Vlad Love – 06 – The World’s a Stage, Not at Stake

The title above is essentially the thesis for my review: by not involving combat aircraft or blowing up entire cities and simply focusing on something, Vlad Love’s quirky hyperactivity can be distilled into something competent, approaching greatness. Nothing like a good old class play to lend structure and purpose!

After the inaugural night class roll is called, Chihiro gets right to the point: they’re going to put on a show. Kaoru suggests an adaptation of the disk version of something very similar to Castlevania—an inspired choice not just because of the vampire theme but because earlier video games were so wonderfully elemental.

Mai is the final vampire boss/love interest, while the hunter is played by Mitsugu, with Nami, Kaoru, and Katsuno playing level bosses. Maki relishes filming a “making-of” docu.

The most controversial assignment is Sumida Jinko as director. Her Ultra-Type-A blood ensures a production fraught with tension and drama, as she immediately treats everyone as if they were professional stage performers and crew.

Every major cast member has something to do, and each voice actor is clearly having a metric fuckton of fun—looking at you, Kobayashi Yuu…Sasha lives on in Nami! The show puts a welcome fun spin on its beloved insets by having Jinko pop out of her windows to kick and push others around.

A tough day of rehearsal ends with a rarity these days—a scene with Mitsugu and Mai actually alone, staged like the yuri romance it should be, only for Jinko to interrupt with some midnight whippin’ lessons.

Before anyone knows it, it’s showtime. To its credit the rehearsals don’t go on too long, allowing the show itself room to breathe. Of course, there’s a crisis just before the curtain rises: Mai is suffering from anxiety-fueled acute anemia. She needs someone’s blood, and because things are so hectic, Jinko is chosen as the donor without thinking about it too much.

The play actually starts relatively smoothly, with just the right amount of following the script and improvising. I liked how Mitsugu had to exit stage left and run down steps, through corridors beneath the stage, and up steps to enter stage right…because it’s a sidescroller play!

Once Mai takes the stage, it’s clear she’s operating under the influence of Jinko’s perfectionist Type-A blood. As such, she decides to play her own role, ignoring the script. An enraged Jinko runs on stage to scold her, but Mai attacks her, and the curtain has to drop, and Chihiro manages to tranquilize Mai.

Jinko is beside herself and starts bawling from the fiasco that has unfolded, but Chihiro tells her to listen to the crowd: her play isn’t the disaster she thinks it is. The cast and crew walk out for their curtain call, and by the time the crowd is chanting “Jinko, Jinko, Jinko”, Jinko is holding back tears of pride and joy, which come after a veritable Odyssey of complex facial expressions.

This was the best episode of Vlad Love yet, and it did it by not biting off more than it could chew and simply capitalizing on the immense voice talent at its disposal. It’s the first episode where Jinko is utilized properly and Hikasa Yoko gives the Type-A stickler texture and appeal as her character transitions from outsider to “one of them”, them being the Blood Donation Club’s collection of big ol’ weirdos. Most importantly, this episode had a satisfying share of Mai x Mitsugu moments. Well played!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Val x Love – 07 – The Doc Is Not In

In what has to be one of the strangest conceits of the show thus far, Ninth Daughter Kururi demonstrates her powers of invention by building a kind of “auto-doctor” suit for Takuma. It’s a very thin and random excuse for him to examine most of the sisters’ bodies in various ways.

Aside from a few bizarre moments, it’s not that amusing. It also repeats a number of character beats without adding anything new, and it’s all very lazily-animated.

The second half is focused on Third Daughter Misa, who has to demonstrate to Itsuya what a Midgard date is like. This takes the form of her being alone in a room with Takuma as he folds laundry and she sews a giant stuffed doll for Natsuki in a loose-fitting sweater, leading to various compromising ecchi situations.

Again, nothing much of note here. Things happen to Takuma, he gets embarrassed or nervous or afraid, and the girls berate, praise and titillate him in more or less equal measure. It all happens within the confines of Takuma’s dark, drab house. It was as if, after the battles of last week, the show decided to take a nap under the kotatsu.

Val x Love – 06 – Victory by Sustained Frenching

Two Minutes into their fight, Futaba thinks she’s won, but Garm’s slashes carry parasitic blades. Takuma is sliced in half, but is immediately put back together by Mistilteinn, summoned from within him due to his growing will to fight. As Futaba keeps Garm busy, he bulldozes through akuma to reach Natsuki.

