Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou – 24 (Fin) – Down With the Ship

Satoko did not predict her uncle would be reformed to the degree he was as an effect of her loops, but she’ll still use him “to his utmost potential” in her overarching goal to keep Rika right where she is: in the “birdcage”. One of the key figures in assuring that outcome is Takano Miyo.

Miyo is taken out into the rainy woods by members of the Mountain Dogs. where she is told the operation has failed and all physical evidence related to it will be destroyed, including her beloved scrapbook. She’s also given a gun with one bullet to blow her own brains out, or it will be done for her.

Miyo wakes up in her office, clearly having experienced an alternate fragment and, like Teppei, considered it more than a dream, but a warning of what will come if she continues on her set path. The orders to get rid of her in that fragment come down from Nomura, a woman in Tokyo Miyo trusted. She gets a call from Nomura shortly after waking up.

As such, the possible events she just “dreamt” are foremost on her mind when Nomura informs her of what must happen if she fails her operation, which involves infecting Tomitake with Hinamizawa Syndrome. Miyo’s dear departed grandfather’s research will be dismissed as “fanciful nonsense” and he’ll be a laughingstock.

Miyo recalls when she was much younger and served as her gramps’ assistant, only for a bunch of old guys to come in, listen to his research, and dismiss it as…fanciful nonsense. Never the less, Miyo would grow up, go into medicine, and carry on her grandfather’s life’s work. In a meta moment, one of the old dudes says he’ll recommend a publisher for her gramps, as his research could make for some entertaining fiction.

Before Satoko comes in for a routine checkup and tests, Miyo has the sudden urge to take her scrapbook out of the safe, no doubt fueled by her “dream” about it and her ending up in the mud. In it she discovers a letter to her from her gramps, imploring her to stop pursuing the research and go life a “wonderful life”.

During their tests, Miyo tells Satoko how she’s considering quitting the Irie Clinic, considering that if she stays she’ll eventually be discarded like “ingredients in soup stock”. During Rika’s dance, Satoko follows Tomitake and Miyo to Oyashiro’s storeroom, though only Miyo goes inside.

Back in the ethereal plane, Eua notes that Satoko is working towards a world where the rules of Rika’s tragedy no longer exist. Satoko intends to take on the mantle of Oyashiro-sama and punish Rika for longing to leave Hinamizawa with the curse of another virtually endless cycle of tragedy, in which Rika will “learn” that her proper place is Hinamizawa, by Satoko’s side.

When Tomitake arrives for his “prophylactic”, Miyo takes out a vial of H173, but decides not to go forward with injecting him, thus scrapping the operation on her own terms. Without Tomitake succumbing to the syndrome, the rest of the “final operation” cannot happen. Satoko uses Miyo’s reluctance in this fragment, borne from previous fragments, to steal a vial of H173 for herself.

Eua asks Satoko if she’ll really feel no guilt or remorse for resorting to such methods to achieve victory, and Satoko, made both wise and weary by her decades of looping, says none at all. After all, the world she’s working toward, in which she and Rika are together, will be devoid of tragedy, and that will be the only world that really matters.

With that final declaration, delivered with red eyes and all the fervor of a girl obsessed, the story of GOU is concluded, and the story of SOTSU is announced as a continuation of Satoko’s quest. Rika has been ready to move on with her life for some time now, but Satoko isn’t ready to let her.

She can’t accept a future in which the two of them simply drift apart, as friends sometimes naturally do. For all the pain and suffering her plan has caused and will surely continue to cause, I can’t help but pity Satoko as much as I do Rika and the other victims, and I’ll be back to see how it all turns out.

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation – 09 – A New Adventure Begins

Rudeus wakes up in a white void and in his original human form, and assumes his time in a fantastical new world was finally at an end. Why wouldn’t someone with his experience in failure and disappointment think otherwise? But it’s not the end, just the end of the beginning.

First of all, as he’s told by the very sketchy looking and sounding “Man-God”, he’s not dead; this is simply his mental image. It’s only a dream, and when he wakes up he’ll be back in lil’ Rudy’s body. The concern is where he wakes up: the mana disaster transported him to the Demon Continent.

The Man-God tells Rudy to rely upon and help the man he’ll meet upon waking up. That man turns out to be a Superd, the demon tribe feared and loathed by all. Rudy is initially fearful himself, especially wiht a sleeping Eris nearby. But when the man shows no sign of hostility, Rudy decides to make use of his Demon-God language skills and politely introduce himself.

The man is named Ruijerd Superdia, and tells Rudy they’re in Biegoya, in the northeast of the Demon Continent, quite a trek back to the Central Continent from which he and Eris came. Ruijerd tells Rudy he’ll escort them safely back to their homeland; to abandoning children would damage the Superd tribe’s reputation. Of course, as an awakening Eris’ over-the-top yet quite normal reaction to Ruijerd confirms, the Superd’s rep is already crap.

Rudy serves as mediator, and within minutes, Eris and Ruijerd are friends, and Eris is all smiles about the prospect of going on an adventure in a strange land full of unknown dangers. It’s precisely the opposite of the prim, proper, fancypants existence cooped up in the Boreas mansion in Roa, where Eris so often acted like a caged animal.

Biegoya’s gorgeously-rendered landscape is downright alien, from the lighting and colors to the texture of the terrain and, naturally, the wildlife, which includes massive tortoises that call to mind a grand Final Fantasy overworld.

I also hasten to add that the three make for a neat adventuring party, with Ruijerd as the spearman, Rudy as the mage, and Eris as the swordswoman. The only problem is Eris lacks a sword, and Ruijerd wouldn’t think it right for children to protect him. I’m sure he’ll soon learn Rudy and Eris are not your typical helpless kids!

