Wonder Egg Priority – 03 – Soft-Boiled

The bright colors and dark themes continue to intermesh as the third girl of the series is introduced. Kawai Rika’s ash-blonde hair is set off by a hot pink highlight and a magenta-and-purple jacket. Like Ai, she has a statue of someone she’s trying to save, though she makes a point to tell her she’s fat and ugly and her palm sweaty. When Ai meets her at the egg gachapon, Rika is on the ground, holding her ribs, but soon recovers miraculously.

After commenting on Ai’s heterochromia, and promptly asks for some spare change. Aka and Ura-Aka, always seated around a game of go, aren’t concerned with the injuries the girls endure; it’s part of the job. Ai’s excitement to meet a new egg heroine quickly shifts to bemusement, as her interaction with Rika feels like a “one-girl handshake event”, as Ai puts it to Neiru, with whom she’s now texting on the regular.

Between barging in on Ai’s visit with Neiru, always making sure people know her name is Kawai because she’s so darn cute, calling the doctor hot, labeling Neiru a tsundere, and most distressingly eating up all the kiwi, Rika creates the impression of a superficial, shameless, self-involved brat. Nevertheless, she keeps following Ai around, inviting herself over to her house (causing Ai’s counselor Sawaki—whom Rika also calls hot—to leave) and unilaterally deciding to sleep over.

When Ai tells her about why she’s currently a shut-in, Rika immediately jumps to the conclusion Ai is seeking attention from the hot Sawaki. Then Ai tells her about Koito, then asks about the person Rika is trying to save. Rika makes clear the “ugly fatty” Chiemi isn’t her friend, but her fan, and also refers to her as a patron and a wallet. Ai is more or less appalled.

As Rika bathes we see scars on her arm from cutting, which she’s promised to stop. It was clear she was using a veneer of carefree bravado to hide deeper issues, but the scars confirm it without anyone saying a word. She says everyone’s the same in that when you “scratch the surface” they’re all “slimy”—something you could also say of an egg. Neiru texts Ai to be careful with Rika, warning that “junior idol could mean bedroom stuff.” That Ai earnestly asks “like pillow fights?” really says it all about Ai’s sheltered existence.

Ai dreams of a memory of her walking in on Koito crying while in Sawaki’s arms, adding a fresh dimension to their past together. One could interpret such a scene in any number of ways both innocent and otherwise, but Ai quickly apologizes and shuts the classroom door, believing she’d seen something she shouldn’t have. She’s also pondered ever since whether Sawaki was a factor Koito’s suicide. She wakes up in her cocoon bed, over 50% of which is being taken up by the smaller Rika.

Ai then awakes in Rika’s dream. Due to their proximity in bed they “synchonized”, as Ura-Aka tells them, and it’s Rika’s dream because she’s apparently the one with the stronger feelings. They crack their eggs at once, revealing two fans of the singer “Yu-Yu”. They were so fanatical, in fact, that when Yu-Yu committed suicide, they did the same. When Ai says “just like that?” Rika corrects her: their choice was neither easy nor casual. She knows, because she had a fan.

When the usual horde of Seeno Evils (which Rika calls “bystanders”) starts to swarm, Rika and Ai get to work smiting them with their weapons; Rika’s two swords resembling giant versions of the box cutter she used to cut herself. It’s determined the field of flowers is too wide open, so the four girls head to a lighthouse within the nearby woods. It’s there, while they have a couple minutes to catch their breath, that Ai asks Rika to tell her about Chiemi.

After hand-waving the scars Ai spots as “just a youthful whatever”, Rika starts out by explaining the formal and emotional context of a junior-idol handshake event. When you’re only mildly popular like her group was, the lines were shorter, which meant the same fans would line up over and over. Chiemi did this with Rika, who shook her sweaty hand many hundreds of times.

Eventually, Chiemi would give Rika money. Rika accepted it, and began to expect and even rely on it. Like the two Yu-Yu fans who had “sugar daddies”, Rika saw Chiemi as a rich patron. She later learned Chiemi was shoplifting and fencing stuff to make money to give her. When Chiemi started to think of them as friends, Rika ended their relationship, ripping Chiemi off like a Band-Aid and telling her she was too fat and ugly to be anything more than a fan and a wallet.

