ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 12 (Fin)

Leave it to ACCA to save its best episode for last. And why not? Each of the eleven preceding episodes perfectly prepared us for this finale. Everything pointed towards a smooth, peaceful, and efficient coup, and that’s what we got—only it wasn’t a coup to unseat Schwan, but a coup to secure ACCA’s future and thwart the Liliums and Furawau’s plans to snatch hegemony from the Dowa Royal Family. That, my friends, is one surprising yet completely logical and satisfying twist.

At first, things seem to be going according to Lilium’s plan: Once it’s Schwan’s turn to take to the podium and speak, he and his outnumbered guards are surrounded by ACCA officers in riot gear, and Schwan’s plans to dissolve ACCA are exposed to the throng, which quickly sides with ACCA in the matter, as expected.

But then Schwan calls Jean out, knowing exactly why he’s on the dais with the Chief Officers. Just then, Lotta (and I for that matter) are relieved to find Niino by her side. This is the moment when Director-General Mauve completely flips the script and reveals that beneath ACCA’s plan was another plan that Lilium was not made aware of.

In this plan, Mauve, rather than Jean, steps forward. She explains the theatrics were only meant to demonstrate Schwan’s need for greater then very loudly and publicly proclaims Schwan as the one and only Crown Prince of Dowa, thanks Schwan for his continued support of ACCA once he ascends to the throne and into the future, then bends the knee. Knowing how unpopular dissolving ACCA would be (and would make him), Schwan can only affirm Mauve’s words and commit to preserving ACCA.

Mauve’s speech is one of, if not the most badass moments of the series, if not the Winter season as a whole, because of how much it changes, all of the careful preparation that gives it so much power, and the jazzy soundtrack that adds a cool gravitas.

Suddenly, Lilium finds himself on the wrong side of the river with a very weak hand. He was so focused on his own machinations he failed to realize there were counter-machinations going on behind his back. Jean had been strategizing with Mauve since he learned of his lineage, and informed Grossular of what would go down the night before.

Mauve and Jean arranged things so ACCA would win before Furawau would, making the continuation of “the game” pointless. Sure enough, Lilium folds, but he also takes his ball (being Furawau) and goes home (meaning secession). I will now cease the sports metaphors.

After all the drama subsides, Jean and Lotta encounter Prince Schwan and Magie, who reveals it was the prince himself who ordered him to warn her of the attack. Between agreeing not to kill ACCA and this, Schwan turned out to be not-such-a-bad-guy after all, which is more interesting than a petulant, one-dimensional villain. And since there’s no usurping going on, Jean and Lotta’s lineage can remain secret, even as they’re allowed to meet with Schwan and King Falke.

With Lilium and Furawau leaving the Dowa Kingdom to start their own, Grossular dissolves the remaining three of the anachronistic Five Chief officers, who then go home and become chiefs of their respective districts, and seem all the happier for it, while Grossular stays on in an advisory role for the new single leader of ACCA, Mauve. She certainly earned it.

In other good (if a bit convenient) news: Just as Furawau seceded, Pranetta finally hit paydirt, and a resource (presumably oil) rush leads to the district’s revitalization, Suitsu is finally allowed to develop to the level of the other districts and its people allowed to vote.

We even find out who Niino’s secret other contact was, and it’s who I expected: Abend, the ever-loyal servant of the Dowa Family, who had colored his hair and taken on the identity of Owl to watch Jean that much closer. With the family members reunited, Niino is formally relieved of his photographing duties. Mauve and Grossular seem to be spending a lot more time together, while Jean assumes the feelings he has for Mauve are unrequited.

But that doesn’t change the fact that he and Jean are best mates, something that hasn’t changed since they met in high school (the post credits flashback to their prom, which Niino won but gave Jean the crown, was a nice touch), and won’t change now. Jean takes comfort in knowing he’s not alone. And, no doubt, in being able to stay in his old job. For all that’s changed around them, Jean, Niino, and Lotta really haven’t, and that’s for the best, as they’re perfectly happy with the lives they have.

So ends one of the most thoughtful, detailed, and elegantly beautiful looking and sounding series in recent memory, which came completely out of nowhere. Those are my favorite kind of shows: ones about which neither I nor anyone else have any potentially corrupting preconceptions.

It’s also a show with eminent rewatch value; there’s enjoyment to be found in watching the story unfold again whilst knowing its resolution. It’s also a show for which I’d happily embrace a sequel. Until then, I say goodbye to ACCA, a well-crafted and engrossing anime if ever there was one.

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ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 11

ACCA: Jusan-ku Kansatsu-ka. I hadn’t really read the words until recently, but they roll right off the tongue in a very satisfying, elegant way, like ACCA the show itself.

I daresay ACCA is a sneaky show. It seems a bit slow and dull at first but the details keep you around. Then it becomes something you must watch at all costs. In this way, it’s like no other show airing this Winter, and its quality has been rewarded on MAL, rising from 6.97 on week one to 7.43 today, the biggest climb of any Winter ’17 show.

