Yuru Camp△ Movie – Adulting Outdoors

Rather than chronicle another fun camping trip in a new place with the Outclub while they’re still in school, Yuru Camp’s first movie takes place in the not-to-distant future, when Rin, Nadeshiko, Aoi, Aki, and Ena are now full-fledged young adults with jobs (though notably no romantic partners).

They stay in touch through chat, but compared with their time at school they’re very far flung and their daily routines have changed. Rin’s at a publishing office in Nagoya, Nadeshiko works at a camping store in Tokyo, Aoi is a grade school teacher, Ena is a pet groomer, and Aki works with the local tourism department after her life in Tokyo didn’t pan out.

It’s Aki who is the catalyst that brings the five Outclub members back together with a bold proposal: take a derelict outdoors youth center with a great view of Fuji-sama and turn it into a campground. After Aki has (lots) of drinks with Rin (all drunk by her; she’s predictably now the lush of the group), she takes them to the spot, and at sunrise, Rin gets it; it’s a good spot.

The challenge, then, is how the five of them are going to navigate their day job obligations and distances and make this thing happen. Aki assigns everyone a role and wisely picks Rin as the team lead, as she’s the most experienced camper and thus perhaps the best organizer of the group.

They start small and realistically; trimming the overgrown grass and removing errant shrubs while discussing ideas for what they want on the grounds. Once a farmer friend of Aki’s shows them the proper way to to these things, and they get their hands on some machinery, the cleanup work accelerates.

It’s exciting watching the adult versions of these characters, already having eased into their new adult lives, banding together once more over something they always loved sharing with each other—camping—with the goal of now sharing that love with others so those people will share it, and so on and so forth.

It’s also comforting to know that both the chemistry and the comedic banter among the young women is still alive and well. A different movie could have had its individual members much more isolated and/or estranged (or even having families of their own) but this is rather the evolution of Cute Girls Doing Cute Things—Cute Women Doing Cool Things.

Once all the major cleanup and grading is complete, they decide to give the grounds a whirl by being the first to camp there. They find areas for improvements, and also ease back into their old dynamic of preparing a perfect campsite and cooking the perfect camp feasts.

The fact that these five young women are now old hands at camp cooking—not to mention they have a lot more cash than they did as kids—means Nadeshiko and Aki really go all out with the (still on sale!) salmon, with a light yet hearty cream soup and a full-on hot pot. The fact that these five young women are now old hands at camp cooking.

But like Yuru Camp’s first two seasons, the movie is not entirely without conflict, which comes in the form of a setback. Ena’s now-old pup Chikuwa brings her an odd piece of broken pottery, which eventually leads to a full archeological survey and excavation, which first delays and then completely nixes the campground plan. Aki, who brought everyone into this plan, has to make the call to everyone saying all their hard work may have been for naught!

And yet, because they’re adults, this isn’t the end of the world for any of them. It’s definitely disappointing, even deflating, but everyone aside rom Aki finds solace and stability in their day jobs. Rin finds out her senpai at work has been supporting her a lot behind the scenes so she could work on the campground project (both as team lead and covering it as a print and online serial for the magazine) and vows to work harder.

Aoi’s work story might be the most bittersweet, as the school where she’d started teaching just a couple years ago is closing down (possibly due to there simply not being enough kids to fill it), but gives the kids who are there all the love and attention she’s got. And I love how three high schoolers from Bizarro Yuru Camp come into Nadeshiko’s store again, looking to dip their tows into camping. Nadeshiko truly was born to get people into camping!

Those three kids’ simple but very doable plan to have a day trip with cup noodles inspires her to invite Rin to a special new spot: Rin has to endure a lot of climbing in the snow and ice, but the reward is the highest hot spring in Japan, which is tiny, but also breathtakingly beautiful, not to mention the absolute best thing after all the exertion.

There, the two old friends discuss how they really have become proper adults, who can do a lot more than they used to, not just regarding camping, but life in general. Nadeshiko also notes that even adults can’t do anything, but they can do what they can. She doesn’t regret the time they spent trying to get the campground off the ground, even if it didn’t work out. Neither does Rin.

It’s fortunate, then, that the campground plan isn’t entirely dead. With help from Ena, Aki prepares a new proposal that integrates the archeological site with the campground. The video presentation shows footage of the five women working hard and also relaxing and enjoying the outdoors, and is extremely persuasive.

The council votes to approve the plan, which means the Outclub is back in business, having only lost a couple of months. They cut the grass back down, the dog run is completed, they put a coat of paint on the distinctive aviary frame, and Aoi procures all the stuff they’ll need for the kid’s area.

When Aoi brings the fancy and very professional sign made by Akari (who is now in art school) and the five mount it to the entrance, it lends an immensely satisfying feeling of completion. They adulted the hell out of shit, and weathered the challenges that came their way. They did it!

Mind you, while getting caught up in all the excitement, they forgot to post the signs leading to the campground, so their first group of campers (many of them family and friends and thus more forgiving) get lost on their way there!

Not a problem, as the women work together to communicate with Rin while she rides out (not on her gramps’ motorcycle, which is in the shop, but her old moped) to locate and guide everyone safely to their destination. Crisis averted!

Once the sun sets and everyone is settled in, the five women stand at the top of the hill and admire what they’ve accomplished. Earlier, Rin’s Gramps gave the site his blessing. The group makes plans right then and there to reunite and camp there for New Years, when the sun rises out of Fuji-san’s peak. Rin, to the surprise of the other four, says she’ll also be joining them (albeit tentatively). Of course, she told Aki she’d “think about” helping with the campground too!

As the credits go by we get snapshots of that trip, on which Rin indeed accompanies the others, while we also get snapshots of them continuing their adult lives at their jobs. Aoi’s at a new school, Nadeshiko is still being the best dang camping store clerk ever, Rin is hard at work at the magazine, Ena’s grooming pups, and Aki is sticking with the local tourism.

A planned third season of Yuru Camp will likely return us to the present when they’re all still in school. But it was great to see everyone doing so well in the future. I got the same warm, fuzzy, cozy, calming, healing feelings I got from the show, only a little more adult-y. I honestly wouldn’t mind if season 3 picked up from here!

It also had some low-key poignant commentary on the preservation and revitalization of existing things—as well as the need to preserve and occasionally revitalize one’s old friendships! What better way to do that then to go camping, when we can be one with ourselves, rely on one another, and of course indulge in lavish outdoor feasts!

Urusei Yatsura – 10 – Autumn Red

Ataru’s mom arrives at school for parents day and just hopes she doesn’t run into anyone she knows. It’s telling that just like Shinobu doesn’t exist if another cutie is in Ataru’s sight, his mom doesn’t remember Shinobu’s mom! The two are flabberghasted by the gaudy arrival of Mendou’s mother via oxcart procession, which is promptly upstaged by the arrival of Lum’s mother, who doesn’t speak Japanese.

