Spy x Family – 17 – If You Have Love, You Can Fly (But Jets Work Too)

Anya’s initial attempt to impress Damian with news of her new dog failed, so she’s brought a new family portrait to “accidentally” drop when Damian is passing by, hoping he’ll see it and marvel at Bond’s grand floofiness.

Unfortunately it doesn’t go as planned, as Damian and his toadies ignore the photo. It flies off and is picked up by Becky, who is immediately smitten with the hot guy and asks Anya if he’s “seeing anyone”. A dismayed Anya responds “Papa is married to Mama!”

In a stroke of luck for Anya, she and Damian are paired off for and arts-and-crafts project: making an animal. Becky ends up making a model of Loid with a “battle suit” from her dad’s company, and when substitute teacher Mr. Henderson tells her the assignment was animals, she once again demonstrates her precociousness by stating “In the end, humans are animals too”, something our mustachioed paragon of elegance cannot dispute.

Anya doesn’t fair so well, as she’s as bad at arts and crafts as her Mama is (or at least was) at cooking. When she reads Damian’s mind to make a griffin, the heraldic beast of his family, she magnanimously offers to assist, but proves absolute rubbish, building legs with jet engines and uneven feathers. Damian is so pissed by her uselessness he makes her and another girl cry, inviting a scolding from Mr. Henderson, who exclaims “Not Elegant!”

Henderson understands Damian probably wants to impress his father, but he tells Damian there’s no need to rush; all he can do is what he can with the resources he has. The resulting “griffin”, with Anya’s interpretation of a griffin beside it, looks like a disaster, but it invokes patriotic fervor in one of the bigwig judges, and the pair end up winning first prize.

The griffin is proud-looking despite its sorry state, while what is interpreted as “the corpse of an innocent baby griffin” moved the judge to strong emotion. It’s a great bit of still art.

Unfortunately, Anya doen’t really make any progress in her friendship to Damian, nor does the prize include any Stella. But as big of a jerk as he often is to Anya, I couldn’t help but feel bad when he called home and had to settle with talking to the butler Jeeves, since his father is away in more ways than one, and generally disinterested in his second son.

The episode switches gears to do a brief profile of Sylvia Sherwood, AKA Handler, AKA Fullmetal Lady, so-called due to her flawless performance as a spymaster for Westalis. Varying cinematic shots of her walking down the street create a sense of paranoia, but her tail turns out to be a couple of easily-fooled guys who never considered she’d use the public pool locker rooms to change into a disguise and give them the slip.

We witness two separate meetings between Sylvia and Loid, with the episode underscoring that every meeting threatens both of their lives. So it’s amusing both that Loid makes sure not to tell the Fullmetal Lady that the tag on her dress is still on, and also that his “report” to her on Operation Strix involves Anya’s athletic progress.

The final post-credits skit, basically an omake, is a flashback to when Anya would cook dishes for Yuri to eat (all of which are pixelated and feature worryingly unnatural colors), and Yuri scarfs it down with a smile in between projectile vomiting. When he tells her she’ll make a great wife, she gets bashful and slaps him so hard he bounces off the floor and spins horizontally to the far end of the room.

This combination of being repeatedly poisoned and thrashed about due to his sister not knowing her strength is what makes Yuri the excellent operative he is today. He’s been toughened to such an extent that getting his by a truck is of absolutely no consequence. After all, Yor’s tougher than a truck.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 12 (Fin) – Weaving a New Tale

As predicted, Yume knocks it out of the park with her festival yukata and hair, but it’s her who wants a picture of Mizuto in his the second she sees it. Instead, he snaps a pic of her, and happens to know her phone’s password.

In her thoughts, Yume admits to feeling considerably lighter after having a good cathartic cry. Now she can hold hands with her stepbrother without embarrassment, and mimics Madoka’s treatment of Chikuma by helping “steady” Mizuto during the shooting game.

Just when the fireworks are about to start, Mizuto disappears, something Madoka says he always does around this time. All of his relatives have told her to make sure to look after him, like he wouldn’t be able to “survive” without someone watching over him. But as she volunteers to go find him, Yume celebrates how she’s been able to see all these new facts of Mizuto since becoming family.

When they were merely in puppy love and dating, she idolized and glorified him, projecting her ideal of a BoyfriendTM without looking deeper. Meanwhile, while sitting alone at a shrine, Mizuto muses about how he considered the world of books to be the true reality, and the outside world a mere illusion.

The first thing in the world that felt real was Ayai Yume, who was also the first person to evoke the same sentiment everyone had for him: that he would not survive if left alone. That’s why Ayai Yume still occupies that “slot” in his heart that even Isana could never hope to replace.

Yume finds Mizuto at the shrine, and the two have the mother of all passive-aggressive verbal duels with one another, all the while happy they were on the same wavelength. She recounts the phone call they had that he ended abruptly, and she gathered that he called her from this very shrine.

Yume also gathered that Mizuto knew her phone code because it’s 1027, the day of their first kiss, a day they both remember with fondness. Then Yume asks Mizuto why he went out with her, and he says it really just amounted to her finding a seat next to his in a game of musical chairs.

Sitting side by side as the fireworks begin—the fireworks they never got to see together until now—what initially stirred in Mizuto towards Yume stirs again. A tear falls down his cheek before Yume takes his face in her hands and kisses him.