Once reunited, the only way to defeat the huge boss Svadilfari is to level-up through a five-minute French-kissing session without wearing “a stitch of clothes.” Takuma and Natsuki handle this about as calmly tastefully as they can, but they first have to wipe each other down, and that Natsuki is already exhausted. Much in the way he summoned the tree to save him, Takuma summons a book that warms Natsuki up and recharges her energy.

They continue going at it, and by the time the other sisters are about to get gobbled up by the boss, Natsuki rescues them and uses “Rune” to reinforce her sword, producing a single strike so devastating Svadilfari can’t devour it, leading to its destruction. The battle is over, and Garm is reprimanded by his superior, who takes the form of a grim-looking little boy.

The beauty pageant follows the sisters’ victory. Mutsumi wins, and as per the triplets’ earlier agreement, the winner gets to dance with Takuma. Even so Mutsumi lets Natsuki take her place, considering she wanted to to begin with. Takuma apologizes to Natsuki for turning her down so brusquely,and agrees to dance around other people. Takuma gradually showed more and more spine this week, which is encouraging, while he and Natsuki are growing more comfortable with the roles Odin bestowed upon them.

Val x Love – 05 – No Obedient Banquet

All nine Valkyrie sisters attend the campus festival despite knowing the chance of an attack there is high, because they have the opportunity to all level up at once. The greater the risk, the greater the reward. Takuma is his usual insufferable scaredy-cat self, but that doesn’t stop him from ending up spilling viscous white liquid all over Yakumo or having to fish an eel out of Misa’s clothes—pretty standard lucky lecher stuff.

When the enemy (whom they don’t know is Garm) strikes, he robs the women of their source of power, the Einherjar by impaling him through the stomach and locking him in the bounded cube, while all the other festival attendees are converted to akuma minions that keep the sisters plenty busy. First sister Ichika and Natsuki protect the entrance, while inside Garm toys with Takuma, counting on him to do nothing and die as he enjoys a McDonalds banquet.

Things start to get dire as Itsuya and Mutsumi end up overwhelmed by akuma army and their various appendages, providing more ecchi content. But it’s Natsuki’s earnest belief that Takuma will indeed stand and fight when the time comes (because he’s done so and saved her many times before) that holds more power than all the T, A, and ahegao. Upon standing, Takuma is swiftly taken down by Garm, but Second sister Futaba finally locates them. He held out just long enough; now a Valkyrie has access to the Einherjar, and the tables can be turned.

SSSS.Gridman – 08 – Stealing a Kaiju March

When Neon Genesis shows up at Yuuta, Rikka and Shou’s school—with outside shoes—and risks being reported or escorted away, you know something big is brewing. Akane has dusted off the first kaiju she built to defeat Gridman and souped it up into a kind of mega-mecha-kaiju.

She’s also not shy about her role in the kaiju-making. Assuming Yuuta has caught Rikka and Shou up, she tells them upfront that she designed her latest kaiju especially to attack the school’s cultural festival. If they don’t like it, well, they’re just going to have to try and stop her…if they can.

How to proceed creates a rift in the “Gridman Alliance”, which I only put in quotes because in the midst of said rift Rikka calls into question whether it’s an alliance at all, since only Shou has been insisting that’s what they are. Shou thinks they need to fight at all costs, but Rikka is far more hesitant—Akane is her friend; she doesn’t want to fight her friend.

When Shou accuses her of letting her emotions rule, Rikka wordlessly stalks away, and Shou knows he’s stepped in it. At school, Yuuta and Shou again try to get through to Akane, asking if she’ll have the battle somewhere else where their classmates won’t get hurt. But Akane hates the festival, and suspects the two of them wouldn’t mind if it were interrupted by a cool kaiju battle. There’s nothing left to say; she ain’t budging from her plans.

Back at the junk store an extremely hungry, one-eyed Anti shows up looking for Rikka…then passes out. Rikka’s mom feeds him and he goes on his way without incident.

In one of the more unsettling scenes of the entire show, Rikka is alone on a bus with Akane, hoping to change her mind about attacking. But Akane hugs her from behind, lauding her for being such “a good girl,” and assuring her no matter what she does, Rikka will never hate her, because she’s been “set up from the start” to like Akane like everyone else in the city.

