Fruits Basket – 16 – Her Kind of Place

This week’s cold open is perhaps the darkest scene since the show dove into Hatori’s dark past. It’s not just shot dark, it’s frikkin’ dark, full stop. A younger, short-haired, long white coat-donning Uotani Arisa comes home to a dad wreathed in TV light and surrounded by bottles who doesn’t notice she’s there. She goes to the room and sits in the dark, wondering, perhaps, why she’s even fucking alive; what the point of all this is.

The next we see Arisa, in the present, luxuriating in the pool during P.E., is as bright and upbeat as the cold open wasn’t. Despite their reputation for delinquency, both she and Saki love the pool and would never skip out on an opportunity to swim in it. But the sight of Tooru in the same school swimsuit she wore in middle school reminds Arisa of elderly people buying dinner at the konbini she works at: somehow just really sad and wrong.

So she does something about it, asking—nay, telling—the Souma boys that it’s about goddamn time they get up off their asses and show some gratitude for Tooru constantly cooking and cleaning for them, by coming along to help her and Saki buy Tooru a big girl swimsuit. After some brief Shigure lecherness, the kids hit the mall.

Yuki and Kyou are beyond embarrassed to even be in a store that sells skimpy bikinis, let alone to see one placed in front of Tooru, but Arisa demands they at least lend their opinion as to what color Tooru would look best in.

Naturally, the boys pick opposite colors: Yuki blue, Kyou orange. Saki corrects them: Tooru looks best in pink. Her mom was the Crimson Butterfly while her straightforward dad’s color was white; combine those, and you get pink. When Yuki remarks that Arisa and Saki seem to love Tooru very much, Arisa quickly confirms that assessment. After all, Tooru saved her.

That’s when three yankees spot Arisa and plan to jump her, but are totally distracted by the gorgeous Souma boys she’s with.

Tooru is very predictably reticent about accepting the swimsuit, claiming she doesn’t deserve such a gift or any gift for that matter, because she’s nuts—but Arisa and Saki insist, so a swimsuit it is. Yuki and Kyou will just have to wait until next time they’re at a pool or beach with Tooru to see what it looks like.

Yuki remarks about how much Arisa and Saki love Tooru (and vice versa), and asks if the three go back to grade school. Arisa says no, only since middle school, when she was still active in a women’s gang she joined in fifth grade. She beat the shit out of people and had the shit beat out of her, and absolutely idolized the Crimson Butterfly, AKA Honda Kyouko.

When her gangmates tell her the Butterfly’s daughter attends her middles school, Arisa keeps her eyes open for “Crimson Butterfly II,” a carrot-topped delinquent in the mold of her mom. Instead, she’s bumped into by Kyouko’s actual daughter: klutz, space cadet, and deeply kind and decent girl, Honda Tooru. Arisa can’t believe it.

When she finally gets to meet the total badass bike empress she placed on such a high pedestal, she was bound to be disappointed, but could never in a million years have thought she’d be a carefree doting parent. When Kyouko and Tooru invite her to dinner, Arisa suddenly feels very uncomfortable and out of place.

Arisa gets up to leave, and when they insist she stay, she lets Kyouko have it: she’s disappointed and embarrassed to see what has become of the Crimson Butterfly. Kyouko’s response is perfect: she “just relaxed a bit”, is all. But it’s just too hard a pill to swallow.

In her rush to leave, she left her trademark black face mask, and Tooru chases after her to give it to her, calling her “Uo-chan.” But Arisa rejects the nickname and rejects Tooru’s open hand of friendship. She can’t look at Tooru without being reminded of how low the Crimson Butterfly fell. So she goes back to beating the shit out of people and getting the shit beat out of her, because what else is she going to do?

That brings us back to the cold open when she comes home, shuts herself in her room, and can’t get the image of Kyouko and her warm, bright, happy life with her “strange” daughter out of her head. Lame as it might seem to her, it may nevertheless be something Arisa wants, but long ago thought she could never have.

After last week’s disappointing Ayame-stuffed lakeside excursion, Fruits Basket roars back into relevance with a much-anticipated look into the past of one of Tooru’s BFFs and one of the most lovable characters on the show, and it didn’t rush things, leaving its resolution for next week.

It reminded me of another excellent backstory episode of another blonde delinquent-turned respectable civilian (Onizuka Hime from SKET Dance) as well as a wonderful exploration of how much a person can change in a short time—and how much Tooru can change them just by being Tooru. More of this, please!

Oh, and as an added bonus, the three delinquents who have a beef with Arisa have a hilarious post-credits sequence where they’re enthusiastically practicing their threatening techniques under a bridge, only for their first “victim” to be none other than Souma Momiji, who inadvertently scares them off with a his terrifying German friendliness. Very good stuff.

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress – 06

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We had another badass, satisfying resolution to another crisis, but when it’s all over it does feel like Kabaneri bit off a bit more than it could chew. If you’re going to bring out a foe as powerful and initially terrifying as a “fused colony”, as it did last week, you’d better not hold back in using it.

Last week’s cliffhanger was essentially Game Over…unless the Koutetsujou was able to seek shelter (and stop on a dime), complete with a blast door that managed to hold the colony monster back. Then the colony kinda takes a break, dicking around “gathering more Kabane”, giving everyone ample time to regroup. Too much time to maintain last week’s sense of immense peril.

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This is also an episode torn between two different paces: that of the immediate threat of the colony (which spends a long time not attacking), and that of Mumei’s descents into the past, when a mysterious warrior, always kept out of focus and accompanied by a glowing butterfly, saves her from sharing the fate of her family and fellow townsfolk.

Mumei and Ikoma also have a nice leisurely chat about weakness and strength. Mumei doesn’t want Ikoma to save her, but he keeps trying anyway, even though the train could leave the station without him. He even gives her some blood when she starts going into withdrawal.

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Mumei loses consciousness again when Ikoma turns to fight a horde of approaching Kabane, but when she comes to again, she’s surrounded by crewmembers there to get her out, and she finds Ikoma bitten in the stomach, but alive. Her lesson is, even though they were weak, they still survived. Being weak doesn’t mean turning over and accepting death.

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The experience has an immediate effect on Mumei, who was about as despondent as one could be while trapped under the rubble, but now that she’s been given a chance, in spite of having a weak moment or two (by her reckoning), she’s a lot more chipper, and decides to mend fences with the family of the dead dog, and assures the other women she’ll take care of the fused colony.

The crew can say they didn’t go back just for Mumei and Ikoma, because they also picked up a huge Type 48 Cannon that they can use to dissipate the colony. But to do so the colony has to get close…too close. This is when things pick up and the episode starts redeeming itself…though I was a little skeptical that the rescue team, and the seriously-injured Ikoma and Mumei, could get back to the train as quickly as they could while the colony barely moved by comparison.

Never mind, it’s time for a patented Kabaneri action sequence, with Yukina showing off her muscles when releasing the train’s pressure limits, Sukari providing a crucial assist by un-blocking the works in a very hazardous part of the train, and Takumi firing the bullet at just the right time…on his second try.

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The core of the colony is exposed for Mumei, who flies up and pierces it, but not before seeing…someone? Is it someone from the “team” she mentioned, of which she is the last remaining member who isn’t a Kabane? Whatever the case, the woman in the core merely screeches at Mumei, Mumei collects herself and takes her out.

The resulting explosion sends Mumei flying, but Ikoma is there to catch her. When the train threatens to derail, everyone moves to one side to right it, and they escape Yashiro…though without, if I’m not mistaken, re-supplying.

The episode ends without any aftermath—a bit of a disappointment—but the taste of victory may soon be replaced by train-wide hunger and increasing frustration and unrest. But maybe that’s why the episode just ended without addressing that: just enjoy the win for now; we’ll tackle the next crisis next week.

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Prison School – 07

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It’s been interesting to watch the deterioration of Kiyoshi and Shingo’s relationship over the last seven weeks, but to Prison School’s credit, Shingo is not always just the bad guy. Or at least, there’s more to him than simply his feud with Kiyoshi, as nicely demonstrated this week when he’s released into the wild by Meiko. He meets the bold, lovely Anzu in an arcade, who says she’ll take him on anytime; in video games, but also, perhaps, more than that.

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Among the inmates who aren’t Kiyoshi, Shingo is definitely the most “normal”, and there’s nothing normal about being in prison school for two months, so it stands to reason he’d do anything even for fleeting instances of freedom and normal life. Meiko knows that, and milks him for all he’s worth. When Shingo presents the missing sword from Gakuto’s figurine (which no one else knows about except Kiyoshi), which he found on the bathroom floor, Meiko does some googling and snooping and not only finds the figuring in the bathroom closet, but deduces it must be Gakuto’s—or “Dirty Four-Eyes.”

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For his quite accidental informing, Shingo gets another few hours on the outside, and his flirtation with Anzu continues, from her playing video games over his shoulder to sharing their ice cream cones to her offering to take him to go see The Grapes of Wrath. The two have nice chemistry, and feel very natural and normal together. While I wouldn’t want this to be the whole show, it is nice to see Prison School successfully playing the romantic slice-of-life straight, without any ecchi mayhem.

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Of course, it almost seems to make up for that normalcy by having Mari and Meiko unveil their suspicions about Gakuto in the strangest, meanest, wrongest way possible, offering one snack kernel for each inmate, but putting the missing sword in Gakuto’s hand and testing his reaction.

When he doesn’t bite (even when she places the figuring in her cleavage),  she mounts the horse it came with, threatening to crush it with her ample frame. Gakuto scoops it from beneath her, but before Mari can finish her judgment, he smashes it against the ground all by himself, declaring he’s not into those kinds of things.

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Just like that, Gakuto’s seven years of life go up in tiny shards of plastic. But he did it so he wouldn’t waste his entire life putting trinkets ahead of his hard-won friendships. He also apologizes for shunning Kiyoshi. I daresay it’s one of the most honorable moments from Gakuto not involving soiling himself.

As for Meiko, her little scheme backfired, and Shingo blurts out where the sword Mari touched came from (the boy’s bathroom), causing Mari to faint from shock, then to shun a Meiko who desperately wants to be whipped, in a very clever ecchi Twister game of tea time.

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Mari’s punishment for Meiko is to wear a skirt and shirt that cover her breasts and panties, but which prove so unbearably restrictive, Meiko almost faints in the hallway. Chiyo is there to help her, and by hanging around the council office, she’s able to learn for the first time about her sister’s DTO operation, which she surely takes exception to, as she’s one, like Anzu, who don’t mind boys at the school.

Mari’s “final phase” of the plan to expel the boys, seems to involve Andre, who they know is a masochist who keeps a “slave diary” (with some very nice illustrations in it, I must add!), but also notable this week is that all the inmates other than Shingo have now forgiven Kiyoshi, and also forgive Gakuto after he smashed his figurine.

Now it’s not Kiyoshi on an island, but Shingo. Would he still be so eager to continue help Meiko if he knew it was in service of getting the boys—including him—expelled? Certainly, being able to hang out with Anzu certainly makes it easier, but if he’s expelled, they won’t go to the same school anymore. Quite the quandary.

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Prison School – 06

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You wouldn’t think a day in which Kiyoshi was shanked in the ass by a tree branch and almost peed on by Hana would end up being a good day for him, but that’s the kind of crazy world Prison School is. There’s no situation too inappropriate or absurd that won’t befall its protagonist, and yet he remains resolutely human and moral.

Knowing a rift has formed between Kiyoshi and Shingo, Mari aims to drive a large, voluptuous wedge right through that rift, widening it. That wedge is Meiko, who begins giving Shingo special attention treatment, plying him with sweet treats and panoramic views in order to make him a snitch. Shingo, still pissed about his extended sentence, obliges all too easily.

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What’s weird and kind of endearing about Meiko is that while she’s built like a brick shithouse, the show makes sure to keep ambiguous whether she’s aware of how seductive she is. Her inner thoughts are more interested in making sure she doesn’t say something to upset Mari, who will then sic her crows on her. Regardless of her self-awareness, the sound effects employed whenever she’s doing something are pretty amazing.

With an inmate who will do whatever they want, Mari decides to implement a plan to stir up trouble, after intentionally applying more stress and punishment to the other inmates (or, to Andre’s detriment, less punishment). Her target is Joe, the least stable of the quintet, who loses it when it appears a crow is killing his beloved ants.

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He’s just waking up when he notices Meiko and Shingo talking in the shadows, but Kiyoshi still finds it odd that the entire council is out in force in the schoolyard. Then Joe produces a branch-as-shank and lunges at Mari, and something happens the president did not expect: a man protected her from harm. And in front of half the school watching from the windows. Unfortunately, his good deed is overshadowed by the fact the branch went up his ass, creating a great deal of blood. …And the fact Mari still despises men.

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Joe is thrown in solitary (after being told the crow was only “bathing” in ants as a grooming exercise, not killing them; a neat bit of ornithology mixed into our ecchi comedy!), and Kiyoshi is escorted to the nurse’s office…by Hana. Last week Hana promised she’d pay Kiyoshi back, and after being unable to force him to pee into a jug, she decides to accelerate her plan and pee on him herself. Things get pretty far, with her shedding her leggings and panties, but Chiyo inadvertently, temporarily saves Kiyoshi when she pays a visit to the nurse’s office.

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Unfortunately, that also means Hana and Kiyoshi have to hide from her, under the bed, occupying as little space as possible to avoid detection. As neither Kiyoshi or Hana are wearing underwear, Hana is a girl, and Kiyoshi is a guy, things outside his control start to happen. He’s bailed out again when Hana passes out, either due to the heat or from overexcitement.

In any case, Kiyoshi and Hana continue their very bizarre kinky physical relationship rooted in dominance and tit-for-tat; the precise opposite of the wholesome romance he desires with Chiyo (or, in his own words, “coming on to her just enough that she doesnt’ think he’s a creep”). While that’s going on, Mari’s dad the Chairman has his own close call when Mari visits him in his office…just as he’s opening a latin ass jerk-off device he ordered from Amazon(ess). That latest blunder from her dad kills any goodwill Kiyoshi might have created by saving Mari from Joe.

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But his heroism wasn’t all for naught: he didn’t just save Mari from a shanking; he saved Joe from possible arrest and internment at a real prison, something Joe thanks Kiyoshi for, being the first inmate to break the “shunning line” set by Shingo. At this point, even a weirdo like Joe can tell something not quite kosher is up with Shingo, and Kiyoshi lets him know that whole lunch break situation was similarly odd.

This is good, because it means Kiyoshi’s instincts aren’t entirely blind to the council’s DTO machinations. But he still doesn’t know what’s going on, only that things are off. With Meiko offering Shingo a uniform and two hours of freedom off-campus, Shingo remains in the council’s pocket. Whether he knows it or not, he is the weapon Mari intends to use to get all the guys kicked out—something, by the way, Hana seemed reluctant to agree with at first; I must look out for that, as she has her own agenda.

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Ushio to Tora – 18

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Few anime this year have worn their hearts so brazenly and so effectively on their sleeve as Ushio to Tora, and these past two episodes—in which the women (and one special woman in particular) in Ushio life literally save his soul—comprise UtT’s finest and most thrilling hour yet. Not a single line or action is wasted, and the dramatic stuff is expertly garnished with bursts of UtT’s trademark comedy.

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Two girls have successfully combed his hair, and once Yuu uses her athleticism and courage to be the third, that leaves his closest friends Mayuko and Asako. Mayuko almost instantly falls into a river charging ahead, but she is continually rescued by Tora, under the pretense of preserving a future meal.

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That neither Mayuko, a grateful Asako, nor anyone else take Tora’s malevolence seriously cracks Izuna up while showing how far he’s come whle maintaining his preferred way of showing affection to the humans around him: by claiming, almost defensively, they’re all food. With Jiemei showing him the way, Tora carries the girls to Ushio’s new location by the mouth of the cave where “a piece” of Hakumen no Mono dwells, and Mayuko reflexively uses the comb to parry a blow from the Beast Spear.

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That sends her flying to the edge of a cliff from which she falls rather than drop the comb that contains “all their hopes”, but fortunately for her Tora is really diligent about keeping his food clean and unharmed. Mayuko in arm, he decides he’s sick of Ushio, a human, acting like this. So he lets Ushio stab him with the spear, giving Mayuko the opening she needs. Four down, one to go.

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As suspected, for maximum dramatic effect, the one who loves Ushio the most is saved for last. Jeimei reveals it’s her brother who is the Beast Spear trying to devour Ushio in service of destoying Hakumen, but she begs him to stop. Ushio is even able to get the words “it hurts” out, sending the tears streaming from Asako’s eyes as she laments that all this crap is happening. Like Tora, she wants the old Ushio back, preferring him and all his lovable flaws to the mindless monster before her.

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As she wipes her eye she combs his hair, but the Spear senses Hakumen close and seemingly undoes all the progress the combing made, and neutralizing the power of Asako’s emotions. But she doesn’t give up, grabs hold of Ushio and doesn’t let go, and remembers all the times throughout the years Ushio pissed her off by teasing her, only to be her dopey knight in shining armor when she was in a spot.

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Just as Tora has a shorthand for why he helps out his “food” so much, Asako has a shorthand for the “idiot” Ushio. But she also happens to love that idiot, and all but says it when his crystal eyes shatter for good, released from the Beast Spear’s hold. Back in “normal” Beast Mode, he summons Tora and the two deal with the threat that had been bubbling around them, and had been dealt with by his dad, the chosen four, Jun, the priests, and even Hyou (Hi Hyou!), until the end of their limits: the massive swarm of Hiyou.

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Noting he seems stronger than before, Tora works with Ushio to obliterate the storm, after which Ushio collapses from exhaustion, back to his old self. He mutters to Tora how before he woke up, he felt like he was having a strange dream full of strange people, but also filled with warm people who were at their very best. But it all seems like a dream to him; he’s unaware of what has transpired and who was involved.

That Ushio may forever be ignorant to their deeds and hard-won victory is a little disappointing, but they’re right: if he learned what he did to them, he’d likely never forgive himself. They’re protecting him from needlessly punishing himself for hurting them, because to a woman, they were there by choice, and would do it again to save him in a heartbeat.

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This is an experience none of them will ever forget, but it’s also notable that it’s an event that brought them all together, as shown when they decide to go party together to celebrate a victory everyone who was present knows about except the one they saved.

But while many friendships were forged in this ordeal, as Ushio heads into the cave with Tora (no time to waste!) all the girls not named Asako know that Ushio will definitely be back, but won’t be coming back to them, but to her.  That will be some reunion.

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