By the time Jean arrives in lavish, exotic Furawau for the thirteenth of thirteen district audits, nearly all pretense has fallen over his “job” as inspector, as Furawau is the district spearheading the coup.

Yet true to its name (“flower” in katakana), Furawau’s inhabitants are cheerful and elegant, and discreet in their welcoming of Jean for his true purpose.

But while it’s named for its flowers, the gleaming skyscrapers and lush palaces are paid for with oil. 90% of the entire nation of Dowa’s oil is supplied by Furawau. This makes them Arabia on steroids, which makes resource-poor Pranetta the comparatively oil-less Jordan.

When he leaves for his hotel, Jean does not give the Furawau chiefs a direct answer about whether he’ll rise up with them. But fortunately for Jean, Niino was listening in when the Princess’ assassins were loudly discussing their plan for slaying him.

When they draw their appropriately ornate golden revolver from the shadows, Niino is there not only to warn Jean, but take two bullets for him. He survives, but when he wakes up from surgery, he wonders out loud something I’ve wondered for many weeks now: whether Jean is merely being dragged into things by chance, or if he’s “prying into the whole mess” of his own accord.

Before leaving Furawau, Jean tells the chiefs he’s with them. Upon returning to Badon, he doesn’t stop by Mugimaki where Mauve continues to show up and wait. Instead, he visits Lilium as his brothers instructed, and shows him all thirteen cigarettes he’s collected.

I love how each one is  different in color and length, and how Pranetta’s is one of his own. Details that carry symbolism: Dowa is one big happy cigarette case. When Jean says anyone can ascend as long as it’s not him, Lilium counters that only he can protect both ACCA and the people.

What he isn’t telling Jean…could fill volumes. Like the fact he needs to present at least the air of proper succession, and probably needs the ACCA angle to strengthen their case. Lotta can’t fulfill either of those conditions…nor can Lilium himself.

When Rail first heard of him, he assumed Jean was an upper class snob who thought his own excrement did not emit odor. Turns out he was right about the “upper class” bit, but now that Rail knows who Jean is for sure, he thinks he’d probably be a better King than Schwan.

Rail tells Jean this while they smoke in the city night, after Jean thanks him for watching Lotta while he was away. And Jean appears to take Rail’s subtle endorsement to heart…maybe he will be better.

The next day, people from all thirteen districts start pouring into Badon for the upcoming ACCA centennial ceremony. This means we get all the ACCA agents Jean met on his travels in the same room, and of course they all know each other.

It’s a nice “lower decks” scene, watching subordinates shoot the breeze. The girls badger Eidar about her feelings for Jean, only to learn she’s dating Grus. One agent brings up the coup, and silence fills the room.

Every one of them seems generally on board with the plan…except Warbler, who, being stationed in Suitsu, is naturally the last agent to be informed of the coup. And while it’s easy to get all swept up in the excitement of dumping a harmful king for a better one, Warbler provides a much-needed voice of concern and reason.

He makes very good points about the risk ACCA’s leadership is taking by arranging such a coup. He also questions if the young, inexperienced Schwan would actually follow through on his threat to dissolve ACCA. He believes the royal family is aware that tipping the scales of power too far in their favor could break the whole system, and trusts them to be more pragmatic once Schwan ascends.

But no one can be certain Schwan won’t dissolve ACCA, and in any case, the decision has already been made by the brass, so Warbler’s protests go acknowledged but not acted upon. After Jean leaves a brief, almost curt meeting with Mauve (which has the air of a breakup), Warbler tries to tell him that this coup idea is ludicrous.

Jean responds by saying he’d really like Warbler to take his job, after “one final push”, then calls the prince a “real headache.” Could Jean be starting to get the feel for the power he’s about to attain?

Cut to the prince being a huge headache, acting petulant aboard his ornate royal plane, dismissing Magie’s advice to meet with his cousin (Jean) or get to know the people more. He’s only going to Badon to attend the ACCA ceremony, then leave.

Warbler might think Schwan’s position on ACCA is open to interpretation or subject to review by the rest of the royal family or the privy council. But Schwan probably doesn’t think any of that. When he’s king—and he’s going to be king, he tells himself—he can do as he pleases.

Lilium continues to uncork bottle after bottle of champagne in celebration of a total victory that is still yet to come. In another private one-on-one with Grossular, he lays out the plan I expected him and his district to have: install someone he can control, Jean, in order to control the nation. He hopes to act quickly and elegantly enough that by the time people notice what’s up it will be too late to do anything about it.

Now that he knows Lilium’s true intent, will Grossular continue to stand impotently by and let it happen, or is he intentionally appearing weak to lull Lilium into a false sense of security? Does Grossular have his own plans? And as Mauve asked both him and Jean before him: is he all right?

He responds the same way as Jean: with a simple ‘Yes.’ Here’s hoping that’s true, because some big things are going down next week.