It isn’t until Lum arrives to hug her mom that Ataru’s mom can breathe a sigh of relief that Lum’s mom isn’t another one of Ataru’s girlfriends. As for Mendou’s mom, she doesn’t speak loudly enough for anyone to hear her so it falls to Mendou to tell Lum’s mom that his mom is challenging her to a duel. Only because Lum is translating, her mom mistakes it for an offer for her to marry Mendou, which she must bashfully decline!

While it’s fun to meet Lum, Shinobu, and Mendou’s moms, the second segment is the kind of story I’ve been waiting for for some time: something with actual substance and emotional resonance. We see Lum hard at work sewing something throughout the episode, then see how her routine of waking Ataru up ensures he’s not late for class anymore.

She joins Ataru’s family for breakfast and then walks (or rather floats) with Ataru to school. Lum notices the trees are changing color, while Ataru tries flirting with a random girl and gets zapped. All pretty standard Ataru/Lum stuff so far.

While Ataru tries to pick up other girls with his yo-yo skills of all things, Lum is still hard at work sewing something. The bottom line is, Ataru simply isn’t paying any attention to her, and anyone can see he’s taking her for granted as a partner.

That evening at home, he’s short and brusque with her, treating her like a nuisance before going to bed. Lum, apparently out of patience, says a solemn “bye-bye” and flies out the window, shedding a few tears along the way. The next morning he oversleeps, but Lum doesn’t wake him up; his mom has to.

In Lum’s place is a little plush Lum doll that she had been making, which in addition to being extremely well-made also happens to be absolutely adorable. In Lum’s absence, Ataru carries the doll in his breast pocket, close to his heart, and contemplates what it, and Lum’s absence, might mean.

As the maple tree on the way to school turns a bold red in preparation to drop its leaves, Ataru walks to and from school alone, and to Shinobu and other girls’ shock, doesn’t bother flirting with anyone. He’s not in the mood. The dude misses her.

When three days pass and still no Lum, Ataru finally tells the others she’s been missing. Mendou flexes the might of his family’s private police force on a fantastically elaborate and expensive womanhunt, to no avail. Ataru runs to the arena where he first grabbed Lum by the horns, and keeps running to places where they shared fun times.

That night, he cries himself to sleep with the Lum doll in his hands, and we cut to Lum on her parents’ spaceship. Turns out she had to return home to renew her passport so she could stay on earth. When her parents ask if she has any notion about returning home, she says she’s happy by her Darling’s side.

Reinforcing her affection for Ataru and trust that he cares for her too is the fact that the doll has a microphone embedded inside it, which enables her to hear Ataru crying himself to sleep over missing her. She holds the radio tight, no doubt eager to return to her new home.

The next morning, Ataru once again solemnly walks to school alone. By now the maple tree is dropping its brilliant red leaves, but a shadow streaks overhead, and Lum lets out a hearty “Darling!” from behind. Ataru is shocked at first, then so moved that he has to turn his head to avoid letting her see him shed a tear of joy and relief.

The falling leaves add to the drama and beauty of their heartwarming reunion, as the camera rotates lovingly around her and her elegantly falling hair. Ataru lies through his teeth about having almost been free of her, but she knows the truth, thanks to the bug in the doll that he’s kept so close to him.

While I cannot condone secret audio surveillance of one’s partner, in Lum’s case it’s justified due to Ataru’s unapologetic Don Juan-ish nature. But even if she didn’t intend to frighten him with her sudden departure, it’s very telling that for all the indifference towards her he’s shown, the minute she left his life, he was an absolute wreck.

Like Kevin in Home Alone, Ataru’s brief time apart from something with which he thought he was fed up made him understand how much Lum actually meant to him. When given the freedom to pursue any girl, all he could do was pine for her. She’s special, and he’s lucky to have her.

Urusei Yatsura – 09 – Dine and Dash

Cherry senses doom in the air (and in his stew)—and it arrives while Ataru is cleaning his room for Shinobu while Lum is bored out of her mind and simply wants to cuddle. Shinobu is accosted on her way to Ataru’s, and ends up arriving through the window, leaving Lum and Ataru to mistake her as a ghost.

Turns out she’s on the shoulders or Rei, Lum’s fiancé who takes the form of a giant tiger-ox-thing when he’s mad. When he’s not mad, he’s a ridiculously good-looking young man, which is all Shinobu cares about. In this regard, she’s basically a male Ataru!

Love is more than looks for Lum, who won’t give Rei the time of day. Every time she clings to Ataru, Rei gets upset and transforms into the beast. He’s only quelled by the arrival of Ataru’s mom, who is immediately smitten and dolls herself up to bring roasted potatoes for the handsome new guest.

In addition to being a Jekyll-and-Hyde menace who won’t leave Lum alone, he’s also an unrepentant glutton, eating all of the potatoes meant for everyone and at least breifly forgetting that he originally came there for Lum.

When Lum reasserts her prefrence for Ataru, Rei chases them out of the house (blasting a hole in the wall) and into a park full of lovey-dovey couples. Only every time he calls out to Lum to marry him, each on of the women in the park fall for him and accept his proposal.

After running around the park winning the hearts of the gals and the ire of the guys and eating all of the food vendor’s wares, the chase comes back to Ataru’s house, and all the people from the park follow them there. Basically, thanks to being Lum’s main squeeze Ataru now has the most chaotic and troublesome alien yet all up in his space.

It isn’t long until school and free study time is infected by a toxically persistent Rei. Mendou vows to protect Lum and the other girls in the class from Beast!Rei, which Lum is fine with, but then she runs into Ran in the hall.

An enraged Ran demands that Lum help hook her up with Rei, as she’s painfully shy around him. Meanwhile Rei transforms and all the girls flock to him, leaving Mendou with all the other dudes and pathetically trying to flaunt his wealth to get the girls back.

When Lum comes back in the classroom, Rei has already eaten most of the other girls’ lunches, so he prepares to pounce on her. But she’s only a decoy to allow an opening for Ran to swoop in with her lovingly-made bento just for Rei.

He slowly, politely eats the lunch, which makes Ran think her feelings are getting through to him, but then Cherry arrives with an even bigger bento and Rei eats it the exact same way, igniting Ran’s demon mode. Then, just as quickly as he arrived, Rei announces he’s hungry and rockets home.

Rei hopes he’ll come back soon. Lum and Ataru hope he never comes back, something they can share in as a couple. Alas, when Rei said “home”, he didn’t mean the Oni homeworld, but Ataru’s house, where he is eating when Lum and Ataru arrive … and then promptly faceplant in exasperation.

Rei may not technically be a one-note character, but his two notes (raging beast and hunky yet remorseless eating machine) played ad nauseum throughout the episode grew quite exhausting … which I guess is the point! I truly empathized with Ataru and Lum (and Ataru’s dad!) enduring Rei’s foolishness.

