely the 20th century, and Sugimoto isn’t wealthy enough to own a camera (and the cameraphone is a century away), the only way to preserve the parts of the map they now have is to skin the man. (I suppose he could make a drawing, but lacks the materials) But that will take time, and night waits for no one, not even the Immortal Sugimoto.

Instead, he and Asirpa keep a fire going and use the corspe to lure the megabear to them. He gets the jump on Sugimoto and extinguishes the flame, accelerating their plans somewhat. Then Asirpa’s guardian angel, a white wolf that may well contain the soul of her late father, joins the fray, protecting her and giving Sugimoto an opportunity to shoot the bear.

The bear doesn’t go down that easily, and requires a well-placed blade to its heart to kill, but Sugimoto survives, and impresses Asirpa with his warrior instincts. That being said, she can have no part of the bear she helped kill, as it ate human flesh and was sent to a special form of hell. She, by the way, doesn’t want to shed human blood either.

After Sugimoto skins the map from the map (gross), he vows to be the one to do the “dirty work” while she’ll continue to provide the wisdom and support she has so far, and without which he’d have already been killed by now. Together they’ll find the other pieces of the map (even the skin he has is a patchwork of disconnected map fragments), she can get revenge for her father, and he can get gold for his friends’ family.

Sounds like a good win-win deal, and a strong finish to a hell of a strong and intriguing story set deep in a place utterly inhospitable to humans who have lost touch with nature, and starring two people who are immensely badass in very different yet equally fascinating ways. Hat tip to tombeet for the recommendation!

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Shokugeki no Souma 3 – 13 – The God Tongue Officially Joins the Rebellion

…Aaaand we’re back. Good! I missed my Food Wars. The Fall cour of the third season ended with Erina learning that the irritating pest and hack chef Yukihira Souma’s father is none other than her beloved Saiba-sama.

Eishi gives a school-wide address about impending Advancement Exams that will no doubt drive this cour, and makes it clear in no uncertain terms that those who stray from Central’s edicts won’t make the cut. The morale among Polar Star’s ranks sinks at the news.

Erina, to her credit, doesn’t go on an “avoiding Souma” binge to forestall telling him what she’s learned. Instead, she comes to his room, in her nightgown, no less! She has something to say, wants Souma to hear it, and it can’t wait.

What she essentially tells him is that she’s lost. As God Tongue from a young age, tasting and cooking were merely tasks to be performed, and she never derived any fun from any of it…until on a rare day off she got to sample some of Saiba’s cooking. From then on, she got it: cooking could be fun and good enough to win over the God Tongue!

But not long after experiencing that fun, her father began her “education” in “good food is only what I say it is” culinary orthodoxy. She cannot easily cast aside that conditioning, even if she wanted to, and part of her understands the need for standards to be set and followed, even if Azami goes about it in far to harsh and oppressive a way.

As such, she’s torn between two opposing philosophies. Souma decides to try to put his finger on the scales, so to speak, and get back at her at the same time for telling him his food was disgusting the first time she tasted it. He wants to make something quintessentially Yukihira, to remind her of those fun yet refined flavors Azami tried to condition away, along with her passion for cooking.

Souma’s Polar Star peers worry he may be up to something, but Megumi assures them he’s on a mission to make her understand not only his philosophy, but all their philosophies. The rewards of “awakening” Erina to culinary freedom may be the key to Polar Star’s survival.

Souma ends up preparing a tempura egg rice bowl, the process for making which neither Erina nor the eavesdropping dorm-mates understand, until Souma lets them in on the secret: freezing the egg before coating and frying it. And not just any egg: a low-quality egg that was on sale at the local shops.

Not only does Souma achieve an aroma, texture and flavor that have Erina imagining countless tiny Souma-chickens gently pecking her naked body (yikes, that’s a foodgasm for the books), but he manages to debunk Erina’s firm belief that only the finest, rarest, highest quality ingredients can make a great dish. In this case, a finer egg would be too overwhelming due to the freezer’s effect on the protein.

As expected, Erina never actually says “delicious” as Souma bet he’d make her do, but he does remind her of Saiba, not just in his style of cooking, but how he talks about it. Cooking isn’t about following a book, it’s about taking risks. To paraphrase Julia Child, great cooking requires a multitude of failures. It takes risks that sometimes won’t pan out. And taking those risks is what makes cooking fun.

So even though Erina craftily takes her leave before giving Souma any answers about the taste of his bowl, the effects of the meal inspire her to call for all of Polar Star to assemble out front the next morning. It’s cold, and her first words to them are cold as well, rattling their cages before praising them for helping to teach her that not only is their value in cooking food that is “free”, but that such innovation-through-failure is essential to stave of culinary stagnation.