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 10

If it wasn’t before, it’s become plain that Lilium’s intentions with ACCA’s coup aren’t simply for the unity and good of the nation of Dowa, but for his district, Furawau, in particular. Things might even turn out to be worse with him than if Prince Schwan ascended; who knows?

Lilium seems like the kind of guy who wants more power, and being one of five head officers isn’t nearly enough. He’s already used Grossular as a pawn in his grander scheme, and installing Jean on the throne seems like more piece-moving. All I know is, the show wants me to think he’s being nefarious.

Jean, for his part, continues his auditing work. After Yakkara throws their lot in with Jean, noting they’ve always been a district of…ahem…gambling. Jean’s next stop is one of the more striking ones: Pranetta district, which is a hot and unforgiving desert on the surface, but whose population lives underground, working in the mines and kept entertained by a vibrant television industry.

This district doesn’t have much, however. They’re mining doesn’t seem to be the most fruitful, but the people seem to be living for their as-yet-unrealized dreams rather than a present rich in material things. Jean definitely seems to like the place.

These aren’t mole people, after all, and when it finally is cool enough to emerge from the caverns, it makes the evening sky seem that much more impressive and awe-inspiring. And like Yakkara and Peshi, Pranetta wants a Dowa in which ACCA is still around, so they’re with him. The chief formalizes his support by bumming a cigarette off of Jean, then giving it right back to him, in a really neat little moment that says a lot about Pranetta.

When he returns home, Jean has a chat with Lotta about her crazy day with Rail and the fact their mother was a princess, but before they can head out to eat, a special report comes in on the news: King Falke has taken a turn for the worse.

Suddenly everyone is scrambling to get their ducks in a row for what’s to come. Grossular manages to convince Mauve that the coup is what’s best for the nation and for ACCA, while the First Princess accelerates her plans to get rid of Jean and Lotta, who are nothing but usurpers in her eyes.

As for Jean, he sticks to his audit schedule, apparently unconcerned whether the king dies while he’s away. We only catch an establishing glimpse of Lilium’s home district of Furawau, but we can already discern many things from it. With gleaming skyscrapers among the sandy dunes, Furawau clearly has money, probably due to to fossil fuels. It looks like Dowa’s Dubai, so perhaps they’re also a big financial power.

In any case, Furawau is big and rich and impressive enough to be an alternate capital of the nation, should, say, the monarchy be done away with altogether or reduced in stature and importance. It also looks like a district that could take on any other district head-to-head and have the resources to come out on top (unlike poor Pranetta).

Will this be Jean’s ‘final audit’? Has he entered another friendly district, or a den of vipers? He may finally know who he truly is and what that means, but he still doesn’t know how he’ll be used…or how he’s already being used. We’re also not quite sure whether he’s actually going to claim the throne. The First Princess succeeding in offing him or Lotta, on the other hand, seems more solidly unlikely.

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 09

So far ACCA has proven a success in the school of the classic slow-burn, in which those patient enough to stick around are lushly rewarded, like the high one gets when about to complete a huge, elaborate jigsaw puzzle (don’t judge).

Last week laid out the details of the show’s central mystery of what’s up with Jean and Lotta, and this week deals with the consequences for everyone once the truth is officially out there, and decide on a course of action. It also allows some previous bit players on the margins play significant roles.

Oh yeah, and a shared love of sandwich bread of all things proves absolutely vital in preventing Lotta’s assassination by the First Princess’ goons. The food isn’t just window-dressing.

As soon as Magie hears from the prince that the knives may be out for Lotta, he makes a call to his comrade-in-bread, Rail, who makes Lotta’s protection his top priority. Rail has his suspicions, but doesn’t know the whole picture, but that doesn’t matter, because he’s a decent dude, trusts his fellow bread-lover’s warning.

As for poor Lotta, no one’s told her anything, and with both Jean and Niino away, a part of her already feels vulnerable. So as out-of-the-blue (or blonde) as it seems, she seems happy to have Rail (a sworn ACCA officer) by her side.

Jean is away because he’s on a sprawling three-district trip starting in Peshi (the port district) and moving on to Yakkara (the casino district, and another instance of ACCA imitating Sonic The Hedgehog levels)And Jean is no longer oblivious like Lotta.

He knows what the score is, and even understands what all those cigarettes on his past inspection visits were about. It’s need to see the change in Jean’s overall demeanor. He seems more focused, alert, and suspicious…as he should. Peshi’s chiefs drop the pretense and pledge their support for Jean’s ascension, unaware that Jean himself has no such plans.

I like how ultimately, it’s only a matter of time before Rail, a good kid but not a professional bodyguard, and Lotta finally get surrounded by the ominous goons and shoved into a car. Unfortunately for the goons, the traffic in Badon flares up just when they need to make their getaway.

Also unfortunately for them, pure dumb luck is on Lotta’s side, as Chief Owl (whom Jean asked to keep an eye on her) happens to lean on the open window sill of the goons’ car, sees Lotta, and secures her and Rail’s release.