Akane is convinced she is a god and there’s no one to prove otherwise, even though I wonder how far she’d get without Alexis’ help. Rikka leaves the bus, no doubt creeped out at the prospect of having been born programmed to be Akane’s friend.

She meets with Yuuta and reveals another reason she’s so upset about the whole situation: she feels she hasn’t contributed anything to the Gridman Alliance. All she feels she’s done is be related to the people who own the junk store and computer. But Yuuta tells her she’s wrong: she has contributed vital moral support throughout this whole ordeal.

Yuuta draws courage and strength knowing she and Shou are cheering him and Gridman on. Sadly, when Yuuta tries to use the opportunity to say more about how he feels personally towards her, she interrupts by saying she’ll apologize to Shou tomorrow, saying it would be folly to think Shou would apologize first.

Her mention of “going first” illuminates a light bulb in Yuuta’s head, and suddenly he has the right plan for the festival: Gridman will invade the school first, forcing an evacuation before Akane can mobilize her kaiju. He also has Gridman summoned at only half-size in order to allow all the Neon Genesis to sortie at once and combine to form Full Combo Gridman, who is of a size with Akane’s mega-mecha-kaiju.

The ensuing battle takes place outside of the school, leaving the festival untouched, which Akane is very upset aboutin addition to being outmaneuvered when Gridman appeared first, the opposite of how it’s always gone.

More frustratingly for her, even her new upgraded kaiju isn’t much of a match for the Combo Gridman, who pulls of its head, launches it into the stratosphere, tosses it down to the earth, then cleaves it with a gold-plated finishing move.

In the midst of the battle both Rikka and Shou are by the computer, watching and cheering Yuuta on as usual, and that’s how they get over their previous rift. After all, they all tried their best to dissuade Akane and she simply wouldn’t listen. Friend or not, her attack had to be stopped lest more people die.

After the battle the three participate in their class’ “reverse gender cosplay cafe”, resulting in Maid Shou apologizing to Sea Captain Rikka while a pleased Schoolgirl Yuuta looks on.

As for Akane, who was so sure that this time she’d win and that she couldn’t lose, stays home, lying on the floor of her filthy house, in the dark…a fallen god. Maybe she’s just done with this…one can only endure so many defeats until it’s just not fun anymore.

Alexis isn’t mean or anything, but he’s very firm in his belief that she can “do better” than this. However she feels here and now, Alexis isn’t done with her, and intends to keep relying on her inimitable “talents.” More and more it’s looking like it’s ultimately not the city that must be saved from Akane’s kaiju, but Akane who needs to be saved from Alexis.

Sagrada Reset – 13

After seeing the monster, and being told the monster is a monster by Dream Haruki, Kei wakes up…and that’s it for the monster this week. After a new, jauntier OP with a latin-inspired beat (replacing the old whispery one), the story jumps from place to place and opaque, metaphor-laded conversation to conversation seemingly involving everything and anything but the monster.

Kei talks with the revived Sumire about how he’s happy in the current situation (what with her being alive), but due mostly to his retained memories of the process by which she returned, it still doesn’t feel real to him, and he doesn’t see how he can stay living in that kind of world forever. Sumire reads it as a kind of rejection.

There’s also precious little Michiru in this episode, as Sumire visits her in the dream world and talks about things she’s not that interested in, and which Chiruchiru (in blue bird form) warns Sumire not to bring up around her. Chiru wants to protect Michiru by not upsetting her with things like the fact there’s a way to save her from her present state.

Rather than Michiru or the monster, Kei, Haruki, and Nonoo investigate the “Stray Cat House Man” (SCHM) who, the way he’s described, is nothing less than one of the most powerful beings in the world, as his ability is to write “The Script”, which governs all people, things and events in the world, even resets and predictions of the future.

He’s even ahead of the Witch or Sumire in that their ability is governed by his. There’s also the fact he’s more of a humble vessel for the ability than an arrogant braggart; after all, the pen in his hand moves on its own, filling books. His physical body has deteriorated to the point he can no longer write, so starting with Book No. 852, he’s worked in the dream world exclusively.

Nonoo remembers him (and he her) from their interactions about five years ago, when she was the only visitor to his house, and whom he tried in his own small way to guide her on how to exist, live, and be happy in the world. In the present she tells him he “saved” her, because now she has people like Kei and Haruki she can call friends.