After the better part of a day of trudging through hot and barren wastes, the party comes upon a village that uses the giant tortoise shells as dwellings. When the guard at the gate sees two humans with Ruijerd he bars them from entering—human-demon distrust goes both ways—but Ruijerd asks him consult with the elder, which he does through telepathy.

Once the elder and other villagers appear, all of them with a familiar cornflower blue hair, I knew Rudy was about to experience “Small World” phenomenon, as the guard, Rowin, recognizes the green stone around Rudy’s neck. When Rudy says he got it from his master Roxy Migurdia, Rowin proclaims he is Roxy’s father!

Roxy apparently left the village 20 years ago and they haven’t seen her since. Hearing she’s alive and well in the Central Continent brings tears to Rowin’s eyes. He also estimates Roxy to be around 44 years old; demons enjoy over double the lifespan of humans, and keep their youthful looks well into middle age. I believe that officially makes Rudy’s goddess a MILF.

That night over dinner (of which Rudy is apparently not a fan), the Migurd elder mentions numerous shooting stars last night, the result of the mana disaster that brought Rudy and Eris to their lands. When Ruijerd tells him of his plan to take them home, the elder is weary, as it will be hard for a Superd like him to enter cities.

The elder is aware of Ruijerd’s goal to dispel the Superd tribe’s poor reputation, which Rudy knows isn’t going to be easy. Rudy then accidentally angers Ruijerd by telling one of the biggest lies: that the Superd just naturally kill everybody and anybody who looks at them the wrong way. He tells Rudy the truth: the Superd were betrayed…by Laplace.

Just as Sauron corrupted men with powerful but ultimately cursed rings, Laplace corrupted the Superd with powerful but ultimately cursed spears. Spears are a vital part of the Superd tribe, as they represent their very souls. At first the new spears Laplace gave them seemed like a great deal, but before they were aware of it they had become a violent and brutal tribe killing everyone they could see, including their own families.

Ruijerd raises his spear, which is the soul of his son, who sacrificed himself to free him of the curse. The Superd’s “curse of infamy” is punishment for trusting Laplace, but he’s committed to fight to repair his tribe’s reputation to his last breath. As he looks into the fire Rudy contemplates what 400 years of guilt and regret felt like for Ruijerd, likening it to the misery he felt in his old world, albeit for a much briefer, human-scaled duration.

Rudy makes up his mind right then and there: he will help Ruijerd redeem the Superd in the eyes of the world. Ruijerd, genuinely touched by the offer, accepts, and the next morning the three of them are off, after a very cute scene where Rudy asks if he can call Rowin “father-in-law” (he can’t), compliments his would be mom-in-law (who is 102!). Even Eris is polite for once, saying thanks and goodbye with a proper curtsey (despite not wearing a dress).

As thanks for relaying the news that their Roxy is well, her parents give Rudy a purse of what looks like demon currency and a very cool-looking demon sword, which he gives to Eris. He reiterates the choice he made to help Ruijerd after empathizing with his suffering and acknowledging his goodwill towards him and Eris—all while Eris is in the background practicing her swordsmanship!

It’s an all-around good arrangement: Rudy will let Ruijerd protect him and Eris outside of the cities, while they’ll protect him within them. So ends a particularly strong episode, made all the stronger by drawing upon the parts of Rudy’s original life besides his perversity (it’s the lightest episode yet on that front), and the fact that Eris is clearly super-pumped to be on an adventure.

Read Crow’s review of episode 9 here!

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation – 08 – Growing Up Fast

Two years have passed since Eris’ tenth birthday, which means Rudeus’s tenth birthday has arrived. He can sense scurryings and murmurings around the Boreas mansion, but he doesn’t expect much in the way of a celebration. For one, he’s a member of the Notos branch of the Greyrats, one of four main families.

For him to be under Boreas protection invites “unwelcome misunderstandings”, so they’ve kept it quiet. But when the day arrives, after discovering Ghislaine’s rock-hard glutes (she takes her diversionary role very seriously) while inspecting her tail, Rudy is shown to the main banquet hall where the entire Boreas household is gathered to celebrate his birthday.

Eris presents him with a bouquet, and Rudy reacts with tears he had practiced, leading an overly-moved Lord Sauros to start an inter-Greyrat war for his sake. Even Eris’ mom Hilda is moved, first offering to adopt Rudy, then insisting he marry Eris! The big secret Eris and Ghislaine were concealing from Rudy is Aqua Heartia, a superb magical staff made in Asura that must’ve cost a fortune.

As the party winds down and a tuckered-out Eris is carried to bed, Phillip explains why Hilda has been so cold to him these past years: his brother in the capital took Eris’ older and younger brothers, as all male Boreas are raised in the main household.

He makes a seemingly serious proposal for Rudy to marry Eris and take over the Boreas household, offering to handle the coup. Rudy, wanting no part of power struggles, leaves their discussion as idle chitchat over wine and retires for the night.

To Rudy’s surprise, Eris is waiting in his bed wearing a nightie and with silkier-than-usual hair, worried he’d be lonely the night of his birthday and offering to share the bed with him. So begins the most uncomfortable scene in the whole series, which begins with Rudy imagining doing something to Eris. The Eris in his head yells “no” and he ends his fantasy immediately.