It’s her second first kiss, and with it comes a vow that she, Irido Yume, will eventually win him over, defeating Ayai Yume for that single slot in his heart. The next morning, and then back at school, the two are back to their playfully adversarial selves.

The happiness of the past will never leave either of them, etched into their souls as it is, and they will never feel that particular novel happiness ever again. But that doesn’t matter, because now that they’re both a little older, wiser, honest, and clear-eyed they can now achieve a new happiness; weave a new tale together.

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 11 – A Mess Under the Hood

Ahhh, is there anything nicer than a scene of two lovebirds talking on the phone just to hear each other’s voices? That’s how the episode starts, and it’s like being wrapped in a warm, fluffy blanket. So serene…but also so bittersweet. After the credits the Iridous have arrived at their relatives’ country house, and Yume meets Mizuto’s second cousin, who happens to be an absolute babe—a megane babe, at that!

When the fam hits the river for a barbecue, Madoka again compliments Yume’s figure and swimsuit, while also noting she’s “watched over” Mizuto since kindergarten. Mizuto is off in the shade reading and being antisocial, as always, but Yume learns that when his mom died, he and his dad must have endured a good bit of hardship, making her that much more determined to protect their new family by rejecting her feelings.

Later that night Yume enters the study of Mizuto’s late great-grandad’s study to tell him the bath’s ready, and finds him reading an old book entitled The Siberian Dancing Girl. Mizuto notes that it is his great-grandad’s autobiography of when he was interned in Siberia. It was the first book he ever read start to finish, and reads it every year he comes to his relatives.

He invites her to read it, and she takes him up on the offer, reading it through in one sitting. By the end, she’s in tears, and notices an old dried tear right next to her fresh one. She can’t help but feel closer to Mizuto, having now read the book that shaped him, which no one else but the two of them have ever read.

The next day, Madoka has laid out yukatas for the fireworks festival, and notices Yume sighing profusely. She quickly diagnoses it as Yume being in love with Mizuto and…Yume can’t necessarily refute that! Instead, she opens up a little to Madoka, who proves surprisingly deft at analyzing Yume’s whole deal, invalidating her feelings and trying to find excuses not to be with Mizuto

Madoka also figures the only thing for it is some direct action. To that end, she finagles things so Yume ends up alone in a relatively small, dark room with Mizuto for at least a half-hour. She figures that should be enough time for Yume to build up the courage to say what she wants to say and then say it.

At first, all Yume can do is look forlorn and say “Mizuto”, but in her head the words are streaming like the river she sat beside. She recalls the weight off her shoulders when they broke up, but she’s full of regret over things she never did that she should have, like call him over the summer, or sharing Christmas and Valentines with him.

It turns out, Mizuto doesn’t have to hear Yume say any of these things. It’s all in her face, and in the tears that start to fall. So he calls her as Ayai—which was just her old last name but sounds so much more intimate when he says it—and says that just this once, they can go back in time. So they embrace, and just hold one another until it’s dark out. They’re not pretending, they’re just being two people, not collections of ideals.

When Yume tells him how she figured Madoka was his first love, he immediately shoots that down; he never had feelings for her. He then tosses a jab at her—something about having so much good for her “on paper” but being a “mess under the hood.” He then says her nose is running, and she reacts, only for him to be kidding. That makes her laugh, which allows him to tell her who his actual first love was without saying it. He just says she loved to laugh. She still does!

I’m officially convinced that this show suffers from a terrible title, especially the English translation. All it does is tell you the surface scenario: step mom, daughter, ex. This is about that, but it’s also about so much more, about everything that came before that, and has managed to make something so wacky on paper incredibly moving and compelling under the hood.

GODDAMN TEARJERKER™ CERTIFIED

Call of the Night – 10 – Arisa in Selfieland

Last week was a Seri episode, and from the first scene it looks like this one’s going to be a Kohakobe Midori one. Midori’s in a bind: one of her co-workers at the maid café called out, so she needs someone cute who won’t hit it off with guys and threaten her “Number One” position among the maids.

Naturally, just that person crosses her path in Nazuna. And while Nazuna looks predictably killer in her maid uniform, her way of speaking and the way she carries herself leave much to be desired. It’s nothing like the polished-yet-unembellished grace and cuteness of Midori, causing Ikari Gendo-like reactions in one of her regulars.

Why this isn’t strictly a Midori-centric episode, however, comes down to the maid serving Kou. It’s neither Midori nor Nazuna, but Arisa, who is bright, cheerful, but also quite down-to-earth and earnest, saying she was once the café’s Number One before Midori showed up, but she lauds Midori as amazing. She also notes how even when she’s off she loves to visit other maid cafés to visit her favorite maids.

After closing Midori prepares to take some selfies with her and Nazuna for the café’s social media, and discovers peeping tom photos of the maids have been posted. Midori asks Kou if he’ll investigate and he agrees, always eager to please (even if she’s still a firm “no” for him romantically speaking). While inspecting the photos, all of which are of Arisa, Kou is startled by the sudden appearance of Arisa behind him.

This episode shows that once Kou says he’ll do something for someone, he really hunkers down and gives it his all, meticulously inspecting the photos and determining most were taken in the break room, then lining up the angles where a tom could snap secret pics. I love how he has Nazuna “give him a hand” by flying him up to the otherwise inaccessable balcony.

