3-gatsu no Lion – 17

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Note: I have taken over reviews of 3-gatsu no Lion from Zane in exchange for ceding Little Witch Academia to Franklin. Call it a three-way trade. What does Zane get? RESPECT.

This was the first 3G of the show’s second half that never really felt like it was dragging. Even in its “weakest” first section, there’s still the formal exchange between Rei and his father, as well as the sun shower and encounter with the ethereal Touji Souda, who could either be a god or a devil.

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Because his dad can tell by reading his face, Rei lets slip that Kyouko isn’t really staying over at his place all the time, and she derides Rei as a snitch under the bridge.

In a 3G first, the Kawamoto sisters finally see Rei with Kyouko, and their reactions are both priceless and true-to-character: Kyouko assumes Rei has found another home to ruin, Akari is polite and stays out of Rei’s business, and Momo is petrified of the Rei-bullying “witch.”

Hina is, well, pissed. So pissed, in fact, that she runs back to Rei and gives him a towering box of food to cheer him up—and all indications are she succeeds in the moment. She also makes sure to give Kyouko a withering middle-schooler stare before steaming off. Akari agrees “just a little bit” with her younger sister that it’s not fair that Rei should just take the “strong-willed woman’s” abuse.

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Kyouko is certainly cast as the Wolf to Red Riding Rei, but in the next segment, 3G turns that on its head, showing the far less outwardly confident and strong Kyouko. She basically stress-eats all of the food meant for Rei. She calls home to tell their dad where she is, but has to give the phone to Rei, because their dad doesn’t trust her.

Curling into (Rei’s) bed (again), Kyouko doesn’t know what to do with herself. She also doesn’t know why she chose Gotou, a man she can’t possibly bring home for Dad to see. In the night, Rei notices her checking her phone over and over, and the blue LCD light it creates, giving the impression the two of them are sinking into the bottom of the sea.

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Kyouko has crossed adulthood, but seems threatened by the only slightly-older Akari has achieved (in the brief, limited moment they crossed paths, that is). Rei is nearing adulthood, and at 18 will still be a second-year at school. Nikaidou has reached his rank, catching up to him, and is looking forward to proving his worthiness as a rival in an official match soon.

Rei puts it perfectly when he says he and Kyouko don’t know how to be proper siblings, nor can they be strangers, so they’re caught in between. Perhaps as they grow older and more mature they can learn and change. For now, Rei awaits the arrival of Spring, the first month of which I hear…comes in like a lion.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 16

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While it could be argued Hayashida-sensei got Rei in this hole by miscounting his absences, he gets resourceful in a bid to dig him out of it, including introducing Rei to the After School (Bunsen) Burners Club, a group of passionate nerds happy to help Rei out with science-y stuff. This was a lot of fun and engendered the most laughs; the mustachioed guy in particular was hilarious, somewhat Excalibur-like.

It’s a relief to the teacher to see Rei interacting and laughing with fellow students. The lesson he imparts upon Rei is that when he cannot overcome something alone, seek out someone to help; otherwise no one will ever seek him out.

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After a brief fake-out with a too-confident looking Gotou, we learn that Shimada was the victor in the third and final match, making him the challenger against the ethereal reigning champion Touji Souya. Gotou was prepared to give remarks on his loss, while Shimada is so spent from the exertion he can barely stand or talk. His spirits are buoyed when Rin asks if he can join his shogi workshop.

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Back at the Kawamoto’s, the girls and gramps are making special boxes for the girls festival and planning what kind of meal to prepare for the special occasion. Hina is frustrated that Rei hasn’t been by, and doesn’t understand why he’d deprive himself of food (and their company) for so long. Gramps understands, though; it’s a matter of pride. He’ll come back when he’s ready.

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The workshop is at Shimada’s house, a modest but gorgeous little home dramatically perched atop a hill in the oldest part of town. There’s a sense Rei has climbed a mountain to reach some kind of temple in order to aid him on his quest to enlightenment. In reality, he doesn’t spend enough time playing in non-competitive matches with peers, which is why Shimada was able to run roughshod over him.