Even if I can’t always understand Lum’s love and loyalty to Ataru, I totally get how whatever fleeting feelings she may have once had for Ataru in the past have long since dissipated, and now she wants nothing to do with him. I hate to say it, but really does makes Ataru look like the more desirable man!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Bocchi the Rock! – 03 – Extroversion Abounds

Bocchi recovers from her self-inflicted fever after a couple days, and while brushing her ahoge tells her little sister it’s important for “people like her” to attend class lest her classmates forget she exists. Her little sister says her sister is “a pain in her own ass” and she’s not wrong! That said, Bocchi is still feeling confident now that she’s made two friends, joined a band, and gotten a part-time job.

That confidence evaporates when yet again no one approaches her in class, and when she hears two girls engaging in band talk, she loudly yelps to get their attention. Not only do they know her name, but they seem open to hearing her out, but poor Bocchi can’t get any words out. She didn’t prepare adequately! So she retreats to a dark corner of the school to eat lunch in tears.

When she encounters Kita Ikuyo, a red-haired girl that everyone says is great at karaoke, Bocchi observes her from afar, but is too intimidated by how much of an extrovert the girl is to get any closer. When the girl notices her anyway and also knows her name, Bocchi once again can’t say any words—she can only beatbox!

When Ikuyo beatboxes back, Bocchi shouts an apology, bolts, then returns to her hiding spot to serenade us with a ballad of melancholy. However only we hear the lyrics; Ikuyo followed Bocchi there, heard her playing, and thinks she’s awesome!

Bocchi, unaccustomed to praise, laps it up like honey and instantly deems Ikuyo a good person. Bocchi finally manages to blurt out the reason she’s been wanting to approach Ikuyo, and Ikuyo tells her she’s sorry, but she can’t join her band. Bocchi assumes she’s the reason and makes up all kinds of things to make her bandmates sound cool as hell (and they look kinda like Panty & Stocking in her mental image!) … to no avail.

Ikuyo says she can’t join a band for the same reason she flaked out on the band she joined to be closer to her senpai: she can’t actually play the guitar. Hearing her say she thought the neck was “for decoration” astonishes Bocchi, but despite her inner voice telling her “say no girl!”, she agrees to teach Ikuyo how to play in between school, band, and work.

After texting Nijika and Ryou to bring lots of energy drinks and blast EDM when they next meet, Bocchi takes Ikuyo to Shimo-Kita, and ends up having Ikuyo lead the way, using her as a shield to avoid the stares of others (while actually attracting more staring in the process).

When Bocchi mentions STARRY, Nijika and Ryou, Ikuyo tries to back out, saying she can’t go back there, but Nijika and Ryou arrive, arms bursting with energy drinks, and she can no longer run away. Once inside, Bocchi can tell how uncomfortable Ikuyo seems and wants to say something nice, but Ryou beats her to it.

Ikuyo wants to make it up to Nijika and Ryou for ditching them, and Nijika’s sister suggests she work a shift with the others. No doubt recognizing her talent for public relations, Seika dresses Ikuyo up in a maid outfit and has her handle admissions and drink tickets.

Bocchi immediately starts feeling inadequate and redundant, “losing her identity” and turning into a mist that rises up the club stairs as Ryou looks on. A “Thanks for Watching!” card flashes as if to herald yet another premature end to the series, but she snaps out of it when she’s asked to show Ikuyo how to serve drinks.

Unfortunately, being watched makes Bocchi so nervous she burns herself with coffee. Ikuyo wraps her hand in a handkerchief, and Bocchi notices something about Ikuyo’s hand. When Ikuyo asks why Bocchi joined a band, Bocchi lies and says “world peace” because she’s self-conscious about having “impure” motives like wanting fame and popularity.

But then Ikuyo turns around and admits her motives are impure (too): she joined to be closer to her senpai, Ryou, whom she once watched performing on the streets and fell head-over-heels in love. Honestly, I can’t blame her; of the four leads, three are extremely high-strung, while Ryou’s never not an island of cool tranquility.

When the music’s over and the house lights are back up, Ikuyo prepares to depart from her first and only shift at STARRY. But even earlier, Bocchi had been building up the determination to say something to Ikuyo to make her stay. Unfortunately, her body moves before her mind can get all its ducks in a row, and she ends up tripping, ripping down a black curtain, and smacking her noggin on the wall.

While it’s not how she wanted to do it, it does keep Ikuyo there, if only because she’s concerned about Bocchi. She even gleans that Bocchi was going to try to say something to convince her it was okay to stay, but says she can’t join a band she already flaked out on once, especially when she can’t really play the guitar.

Bocchi tells Ikuyo that she ran away before the concert too, and threw herself in a trash can. But she also felt Ikuyo’s hands when she was treating her burn, and she felt the calluses one only gets by working their butt off practicing. That is all Bocchi needs to know that Ikuyo is committed enough to join, or rather re-join Kessoku Band.

Nijika and Ryou agree with Bocchi: Ikuyo should join them. They’re not even mad that she flaked out the first time, because if she hadn’t they wouldn’t have meet Bocchi! But the fact remains, Ikuyo’s guitar ignorance is such that she’d been practicing on a six-string bass all this time without knowing it, attributing the bomm-bomm sound it made to her being terrible.

Ryou buys her bass (and ending up broke and eating weeds) and lends her an actual guitar to practice with as Bocchi teaches her in STARRY’s back room. Ikuyo’s progress is slow and she’s easily frustrated and whines a lot, but Bocchi recognizes all of the ways she gets frustrated because that was her three years ago. Now she has the skills to not only play, but teach.

Bocchi was right about Ikuyo, she’s a very nice person. She’s so nice, she almost deprived herself of her dream of playing with her beloved senpai because she thought her misdeeds were too serious to be forgiven. But Bocchi, Nijika, and Ryou are also good kids, and knew the band would be better with her than without.

That Bocchi worked so hard in recruiting Ikuyo speaks to how she continues to make progress interacting with people. Her anxiety and myriad neuroses were likely remain a part of her for a good long time (if not forever) but she’s gradually learning that she, like everyone else, deserves a happy life and friends to rock out with.

Urusei Yatsura – 06 – Earth, Lightning, Fire and Ice

Ataru is a man of simple pleasures. When it’s sukiyaki night at the Moroboshi house, he’s super-pumped. Unfortunately he’s never able to partake in the feast, as Lum grabs him and leaps through an inter-dimensional portal she made in his closet that leads to the Oni homeworld.

Lum is in battle gear, and soon so is Ataru. The lines are drawn between the Oni and the “Lucky Gods”. Ataru feels like some kind of bloody, horrific war is going to start, but the “battle” takes the form of…tower basket ball toss, an even not out of place on school sports days.

This is kinda boring to Ataru, until he spots a major babe in Benten, one of Lum’s old friends (Ishigami Shizuka). Back home, Ataru’s parents wait as long as they can, then eat all the sukiyaki, before hearing their son’s voice and freaking out. Cherry arrives to help them speak to their son, now allegedly dearly departed to the hereafter.

