Ushio to Tora – 26 (Fin until April)

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When Tora arrives, he’s really bored and just wants to smash shit, despite the fact things are more complicated due to the presence of Bal-chan within the Hakumen experiment. The insufferably procedural attitude of the scientists continues, with the three preparing to seal the entire lab and detonate it in order to prevent Hakumen from escaping—without regard to whoever is still inside.

That’s when Asako and Ushio are all like STFU with the science-y emotional detatchment, because it’s getting really old. They manage to convince one scientist, Helena, to stay behind and try to stop Hakumen to allow everyone to escape safely.

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Asako works with Helena up in the control room, but when Helena is seriously wounded, Asako has to take over getting the oscillator up and running. Once they immobilize the Hakumen in its tracks, Ushio and Tora free Bal-chan and smash the Hakumen to pieces. But while everyone is in a good position to be saved, Helena seems to know between her blood loss and the encroaching poisonous gas that her own time is up.

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In her last minutes, she’s enlightened by the power Ushio and Tora draw from each other, those they wish to protect, and the powerful enemies they face. As such, this episode becomes a kind of mission statement for the show and it’s core chemistry as a whole. No one in Ushio to Tora thrives alone. Ushio needs Tora and Asako; Tora needs Ushio and Mayuko (and vice versa all ’round); and Ushio and Tora need Hakumen no Mono to realize their full potential.

Without Asako and Helena’s help, Ushio and Tora wouldn’t have been able to beat Hakumen. When the humans succumb to the gas, it’s up to Tora to get them all out of the lab before it explodes. It’s a “pain in the ass”, but Tora has to do it nonetheless, or he wouldn’t be able to live with himself. More than that, he’d have a lot less fun without these humans around.

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I was glad to see Helena, initially a thoroughly unlikable and immoral mad scientist, redeemed this week, along with her less courageous colleagues, who surrender to the JSDF, ending H.A.M.M.R.’s brief rebellion. They can take solace in knowing their faithful colleague worked tirelessly until the end to get them data on Hakumen vital to developing a weapon against it.

As for Ushio, he’s faked out by the Asako dummy Tora made from his hair, and the real Asako is right behind him to hear him cry out for her. So naturally, the two start bickering in each other’s faces about who was more reckless today, but at the end of the day, aside from Helena, whose sacrifice made it possible, everyone is safe and sound.

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Back to Fugen’in we go, where it’s another day, another threat by Tora to eat Ushio, and another instance of Ushio successfully resisting being eaten by using his Beast Spear. Asako and Mayuko arrive to calm things down, or at least join in the chaos, and Shigure celebrates how back-to-normal life has become, hoping it can stay that way at least a little longer until the final showdown with Hakumen no Mono, who is awake and biding his/her time. We can look forward to that showdown this coming Spring.

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Ushio to Tora – 25

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Okay, now that I’m aware that this show isn’t ending with 26 episodes, I’m a lot more on board with episodes like last week’s which deepen the bonds of the characters through conflicts not directly related to facing and defeating Hakumen no Mono (also, Ushio isn’t quite ready to face the boss yet).

Last week was Mayuko’s time to shine, and shine she did; but I’ve also been itching for a proper Asako-centric episode, and this week delivered. It also re-integrated Hakumen into its conflict by introducing a new adversary not yet seen in the world of Ushio to Tora: Sthe anti-Hakumen scientific organization H.A.M.M.R. (it’s a tortured acronym).

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That’s right, Asako and Tora: these guys are trying to Science the Shit out of the Hakumen problem. But they’ve apparently gone rogue, or so (as Atsukawa, from ep 8, reports to Ushio’s dad), and this week let their hubris get the best of them, believing they can do whatever the hell they want in the name of scientific advancement.

They also don’t fight by the same rules as Ushio and Tora’s former foes, employing unsporting tricks like tranquilizers on the former and a “Kirlian oscillation device” on the latter. But while Ushio is passed out when he’s captured, Tora lets himself be captured, certain they’ll take him and Asako to their base where they can then rescue him.

Ushio uses his magic hair to create a distraction, then make a double of Asako, letting the real Asako loose in the facility, determined to save Ushio.

