Fruits Basket – 54 – Coming Home

After a cryptic cold open in which Akito shows Kureno a black box presumably containing her father’s remains, we shift to Yuki asking Hatsuharu about Rin. Haru doesn’t know any of the details, but was unaware Rin had become close with Tooru, and gleams with pride. He tells Yuki to thank Tooru, and “if it all goes wrong”, to comfort her.

Kisa and Hiro, who are both taller now, head to Hiro’s house so Kisa can meet lil’ Hinata. Hiro admits that whenever he sees Hinata, he thinks of how stupid he is to always be wrapped up in his vanity and fear. He wants to be a brother who can protect her. That’s why even when he bumps into Haru to ruin the mood, Hiro is intent on apologizing to Kisa, since it was his fault Akito hit her.

He tells Haru that Akito pushed Rin off the balcony, but Akito and Rin both told him to keep his mouth shut. He also knows Rin is trying to break the Zodiac curse, which is why she left Haru—to shield him from whatever consequences she’d face. And as Haru tells these truths to lighten his heart, Kureno spots a maid delivering food to the Cat’s cottage, demands the key, and discovers a starving Rin imprisoned there.

The lovely, innocent exchange between Hiro and Kisa is a preemptive balm for the harsh events that follow in this episode. This is an episode full of beautiful and terrible moments. As soon as he takes his leave of Hiro and Kisa, Haru becomes Dark Haru, and storms right into Akito’s rooms to confront him*—decorum be damned.

*While we, Kureno, Shigure, and Tooru know the truth about Akito’s biological sex, Haru is one of the Zodiac members still in the dark, hence the male pronouns I use for Akito when interacting with Haru.

We’re reminded how scary Hatsuharu can be when he’s pissed off, and he has every right to be, especially when Akito denies he pushed Rin off the balcony and pretends not to know where she is now. Haru is about to get violent with him when Kureno comes in and tells Haru that Rin is in the hospital under Hatori’s care.

Then Kureno scolds Akito for doing something so monstrously cruel. He may have vowed to remain by her side forever, but he didn’t say anything about standing by and letting her pull this kind of shit. For all the shading we’ve gotten into Akito’s own background and trauma, she continues to sabotage any chance of sympathy by being so goddamn villainous.

When Akito’s demeanor changes and he tries to play the victim of Kureno’s betrayal, Haru violently grabs him, but Akito is ready with the gaslighting, saying it’s Haru’s fault Rin is suffering; he dug her grave when he decided to fall in love with her, knowing full well how Akito would react.

Akito tries to turn Haru’s love for Rin against him, into a defect that rendered him worthless when he felt Rin needed him most. And it works—at least at first, as Haru punches the wall instead of Akito, and warns him not to say anything else lest he kill him and then himself.

As he storms off, Kureno urges him never to return there, but instead to go to the hospital to see Rin, who surely wants to see him more than anything. While she was malnourished and barely conscious when Kureno found her, Rin’s first word was “Haru.” Upon hearing that, the rope representing the curse binding Haru with Akito begins to fray.

Rin, meanwhile, ends up escaping from her hospital room, as is her habit, lamenting that she has “no home to go to” anymore. She wanders the streets barefoot and frail, remembering how she ended up in the cat prison in the first place. While sneaking around the Souma compound, Rin was caught by Ren, who agreed to tell her the secret to breaking the curse if she retrieved a “treasure” from Akito’s room: the box Akito called “father.”

Rin is caught red-handed by Akito, her hair is roughly snipped off, and she’s thrown into the Cat’s cottage to rot. As for Ren? She never knew the cure to the curse, and was only using Rin, whom she always dispised. Last week didn’t show us a short-haired Rin; it was Akito with those scissors. Akito warns Rin to go into exile or Haru will lose his eyesight. Rin decides to stay in the prison and waste away, deeming herself “no good” for failing to find the secret to Haru’s happiness—i.e. the cure for the curse.

In her delirious state Rin believes she’s still imprisoned, and wishes that if she’s going to die, that at least her final dream will be of her beloved Haru, spoiling her with his kindness. She gets her wish, except that it’s not a dream: he finally found her collapsed on the sidewalk. Haru was always Rin’s true home—and vice versa—so when she “returns” from her long journey, it’s only appropriate that he say “Welcome Home.” He needs her to come home to him, or it’ll be too lonely to bear.

He scoops her up (she can’t weigh more than 90 pounds). She protests, saying she can walk on her own, but he refuses to let her go, not when he came so close to losing her! When he saw her on the ground years ago, he did nothing, but now he’s older, and wiser, and stronger, and loves her so much more, so no matter how many times she needs to be carried, it would never be a burden for him.

As two random elementary school kids gawk at the powerful, adorable romantic scene unfolding before them, Rin says “I’m home”, and she and Haru embrace tightly as one, her long journey finally at an end. Thank God. Not Akito though…a better god!

RABUJOI WORLD HERITAGE LIST

Fruits Basket – 53 – Let’s Make Footprints Together

Kuragi Machi hates perfection. She hates it wherever it is, such that when presented with a fresh box of chalk, she must dash it on the floor, shattering every piece. Two classmates report her stunt to Yuki at the StuCo office, mentioning a rumor she was kicked out of her home for trying to kill her brother. Machi stops by the office just in time to see her classmates have spread the rumor to Yuki, and runs off with her awful parents’ voices in her head.

Manabe partially corroborates the classmates’ story, but he admits he only knows the story the parents fed him, so it might not be true. What Manabe does know is that he once watched Machi obsessively make footprints in the freshly fallen snow. Manabe takes Yuki to Machi’s apartment, which Yuki charitiably describes as the “Sea of Decay”, while Manabe hands him one of her bras. Manabe then leaves the two alone to take out the trash.

Manabe leaves the two alone to take out the trash, and as Yuki tapes her cracked window, Machi tells him to ask and believe whatever he wants, since she’s given up trying to set the record straight. Yuki rather easily deduces that Machi is bothered by orderly things. It harkens to the fact her awful parents demanded absolute perfection, then dismissed her as boring and lacking in individuality.

When her little brother was born, her parents got the son they wanted, and had no further use for her. Yuki rejects her being something her parents “got wrong”, as she worked hard to be the Machi he knows and he’s glad she’s there. Machi admits she was never jealous of her brother; she was only trying to place a blanket on him when she thought he might get cold.