Like Rail, Owl doesn’t have the whole story, and unlike Rail, he isn’t a sandwich bread fanatic (though we’ve seen him indulge in the office treats du jour) but he does have Jean and Lotta’s bests interests at heart, and it’s gratifying to see how competently (yet without undue violence) Owlmanages to wrest the crazy kids from certain doom.

With Lotta and Rail nicely rescued, Owl suggests they—what else—go to grab a bite with his ACCA staff. Coups and assassination plots be damned—you gotta eat.

With Lotta out of immediate danger and surrounded by friends, we move on, somewhat relieved but still troubled, to the other major storyline of the episode: Grossular coming clean to the other chiefs, which takes such a crazy turn I’d have nearly fell out of my chair, had I not already been sitting on the carpeted floor.

Grossular lays out the plan that’s been in motion since the beginning, with the ultimate goal of instigating an ACCA-led coup d’etat to prevent Schwan from becoming King, thus preserving peace, democracy, an, well, ACCA itself.

Grossular has known about the danger of a King Schwan for some time, but gained a powerful barometer (whom he observed through Crow) for the attitudes (be they pro- or anti-coup) of the districts in Jean, which is why his inspection department was suddenly saved from oblivion.

Once it was clear a majority of districts were in favor of a coup, the time grows near for that coup to commence, but a coup led by ACCA, as an extreme expression of their ‘protect & serve’ credo. The coup will, Grossular promises, “pose no danger” to ordinary people. Allowing Schwan to dissolve ACCA and create an autocracy might.

Grossular asks his four colleagues whether they stand with him or not, and everyone to a man is with him, all thanks to Lilium, who speaks first in response.

Because Lilium and Grossular have never, to the others’ knowledge, ever agreed on anything before, it’s all the proof they need to know the right course (on top of their pride in their roles as leaders of ACCA, along with their existing awareness that, ya know, Schwan is bad news). This is to be an act of patriotism, not treason.

Later, we learn that Lilium and Grossular’s constant disagreements in front of the others masks the fact that Grossular is, in fact, Lilium’s servant. Always a fairly inscrutable guy, we finally see a hint of subservience when Lilium grabs him by the hair and promises him in a threatening tone that “he will manage” in his next objective: do something about Director-General Mauve.

It’s this huge, sudden, surprising, yet still well-supported (by both plot and character) shift in character dynamics, as well as the timely utilization of Rail and Owl, that propelled this episode into the ’10th district.’ It’s also a interesting episode in that many cards have been played, but many choice ones remain in the show’s hand.

It’s that ‘floating potential’, as it were, that makes episode nine feel special. Hopefully it can be properly harnessed in the tenth, which I eagerly await.

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 08

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ACCA had been teasing us for a while now about who exactly Jean and Lotta are, and last week finally answered that question: they are a prince and princess.

This week gives us more of what I yearned for—specifics—by taking us back 33 years, to when King Falke’s daughter Princess Schnee leaves the royal family and renounces her titles so that she can spread her wings and be, in her view, of more use to the nation, by traveling and learning more about it.

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The four people who arrange Schnee’s “detatchment” from the family (complete with faked death) are the king, Privy Council President Qualm, Schnee, and her loyal aide Abend, who looks a lot like a young Grossular.

The twist is that Abend isn’t the one Schnee falls for: he fades into the shadows and receives reports and photos from Niino’s father, which he then relays to Qualm, who relays them to the king.

Everybody seems to win in this arrangement: Schnee gets to live her life (and fall in love with a commoner, resulting in the birth of Jean and Lotta) out in the world, the king never had to “clip her wings”, and the president rids the royal family of a member who he deemed might’ve caused undue, possibly republican (small r) disruption to the crown.

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After she’s ensconced in Bodan and starts a family, Schnee and her kids are largely on the margins, Abend disappears altogether, and Niino and his dad are front-and-center. Niino’s dad is fiercely loyal to Abend, who in turn is fiercely loyal to Qualm and Falke.

He takes his duty to keep an eye on Schnee and her fam very seriously, but because it is essentially his life, he also takes the time to enjoy it, and imbues that sense of duty, and sense of enjoying one’s duty, into his trusty son. That, and we see where Niino got his sweet tooth.

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The idea is that King Falke was perfectly fine with his daughter leaving the palace, as long as tabs were kept on her. It doesn’t seem like he intended for Schnee and her issue to be some kind of “backup plan” in case his younger daughter’s issue (Schwan) wasn’t up to snuff.

When Jean enters high school, Niino’s dad sends him there to befriend him…even though Niino is ten years older (chalk it up to good genes). Niino also joins the photography club and makes use of the camera given to him by “Master” (Abend). It’s clear both Abend and Niino’s dad are grooming him for the role of Jean and Lotta’s next “royal observer.”

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When tragedy strikes, it isn’t just Schnee and Jean and Lotta’s father who perish, but Niino’s father, who was traveling with them, as well. Just like that, the torch has been passed. The episode then fast-forwards back to the present, where Niino is telling the adult Jean all of this, and Jean is trying to process it.