Then Rudy warns the Eris outside his head that if she stays with him he might “try something dirty (ecchi)“, to which she replies that “just a little” is fine with her. Alas, Rudy goes way too far, attempting to do far more than “just a little” and immediately receiving a beatdown for it. Lying on the floor, Rudy is filled with regret for forgetting himself in the moment. Eris ends up coming right back, and he prostrates himself in apology.

She forgives him because it’s a “special day,” but warns him it’s far too soon for such things, urging him to “control himself” for five more years when he’ll be a proper adult —at least in this renaissance-analogous  timeline. Taking her words as a promise that they’ll be properly together one day, Rudy swears off “indulgences”, only to remember that Sylphie is no doubt waiting for him…

Back at his home, Sylphie visits the Greyrats, and we see that Norn and Aisha have grown into adorable toddlers. Sylphie has an item she wants send to Rudy, and Lilia promises to send it, along with a box which most likely contains the “holy relic”—payback for saving her from having to leave the home.

Paul, meanwhile, has been inordinately busy hunting an increased number of monsters in the forest, which kept him from attending Rudy’s party in Roa. The double-ringed red orb in the sky has grown, and seems to be responsible for an unusual accumulation of mana which even Roxy can see in the sky from her royal post.

She’s not the only one who notices this. There’s a very badass-looking guy on a mountain who is able to tame dragons; the much goofier-looking, Zvezda-esque “Great Emperor of the Demon World” with the Japanese name Kishirika Kishirisu; and of course, Lord Perugius in his ornate flying castle. Sensing someone could be trying to undo the seal on the Demon-God Laplace, he dispatches his lieutenant Almanfi to investigate.

The looks in on these colorful previously unseen characters greatly expand the world of Mushoku Tensei in a matter of minutes, but they are only teases; it will be up to the show to flesh out these new players and whatever factions or masters they serve. No doubt this convergence of mana will bring them all crashing together…and who else would be in the direct center of it than Rudeus Greyrat?

He’s come to a large open field with Eris and Ghislaine to test out his new staff and show them Cumulonimbus for the first time. But before he can complete the spell, the sky becomes sickly and miasmic in color and pocked with vortices and eddies. Almanfi teleports, and Ghislaine crosses swords with him. He believes Rudy to be the source of the “disturbance”, but Ghislaine rightly tells him he’s mistaken.

Because she is a true Sword King, Almanfi stays his sword. But who or whatever is causing the disturbance takes things to the next level, as a column of blinding blue light starts to expand across the landscape, swallowing up Ghislaine as she orders Rudy to take Eris and go. Eris loses her footing and Rudy shields her with his body just as the light washes over them, leaving us to ponder what the heck is in store for them next.

While I’m sure the series always intended to end this episode on a cliffhanger, the fact that the bedroom scene lingered on so long and past its welcome had the effect of compressing those glimpses of the bigger picture. Not that Rudy and Eris one day tying the knot isn’t critical importance…but they can’t marry if Laplace wakes up and destroys the world!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Read Crow’s review of episode 8 here!

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation – 05 – Taking the Tsun with the Dere

Via a handwritten letter from Paul instructing him to read it out loud (Ghislaine can’t read), Rudeus learns about his new job as academic and magic tutor to a nine-year-old girl in the city of Roa, for whom Gislaine is both bodyguard and sword instructor. It’s a five-year commitment, ending when he turns 12, and in that time he’s forbidden to contact home.

Paul did this because he suspected Rudy and Sylphie might enter a co-dependent relationship that would be harmful for both of them. He also tells him the young lady is “fair game”, but hands off Ghislaine, whom he mentions having bedded previously. Fortunately, this is all we hear of Paul this week, and presumably for the next five years of Rudy’s life.

Rudy takes this sudden change in his life extraordinarily well for someone who had not only become comfortable in his previous life holed up in his room, but also became comfortable in his home village with Sylphie. He realizes one can become too comfortable, and life too easy. If this job will help pay academy, tuition, he’s game.

Upon meeting Phillip Boreas Greyrat, Rudy learns he’ll be under the employ of his father’s cousin (i.e. his cousin once removed), making his daughter, Eris, his second cousin. And while Phil says his daughter is “a bit willful”, that hardly does her justice. Rudy bows as a noble should, but is immediately dismissed as too young by the fiery, ultra-tsun Eris.

Eris brooks no back-talk, as when Rudy asks what age has to do with tutoring her, she slaps him across the face. He slaps back, but far from cowing her, she pounces and starts beating the shit out of him until he has to push her off with wind magic. She then chases him around the manor.

Despite this first interaction, Rudy isn’t ready to give up, which impresses Phil (at this point, all other tutor candidates quit). Rudy can see the challenge his father has laid out for him, and knows full well he’ll be laughed at if he turns tail and runs home.

More than that, Rudy has had his fill of being beaten up from his previous life. In his position as tutor he’s going to teach the intense, violent Eris that violence should never be the first resort, and one can’t get too comfortable committing it.

After proposing some kind of scheme with Phil to get Eris to accept him as her tutor, we cut to Rudy emerging from a wooden box with bound hands in a grimy dungeon. He wakes Eris up and explains the situation: they’ve been taken hostage by brigands.

When their captors enter and Eris treats them with immediate derision, she’s met with a level of violence she’s unable to keep up with. While she’s bloodied and missing several teeth, she’s still defiant. The degree to which she’s beaten also indicates to Rudy that the false kidnapping plan he arranged may have turned into the real thing.

Rudy is reasonably sure he could overpower the guards, but not sure enough to risk it, and in any case his first lesson as tutor is that might makes right, something he wants to avoid. Instead, he partially heals Eris, bars the door with stone, and busts through the window bars. Eris asks for help, but he’ll only take her with him if she promises not to yell and scream or be violent.