When Nazuna remarks that only a vampire could come up here to snap pics, and thus Midori must be the culprit, Kou has her pose as a stand-in for Arisa in a test photo…and since it was taken quickly and Nazuna wasn’t quite ready, it’s an awful photo of her. That’s when the light bulb goes off for Kou.

While his confidence that he’s cracked the case plummets with every word out of his mouth, he tests his working hypothesis by staking out the break room from a locker, where he ends up stuffed in with Midori since only one locker is unlocked. There, he tells her all the photos were taken after hours, when Arisa was alone, with no other staff or customers around.

Then they watch through the little locker slot as Arisa sets up a selfie stand at the window, and Kou busts out of the locker. Arisa is caught red-handed. When asked how Kou knew, he says simply that the photos were too nice; too much care was put into their composition and lighting; nothing like the quick and often blurry shots an actual peeping tom might take.

He also notes the lack of truly scandalous shots showing underwear. Sure, he’s incriminating himself as a guy here, but all in the service of justice, so he swallows his pride. But while his male gaze and male perspective helped him pick Arisa, his blind spot is the “why”.

But Midori knows why: Arisa, supplanted as Number One, sought recognition; the means to show she was still popular. But while Midori initially sounds cruel, even calling it an “illness”, Midori says all humans have one such illness or another (like Kou skipping school and staying out late), but it’s okay to be ill.

For one thing, it’s okay because at the end of the day, Kou makes a new friend in Arisa, who stops by the café when she’s not working, both to see her favorite maid (Midori) and to chat with him. Arisa admits to being so obsessed with selfies she’s spent an entire day seeking the perfect shot.

In the back of her mind, she always thought there was something wrong with that, so it was nice for someone (Midori) to say it wasn’t. Call it a vampire’s perspective. She caps off the episode on a heartwarming note, with a group selfie of her, Kou, Nazuna and Midori.

Both Oozora Naomi and Oonishi Saori do yeoman’s work as the voices of Midori and Arisa, respectively, as Arisa shows Kou that there are all kinds of people who go against the grain as he does. I appreciated that things never got catty, but that Midori understood and accepted why Arisa was doing what she did without judgment.

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 10 – Lapping the Competition

Yume and Mizuto are home alone in the middle of a typhoon, reading alone in their respective rooms, when Yume encounters a cockroach, which renders her room no longer habitable. The two top students in their grade, neither of whom are particular fans of bugs, decide the only option is to sleep together in his bed.

While they start out back-to-back, Yume eventually shifts positions in her sleep, and when Mizuto wakes up and rolls over, he finds himself closer to Yume’s face than he’s been in a long time (not counting that recent time on the couch). He rolls back over, saying he has no room for “lingering feelings” in their new life together.

The next morning, Yume and Mizuto unconsciously act like a couple going through a rough patch, leading their parents to make that observation. Yume’s mom also suggests Mizuto buy a swimsuit for the upcoming family trip to Mizuto’s dad’s riverside hometown.

For their parents’ sake, the former couple proceeds with the swimsuit-shopping trip, and while Yume tries to “disguise” herself with the same glasses she wore in middle school, the fact she’s wearing her new, more form-fitting style would certainly give her away to, say, Akatsuki.

Mizuto waits outside the changing area, somehow not expecting Yume to show him the cute frilly pink bikini she’s trying on…but she does. When he says it merely looks “good” on her, “he thinks”, she asks him to say something nicer, and so…he compliments her devotion to her family.

On their way home they pass by the very quiet side street where they kissed for the first time, at the very same time of day. When the wind knocks Yume’s hat off, Mizuto naturally lunges toward her, resulting in the two ending up in a very similar position to that magical day.

Yume even closes her eyes and prepares her lips for another kiss, seemingly overcome by the atmosphere…but Mizuto hesitates. Later at home, Mizuto and Yume converse awkwardly, trying to keep up appearances, leading their folks to remark how they’re like “a couple working up the nerve to pop the question”.

While it seems like their parents are oddly perceptive, the fact is neither Mizuto’s dad nor Yume’s mom have any idea about their real past. That’s probably for the best, as considering how nice they both seem, it would pain them to know end to know their marriage inadvertently put their kids in such a strange, even cruel situation.

Speaking of cruel, when Isana comes over for the umpeenth time during summer break to watch a movie with Mizuto, she reclines on the couch, rests her head in Mizuto’s lap as he strokes her hair. They’re a picture of a couple destined for a fifty year-plus marriage, so comfortable Isana thinks nothing of scratching around her bra area in his presence.

After the movie Isana gets up, but continues to monopolize Mizuto by engaging in a lively critical conversation in which Yume cannot hope to participate. When Mizuto asks for tea without saying please, Yume serves him some…in her mugwhich Isana immediately identifies as an indirect kiss.

The movie and discussion cause Mizuto to suddenly nod off, but rather than falling into Isana’s lap, his head falls into Yume’s. Isana briefly considers kissing him since the opportunity is there, but as it would be her first kiss and Yume is right there, she wisely thinks better of it. How horny is this girl?!

Looking down at the sleeping Mizuto in her lap, she realizes why he hesitated, both when they were in the same bed and when they almost kissed in their first kiss place: they both feel the same longing for the way things were, and wanting to go back to those times, but believing it not worth destroying the new life they have together.