Jean doesn’t care about whether he’s eligible to the throne (technically he isn’t); he just remembers how Niino cheered him up back in high school after his parents died, and how that helped him be strong for his little sister, who looks more and more like their gorgeous mother by the day.

The end credits play as they always have, but finally in context: the woman isn’t Lotta, but Schnee, barefoot, plainly clothed, and free from the isolation of the royal palace. She gave up everything, but gained freedom and the run of the whole nation, both for her and her children.

Now that Jean (though, notably, not Lotta) knows the truth, what will he do now?

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ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 07

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All the clues and hints have been laid out, ready to be taken and fitted together to get the larger picture around Jean Otus, who for a protagonist halfway into a show remains either deliciously inscrutable or, as Franklin has said, exactly as vapid as his surface indicates.

Mind you, the larger picture of Jean and his sister Lotta only seem to be part of a yet larger picture, one that both Grossular, Niino, and his second mystery contact would seem to know about.

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For the whole run of the show, I’d been trusting my instincts, which told me Lotta was important. Why else would the King and prince be so naturally drawn to her, and why else would someone who looks an awful like her be the dancer in the end credits?

The blonde hair; the blue eyes, the affinity for sweets and the royal district of Dowa, and of couse, all the swirlings of a coup—all of it points to Lotta and Jean Otus being themselves royalty. The flashback threw me off the scent, but their parents who died on the train were the second princess and her guard Abend.

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That, as Mauve reports to Jean in her home district of Korore (which is both a strong matriarchy and a chocolate superpower) makes Jean Otus first in the line of succession for the throne of Dowa.

It also explains a great many things about how people have been treating him all this time. Naturally, Jean, who “never asks questions about himself” but merely carries on, didn’t have a clue.

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While this revelation is delivered the same way any information is—in a suble, natural, understated fashion—it still raises the stakes considerably. Even if Jean doesn’t care about his lineage and won’t get in Prince Schwan’s way, Schwan is still gunning for him, big-time.

Assumptions and suspicions will play a larger role than Jean’s actual intent or desires. Jean and Schwan are opposites when it comes to how much they care about how they’re regarded by others. And then there’s the fact that Prince Schwan has (probably) never left Dowa, but Jean has traveled all across the nation, never knowing it was, in effect, a royal tour.

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Now that Jean knows one more thing Niino knows, their relationship doesn’t seem to change much. Jean still relies on him to tell him the specific bakery where he can get snowballs Lotta requested (which happens to be where the King himself stops by for some sweets), or the best chocolatier in Korore.

But while the mystery of Jean and Lotta may be solved, the bigger mystery is what comes next. What will Jean do with this information, once it inevitably gets out? Who will be on his side, and who (presumably anti-ACCA parties) will support the more malleable Schwan?

Things are finally starting to heat up in Dowa…and I’m not talking about the warmth of fresh-baked pastries.

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Joukamachi no Dandelion – 12 (Fin)

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Election day is finally upon us, and the Sakurada siblings are all scraping together their final speeches before the votes are tallied. The leader of Akane’s fan club notices she’s changed in the last eleven episodes, but while she’s not as shy or prone to flash people, he remains as strong a fan as ever. Hana’s friends are thinking of voting for her boyfriend Shuu, though they worry they’ll see less of her if he wins.

Aoi, the expected victor in the election, informs her parents she’s backing out, and neither of them are disappointed. The whole reason they had so many kids—and have an election to begin with—is so they can all choose their own paths in life, which may not include ruling the country.

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On election day, with the gathered masses in attendance, Aoi announces she’s withdrawing her candidacy and explains why (Absolute Obedience will give her more power than she wants or should have). Her siblings’ speeches are interrupted by a runaway airship headed straight for the castle and the crowd below, but thanks to quick thinking and teleporting by Shuu, Shiori’s ability to talk to the airship, and Akane’s ability to manipulate gravity, the siblings end up preventing a calamity of Hindenburg-like proportions.

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In fact, it’s another all-sibling effort, with Haruka determining the proper landing spot for the airship, Kanade creating a barricade, and Teru pulling the ship to a stop, while Misaki, Hikari, and Aoi keep the crowd calm and safe. But it’s Shuu, who is able to give a speech as this is all going on, who ends up winning the election and becoming king, by taking the lead in averting disaster and promising both to Hana, and everyone else present that he will strive to protect everyone and help them to thrive and live happy, fulfilling lives.

With Shuu crowned, Aoi is off to college, Kanade studies for medical school, Misaki becomes class president, Hikari reveals her identity but remains an idol, Shiori and Teru continue their studies, and Akane pretty much continues on as she has, only now that she’s been through the rigors of an election she’s come out with a thicker skin and more confidence. And she still has time to stop and admire the dandelions.