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Shimada is glad to host three gung-ho shogi players in his home for the workshop, but once the three start getting defensive, digging in their heels and barking like petty feudal lords, the toll Shimada’s matches exacted upon his body are amplified, and he cuts the ‘shop short, blaming a stomachache.

Nevertheless, Rei is being exposed to different forms of play, with nothing on the line except his still-narrow personal view of shogi play. Nikaidou even follows him home, as their argument over use of certain pieces at a certain time inspires him to want to demonstrate to Rei what he’s on about on a shogi board.

Overall, this was a pleasant (if a bit thin-feeling) episode that shows some of the incremental steps Rei is taking towards…well, growing up, becoming both a better shogi player and a better man. Notably, there were no scary flashbacks (or scary Kyouko) to be had, but like Hina I too hope he’ll end his self-imposed exile from the Kawamotos soon.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 15

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Rei gets back to analyzing Kyouko, likening her to a glass with cracks that can never be fully filled. Rei blames himself and Kyouko’s and his dad for creating those cracks. Dad might’ve been the instigator, but Rei puts just as much weight in his role as object of favoritism, whether it was justified or not.

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The new wrinkle here is that Kyouko didn’t want Rei to go away, leaving her even more lonely. But he did. He felt he had to. Considering what Kyouko and her brother had to pay for Rei to be in the position he’s in, he felt it necessary to become an adult as soon as possible so he could “protect them”.

But leaving didn’t end Kyouko’s suffering, it only created a new void in her heart; a new crack. We also learn she first connected with Gotou because his wife is in the hospital, and the loneliness she perceives in him mirrors her own. I wonder if Kyouko ever expected Rei would up and leave the way he did – that he would challenge the status quo so forcefully, at such a young age.

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But leave and challenge it he did…and he failed, and got humiliated, and had his whole world turned upside down. And you know what? Even Grandpa Kawamoto knows (from experience) that failure is good; failure is necessary. No one ever knows that when it’s happening, because it feels terrible, as losing to Gotou in the first of three final matches feels to Shimada.

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Rei already shows some growth by ceasing his skulking and going back to the shogi hall to watch Shimada and Gotou in action with his colleagues. Unfortunately, due to a clerical error by Hayashida-sensei, Rei finds himself two attendance days in the red and heaps of schoolwork to do in order to prevent repeating the grade. Again, he faces potential humiliation and failure, but it will ultimately make him a better person.

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Shimada regathers himself and expends a great deal of his charisma in the second match, in which he manages to defeat Gotou and bring the series even. Afterwards Shimada walks with Nikaidou, who tells him why he wanted him to kick Rei’s ass so soundly.

Nikaidou’s many victories against uninspiring opponents who clearly didn’t work as hard as he did left him “reduced to a lump of ego”, with a head to match. That big head was split in two when he faced off against Rei, but Rei also pulled him out of the dirt and offered him water in the searing heat. Rei saved him, and he repaid the favor with Shimada’s help.

In an interesting merging of the two plot lines, Shimada spots Kyouko yelling over being rejected once more by Gotou on his way home. Seing the young, beautiful woman so strongly affected by the far older Gotou serves as another means of indirect psychological warfare (to go along with Gotou’s impressive arsenal of the direct kind).

But Shimada quickly snaps out of it: it’s just another momentary humiliation; another fleeting failure; either of which will only serve to make him stronger. So too will Rei grow stronger from such things. Now, Shimada, for the love of God: beat that pompous gangster!

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3-gatsu no Lion – 14

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3GL gets back on track by bringing Rei and Shimada’s match to an end, and I realize the match was supposed to start out boring at the beginning last week, to reflect how little of it Rei thought. Shimada was only a hurdle to leap over on the way to teaching Gotou a lesson.