Later, Yume’s mom wants details about what’s up with Mizuto and Isana (who earlier said she wouldn’t mind being fuck-buddies or FWB with him). Isana indulges her mom, who then tells Yume she can’t let Mizuto leave her behind; she needs to find a boyfriend for herself.

While lying in bed contemplating her mom’s words about getting a boyfriend, Yume says, out loud, that she doesn’t see herself with anyone but Mizuto, which surprises her. So far, the two have maintained the position that they can’t go back to the way things were, but that’s increasingly easier said than done.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Call of the Night – 09 – Who’s the Real Draggo?

Seri is being overwhelmed by notifications on her phone when she spots Kou. She rushes to pounce on him affectionately, but she’s stopped by Nazuna’s granite knee. Kou tells her Seri wasn’t going to do anything, but Nazuna assures him it’s okay; vampires are tough (as evidenced when Seri slugs Nazuna and the two tussle in the street.

The two vamps are always going to be a bit on edge around each other—especially considering Nazuna’s bond with Kou—but it’s Kou who tracks down Seri and asks her what’s troubling her, as a friend would, because that’s the kind of good kid Kou is. Seri is surprised, but rather than venting to him, they go to karaoke instead.

When Seri warns Kou that she’s super popular and that it’s just gotten to be a big boring drag (she calls all the men she meets “draggos”), and Kou kinda gets it; expressing how he’s annoyed by people believing romance is the “essence of life”. While we don’t get to hear them sing, Kou and Seri have this wonderful natural rapport.

You can tell Seri likes how Kou acts around her, since every other guy acts like the one who starts banging on the door to their room and breathing on the window like a creepy stalker. When Seri makes light of all the draggos she’s had to deal with, Kou tries to get all serious and offer proper advice, when all she wants is for him to brush it off and enjoy hanging out with her—like he does with Nazuna.

When Mr. Draggo enters the room, Seri gets fed up and decides she’s going to kill him “before things get messy”, which is vampire reasoning if I’ve ever heard it. Kou tells her to stop, and Seri asks him to spare her the “killing is wrong spiel”, as human rules and laws don’t apply to vampires. Kou admits that there are times when a vampire might have to kill, but he insists that this isn’t one of them, and protects Mr. Draggo.

The two hide in a dark alley, where Mr. Draggo, AKA Akiyama, seems to snap out of the obsessive trance he was in while near Seri. Akiyama tells Kou how he and Seri met when he fell over while drunk and just hit it off, but he was never arrogant enough to think he ranked that high in her list of people she cared about (nor does he know she’s a vampire).

That soon changes when Seri spots them in the alley, tells Akiyama she’s a vampire, and that she’s going to kill him. Kou stands between Seri and Akiyama and says that’s not happening, but Seri charges anyway, which is when Nazuna, whom Kou summoned via transmitter watch, pancakes Seri into the pavement.

Nazuna is obviously here to keep Kou from harm, but even when Seri promises she won’t hurt Kou, Nazuna asks why she suddenly decided to kill “for once”, suggesting it’s not as common an occurrence as Seri let on. That’s when Akiyama asks Nazuna to lay off Seri, because he was the one who fell in love with her, even though he wasn’t supposed to.

Just as Nazuna has done with Kou so far, Seri never intended to turn Akiyama, but simply hung out with him because they enjoyed each other’s company. The grind of getting people infatuated with her so she could create offspring got boring, and Akiyama broke that monotony. But her unconscious vampiric knack for enrapturing people ended up happening even to him.

Kou stops her right there: if she enjoys having a friend and doesn’t want to ruin that relationship, why kill him? Why not talk through it him first, like the friends they clearly still are? Seri does just that, and when she talks about the fun she had hanging out with Akiyama as a friend, her eyes fill with tears, knowing they’ll never have that again.

Akiyama knows that too, as he’s now in love with her. But that being the case, rather than kill him, he asks her to make him her offspring instead, so they can still hang out and still have that friendly rapport. She does just that, turning him right there in the alley while Nazuna and Kou look on.

Kou can’t help but feel like the situation is a little unfair, seeing as how Seri and Akiyama have what he wants…and naturally, Nazuna senses that’s what he’s feeling, but says it’s fine to take their time for now. After Akiyama is turned (and his eyesight is improved; a nice detail) all four go back for some celebratory karaoke, and Kou notes that he’s having a great time.

This might’ve been my favorite Call of the Night yet. I continue to love how warm empathetic Kou is. Seri is always an absolute delight; I love how she can turn from affable to frightening and capricious to vulnerable on a dime. I fear I’ve fallen for her and become one more draggo, and it’s not for any one quality but because she possesses so many layers.

Akiyama, voiced by the great Yoshino Hiroyuki in a rare toned-down role, is a solid introduction and the show’s first male vampire, and therefore glimpse of what Kou ultimately hopes to become. Loved the stalker fakeout. And as always, both quiet scenes of talking and raucous, concussive action are exquisitely composed and directed. The show is running on all cylinders.

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 09 – Bittersweet Symphony

This episode, which finally fully chronicles the height and eventual fall of Mizuto and Yume, begins simply, with the two sharing a tender kiss without fanfare during the golden hour on a quiet street. The look they share after said kiss may just be the only time in the entire episode that they are truly on the same wavelength with one another.