Kei goes through the manuscripts for The Script, but can find nothing before No. 852, while Sumire instructed him to find and carefully read No. 407. That, and all manuscripts before SCHM entered the dream world, are in the possession of the Bureau, members of which arrive to basically cordially kick Kei out of the SCHM’s house.

Once Kei leaves, the leader of the Bureau members there isn’t coy about his true feelings about Kei: he thinks his ability is a nuisance, especially when used in concert with Haruki or others, and he’s generally an eyesore he’d like to “snuff out” if necessary. Who knows what that entails (he joked about stabbing him in the heart, but was that just a joke), but it’s clear this cour has a more reliable villain than Oka Eri.

Like many earlier episodes of the first cour and a few there in the middle, I only really understood a little more than half of everything that was said and done, but as I refuse to let my enjoyment of this deeply intriguing and offbeat show be governed by my level of understanding, that’s not really of great concern.

Still, moments like Kei calmly pointing out to Haruki and Nonoo that they should pay more attention to the fact they’re wearing skirts while crawling through a drain to get into the SCHM’s house, or Sumire’s apparent displeasure with how things are with Kei (hinted at in the new ED as well), are easier to understand and appreciated.

With all the different players and agendas in play, combined with the new dream world setting, Sagrada Reset is poised to have an even more ambitious, and possibly more baffling, second cour. I’ll be here to attempt to make some kind of sense of it.

Sagrada Reset – 12

Last week was seemingly an indication that Sagrada Reset was content with a quiet end to its first cour, as it has an entire second cour with which to work. It slowed things way down to allow us to spend some more quality, non-perilous time with Haruki—as well as inside her head.

There was no indication in the episode that “Something Big” was looming in the shadows or lurking around the corner…that was just Mirai stalking Haruki. The question is, would the twelfth and final Spring episode of Reset maintain that casual tone, or would that Something Big turn up after all?

Ah…well…Something Big it is! Let’s get right to it, shall we?

The episode sure does, having more of a connection to the tenth than the eleventh with its Souma-heavy opening. Now that Kei has brought Souma back, he wants her to live a normal life as a normal girl…in the normal world. That is, he means to send her away from Sakurada. Only then, he believes, will her death disappear, both from the world and from her memories.

It is then Souma, not Haruki, who primarily drives Kei’s latest mission. That mission is a little nebulous at first, as we start off with that mission in progress. Sakuin has instructed Kei to investigate Katagiri Honoka, a girl who has been asleep for nine years, but whose ability has created a dream world in which she now resides.

Because it’s a dream world, and thus not “real”, Kei believes it’s the perfect “test facility” to experiment with his theory about sending Souma away. After all, there are no do-overs in the real world; in Katagiri’s world, he can simply wake up, Reset, and try something else the next time. And it just so happens Kei goes on a long date with Haruki on the day they reset.

Before starting off on this journey to the dream world, Kei receives an unexpected visitor, Nonoo, who was sent by Souma to make contact with…someone who may well be…another Souma. But before that, she, Kei and Haruki go to the hospital and fall asleep in a room adjacent to Katagiri’s. It’s notable that we never see her in the real world.

There’s a Wizard of Oz-like quality to the trio nodding off then awakening in another world…a world where left and right, east and west are reversed. Kei is actually the last to arrive, while Nonoo doesn’t appear to have come along for the ride. Along with Haruki, there’s a new person in the room: a girl who goes by Michiru, with a bluebird on her shoulder.

 

Ebulliently voiced by Uchida Maaya (this show has great casting), Michiru insists she’s Michiru and not Katagiri Honoka, and asks Kei and Haruki if there’s anything they wish they could have. She’ll contact “Chiruchiru” who will then grant that wish. It’s a case of Katagiri, a god of her own world, abdicated her power to a surrogate, so that she could feel the joy of having her dreams granted by a god.

The bureau doesn’t approve of the “fake” happiness such a “closed eden” provides, perhaps fearing its grip would cause people to lose their grip on reality. That certainly seems to be the case with Katagiri. After Kei and Haruki leave the hospital to explore this mirror image of the real world, they discover a wall of fog that surrounds this version of Sakurada, ostensibly preventing Kei from performing his experiment.