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Joukamachi no Dandelion – 11

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With only a month to go before the election, the Sakurada siblings watch the latest polls, and the question of why Akane is so scared of crowds and attention comes up. Her older siblings recall that she wasn’t always so shy in public; quite the opposite, and thus we enter a flashback with that bold, courageous Lil’ Akane, obsessed with spreading justice throughout the land (perhaps influenced by comic books).

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Her confidence in and ease with which she wields her powers leads to her ditching her guards in order to hang out at her best bud Karen’s house, only to encounter two burglars tossing the place. The two girls are paralyzed at first, but Akane gathers her courage and uses her powers to foil the bad guys in a Home Alone-style action scene.

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Then the bad guys take the kid gloves off and threaten to hurt the girls, at which point Akane has no choice but to go a little overboard, scaring the burglars into submission, but destorying Karen’s house in the process. The gathering crowds around the site, with all the opinions and judgements flying as Akane stands holding a thankful Karen’s hand tight, gradually overwhelm her. It’s an ordeal that informs how she reacts to being in the spotlight to this day. But as Kanade said early in the episode, she had some stuff in the past that she managed to deal with; so can Akane.

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Her story is carried into the second segment as she gets the opportunity to overcome her shyness once and for all (or, at least, partially). That’s because their dad the king is in bed with a strained back (much to their mom’s chagrin), and the Sakurada princes and princesses must work together to accomplish all the official duties he’s unable to.

Akane initially helps out saving various people at a town that was hit by a landslide with her powers under the bespectacled guise of Scarlet Bloom, but she gets so into her good deeds, she doesn’t realize she loses her “Jamming Glasses” (which we know don’t really do anything) and is recognizable to all as Princess Akane.

She then remembers Karen remarking on that day she saved her from the burglars. Sure, there was some collateral damage, but that didn’t mean anything to Karen or presumably her folks, because Karen was alive and okay thanks to Akane’s heroism. So she can hold her head high—as herself, not Scarlet Bloom—as the election approaches. Because far more people like her than don’t.

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Joukamachi no Dandelion – 10

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Hikari remains not-my-favorite Sakurada, but her half of the episode benefits not only from Sacchy, who has some hot takes on royalty (they don’t understand true hardship; they’re set for life no matter what), unaware her fellow idol is in fact a princess. Akane is also cleverly brought into the storyline, since she’s such a huge Sacchy fan and is (slightly) aged up by Hikari to serve as a substitute assistant. Then Sacchy learns the truth—accidentally, creating fresh tension.

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Hikari’s manager wants her to reveal her true identity after the next joint concert with Sacchy, but Hikari decides not to do so. Now, in the past, this might seem like backtracking on the original plan to increase her exposure to the voters through idolling. But she feels to do so now would be unfair to “Raito”, and more importantly Sacchy and her fans. Still, she wants to tell Sacchy the truth before they take the stage, and she does.

Sacchy doesn’t care which identity Hikari chooses; she knows she’s a hard worker and someone she wants to keep performing with. Akane is inspired to see how much her little sis has grown, and a little envious she knows what she wants to do (outside of becoming king) and is going for it with everything she’s got.

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The second half is arguably a far simpler story, focusing on the twin siblings Shuu and Kanade. Just as the first half was a callback to a previous Hikari-Sacchy segment, the second is a callback to Kanade’s feelings of grief, regret, and idebtedness for injuring her brother by recklessly using her powers as a youth. When she sees him on the street with his girlfriend, she re-resolves to become king so she can heal his legs.

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Then, all of a sudden Shuu teleports before her, knows she’s troubled by something (they are twins after all) and tells her…he doesn’t want her to become kind just to heal his legs. He’s happy with his life, and Kanade doesn’t own him anything. Kanade’s personality is much like her power: transactional, so she can’t easily accept Shuu’s position. It just doesn’t make sense to her. Frustrated, she runs off, and nearly falls victim to an anime classic: the Bundle of Heavy Pipes Precariously hanging over the street above her.

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It’s almost history repeating itself: Shuu getting hurt because of her, but both of them are fine, as he teleports the two of them to safety. Kanade, in Shuu’s arms, is still frustrated, but Shuu reiterates, thirty seconds or no, he’s her BIG BRO, and it’s his goddamn job to protect her, no matter what happens to her. It’s her job, as his little sister, to shut up and let herself be protected. Kanade lets Shuu carry her home, and tells him she’ll no longer try to become king just for his sake, but for hers…so she can build a despotic state she’ll rule, like, well, a king!

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Joukamachi no Dandelion – 09

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This week Aoi discovers the perfect way for Akane to be able to be more assertive and comfortable with helping people without being crippled by her shyness: become someone else. Kanade supposedly creates a set of “jamming glasses”, but as the cold open indicated, they don’t actually work; rather, both Akane’s siblings and the general public are well aware she’s Akane, they just don’t want to let on that they know, lest she revert to her painfully shy state. A nice case of mind over matter.