It was her psycho mom who accused her of trying to kill him, leading to her exile and the rumors. Then Yuki says if the snow piles up, he’ll make footprints in it with her. That hella-smooth line almost leads to a kiss between the two, were it not for the unsilenced phone of an  eavesdropping Manabe.

The next day at the StuCo meeting, Kimi thoughtlessly slides another fresh box of chalk in Machi’s face, but just as Machi is freaking out, Yuki reaches over and snaps one of the pieces without interrupting his announcements.

For the first time, Machi looks forward to the next time it snows, while I look forward to Machi and Yuki growing closer. After the meeting, Yuki makes a quick check-in and is just in time to save Tooru from a ladder off which Kyou falls. Then he heads to an “appointment” with none other than graduating senior Minagawa Motoko.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Motoko despite her often underhanded tactics to get a little closer to Yuki, so I was perfectly fine with her getting a proper sendoff scene here, in which she wants to make clear and plain her feelings to Yuki not so he’ll return them, but just so he knows she loved him, he made her school days happy, and she hopes he’ll find happiness too, or greater happiness if he’s already happy.

We then learn why Nao has been so hostile towards Yuki and even called him his “rival”, when he locates Motoko giving the classroom one last look and tries his best to make his feelings known to her. Like she did with Yuki, it’s more about wishing her well in the future than confessing and expecting an answer, and Motoko’s response seems more than enough for Nao.

The final few minutes are a grab bag, as Hiro meets his baby sister Hinata, Kagura worries about Isuzu’s whereabouts to Hatori and Shigure, and Isuzu emerges from what looks like a building on the Souma compound, donning a white robe and having just cut her hair short. I couldn’t help but notice how closely she resembles Akito from behind, and that might just be intentional on her part. To be continued…

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jouran: The Princess of Snow and Blood – 03 – A Blue Coffin

After Sawa learns that Yoshinobu himself ordered Kuzuhara to have the Treasurer killed, Makoto suggests that Sawa drop the “sister act” and cut little Asahi loose. All of them in Nue have assigned roles to play, and none of them can afford to let sentiment dull their wits.

After recalling when Kuzuhara first showed her a slideshow of her family and village’s destruction and the person responsible, ordering her not to cry, Sawa puts up the hard front Kuzuhara aimed to teach her in dealing with Asahi. Sawa refuses to let Asahi kill her until she’s killed Janome, and tells her to be gone by the time she returns that night.

Sawa, Elena, and Makoto all confront Nue’s cleaner, whom they suspect is a traitor passing secrets to Kuchinawa, finding money in the coffin he’s pushing. He pleads his innocence, then sets off a bomb with a detonator in his hat. Sawa follows him down a secret tunnel hidden in a tomb, while Elena intends to head him off on the surface. Meanwhile, a dejected Asahi seeks comfort in her grandmotherly neighbor Yamazaki.

But the cleaner never went in the tunnel; he hid in the coffin. When Makoto, who lied to Elena about a twisted ankle, opens it and the cleaner pulls a gun. A shot rings out, and Makoto later reports that the cleaner killed himself. But at this point Makoto was already acting super suspicious.

While burying the cleaner themselves, Elena asks Sawa what coffin she’d want to be buried in, her preference being red. Sawa doesn’t answer at first, then says blue, like her blood and that of her clan. That said, she won’t be put into a coffin until Janome is in his.

Makoto meets with Kuzuhara, who reveals he is a woman by tearing his clothes to reveal her chest binding, warning her to never forget where she stands. But Kuzuharais seemingly in the dark about where Makoto actually stands. Before the Treasurer died, she gave Makoto a karuta card that serves as a treasure map. Makoto follows it and discovers a small book that the Treasurer said could bring down “Tokugawa, Nue…all of it.”

Sawa comes home to find Asahi gone, but on her desk is the piece of paper with “Yuki” written on it Asahi had reconstructed with paste. Sawa then sees that Asahi left the satchel she gave her containing cash and a boat ticket to her new home, and blood on the walls.

Her white crow comes to help her search for Asahi, but we find out where she is first: in the clutches of Janome, who had disguised himself as Yamazaki with an elaborate prosthetic suit. We also learn that Makoto is indeed in cahoots with Janome, serving as a double agent. Or maybe triple, if Kuzuhara knows she’s infiltrated Kuchinawa.

In any case, for Sawa, who’d prefer clarity and simplicity, nothing is simple or clear, and never really was. To whit: she aims to save her would-be murderer from the man who murdered her family, and with whom her fellow Nue agent is working. Not ideal!

Fruits Basket – 52 – An Unwavering Truth

I’m not here to forgive Akito for her two-plus seasons (and years before that) of acting horribly shitty to just about everyone, from all of the Zodiac spirits to Honda Tooru, probably the human being least deserving of malice and cruelty in the universe.

But I’m not going to pretend she’s had it easy, either. No one cursed with the Souma name does, and just because she’s revered as god who can boss the others around doesn’t mean doing so makes her feel remotely happy or fulfilled. Nor is she immune to the nefarious Shigure’s twisted mind games!

Akito recalls a beautiful memory of years ago when she asked Shigure if he loved her. He plucks a nearby red tsubaki (Camellia) bloom—a symbol of love and desire—and tells her he not only loves her but cares about her more than anyone, which he calls “an unwavering truth”. She recalls this while in bed with a sleeping Kureno.

It’s apparently a tradition to make paper carnations at Tooru’s school, and Shigure decides to join her and make one of his own. Tooru is sitting on the bombshell of Akito’s true gender and Kureno being free of the curse, but in her usual deference to others’ feelings, she’s unable to broach the topic with Shigure. But thinking about it is like staring down a deep dark cave, and if she doesn’t tell someone, she could fall in.

This episode helpfully reminds us that school, Prince Yuki, and the much less brazen Kyou Fan Club still exist, and if the school stuff is often the weakest material Fruits Basket offers, it’s still better than 90% of other school stuff in my books!

Nearly everyone at school is fake-flower crazy. Motoko and Co. launch a raid to steal the paper flowers Yuki made for themselves, while Kyou’s admirers steal his, invoking his ire. Arisa assembles a posse to round them up.

And then there’s Machi, who quietly tails Yuki around the school as he checks in on everyone and offers to help out; everyone politely refuses, unwilling to sully a prince’s hands with common man’s work. But Machi eventually catches up to him, out of breath, only to freeze up and say she just wanted to say hello.