How wrong Rei was: Shimada wasn’t an opponent to toss aside with half-assed preparation. Rei totally misjudged his level and got totally destroyed. Finding out how early in the match he was toast (far earlier than he realized when playing) only pours gas on the fire.

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He runs off like someone rejected by their crush, thinking he’s lost everything. He loads up on sleep, gets depressed and dehydrated, and even starts to think of other ways to make his way in the world besides shogi (which is tough when one is only seventeen). Rei had taken on the trappings of adulthood without having the experiences necessary to become one.

But as Shimada and Smith say, this happens to everyone, in one way or another. You’re young, you feel invincible, then you’re struck down and never saw it coming, and think It’s All Over. Heck, it sounds a lot like one’s first rejection or breakup.

But such defeats are necessary and vital to growth, which is probably why Nikaidou asked Shimada to “crack [Rei’s] head in two.” Rei needed a jolt like this, because more defeats will come in life and he needs to learn how to deal with them.

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Rei tries to find some solace at school, but it’s just as unapproachable and incompatible to him as ever. Again, the only one he talks with is Hayashida-sensei, making him one of the least social high school anime characters (who isn’t just a shut-in) in recent memory.

Hayashida also wants to impress upon Rei the fact that if he’s “over-capacity”, and it certainly looks like he is, there’s no shame in stepping back from those adult trappings, moving back home, and having at least some of the things currently overloading his life be taken care of.

Additionally, Hayashida suggests Rei join Shimada’s workshop (of which Nikaido is also a member), as learning from someone who beat you (especially so badly) is a great opportunity.

Rei has to get past his anger with Shimada for getting beaten, his uneasiness with being back home, and of course, his own obsessive insistence on not running. Doing these things isn’t running, it’s learning and growing.

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Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider – 10

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Last week came as close as Subete ga F ever got to being a 9, but this, its penultimate episode, finally breaks the threshold. It’s a great episode, make no mistake, but it wouldn’t have been possible without all of the careful preparations laid out by the previous nine. In the parlance of Sakurako-san, this episode is the product of “good bones”.

It begins with Saikawa communicating with someone he claims is The Doctor Magata Shiki, who invites him to “meet” her in the sensory deprivation chamber, which seems to be more than that, since it’s “hooked up” to the lab’s system in some way. Moe tags along, but notably, the environment she perceives is very different from Saikawa’s.

Where she sees a standard interrogation room—she wants answers from whoever or whatever this is, and justice; she is her police uncle’s niece to the core—Saikawa sees a idyllic beach cabana, complete with wicker armchairs and fancy cocktails. For him, then, this isn’t the harsh grilling of a suspect, but a casual and stimulating conversation with a very unique individual whose intellect he admires at least as much as Moe admires his.

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Because “the game is over” now, Shiki is willing to answer whatever questions come her way, but would obviously prefer if Saikawa figured them out for himself; again, just as Saikawa prefers not to give Moe the answers. Saikawa finally determines what “Everything Becomes F” pertains to: in the hexadecimal code of Red Magic, “FFFF” is the highest number possible: 15 to the fourth power, minus one. This was the timer Shiki built into the system that allowed her crimes to take place.

And I say her crimes, because Saikawa is fully confident this isn’t Shiki’s daughter, though that’s who became her public face once she was old enough; and the face Moe saw in her interview. Instead, it was Shiki who killed her daughter, de-limbed her, then escaped (made possible when “everything became F”), went to the roof, and killed her uncle and lover, Shindo.

Why did she kill her daughter? She says she wanted to be “free”, as in completely bereft of all worldly or material considerations. The freest free there can possibly be (at least by human perception) is death; the release of whatever it is inside us from its vessel, or our bodies. The plan may have gone the other way, but when Moe asked her “Who are you” it caused her daughter to hesitate.

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“Becoming free” was also something Moe considered in her darkest hour, but she didn’t go through with that, because, for one thing, she had Saikawa with her. Shiki’s daughter had only a choice: be the seed that thrives as the flower that bore her wilts, or die so that the flower can live on.

Saikawa is in awe of her whole plan, along with the place she “takes him” next. After revealing to Moe that the real Shiki is likely communicating with them from some remote terminal, Moe is kicked out of the fantasy, and it’s just Saikawa and Shiki on a sandbar, then in a clear, deep blue sea.

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A part of Saikawa clearly feels kinship to Shiki in her “disinterest in the material world”, and wants to stay in that peaceful void with her forever. Shiki seems flattered, and impressed with how far he’s been able to figure out, but she eventually takes her leave of him, though promises she’ll “come to him” one day.

With that, Saikawa awakens to a worried, then relieved Moe. The autopsy of the body shows no signs of pregnancy, confirming the daughter was murdered.  Saikawa then asks Setsuko to describe the people she saw board the boat off the island. Looking back at episode 9, sure enough, a woman in a purple dress, Miki, was among those embarking. Only Saikawa now knows that Miki wasn’t Miki; “Magata Miki” never existed.

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Returning to the room where he conversed with her in English (as Preston said back then, and I agreed: the content of their talk was wonderful, it was the bad English that really hurt the scene), Saikawa finds a note from “Miki” drawn on the painting with lipstick: “See you soon — Dr. Saikawa.”  As we’d suspected, Miki was really Shiki with a haircut, and the fiction that her isolation had halted her growth and aging was perpetuated by using her daughter as a decoy.

All Saikawa can do is step back and admire Shiki’s genius, as we watch how it all went down: how Miki arrived on the rooftop, how Shindo received her lovingly and knew exactly why she was there; and how they shared one last kiss before she drove the knife into his neck. Then she hopped onto the next boat off the island and disappeared, only to resurface at a time and place of her own choosing. As Saikawa says, nobody ever had a chance against her.

When everything became F, she had the perfect insider.

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Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider – 09

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This is Hannah filling in for the Magical Churl, Preston.

This week Magata Labs opens up; not only do the police arrive, but so does Moe’s rival in love, Gidou Setsuko, whom we hadn’t seen since the pilot. Not only does she make fast friends with Shimada (though later denies it as they get drunk together), but she also wastes no time effortlessly pushing Moe’s buttons by describing how Sohei uses her place “like a hotel.” Moe, a brilliant but very emotional young woman, finally purges the thought her man actually did as Gidou claimed.

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With the police there, and unwilling to maintain the fiction that Magata isn’t alive for a week, the time to solve the locked room murder mystery grows short. After looking at the video files and the code that recorded and compressed them, Saikawa has a pretty good idea what happened, and encourages Moe to deduce it for herself rather than telling her.

She comes up with the theory that Magata Shiki entered the room with child, and the child she’d give birth to was the one who murdered her. But he still doesn’t know how that child left the room, when there’s no record of it. That is, until Moe provides a spark to a new line of thinking, as she promises she’ll solve the case “more or less” by 7:00 PM.

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That “more or less” gets Saikawa thinking about how the release of Red Magic and the more recent blackout effected the labs’ clocks. Turns out they were delayed by a minute, so when the system went back on, a minute of footage was overwritten—the very footage of Shiki’s daughter leaving the room.

It was just a minute, but it was all she needed. Saikawa rushes to Shimada to confirm, to find her drinking with Gidou. And you have to hand it to Horie Yui and Hikasa Yoko, they know how to shoot the breeze while downing brewskis.

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One of the final pieces of the puzzle comes when he and Shimada do some hacker stuff (I’m no expert) and find some suspicious code many tens of thousands of hours ago governing Dr. Magata’s door. Saikawa then avails himself of Moe’s talents, asking her to multiply 256 by itself, then calculate how long ago 65,535 hours before 7:00 AM two days ago.

It only takes her a few seconds to determine it was Feb. 10, 4:00 AM, seven years ago: the day and time Red Magic version 4 came online. And that version was always meant to go haywire exactly when it did, orchestrating the events that led to the murder of Magata Shiki and Shindo. This is one of the always-adorable Moe’s finest moments, and she savors all the profuse praise Saikawa sends her way.

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When Moe’s uncle arrives at the lab, it’s past 7:00 PM and time for Saikawa to make his presentation on the locked door murder. Specifically, he intends to tell the killer herself, thereby inducing a confession due to said killer’s pride. That killer would be “Michiru”, the alternate personality of Magata Shiki, who now resides within the lab’s computers.

In effect, Shiki got what she always wanted: she shed her limiting physical body. And now she’s finally “meeting” Professor Saikawa. We’ll see if he’s able to impress her, as Moe impressed him (and me, and everyone else) with his brilliance. And let’s not forget this latest epiphany only came because Moe mentioned how it didn’t really matter whether his watch was off or not with regards to solving the case by or around 7.

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Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider – 08

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After spending much of the previous episode apart, this episode almost revels in pairing up Moe with Saikawa once more. With dawn approaching and the police soon on their way, Moe believes she can get her uncle in the police department to keep Shiki’s murder a secret for the length of time the lab needs; that way no one has to lie. Moe goes to the roof to try to determine how Shindo’s killer could have gotten on or off the roof from the outside, but more than anything she’s just happy to be with Saikawa.

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As for that sunset, it’s a really lovely scene during which the sky gradually lightens and the sun comes up over the trees as Moe and Saikawa lean on the rail, enjoying each other’s company. Moe talks about how she hurt her when she lashed out in her mad grief all those years ago, but Saikawa never held it against her; “glasses can be fixed.” It was more important to him that Moe knew she wasn’t alone, even though her parents were gone.

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The pleasant domestic theme continues when Moe takes a shower and Saikawa makes a hearty breakfast of bacon & eggs, and then Saikawa lets Moe doze off for a few hours, then for the two to keep each other company during a slightly scary blackout as the lab’s computer is rebooted.

Saikawa notes how differently he and Moe think: he sees the path and carefully walks along it to find the answer, while Moe grasps at random facts and tries to make connections. Saikawa implies Moe has much to learn, but can’t deny that she presents ideas that he wouldn’t have come up with. They make a good team.

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With Moe, who feels much lighter since  by his side in the dark as he puffs away at a cigarette, Saikawa comes upon what he believes to be a truth that may turn everything on its head: the Magata Shiki Moe spoke to via teleconference wasn’t really Magata Shiki. The episode also brings up the possibility of passing Miki off as Shiki, despite being taller and more filled out…but what if Miki IS Shiki?

What if that whole English conversation Saikawa had was with Shiki? Could the whole “sister” thing be one long con? Or, even more distrubing, did Shiki cut off Miki’s longer limbs to pass her corpse off as her own, thus faking her death? Shiki considers bodies mere containers, so she’s definitely capable of it.

All this time I’ve been operating under the assumption Shiki was definitely dead, even if a part of her still existed in, say, the computer system. But now even that fact is in dispute. If Miki is Shiki, that’s a whole new ballgame.

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Sket Dance 5

This week introduced a whole slew of characters, including acquaintances of Switch neither Bossun nor Orihime knew existed. Obviously to be as good at information gathering as he is, he must have a host of connections amongst a diverse array of student types. Among them include the newspaper editor, Shimada, and a Sadako-lookalike and occult enthusiast, Yuuko. Sket-dan’s mission is to uncover the mystery of a ghost, but they (being Bossun and Switch; Himeko doesn’t really do anything) discover that there is no ghost, only a ploy by Shimada to manufacture a scoop, for which she is repentant.

Bookending this story are the exploits of the Student Council, a very disciplined and well-organized one at that, engineering their own ploy that ends in the successful apprehension of a blackmailing gang preying on students, the council’s charge. While on the surface they don’t seem to be quite as entertaining a group as Sket-dan, they do lend the all-important rival authority to the series, as well as add even more variety to a cast stocked with oddballs. Their inevitable clash with Sket-dan – two thirds of whom flaunt the dress code with impugnity – should be interesting. Rating: 3.5