When Yume is invited to Mizuto’s house, room, and bed (to sit on) when his parents aren’t home, she gets understandably excited, only for the two to spend hours reading a book together. It’s pleasant, but it’s less than Mizuto hoped for; she was ready to take the next step. So was Mizuto. But it just…didn’t happen. And it never would.

The first sign of the couple drifting apart is when they find themselves in separate classes for the third year of middle school. They still meet in their treasured library after school, and make a pinky promise to make wonderful memories for Christmas and Valentine’s. But then Yume gradually opens up and makes friends in her class.

Mizuto is irked by her newfound popularity, and when they are together, all she talks about is her friends this or her friends that. Feeling like they’re drifting away from each other hurts, so he hurts her back by snapping at her. He fully prepares to apologize the next day, but when Yume first sees him in the library, he’s chatting with another girl…in her chair.

His apology goes right through her, as she feels he betrayed her in the special place where they met and shared so many memories. And that bitter memory of seeing him with that other girl haunts him. It’s just a fight couples always have, but they let it fester and see less and less of each other.

When they finally encounter one another, it’s by chance at a bookstore, and Mizuto suggests, and Yume agrees, that they should make up and put the rancor behind them. But it’s just words. Mizuto is still hung up on being accused of cheating, while Yume is vexed by how far ahead he’s walking.

Once inseparable, the two fall completely out of sync, and their relationship falls off the rails. Yume thinks of inviting Mizuto to the festival where he found her, but fails to send the invite text and goes alone, hoping things will just work out like they did a year ago, even though she knows they won’t. Then their one-year anniversary comes and goes with nary a text from him.

The Christmas and Valentine’s memories they promised to share become exercises in bitter solitude, as both Mizuto and Yume remain incommunicado for those holidays. Finally, when graduation comes along, Mizuto quietly suggests, and Yume agrees, that they should break up.

At that point it felt less like and end and more like a “liberation.” He couldn’t deny his affection for Yume, but couldn’t deny the building resentment either. Little things turned into big things and finally the only thing: pain and anguish. The rest, we know: their parents get married a few months later, and they are introduced to each other as stepsiblings.

Fast-forward back to the present, where Yume is helping herself to one of Mizuto’s many many books, and happens to land on the same one they read together the first time she entered that room. The two reveal to one another in reminiscing that they both had the same intentions that day: to take their relationship to the next step.

You could say that day was really the beginning of the end, since it led to “aged plagued with regret” for Mizuto and “wasted time feeling she was undesirable” for Yume. And yet, thanks to their parents, a new beginning was written; one that allows them to reflect on their past missteps while seeing each other in a new light.

It was powerful and affecting watching their bittersweet first relationship crash and burn so utterly. From the cozy warmth of their (presumably) first kiss to the stark chill of their breakup scene, it was a harrowing roller coaster of a tale that added fresh context, richness, and gravitas to their present-day dynamic.

Engage Kiss – 09 – Demon’s Due

Yuugiri Akino’s AAA wins the auction by one dollar to take out the latest Demonically Possessed: Miles Morgan. Mikhail, it would seem, is trying to get rid of every trace of Asmodeus, including Akino and Shuu. We also get to see Mikami put the pieces together just before dying by Miles’ hand.

When Miles drives Shuu to the middle of a big park, he tells him Asmodeus is his benefactor whom he can never repay. Shuu wants him to apologize to everyone, including him but Miles has no regrets, and transforms into a Demon Hazard.

As a giant demonic monster, Miles proves too much for Ayano and her AAA troops, but luckily Shuu struck a deal for Sharon to lend a hand in taking down Miles in exchange for her freedom from police custody and for the memories of Asmodeus’ puppet, Miles.

In what is otherwise a very dry and dour episode, Sharon at least adds a bit of flair and ridiculousness by throwing a running motorcycle Miles’ way. Ayano repays Sharon saving her life by putting a gun to her head, but grudgingly accepts her help.

While Shuu and Kisara initially stand back and watch what happens, it soon becomes apparent Kisara needs to get involved, even if it ends up killing Shuu’s foster father. So Shuu tells Kisara what she needs to take from Miles and gets to smooching.

Hot Topic Kisara relieves Ayano and Sharon and has a proper rough-and-tumble brawl with Miles eventually piercing him from behind with her sword and putting him in a position to be shot by Shuu’s demon gun.

Shuu’s off-camera shot is followed by a rundown of the events that led to Miles breaking bad. It boils down to his daughter Melissa having a terminal illness and Asmodeus, who possessed the body of Shuu’s mother Sayuri (either always or at some point).

Miles did what Asmodeus told him, betraying Shuu’s family, while the mine explosion was caused by Shuu’s dad detonating a bomb. Miles’ daughter made a miraculous recovery, Miles took in Shuu as a mercy, and as he said, his debt to Asmodeus remains active and unending.

Kisara sucks up all of these memories swimming in what’s left of Miles’ human brain, either killing him or putting him at death’s door. Meanwhile, Kisara’s latest kiss has rendered Shuu so devoid of memories he had to refer to a note on his hand to recall that Miles killed Mikami.

Miles is defeated, but no one looks happy as the sun gets low over the scene, while Shuu looks distraught, but also quite lost. Sharon warned that at some point his contract with Kisara would render him unable to remember or even feel anything. We’ll see if Shuu can escape that cruel fate in the final four episodes of the series.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Call of the Night – 08 – Date Night

Kou’s comment about falling in love with Nazuna “no matter how many years it takes” is met with the reaction it is because there’s a rule he hasn’t been told about: once their blood is sucked, a human only has one year to become a vampire. If they can’t by then, they’ll never become one.