When Machi complains about him “roaming an unpredictable route” in which she’d kept “losing” him, the words carry more weight and meaning then mere practical considerations. When Yuki realizes she came to him and only him “of all people”, he blushes and gently puts his hand on her head. She lashes out at him, but he ends up with a flower in his hand: a flower even more of a mess than the ones he made…but of course it’s not about the quality of the flower, but whom you give it to.

While Arisa, Saki, and other classmates are chasing down Prince Yuki, Tooru is alone with Ryou, and she feels she can try to bring it up to him. She asks hypothetically what he’d do if there was someone in the Zodiac whose curse was broken, Old Ryou spits back not to ask such questions, because he couldn’t begin to answer them.

However, when he sees Tooru’s face suddenly go flat and hollow, the New and improved Ryou resurfaces, and when a simple and emphatic apology isn’t enough, he offers her his flower, which she gently takes as they’re bathed in the golden sun of the late afternoon. Their beautiful moment is rudely interrupted by Arisa & Co announcing the culprits have been found and justice done.

When Shigure presents the red paper flower he made to Akito, she asks him if there’s something familiar about this scene, but he’s evasive. As Tooru and Yuki wash dishes, Ryou reports that Shigure will be out late. Yuki assumes he’s out torturing his editor, whiel Tooru just realized one person she might be able to talk to about Kureno is Rin. But her search for Rin at her school comes up empty, as Rin’s classmates say she’s on one of her absence streaks “somewhere far away”.

In an unfortunate coincidence, Mitchan picked the same restaurant for their meeting where Akito, Shigure’s parents, and other important guests are having a big dinner. Mitchan catches a glimpse of Akito in a black suit, agrees with Shigure that he’s as white as a ghost, but also says he’s pretty. Akito spots Shigure snubbing her and leaving with the other woman…which is probably exactly what Shigure intended.

In a call with Kureno at an undetermined date, Shigure, who knows his curse is broken, berates Kureno for not abandoning Akito. Shigure also makes perfectly clear that he hates Kureno’s fucking guts—apparently another unwavering truth. Kureno pleads with Shigure not to keep being so cold with Akito.

That’s because for as loyal and present or Akito as Kureno is at all times, Akito never loved him as much as she loved—loves—Shigure. Akito comes home in a foul mood and when she’s informed Shigure is there, orders everyone to stay the fuck away.

Their encounter begins with her asking about the woman he was with and whether he slept with her like he sleeps with every woman. Like he slept with that woman…her own mother, Ren. We learn that when he did, she punished him by telling him to leave. But Akito still thinks he only slept with Ren as an excuse to leave, as he didn’t put up a fight.

When an increasingly upset Akito rants about Shigure liking and wanting “her”—whether that’s Ren or, uh, someone else—Shigure repeats what he said the day he gave her a camellia: I care about you more than anyone. That’s an unwavering truth. He remembered. He didn’t waver. And he says he only slept with Ren because she slept with Kureno.

As Shigure puts it, he loves Akito so much that sometimes he wants to “spoil her rotten”, and sometimes he wants to “crush her to a pulp”. Jesus. He starts to leave, concerned they’re simply repeating the same argument they always have, but then Akito throws herself—HERself—at him, and in a thoroughly steamy gesture, rips her tie off and embraces her.

The day Shigure told Akito he loved her, she fell in love with him, and never stopped. When Akito and Kureno became an item, it doubtless hurt Shigure profoundly…but the unwavering truth endured. I still can’t trust the guy any farther than I can throw him, but damn it all if his and Akito’s love and longing isn’t gorgeous in its gloominess.

Jouran: The Princess of Snow and Blood – 02 – Nothing Else Is of Any Concern

Makoto meets with Jin on two matters: one is to be briefed on a mission to find the one within Nue who is feeding Kuchinawa assassination targets. The other is to ask about Sawa. Makoto responds to the latter by saying “it saddens me to report that she survived”.

Last week, Asahi prepared to stab Sawa in her sleep. When we see both next, the only thing Asahi is slicing is a daikon radish, and Sawa is very much un-stabbed. This week we learn more about Sawa and Asahi’s pasts, and … Spoilers: those pasts are dark and bloody. First up is Sawa, and if Black Widow has “red in her ledger”, Sawa’s got “blue in her diary.” Well, her mom’s diary.

We know how Sawa hid while her mother, father, and brother were slaughtered. But how did Sawa end up an assassin with Yue? Jin arrived at the ruins of her village as she was trying to bury the charred remains of her family. His mere presence there the morning after their deaths might’ve normally raised a red flag for Sawa, but the very light had gone out of her eyes.

It didn’t matter at the time if there was a chance Jin had something to do with the death of her family. He was offering her a chance at revenge, and that chance brought the light back to her eyes. Under his tutelage she became a graceful and efficient killing machine. Jin made a deal: he’d use her to make Nue stronger, and she’d use him to get her revenge.

Sawa puts the blank diary of dark memories away and joins Elena for their next mission: make contact with a Nue agent named “the Treasurer” and get her to safety. They identify her waiting tables at a restaurant by the fact she can memorize everyone’s orders and whisk her away, crossbowing and beheading the Kuchinawa gunmen along the way.

While Sawa escorts her through the tunnels, the Treasurer mentions how the shogunate is content to ignore the mounting opposition to their regime outside of Tokyo. She also knows a lot about Sawa, because she’s a memorization savant. Meanwhile, Makoto pays Asahi a visit at the bookstore, offering her a bottle of black pills that “kill in ten seconds.” , to use on the person who killed her parents.

That’s right: in the recent past while on a mission, Sawa murdered Sawa’s parents while she was in the next room under burning wreckage of the house they were in. Granted, Asahi’s mother was apparently dolling her up in order to serve her up to a pervert before Sawa arrived, but facts are facts.

When Asahi tried to stab Sawa in her sleep, Sawa woke up instantly (if she was even asleep) and stopped the knife, telling Asahi she needs to strike where she’ll do the most damage, and wait until she’s more vulnerable. When Asahi bursts into tears, Sawa is there to hug her. It’s a strange situation, but it’s true to Sawa’s code: she’s not about to be a hypocrite. If Asahi should exact her revenge by killing her before she can exact hers, so be it.