She never saw Chiemi again until her funeral, and was forever haunted by what she saw that day. In a gutting inversion of the geography of the handshake event, Rika and Chiemi have switched places. Peering into the open casket, Rika saw nothing but skin and bones, like a mummy. Knowing she’ll never be able to forget her if she tried, Rika took Chiemi’s hand one more time. Since then, she’s vowed to kill as many Seenos and Wonder Killers as it takes if it will bring her back.

The Seenos break through, leading to a frenetic chase up the spiraling lighthouse stairs. Ai stumbles, still processing Rika’s heartbreaking tale, but also acknowledging that while she receded into the Seenos at a crucial time due to fear, a part of her also resented Koito for never talking to her like friends should; the kind of talking she just experienced with Rika, which helped her understand better where she’s coming from and why she is the way she is.

She also looks on the Yu-Yu fangirls with a measure of envy. They were able to die with their idol. If Koito had asked her to die with her, she thinks she would have. But what’s done is done, and what was left unsaid remains so. Ai gets back on her feet and powers up her rainbow mace, striking a very cool heroine pose at the top of the steps and assuring Rika she’ll kill ’em all with her. Rika’s quizzical reaction is priceless.

From there, we meet the fangirls’ Wonder Killer, an older woman who stalked Yu-Yu and pushed her into suicide. Ai and Rika spring into action like the pair of valiant heroines they are. Rika frees the fans by slicing off the Killer’s arm, while Ai delivers a crushing blow to the face with her mace.

What follows is why it’s particularly hazardous to engage in boss fights before you’re aware of their special moves. The Killer unleashes a cloud of dark smoke that everyone is able to dodge except Rika, who is immediately paralyzed and soon turns to stone. Before her face petrifies, she wishes Ai good luck. It’s all up to Ai now: she must protect the petrified Rika and the helpless Yu-Yu fans while defeating the biggest toughest Wonder Killer yet.

Perhaps Ai and/or Rika haven’t considered that Aka and Ura-Aka are just using them. Or they’re fighting even while part of them is well aware they may end up getting cheated. But in either case they have no other choice. Now Ai’s mettle will be tested like never before. Hopefully she can get the job done and wake up beside Rika, with neither of them too seriously injured.

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 16 – Swapped Dreams and Foretold Trouble

Railgun is back…again…AGAIN again…and it’s lost none of its charm. With the Level 6 unpleasantness behind her for now, Mikoto is approached by Misaki’s lieutenant Hokaze Junko, who might just have the best hair of any Raildex character. Junko, who wrongly assumes her Queen and Mikoto are friends, just wants to be friends with Mikoto as well. It’s very sweet.

Like Mikoto, Junko is on the swim club, so has a chance to approach Mikoto about something else they have in common: they’re both Gekoers. While a bicker-session between Mikoto and Misaki erupts, Junko eventually gets a word in and offers Mikoto an “Indian Poker” card. Saten informs Mikoto of a new underground trend of recording dreams and sharing them like baseball cards.

The color of the card Junko gave Mikoto suggests a happy, pleasant dream, and that is indeed the case when Mikoto is approached by all of her favorite Gekota characters. However, the dream takes a turn when Mikoto is led to the castle to meet the queen…Misaki.

While I’ve no doubt Junko finds the prospect of a dream in which she gets to serve and pamper her queen extremely appealing, it amounts to a goosebump-inducing nightmare for Mikoto, who wakes up more exhausted than when she went to bed.

Junko invites Mikoto and Misaki to tea in an ill-advised effort to help the two become closer friends (something they’d never admit they were, even if they actually were). She hopes to use the poker cards to facilitate this, but Misaki shuts Junko down, telling her to stop playing with the cards and to tell her other followers to stop too.

Junko obeys without argument, irking Mikoto. Despite her own feelings about the cards, she doesn’t think it’s fair for Misaki to lord over people like Junko. But Misaki’s claims about the game being childish are put in stark relief when the three women overhear three fanboys worshiping the S-ranked “Dream Ranker” BLAU for his dreams involving real-life women they’d never normally be able to…er…interact.

When BLAU mentions how he has dreams available involving the two Level 5s from Tokiwadai, Mikoto and Misaki are suddenly allied in a way Junko couldn’t have forseen, though it does dawn on her how powerful the two would be if they combined their forces of destruction, coersion, and memory alteration. Maybe one day we’ll get a spin-off to this Index spin-off about the two doing perfect crimes!

They do just that when Mikoto zaps BLAU’s dream cards and Misaki alters the boys’ memories. She doesn’t mind a boy dreaming about a girl he fancies, but passing those dreams around for others is where she draws the line. Mikoto, meanwhile, is simply against all of it. When the wonderfully oblivious Junko asks what the two are on about, they both make excuses to take their leave.

Juding from the OP, the poker cards and Dream Rankers will play a far larger role, but this is a useful introduction to how the process works and how it can be used for nefarious purposes. From there the episode transitions to Uiharu and Kuroko’s Judgment duties, and Uiharu informs Kuroko of a new “treasure hunt” style app that uses augmented reality to show not just where accidents have occurred, but where they will occur.

Six out of six such “foretold” accidents ended up happening, leading Kuroko to suspect an esper with precognitive abilites is behind the app. The pair decide to stake out the site of a seventh future accident. A boy is nearly run over by a truck, but the boy is missed. A different car has to avoid the truck and almost hits a girl, and she’s the one Kuroko saves. Had she not been anticipating something to happen, she might’ve made the wrong move and things could have gone far worse.

Kuroko suspects someone was watching things from a high vantage point, and sure enough, she encounters a 10-year-old fourth-grader named Li Syaoran Miyama Shaei, and takes him back to the Judgment office. Miyama tells them the app was developed to analyze psychic photography espers like him, as he’s able to use a camera to take pictures that eventually develop into future events…but only accidents, in his case.

The app is a means of him concealing his identity, since like the poker cards his ability can be hazardous in the wrong hands—and we know there are a whole mess of underground groups in Academy City eager to be those hands. Miyama was actually hoping to gain the attention of an esper capable of altering the fates his abilities predict. Judging on how she handled the latest incident, he believes Kuroko is that esper.

This first episode back since Spring may have been absolutely stuffed with new plot points, they were all handled carefully and in the context of the characters we know and love. I think it was kinda the point to overwhelm us a bit with new information, but it was still all clearly laid out. There isn’t yet a concrete threat for this new arc, but all the elements and players are present for some mischief. I’m mostly just glad Mikoto is back on the board, stamping out dirty boys’ dreams.

Extra Stuff in No Particular Order:

  • I love how Mikoto doesn’t recognize Junko, who I don’t believe had been formally named yet, until she removes her swim cap to reveal those luxurious lilac locks. Junko is the undisputed Hair Queen.
  • Kuroko gives the first long-winded bedroom monologue in a long time as Mikoto sleeps, offering her body to her as she has so many times before. Unfortunately, when Mikoto yells “NEVER” in response to her Misaki-infected dream, Kuroko misinterprets it as a rejection, and is down in the dumps until the precog stuff surfaces.
  • Saten is the useful voice of explaining the “Indian Poker” cards, which I’ll be referring to as “poker cards” or “dream cards” going forward.
  • Saten also does a patented Uiharu skirt flip, but it happens entirely off-camera.
  • BLAU’s *bleep* laden description of his dreams involving Mikoto and Misaki make what he’s talking about sound much dirtier than if nothing had been bleeped…which works in the scene’s favor!
  • Preston is deep into OG Cardcaptor Sakura, hence me likening Miyama to fellow precocious fourth grader Li Syaoran.
  • I love how much Uiharu is looking forward to finally having someone in the office who will call her senpai. Kuroko is just worried she’ll dote on the rookie too much.

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card – 20 – The Lunch Mooch

Whatever the precise nature of Yuna D. Kaito’s goals, he seems pretty confident he’ll be able to pull them off. And can you blame him? Sakura still doesn’t have the slightest clue she’s being targeted, let alone how or why, and is content to continue living life as if nothing’s amiss.

She spends the morning making lunches for herself, Syaoran, Yukito and Kero for the day. I will say for the record she makes making rolled omelets look way too easy; aside from the fact those pans aren’t cheap, her method requires a lot of practice and a lot of failure.

Her date with Syaoran is replaced by a visit to the sprawling villa of Masaki, her mother’s grandfather, who apparently has something he simply must give her before departing abroad the next day. Syaoran accompanies her, and he and Sakura bicker over whose bento is better (each arguing for each other, not themselves, naturally).

When Grampa Masaki is alone with Syaoran, he comments on just how similar Sakura is to her mother; someone whose constant outward happiness and joie-de-vivre makes everyone around them happier. Meanwhile, Kero and Yue confer on the growing powers of both Sakura and Touya, while Kero receives a message from Eriol in England: a magic circle which both Kero and Yue replicate.

While wandering around the vast estate looking for someone to make more tea, Sakura comes upon her mother’s bedroom, which shines as brightly as the sun. Sakura uses Record to view a montage of moments from when her mother inhabited the room, but then the projection of her mom turns to her, puts her hand on her cheek, and warns her not to go any farther, lest she not be able to return.

Sakura and Akiho end up in the clock dream again, in which Sakura knows who the cloaked figure is (though doesn’t say it) while Akiho recognizes the cloak as the one passed down in her family. Yuna and Momo converse on how “the power of the dream is growing”, and much faster than originally thought. Kero and Yue arrive in England, where Eriol is finally ready to tell them what he’s learned, and it’s not good: “the one thing [he] feared the most is becoming reality”.

As confident as Yuna and Momo appear to be so far, and as oblivious as Sakura appears to be (it’s particularly unnerving to see her dip so far into her powers she becomes woozy and has to lie down), but she has no shortage of powerful friends, from Kero, Yue, and Eriol to Touya, who doubtless won’t hesitate to use his growing power to protect his sister. And then there’s always the slight possibility Yuna’s intentions aren’t even sinister…

Houkago no Pleiades – 04

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The magical transformations girls make in Magical Girl shows often go hand in hand with their personal growth. It’s as much about discovery and mastery of their identity as much as their powers.

Pleiades is no different from this convention; where it continues to distinguish itself is in the execution and the emotional impact of its situations. Last week was about Subaru. This week, it’s Hikaru’s turn to get fleshed out.

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At the same time, the show continues to incrementally extend the reach of its magical girl action with each passing episode, much to my delight. First the sky, then the boundary between Earth and space, and now…the moon. The training, involving being able to attain not only escape velocity, but a speed that will ensure they don’t miss school! I love it.

While largely about the highly intelligent and talented, yet underachieving Hikaru’s personal emotional impasse with her similarly intelligent, talented, overachieving parents, there’s also room this week for Subaru’s weekly visit to Minato’s garden of encouragement, where he plants the seed of believing someone, and being believed, if there’s no reason for them to think you’re lying.

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That’s important, because Hikaru’s family communicates their daily whereabouts primarily through whiteboard. Her apartment may look empty and lonely at first glance, but that board is crucial, dutifully filled out as it is every day without fail: it’s the way they devised to always stay in contact in spirit, if not often in person.

Before leaving for the moon, Hikaru makes something up on the board, once again “doing things halfway”. But then she decides to wipe out the white lie on the whiteboard and write where she’s actually going: the Moon.

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It’s another awesome journey full of grace and grandeur; another wonderful study on the full breadth of magical girl power. I especially liked the different, more subtle sound space made once the girls were clear of Earth’s atmo, and I really enjoyed Hikaru’s cute little dream where her subconscious’ version Subaru as a bit of an idiot—only to learn Subaru shared her dream!

That’s also key because Subaru knows about Hikaru’s unease with her father and the song he wrote. One night she heard music in his practice room even though he wasn’t in there, and decided to write a measure of music in a place where he had gotten stuck. It’s something she always felt guilty about, worried she was interfering in her parents fully achieving their dreams.

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Where she’s wrong is that she is the shared dream of her parents; one far more important than any concerto or astronomical discovery. When her dad sees she wrote down “Moon!” on the whiteboard, he and her mom work together to send his piano music to the Moon; to the cherished daughter they don’t feel they deserve.

She didn’t mess up her dad’s music; she helped him finished it, and the loving way he plays it demonstrates his pride and gratitude for that. The nabbing of their biggest fragment yet is a great product of their lunar excursion, but it’s overshadowed by Hikaru finally being able to show her feelings in front of her friends, who may be initially shocked by her tears, but are also happy they’re seeing another side of their friend.

So, all in all another very good episode from Pleiades. I look forward to seeing who’s turn it will be to get a little more fleshed out next week—Itsuki? Nanako?—and hope the show’s expansion will proceed deeper out into the solar system, and beyond!

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