As the baddies bust through the barred door, Eris agrees, and Rudy whisks her off. The moment he’s fully healed her, she’s back to yelling and acting imperious. At this point he bids her farewell, but she soon forms up behind him, saying she was only joking and will honor their promise.

The two take a horse cart back to Roa without incident. The men who race ahead of them on horseback seem like bad news, but Rudy is condient once they’re within Roa’s walls that they’ll be safe. That is, until Eris is snatched up again and one of Phil’s attendants reveals he’s in league with the brigands to exact a ransom.

Rudy halts their escape with Eris by erecting a stone wall in their path and prepares for battle, but he’s outnumbered and surrounded. The baddies offer Rudy a generous cut of the ransom for his cooperation—equal to more than ten enrollments in Magic University with change to spare.

Rudy admits it’s a tempting offer, but if there’s one thing his dating games have taught him, it’s how betraying the girl for money can only bode poorly for one’s affection levels and chances of winning the girl’s heart. So he rejects the offer and launches a massive firework into the sky to blind the baddies, enabling him to snatch Eris out of their clutches.

Rudy is able to get some distance between him and the brigands and lays down suppressive fire magic, but one of the baddies practices the North God Sword Style, which includes deadly sword-throwing. Rudy cannot avoid the path of thrown sword or summon magic fast enough to deflect it.

Fortunately for him, Ghislaine saw the firework and headed for its launching point. Using her immense beastperson strength and speed, she’s able to make it in time to shatter the thrown blade into metal dust and kill two of the brigands in one sensational, fluid, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it movement.

It’s a moment that briefly but powerfully demonstrates the potential of a show as well-funded and lovingly made as Mushoku Tensei—it can match the artistry and badassery of Jujusu Kaisen or Demon Slayer. Rudy is also haunted by the sight of one of the dead brigands, who is headless and robed in blood. He can’t hear, freezes up, and has to be snapped back to coherence by Ghislaine. Compare that to Eris, who is just happy to see her bodyguard and doesn’t really react to the blood.

The intensity of what Rudy just went though stays with him when they return to the Boreas Greyrat home, otherwise none the worse for wear. Rudy deems his plan to be a failure, as in the end things spiraled out of his control and he and Eris could have ended up dead without intervention from Ghislaine. Notably, Eris slaps her father’s hand away when he tries to help her, as she prefers to get up herself.

Rudy turns to leave, but after a few beats, Eris turns back around and orders him to stop, then tells him he has “special permission” to call her Eris—no “lady”, just Eris. When he asks if that means she’ll let him teach her, she turns back around, but it’s clearly not a “no”, and his mood brightens appreciably.

While an archetypal tsundere out of the gate and throughout this episode, I still found Eris’s desire to stand on her own two feet and utter lack of patience for bullshit admirable. Like Rudy when he arrived in the world and to this day, she has a lot to learn, and from reading, writing, arithmetic and magic, Rudy has a lot to offer.

The faux-then-real kidnapping was a worthy means of bringing the two together, and showing us just how awesome Ghislaine is. I’m sad Sylphie gets the short end of the stick, but it should be a fun five years. I’m hoping they don’t fly by too fast!

Check out Crow’s review of episode 5 here.

Oresuki – 06 – Effort Is Not Always Rewarded

A week has passed since “the breakup” between Joro and his friends, and the day of the Flower Dance has arrived. During that week Joro has had one and only one companion: Asunaro. That means when they learn of a new problem—the PTA is bristling at the idea of two boys dancing together—she’s all too happy to step in as the substitute. She doesn’t even have to ask; Joro asks her.

Turns out President—or should I say Detective—Cosmos has been On The Case all week, and finally has her conclusions to share with Asunaro, who insists on Joro being present. In the impromptu hearing within the StuCo office, Cosmos lays out the scenario that we had suspected: Asunaro spread false rumors about Joro so she could isolate him, and furthermore worked to get Sun kicked off the dance so she could take his place…and be the girl Joro would eventually marry.

Joro stays silent for the majority of this hearing, and all we hear are his reactions, including what even he deems may be a tonally inappropriate aside about how yet another girl fell in love at that damnable baseball game. In Asunaro’s case, she fell for Joro when he protected her from a foul ball. In reality, he was in the right place at the right time because he was trying to get a better view of the girl he’d learn was Pansy.

But once Cosmos is finished revealing all the underhanded things Asunaro did, and Asunaro’s first impulse is to beg him to be with her more than anyone else, Joro finally speaks up, and it’s in the voice of Dark Joro. He’s cruel and unyielding in his complete and utter rejection of her not just as a romantic interest, but a friend.

Of course, both Cosmos and I see through his act: in truth, he’s rattling her cage. There can’t be any doubt of his rejection of her if she’s to move forward, starting with recanting the libelious story in the next newspaper issue.

Cosmos’ closing lesson to Asunaro before Joro rejects her is that hard work alone isn’t enough to get rewarded with the desired results: in her case, Joro all to herself. As was explored in Fruits Basket more recently and many a romance before, a zero-sum game of love rarely succeeds. Even if Joro did love her, he’s going to hang out with other people and have his own life; that’s only healthy for both parties in a relationship.

With Asunaro’s plot revealed (but only to Cosmos, Joro, and Sun), the Flower Dance continues unabated, and it was worth the wait. Himawari and Cosmos are positively resplendent in their gowns as they twirl across the stage with a tuxedo-ed Joro. His third dance partner is of course Pansy, and even cold-hearted Joro can’t help but be charmed by her ethereal beauty, as well of her reciting the meanings three of the many colors of pansies.