Nazuna cheekily pretends she forgot to tell Kou this, then conveniently remembers the debt she owes him for working on Kiyosumi, and kisses him right in front of the other vamps before flying off into the sky. Kou tells Nazuna that he realizes she’s weird even for a vampire, but he’s glad he met her first.

That said, this new time limit is concerning, and it takes Akira spelling it out that after that year is up and he’s not a vampire, he’ll be killed to protect their secrets. Later, at school, Akira comes across Seki Mahiru sleeping at the top of the steps, zonked out from being, you guessed it, out all night.

We learn that Mahiru, who befriended everyone, befriended Akira and Kou when they were all little. That said, neither Kou nor Akira realized that they were actually friends with him, due to his gregarious nature. Speaking of gregarious, Kikyou Seri greets Kou again one night, and while he tries to run, she promises she won’t kill him, and only wants to start off on the right foot.

When Kou demonstrates his middle school innocence regarding romance, she can’t help but serve as his love coach, and suggests he kickstart his relationship with Nazuna by taking her on a date. Naturally, when Kou proposes this, Nazuna isn’t interested, and continues playing her video games. But Kou switches her PSOne off and insists.

The date plan Seri drew up for him would probably work for most couples, but Kou and Nazuna aren’t most couples. Nazuna won’t even pretend to be able to stand the romcom movie they go to, while at the café Kou tries to start a conversation about the movie even though he knows she hated it.

Nazuna suspects someone put an idea in his head, and after reading Seri’s list she snatched from him, decides this is all lame and goes home. Kou lies in bed forlorn, but soon Nazuna taps on his window, not liking how the evening almost ended and suggesting they at least get that bite with a night view.

Naturally, that means one of their patented late night flights, and the “meal” ends up being one-sided, as she sinks her fangs into him in midair for the first time. Nazuna tells Kou that he doesn’t need to over-plan or overthink; they’ve already been going on dates, and she’s enjoyed them. Her attitude makes me encouraged that Kou can indeed become a vampire within the time limit.

Another night becomes a reunion of Kou, Mahiru and Akira when Mahiru spots Kou while hanging out late at night with other peeps. Kou is surprised Mahiru recognized him, but Mahiru says of course he did; they’re friends. The two proceed to get very corny about their feelings when Akira joins them and asks that they please stop. It’s a fun and wholesome all-human interaction.

Mahiru bids the other two farewell as he must meet someone he’s come to like. Nazuna, while looking for Kou, happens to spot him walking hand-in-hand with a lady, and when Kou arrives, she decides that they should hold hands too, with the practical excuse of not losing track of one another.

While Kou idolizes Mahiru as a “perfect” person (his family even owns a flower shop!), it’s Kou who encourages Mahiru to continue his nightly pursuit of love with the story of how he’s been hanging out with his own late night lass. I love how the episode ends with a super wide shot looking straight down at the two couples walking in opposite directions while both experiencing happiness.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 08 – Ain’t Nuthin’ but a G-Cup

Higashira Isana may have been rejected by Mizuto, but that doesn’t stop her from teasing and flirting with him. She also wants to see his book collection, ostensibly to see which light novel sparked his sexual awakening. Yume and Akatsuki take her shopping to give her a makeover from her cozy, “lame” style, but because of her killer bod everything she tries on is a bit too alluring.

Akatsuki suggests Irina adopt Yume’s more lose and flowy style to soften her silhouette. This leads Yume to try something new, and to suspect that this was Akatsuki’s intent all along. Yume also recalls that her present style was dictated by what she thought Mizuto liked when they were dating.

When Isana shows up in Yume’s old style, Yume serves as a “chaperone”, and witnesses first hand Isana and Mizuto’s usual rapport. Mizuto insists he only treats her like any guy friend, but to Yume it looks like he never actually rejected Isana and they’ve been dating all along. Isana even reveals the reason/excuse for Mizuto putting on her socks: reaching down with her bust is a pain.

When Yume shows her to the restroom, she learns Isana still very much likes Mizuto, both as a friend and as a boy, and probably always will, despite the rejection. Isana also voices her anxiety about Mizuto making other friends who might usurp her special place in his heart.

The parallel to Yume here is all too clear. Here is a girl who, like her, became close to Mizuto through books, and soon became the most important person in her life. Mizuto also notices these parallels as he sees Isana home. He remembers having as much fund with Yume back in middle school just quietly reading together as he and Isana here.

That leads him to wonder what might’ve happened if he and Yume had never become a couple, but simply close friends like him and Isana. He concludes that it’s pointless to hypothesize, since neither of them are quite like Isana.

Engage Kiss – 08 – The [REDACTED] is Already Dead

Engage Kiss does not care one single whit about your tonal or genre whiplash. After last week’s poisonous members and tentacle mech suits, we get what amounts to a hard-boiled detective procedural, and the results are…mixed.

While I appreciated the episode’s dedication to showing its work, that work is rarely glamorous. The monotony of what amounts to scene after scene of exposition as Detective Mikami, Miles, and Shuu try to piece things together is at least punctuated by the usual Kisara-Ayano sniping.