Sawa, now knowing of the Treasurer’s ability, decides threaten her into telling her everything she knows about the Karasumori village massacre. The Treasurer says how those responsible wanted to keep the Karasumori clan’s blue blood a secret, while Janome stole an imperfect variant of that blood’s power. But the Treasurer stops there, saying Yoshinobu doesn’t tolerate treason.

Her five-year old son is being held hostage; should she betray Yoshinobu, he will die. So Sawa offers to protect her and her son in exchange for the information she wants. When the Treasurer asks why Sawa would go so far for revenge, Sawa answers simply that her entire life is for revenge—just a stretch of borrowed time, in which she’ll either get the job done or die trying.

Sawa and the Treasurer exit the tunnel near a quiet dock where she can be smuggled to safety, but they are intercepted by Kuchinawa agents, along with a Changeling. Elena shows up, and she handles the agents while Sawa enters her blue blood trance and defeats the Changeling.

But when it’s time to put the Treasurer on the boat, Elena stabs her instead and lets her fall into the river, after telling her her son has already died. I’m a little fuzzy on the details, but either the Treasurer fed intel to Kuchinawa, or she and her intel-packed brain were simply too dangerous to be kept alive.

In any case, Sawa loses her best chance yet at learning about what happened at her village and who was responsible. I don’t think she’ll kill Elena or quit Nue, but she can’t be happy that her road to revenge just hit a detour. In any case, this was another dark, bloody, brooding episode of Jouran, packed with bursts of cool action and bookended by an OP and ED by RAISE A SUILEN that both absolutely slap.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Promised Neverland – 15 – The Perfect Hideout

Emma, Ray, and their convoy of kids are ready to leave the safety of Sonju and Mujika’s forest tunnels and head to the location indicated by William Minerva’s pen. They’re trained and prepared to survive and run or defend themselves from the threats that may arise.

Mujika and Emma seem to have formed a genuine friendship, and Mujika gives Emma an ornate amulet as a going-away gift and to protect her. However, we learn from Sonju once the kids are gone that his intentions are less benign. Mujika pointed out that if they had turned the kids in to the farm they’d have been rewarded handsomely. But Sonju has other plans.

Their religion doesn’t forbid him from hunting or eating wild animals, so by letting these kids go, they will eventually breed, creating of a “wild herd” of humans he’ll be able to hunt without forsaking his faith. His face grows especially monstrous as he looks forward to the day he can eat human meat. Yikes!

Regardless of his long term plans, the fact is Sonju let this group of kids go and doesn’t intend to eat them. In fact, he rides back to where the farm pursuers are still searching and kills one of their trackers. The kids head out into the wastelands where demons rarely go, but when they reach the location indicated by Minerva’s pen, there’s nothing there.

Fortunately, the fact they’ve arrived at this spot unlocks more information from the pen. Once the password “HISTORY” is inputted, a detailed map displays, and a sliding door in the ground reveals a hidden hatch, Zelda-style. The group descends the ladder and begins to explore the space. Emma eventually finds a switch, and to everyone’s great joy, it works!

The lights reveal a fully-functional shelter, complete with cooking facilities, a dining hall, a library, a greenhouse with grow lights, a bathroom with hot water, and a security room with cameras on all parts of the surface. There’s even a piano, a radio, and a pantry curiously half-stocked with food.

There’s also a handwritten note from Minerva congratulating them for finding the shelter, which is theirs to use. Emma, Ray, and the kids immediately settle into the new digs, which seem at all times to be an all-too-good-to-be-true gift from heaven above.

Ray successfully finds the frequency of the 8:00 PM reports from the farms, and will be tuning back in daily to gain intel. Now that they have a shelter and the means of supporting themselves indefinitely, Emma already wants to move on to the next stage of the plan: rescue the remaining family at the farm.

She’s looking ahead even though they haven’t quite finished exploring the shelter. They’ve found all the good rooms, but there are clearly some not-so-good rooms, as initially found by Yvette, the walls of the dorms are strewn with the manic scrawling of people who lived there previously, and were either going mad from boredom or from suffering something more sinister.

Emma uses the pen to unlock a special door that leads to a small room with a payphone, which immediately rings when they enter. She picks up the receiver, and William Minerva is on the other end of the line. Is it a recording, or the man himself? What is the nature of those creepy messages on the dorm walls? Is this shelter really safe, or are those hidden passageways a cause for concern? I can’t help but feel after catching so many breaks since escaping the farm, their streak of good fortune may have run out…

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Assault Lily: Bouquet – 08 – Field Day at the Garden

Yuri is assigned her ring and CHARM, making her an official Yurigaoka Lily in addition to being the new talk-of-the-academy. The Student Council is weary of arming her, but as far as the (Acting) Chairman is concerned, until new information comes to light, Yuri is as entitled to defend herself as any Lily.

While lounging on their bunks, Shizu reveals that she’s already thinking about the war that could follow the defeat of the Huge: a return of humans fighting each other. Now that humanity has found Magie, what will they (or to be more precise, its shadier elements) do with it?

Shizu ultimately apologizes to Lily for being so somber, especially on the eve of Yurigaoka’s athletic festival. But as Yuri senses with her nose, all the Lilies are carrying a measure of sadness due to their roles as sole defenders of mankind. Athletics aside, there’s also a mood-lightening cosplay division for which the Legion decides Yujia is best suited.

The sports day is an opportunity for outside onlookers to infiltrate academy grounds and observe their defenders; the Chairman calls them “voyeurs” but orders the StuCo only to “take care of them” if they overstep their established bounds. Like the Lilies of the academy, all outsiders’ eyes seem to be fixed on Yuri, so what better way to keep her safe than keep her in the spotlight?

Yuri (re-)learns defeat in her first game to an elite first-year. Rokkaku Shiori shows off her dual-CHARM-wielding skills, while second and first years demonstrate new CHARM mods from the Arsenal Division. Gropi ends up beating her rival Tanaka Ichi in the target-blasting game by using her Phase Transcendence.

This has the side-effect of draining all Gropi’s Magie for the day, so someone else must fight Moyu’s special “Huge-roid”, which she makes clear she designed to defeat Gropi. Instead, it’s Yuri who faces off, and shows off the same stance as her big sis and unofficial Schutzengel, Riri.