When the dance concludes, Asunaro is hard at work on her retraction, while Pansy is officially welcomed into the circle of friends Joro had been working to get her into all this time, whether intentionally or subconsciously. It’s also become clear that Cosmos has something of a thing for Joro, and isn’t nearly ready to surrender him to Pansy. Still, considering her lecture to Asunaro, she’ll go about it the right way.

Fruits Basket – 21 – Prince Yuki, The Witch, and The Demon Queen

The cold open was so different from what I’m used to with Fruits BasketI momentarily thought my fansub might be a mislabeled episode of some dark mystery or maho shoujo anime. That is, until the appearance of Hanajima Saki, just before Minagawa Motoko wakes up from her nightmare in her hair bonnet.

Motoko is the third-year rep for the Souma Yuki fan club, Prince Yuki, of which we haven’t seen much since much earlier episodes. But along with her first- and second-year counterparts Yamagishi Mio and Kinoshita Minami, Motoko is committed to “getting rid” of the vile “witch” Honda Tooru.

They believe she has stolen their beloved Yuki’s heart with an evil spell, but she’s under the protection of the “demon queen” Hanajima Saki, whom they must defeat in order to get to Tooru.

If it sounds like these three girls have a case of chuunibyou, well…it kinda is, what with the specialized jargon, military-like procedures, and serial pose-strikin’! But mostly, they’re simply jealous of Tooru and Yuki’s relationship, despite knowing next to nothing about it, and believe their numbers give them the right to determine what’s best for Yuki.

While Motoko, Minami and Mio all have the same idea of Saki’s home (a haunted western mansion surrounded by graves), they’re surprised to find it’s…just a normal house. Her room is normal too, aside from the persistent black-and-purple theme (she even has some of the same shoujo series as they do!).

They’re looking for a weakness…anything they can use. Instead, they find Saki’s little brother, Megumi, who was hiding in the closet and only comes out when Saki tells him to.

Megumi: New friends of yours?
Saki: No. They’re strangers that happen to go to the same school and be the same gender as me.

I love how Saki and Megumi never for a moment stop being the people they always are, but by doing so keep the three Prince Yuki reps in a perpetual state of unease and dread. Saki warned them not to say their names in the house, and later Megumi explains why that is: all he needs is someone’s name to put a curse on them…or to counter-curse their counter-curse.

When the youngest of the reps starts wanting to leave immediately, the three finally come out with it: they want Saki to tell Tooru to stop being so close to Yuki. Megumi immediately takes their position for what it is—jealousy—and in trying to explain that it’s not jealousy, just being mad about someone having something they don’t have, she just ends up…describing jealousy.

Both Megumi and the musical score turn serious when he gravely warns them not to assume they can do what they want just because they like someone, and that pushing such intense love as theirs on someone can burden or hurt them, not loving them back. He asks them to consider how Yuki feels and respect those feelings, before they end up making him hate them.

Then he gravely says their names, one after the other, which sends them bolting out of the house, passing by the youngest (and most normal) Hanajima sibling in the process. They clearly forgot that Megumi could hear them using their names while he was hiding.

Hopefully, Motoko, Minami and Mio learned something from their visit to Saki’s house about taking such strong and unyielding positions about things they know so little about…but I’m not going to hold my breath, because the next day they’ll still have their huge fan club with its book of rules, and their two simultaneous, contradictory believes Yuki shouldn’t belong to anyone, but also should secretly belong to each of them.

Saki, on the other hand, took Megumi’s words to heart about jealousy, because she admits that’s what she’s felt ever since Tooru started living with Yuki, Kyou, and Shigure and had many adventures with them and the other Soumas. She tells herself she mustn’t let those feelings of loneliness make her selfishly think her needs and desires vis-a-vis Tooru are any more important than those of others.

With that, her loneliness is extinguished when Arisa and Tooru arrive at her front door; turns out Tooru doesn’t have to work until later, so she can hang out with Arisa and Saki. That brings a big, bright, very ungothic smile to Saki’s face.

The next morning, Motoko again awakes from a nightmare involving the “demon queen” Saki and hell, let’s call him Saki’s “death squire” Megumi. Minami and Mio also had nightmares, even though Saki teases them that the “curse” won’t take effect for three days.

But like their vilification of Saki and Tooru, perhaps those dreams are nothing more than a manifestation of their ugly jealousy, which starts as less ugly loneliness. After all, not a single member of Prince Yuki can possibly be happy, since they all love him, yet cannot be with him.

*  *  *

After twenty-one episodes, who is my favorite Fruits Basket character? Uotani Arisa. NEXT QUESTION. Who is my second-favorite? Hanajima Saki. NO MORE QUESTIONS. 

Both women are as strong as they are because they are able to be upfront and honest about their “weaknesses,” and while they have no time for childish challenges thrown their way by their would-be, so-called “adversaries,” they’re not above putting a good ol’ scare into them—and not below delivering wise advice when it’s called for. Tooru is as blessed to have them as they are blessed to have her in their lives.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how goshdarn funny this episode was…I was laughing from start to finish at the Prince Yuki reps’ petty machinations and while watching their absolute drubbing at the hands of a young woman (and little brother) they never had any business trifling with.

Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari – 01 (First Impressions) – The Kingdom’s Most Hated Man

After a string of isekai anime in which the MC is ridiculously, along comes a show that flips the script, and it’s pretty refreshing. When Iwatani Naofumi thrust into a different world due to a summoning on the other side, absolutely nothing goes right. 