To that end, she challenges each and every Polar Star member to keep doing what they’ve been doing—cooking free food, failing, learning, and improving—and she’ll summon the full powers of her God Tongue to see to it each and every one of them pass the Advancement Exams. And so, Erina has officially taken a side against her Azami and Central.

I have no doubt that if the dorm-mates can cook food that impresses her, they’ll impress any and all impartial exam judges. The question is, how are they going to get non-Central-sanctioned food to the judges’ table? The Rebellion Continues…

Inuyashiki – 09

The day after he kills an entire gaggle of press and an entire station full of police, Shishigami Hiro is all everyone is talking about. Due to his attractiveness, a number of fan clubs crop up, and many girls aren’t ashamed to voice their admiration for him. It’s a chilling reminder that this kind of “villain worship” happens in real life all the time.

Meanwhile, Hiro hacks all screens in Japan and makes an announcement: because Japan will never stop hunting him, he has declared the entire country of 120-odd million his enemy, and intends to kill every last one of them. He starts picking off targets from his rooftop vantage point, but also uses the screens of televisions and smartphones to execute people.

Andou gets Ichirou to send a hack of his own warning people to put away their smartphones, but it’s too late. In a half an hour, 100 have been murdered. He intends to kill 1,000 tomorrow and cheerfully asks the people to “look forward to it” before signing off.

Needless to say, it was hard to watch Hiro “gun” down throngs of people down in one of the busiest business districts in the world, and a place I spent a lot of time walking around. That sinking feeling is made worst by the fact he knows Chakko betrayed him (but wrongly believes he’s working with the police).

Hiro has also completely lost whatever goodwill he had with Shion. When he contacts her she begs him to stop the killing, but he responds as a machine would: there’s a problem, and they can’t live together in peace until he’s fixed it. He talks of eliminating Japan with the detached urgency one speaks of tying one’s unlaced shoe.

I doubt it will be long before even Andou and Shion enter Hiro’s crosshairs. The next day, as anticipation mounts as to whether, when, and how he’ll kill 1,000, we watch a pretty young woman board a plane, and once in the air, pacify a baby with a YouTube video.

Meanwhile, Mari is playing hooky with her friends in Shinjuku, but wants to keep the promise to come home with a treat for her dad’s dog. With Andou using Ichirou’s last name so often during their phone convos, it’s only a matter of time before Ichirou’s family is at risk too.

All the while, Mari seems to suspect/realize her father is the hero trying to stop Hiro, but is so unused to communicating with him she can’t seem to bring it up to him, or even thank him for going to bat for her over her future.

But that’s assuming she, and the rest of Japan, have a future. That plane with the woman and the baby? Hiro pulls it down in the middle of Shinjuku, in a sickening echo of 9/11. As his destructive capabilities increase, 10,000 dead tomorrow isn’t outside the realm of possibility.

Ichirou HAS to find him and stop him. But right now, he seems over-matched and overwhelmed, and it’s hard to blame him. If there’s a mark against this episode, it’s how ineffectual and unprepared Ichirou was against Hiro’s slaughter. He sent Andou’s warning to phones, but that just wasn’t enough.

Inuyashiki – 08

Hiro never bothered to cover his tracks that well, and so it was only a matter of time before a SWAT team showed up. In their attempt to capture him, Shion and her grandmother are killed, and the ostensible sociopath, who has chosen them as tethers to his humanity, is clearly very upset and guilty about that.

The police empty clip after clip into him but of course cannot penetrate Hiro’s skin, and he’s able to escape with Shion and her grandma and, I assume, heal them. Still, he leaves them behind, with words of apology, and will likely never let them get in harm’s way again—which means never coming near them again.

It’s a busy episode of Inuyashiki that checks in on just about everyone, even a random cop duo who hope to catch Hiro soon. But its focus is on Ichirou’s daughter Mari, who gets some welcome development beyond the thin outline we’d gleaned thus far of a girl ashamed to have such a poor, pathetic old-looking man for a father.

Turns out that was not nearly the whole picture. Mari’s grades aren’t great, and isn’t that interested in going to college. Instead, she wants to strike out as a mangaka, utilizing a craft she’s honed in secret since elementary school. She’s motivated by her neighbor and classmate, the rich and entitled son of the famous mangaka Oda, and she resents that he’s trying to follow in his footsteps simply because it seems like the natural thing to do.