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Everything about the scientists’ approach once they have the Beast Spear offends Ushio; poking and prodding with machines what he knows was a labor of love and sacrifice. He knew the people whose souls went into the damn thing, and these white coats are desecrating it; but he’s too hopped up on tranqs to do anything about it.

With Tora locked up as well, that leaves it all up to Asako. She’s temporarily sidetracked when she enters a lab where numerous youkai and ghosts are being restrained and experimented on, including a gentle, blue-haired humanoid, Bel-chan, but this is a good opportunity for Asako to show off her profound decency for all beings, be they alive or dead. Like Ushio, everything about this place is just…wrong.

The Scientists have Ushio fighing a robot to test his levels and the spears when Asako is finally reunited with him, but a particle of Hakumen they collected goes berserk, and all their fancy tech can’t bring it down, Ushio has to take a stab at it. And in true Ushio fashion, while the scientists are pretty awful people, he still protects them from the monster they created, because that’s his job.

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Even so, he has to be careful, because Asako’s new friend Bel-chan is among the entities absorbed by the Hakumen fragment, giving him all their powers and abilities. Even though Bel is fine being killed and the scientists don’t know a way to separate the good from the bad, neither Ushio or Asako are keen on the idea of killing him.

That hesitation almost gets them all killed, but Asako still has Ushio’s hair tied around her finger. Once she pulls it, Tora—who’d been waiting impatiently in his cell, wondering if “that woman” forgot him—blasts out of his confinement in a very badass sequence. TORA-KUN HAS ENTERED THE BATTLE.

At first I was a little surprised the fight didn’t get wrapped up this week, but any resolution would’ve been so quick as to diminish the threat of the Hakumen beast. Also, it’s not inconceivable that Ushio’s dad could still show up to help out, since he’s aware of H.A.M.M.R.’s treachery. Finally, I’m game for a part two if it means I get to watch more Asako!

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Ushio to Tora – 24

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Okay, so this episode, taking place back in Ushio’s hometown and featuring Inoue Mayuko as the protagonist, feels a little filler-y after all the excitement with Ushio, Kirio, and the Spear. In fact, with only two eps left after this, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ushio to Tora continues another cour or two, as shows with rich tapestries like Sket Dance and Fairy Tail did (and it apparently will go a third…dang MAL!)

Whatever the case, this episode had little to do with the main storyline, and Ushio was only in the beginning and the end, helped with digestive troubles by Asako. And that’s okay. Mayuko, meanwhile, ends up hanging out—and being saved again—by Tora, whose crush on her goes far beyond a desire to eat her for dessert after Ushio. And it’s never a bad time for Mayuko.

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The monster-of-the-week plot is pretty thin: a pair of nasty ones suck the brains of those who can’t or won’t answer a “question.” For some extremely random and bizarre reason, they’ve chosen Mayuko as their next victim, and she accepts an invitation to the “dinner party” where they await her.

Tora’s not about to let some other monsters eat Mayuko, so he follows her—but not before demonstrating a power I don’t think we’ve seen from him before: the ability to shapeshift into a double of her. While I can’t think of an instance of when this power would have been useful in Ushio and Tora’s many past battles, that doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

It’s mostly played for laughs, and though it’s quite disturbing to see the sweet Mayuko’s face contort and scowl just like Tora, watching him scare the crap out of some aggressive guys on the street was worth it.

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Ushio blasts into the unusually huge office where Mayuko has the question put to her and rescues her while in her form, surprising her to no end. The two baddies, one of whom looks like Albert Einstein (famous for a photo where he’s sticking his tongue out that adorns many a dorm room wall), have been trying to get the question of why so many humans don’t seem to mind dying for causes other than their own answered…but it’s all a bit thin.

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In fact, this enemy’s existence seems tailor-made to provide commentary on how Mayuko, who was inspired by selfless action by Ushio in the past (trudging in the mud to save her hat), wants to become like him. That’s why, despite the fact she wouldn’t mind being Ushio’s wife, she’s willing to stand aside and let Asako have him, because she loves them both, and their happiness is hers.

Naturally, Tora doesn’t quite “get it”, but then again, like Ushio, Mayuko is someone he can’t quite stay away from, nor is he in a hurry to make good on his threat to eat her. Oh, but they do dawdle a lot in some abandoned department store, where she tries on at wedding dress…just to drive the point home.