Riri is as worried as a flustered mother hen about dropping Yuri into a veritable lion’s den, but her own Schutzengel Yuyu tells her to calm down and watch, as she once watched her. All the Lilies cheer her on and yell advice her way, and in a gorgeously-choreographed and animated sequence, Yuri defeats the Huge-roid with both ease, grace, and style.

It ends up being Riri crying tears of pride and relief and Yuri comforting her, while Tazusa swoons at the cosplay division-winning Yujia’s cat pose. All in all it’s a successful festival; no real Huge interrupted, and Yuri was kept safe while Moyu was able to gather quite a bit of new data about her.

Moyu makes her report to the Chairman, and sure enough, Yuri is an odd one; average human woman at first glance, but all too normal, as in lacking any of the usual slight abnormalities all humans possess. This jibes with a report the Chairman received from both Grand Guignol and the research institute G.E.H.E.N.A. of a joint “test subject” lost at sea.

The two organizations claim Yuri was born from Huge stem cells—a Synthetic Lily. This is not only super illegal but super immoral, but the groups came clean about it anyway because they are demanding she be returned. The Chairman notes that his purview is limited to educating and protecting humans, so if Yuri isn’t human, the law says he must turn her over.

That brings us to Kaede, the daughter of the Chairman of Grand Guignol, calling her father in the middle of the night. Has she been a Guignol plant, and all of her fawning over Riri been an act? Or is she turning traitor now only because her father’s prized test subject has mistakenly fallen into Yurigaoka’s custody?

For now, I’m inclined to believe the latter is the case. Even if Kaede wasn’t always a spy for her father, she clearly takes deep pride in being her father’s daughter, and her loyalty to him may simply trump her loyalty to anyone else, even Riri and her Legion. If that’s the case, Yuri could be in grave danger.


3 1/2 Stars

TONIKAWA: Over the Moon For You – 08 – Nostalgic in Nara

The big day (well, evening) has arrived: It’s time for Tsukasa to meet the parents! When they arrive in Nara, she notes that they’re near the Kasuga Grand Shrine, making the unusual comment that “even after a thousand years, it’s not like the mountains move that much.” I guess she was here back then, huh?

Anywho, Nasa’s parents, Kanoka and Enishi both claim to not be quite emotionally prepared for something as momentous as meeting their son’s new wife, but his dad proves he’s a bit odd when, right in the middle of official introductions he basically orders Nasa to take a bath. He wants to talk with Tsukasa alone for a sec. But about what?

In Nasa’s room where he only ever stayed when he helped his folks move, Tsukasa notes the lack of material possessions, mirroring his apartment, and Nasa proudly proclaims he’d be fine even if their apartment building burned down, because all of his irreplaceable possessions and data are either on him, in a safe deposit box, or on his person.

Nasa’s mom warns him that while the walls are “pretty soundproof”, he and Tsukasa probably shouldn’t “overdo it”…causing Nasa to realize he’ll be spending his first night sleeping on the same level as Tsukasa. He offers his arm for her to sleep on and learns how painful a position can be, and Tsukasa gives him a sweet goodnight kiss when prompted.

Tsukasa ends up waking up early, since Nasa was too excited to sleep much (also, Tsukasa curled up beside him during her nighttime acrobatics). That said, he’s only pretending to be asleep so he doesn’t disturb her while she’s changing, and a momentary glance at her proves “too stimulating”.

Watching the sun rise, Tsukasa notes how the smell of the wind “really takes her back”. When her father can’t think of what to talk about with her, she suggests he show her his office, where she’s able to read ancient Japanese love letter without any trouble.

From there, Tsukasa decides to spice up their historical sightseeing by taking photos of her cute husband; eventually, he suggests they take one together, which is surely a picture they’ll both treasure.

Tsukasa is unusually knowledgeable about Nara’s landmarks—almost as if she were around when some of them were first built—and wistfully observes how many thousands of ordinary people faded from history, while modern technology will allow people to be remembered virtually forever.

We eventually learn why Nasa’s dad made him take a bath: it was so he could properly thank Tsukasa for saving his son’s life. Nasa’s parents feel almost undeserving of a son as great as Nasa; he is their pride and joy, which is why his finding love could only give them happiness.

Tsukasa takes her father-in-law’s request that she look after Nasa very seriously. On the bus ride home, Tsukasa admits that while it was fun to visit his folks, she’s looking forward to returning to their little place together, where she feels most at ease.

Unfortunately, while they were gone, the entire apartment building…burned down! 

Even if they were going to hold off on moving, now they have to find a new place. But with his parents’ enthusiastic blessing of their marriage, that shouldn’t be a problem. As for whether Tsukasa is the human incarnation of Princess Kaguya, well…the evidence continues to mount and is getting harder to overlook!

Assault Lily: Bouquet – 07 – A Brand New Sister

When a mysterious unmanned vessel is shipwrecked by an apparent Huge attack, who should be first on the scene but Yuyu and Riri’s legion, while on a routine beach patrol. They discover the remains of a Huge, while Riri finds a strange pod and inadvertently sends a tiny shock of energy through it with her CHARM.

Before she knows it, a beautiful girl with lilac hair has emerged from the pod, and immediately embraces Riri. She is brought to the infirmary and made everyone’s immediate object of intense curiosity. That’s right: it’s time for Assault Lily’s “Mysterious Amnesiac” episode.

Not surprisingly, the girl, identified as a Lily, “imprints” on Riri, whether due to the fact she made first contact, due to Riri’s natural charm, or both. She also has the precise “Skiller Value” as Riri, which can’t be a coincidence. In a fraught conference call with a concerned Security Committee brass, Yurigaoka’s Acting Chairman asserts the academy’s autonomy in matters of Lilies.

Due to the girl’s attachment to her, Riri is compelled to step back from her usual studies and Legion responsibilities to become her full-time caretaker. Yuyu and her comrades are understanding, supportive, and admiring of Riri’s compassion…but Yuyu’s restless leg betrays a tinge of jealousy—something Kaede knows all too well and is amused to see in the “lone wolf” Yuyu.

With Riri by her side, the girl not only learns to talk (again…?) but stand, walk, and eventually run, making great progress in a short period of time. When Riri finally reunites with Yuyu, her new “ward” is in tow, making a Yuyu sandwich. All their other comrades crowd together to get a look at the adorable new face. As for her name, she seems to like Yuri, the couple name Fumi gave to Yuyu and Riri, but also apropos in this case as it’s almost as if Yuri is the “fruit of their love.”