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Even when Akane saves someone without her glasses or cosplay, she simply concludes it’s because “Scarlet Bloom” has become so popular, they’re mistaking her for Akane. Meanwhile, the superhero act works wonders, propelling her from fifth place to second, even beating out Kanade, who along with Aoi perpetuated the tapestry of lies that facilitated their younger sister’s rise.

Meanwhile, Sad, Insecure Misaki is sad and insecure again, and needs Haruka to cheer her up and tell her she’s the best sibling to be king, because she has the perspective of the masses, what with being average and all. That only holds water, if you set aside the fact she can make highly-talented clones of herself, and that’s not something so easily set aside!

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Finally, Aoi, architect of Akane’s rise, feels bad about the way her friends are mistaken as her entourage of attendants by onlookers. They also mysteriously abandon her one after the other, with flimsy excuses. Alone, Aoi starts to rethink socializing with her friends so much, since she’ll only become more of a burden to them as King, or something.

Of course, she’s quite mistaken; her friends only went off to set up a surprise birthday party for her, confirming the value they place in their friendship with her. While still leading in the polls, Aoi still doesn’t want to be king. She’d rather help her siblings reach that goal, while in the meantime enjoying the friendships she forged on her own, without any mind control.

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Joukamachi no Dandelion – 08

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JnD may be based on a 4-koma, but that doesn’t mean it can’t carry on compelling, moving serialized stories, including in the romance department.

It’s even a bit coy about it, starting off with all the Sakurada siblings’ powers going berserk in an occasional phase called “Break Out.” I’m assuming this only happens in adolescence, as it would be pretty inconvenient for the king to be so compromised at regular intervals. That being said, seeing everyone’s  power going haywire in one place makes for some good visual comedy.

Shuu isn’t immune to Break Out, and inadvertently teleports away as he’s walking Satou Hana (the girl who confessed to him a few eps back) home. Hana panics—not unreasonably—and calls Akane for help. Akane uses this as an excuse to practice hanging out in big crowds, and promptly assuages Hana’s fears about Shuu teleporting away intentionally.

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Hana and Akane have some great comedic exchanges in which one is weirding out the other, and the balance is pretty good. Akane completing her inner monologue by yelling “I’ll do it”, or Hana loudly ruling out marriage without context to the crowds around them. I also like Akane’s two-birds-with-one-stone plan to offer advice to Hana while enduring crowds.

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But her Break Out isn’t gone, and crazy, scary things start happening, Hana doesn’t panic, but covers Akane up just as her clothes are being torn up by berserk gravity manipulation (the show avoids fanservice, since this is a serious moment). Hana then goes the extra mile, covering Akane’s escape indoors by loudly, proudly confessing her love for Shuu and her intention to go out with him with marriage in mind for the future, to great applause.

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Shuu seems pretty okay with Hana’s announcement when he sees it on TV (and would probably be even more okay if he knew she was making the announcement to save his sister undue embarrassment), but Kanade is concerned about his indifference, both about how Hana is taking charge of their relationship and, perhaps, also how little he seems to be interested in becoming king.

That’s a perfect segue to a flashback segment that serves as a How I Met Your Mother for the Sakurada parents, King Souichirou and his consort Satsuki. Unlike his kids, Sou spend much of his school years alone, constantly accompanied by his guardian/maid Sowa. He could see the discomfort in people, because reading auras is his superpower.

One day, while escaping from Sowa’s gaze for the seventeenth time, he explores the roof of the school and finds a coral-haired girl sleeping in the sun like a cat, with a petal on her nose. He gets close enough to make her think he’s up to no good (and she tells him it could be construed as an insult if he wasn’t, demonstrating the complicated nature of girls) and conscripts him as her pack-horse for grocery shopping (blowing off class in the process).

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After his face is called dull by the grocer, he and the girl head to her home, where four hungry mouths are waiting for her to make dinner (her parents are working late, not deceased). She makes dinner and Sou joins them, and it’s a transformative experience for him, whose parents have both passed and has no siblings.

The warmth and happiness exuding from the girl’s family puts a kind of spell on him. This girl, Satsuki, will be the girl he ends up marrying. Someone who makes him a better person; brings out new parts of him he didn’t know he had. She helped him become a better king, who can connect with the people in spite of his dull face It’s a lovely, funny, and incredibly efficient love story.

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Fast-forward to the present, and Satsuki remains a strong force, not letting the fact her husband is king let him get away with slacking around the house. When Shuu, presently considering a relationship of his own, seeks advice from his dad, Sou tells him the duty of a king is to make sure his family is living happily. In other words, a king must “rule” his house first, otherwise, why should he be fit to rule anything else?

Shuu takes that advice to heart when meeting with Hana on the same rooftop where Sou met Satsuki (a nice touch there!), but Hana is worried her antics at the cafe crossed the line, and Shuu is about to dump her. She maintains that fear when he accidentally teleports them both to an arctic range, even going so far as to fear he’s going to leave her there after dumping her!