In reality, they can just hear him through the portal as he flirts with Benten. While she’s understandably “who is this guy” at first, once she realizes he’s Lum’s husband she decides to have a little fun at her expense and plays along. This results in Lum and Benten, the two basket minders, ignoring the game completely to fight over Ataru.

Before Cherry summons Ataru’s voice again, he has Ataru’s folks make more sukiyaki, at which point his mom has lost her patience and holds the tiny priest at knifepoint. He does the same nonsensical chanting as his niece Sakura, tuning into Ataru just as he’s facing his “punishment” as the weakest link on the losing team: being pelted with pellets by both sides.

As is typical of Urusei Yatsura, the next morning is a bit of a reset, but Ataru is in bed with a cold. Somewhat surprisingly, Shinobu is by his side tending to him, and Lum is nowhere to be found. Soon Mendou, Ataru’s friends, and Cherry are crowding the room, just as it starts to grow very cold and snowy.

Lum went to Neptune to visit a friend through the portal, so a bit of the icy world seems to be “leaking” into his room, including an avalanche’s worth of snow that buries Ataru. He’s dug up not by Shinobu or his friends, but by a new character who resembles a yuki-onna. She goes back through the portal and then down a deep chasm.

Starting with Ataru (who is pushed), everyone follows suit, and lands upside-down on the snow-packed surface of Neptune. There, Ataru reunites with Lum (in a smart tiger-print two-piece combo more appropriate for the climate than her usual bikini), who reveals the yuki-onna is her old friend Oyuki (Hayami Saori, of course).

Neptune is a world full of nothing but women, which makes it a paradise for Mendou, who is all to happy to dig snow for them endlessly. Meanwhile, Oyuki invites Ataru, Lum, Shinobu and Cherry into her futuristic mansion. Ataru can’t help but flirt with Oyuki, incurring the rage of both Shinobu and Lum (as well as Lum’s lightning).

Ataru begs to go somewhere where he’ll be safe from their wrath, praising Oyuki for being a pure, gentle, and above all non-violent maiden. However he soon finds that Oyuki, who ditched her outdoor robes for a revealing ice-blue one-piece, was planning to seduce Ataru all along. Things are about to get racy when the wall crumbles before them and B-Bo, Oyuki’s yeti attendant, takes exception to Ataru’s presence.

B-Bo chases Ataru through the Neptunian wastes and back through the portal to Earth, where news choppers capture the ensuing rooftop spectacle. Once the King Kong style incident is over, Ataru finds himself in a full body cast, tended to by both Shinobu and Lum, who hoped he learned his lesson about chasing every girl with a pulse. Of course, he didn’t learn, and will never learn—otherwise he wouldn’t be Moroboshi Ataru!

The third and final segment is the shortest, and takes place after the credits. At the end of the semester, Ataru has an announcement for everyone: he’s retiring. His teacher thinks this means he’s dropping out due to his upsettingly terrible grades, but it’s Mendou who shatters the fourth wall by assuming Ataru was retiring … as the main character of Urusei Yatsura.

Everyone goes along with this, because everyone wants to be his replacement. It results in a callback to every character large and small we’ve met so far in the first six episodes, each making their case. Finally Ataru has to disappoint them all: he’s not retiring from being the MC, but from the school presidency.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Urusei Yatsura – 05 – Hand Over Fist

“A man gotta have a code.”—Omar Little

When Ataru spots Cherry parked outside school grilling fish, the little guy explains that he’s on chaperone duty for Sakura, who is the new school nurse. Ataru hears about this too late, as there’s already a long line of boys wanting to her to examine them (including Mendou), but he invokes their envy when she calls him by his name.

Sakura kicks all the lechers out (after hitting them with her shoe) and the gym teachers come in with a job for Sakura the shrine maiden: exorcising a pair of possessed gloves. One of those gloves ends up bopping a flying Lum in the head, and she takes it to Ataru, who promptly puts it on and find he can no longer control his right arm.

After embracing every cute girl in class (and getting slapped for it), the glove takes a liking to Mendou, who whips out his katana. Sakura arrives in maiden garb to take care of the glove, and when she watches Ataru take his own punch to protect Lum from getting hit, she gets an idea.

Ataru may seem like a chaotic lecher, but he has strict rules, and one of them is that he’d never, ever hit a girl. So Sakura puts him in a ring where he’ll float like a butterfly and sting like a bee … on himself, using his own face as Lum’s shield (something that moves Lum to tears). It works: he knocks himself out, and the gloves come off.

While that’s the end of the boxing glove hijinx, hands play an important role in the second segment. Lum witnesses other lovey-dovey couples holding hands, but Ataru gives her the cold shoulder in favor of Shinobu, who gives him the cold shoulder. If she has any feelings left for this guy she’s hiding them extraordinarily well.

When the other guys in class watch a procession of girls delivering love letters to Mendou, then see Lum glomming on Ataru, they see a couple of extremely lucky guys who need to be brought down a peg. So they write a fake love letter to Ataru by “Kumino Otoko”, an invented girl who insists Mendou is an uggo and a loser compared to her dear Ataru.

Ataru jumps on the hastily wrought fiction like stink on a skunk, and Mendou is also troubled, so he issues a challenge: if this Kumino Otoko is real, he’ll pay Ataru 10,000 yen. If she’s fake, Mendou takes over as class president. This is unexpected blowback for the guys, who do not want to live under an oppressive Mendou regime.

That said, the girl they paid 3,000 yen to play the role of Otoko spent all the cash on food and ends up staying home with a stomachache, so Ataru is doomed to be stood up by a girl who never existed. Lum, who has lately felt underappreciated and even claimed to be considering dumping Ataru and going to Mendou (though not really), is initially content to perch on an electrical pole and let the boy learn his lesson.

I say “initially”, because for whatever reason, Lum truly does love Ataru, and eventually grows worried about him being hurt and lonely. So, showing she’s the best alien waifu a guy could ask for, she walks into the cafe in disguise as “Kumino Otoko,” shocking all in attendance.

Ataru is the first (and only) guy there to notice Otoko is actually Lum, and almost gives up the ghost like a dope, but she draws near and tells him to play along, and so he does, though later still pines for a girl that never existed while one that does just saved his ass.

As they walk home, Lum isn’t happy with how unappreciative Ataru is, and even when she spots another laughing couple holding hands ahead of them, she prepares to fly off on her own. But Ataru, noticing in the dramatic light of the sunset how beautiful Lum is for the first time, reflexively reaches out and takes her hand.