Of the four young men summoned, he’s by far the weakest, and isn’t even given a real weapon, only a shield. But he’s still optimistic he’ll be able to fight once supplied with a party of elite warriors.

…Only none of those warriors join his party. Eventually, one of them finally does, and she just happens to be the one he considers most attractive. This adventurer, Myne Suphia, seems to embody a stark reversal of fortune for Naofumi.

He’s given more cash than the others due to his smaller party, and Myne shows him a good shop to buy armor for the two of them. They fight a few low-level balloons out in the field, return to town, and make a modest profit.

It’s a confidence-building first day for Naofumi, to say the least. But that night, after refusing to drink any wine with Myne, he goes to bed and wakes up seemingly in, well, yet another world.

Not literally, mind you, but he’s been robbed of all possessions, summoned to the palace by knights, and then Myne, hiding behind one of the other summoned heroes, accuses him of attempting to rape her. When no one’s watching, she indicates screwing him over was her goal all along.

And boy, did it ever succeed: Naofumi now disgusts both his fellow heroes, the king, and everyone in the kingdom (news and rumors travel at lightning speed, despite the renaissance-esque tech-level). There’s no disputing the accusations against him, so Naofumi decides to take all the hate and loathing in stride.

If this world and its people are going to hate him despite the fact he didn’t do anything, so be it. The merchant he dealt with before seems to see the injustice in his eyes and sells him a cloak at a steep discount, which he wears when leveling up all by his lonesome…a slow and laborious process.

When some goons in the tavern mockingly offer to join his party, Naofumi won’t get fooled again; he’s been thoroughly jaded by this new world, and scares them off with some of the monsters he kept alive as a haggling tactic. A strange, squat little fellow in top hat and tails notices him and takes him to view his wares; he deals in demi-human and beastman slaves, revealing another distasteful part of this world.

Naofumi spots one sick demi-human— a girl with bear ears—and looks poised to buy her. But likely not to use as a slave, but as a companion on his quest to save a world that hates him, because no full-on humans want anything to do with him. Weak in power, scant in equipment, and victim of false intrigue and injustice…looks like we have ourselves a good old-fashioned underdog.

Overlord III – 11 – Enri the Golbin General

While his father sent him on an intel-gathering mission to Carne ostensibly to protect his heir, First Prince Barbro is determined to earn the throne through distinguishing deeds, not simply sit back and inherent it (also, he must suspect either the nobles or his siblings will ultimately plot against his succession once daddy’s dead).

This would be all well and good if Prince Barbro were good at anything. But reader: He is not. Scratch that: he’s good at making increasingly bad decisions and only quitting when it’s too late to save either his army or his own hide. And it didn’t have to be this way; had he negotiated peacefully with Carne rather than try to kill her, she wouldn’t have blown the little horn Lord Ains gifted to Enri.

When Barbro’s troops reform after initially getting their clocks cleaned by Carne’s trained ogres, he forces Enri’s hand, and with no other options and Barbro’s horsemen nipping at the heels of the escaping children, Enri blows the horn, not quite knowing what it will do.

Well, the Horn of the Goblin General does no less than summon a massive, 5,000 strong goblin army, extremely well-equipped, well-trained, and unquestionably loyal to the person who blew the horn. We’re presented to wave after wave of (somewhat shoddy) CGI columns of all the various units kitted out in splendid battle attire.

Even Momonga/Ains is caught off guard by this sudden development; he had assumed the horn would summon twenty decent goblins at best, but nothing like this. He deduces internally that the size and strength of the army must be determined by the individual blowing the horn; in this case Enri.  She already had the loyalty and love of her village and its goblin garrison; the horn thus conjured a suitably badass force.

Needless to say, Barbro’s forces are routed and thrown into retreat, though as I mentioned, the order to flee is given too late. Later that night we learn the truth of the matter: Beta “added her voice” to Enri’s horn blow, resulting in the overpowered goblin army (even she was surprised by how big it was).

She also nonchalantly (as befits one of the Seven Stars) breaks the bad news to Barbro that his existence isn’t part of Lord Ains’ plans, and so he and his entire force will be massacred forthwith.

So it’s R.I.P. Barbro–it’s probably better for the kingdom that he never ascended the throne–and all hail the Glorious Goblin General and victorious Chief of Carne Village, Enri Emmot. May she and Nphirea someday get to roll around in the hay without interruption from incompetent princes.

Overlord III – 10 – Prelude to War

Emphasis on prelude: this episode is all kinds of setup with no real payoff; a calm of political wrangling in the Kingdom before the storm of war with the Empire. Chief Warrior Gazef Stronoff knows what Lord, er, Sorcerer King Gown is capable of and makes it known to his king, but at the same time knows the king could never heed his advice to simply give up land without a fight.

A fight there must be, even if it won’t be like the other wars with the empire, all of them relatively quick, clean, and predictable. In a compromise to the noble and, er, ignoble factions, King Ramposa names Marquis Raeven as the leader of the forces who will defend the kingdom. The ep injects a bit of humanity in the guy by showing how much he loves his son. Unfortunately, Princess Renner has only a moment of screen time and no spoken lines.

While Raeven will lead the fight, the kingdom is counting on two months of stalling before the fighting actually begins, so they can prepare as much as they can. Of course, with another noble estimating Gown himself is as powerful as 5,000 men (five times Gazef’s strength), they face a very uphill battle.

Gazef comes through as honorable and levelheaded as ever, and reunites with his pals Brain and Climb prior to the war. The three agree to meet at a place in the capital to eat, drink, and celebrate when the war is done, but Gazef also warns Brain that he’d better not face off against Gown, or it will be the end of him.

99% of the episode is from the perspective of the opponent Gown has chosen, as part of his (really Demiurge’s) larger plan to gain power and territory for Nazarick. The final 1%, in which Gown takes the field of battle, opens a gate, and unleashes and entire legion of death knights, only comes during the end credits.

Renner’s King Ramposa’s eldest son and heir to the throne Prince Barbro, meanwhile, is sent to Carne to gather information, an errand he feels is both beneath him and meant to prevent him from achieving greatness, despite everyone’s insistence he’s the future king. But he should thank his lucky stars if he stays far, far away from the core of the battle in which Gown himself will take part; staying away means he’ll actually be alive to succeed his father.

Overlord III – 09 – Paving the Way

Faced with the overwhelming, terrible power of Aura and Mare, Emperor El Nix can hardly ignore a demand to travel to the Tomb of Nazarick to apologize personally. Though El Nix is such a busy man, the ensuing trip ends up being a rare opportunity for an afternoon nap, as well as a quick assessment of his potential queens, from Princess Renner (“praiseworthy but somewhat sickening”) to an “old hag that stays young with magic.” Ah, to be an emperor…

But once he and his retinue arrive, they are immediately reminded how much more powerful Ains Ooal Gown is than them, from the Maids who can control the weather (and whip up some top-notch Tang) to a healthy supply of Death Knights (who are relegated to serving said Tang). Nix’s Head Wizard Flugel is both terrified and amazed, almost to the point of rejuvination. His laugher is both out of sheer awe and wonder, but also kind of an “Oh shit, we’re so screwed.”

Once Nix & Co. are finally given an audience, things are actually quite cordial until Demiurge (in an animalistic disguise) talks out of turn, taking offense to Nix thinking he can use honorifics as if he was on equal terms with Lord Ains. Ains uses Demiurge’s little diplomatic snafu as an excuse to forgive the emperor for allowing his lord to send Workers into Nazarick.

This comes as great surprise to the young but cunning emperor, and uses that to suggest an alliance, in which Ains would start up and rule a country, and the empire would assist in any way they can. Ains agrees to this almost too easily for Nix to believe, but decides he’ll take every concession he can get, especially from a would-be foe he has absolutely no change against.

Once the two parties part ways, El Nix is confused by the ease with which his head wizard decides to jump into a coach and accompany him back to the capital. Nix knows Flugel well enough to know he wouldn’t be able to resist sticking around to try to acquire some of the immensely powerful magic he witnessed during their parlay.

And El Nix is exactly right: behind his back, Flugel has already met with “Momon” and agreed to give him “everything he has” in exchange for becoming the student of a tenth-tier “god.” Not sure he can truly rely on Flugel, El Nix plans to bring all of the human powers together in an alliance against Nazarick, all while pretending to be a friend to Nazarick.

Everything’s all going according to plan…only it’s Demiurge’s plan being carried out, not Ains. Ains actually doesn’t really know quite where Demiurge is going, and since he’s the boss, he can get away with ordering Demiurge to explain everything…for now. If I didn’t know better, I’d say Demi knew how ignorant Ains was to his plan, and was moving against him.

Of course, I know better…Demi would never move against his lord…or should I say, Sorcerer King—the winner in the throne room brainstorming session for a new title for Ains once he has his own country to rule.

Overlord III – 08 – Never Root for Humans and You’ll Never Be Disappointed

In Demiurge We Trust remains the name of the game, but our gallant band of good-hearted workers end up pawns in his grand scheme to advance Nazarick’s stature in the world, and that leaves a rather nasty taste in my mouth, because they’re very likable pawns with a noble goal.

I know there’s a human in Ains Ooal Gown who probably shares some of that taste…but isn’t letting it get in the way of following the plan. In a way, he’s letting himself be a pawn in that plan; playing the role he’s been assigned.

The workers know they’re doomed as soon as they walk in the arena. Ains removing a ring so Arche can see how powerful his magic is (it’s powerful enough to make her vomit) only confirms what they already knew: they’re hosed.

When begging for their collective lives doesn’t work, the team does their best, but of course everything they can throw at Ains bounces off him harmlessly. The difference in power is simply too overwhelmingly great. So they work to get one of them away: Arche.

Unfortunately, while Arche can fly, she has nowhere to fly to; they’re not really outside but on the sixth floor of the tomb. Ains dispatches Shalltear to retrieve Arche and fill her with fear and despair before delivering a painless death.

It seems Arche is resolute to the end, and Shalltear failed in the first objective. but as Entoma ends up with her voice in a later scene, using it to describe all the ways her various parts were distributed among Lord Ains’ many underlings, her second objective of killing her did.

Not long after, the next stage of Demi’s plan is set in motion, as Aura and Mare arrive at the imperial capital on the back of a giant golden dragon to deliver a message—Lord Ains is pissed, and demands a personal apology or he’ll destroy the entire country.

To prove he means business, Mare rends a great crack in the ground, and all of the dozens of amassed soldiers surrounding the dragon fall to their deaths, leaving even the proud, fearless young emperor looking dumbstruck. He’ll no doubt have to rely on his grizzled head wizard Paladine at least a little longer.

Sora yori mo Tooi Basho – 02

Mari’s seething wanderlust, as well as her determination not to waste what’s left of her high school youth, makes her extra susceptible to Shirase’s Antarctic plans. When Shirase tells her to get a part-time job at once, Mari is looking for ’em (interestingly, both of them come across the same sketchy job offer for “hospitality” work with guys).