They can welcome Yuri (registered under Riri’s surname of Hitotsuyanagi for now) as the newest member of their Legion because the Acting Chairman Takamatsu agreed to make her a full-fledged Lily, complete with uniform and academy admission. StuCo president Izue Shinobu wonders if that’s rash, but the concern from the brass means “people are snooping in the shadows” over Yuri, and Takamatsu wants to draw them out.

The mysteries that surround Yuri herself are also, well, legion: Did she lose her memory, or is she a newly-awakened Lily? How much did Riri’s initial interaction with the pod influence how she’d awaken? Are Riri and Yuri now inextricably connected? Was Yuri some kind of experiment in mass-produced Lilies? Will Riri, Yuyu, and the academy be able to protect her from whomever seeks her out? Hopefully we’ll get insight into these matters next week as Yuri settles into her new life.

TONIKAWA: Over the Moon For You – 07 – Matrimonial Proof

As she and the maids observe the happy couple from a bush, Chitose declares without evidence that Tsukasa and Nasa’s honeymoon will end in divorce. Each time she believes the first crack in the armor has appeared, Tsukasa and Nasa quickly make up and continue being lovey-dovey.

TONIKAWA is many things: cute, endearing, heartwarming, pure…but is also very often quite funny, consistently delivering some of the better jokes of a Fall 2020 season that’s light on comedies. For instance, I enjoyed Tsukasa scolding Nasa for settling for a chain restaurant at the food court while ordering something local and bold, only to be thoroughly disappointed in her choice.

Does Nasa gloat to her? Nope! He tastes it (she feeds him) and agrees with her, then snaps a cute photo of her sour face after biting into a lime. Even when she’s cross about this and demands he “regain her favor”, he proceeds to do just that. As the maids observe, the couple’s micro-arguments only serve to make them a closer, cuter couple.

With the passive approach not working, Chitose reveals her presence to Tsukasa and reprimands her for being “in such a place” and falling for “such a guy”. Tsukasa retreats back to the bus with Nasa, but not because of Chitose; she wants to avoid appearing in the same morning show that burned her with the lime udon.

In a nice bit of irony, the maids enjoy the honest grub of the food court as much as Tsukasa and Nasa, and are in no hurry to pick up the chase (their luxury car can easily catch up to the bus). In the payoff of the morning show joke, someone declares the lime udon to be great…even though it wasn’t anything special!

Still, the words Nasa heard Chitose yell: “Why did you marry that guy?” still ring in Nasa’s ears. Tsukasa chalks it up to a marriage rarely involving only the two people getting married, but with the insinuation that you can’t please everyone; particularly Chitose.

The next morning Nasa wakes up on Tsukasa’s shoulder to find they’ve arrived in Kyoto. Calculating that they have a half-day of sightseeing in Kyoto before taking the train to Nara, Nasa asks Tsukasa where she’d like to go first, and she suggests a bakery or café. In a fun reversal, Nasa is as passionately opposed as she was to him ordering chain beef bowl at the rest area.

He beseeches her to avail herself of Kyoto’s unique attractions, which leads to her suggestion of visiting the Manga Museum, so he resorts to rapping to tell her Kyoto’s all about the history and culture. She relents, and decides to look the part by dressing traditionally. Unsurprisingly considering her still-unknown true age and origin, she knows exactly how to put on the kimono without assistance.

Just when she and Nasa are ready for sightseeing, Chitose arrives, flanked by her maids, resembling a trio of old-timey anime villains (which anime I am not sure). If Chitose’s goal is to judge Nasa’s worthiness to be married to Tsukasa, Nasa suggests they have a talk so he can provide what she needs. Charlotte and Aurora agree to take Tsukasa to the cafe and Manga Museum.

While going into the episode I was dreading the constant interruption of the happy couple’s honeymoon by an interfering brat, I’m actually really glad Chitose showed up in Kyoto! For one thing, it shows that Tsukasa and Nasa can and really should split off at times and do their own thing; independence is key to a lasting marriage.

More importantly, Nasa is able to demonstrate to Chitose that Tsukasa didn’t choose him on a whim; he truly is a prepared, thoughtful, and positive fellow, i.e. precisely Tsukasa’s type. The fruits of his extensive research of Kyoto leads to an enjoyable fake date for Chitose…even if she doesn’t openly admit it to him.

Charlotte and Aurora aren’t particularly tactful in asking Tsukasa about why she married Nasa, but they’d prefer to stop hounding her, so anything that will get Chitose off her back would help. Tsukasa starts by blushing up a storm and simply saying Nasa is “just…really cute”, and as she describes Nasa the maids realize that yup, he’s exactly her type.

But that’s not enough for Chitose, who knows a whole lot more about Tsukasa than he does, and ultimately feels it comes down to her having been in Tsukasa’s life first, and it’s not fair that an interloper should “claim” her. Yet even when Nasa learns for the first time that Tsukasa is athletic, he isn’t disheartened; he’s delighted!

When Nasa tells Chitose that Tsukasa saved his life, Chitose replies that Tsukasa saved hers as well—whether she means literally and how remain to be seen. Then Nasa tells her he felt—and feels—lucky, not because she saved his life, but because he met her. Then he launches into a monologue about math—but not to prove his love of Tsukasa to Chitose!

The Drake Equation, used to determing the likelihood of extraterrestrial planets, was modified to express the likelihood of finding the person you’re “fated to be with”. In both cases, the likelihood is 0.0000034%. But the moment he met her, he knew he’d beaten the odds. He’d found someone he felt he’d been searching for since before he was born.

He then mentions concepts like prime numbers and gravitational waves, which were intuited by scientists long before they were scientifically proven. In that same vein, he didn’t marry Tsukasa because he’d already proven his love for her, but because he intends to spend his entire life proving it, day by day. Chitose may yet still be swayed by the bitterness of “losing” Tsukasa to Nasa, but after that presentation she doesn’t have much of a logical argument to oppose the marriage.

Nasa’s worthiness to be with Tsukasa and vice versa is not in question, except for those like Chitose who are driven by personal interest and emotion. And Nasa assures Tsukasa that if his parents aren’t sure about their marriage, then he’ll simply convince them. It’s all part and parcel of his lifelong effort to prove his love is real. Anyone doubting his commitment or discounting his track record do so at their peril!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

TONIKAWA: Over the Moon For You – 06 – Benefits of a Bigger Place

Nasa is endlessly fascinated by his wife Tsukasa’s “ferality” while asleep. Her tied-up hair always comes loose, her covers are always strewn about, and when she half-consciously gets a glass of water, sometimes he steals his sheets.