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Of course, she’s got it all wrong: Shuu was glad and inspired by her courageous, confident announcement, and far from thinking she’s not a good match for her, he was worried he wasn’t a good enough match for her. But he wants to be, and he’s going to work to become just that, if Hana would stay by his side even after the elections.

It’s a lovely romantic moment and a happy ending that’s about to be punctuated by a kiss…but the episode reminds us they are in Antarctica (or Nepal)…and Shuu need to get them somewhere warmer pronto!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, completes and episode full of wit and heart; funny images and touching moments and connections. In other words, the best JnD yet.

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Joukamachi no Dandelion – 07

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It’s a strict two-parter this week, with stories so different, the siblings at the focus of the first half barely appear in the second. First, Akane has a fever and the King and Queen are going out, leaving Kanade in charge. (Where’s Aoi? Who knows?) When cold compresses and porridge can’t get Akane’s temperature down (and dare not use her powers to conjure the undiscovered cure), Shiori risks catching Akane’s cold by giving her a kiss. The King is also a bit of a worrywart, and so kept a team of special forces on alert. Their accidental storming of the house is nicely handled by Kanade, and Akane and Shiori aren’t the worse for wear.

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The second half is dominated by Hikari, whom I’m on record as not being the biggest fan of because I’m not the biggest fan of Ogura Yui’s squeaky voice. Fortunately, Hikari is aged up to idol-age, and her conflict arises when she’s paired with the super hard-working, no-nonsense veteran idol she admires, Sachiko, who resents Hikari for being talented but sloppy. When Sacchy is asked to play second fiddle in a double concert, she’s a pro about it, but she won’t acknowledge Hikari until she shows she can work hard too.

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Sacchy not only inspires Hikari to ace a test in school after failing a previous one, but to also train harder in preparation for the concert. When it arrives, the two perform well, but Sacchy meets with a spot of bad luck and twists her ankle on stage. Hikari goes out there alone and finishes the show, with Sacchy watching from the dressing room, impressed and realizing she misjudged Hikari. In all, the segment is an interesting study of the different worlds Hikari can inhabit when she ages herself up.

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Joukamachi no Dandelion – 06

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J-Dan has become a surprisingly rich and complex tapestry of sibling dynamics, not hesitating to jump back in time to show us how they struggled with their powers in one way or another while making their place in the world, and how they continue to work hard and grow as they compete for the Kingship. It’s a big family but the show has proven surprisingly deft at juggling them, even as it tends to play favorites (i.e. Akane).

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I for one was greatly entertained by the unveiling of Misaki and her seven deadly clones, so I was happy to see them back this week, especially since this “Misaki Summit” is really just Misaki herself going over something in her own head; only the individual emotional parts of her head are manifested as physical clones.

It’s a weighty metaphysical concept made incredibly simple and easy to digest, as Misaki laments all her siblings campaigning so hard for themselves while she puts “country first.” But with some well-timed advice from Haruka, she realizes her position is just another kind of selfishness. Anyone who runs for King must be a little selfish, after all.

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What’s cuter than Akane? LIL’ AKANE. Just look at that mischievous little squirt! We see her in one of the episode’s many flashbacks, as Kanade takes her out to the park to play even though Shuu warned them not to. Kanade tries to keep Akane on her side by conjuring up that hero outfit for her, followed by a giant castle, but it materializes incompletely because she’s run out of funds.

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When she tries to force-conjure a staircase, the columns holding the castle up disappear. Shuu pushes Akane to safety, but his legs are crushed by the rubble, and right up to the present, he can’t participate in strenuous sports, even though he dreamed of becoming a soccer star. It’s a pretty dark and intense memory Kanade bears every day, and while none of her siblings are sure why she wants to be King, we learn why here: she’ll do everything in her power to help Shuu fully recover.

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Kanade’s determination to win makes her frustrated with her near-perfect older sister Aoi, who seems to achieve or gain everything so easily while Kanade must pay, either in hard lessons like Shuu or currency. But Aoi has her story to tell as well, and it’s just as dark and brooding.

As it turns out, Aoi has a power beyond simply remembering everything she studies and everyone she meets: she can also, if she chooses, make someone do whatever she wants, no matter how ridiculous. When she first gained the power, she used it inadvertently, but gradually figured out she was manipulating people.

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Even though she learned not to carelessly issue direct commands to people, a part of her still felt she gained her three friends by “cheating” with that power. But when in the present the three say “no” to her offer to buy them tea for helping her hang posters, they qualify it by saying they’ll share the bill.

Before her powers fully manifested, she had to go out on a limb and ask them to be her friends, and they agreed of their own free will, just as they continue to want to be her friends because that’s what they are, not because they have to.

And who is it who makes this observation that sets Aoi’s mind at ease, and possibly opens the way for Aoi to consider running more seriously for King despite her secret power? Akane, of course.

She may be painfully shy, but she can also be mighty perceptive and supportive to those she cares about. She, and all the other siblings in this show, have most definitely made me care about them.

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