Megumi thus plays the crucial role of managing Mari’s expectations. The expedition Shirase wants to join is in dire financial straits. The safety of those who join it is not guaranteed. They’re not simply going to let high school kids join them just because they really really want to.

When Megumi’s pragmatism slips into Mari’s interactions with Shirase, Shirase can smell the doubt and hesitation, and snaps at Mari, storming off. But Mari doesn’t doubt Shirase, and she does want to do it…she just wants to do it right. As Mari forlornly walks alone, it isn’t long before Shirase returns, realizing she was too harsh, but assuring Mari she does have a plan in place.

That same evening, Mari has a part-time job, at the local convenience store. There, she meets fellow 16-year-old Miyake Hinata (Iguchi Yuka, doing her Araragi Tsukihi voice), who shows an eager Mari the ropes.

The subject of The Trip comes up, and Hinata wants IN. Thankfully, Shirase isn’t particular about who else comes along, and so now the two are three. And while Hinata’s decision to join them seems abrupt (and it kinda is regardless), she’s a person who’s never liked blending in with the crowd, which is why she bypassed high school and is working towards college.

Her time working at the konbini also made her good at observing people, like the students of Mari and Shirase’s school, including the two of them. She always saw something different about them; something she calls “honesty”. Genuine-ness, earnesty, whatever you call it, she knew they were special, and wanted to be a part of what their noble undertaking.

Next stop: Shinjuku, and these three girls from Gunma stick out like a sore thumb-ma (sorry, that was really lame). The intense sights and sounds of the big city make all three a little crazy, but nobody more than Shirase, who reveals that her grand plan was to crash the Antarctic expedition meet-up (in Kabukicho of all places) by…seducing the guys.

The moment Shirase points her head up and tries to act like a “college student” like it’s no big deal, she’s immediately picked up by a guy, and becomes understandably flustered. She’s also adamant that she can’t be the one who attempts the seduction of the expedition team, because they know her.

So Shirase and Hinata shove Mari out, and her old-fashioned sexy pose utterly fails, they shove Shirase out. The people who know her spot her, and the chase is on. Why do the girls run? I’m not sure, but neither are they. Well, Shirase knows, because this isn’t the first time she’s tried to join the expedition.

But despite the fact Shirase’s plan is crumbling before our very eyes, the fact of the matter is that she, Mari, and Hinata are having a hell of a lot of fun running around Shinjuku…Youth In Motion. Unfortunately, none of the three (even Hinata, good in short-distance sprinting) can beat the stamina of their pursuers.

I love how I was just as taken in by the legitimacy and precision of her plan as Mari and Hinata, even with Megumi offering early words of caution. And yet, even with the adults here telling Shirase “this isn’t happening”, even when they refuse her part-time Antarctica fund…even if what she’s doing amounts to chasing her mother’s ghost, I’m still on Shirase’s side.

She has to go to Antarctica. She can’t not. What kind of show would this be if she failed? It’s just, she’s gone about it the wrong way. Seduction and bribes won’t be effective, but maybe something—or someone else will be. Someone like, say, the daughter of the wealthy-looking woman who was with the expedition team.

That girl happens to be on the same train as the other three girls, two of which—Hinata and Mari—vote to relieve Shirase of her leadership role. It’s for her own good. She’s been trying and failing to get on that ship her way for the better part of three years. Now it’s time to see if others have more luck.

Gorgeous, charming, emotionally satisfying, and brimming with the energy of determined youth, and the anticipation of adventure writ both small (Shinjuku) and large (further south), Yorimoi is a no-brainer Winter keeper.

Tsurezure Children – 12 (Fin)

Tsurezure Children’s finale starts with Sports Day and a soccer tournament, during which time Kurihara cheers for Yamane, Kanda wonders if it’s okay to cheer Takase, Takase wonders if it’s okay to look her way, Kana and Chiaki are still cool to each other, and Patricia joins the boys.

Chiaki gets the opportunity to save Kana from getting hit by the ball, and as thanks, Kana starts cheering for Chiaki—in her own way, telling the idiot to impress her. Chiaki can’t help but oblige, and comes this close to scoring (a goal) when his run is blocked by Noro, who, not having a girlfriend, resents the guys who do. Patricia then swoops in and scores, ruining Chiaki’s chance to be cool for Kana.

On the last day of school before Summer Break, plans for a beach trip crop up. Takano’s friend tells her Sugawara may come, and Sugawara’s friend (Chiaki) tells him Takano will. But neither believe the other cares whether they go or not, and so remain noncommittal.

However, this is only the beginning of an apparent conspiracy between their friends to get the two alone together, and in the process, Kana ends up alone with Chiaki, even though he didn’t get her message because his phone battery died.

Chiaki concedes that they’re broken up, but he realizes the error of his ways in being so comfortable in a relationship with Kana he thought he could do no wrong. He asks that the existing breakup stand, but that Kana allow him to confess to her once more, because he doesn’t want to lose her again. When he asks her out, Kana, who never truly wanted to break up in the first place, quickly says yes, her face drenched with tears of joy.

In the classroom, it’s Takano who takes the initiative, first asking Sugawara in a voice well above her usual volume whether he’s going to the beach, and then, when he’s ready to sheepishly leave, telling him it won’t be fun without him. Just like that, the two are able to connect and move forward. It’s a happy ending and smiles all ’round for two couples who had suffered so much, as we suffered with them, and a sweet place to end.

Tsurezure Children stuck to a simple formula and executed it admirably, utilizing the variety, realism, relatability and rootability of its sprawling ensemble cast. Of course, not every relationship has been resolved; I wouldn’t mind another go.