Lum is surprised, but when Ataru asks if they can walk together a little while longer, her elated beaming face just melts Ataru’s heart, and the two walk along hand-in-hand. Lum laughs just like the other girls laugh, but when Ataru asks why she won’t say. If he doesn’t know why, nothing she says will change that, so she might as well just enjoy this moment. I know I did!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Urusei Yatsura – 04 – As the Crow Flies

Ataru and Lum are playing Shinobu and Mendou in a spirited game of doubles tennis, and Lum ignores pleas not to cheat by flying. Her resulting point soars so far it smacks one of the tengu crows carrying a capsule containing a slumbering space princess. It slides down the hill and flattens Mendou, and Ataru pounces on it as soon as he sees the face of the occupant.

The crow attendants are impressed not with Ataru, but with Mendou’s “slicked-back” good looks. They believe he’ll be the perfect mate for their Princess Kurama to engage in “amorous congress” with. They urge Mendou to kiss her so she’ll awaken and get down to business.

Naturally, Mendou is a little hesitant, but Ataru isn’t, and steals the kiss. Lum immediately zaps him into the stratosphere, so the first thing Kurama sees is Mendou’s handsome mug, and assumes he’s The Guy.

The four crow attendants are fine with this, but their elder is against it. Tradition dictates that the one who awakened her with a kiss become her mate, and that’s the Ataru clown.

The others want to keep that a secret, and so does Lum, who agrees to help them ensure the princess ends up with Mendou. Kurama then arrives in class and is all over Mendou, causing a huge uproar among his many admirers. Both Ataru and Shinobu try to tell her the truth, but are tied up by the crows and Lum.

Lum and the crows then set to work building an impromptu “love nest” right in the schoolyard, into which Kurama drags a still-hesitant Mendou. While he recognizes her beauty, he still feels things are going way too fast. That’s when Ataru drops in, still tied up, to tell Kurama the truth: he kissed her.

The elder crow backs this up and says tradition must be adhered to. But when Kurama asks specifically why that is and what the consequences are, he has no idea. So the crows set up a device so he can confer with the past elders of the past of their homeworld.

The elder ends up going back to the very first elder, who admits to having created the tradition from whole cloth simply because it was the way he met his own bride after a long and exciting adventure.

At the news of this, Kurama smashes the miraculous device and says to hell with such a sappy, meaningly tradition. She storms back into her nest, and Mendou follows her in to commit himself to her as her groom.

That’s when Ataru puts a big ‘ol record scratch on their moment by dropping a giant temple bell on top of Mendou, sending him into his darkness basketcase raving mode. Kurama is instantly put off by such a pathetic display and leaves.

Freed from what ended up to be a capricious and arbitrary tradition, she’s raised her standards for who should be her husband, and sets out to find someone who “checks all the boxes”, marked by an inspiring postcard memory.

Princess Kurama is another fun new character with a cool, striking design and voiced with exquisite haughtiness by Mizuki Nana. I also enjoyed her crew of adorable doting crow tengu. While I salute her for washing her hands of Mendou and Ataru, the fact she’s just as shallow as they are suggests she won’t enjoy the best luck in her pursuit of the perfect man.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Urusei Yatsura – 03 – In Flies Another Hassle

It’s just another day in Ataru’s class with Lum hanging off of him and Shinobu throwing chairs and desks at him in, but then the mega-rich transfer student Mendou Shuutarou leaps out of one of his family’s fleet of private helicopters and is hit by one of the desks Shinobu throws. Shinobu approaches him to apologize and is immediately smitten with Mendou … giving a concerned Ataru a foot to the face.

Ataru doesn’t have to worry … much, as the moment Mendou spots Lum floating around class, he loses all interest in Shinobu. Unfortunately for him, Lum only cares about her Darling, Ataru. Mendou arrives on the day of the election for class president, but worried his administration will be too punitive towards his fellow male students, the lads nominate Ataru to run against him.

When the two tie (Ataru getting all the boys’ votes, Mendou getting all the girls’), Mendou challenges Ataru to a traditional Mendou family duel: a William Tell routine, but with cannon instead of pistols. In order to commence the duel Mendou has to throw a glove at Ataru, but finds it impossible due to Ataru’s ninja-like elusiveness. He ends up hitting Lum with his duel glove instead, and she zaps him for his trouble.

Despite the principal insisting students aren’t allowed to parachute into school, Mendou arrives the same way as his first day, only this time Lum runs into him instead of a desk, and the two get tangled in his parachute. Lum was searching for her Darling, who slipped away to have a private chat with Shinobu.

To Ataru’s dismay, Shinobu plainly admits she has the hots for Mendou and sees no reason why it’s any of his lecherous, cheating-ass’s business. Just then, the parachute falls, and Mendou ends up on top of Shinobu, who is as elated by the experience as Ataru is mortified.

When the class goes on a team-building trip to the woods, we see Lum in human clothes for the first time, and it’s clear she’s got fine fashion sense. As usual, Ataru would prefer to be alone with Shinobu than her, so when Mendou asks Lum if she’ll accompany him to explore a nearby limestone cave, Ataru invites Shinobu.

All four know that a cave means the potential for scary darkness and clinging to the one you like. The only problem is, everyone likes someone who doesn’t like them: Lum wants Ataru, Ataru wants Shinobu, Shinobu wants Mendou, and Mendou wants Lum. It’s a perfect romantic Ouroboros!

As expected, Ataru never ends up with his preferred clingmate, despite conspiring with Mendou to turn out their flashlights simultaneously. He first ends up with Lum while Shinobu gets Mendou. The next time they try it, the two boys end up with each other.

That’s when Ataru learns that Mendou becomes terrified to the point of tears and raving when he’s in a confined dark space … but only when girls aren’t looking at him. As in, even if Lum and Shinobu are right there with him, he wails like a baby when Ataru covers the girls’ eyes.

If it wasn’t clear from our previous dealings with Mendou, he’s just as much a lady-obsessed chowderhead as Ataru, only richer. He’s also voiced by fellow comedy vet Miyano Mamoru, one of the few seiyuu of his generation who can go toe-to-toe with Kamiya Hiroshi.

When the flashlights crap out for real, Lum is fed up and uses her electrical powers to light the way. But by doing so, she activates some kind of alien spaceship that was embedded in the rock, causing it to launch and create a huge hole in the caverns.

Everyone’s safe and sound, with the boys and girls embracing one another this time, but the ship attains Earth orbit and its passenger looks poised to awaken at any time … let’s hope next week. The more zany characters the merrier!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Urusei Yatsura – 02 – Ataru’s Girl

You would think that having an alien babe as a wife would be pretty sweet, but lest we forget, Moroboshi Ataru is a pathologically unlucky young feller, while Lum is either ignorant or uncaring of Earther concepts such as personal space, privacy, or not wanting to be electrocuted. Almost every waking moment involves Ataru fighting off Lum’s cuddling, getting daggers from every other girl in his life, and then getting shocked into near-oblivion.

The cold open does a very effective job portraying just how ridiculously stressful and intolerable the situation actually is, rather than it being a case of Ataru being sour despite clearly hitting the jackpot. This is legit not fun for him, so he runs away from home. But it’s not long before Lum, Shinobu, and his parents are on TV begging him to come home.