As for Souma, she shows up in the hospital to read Chiruchiru’s future, which looks the same as always. “Michiru” never changes (this is an Eden, after all). Chiruchiru voices his frustration with the apparent pointlessness of his efforts, but Souma tells him they’ll be rewarded—but it’s up to Kei, not her.

Kei and Haruki encounter Ukawa, sent by the bureau for an initial report, who states ominously that, depending on the circumstances, she’s supposed to “crush” the dream world. While having dinner with Haruki in a restaurant the reverse of the one in the real world (like everything else), Kei gets a call from Chiruchiru, warning them not to go out at night.

Since they’re already out, Chiruchiru teleports them to Kei’s bedroom. Kei manages to get him to answer two questions: the white wall is an “isolated birdcage” for the “blue bird”, and Michiru is definitely Katagiri Honoka, only she’s forgotten that fact.

With that, Kei and Haruki start yawning and rubbing their eyes, meaning it’s getting to be time to wake up in the real world. After Kei frets a bit over the proper sleeping arrangements (he offers Haruki the bed and takes the floor, but Haruki wants to be on the floor too), Haruki dozes off before him, just as she did in the real world.

But she’s not asleep long, as a tremendous racket emanates from outside. Kei watches with quiet awe as a colossal, grotesque, slimy monster emerges from the white wall and starts wreaking havoc in the town. A suddenly awake Haruki calls the monster a monster, which appears at night to “destroy the world”.

Reset’s second cour starts off an episode early, with style…and in Top Bizarro form. With an ability user apparently trapped in such a world, does it fall to Kei to free her and restore the memory of who she was, even if it means destroying the Eden she created? Is Chiruchiru the monster? How will this mission further his desire to “finish saving” Souma?

It seems we’ve got three more episodes of this arc to sort through it all. I don’t doubt things will get stranger before they get…less strange.

Kuzu no Honkai – 12 (Fin)

Last week I joked that I’d be fine with whatever transpired in the Kuzu no Honkai finale…as long as it didn’t feature a school festival. Alas, that’s what we get, and for the most part, it felt like marking time; padding for some closing remarks by Hanabi.

There’s also a time jump from the November festival to March, only for the episode to go back to the festival, which feels fairly weird and not altogether necessary. The jump occurs after Hanabi does some milling around as a stagehand, then ends up encountering Mugi in a supply closet.

What’s going to happen there? Well, I was reasonably sure it wasn’t going to turn into anything steamy, but the jump to March, when Hanabi’s class is now preparing a celebration ceremony for Kanai and Akane’s impending wedding. While being hit on by another guy, Hanabi is “saved” by Ecchan, now sporting shorter hair.

The shorn locks are a not-so-subtle symbol for her having shorn the part of herself that couldn’t live without Hanabi in her bed, and Hanabi is relieved to have Ecchan talking to her again. Ecchan is also correct that Hanabi still wants space and isn’t altogether uncomfortable being alone…though Akane’s olive branch of a rose from her bouquet is an encouragement to, at some point, go looking for her next love.

As we rewind to the festival, we learn that that doesn’t mean a romantic reunion with Mugi. Hanabi goes over a number of reasons why she wouldn’t mind continuing to be with him, but ultimately, she’s a lot happier simply talking with the guy; not having to continue to define their relationship with physical contact. They’re “using their words,” and it feels good to do so.

“Real Love” is what both are after, which is why they decide say goodbye to each other (though whether they remain platonic friends, we don’t know.) After all, they both know what it feels like to be in love, and while they could one day find themselves more deeply in love with each other, neither want to be “saved” in that way, at least not yet.

They don’t want to give up on the possibility that some day, someone will cross their path and they’ll know it’s true love. They decide to live that way, even knowing they could get hurt even worse next time, or may never find that love. They are finally assigning value to themselves; they no see themselves as ‘scum’, or ‘the worst’. They both lost their first loves, but they’re young, and life goes on.

Hundred – 12 (Fin)

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That’s all, folks; Hundred is over! At least its first season; there’s no mention of a second but certainly talk of “more things happening in the future” which could be just that; talk. And we never learn why hundreds are called hundreds…I guess they just thought “hundred” sounded cool? It kinda does!

Anyway, if this is the last episode, it goes out with a bang; several bangs, in fact, from Vitaly’s hand cannon. She only uses one of the three hunter “tools”, Nakri, to get through an electrical security barrier. After that, a revived Mai-Mai trades gunfire and forces her to flee. So yeah, about all those possibilities with the three conditioned Hunters on her side…that didn’t pan out.

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In fact, Vitaly’s grand master revenge plan comes to a screeching halt just as quickly as it totally overwhelmed the rest of Little Garden’s defenses and Slayers…all thanks to Judar. Seems like she has some kind of romantic past with him (gross!) and the reason she’s here is because she’s A Woman Scorned.

Ultimately, she just wants to kill Liza by shooting her. You’d think such a science and technology whiz would have a backup plan if Liza’s shielding was bulletproof. Not only that, Liza takes semi-corporeal form to shield her brother so he can shoot Vitaly, killing her and ending what had been a pretty built up threat with all the finesse of air coming out of a balloon.

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Speaking of unappealing noises, Vitaly’s last gasp tactic is have all her replicants emit a loud screeching sound, but Liza kisses Karen, giving her use of her legs (hey! why not?) and Karen and Sakura neutralize the noise with their non-animated singing.

Ethereal Liza also kisses a KO’d Hayato in order to give him the strength to take down not only Vitaly’s flagship replicant, but a Nesat who’s gone absolutely berserk due to her siblings getting hurt.

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Nesat threatens to explode after a predetermined period of time, taking the ship with her, but Hayato is able to reach into her subconscious and calm her down by telling her they’re friends now, and the final threat is dealt with without much fuss. Glad the Hunters didn’t end up getting hurt or worse, and now that they’re free, they can be useful members of garden society.

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That just leaves the resumption of the festival, culminating in, what else, a fireworks show, under which Emilia and Hayato dedicate themselves to being with one another. Unfortunately, while they’re kissing, the entire rest of the cast comes topside, and their myriad reactions are priceless.

Suffice it to say, Emilia’s secret is out: she’s a girl, and a princess, and loves Hayato. Of course, Claire isn’t okay with that, and unleashes her Hundred cannon at the lovebirds to close the episode, and possibly the series. The goofy slapsticky mood of the scene indicates she’s not really going to murder Emilia and Hayato, just scare them. Still, she’s not exactly setting a good example as captain of Little Garden, is she?

Sooo…Hundred: Definitely a show. With stuff that happened in it. Totally inconsequential and derivative stuff that hardly ever went anywhere interesting, but mostly fun stuff nonetheless. Will I be tuning into any possible second season? Maybe…if nothing else is on.

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Hundred – 11

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Though shit was going to hit the fan immediately after Vitaly activated her  army of Evil Roombas? Nope! That doesn’t happen until five minutes into the episode.

Instead, we get more of Karen and Sakura’s concert, which consists of several slow pans over still images set to music that seems to be coming out of a handheld Dictaphone speaker. Needless to say, the shit can’t hit the fan soon enough.

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Claire is actually made aware of Wendy’s unconsciousness, short-term amnesia, and talk of coreless savages, and for a second there, one hoped that she’d lock down the entire Garden before Vitaly could accomplish too much, but…NAH.

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Yeah, time to go up a shirt size, AMIRITE? One thing’s for sure: VItaly knows a good villain tailor.

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Anywho, when the Roombas start turning into giant robotic bees, they’re treated as a nuisance…until they turn out to be much more than that, and the Garden is literally brought to its knees.

One assumes Vitaly has been planning this multi-pronged attack since she left the Garden…which begs the question: why the heck was she allowed to roam free and buy up so many warplanes? Where’d she get the money and raw materials in a world supposedly beset by the scourge of the Savage?

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I loved this: Karen and Sakura informing their crowd of 100,000 that they’re going to evacuate, but everyone else should stay right where you are! Never mind if a giant plane crashes into the stadium – The Slayers Will Protect You!

Somehow, if I were in that crowd, Sakura’s assurances wouldn’t be very comforting. I mean, she doesn’t even bother to lip-sync; she just stands or flies around smiling while the music plays?

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I do love Claudia’s attitude: she doesn’t care what’s happening, because she wasn’t able to share a chocolate banana with Emilia. Sure, she springs into action when Vitaly’s robots storm the flight deck, but it’s clear that she’s only attacking them because she’s less likely to hang with Emilia if Emilia’s city-ship sinks.

