Love After World Domination – 09 – Become Strong, Then Fall in Love

One minute you’re alone with your girlfriend in her dorm, the next, you’re staring down her eccentric, fanatical father and taciturn yet hostile little sister. The latter, Magahara Urami, is basically the protagonist of this episode, and she’s in crisis.

This…man, who is dressed as a common Gekko foot solider, seems to have turned her invincible sister into a weak, girly softie. The main flaw with Urami’s position is that she couldn’t be more wrong, but she has to learn that the hard way.

When Fudou, who makes up the fake name Mudou, assures Desumi’s dad that she only turned down the monster promotion after careful consideration, then insists he allow Desumi to attend college, both Urami and Pops are furious that an “outsider” is interfering in family matters.

Pops even starts a fight with Fudou, and demonstrates his carefully-honed “Art of Defeat”; i.e. the most stylish way of taking a hit. Pops leaves impressed with Fudou’s devotion to a cause and will table the university discussion, and Desumi sees him off with a smile.

Urami spends the night, presumably hiding in the closet from a big sister she no longer recognizes, thanks to “Mudou” “ruining” her. Growing up, Urami’s problems with communicating and resting emo face made her an easy target for bullies, all of whom were obliterated by Desumi. It’s no surprise Urami developed a sister complex.

When the sisters visit Gekko’s HQ and Desumi receives a royal greeting befitting her rank, Urami briefly believes that the badass sister she knows is still in there…only for Desumi to scold the foot soldiers for going out of their way, and get upset they don’t notice her new (adorable) hairdo. Urami is in awe of HQ and particularly Desumi’s co-workers and superiors, but Desumi would rather go shopping with her in Harajuku.

Urami is beside herself with frustration…how could the sister she loved and idolize become thus? She storms off in a huff and sulks in a dark alley, where she’s cornered by three lunkheads who aren’t at all concerned with age limits. She’s about to clobber them, but when they call her an “emo kid” like the bullies of her past and present, she freezes up.

That’s when Desumi appears, two delectable crepes in hand, and ignores the dopes entirely. When they warn her that they’re “bad guys”, Desumi puts on her game face and ethers all three of them so easily the show doesn’t bother showing the carnage, only the aftermath. Urami may think Desumi has “gone soft”, but the fact of the matter is she’s as strong as she’s ever been.

She realizes she once told Urami that one must become strong to survive, but now that she’s older she knows that’s not enough. If you want to survive and thrive, you have to fall in love. Urami returns home wearing the hairband her sister bought her. She hated the new version of her big sister at first, but having seen that she dole out carnage and be cute at the same time, maybe this new Desumi isn’t so bad after all.

“Mudou”, on the other hand, will be the first to be purged when she rises up in Gekko.

Spy x Family – 09 – Best Selves

When Loid moves in for that kiss to prove he and Yor are in love, both Yor and Yuri panic; Yor because she’s never been kissed, and Yuri because he always dreamed of marrying Yor and doesn’t want to see her kiss anyone else. Yor chugs the rest of the wine to build up the courage to kiss Loid.

The very moment she can’t go through with it is the same moment Yuri tries to stop her, resulting in Yor slapping the absolute shit out of Yuri. He flies right into his ridiculous bouquet, resulting in a cloud of rose petals that in any other situation would be romantic.

Yor helps Yuri up, Yuri helps Yor stay vertical, and Loid helps keep both of them vertical. He tells them what lovely siblings they are (even with Yuri bleeding profusely) and privately feels envy for their familial bond, as he’s never had that. Unaware that even 2D-chess eludes the Briars, he starts to suspect that Yor might’ve married him at Yuri’s behest to get closer to him.

Yuri is too goofy and his blind spot vis-a-vis Yor is too large for him to feel like any threat to the mission to me, but Twilight is a spy; it’s his job not to trust anyone, even Yor. At the same time, Yor’s inability to kiss Loid or cook has her worried she’s not acting like a proper wife should.

Anya, who slept through the excitement (and really wants to meet her secret police uncle) picks up on these bad vibes, but can’t reassure either parent as it might give away her ability. So as she boards the school bus, she simply tells them they “need to get along”. Loid chalks it up to how “curously observant” kids can be.

Then, he plants a damned bug on Yor in order to listen in on her day, and while she’s out on an errand for her boss, he and Franky stop her while disguised as Secret Police.

If it were anyone other than someone like Loid in the situation he’s in, I would call this obsessive behavior. But if his gut can’t 100% discount that Yor isn’t secretly working with her brother, this is all he can do to assuage his suspicions. Franky predictably buries himself in the part of bad cop, quickly accusing Yor of leaking state secrets.

Throughout her day to that point, Loid had listened in and gotten nothing, and even when Yor’s back is literally against the wall in front of two secret policemen, her “story” doesn’t change, because it isn’t a story: she’s a good citizen (other than the assassinations) who loves her family and country and would never engage in espionage.

When Frankie tries to touch her, Yor restrains him with ease and warns both him and Loid that she doesn’t care who they are or who they work for; she’ll show them no mercy if they hurt her family. Loid takes another look at the letter Yor was mailing and says they made a mistake, and let her go.

Loid won’t admit it, but his relief is soured by guilt he felt going to such lengths to try to catch Yor in a lie. Ironically, she’s able to successfully preserve the actual secret she’s been keeping from Loid all along (that she’s a ruthless super-assassin).

When he meets up with Yor later, she apologizes for not being a proper wife, but Loid comforts her by saying she’s fine the way she is, always striving to be her best self. Everyone puts on acts to some degree, and it grows tiring and eventually intolerable. Better to not put on an act when one is neither desired or needed.

They buy cake to celebrate a year of marriage, and when Anya comes home (her “I HAVE RETURNED” is a great kid greeting), reads their minds, and finds the bad vibes have vanished, her face brightens—Mama and Papa are getting along.

While I’m not the biggest fan of Yuri, I’m glad his antics indirectly led to Loid and Yor clearing the air and growing a little closer. Next week, we return to Eden, and Anya’s solemn mission to befriend a little jerk.

Spy x Family – 08 – Into the Briar Patch

Anya’s adventures at Eden are placed on hold this week as the adults navigate various difficulties. Miss Handler warns Twilight that the enemy is stepping up their game, which is to say they’re intensifying their investigation of suspected spies and rounding them up wherever they are, including at city hall where Yor works.

Yor’s brother Yuri, whom she believes is working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has actually been working as a Second Lieutenant with the State Security Service, AKA Secret Police for about the same amount of time Yor and Loid have been married.

Just like Yor’s co-workers, the SSS’s chief thinks he’s adorable, but like Yor, he’s definitely got a mean streak, as we see when he interrogates Yor’s boss after he’s caught passing documents to an enemy agent. Let us just revel in the delicious fact that both Briar siblings secret unpleasant jobs they are keeping from one another.

But for as competent as Yuri is, all logic and moderation go out the window where his sister is concerned. He is obsessed with her, to the point he likes how his ribs still hurt after she broke them while hugging him as a child. He also brings what looks like four dozen red roses to his first time meeting Your’s new husband.

Loid knows that close relationships like family can cause trip-ups, so he and Yor have practiced being a lovey-dovey couple…to an extent. In a hilarious sequence, Yuri and Loid and Yuri and Yor interact and speak to each other out loud, then we hear their inner monologue overlapping.

When Yor explains to Yuri that she simply forgot to tell him she got married, and then forgot that she forgot, that seems to be enough for him. But when talk turns to how they met, Yuri instinctively enters interrogation mode, for which Loid and Yor are fairly well prepared.

Loid, in turn, did some digging on Yuri and learned he’s in the secret police, confirmed when he starts telling a story about going abroad that’s straight out of his agency’s deception manual. Still, he plays along, since someone like Yuri could be a valuable source of intel if a cordial relationship was forged.

As Yuri drinks more wine he gets a bit looser and more honest, and while can’t deny that Loid is tall, handsome, a good cook, a doctor, and has good manners, he still can’t accept the marriage, or “Loidy” as a brother. Yor is his only family, and she provided for him when he was young and helpless.

We see this in the form of a flashback where a young Yor arrives at home covered in blood and not even trying to hide it from Yuri. But whenever she came through that door, it was with something Yuri either needed or wanted. Ever since, Yuri has strived to not only be someone worthy of that devotion, but someone able to protect her, as she did him.

When Yuri accidentaly knocks over a glass, Yor and Loid start cleaning it up and their hands touch, and they both recoil and blush like teenagers. This would be suspicious behavior from a couple married for a year even for someone who wasn’t a trained, ruthless spy-hunter.

So Yuri gives the two an ultimatum: either they kiss, or he has their marriage license revoked. All of a sudden the stakes are ratcheted up to eleven and the whole game is on the line, and all for something as innocuous as a kiss. Such is the spectacular unpredictability of a Briar.

While Loid has extensive experience seducing women, it’s different for Yor. Unlike those past women, I believe he actually cares about her, hence the blushing. And Yor? I’m certain she’s never kissed a guy. Combine that with the fact Yuri is tipsy and probably doesn’t want to see his sister kiss someone, and next week’s cliffhanger resolution should be interesting.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Servant x Service – 05

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Yamagami wakes up in bed with a girl who turns out to be Hasebe’s sister Kaoru, who is also an easy-.going civil servant and also loves to mess with people. When Yamagami stops by Kaoru’s the next day to thank her, she takes her to her brother’s place, which is awkward. Back at the office, Ichimiya warns Hasebe of the perils of dating co-workers. Chihaya lets fly that she and Ichimiya are dating, but passes it off as a joke to cure Yamagami of her hiccups. Chihaya arranges for Miyoshi to occupy Touko while she and Ichimiya discuss their relationship. Touko returns early, adding to Taishi’s stress.

Those who were thinking Hasebe would stoop to getting a room at a love hotel with a passed-out Lucy were soundly rebuked, as he – as Megumi puts it, “acts like a human being.” Still, it’s clear Miss Cowlick won’t be drinking any alcohol anytime soon. He takes her to his sister’s place instead, but her sister, like all the Hasebes, can’t quite help themselves when presented with a mark as easy as Lucy. Kaoru also gets the feeling her brother cares about this mark, and so gets them together on Sunday, hoping the resulting awkwardness will be entertaining, and it is. But with all this discussion about Yamagami and Hasebe as a prospective couple, there’s been a real and long-lasting couple hiding in plain sight: Chihaya and Ichimiya.

It’s a bit out of left field, though if we were to go back and watch all their past interactions in the office, we’d probably find slight clues here and there of the fact they’re a couple, albeit one that doesn’t make it public knowledge at their workplace. For her part, Chihaya is a good sport, willing to be with Ichimiya despite his self-confidence problems and his horror of a little sister. She doesn’t come right out and list the reasons she dates him – and has dated him for a year-plus. But she does have her reasons. For what is worth, we like them as a couple, if for no other reason than it has neither the predatory air of Hasebe’s pursuit of Yamagami nor Touko’s bro-con tediousness.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Yamagami seems to have a closet consisting of nothing but white pants and black turtlenecks. We hope to see this closet at some point to confirm this.
  • Kaoru and Yamagami wait at a metro station with a green circle marked H-07. Thus the city can’t be Tokyo, as H-07 in real life is Hibiya Station on the Hibiya line, which is silver, not green.
  • Enduring Hiccups are a very old comic device, but Yamagami is so cute doing them we don’t mind.
  • Touko’s birthday is Christmas Eve, making it difficult for Ichimiya to keep girlfriends. Talk about a Catch-22…
  • Chihaya loves cosplay, but wearing Touko’s uniform is still pretty darned kinky. We feel like her explanation to Touko shouldn’t have passed muster.
  • That said, that look Chihaya shoots at Touko when she comes in (see above) is pretty great.

Oreimo 2 – 13 (Fin)

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Kirino used to adore her big brother, but as he grew older they grew apart, and as she strived to surpass him, he stopped seeming as amazing as she once deemed him. She suspects Manami’s influence, but Manami tells her the amazing Kyousuke Kirino loved never really existed. Kirino made a friend in Ayase through modeling, and also discovered siscon eroge, which she had to keep a secret, until it grew out of control, and she finally had to ask her average, unremarkable brother for advice, and he performed his brotherly duty admirably, if not as cool and confidently as he once did.

The last episode of Oreimo for some time serves as a prequel to everything we’ve seen thus far, and documents the evolution of Kirino’s feelings for her brother, leading up to their current, cordial relationship. Basically, the younger she and Kyousuke were, the more amazing she thought he was, and the more he was willing to spend time with her. But he eventually outgrew that arrangement before she did, leading her to aim to surpass him. So we can imagine her disappointment when Kyousuke devolved from the driven, talented, cool brother she once knew into a lazy, unmotivated layabout. The person who drove her to become better than she was had gotten worse. Since the very beginning, it’s been clear that Kirino is a big, hopeless otaku, but this episode finally confirms why: she was seeking the ideal brother Kyousuke no longer was.

She shunned her real brother in exchange for the brothers in the games she played, who would always do what she said and be with her no matter what and be just as amazing as she wanted them to be. But they were no more real than that youthful ideal of her real brother. Kyousuke is and always has been Kyousuke, and regardless of how much he disappointed her, he was always going to protect her, as he does when he passionately defends her hobby to their fatheer. Now Kirino is mature enough to realize that Kyousuke may not be perfect or even particularly cool, but he’s her brother; her only brother. He’s all she’s got, and he’s really not all bad, as big brothers go!