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As a result of their dawdling, the baddies come back and corner the two. Mayuko sheds the dress, dons a shirt made out of Tora hair (wasn’t her top with her skirt?) and then Tora transforms back into her, splitting up the enemy. The snake-man follows Tora, mistaking him for Mayuko, and once he’s wide open, “Tora-ko” takes him out.

Mayuko doesn’t have much in the way of combat skills, but she does have spirit and the ability to confound those who can’t grasp her mindset, so when the Einstein toad-man grabs her and threatens to suck out her brain if she doesn’t answer him, she decides to take a literal leap of faith.

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Tora, after all, had never failed to save her in the past, and whenever she found herself falling to her death, she always ended up being scooped up in those big fuzzy arms of his and landing softly on the ground. So it is this time. And when Tora delivers her back to Ushio’s doorstep where a recovered Ushio and Asako receive them, Tora can’t help but finally address Mayuko by name.

Like Ushio, he may not ever be able to come right out and say it, but what he has in Mayuko is a dear friend whom he wants to protect, even if, like Ushio, she can be a selfless, kind-hearted fool. And who can blame him?…Mayuko is surpassingly adorable, and so were their interactions this week. Mayuko to Tora wouldn’t have been that bad of a show…

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Ore Monogatari!! – 10

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It’s another unapologetically, unrelentingly feel-good episode of My Love Story!! as Takeo and Rinko have their first big adventure as a couple. Making up for not spending her whole birthday with her, they go on a picnic to the woods, but it ends up much more of a hike, as in, up a mountain.

Ironically, it’s the very shiny and elaborate pin Takeo got for Rinko that gets them into trouble: a bird tries to steal it, and the sweater attached to it; Rinko leaps out to grab her precious gift from her boyfriend, and is about to fall off a huge sheer cliff. Takeo plucks her out of the sky, but the two end up falling all the way down to the bottom.

Do we believe he would be able to fall such a great distance on his back? Sure, why not! Especially when doing so offers such great sight gags.

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There was a little Re-Kan! in my Ore this week, as Rinko lets out quite a few little ghosts of romantic excitement/embarrassment. She’s basically on cloud nine as Takeo performs feat of strength and manliness after feat of strength and manliness, even though all of it comes naturally to him.

To him, the things he does for her are simply his duty as Rinko’s boyfriend. She rewards him by being cute and providing a delectable lunch. But I also like how often she assures him that she’s “all right”, she’s not going to shatter in a million pieces if Takeo isn’t careful; she’s tough too!

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I really enjoyed the cuts to what everyone else was up to, from Takeo’s no-nonsense mom “he’ll show up eventually!” and dad (now we see where he got his rugged good looks), to Rinko’s gaggle of friends, who can’t quite accept that Takeo is hotter than Suna as Rinko believes, but won’t deny he’s plenty manly. When Rinko’s mom calls one of them asking where she is, they assume she’s spending the night with Takeo, and do what friends in this situation do: cover for her.

Not that she’s really up to anything that untoward. Takeo and Rinko are stranded in the woods as a matter of circumstance, and make the best of it. Rinko is nervous about being with Takeo, but also feels safe, particularly when Takeo plucks a charging wild boar off the ground and tosses him into oblivion.

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There’s a bit of confusion as to what’s going on with the sky, as first it’s pitch dark, then the full moon comes out, and then there’s lots of stars. But no matter; I don’t watch this show for astronomical accuracy. I watch it for moments like when Rinko notices Takeo has drifted off, and as thanks for all of his hard work (and also because she just plain wants to), she plants a tender kiss on his cheek. It’s her first, but surely not their last.

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In the morning, Takeo wakes up to find a sleeping Rinko, completing the circle, and also gets to watch her arise from her slumber in the cutest way possible. Takeo’s general comfort in the wilderness is underscored by the fact he’s surrounded by birds and small mammals who feel as safe around him as the most important small mammal in his life; the one with the pigtails.

They continue their trek until they find the road and a bus, and head back to civilization. Rather than upset, Takeo’s mom is just like “Oh, the mountains. okay!” (She’s so awesome) and Rinko’s mom isn’t going to be mad because her friends covered for her, and want all the details of her night with Takeo.