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Claire orders Hayato and Emile—who are on the sidelines this entire episodefor some reason—to protect the three captive Hunters, but with the Garden’s shields failing, Hayato decides to go topside instead, and Claire lets them go, hoping Mai-Mai will suffice as prisoner guard.

She doesn’t; Vitaly takes her out without much difficulty, then activates some kind of sonic torture device that bends the three initially reluctant kids to her will. I tellya; this Vitaly is one omnipotent villain, and this episode doesn’t reveal any obvious flaws in either her plan or her many powers.

She basically made Charlotte, Claire, Judar, and Little Garden look pretty damned weak and foolish all by herself. Now that she has three obedient (for now) Hunters flanking her, stopping her is going to be a bitch. But if anyone can do it, it’s Hayato…with some help from his friends, of course.

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Hundred – 10

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It’s a festival episode, which means lots of inconsequential milling around soaking in the sights and sounds. But before that we meet Wendy, a slayer we later learn is friends with Reitia and Fritz, who is overpowered by Vitaly Tynyanov (who has an interesting fashion sense). Vitaly brainwashes Wendy into getting her into Little Garden undetected. It’s pretty telegraphed.

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Not only that, Erica just as clearly points out the means of Vitaly’s future mischief: an increased number of Roombas Vitaly is inevitably going to turn into killing machines, all as her Hunters…well, not rot, but shall we say lounge comfortably in the bowels of the Garden. I came to like that trio of near-as-makes-no-difference siblings, and hope they play a bigger role next week.

Hayato also shows off a new talent: ruining surprises, when he tails Sakura to a room where she, Karen, and Char are preparing said surprise. When Judar visits later, it had me wondering whether the blonde bishonen bastard had some kind of scheme in mind for Hayato’s sister, seeing as his own sister is presently powering the Garden. A backup generator, mayhaps?

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Emile is spared Claudia sticking to her like glue for the duration of the Festa due to the latter’s security detail, which means Hayato has Emile’s undivided attention. Her enthusiasm—and her photo of Erica in a maid outfit—gets her in trouble, however, when Erica turns the tables, dressing “him” up as a girl, then getting Hayato to grab her real boobs.

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As for the Strongest Frail Imouto in the Universe, she takes the stage with Sakura donning a Hundred that will enable her to stand and walk and even fly. Of course, like the last time there was an idol concert, Hundred can’t be bothered with animating any part of it, meaning the show has all the excitement and dynamism of a Tuesday morning PowerPoint. I guess the episode blew its budget on all those maid extras, huh?

Anyway, as predicted the moment a Roomba and a Wendy showed up, Vitaly infiltrates Little Garden during the concert, and activates the Killer Roombas by making one vacuum up her cigarette butt, which is a pretty bizarre but cool way of startin’ some shit. Unfortunately, all of that shit will have to wait until next week; this episode was all setup and fluff. BRING ON THE EVIL ROOMBAS.

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Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – 19

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Don’t let that petulant mug staring down a phone fool you: Arima is in one way or another a hero to many in this episode, which makes us realize he’s been that hero to many all along.

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This week is full of optimism in the face of doom. Nobody is moping in the corner feeling sorry for themselves; they’re doing something about it; moving forward to attain what they desire. Yes, even Tsubaki! Her love for and devotion to her next-door-neighbor pianist is driving the career jock to excel at her studies for the first time in her scholastic career, and the hard work and determination look good on her.

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With her negative prognosis and deteriorating frame, Kaori was in an even worse way. But Kousei manages to pay her back for rousing him from his deep sea slumber with his love and devotion, bringing color to her greyed heart and shaking her out of her bed of only-half-joking suicide threats and into the rehabilitation room.

She also asks for a risky surgery that may give her a little more time, because every little bit of time on this earth, with Kousei, will be worth it. Kousei makes her remember how bright and sparkling she was on that stage. Now she’s working to get back on it with him.

I’ll just say both Kousei’s interactions with Kaori’s parents and Kaori’s speech to the surgeon were both tearjerking moments, which I’m enough of a katsudon-eating real man to admit!

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Tsubaki still has problems asserting herself within Kousei’s life as an object of romance, but that doesn’t stop her from taking Kashiwagi’s advice and visiting Kousei, both to support him during his fierce all-night practicing for the upcoming compeition (which is, for him, as important as acing final exams).