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Oreimo 2 – 08

Gokou Ruri, Kousaka Kyousuke

Kuroneko, now the sacred “Kamineko” goes on her first date with Kyousuke. They go shopping, gaming, and have lunch in the park, and it’s all very pleasant. The next day Kyousuke visits Ruri’s house. After watching an anime, she goes to the bath, and her little sisters meet Kyousuke. The next day Ruri hangs out with Kyousuke at his place. Kirino suspects something’s up and barges in on them, but they’re just playing a game. They also go to see fireworks. With only a few days left of summer, Ruri unveils the last ceremony to perform: breaking up with Kyousuke.

Oreimo giveth, and Oreimo taketh away. Let’s get it out of the way, as surprised as we were that the show did the right thing by making Kyousuke and Kuroneko a couple, we knew, despite our initial excitement, that it probably wouldn’t last that long, so we knew we had to savor the bliss while it lasted. Turns out, barring the first ceremony in Ruri’s Destiny Record to not occur, we were right; this is the only episode in which Kuroneko and Kyousuke are together throughout. And if you’re not a fan of Kuroneko or this new union, then it was a pretty rough and tedious episode to watch. As for us, we loved every last moment.

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The couple takes to dating with gusto, with Ruri even changing her cosplay persona and handle to something less sinister. In her mind, she was once a fallen angel, but Kyousuke raised her up, andthey don’t waste their summer together. They go out a ton, have lots of fun, and Kyousuke ends up learning far more about Ruri and liking her much more than before. We love seeing Kyousuke like this, because lord knows he’s earned the right to have an normal relationship with a smart, beautiful girl who isn’t his sister. Too bad it may be that Kuroneko never meant for their relationship to last past the summer.

Kuroneko is still in love with Kyousuke, but she’s also a good and selfless person…maybe too selfless. When she sees how Kirino reacts to her being in Kyousuke’s room as his girlfriend, and Kirino declares her her friend, and can’t stick around hang out with them, we kinda had a feeling this would happen before the hammer falls in the last moments. Kuroneko’s ultimate goal is for both Kyousuke and her friend Kirino to be happy. She can’t see how Kirino could ever be happy with her friend dating Kirino’s brother, so she can’t keep dating him.

Frankly, if we were Ruri, we’d tell Kirino what she told a bruised Kyousuke in their opening scene: “Deal with it.” Sometimes our own happiness comes at the cost of others.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

  • Kamineko’s get-up is indeed quite audacious, but if we were Kyousuke we really wouldn’t mind either.
  • Kyousuke worries about getting a nosebleed from holding Kamineko’s soft, dainty paw, but it’s Kamineko who gets the nosebleed. Kya.
  • We lost it just as Kyousuke did when she suddenly went to the bathroom. Surely she doesn’t want to move that fast?!
  • Ruri’s sister Hinata is a smart cookie. We hope she’ll scold her big sis for dumping Kyousuke.
  • When Kirino put her ear to the wall and heard Kuroneko say things that could definitely be misconstrued…
  • Bravo to Hanazawa Kana for a surperb, layered performance. Ruri has many different ways of speaking depending on whom she’s talking to and what role she’s playing.
  • Poor Kyousuke. Can he convince Ruri to reconsider? We doubt it.

 

Oreimo 2 – 04

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Ria, Kirino’s old roommate and track rival from America, comes to visit. She’s very lovey-dovey to Kyousuke, irking Kirino, who constantly calls him a lolicon. They go to Akiba to sight-see and shop, but both Kirino and Ria are dressed to run, and the day ends with a race. Kyousuke cheers Kirino on, but Ria still wins by a nose. Ria admits she not only came to Japan for revenge, but to learn how Kirino summoned the speed to beat her in the first place: her friends, her eroge, and her big brother.

After a couple of episodes focused on Ayase and Saori, we return to the Kyousuke and Kirino dynamic, picking up where the end of the last series left off. Kirino went to America to run, but learned she couldn’t be herself there, and wasn’t willing to throw away everything that made her who she is in the service of running. Her rival Ria, on the other hand, is singularly committed to running, and it shows. Just as Kirino surpassed Kyousuke, Ria surpasses Kirino. Having experienced what Kirino’s going through, Kyousuke can’t help but sympathize and cheer for her when they hold a rematch at the school track.

As is typical of Oreimo, there’s a lot of petty noise from Kirino to get through. One simply has to tune out the scolds and insults lobbed at her brother every time he deigns to interact with Ria. Refreshingly, Ria is very affectionate to Kyousuke, exhibiting a wisdom beyond her years in not taking the horrible things Kirino says about him at face value, seeing through the surface to the love Kirino actually harbors for Kyousuke. As if the first race in America wasn’t enough to convince her, this second race confirms that Kyousuke’s love and support really does make her faster. That, and eroge.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Hearing Kirino and Kyousuke’s dad try his hand at English was a highlight of the episode.
  • Clearly the Kousaka family’s bathroom could use a lock.
  • Kyousuke and Kirino’s exchange about the availability of new anime in America was very meta.

Oreimo 2 – 01

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Thanks to Kyousuke convincing her, Kirino is back in Japan and catching up with all her friends, but even a year after everything began, she’s back to ignoring him and geting hostile when he tries to talk to her. Kuroneko is also short with him until he asks her what she meant by her kiss, but Sena interrupts before she can say anything. Tomorrow Kirino invites Kyousuke to accompany her on a massive shopping spree at Akiba, and when they return home, more eroge arrives via mail. As thanks, Kirino gives him one to play one through.

Oreimo returns with a reversion of sorts: all the progress Kyousuke thought he’d made in his relationship with his sister seems to be gone, but he continues to obsess over having an active and important role in her life, even as other women he’d be better off paying more attention to hover nearby. We’re not sure quite what kind of clarification he needs from Ruri; the girl kissed him, for Chrissake. What more does he need: an essay with footnotes and a letter of recommendation? She even told him she likes him, as much as Kirino does. But rather than pursue that which could be his – either Ruri or Manami – he remains committed to that which he can’t have.

Yes, she eventually comes around a little in this episode back, but Kyousuke had to do an awful lot of manual labor to earn the smallest token of gratitude. She’s apparently allergic to please and thank you. But Kyousuke is convinced Kirino does care for her, and thinks she’ll be devastated if he chooses another girl. Or hell, maybe he just likes getting trod upon by her, while stringing other girls around. This would be nothing new, and it will be a problem if this new season is simply history repeating itself. The status quo must be challenged.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • The episode starts off with a flashback in which Kirino wants to bathe with his brother, Kyousuke tells her off, and she shows a more assertive side to herself, telling him of right back.
  • Kuroneko’s close-up…there are no words.
  • Sena is an interrupting bitch. And sorry, but no school in the world would allow its students make hardcore homoge for club.
  • Kyousuke and Kirino’s dad gets to belt out a few lines. When’s he going to roll out some Evas for his children to pilot?

 

Zetsuen no Tempest – 15

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Evangeline, Samon, and Natsumura meet with Hanemura, who accidentally demonstrates his power by making an entire branch of the Tree of Genesis disappear. They bring him to Mahiro for questioning, and then sparring, where they confirm he lacks emotional fortitude. Meanwhile Yoshino and Hakaze are at an amusement park and bump into Junichiro, who shoos Yoshino off and makes Hakaze realize she’s fallen in love with Yoshino, which may be bad considering her position. Evangeline unveils a unique plan, approved by the Kusaribes, to use Hanemura while continuing to test his powers.

Ah, now that’s more like it, Tempest! This was a splendid episode that gave everyone something to do, featured interesting combinations of characters, and quite unexpectedly the funniest episodes of the series so far…an episode of comic undertones that we didn’t  see coming. Seriously, everyone had a comic moment, to the extent it almost felt like a Jormungand episode what with all the jaunty banter flying around. Tempest can at times be a bit stiff and stuffy, so it was nice to see it let its hair down, without sacrificing the progression of the story.

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One of the better moments: when Mahiro mocks Hanemura for wanting to save the world for the sake of his (ex)-girlfriend, he totally shuts him down by bringing up something no one yet dared bring up: Mahiro has at the least, a sister complex, and at worst, is in love with her, and not in a brotherly way. Hanemura may be a little skittish, but he’s not about to take everything lying down. Even funnier, Evangeline and her boss are planning to turn Hanemura into some kind of superhero, and despite Samon thinking it will be a hard sell to Hakaze, she agrees to the plan immediately…without hearing it.

That brings us to Hakaze’s longwinded explanation for why she couldn’t possibly be in love with Yoshino, which eventually ends up proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that she’s fallen for him (she wants to touch his earlobes all night. LOL.) But the ever-pragmatic Junichiro warns her not to let that love get too far: it may end up killing Yoshino’s girlfriend – who nearly everyone still thinks is still alive. Which brings up a good point: could Hakaze’s budding love for Yoshino in the present have caused Aika’s death in the past?


Rating: 9 (Superior)

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