On his way out he meets Sakura (via accidentally copping a feel), a beautiful but sickly shrine maiden who immediately pegs him as the single most accurséd person she’s ever met. Sakura she invites him to her home/shrine for an exorcism, which her mom (who looks exactly like Cherry’s sister, because she is!) promises she’s very good at.

It certainly doesn’t start off good, as Sakura (Sawashiro Miyuki, clearly having a blast) enters sporting a canker sore the size of a golf ball, and then her chanting (much of it food ingredients and condiments) causes scores of tiny little demons to manifest and surround Ataru. But Sakura persists, and before long, all of the miasma in the room vanishes, and she finds herself feeling healthier than ever.

Ataru and his horrible fortune were no doubt the lure that drew them all out of Sakura, but since they all represent various maladies from which she suffered, she finishes the job and exorcises them, demonstrating that her mom wasn’t lying about her competence. That said, there’s an unexpected visit from the Grim Reaper, who seemingly comes for Ataru.

A distraught Shinobu, Lum, and his parents surround him on his apparent death bed…until a pretty nurse walks in and Ataru sits up in bed and chats her up. A moment ago they were praying for him to wake up, and now they wish he was dead all over again. Lum, one to hold a grudge, continually punishes him with electrocutions, from which there is no escape because she can fly and he can’t.

After witnessing just how bad Ataru has it, Cherry prepares a yelow ribbon for Ataru to tie around Lum’s horns. Once tied, only he can untie it, and Lum’s powers of flight and electricity are nullified. Ataru plays it off as giving her a new accessory so his wife can look her best, but when she leaps out the window and takes a tumble, he knows it really works.

The grounded Lum feels heavy and disoriented, so she grabs the first person she meets on the street—one of Ataru’s horny friends—to test her elecrocution power, only to find that’s not working either. When Shinobu catches her clinging to Ataru once more and hears about the ribbons, she charges Lum to try to get them off, but Ataru comes between her, so she takes the baked treats she made for him, kicks him in the face, and storms off.

That night, Lum wants to sleep together with Ataru, as she’s still out of sorts and wants to be close to her darling. Indeed, she wants to be by his side for life! Realizing the ribbon is a double-edged sword, he tries to remove it, but she won’t let him…until Cherry’s note is one of the things she throws at his interfering friends, and one of them reads it, revealing Ataru and Cherry conspired to ground and de-electrify Lum.

Lum proceeds to show that she doesn’t need her powers to kick Ataru’s ass, and when he removes the ribbons, she’s got a whole day of electricity stored up to discharge all at once. How this doesn’t stop Ataru’s heart or burn him to a crisp fifty times over I have no idea, but one thing’s for sure: it hurts like heck!

Ataru isn’t the typical rom-com protagonist you simply envy for lucking out on his situation. He’s a womanizing scumbag, sure, but factoring in how and swiftly and often he receives his just desserts for being said scumbag—and even for simply existing—he strikes the fine balance between loathsome and sympathetic. And he’s about to have company in the form of an ultra-rich parachuting pretty boy!

Spy x Family – 15 – A Dog Has Appeared

Keith is finally dealt with when Yor spots him in his car and then kicks said car so it crashes. She then calls the authorities to ask them to come fetch the terrorist. Between Anya saving the future and Yor bagging the baddie, Loid simply doesn’t know how good he has it!

That’s abundantly clear when he finds himself at an intersection with Yor, Anya, and Mr. Dog. Anya says she was worried about her Papa’s pooping situation, while Yor chased after her; plausible deniability is secure for both of them. As for Mr. Dog? Sylvia comes to retrieve him, but Anya decides that he is the dog for her, even threatening to drop out of school if they don’t let her have him. Seeing as how Operation Strix depends on Anya staying in school, both Loid and Sylvia grudgingly agree.

Thus Mr. Dog joins the Forger family, and we see the “good future” he saw take place. My heart soared at the sight of him safe and sound in the Forger home; it’s the least of what he deserves for saving and staying true to Anya. Unfortunately, despite the fact both she and Mr. Dog played a pivotal role in keeping the peace between East and West, she doesn’t earn any additional Stella, which is a terrible shame.

Even so, since Anya is well aware of her role in keeping said peace, she recommits to becoming friends with Damian, and she’s confident that having a dog can only strengthen her position. Indeed, Damian voices genuine interest in her new pet, only for her to blow it by not having a proper name for the pooch, simply referring to him as “Dog”.

That oversight is corrected after an ooting in a dog park. Another dog makes off with Anya’s favorite gloves, and he’s ornery when Anya tries to get them back. All it takes is an intense glare from Mr. Dog for the other dog to drop the gloves. Anya likens Mr. Dog to Bondman from her favorite cartoon, and notes that Mr. Dog has “gloves” in the form of his black paws. Festooning him with a bow tie collar, Anya declares that his name is Bond.

Even though Loid insisted that Anya study that night, when he and Yor find her and Bond sleeping together, he decides to let her insolence slide. Considering Anya and Bond saved the future, it’s the right move, even if Loid is unaware of their contribution. Bond is a most welcome member of the Forger family, and if Damian were to meet him, I can’t imagine he wouldn’t be eminently charmed by him. I mean, he’s so big and white and fluffy!

More than a married couple, but not lovers. – 01 (First Impressions) – Mismatch

Fuukoi, as it is also known, begins with the two female leads meeting at a shrine. The “plain” but cute Sakurazaka Shiori stumbles on the stairs and into the stylush gyaru Watanabe Akari, asking if she’s also there to pray for good luck with their forthcoming “marriage practical”.

What is a marriage practical, you say? An extremely weird and far-fetched means of the country trying to up its birth rate (?), I guess, and by far the weakest part of this debut episode. Male and female students are paired up and must live like a married couple in a Big Brother-style apartment, but are pointedly not allowed to sleep in the same bedroom. This system also apparently makes no accommodations for same-sex couples.

Our drab protagonist Yakuin Jirou, another weak point (never a good thing) wants to be paired with his childhood friend Shiori, while Akari wants to be paired with the equally stylish, blonde (and genuine Nice Guy) Tenjin Minami. So naturally, Jirou and Akari end up paired together, while his and Akari’s preferred matches end up paired up.

Neither Jirou nor Akari are happy about this, but it is what it is, but the good news is there’s a way to exchange partners: score enough points as a couple to make the A-Rank by the end of the month. Akari suggests they take the relationship lemons they’ve been given and make lemonade, but this is all A Lot for Jirou, considering the “love experience gap” between them.

Of course, Jirou’s wrong about this: Akari is just as chaste as he is, and all this as new to her as it is him. It’s too bad then, that she never tells him this to reduce the tension; call it pride and an unwillingness to admit they’re on the same level in that arena.

When Jirou goes to get them drinks and spots Shiroi with Minami, he gets even more depressed, but Akari tells him, and is right, that being mopey and indecisive won’t get him anywhere. They’ve got work to do scoring enough points to get the partners they want. So when Jirou’s annoying nerdy friend Sadaharu comes by to hang out, she asks for a goodbye kiss.

Caught between Akari and his insistent friend, Jirou kisses her without thinking … on the lips. It’s his kiss, but little does he know it’s also hers. The next day, Jirou wakes up on the couch, having apparently spent the night there (a little odd, considering I doubt he and Sadaharu got blackout drunk), and Akari urging him to get up and pull his weight.

A week passes, and Jirou and Akari make no progress. Shiroi and Minami, on the other hand, look like two peas in a pod, further frustrating and depressing Jirou. Their teacher asks him and Akari to come to the faculty office after school for a check-up. When Jirou tells Akari, she’s already off to karaoke with Minami, and tells him to do it solo.

He calls this his “worst day ever”, but Sadaharu says he’s got “a flower in each hand”—Shiroi the lily, Akari the rose. With no umbrella, he waits for the rain to subside, and then chance smile upon him when Shiori appears, having also forgotten hers.

As they talk, Shiori suddenly clutches him, because she thought she saw a bug (it was just a comical doodle of one). Turns out that’s why she clung to Minami earlier in the day—completely innocent, as expected. Shiori also objects to Jirou, her childhood friend, calling her “Sakurazaka” instead of her first name, which makes her feel lonely.

Jirou is taken aback by this, wondering if Shiori has the same feelings for him after all, but before he can say “Shiori” properly, Minami appears with her umbrella, and the two take off.

On the other side of the wall, Akari stands and waits a few beats, then approaches Jirou with an umbrella that they share on the walk home. She tells him how he struck out on trying to make something happen vis-a-vis Shiori. Indeed, by saying goodbye by calling her Sakurazaka, he actually left things worse off than they were before.

Yet again, it’s up to Akari to grab the mopey Jirou by the cheek and tell him to cheer up and focus his energy on the goal they agreed upon. It’s unfortunate Akari has to carry the mental load of her own issues while also trying to prop Jirou up. Dude needs to get his shit together because he’s quite unlikeable at the moment, whereas I like Akari a lot.

There’s another reason to like her when they come home, as she prepares perfect omurice for dinner, and even writes “love” on top in ketchup (while spouting quite a few double entendres). Jirou can’t deny it tastes amazing, and for once takes the initiative and offers to feed Akari with his spoon. After briefly hesitating, she takes the bite, leaving their faces oh-so-close together.

The moment is interrupted by a call form Sadaharu (silence your phone at dinner, dude!), for which Jirou is extremely relieved. But both their hearts are left pounding, which of course sets up the most likely endgame of shows like this with mismatched opposites gradually becoming closer and possibly eventually choosing one other over their original crushes.

The forced big brother scenario is dumb and troublesome to be sure, and Jirou needs a lot of work (obviously he’s supposed to be pathetic at this point) while, Akari has some great Kitagawa Marin vibes (albeit not nearly as honest with herself) and her and Shiori’s character designs are solid.

Aside from Akari, the main draw is the general look of the show: the scenery and colors are gorgeous and bold, making the darker rainy scenes feel that much more morose. It’s just so nice to look at, lacking the modeling or animation flaws of lesser productions.

ANN’s writers all hate this show, and I won’t argue with their reasons why. But for me, for now, the show’s pros are outweighing the cons. Sometimes you just need a bright, shiny, slightly horny show with a super-dumb premise. I had fun watching it.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 02 – Don’t Touch My Tomatoes

After her decisive win over the overconfident Guel Jeturk, Suletta is now the school’s ace pilot and fiancé to Miorine, heiress to one of the largest corporate concerns in a universe de facto ruled by corporations…Right? Uh, not so fast. The adults cry foul. Suletta’s Aerial is identified as an illegal Gundam, so both she and her suit are swiftly taken into custody.

If the prologue provided the backstory and context for Suletta’s background and legacy and the first episode established the school setting, system of duels, and the pairing off of Suletta and Miorine, this week is all about What Is To Be Done About Suletta, along with her suit that looks, sounds, and smells like a Gundam. We also know What Delling Did, and Aerial represents the ghost of a rival he thought he’d defeated over a decade ago.

While Suletta is interrogated and the old people comb through the implications, life goes on at the school. Rather than hailed as its new idol, Suletta is dragged through the scuttlebutt mud as a cheater, which explains how easily she won. Earthian Nika knows better, and doesn’t rise to the unrelated provocations from Spacians. She just hopes she can see Suletta—and her suit—again soon.

Miorine returns to her garden, her connection to Earth and also the one place where she actually has a measure of control. In true Rich Boy fashion, Guel does not come in person but sends his brother and peons to help clean up the mess he made Miorine accepts the offer, but warns them that if they touch her precious tomatoes, she’ll kill them.

Compare this to Suletta, whom Miorine readily allowed to taste of her tomatoes even when she was just an annoyance. Suletta then fought for her, totally unbidden, and became someone worthy of her hand (unlike Guel, who was merely given that hand). Only now her father is changing the rules Miorine thought she was following: Suletta is to be expelled, her suit scrapped, and he’ll find a new groom for her.

Miorine tries to let out her frustration by tossing the phone with this message, but the gentle tap against the glass accentuates her impotency and sense of being trapped within a birdcage. It’s so bad she can only escape her minders by going to the toilet, where the contractor she hired to smuggle her to Earth arrives to tell her it’s not too late if she still wants to go. The woman asks her to “make a decision she won’t regret”; Miorine decides she’ll run.

Delling once again takes great pains to make clear to everyone that he cares about his daughter less than just about everything else. That backfires here as he didn’t bother vetting the minders she was able to shake off.

Guel is slapped and chastised by his daddy for hurting the Jeturk reputation, but then the representative of Shin Sei, the company that built the Aerial, shows up at his office. Her name is Lady Prospera, presumably the masked “Char” character in this Gundam.

My ears immediately perked up at the name, the feminine version of Prospero from The Tempest: a duke overthrown by his brother years ago, cast adrift in a boat with his baby daughter, and used those years to learn magic. Sounds a lot like what happened to Suletta’s mom, huh!

Suletta is despondent in her cell, but is the recipient of a small kindness from one Elan Ceres, a soft-spoken, unemotional young lad who has “taken an interest” in her. That said, his previous statement about being unable to fall in love makes it seem more like that interest is more that in a fascinating new tool, not a new friend. But we shall see.

The grand inquiry is then held, with all representatives of the Benerit Group in attendance in a dark and brooding tribunal hall, the oppressive darkness a keen symbol that the light of democracy holds no sway there. Lady Prospera is not the slightest bit intimidated being in the literal spotlight, providing answers to all inquiries and pointing out that even if she can’t 100% deny Aerial isn’t a Gundam, they can’t 100% prove it either.