Only one night, she gets into bed with him, leading to him being the big spoon to her little. In such a close embrace, you’d think she’d be upset upon suddenly awakening…but instead she leans in for a kiss, and before Nasa knows it, she’s rolled off his bed and back onto her futon.

Nasa ends up not sleeping a wink after the incident, but he becomes very gung-ho about getting a bigger bed they can share (being on the same “surface level” with one’s wife is important). That leads to discussion of getting a bigger place: one with a dedicated living room, sofa, and bath.

Tsukasa likes the intimate space they share, which enables her to remain close to her darling at all times, but when he accidentally walks in on her changing, she becomes more open to discussing a move…especially when Nasa carefully presents the pros that appeal to her most: like a projection system for movies and built-in shelving for her DVDs and manga.

But getting a new place means securing a guarantor, which is currently Nasa’s parents. Both he and the show seem to realize at the same time that he has yet to inform his parents he’s married. The resulting phone call doesn’t go too bad, and he and Tsukasa decide it best to visit them so they can meet her.

Because they live in Nara by way of Kyoto, Nasa sees this as a perfect opportunity for them to go on an official honeymoon. Tsukasa concurs, but first procures a digital camera, but not for sightseeing: she wants them to keep a daily secret record of their lives, to remind them that each day with someone they love is precious. Daaaaaaw. The two proceed to take lovingly candid pics of one another.

While Nasa assured her they could afford the faster Shinkansen, Tsukasa is fine, and indeed excited by the prospect of a bus adventure, citing that it once took two weeks on foot to get to where they’re going…150 years ago. More evidence that she’s Kaguya, or is she just a big ol’ wierdo?

The bus is clean, but the seats aren’t comfortable enough for Nasa to nap on. I know how he feels; I can’t sleep on most planes for the same reason. Naturally Tsukasa goes out like a light, and her husband marvels at her toughness and ability to adapt to suboptimal conditions without complaint. She’s also super excited for a midnight rest stop run for on-the-go food. I can’t argue with her there; I love that shit too!

Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to them so far, they are being tailed by Chitose and her two disapproving but duty-bound maids. Chitose is outraged Nasa is taking Tsukasa to meet his parents when she still hasn’t approved their marriage at all. That said, the bond between Nasa and Tsukasa doesn’t feel like something easily rent asunder by a mere honeymoon. It’s more likely Chitose will come around.

Halfway through the season, TONIKAWA has proven strikingly consistent, with four stars across the board and an excellent balance of romance, comedy. The only thing really keeping it from higher scores is its production values, which don’t exactly…shoot for the moon. That said, everything else about the show is so charming and warm and fuzzy and competent, it’s been easy to overlook its occasional visual shortcomings.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Rent-a-Girlfriend – 12 (Fin) – The One He Wants

We’ve finally arrived at the end of one of the most frustrating, problematic rom-coms I’ve experienced in quite some time, and it ends pretty much how I expected: by not ending. But despite how hard it was to watch at times, I could never quite look away.

On not one but two occasions this week Kazuya shows signs of not only knowing what he must do but stepping up and doing or saying it, only to abandon the effort a half-step short of the finish line. First he does this with Ruka, realizing how lucky he is to have her and how unreasonable he is for feeling like she’s not enough.

He is right in the middle of telling her he’s ready to move past the “trial” period of their relationship and declare them “official”—only to be distracted by the arrival of Mizuhara and Mami at the karaoke parlor. It’s the first of two “showdown” scenes between the two women, and in this first one Mami has all the power and relishes wielding it.

Mami tells Mizuhara she didn’t book her to rag on her profession, but now that she knows she’s a rental, she couldn’t stay quiet. She doesn’t like the fact Mizuhara and Kazuya have had a fake relationship this long, and aside from deeming it bad for Kazuya, just watching it in practice pisses her off “a teensy bit.” None of her words are that harsh or cruel, but Yuuki Aoi’s expert delivery and Mami’s odd expressions make them feel like icy daggers.

Because this is a show where Everything is About Kazuya, Kazuya feels it’s his duty to not only eavesdrop on Mizuhara and Mami’s date, but pretend to be sick and excuse himself from work to follow them. Mizuhara rewarded him last time he did this, so why wouldn’t he do it again? He has an excuse ready to go: he doesn’t want Mizuhara to bear the brunt of Mami’s hate.

Meanwhile Ruka is left holding the bag, wondering if Kazuya was serious about making them official. Kazuya finds Mizuhara and Mami on a bridge about to wrap up the date, but not before a “rematch” of sorts, only this time with Mizuhara having a slight rhetorical edge.

Mizuhara asks Mami straight up how she feels about Kazuya, as she’s sure Mami still occupies a special place in the guy’s heart. Mami doesn’t take the bait, but tosses the question back to Mizuhara, suspicious that in a year of fake-dating, she’s fallen for Kazuya for real. Mizuhara simply states “He’s my boyfriend”, not adding the “rental” part because at this point, until the end of their contract, whether it’s a rental or not is irrelevant.

Mami considers that a dodging of the question and turns to leave, but Mizuhara grabs her hand and tells her they’re not done. As scenes of Kazuya crying about Mami flash by, Mizuhara tells Mami how being a rental girlfriend helped her realize the importance and difficulty of falling in love. She asks if Mami ever faced Kazuya’s feelings head on, in good faith, seriously engaged with his love, or considered that he may be the one to make her “happy for life”.

Mami tells her to buzz off under her breath, and states that all of that is between her and Kazuya. Fair enough, but Mizuhara wins this round. She knows Mami wouldn’t have bothered with this date if she didn’t care one way or another about Kazuya. Of the three lead women, Mami is the one most unready, unwilling, and unable to reckon with her feelings, preferring her cool, aloof, gives-no-fucks, bored-with-everything…facade.

That night, Kazuya is waiting by Mizuhara’s door when she comes home, confessing he saw and heart what she said to Mami, thanking her for having his back once again, and apologizing for not being able to do those things himself. Mizuhara then shocks Kazuya by apologizing in turn, for not being able to secure him a real girlfriend (apparently Ruka doesn’t count!).