For all the people he’s able to inspire, including Tsubaki, Kousei remains someone who needs caring for. Tsubaki whips out some scissors and cuts his disheveled hair, something we have to thank her for. And while it doesn’t look much different the next day, the fact that Tsubaki is there, in a way, “marking her man”, is definite progress, which I hope will continue.

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When the day of the preliminaries arrive, Kousei is able to disarm both a ravenous Emi and and a post-vomiting Takeshi with delicious free-range egg salad sandwiches, which he happens to have three of. Seeing these three rivals sitting together shooting the breeze is an unexpected delight, and a show of their splendid chemsitry.

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Flashbacks show that these three really have a lot of history sitting together, eating, and waiting to see which one of them will be best that day. It was always Kousei before, but his unrelenting competency drove both of his rivals to become the major talents they are today, and did so again by training Takeshi’s sister, provoking him to come out of “retirement.” We also see that Emi always enjoyed sitting beside Kousei. In a show without Kaori or Tsubaki, they’d have made a great pianist power couple themselves.

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Most of the second half is about Takeshi’s comeback, and about how enemies in music not only benefit from the support of one another, but require it. Takeshi and Emi wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for Kousei, and one another, while Kousei wouldn’t be there without Kaori.

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But today, Takeshi takes the first step towards leaving his hero Kousei’s shadow and starting on his own path; beyond replicating or surpassing him is not needing him anymore, like a fledgling finally flying off from the nest. As such, his Chopin performance is so stirring, there were moments when I wished all the various parties watching, along with his internal monologue, would cease so I could listen in peace!

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It’s only the first of two pieces Takeshi is scheduled to play in the preliminaries; but Takeshi plays like his life depends on, and ends up “making Chopin smile” along with bringing down the house. He’s back from his self-imposed exile; a musician among musicians; among enemys who are also his friends and his fuel, who fully intend to respond to his brilliant performances with some of their own. I can’t wait to hear ’em.

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Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – 18

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Uso’s primary strength, and what sets it apart from anything else this Winter (that I’m watching, anyway) is its bravura musical performances, accompanied by both play-by-play and color commentary from members of the audience. This week continues that trend of really nailing that strength.

The performances aren’t just wonderful to listen to; they’re a crucial means of delivering catharsis or proving the mental and physical mettle of the performers. They’re also meant as messages: Kousei is on that stage to give Kaori a musical kick in the pants; Nagi is there to scream out “Here I Am!” to her big brother.

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For the first time on Uso, there’s two people at the piano, and while Kousei does go a little off script with the bass, wanting to turn off the sound of the notes and merely feel them, where he’s at his best, but it doesn’t derail things. Rather, Nagi realizes she’s being goaded, and it’s up to her to realize her potential and fight back.

It becomes a battle on the blacks and whites, but not an all-out brawl; more like a friendly game of table tennis. And with Ryouta relaying the performance to Kaori via speakerphone, Kaori soon joins in from her hospital room, first standing up, and then playing air violin. It worked!

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Due in large part to her adorable but not over-the-top design and Kayano Ai’s similarly restrained little-sister voice, Nagi has more than grown on me; she’s become a vital part of Kousei’s growth. Hiroko wanted him to see the joy of watching someone learn and grow and become something great, just as she saw with him; the unique perspective of the teacher.

Meanwhile, once Takeshi gets over his outrage that Kousei seduced his sister (and wasn’t even aware she was his sister; doesn’t even remember his name, in fact!) he too shows signs that Nagi’s music reached him. He vows to defeat Kousei at the next major competition, essentially ending his brief retirement.

As he runs off Nagi recognizes the spring in his step from when he was a little kid singing the praises of the “robotic” Kousei. With his help, she made him hear and notice her, and now he’s back in the game.

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On the hospital roof, Kaori calls Kousei a cruel jackass for subjecting someone who can’t play the violin to music that made her want to play more than anything. And though there’s hardly any color in poor Kaori, the consuming darkness of her hospital room has been replaced by an endless blazing blue sky.

But Kousei won’t commit double suicide with her, and he won’t let her go gentle into that good night. He wants her by his side, playing violin one last time, in a performance neither they nor anyone else will forget. That should be some performance. But this one with Nagi wasn’t bad either, because it made that possible.

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