She also removes her bionic arm (more evidence this is Suletta’s mom) saying both her original arm and face fell victim to Mercury’s magnetic field, and that the tech within Aerial will enable the safer mining of Permet, a vital resource in mobile suit production. She merely asks that the group of which Shin Sei is a small but innovative member give them the support they need.

But nothing in this room is ever up for a vote. Delling Rembran sits above all, and his word is law. That word is no. Prospera can mince words and specs all she likes; as far as he’s concerned, Aerial is a Gundam, and both it and its pilot are to be disposed of. No one has the guts to summon even a word of objection.

That’s what makes Miorine’s sudden crashing of the inquiry so righteous. All these powerful people can’t make a peep, but the president’s 17-year-old daughter is more than happy to give him a piece of her mind. Rather than run off to Earth, Miorine had her smugglers take her here instead, which means she owes them a favor.

But no matter, she’s here, and when her dad overwrites his rules and admits that he is a king with all the power, Miorine remembers Suletta telling her she “gains two” by going forward…and challenges dad to a duel. Sensing family friction, Guel’s dad suggests that keeping Aerial around to see what makes it tick could be the boost the group has been looking for to recover their declining market share.

That corporate contrivance would seem to have worked, as Miorine is able to visit Suletta in a lovely reunion with strong romantic vibes—Miorine even gives Suletta a zero-g Wall Slam. Is it just a coincidence that Suletta’s hair is … tomato red? She fills Suletta in: the two of them are to fight her dad to make their betrothal stand. If they lose, Suletta gets expelled and Aerial gets scrapped.

Like last week, Suletta is exasperated, but I imagine she’s not about to lose her fiancée and her metal little sister. Not only that, there’s another Gundam-like suit—a red one—already out there on test runs, slicing and dicing lesser suits. Chances of Suletta and Aerial going up against this red guy are somewhere in the region of 100%.

And just in case there was any doubt that Suletta x Miorine is most definitely A Thing, well … consider the Ship deployed.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 01 – Rich Kids Are Scary

Fast-forward over a decade from the prologue, and Ericht Samaya is now the teenaged Suletta Mercury, pilot of Gundam Aerial, arriving at the Asticassia School of Technology, where she has just transferred. While surveying the giant space station, she spots someone floating free in a spacesuit and executes a rescue operation. The person she rescues, Miorine Rembran, doesn’t want to be rescued.

She was trying to escape, and was about to succeed but for Suletta’s sharp eye and impeccable timing. Now that I know where these two end up by episode’s end, one could call it kismet. I also hasten to add that Miorine is the daughter of Delling Rembran, the man whose actions led to the death of Suletta’s dad and destruction of her family’s home. Obviously Miorine didn’t play a role in that, as she was only four at the time.

Upon arrival at her new school, which is full of rich, stuck-up jerkwards, Suletta is quickly treated like a Mercurian “country bumpkin” and also given the cold shoulder by Miorine. That said, she also meets a potential first new friend in mechanics student Nika Nanaura.

All of a sudden, all of the fake blue sky is replaced by clear windows out to space, and the campus is transformed into the ground for a duel between Guel Jeturk, son of one of Delling’s top business generals, and some nobody who dared to call him “a man with a runaway bride”.

Jeturk, an unrepentant preening jackass of the highest order, is Miorine’s fiance, a decision made not by either of them but by their parents. Her father, however doesn’t even bother to review the bodyguards assigned to his daughter, as he’s too busy financially destroying a business partner who posted too many quarterly losses.

As Suletta learns by following her like a puppy, Miorine would prefer to be left alone with her garden that emulates earth environs, and even lets Suletta sample a tasty real tomato before downloading the map app of the school and sending her on her way. But before Suletta leaves, Jeturk and his clique of syncophants arrives to declare that Miorine will live with him at his family home from now on.

When Miorine protests, Jeturk starts wrecking her garden. When she tries to stop him, he shoves her aside. Suletta, who has a stutter and is clearly not great with social situations, nevertheless knows very well between right and wrong,. What Jeturk is doing is wrong, so she spanks him. She even gets giggles from his patsies when she calls him a “pushy suitor”.

Jeturk doesn’t take these affronts lightly, and suggests that if Suletta has a problem with him, they can settle it with a duel. Despite learning he is the school’s undefeated “Holder” (i.e. Ace) with a 26-0 record, Suletta doesn’t hesitate to accept the challenge. Jeturk tells her if he wins, she’ll be kicked out of the school. Meanwhile, Jeturk’s dad intends to speed up his and his son’s ascension by arranging to assassinate Delling.

When the duel commences, both Jeturk and Suletta are surprised to find that Miorine has commandeered Suletta’s Aerial, having gained access when she had her school handbook. That said, she has no idea how to pilot a mobile suit, let alone a Gundam, and Jeturk proceeds to make quick work of her.

With an assist from Nika, Suletta is able to get to Aerial before Miorine loses the duel, and those observing the duel accept the second change of Jeturk’s opponent back to Suletta. Having been head-butted when they first met, Suletta returns the favor and takes over in the cockpit, asserting that she and Aerial grew up together (indeed, when she was four, she considered her a little sister).

No one can pilot her but her, and as long as she’s piloting, Aerial won’t lose to the likes of Jeturk. She maintains that running away gains you only “one” by not losing, but going forward and rising to fight gains you “two” – experience and pride…as well as trust (so many three?).

Jeturk repsonds to that insult with a charge, but he’s totally out of his league. His beam weapon is reflected by Aerial’s shield, which then disassembles into a swarm of drones that tear Jeturk’s suit to pieces, giving Suletta a clear path to behead him with her energy sword.

As one would expect of a high-class Sunrise flagship production, the battle is absolutely top-notch in design and execution, fast, fierce, and gorgeous, accompanied by Ohmama Takashi’s stirring cinematic score that calls to mind Hans Zimmer with its blend of classical and futuristic electronic orchestration.

After the episode wasted absolutely no time showing what a sonofabitch Jetark is, I was literally cheering and laughing at the television as Suletta effortlessly put him in his place.

Again, Suletta’s timing is impeccable, as she defeats Jeturk just moments before his dad is about to press the detonate button on Delling’s transport. His aid quickly informs him that Jeturk will inherit neither Miorine nor her father’s company, because he was just defeated in a duel for the first time.

To the victor belongs the spoils, so Suletta not only wins the title of Holder of her very first day, but also becomes Miorine’s new fiancé, effective immediately. When Suletta points out that she’s a woman, Miorine tells her that unlike the apparently more conservative Mercury, such things are commonplace here. Suletta’s look of bewilderment says it all: these rich kids are crazy.

The Witch from Mercury follows up its thrilling, bittersweet prologue with an equally impressive opening sortie, establishing Suletta as a meek but determined and clearly immensely talented heroine (the first female Gundam lead), Miorine as her frenemy-cum-fiancée, the current financial and political power dynamics in play, and the system of duels that determine far more than they probably should. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us next week.

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