Last week’s MVP Sharon is tied to a chair behind bars this week, unable to unleash her full horny/trashy/sacred/profane shtick, but still wields power as someone who remembers crucial information Shuu forgot thanks to Kisara.

It’s pretty significant that Shuu thought Kisara would let him keep certain important memories, but Sharon says that it doesn’t work that way and he’s actually lost a lot more than he knows, and she’s not lying just for spite. All she offers “for free” about the identity of the big bad is an arsonist analogy.

Before Shuu can interpret the scant info Sharon gave him, Mikami has a eureka moment that seems primed to blow this case wide open…just as the trench-coated “Informant X” who’s been feeding Shuu shows up.

Mikami leaves a voicemail for Shuu, and during the recording he is confronted by someone and a gunshot rings out. By the time Shuu and Kisara arrive in the station lot, Mikami is dead, and Informant X tries to slink away. Shuu and Kisara show what a good pair they make by cornering and unmasking the guy…who turns out to be Mikhail.

I gotta say, that’s a pretty cheeky revelation—to dangle this oji-san like high school character who feels like he’s from another anime as the delusional third child in the family pecking order, only to reveal that he’s the mysterious General Director of Bayron City Police, from whom everyone gets their orders.

With his cover blown, Mikhail takes Shuu and Kisara down to his secret surveillance information center deep under the city hall, where he has over three million cameras going 24/7/365, (even on his sisters while they shower and sleep, an observation Shuu is quick to make and condemn).

The other fake-out in play is that Mikhail didn’t murder Mikami, and the camera footage proves it. The person who did is the one for whom Mikhail is merely a puppet, the second human agent who is coordinating the creation and destruction of demonically possessed.

Mikhail’s sudden major player turn takes a backseat to the emotional fallout from Mikami’s sudden murder, and it’s a good reminder of how good the show can be at occasionally taking the goofy/horny elements down a notch and letting these people be humans.

This culminates in Mikami’s funeral, always a solemn affair, followed by Shuu being picked up by his foster father and old pal Miles, who can’t believe Mikami is gone. When Miles talks about Mikami as the rare natural police who was also softhearted and guillible, Shuu drops the hammer: he knows Miles murdered Mikami.

Sure enough, a tattoo on Miles’ arm glows. While I’m hardly enthused by the only brother in the cast being the big bad, his villainous turn isn’t altogether unearned. Like us, Shuu’s had a huge blind spot for the guy, in his case due to the events and conversations he’s forgotten because his contract with Kisara takes away much more than he thought.

Shuu’s been trying to piece together a mystery when his own memory has been crumbling behind him in real time. Now he’s lost a true ally in Mikami and another main ally has turned out to be false. It’s safe to say things are going to get worse before they get better for Shuu.

Call of the Night – 07 – What’s the Hot Vamp Goss?

While walking along lots of folks earlier in the night, Kou worries someone he knows will see him and wonder what he’s up to. Well, someone does, but it’s Kiyosumi, who fully understands what Kou’s up to and is grateful for his offer to turn her into a vampire. Even she’s surprised how much of a weight that lifted off her shoulders.

She gives him a Coke and the two part ways, and when it starts to pour, he finds shelter under an overhang and witnesses a high school girl getting hit on. She waves to him, and a moment later she’s right there in front of him. She tells him she’s there to get hit on, but it has to be the right person.

I was wondering when one or more of the bevy of unseen characters in the OP were going to show up in the cozy little world that so far has been just Kou, Nazuna, Akira and Kiyosumi, and this blondie is the first of them. The speed with which she sidled up to Kou also had me strongly suspecting her of being another vampire.

It doesn’t take long for that suspicion to be validated, as she lures him to a disserted underpass and starts talking about how things just aren’t exciting and haven’t worked out like she’d liked, and she has no one to talk to about it. Kou, ever the empath, tells him they’re the same.

The moment he says those words, a drop of water falls into a puddle, and the girl is embracing him. Then she says his name and bares her fangs…and gets her arm chopped off by a just-in-time Nazuna.

The light just started to glow purplish pink when the blonde (her name is Kikyou Seri, and she’s voiced by Tomatsu Haruka), and that color remains as Seri pops her arm right back on like it’s nothing and fights Nazuna. Despite her slight frame, Nazuna apparently has a reputation for brute strength.

That’s why Seri didn’t come alone to snatch away the new kid Nazuna’s been hanging around with. Another vampire appears behind Kou, and before he knows it he’s being shot up into the sky, bound who knows where, while Seri keeps Nazuna busy.

The where turns out to be an upscale but otherwise pretty sedate rooftop deck, where not one or two but three other vampires greet the fourth who brought Kou there (Honda Kabura, voiced by Itou Shizuka). They are redhead Hirata Niko (Kitamura Eri),the cutesy Kohakobe Midori (Oozora Naomi), and the neutral Suzushiro Hatsuka (Waki Azumi).

Kou is told the situation: now that he’s aware of the existence of vampires, he has two choices: become one himself tonight, or be killed. He also has the choice of which one of the four of them will turn him, and each one tries their own signature style of seduction while the other three do inner commentary and engage in girl talk.

Kou surprises them not just by not seeming scared in the least about his situation, but in his insistence that Nazuna, the weird, unpopular, unprolific, lilac-haired letdown of the bunch. The conversation is lively, and Kou mostly keeps up; I particularly liked him protesting everyone assuming he was a virgin, only to confirm that yes, of course he is a virgin.