As she’s suggesting he consider asking Mami out again, for closure if nothing else, Kazuya steps up to the plate, as he did with Ruka, and says something he should have said long ago: “You’re the one I want. It’s gotta be you.” At last, some progress! Only no, he immediately recants, saying he wants her “as a rental girlfriend”, before rushing into his apartment with a curt good night.

Yet another disappointing, immensely frustrating moment of failure for Kazuya, who comes away from the incident thinking it’s a sure thing that Mizuhara isn’t into him. Meanwhile, next door, a blushing Mizuhara wonders WTF just happened. I have no doubt if Kazuya had made it clear he truly did want her as a real girlfriend, it would have been better for both of them, whether Mizuhara accepted or rejected him.

Instead, as a closing montage indicates, it’s still very much anyone’s game when it comes to winning the Kazuya Sweepstakes. Sumi’s out there doing her job with renewed confidence, Ruka smiles at the phone background of her and Kazuya, Mami is utterly bored to death by her latest rich old dude, and Mizuhara is still showing up early for dates with Kazuya.

They’re still rental dates, and she’s still a rental girlfriend. I get it; that’s the name of the show. And the point of the show wasn’t really about Kazuya to end up with one girl over the others, but to explore the different ways in which we fall in love, now made more complex and at times strange via new technologies.

Kazuya was almost always abysmally hard to watch, but that was kind of the point too. What kept me coming back were Ruka, Mizuhara, Mami and Sumi—in that order—as much care was put into their voices, character designs, clothing, and personalities. They were the stars, while Kazuya was an unfortunate but necessary variable in the equation. If RaG were to return for a sequel, they’d be the ones who’d bring me back.

Star Trek: Lower Decks – 08 – Out of the Space Loop

Hoo boy, this was one extra-stuffed, extra-caffeinated episode of Lower Decks! We begin by being thrown into an unknown situation with the core quartet: a sinister dungeon, then an alien trial on K’Tuevon Prime in which they are apparently being forced to testify against the senior staff.

One by one, they must speak into a Horn of Truth about the events of a specific stardate, starting with Mariner, who regales the court of a day when she and Boimler are late for bridge duty and have no idea what’s going on, only that the aliens they’re dealing with consider gratitude an insult.

Unsatisfied with her testimony, the aliens suspend Mariner over a vat of eels. Rutherford is next, and one would think his cybernetically-enhanced memory would be perfect, that is not the case as on that particular stardate his implants were undergoing constant system updates that caused multiple blackouts.

Everytime he comes to, it’s in a totally different situation. One minute he’s in a Cerritos corridor, then on a stolan Vulcan warp shuttle, then a kind of starship museum, then in outer space clinging to the hull of a cloaked Romulan Bird-of-Prey, and finally at a Gorn wedding.

Needless to say, Rutherford gets suspended over the eels along with Mariner, and it’s up to Tendi to tell her story. She was the assigned cleaner of the conference room when Ransom and a team of handpicked commandoes are briefed on a top secret mission. Ransom wrongly assumes Tendi is a cleaner cleaner, as in part of their covert operation.

The op unfolds as follows: they use the stolen Bird-of Prey acquired by Rutherford & Co. to slip past Warbird patrols, transport down to Romulus, and retrieve a secret “package”. Tendi shows off some Trek Fu on some Romulan guards, and the team manages to get out without detection.

Having failed to get what he wants, the alien consigns Tendi to the vat and all three are dumped in. That’s when Boimler saves them by telling the court that they are Lower Decks, the senior officers almost never fill them in on what’s going on, so they truthfully don’t have the info he wants.

Boimler goes even further to state that oftentimes even the senior staff doesn’t know what’s going on, such as whenever Q(!) shows up. But that’s okay, part of Starfleet’s mission of exploration is facing the unknown and…muddling through.

But it turns out this isn’t an alien trial at all…but a party, held by Magistrate Klar to honor the senior staff for rescuing him from Romulan captivity. As is the case with all Lower Decks episodes, it’s a subversion of the old Trek trope. Back on the Cerritos, Freeman promises to do a better job of briefing the Lower Decks, but as Mariner aptly puts it, “knowing things means more work”, so it’s probably better to keep things need-to-know!

So yeah, there was a lot going on this week—almost too much for 24 minutes—but it was still a hell of a fun ride, and the trial/party conceit held together all the loosely connected vignettes well enough.

Stray Observations:

  • The design of the “party silo” is heavily influenced by the Klingon courtroom in Star Trek VI.
  • There’s a mention of Roga Danar, a supersoldier from the TNG episode “The Hunted.”
  • Mariner warns Boimler if they wash out of Starfleet they’ll end up on Earth where all there is to do is drink wine (at Chateau Picard) and eat soul food (at Sisko’s dad’s New Orleans bistro).
  • Boimler suggests a Crazy Ivan, which is really more of a Submarine thing.
  • Shaxs warns about a Denobulan parasite that infects the peen from the same planet as Dr. Phlox on Star Trek Enterprise.
  • Tons of Trek ship references this week. The Vulcan museum contains Starfleet shuttles from both TOS and TNG, the Vulcan ship from First Contact, the timeship Aeon from the 29th century, a Klingon battlecruiser, a yellow Work Bee, a Ferengi shuttle, and a Jem’hadar attack ship.
  • The shuttle they use to airdrop into the museum is a Vulcan Warp Shuttle of the exact kind that transported Spock to the Enterprise in The Motion Picture.
  • Rutherford is asked to distract the guards with the “fan dance”, last performed on screen by Uhura on Nimbus III in Star Trek V. He really should be nude when he’s doing it.
  • The eels in the vat sound just like the Ceti Eels Khan uses to control minds in The Wrath of Khan.
  • Dr. Crusher’s ghost lamp pertains to the very bad TNG episode “Sub Rosa”.
  • Q shows up! Voiced by the inimitable John de Lancie. Love how he adds a little more floridness to his animated Q.
  • Klar is voiced by another Trek guest star, Kurtwood Smith. Known primarily for That 70s Show, he was the Federation President in Star Trek VI and Annorax in “Year of Hell”, my personal favorite Voyager two-parter. If he was going to yell “DUMBASS!” in a Trek episode, this would have been it. Alas…
  • When the guy tells Klar he only paid for the party silo for 22 minutes, exactly 22 minutes of time had passed in the episode.