Meanwhile, Ichirou continues to explore and refine his abilities with the help of Andou, another classmate of Mari’s, and it isn’t long before she spots the two walking and talking together. She stalks them, and dismisses the wild (and hilarious) theories that initially enter her mind (Andou is asking for permission to pursue Andou; her dad is into younger boys; Andou is his bastard son).

She keeps following them, watches them go into hospital rooms, then Googles the “miracle worker” who has saved over 120 lives. Then she sees her father launch himself into the sky like a rocket, and nothing will ever be the same.

By that, I mean Mari immediately starts to think of her father in a different way. Not much time is spent on her processing what she’s seen—it would understandably take some time—but when her mother confronts her on her low grades and insist she abandon the manga hobby and go to college, expense be damned—Ichirou walks in and immediately takes her side. 

Granted, Ichirou probably has no idea Mari knows anything about his abilities, so there’s no leverage at play here. Indeed, a pre-transformation Ichirou may have taken his wife’s side instead, because he struck me as a bit of a pushover. But not now. Now he’s willing to let his daughter embrace her dream, because he wants her to be happy.

As for Shion and her Grandma? They’re alive and well, in a new apartment, receiving payments from “him.” He healed them, but apparently could not wipe their memories. My money is on Shion trying to reach out to Hiro again, perhaps to her peril…again.

But being apart from Shion, her grandmother, and their quiet, simple life, not to mention the reason he had to leave it, has an immediate and strong negative impact on Hiro, who slips back into his old homicidal ways. The ones he cares about may still be alive, but it doesn’t change the fact that the police killed them, obviously lacking the knowledge he could repair them.

Had the police left him alone (whether that was the right thing to do or not), he may have continued on his peaceful course. But now he wants revenge, and to lash out at those who dared hurt Shion and her grandma. So he heads to the station and starts systematically slaughtering every policeman he sees—including the two cops we saw earlier.

When he’s done inside the headquarters, he goes outside to find a huge force waiting for him. A sniper knocks him down, and SWAT teams riddle him with bullets anew, but they can only slow him down; they can’t stop him, or really even hurt him. Even when “unconscious”, his defensive systems deploy and eliminate all threats with grim efficiency.

All of this unfolds before the video cameras of the media, which it seems Hiro doesn’t kill. Indeed, he leaves one defiant policeman alive so he can witness him killing all the other police around him, to prove to him he will always win in the end.

But because those cameras are capturing him, Ichirou and Mari are watching on the news, and Ichirou doesn’t see the boy who fought to protect Shion and her grandmother, or saved as many lives as he killed (though he’s now clearly “in the red” again). Ichirou just sees a butcher only he can stop.

3-gatsu no Lion – 28

Hina is the focus again this week, and the show is all the better for it; it’s good to see that while he still has plenty of doubts, in this situation Rei is the one who isn’t emotionally at sea, and even has a concrete path he’s following for the sake of the girl who saved her. Hina has been all but a co-protagonist this season, giving Hanazawa Kana some really good material to work with and simply letting her do her thing.

In case her middle school life can never return to its former normalcy (and even that was a bit of a charade), Rei continues to familiarize Hina with shogi, which served Rei well in the past as an escape from unfavorable conditions, and is now the game that pays his bills. Rather hilariously, Rei proves as bad at going easy on Hina (even though he’s trying) as he is good at competing professionally.

Sitting alone with Hina in her room (for the first time), Rei feels it’s a suitable time to ask Hina to tell him, in small bits, in her own time, what’s going on at school. Hina describes, among other things, an oppressively awkward and hostile atmosphere and “an invisible hierarchy” in which “your ranking decides how loud you can laugh or how much freedom you’re allowed.” In other words, every damn middle school classroom, ever.

Of course, not all classrooms are like that, but by no means an uncommon atmosphere, and both Hina and Chiho are partly victims of bad luck, and partly victims of their own selfless personalities. While changing that atmosphere may be nigh impossible, it’s much easier to bypass it.

Takahashi asks for Hina by name and invites her to play catch with him during lunch. He tells her Rei came by his house to play shogi with his dad and granddad—a granddad usually bedridden, but a spring chicken before Rei and a shogi board.

In any case, Takahashi understands the situation, and tells Hina if the classroom is ever too much, they can simply play catch. Hina is overjoyed.

The joy—and the prudence of Rei involving Takahashi—is short-lived, and the bullies escalate by scrawling slurs on Hina’s desk (albeit in chalk; these girls aren’t yet to the point where they’re gouging the wood).

Their leader also calls Hina a bitch under her breath, but Takahashi seems to hear it, or at least can read the room, then invites the three hellions to join him and Hina in their game of catch.

Before I could ponder whether Takahashi was trying to quell the conflict through inclusion, he unleashes some game-level heat at the fawning bullies, sending them running off.

Then Takahashi tells Hina why he did what he did: Chiho once gave him half of her lunch when his bento box fell in the dirt. He knew then, as he knows now, that anyone who shares their food with you is a good person, and he doesn’t think Hina should be afraid to show she has allies in this war.

It’s sweet, sweet revenge and a wonderful sentiment, but I knew its effects would be temporary, and perhaps even cause further escalation. That night, while playing shogi with Hina, Rei apologizes for introducing another element into her problem so recklessly.

But Hina is grateful for everything Rei has done, and is happy he is always asking her what she wants. She’s just frustrated that she doesn’t know…or that she does know, but knows there’ll be no turning back if she does that, because two wrongs don’t make a right and such, right?

Rei has always felt that Hina is stronger than him, and he’ll never surpass her in that regard. The bullies may be having their fun drawing awful stuff on the chalkboard, but they’re not just causing Hina pain…they’re making her madand toughening her. Rei realizes that his pacifist nature may not apply to Hina, and that simply becoming invisible, shuffling off to stare at bushes or play shogi may not be the best options for her.

So when the teacher asks Hina for an explanation, she stands tall, proud, and tearless, and tells the truth: she doesn’t know; she didn’t write that; it was written there before she came to class. The teacher seems to remember the Chiho situation she handled so badly (Chiho is now in psychological rehab, unable to even respond to Hina’s letters). One can hope she’ll handle things a little better this time.

Kakegurui – 11

When Yumeko gives up two queens, it convinces Kaede she’s going for the choice to make the “weakest” hand win. When Itsuki fronts 100 chips for Yumeko’s cause, Kaede stays on the “high road” and simply continues to raise, knowing he has enough funds to best them and choose “strongest.”

Just as he expected, Yumeko raises and raises until there’s no more money left, until she brings up life plan she got from the council when she was in deep debt, stating one’s “life” in terms of the value appraised by such plans should be a bet-able commodity.

While Itsuki initially struggles with offering the value of her own life for Yumeko’s sake, she realizes she can’t win and stop Kaede and others from looking down on her if she isn’t willing to bet everything she has and everything she is and ever will be. As a symbol of her wager, she tears out her fancy nails with her teeth – which really would hurt more than she lets on!

Kaede doesn’t accept the raise at first, as he considers the life plans given to livestock to be mere collateral until debts are paid. But as dealer the Vice President gets to decide, not him or Yumeko, and she decides the bet is valid to the tune of 10 billion yen. When Kaede bristles at her authority, she removes her mask to reveal she is President Momobami; she never left.

This is where Kaede, in a desperate bid to regain control of the game, decides he’ll raise Yumeko and Itsuka once more by betting his own life, thus straying from the high road he was assured would take him all the way to the national finance minister’s office. He believes this can only happen if he usurps Momobami, and Itsuka’s funds are a crucial means to that end.

Having raised his life, Kaede is awarded choice, and chooses “strongest.” Itsuka’s initial reaction looks like one of shock over putting all her hopes in Yumeko and losing again…but Kaede’s three 8’s are no match for Yumeko’s three Jacks, and Yumeko and Itsuka are victorious. All because he left the high road…and couldn’t stop looking down on Itsuka, inspiring her to defeat him at all costs.

The loss leaves Kaede unconscious, with hair as white as snow, as if bled dry of all vitality. As he’s carried off by medics, Itsuka feels bad for him, without whom she’d never have gotten into the council, or stood where she stands now. Yumeko can’t help but think how beautiful is the sight of someone who bet everything…and lost.

That leaves Momobami and Yumeko boring holes into one another with their blue and red eyes, respectively. Having beaten Kaede (and drawn out a side of him she’s never seen), the president has all but confirmed that the one gambler who has a snowball’s chance in hell of standing beside her is this Jabami Yumeko person.

Yumeko seems to be similarly interested in what Momobami is capable of, and deduces her the root of her discontent all along, even as she watched the life escape from countless gamblers: What Momobami wants most of all is to see herself in that position…and that requires someone other than herself; someone who can surpass her. She can’t wait to see if that’s who Yumeko is, and Yumeko can’t wait to show her.

Aho Girl – 11

This week Yoshiko intercepts Ruri lamenting another perfect “0”, and suggests that maybe studying and academics just aren’t in the cards for her…without suggesting what she should do instead. This leads Ruri to attempt to do a great many things—cooking, cleaning, riding a bike—and Ruri is terrible at all of them, which puts her into a state of depression no 11-year-old should have to deal with.

The next segment is one of the best in Aho Girl’s eclectic repertoire; when Ryuuichi helps Yoshiko try to find one of the last special banana frappuccino drinks in town, he is beaten up by toughs from “Dick High”. More importantly, they disrespect the bananas, which flips a switch in Yoshiko’s head from “Aho Girl” to “Badass One-Girl Wrecking Crew”. And every tough she defeats gets a banana in the kisser.

The final segment follows Dog when he gets loose from his chain. While trying to deliver a flower to Sayaka’s dog Pomi, he has to rescue a boy from the river, another boy from a car, and beat up some armed bank robbers, before finally giving the flower to a scared girl to brighter her spirits. Good Dog! Good Aho Girl, too…

Kakegurui – 10

Fresh off of beating Yumemi, Yumeko challenges Manyuda to an official match in front of the same crowd, without so much as an intermission for bathroom breaks! The Vice President (she of the white mask and distorted voice) steps in as dealer of a game called “choice poker”, in which no folding or calling is allowed, but the last person to raise can decide whether the stronger or weaker hand is the winning one.

In the crowd, both Mary and Sumeragi recognize that this game overwhelmingly favors the player with more money; in this case, Manyuda with his 100 starting chips over Yumeko and her 31. But having watched three other council members fall to her, Manyuda has a good basis of data upon which to calculate the best strategy to defeat Yumeko.

Specifically, he knows she’s a compulsive gambler and a little insane, and so needlessly makes risky raises despite the fact this is a game of more measured, one-chip raises. Sugita Tomokazu’s inner monologue dominates the episode, and at times it sounds like a slightly less apathetic Kyon is playing a particularly serious game of cards against Haruhi.

But at the end of the day, it’s a simple card game, with simple rules, and when Manyuda sticks to fundamentals, he manages to easily bait Yumeko out of all her chips. It’s then when Yumeko beseeches Sumeragi, who said she wanted to be her friend, to bail her out with more cash.

It’s revealed that Manyuda recommended Sumeragi’s entry into the Student Council, after she proved to him they had similar levels of ambition, but when Yumeko beat her she was discarded, and Manyuda concluded Sumeragi never had the talent to match her lofty ambitions.

That doesn’t stop him from appealing to her desperation in trying to return to a position of power where she can again vie for the top spot, as well as inherit her family’s business, something only possible with a council seat, so he dangles that over her head to counter Yumeko’s request.

Sumeragi doesn’t fall for it, instead pledging 100 chips to Yumeko, hoping to exact revenge on Manyuda, who only ever saw her as a pawn; a stepping stone on his own road to the top. Yumeko rarely looks that reliable, but Manyuda is clearly underestimating her. There’s a method to her madness she has yet to reveal to anyone—perhaps even herself!

Attack on Titan – 37 (Fin, For Now)

Erwin manages to tie off his arm stump and stay conscious enough to witness a lot more of his scouts get eaten by the swarming Titans, but Eren and Mikasa are rescued from “Momeater” by Hannes, looking to settle a score from the very beginning.

Historia, who is now correcting people who call her Krista, tells Ymir it’s time for them to live for themselves, and when Ymir is around, no matter how messed up things get, Historia isn’t scared. Seeing her brandishing a sword and a confident smirk is a great way to close this chapter on the character.

Hannes lasts about as long as one would expect, but Momeater ends up eating him in much the same way, as Eren and the injured Mikasa can only watch. Eren tries to transform before his hand is fully healed, resulting in failure and an emotional breakdown.

But Mikasa is there to pull him out of it, bringing out the Full Adorable Mikasa routine and essentially charming Eren into calming the eff down, which still leaves the matter of Momeater starting to finish up with Hannes.

When it reaches out to grab another snack, Eren stops its hand with his fist, and something happens: Eren gains a new power. That power transforms his ravings into orders for all the rank-and-file Titans to follow, making them his minions.

They surround and tear Momeater apart, then aid the scouts’ retreat by swarming Reiner, forcing him to give up on grabbing Eren. Seeing that Reiner and Bertholdt are in deep trouble, Ymir runs to their aid, leaving Historia behind with a simple “I’m sorry” and tender caress of her hair.

Reiner and Bertholdt survive the day, and that night, Ymir tells them why she helped: because the day they brought Wall Maria down was the day she was freed from her nightmare of a life, into a life that’s, if we’re honest, still a nightmare, but maybe not quite as bad because she does have a measure of freedom.

As for Eren, he has no idea what happened, so Armin has to put two and two together for him, having talked it over with Jean. That Eren now knows he can control Titans without becoming one (he’s the “coordinate”, as Reiner says), is huge. It means civilization behind the wall isn’t as imminently doomed as everyone thought the previous day.

Not that there’s going to be smooth sailing ahead. As the scouts look out, the camera speeds past the horizon and beyond any point the humans we’ve been following have ever reached…all the way to another wall; another civilization, where a shirtless man with glasses sits atop the Beast Titan…whom I’m guessing is Eren’s dad.

That’s an effective, world-expanding teaser for a continuation of the story…whenever it happens to come around. While I’m not greatly informed of the particulars, it seemed like a huge effort just to get these twelve new episodes produced and aired, so I’m not holding my breath for episodes 38-50.

However, for all the questions from the first season the second failed to answer, I still feel it did the job most people expect of Titan: to entertain. I can’t say I wasn’t, or that I don’t look forward to the next chapters.

Re:Creators – 08

I found last week’s episode a bit plodding and tedious, but as Altair’s identity is discovered by all and a confrontation of ideologies mounts, this week’s sequence of emotionally-resonant conversations and its closing confrontation earns it a higher grade.

The briefing to the group proper on what they know about Altair so far kinda goes off the rails when Yuuya’s creator appears with a dismissive, aloof atitude, and Yuuya, sees it as provocation to sic his esper on him. Blitz’s artist is also there, but these are merely intros for people who may or may not play key roles later.

Showing Yuuya as an unpredictable hothead was nothing new, but I appreciated Meteora’s meet-up with Souta, in which she senses he’s trying to get something off his chest and tries to make it as easy as possible.

Souta still dances around matters far too much for my taste, but it’s definitely a start, and Meteora shows how she’s morphed from a fish-out-of-water game character to a warm, patient, understanding person who considers Souta a friend and hopes he feels the same.

Despite their wildly clashing worldviews (and for the record, Alice’s take on the “world of the gods” isn’t all that unfair or inaccurate) Mamika continues to embrace Alice as a dear friend; one she believes in an hopes will believe in her.

Alice does, and can, as she can tell from her words and actions that for all her naivete Mamika has a strong and pure heart. But Alice is caught off guard when Mamika suddenly jumps off the skyscraper they’re both perched on (Tokyo City Hall) and heads off on her own, indicating it could be the last time the two friends see each other, either on the same side, or at all.

Chiku’s been busy tailing Souta during his meetings with Mamika and Meteora, and she’s pretty sure not only that Souta knew Altair’s creator, but that the creator is dead, and Souta feels at least partially to blame. Not willing to wait for him to spill the beans, she used what he’d given others to paint a larger picture for herself, and Souta’s reaction makes it clear she’s spot-on.

As such, Chiku now has leverage on Souta, and isn’t about to let him get away with avoiding the reckoning she feels should surely await the protagonist of a world as messed-up as Souta’s. So she swaps contact info and promises him they’ll go on a “date” soon. Unless he wants to be exposed, he’ll do as she says.

As for Mamika, her ultimate destination this week is Altair’s lair (an ‘Altlair’, if you will) to confront her with the knowledge she’s gained, affirm that she considers her a friend too, and offers to help “save her soul”, and that of her creator. For all the talk of creators and/or creations expressing their affection for one another, Altair is having none of it.

She hates everyone and everything and wants to destroy it all, and her response to Mamika’s olive branch is to launch a fusillade of sabres into Mamika’s body. If talk failed, Mamika was always prepared to do what was necessary to stop Altair from destroying anything or anyone else, so she casts Magical Splash Flare in a thrilling finish to the episode. No matter who emerges from the resulting conflagration, things will never be the same.

Masamune-kun no Revenge – 12 (Fin)

Last week I predicted that Masamune would fill in for Kanetsugu in the Class-A play—a safe prediction, since that’s what came to pass. The show tries to be coy about it, what with showing Masamune arrive in the auditorium to see Aki already on the stage performing, and not immediately revealing his plan. But really, we all knew where this was going.

What I did not know was how much I would enjoy the performance scene, telegraphed as it was. Simply taking Kanetsugu’s place is no mean feat for Masamune in his ill and weakened state, but the well-rehearsed cast (which includes his master) catches on fast, as his fatigue is explained as the result of his “long journey.”

Back to another safe assumption: that Masamune would, in fact, give Aki a real kiss. I mean, how could he not, that’s what the role demands! But when Aki said the kiss would be “pretend” while waiting in her coffin, it all but confirmed to me that it wouldn’t be. It wasn’t a bad kiss at all, and it even compels Aki to do a little improvisation of her own, by decking him for stealing a kiss. Because he’s so weak, he’s out for the count.

Fast Forward to the conclusion of the festival (thankfully) as reps from both classes meet at a karaoke joint for the after-party. This is where the episode kinda stretches out and relaxes, and where it was clear, if it wasn’t in past weeks, that this whole Masamune’s Revenge thing wasn’t going to be wrapped up in just twelve episodes. The last half feels more like a self-contained OVA.

Which, yeah, makes sense. Masamune feels a lot of tension at the karaoke bar, and when his turn in the sing-off approaches, he’s hassled by Sonoka and Kikuon, warning he won’t be able to run away from humiliating himself at the mic in front of their mistress. But it’s Aki who scolds them and sends them off, taking his side. She later regrets it, as Masamune’s singing is so bad everyone looks dead by the end, and quickly clear out afterward.

At least that leaves Masamune and Aki alone together for one last scene, which is as nice way as any to close out the show. They exchange thanks and apologies, and Aki earnestly asks him what she should do as far as tokens of appreciation go. Masamune swings for the fences and asks for a kiss, and to his shock, she accepts.

Aki’s lips do come within less than an inch of Masamune’s, but she stops short and pops a baked yam (I think) in his mouth, provided by Yoshino, who just showed up to feed Aki. Aki feels they got “close enough for now,” and strides off, far more playful than aloof.

Thus, Masamune and Aki end this 12-episode run on pretty good terms. However, obstacles still exist. We know Kanetsugu is deceiving both Aki and Masamune, something Yoshino hasn’t informed her of. Neko doesn’t quite seem ready to give up now that she’s been given a new lease on life. And then there’s the whole matter of whether Masamune wants to actually exact his titular revenge and dump Aki once he’s earned her favor (eh, likely not).

I assume Masamune-kun no Revenge will be back…someday, to resolve these remaining issues. If it does, the show has earned my loyalty, so I’ll be taking a look. If it doesn’t, well…it was a nice, if incomplete, ride.

7

Masamune-kun no Revenge – 11

I’ll admit I am not the biggest fan of “school play” episodes, but MnR’s wasn’t just an admirably-paced example of the type, but also the most consistently funny and best episode of MnR yet. It’s a joke-laden, increasingly wacky series of unexpected events that build up to a denouement I can look forward to watching.

It all starts with Masamune worried about Class Rep Futaba’s sudden transformation into your typical overbearing director. At the same time, Kojuurou is just about sick of people treating him like a girl (even though he’s voiced by one, the great Hayami Saori), but glad that at least Neko doesn’t, leading to him kinda falling for her.

We also see more of Kanetsugu treating Aki so very nicely, but then revealing to us his true intentions. Obviously, he’s not the Masamune Aki knew as a kid (that’s the thin Masamune), so who is he? A fat kid Aki’s mom mistook for Masamune, assuming he’d never lose weight.

Because Kanetsugu’s once-rich family has fallen on hard times, he’s been tasked with restoring their financial standing to go with the prestige of their name, hence Kanetsugu pretending he’s the boy Aki once knew. It immediately makes his character much better because A.) now we know what exactly his deal is and B.) he’s not perfect, like everyone else in the show.

Everyone…except Neko. Neko is perfect. I guess you could call her health imperfect, but there’s nothing wrong with her personality. Back from her life-threatening illness and surgery, Neko hasn’t skipped a beat, and despite having her heart broken, would still like to be Masamune’s dance partner should he lose to the other play.

She also notices that he’s ill and takes him to the nurse’s office to rest (he spent a chunk of the night outside in his skivvies to prove how hardy he is, then caught a cold). Masamune can’t refuse her offer, should it come to that.

How could he refuse? Fujinomiya Neko is THE BEST, and this warm, caring scene is more proof that she wouldn’t be a consolation girl. KOJUUROU knows what I’m talking about, though his attempt to assert his manliness by speaking in a weird dialect only serves to confuse, not woo, an oblivious Neko. I know it’s a bit late for his development, but I like how Koujuurou is trying to escape his typecasting…even if it’s futile.

Aki’s self-appointed “personal guard” hatches a plan to sabotage Class B’s play, in the silliest way possible: Kikuon kidnaps Masamune, ties him up in a big mattress, and imprisons him in a storeroom.

That’s…pretty lame, not to mention unsporting and even cowardly, which is exactly what Masamune tells Kikuon, who, to her credit, takes his words to heart and immediately starts to have a moral crisis about what she’s doing…until she learns from Masamune’s call to Mari (and his poor attempts to hide it) that their prince, Kanetsugu, has also been taken hostage. Masamune only knows that he’s missing from Mari, but he knows that it was Master Yoshino who nabbed him.

I like how Masamune knows this, and how he’s right that it was Yoshino. They’re operating on the same wavelength, it’s just that she thought to do it pretty much the same time as Mari (who pitches a hissyfit when she thinks she’s bested), while Masamune, who we know is a tourist in these kind of dark dealings, only of kidnapping his counterpart as a tactic once Mari mentioned it had already gone down.

Still, Masamune isn’t all brawn no brains…though Kikuon might be, as he manages to get the slip on her by pretending to leap out at least a third story window.  She leaps out to chase him down, only to fall into a pool below and somehow not break several bones, while he’s hanging onto the window sill. Call it Kikuon’s Wile E. Coyote moment.

But you know what? I’ll allow it, because Kikuon is, if nothing else, devoted to Aki, for without even knowing it, doing something that made Kikuon feel good after a tough loss to someone who cheated: Aki turned the guy down and called him a coward.

Mari and Sonoka doubtless have similar stories that lionized Aki in their eyes…but Aki didn’t ask for their loyalty and devotion; she simply has it, whether it’s in her best interest to have it or not. I say this because she, like Masamune, wanted to perform the plays and determine who would win fair and square. It’s their proxies who complicated matters by playing dirty.

Well, the show will go on for Aki, with or without Kanetsugu (she considers his sudden absence at such a crucial time to be a repeat of abandoning her when they were little kids). I feel bad that Kanetsugu is deceiving her, while loving the irony of Masamune’s extreme physical makeover actually forestalling Aki’s falling for him.

Of course, with Kanetsugu still absent and Kujuurou sick of being treated like a princess, the solution for both Class A and B would seem to be clear: pair up Masamune and Aki. I hope they finally go there (it’s the logical path) and I also hope Aki finds out about Kanetsugu, be it from his being found out or from his own mouth.

Masamune-kun no Revenge – 10

Turns out the mystery fatty isn’t some stunted clone of Masamune, but Gasou Kanetsugu, who is, at least according to an apparently genuine letter, Aki’s betrothed. For now, it appears to be just a coincidence that he looks a lot like our “Pig’s Foot” if he never lost weight (or gained height).

Aki’s household accepts Gasou’s sudden claim, and when the next term starts, he’s a transfer student at the school. Unlike the hunky baseball ace, Aki can’t contain her smitteness for the round lil’ guy, much to the shock and consternation of her fan club, which consists of Sonoka (twin tailed loli) Kikuon (tall and sporty) and Mari (serious/dark glasses).

Even more gobsmacked is Masamune, who just dosn’t understand how this could happen just when he thought the path was clear (in other news, Neko’s surgery went off without a hitch and she’s back at school, though no longer pursuing him).

To his surprise, even his master Yoshino is at a loss regarding Aki’s new squeeze, and feels like she’s let her apprentice down, even though he doesn’t blame her.

There’s a tension that runs throughout this episode, once once accepts the suddenness and coincidence of Kanetsugu’s appearance. On the one hand, I can’t deny I’m on Masamune’s side, even though I know he only wants to win Aki’s heart so he can immediately break it.

Kanetsugu is a huge obstacle to that, but I can’t help but admire Aki not abiding by the typical norms of attraction, confused friends, fans and suitors be damned. Kanetsugu is a good kid, too. When Neko first showed up, I felt like she was hiding a secret, which turned out to be nothing evil.

But Kanetsugu doesn’t give off that vibe. There’s no ulterior motive here, beyond fulfilling his obligation as 17th-gen-whatever. In fact, he holds Aki in such high regard he dare not even entertain the possibility of getting romantic with her, either in the present or the future. He thinks he’s too far beneath her; in reality, she’d be just fine with that!

In any case, though she’s mistaking Kanetsugu for the younger, fatter Masamune, the fact is Aki likes what she sees, and her betrothed seems to have completely usurped thin Masamune from her thoughts. Her fan club, who gets a lot of screen time, also ends up allying themselves with Kanetsugu when he promises he has no intention of touching their goddess.

That alliance is somewhat undermined by Class Rep Futaba, who insists her class put on a performance of Snow White with Masamune and Kojuurou as the prince and princess, respectively. Mari, fan club member, and her class are putting on a Snow White of their own, only with Aki and Kanetsugu.

Masamune helps the two warring classes come to a compromise: both performances will be held, and the school will get to vote for the one they like best. It will also determine which “prince”; which Masamune gets to dance with Aki (though she herself isn’t informed of this wager).

If the pro-BL caucus propels our Masamune to victory in the drama battle, what then? How will he be able to wrest Aki from Kanetsugu’s pudgy clutches?