Rinko’s vague phrasing (“my first time”, etc.) excites her friends to no end (right up until she mentions the boar, that is) while Takeo demands Suna show him how to send emoji to Rinko so he can properly express emotions he can’t easily put into words. Still, the words both in his head and in hers, which we as the audience are privy to, remain clear as crystal: these two love each other so much, and it’s an absolute JOI to watch them.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 09

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This week’s episode begins in somber fashion, Suna dreaming about sitting on that bench (the way Takeo did last week) during a particularly red sunset.

As Suna and Takeo part ways for their very different activities, the question becomes: can Oremonogatari have it’s expensive cake you need to get a part-time job at an aniki cafe to afford to buy, and eat it too? And this episode responds resoundingly: Sure, Why the hell not?!

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In the first minute of their meeting and mutual beaming at each other, one can tell it’s already Yamato’s happiest birthday EVAH. And while it’s not his birthday and he has Suna constantly on his mind (since Suna helped him craft the schedule for the day), Takeo can’t help but be happy around Yamato, too.

First up is bowling, which is all kinds of great, from the largest heaviest ball looking like a softball in Takeo’s hand, to the juggling that makes Yamato giddy, to Yamato trying to lift his ball, then going for a lighter one and splitting the pins.

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Their infectious giddiness continues at the expensive patisserie I mentioned, where Yamato is almost content just to look at the amazing confections on display, but fortunately for her Takeo not only made enough at his job to treat her, but has the staff sing her “Happy Birthday,” which sends her into heretofore unexplored depths of elation. She’s just happy Takeo is with her on her birthday, but even moreso that he’s going the extra mile for her sake.

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That’s when the constant references to Suna finally gets Yamato to ask Takeo a question he can’t dodge: “Where’s Suna?” After a pause, and handing her the schedule and planetarium tickets, Takeo tells her the truth; about how Suna’s with his Dad at the hospital, and how Takeo can’t bear to leave him alone anymore and must go to him.

Yamato is upset, but only because Takeo didn’t tell her something important sooner. She urges him to hurry to Suna’s side. At this point, she’s already had a gas, and because both she and Takeo are always thinking of others before themselves, she completely understands; which comes as no surprise. Frankly, a pissed or sad Yamato would be out of character.

Rather, Takeo having to take his leave is precisely why she loves him so much, just as her kindness and selflessness is a big part of why Takeo loves her so much right back.

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Suna must’ve felt bad about the fact his dad’s surgery fell on Yamato’s birthday, so he told him he’d be happiest if Takeo went and had fun. But this was Suna putting Takeo’s happiness ahead of his comfort. By the time Takeo arrives, he’s already had lots of fun with Yamato and vice versa.

When Takeo arrives, he’s not surprised, but it does lift his heart. It also opens it a little more, with him confessing to Takeo that he blames himself for the situation his Dad is in, for not being there for the attack that led to his first hospitalization.

Takeo assures him that no one else feels that way about him. It’s what Suna needs to hear, because he’s had no one to listen to about the matter but his own thoughts for far too long.

Before you know it, the surgery light goes out, the doctor pronounces the op a success, and Suna’s mom and Makoto arrive to take over, glad that Suna didn’t have to deal with this alone after all.

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And wouldn’t you know it, when Takeo and Suna head down to the lobby, there’s Yamato, not only waiting for them, but making paper cranes. Turns out she wanted to finish out the date they organized for her, but couldn’t stop thinking about them and rushed over. I’m with Takeo: I LOVE HER.

This episode deftly avoids all the narrative pitfalls of a big date episode, despite having a heart surgery at it’s tail end. The surgery goes well despite Suna’s initial pessimism, and Yamato proclaims she had her best birthday ever, and she and Takeo, floating on Cloud Nine, proceed to brainstorm getting Suna a girlfriend…maybe one just like Takeo (whom I believe was in Danganronpa…)

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After seeing Yamato safely onto the train, Takeo and Suna, the brothers by other mothers, pay a visit to the butt tree, and the episode ends as it began: with a sunset. But it’s far less red and morose and gloomy as the one of the cold open. Even when the sun goes down and the night’s chill arrives, it’s warm and bright with Takeo by his side.

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