The other vamps main problem with Nazuna is just that she sucks at making offspring, which brings down the whole clan and even threatens their survival. All of them have committed to whatever agreed-upon quota for making more vampires, while she’s kinda just messed around and rejected that whole system. She’s their prodigal daughter.

She hates how they always chat and gossip like a bunch of schoolgirls, while they’re miffed by how easily she blushes and how she hasn’t managed to create a single offspring. But while Kou tells them he’s not sure what liking someone means, he’s quick to dispell their presumption that he isn’t interested in becoming a vampire.

He very much is, and he doesn’t blush even a little when he declares firmly to all of them that his goal is to fall in love with Nazuna so she can make him one. Of course, Nazuna arrives that very moment and overhears, so even though she does an awesome superhero landing that shatters the deck, she can’t keep her face from turning into a tomato, so she just freezes.

It’s all well and good for Kou to want to fall for Nazuna, but the others want to know what she’s going to do to make that happen? She, who goes completely fluorescent at the mere mention of romance. This is where Kou steps up and articulates the mutually beneficial agreement they came to: she gets to drink his tasty-ass blood, and he gets to fall for her and become a vampire.

But Niko and the others still don’t trust Nazuna, given her aromantic history. They want to hear it from her. When she can’t say the words, Kou again says them for her, saying she said if he wanted to fall for her, then whatever; it’s fine.

The vamps agree to let him go, but when Kou says he’ll become a vampire no matter “how many years it takes” that their confusion returns. Something tells me they had a faster timeline in mind. And hey, the sooner the better, seeing as how Kou already has his first offspring lined up on Kiyosumi!

While it largely lacked the nice, laid back, expansive vibes of the earlier, less-populated episodes, this Call of the Night had its own merits, like the wealth of great voice acting and character design, the lived-in chemistry of the vampires, and beautifully composed combat. I also love how their ultra-speed is portrayed with quick cuts and slow-mo.

Last night Kou was in a tight little group of moody broody pals, but tonight he finds himself in a bigger, potentially more threatening, but also enticing world. I’m sure he’ll sleep well!

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 07 – Irido de Bergerac

In one of her many “youthful indiscretions” of her middle school years, we watch Yume twist herself into knots trying and failing to deliver a love letter to Mizuto on the last day before summer break. The more the day dwindles away, the more anxious she gets, and yet she’s unable to muster the courage, which sends her into a spiral of self-loathing.

When she is finally able to present him with the letter, in the seeming eternity it takes for him to read it she’d rather be anyone or anywhere else. But then his answer to whether he’ll be her boyfriend is an cordially enthusiastic yes, all’s right in the world again. In fact, it’s better than ever.

That Yume knows what it’s like to waver and torture oneself before confessing so someone she likes, and Akatsuki probably knows it too, they (or rather mostly Akatsuki) lure Higashira Isana into a program by which they can vicariously experience that feeling once more.

They know Isana likes Mizuto (Akatsuki demonstrates it quite efficiently with a video of him sleeping) but they also soon learn that since she’s never been in love before (something they find nostalgic) she has no idea how to proceed, even if she agrees she’d like to give it a go.

And so Yume and Akatsuki hide behind the stacks in the library while Isana tries to communicate her desire to advance beyond mere friends, only for her efforts to go completely unnoticed by Mizuto. When she tries to get closer, he shifts away, saying he likes his personal space. But when he calls him on his threat to “unleash hell” he tussles her hair, then he gets her to comb it, so she does manage to get closer.

Throughout this process, Yume is understandably a bit worried about this succeeding, because just like Isana has never had feelings for someone before Mizuto, Yume has never experienced having an ex with a new girlfriend, let alone the fact they’re now stepsiblings. While on a nighttime call, Akatsuki says something we don’t hear about why Mizuto would have a girlfriend that invokes a strong reaction from Yume.

The big day of Isana’s after-school confession comes, and Akatsuki and Yume are right there with her hiding out of sight when Mizuto arrives. Isana struggles to get the words out, but he tells her to simply go at her own pace and he’ll connect the dots.

He notably allows her to speak her entire piece rather than cut her short, but when she does say she likes him and wants to be his girlfriend, his rejection is swift and brutal, even if it’s almost as delicate and eloquent as her confession was.

He also uses a lot of words to basically say that he likes someone else, or rather that someone else occupies the one and only slot that exists beside him. As Isana confessed, you could see Yume squirming in her hiding spot, possibly letting things progress so far, but it turns out she needn’t have worried; if there’s any chance dating Isana would make Yume cry, Mizuto won’t allow it.

Yume almost feels bad for him placing someone who isn’t even his girlfriend anymore, and probably never will be again, in such a vaunted position and not entertaining any replacements. But we go back to her phone call with Akatsuki and hear what was said: Mizuto wouldn’t have a girlfriend unless they were someone he truly, deeply wanted by his side.

As we learn, Isana quickly recovers from her heartbreak and she and Mizuto go back to being library buds, which utterly shocks both of her love coaches. But while they don’t get her, a part of them probably also envies her ability to turn the page and move forward. As someone in the same family and home as her ex-boyfriend, that’s a luxury Yume doesn’t have.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

%d bloggers like this: