Fruits Basket – 51 (S3 01) – There’s No Night that Doesn’t End

Where we last left off, Kureno had just revealed to Tooru that not only was Akito a woman. No matter how much he loved Arisa, he couldn’t leave Akito’s side, not even after being freed from the curse—or especially because of that. He further explains that Akito was raised a male from birth because it was decreed by her mother Ren, to whom we are finally introduced.

Ren still lives on the grounds, but as Kureno puts it she has “some…troubles, mentally and physically.” Akito freaks out when Ren even tries to touch Hatori, while Ren insists Akito’s belief that her bonds with the Zodiac animals are real love and eternally unchanging is nothing but fantasy.

Her cruel taunting of her daughter—whom she made into a sun by pure will—causes Akito to fly into a rage, but Ren wouldn’t mind being killed, because it would mean reuniting with Akira, Akito’s late father. In a flashback Akira tells Akito she was “born to be loved”, but to Akira that probably doesn’t mean being venerated as a god.

The thing is, Ren may question whether the Zodiac bonds are right or even real, Kureno, Shigure, Hatori, and Ayame all woke up in tears the same morning Akito was conceived. Before appearing in Ren’s belly, Akito came to them in a dream, and the four kids ran to Ren, who didn’t even know she was pregnant.

From that day, Kureno felt the other self that lived inside him, in his blood, and knew he could never betray her. Even if the bond was unnatural, or painful, he simply could never push away a crying Akito, and so can’t see Arisa. Because just as Akito wounds others, she herself is wounded.

Kureno said all of this to properly explain why he can’t leave Akito ever, and that the choice to stay with her is his alone, not guided by any curse. As he leaves her in the courtyard, the DVD falls out of Tooru’s hands and she cannot move for some time, frozen by the weight of this new information.

Her scarf flies away, she falls to her knees. Rin, her ally in ending the curse, watches this from afar. Kureno explains how he went out for fresh air, gets a vicious slap from Akito, and then the two gently embrace. Then, like a gothic fairy, Saki approaches Tooru, flanked by Megumi, and announces she is “here to save the day. Ta-da.”

After informing Yuki that Tooru is in her “custody” and will be her’s “all night” (phrasing!) Saki prepares a “Nightgown Festival” to soothe Tooru’s troubled soul. She tells Tooru that she was able to detect Tooru crying in a voice no one else could hear, but was deafening to her. Tooru explains how she tried to bring Kureno and Arisa together, to make up for all the things people like Arisa did to help her…but she failed, so she’s useless.

As we see Kyou spot Tooru’s scarf lying in the street, Tooru tells Saki how Kureno is someone who puts others’ feelings before his own. I’m glad Saki’s there to essentially say “look in the mirror…that’s you!”. Saki worries if Tooru keeps taking everyone’s feelings on her shoulders, it will crush her, and her smile will disappear. Arisa enters Saki’s room to add that if Tooru’s smile disappears, “it will be the end of the world.” Neither of them will let that happen.

Arisa sits with Tooru and says she’s “trash” for maing her cry. Tooru says she’s not trash, and Arisa in turn says Tooru isn’t useless. What she is is a dummy, just as Kureno is a dummy, and Arisa can’t help but love dummies. But because she loves them, she doesn’t want to cause problems for them, so she gathers Tooru in a hug and assures her she needn’t worry; she’ll be fine. With that, the Nightgown Festival commences in earnest, and Megumi’s heart pounds as he’s surrounded by older women, the little scamp!

Rin continues slinking around the Souma compound, only to be caught by Ren, who asks her if she wants any “help.” No doubt Ren would love to lift the curse, though it’s interesting that she only comes into the picture now.

Fatigued by their emotional exertions, Tooru and Arisa fall asleep early. Megumi asks Saki if she thinks it’s really hopeless for Arisa and Kureno. Who can say? Arisa may have said “that’s it”, but Megumi isn’t so sure. Sometimes it takes a long time for lovers to find each other.

The next morning, Tooru comes home, all cheered up, and becomes even more cheered up when she finds her scarf waiting for her, courtesy of Kyou, who even washed it (though some stains remain, which is apropos!) Tooru bops him with a pom-pom once more, then Yuki and Shigure bid her good morning. As Tooru gets on with her life—no mean feat after what she’s learned—she resolves to gradually think upon the thinks Kureno told her bit by bit.

With this beautiful, magical, heartrending-and-mending opening outing, Fruits Basket continues to prove it is the final word in supernatural romantic comedy/dramas. After two exquisite seasons of painstakingly introducing characters, delivering their backstories and developing and strengthening relationships, this third, The Final, will introduce and execute the endgame.

Some of the darkest and most painful episodes may be yet to come, but I’ll happily endure them with Tooru, Arisa, Saki, Yuki, Kyou, and everyone else to see how things turn out!

Horimiya – 06 – It’s Getting Hot in Here

It’s still rather cold in these parts, so it’s refreshing for this week’s Horimiya to take place in the middle of summer. But even if it didn’t, it still radiates warmth and good vibes from every angle. Hori’s dad sees Miyamura in his school look for the first time and momentarily wonders who the hell he is.

Once he realizes it’s Miyamura, he insists they take a bath together to wash off the day’s heat. Coincidentally, Hori is watching a TV show wherein a lecher is about to assault a young woman, only for that woman to reveal she’s a skilled MMA fighter and kicks his ass.

In addition to being an amusing prism to Miyamura and Kyosuke’s dynamic, it also foreshadows a number of wonderful subversions of typical high school rom-com clichés, which like the warm and cozy aura of its main couple has fast become Horimiya specialty.

After dinner and past 8:30, Miyamura assumes he’s “worn out his welcome”, but that’s not for him to decide. Hori’s suggests he spend the night, though it’s Hori’s dad he’ll be sleeping beside. Kyousuke doesn’t interrogate him that night, only asking what Miyamura likes about his daughter. His response: she doesn’t judge people by appearances.

While this is primarily the story of Hori and Miyamura’s understated yet potently blossoming love, it’s also the story of Miyamura being accepted for who he is by his new friends at school, as well as flat-out becoming a member of Hori’s family.

It’s in this scenario he gets to see something no one else could: Hori wearing her middle school gym uniform as pajamas (when she stomps on her father to open the blinds that morning). It’s also so goddamn lovely when Hori’s mom corrects him when he’s headed out the door. He’s family, not a guest, so he should say ittekimasu, not ojamashimashita. My heart just about burst right there, but Horimiya was just getting started!

Unfortunately, most of the kids at Miyamura’s school either don’t know what a sweet guy he is and are all too willing to judge him by his “emo” appearance. When a couple guys spot him leaving the same house with Hori, it sets off a torrent of rumors at school that they’re dating.

I like how we get a little shot of Tooru and Yuki legitimately upset by this development, with Yuki actually weeping at the prospect of things turning sour just when Miyamura and Hori got their act together. I like more how despite the unsolicited attention and rumor-mongering, Hori takes everything in perfect stride. By now she’s quite comfortable confirming that Miyamura is her boyfriend, and doesn’t need to explain that relationship to anyone.

Miyamura, however, doesn’t fare as well. A common refrain in the halls is “wait…that Miyamura?”, as Hori is both hugely popular and has rejected a number of more “conventional” suitors. So Miyamura apparently decides that if the school wants a prettier cover, they’ll get it: he arrives the next day having cut his hair short, revealing his piercings and eyelashes.

It’s an interesting and complex choice by Miyamura that instantly changes the conversation, as he becomes an immediate sensation with the ladies. Rather than do it because he’s worried about adversely affecting Hori’s reputation (though that could be part of it) it feels more like an act of empowerment. It indicates that Miyamura is well aware he’s got the goods, he’s just never flaunted them at school.

Rather than passively keeping his chin up or not listening to the murmurings, Miyamura took an active step in the realignment of the conversation around him and Hori. With his new ‘do and the striking beauty it reveals, “wait…that Miyamura?” turns to “oh, that Miyamura!”. 

As one would expect, Hori isn’t used to Miyamura getting the added attention and adoration, and her reaction is to create a cold enough atmosphere around her that it shoos away the newcomers. When a girl snaps candid pics of Miyamura with their phone (without asking him, WTF!), Hori gets right in his face with a DSLR!

Despite the increased liveliness at school, what I love more than anything about both the news of Horimiya dating and Miyamura’s new look is that it doesn’t really affect their core relationship. Hori doesn’t seem hurt that Miyamura cut his hair without consulting her, and seems content with his prefab excuse that it’s summer and long hair is hot.

Hori may grow possessive at school—Miyamura is her bf; so she has every right to be!—but not so much so that she makes a federal case out of his makeover. Hori has Miyamura, and vice versa, and it’s no longer important that no one knows he’s a hottie or that they’re dating.

Since they’re the usual Horimiya, Miyamura comes home with Hori as usual, and has the unlikely but hilarious distinction of having a third distinctive look in three straight encounters with Hori’s dad. Before long, they’re answering an invite from Shindo to come to his place and help him eat bizarrely flavored hard candy.

It’s here where Miyamura again demonstrates his whimsical timing with romantic gestures, as he asks Hori how her candy tastes, then leans in and steals it from out of her mouth. She sheepishly says “he stole my candy” the way Jujutsu Kaisen’s Kasumi sheepishly says Maki stole her sword, but what he really stole was their first kiss….just like that! For the record, that candy tasted like clay, which should make the kiss that much harder to forget!

Horimiya lets that kiss simmer on the back burner a bit as we return to school, where the novelty of Miyamura’s new look has thankfully worn off…with one exception: a diminutive girl with similarly black hair and similarly blue eyes seems to be watching, following, straight-up stalking Miyamura.

When Hori and Yuki encounter her in the hall, she asks if Hori and Miyamura are dating, Hori says yes, what of it?!, and the girl beats a hasty retreat, seemingly intimidated. Miyamura’s sudden popularity bounce perfectly sets up this latest high school rom-com cliché, the new love rival, second-year Sawada Honoka.

Before long, Sawada is striding up to Miyamura and flat-out telling him to break up with Hori already, in earshot of others. But in another excellent subversion, it’s not Miyamura Sawada likes…it’s Hori. Thanks to the rumors, she’s learned Miyamura stole a march on her. But she declares she liked Hori first, and won’t accept Miyamura dating her.

This turns into a physical tug-of-war between Sawada and Miyamura, with a flustered Hori as the rope. Tooru can only watch with other classmates in amusement at the spectacle before them, and even texts Yuki to hurry over to watch. Miyamura, clearly no longer hiding who he is at school, finally forcefully grabs Hori into his arms and declares “she’s mine!”, echoing her own words when Remi prodded her about him.

After school, Sawada seemingly follows Miyamura home, only for them to realize that not only are they both heading home in the same direction, they are goddamn next-door neighbors! This is the kind of twist a show that’s built up as much goodwill and credibility as Horimiya can get away with all day long, in my book.

It also marks a further expansion of Miyamura’s relationships, as it’s clear these two aren’t going to just ignore each other from here on out. Sawada forgot her key, so he does what any decent person would do and invites her over to sample some cake from his family’s bakery. Their ensuing conversation starts with, but is not dominated by, Hori, as Sawada learns Hori rarely visits Miyamura’s place since he always goes to her place.

Sawada also assumed that Miyamura had a little brother or sister, since he’s clearly good at taking care of people. Miyamura laughs at that comment, which reminds Sawada of the older brother she says she “had”—past tense—before laughing it off herself. She’s saved by the bell when her folks come home, so she heads out, but Miyamura says she’s always welcome to stop by for some cake.

Miyamura isn’t fooled by Sawada’s last-second fakeout. Sure enough, he learns from his mom that the Sawadas lost their eldest son some time last year, who attended a different school from Izumi but was “such a nice boy”.

At first I wondered why the character designer took such pains to make Sawada so closely resemble Miyamura—was she his long-lost little sister? When we learned she liked Hori, I abandoned that theory as a bridge too far for this show, but it isn’t lost on me how quickly and easily Miyamura is portrayed as a potential surrogate big bro.

Sure enough, the next day Sawada is hounded by three boys, and she retreats to Miyamura, digging her head in his back. It only takes a momentary glare from Miyamura to disperse the lads, but it can’t be understated how glad Sawada must’ve been to have him in that moment. Naturally, when Hori shows up they’re back to competing over who likes Hori more.

Finally, in another wonderful use of what Hori’s watching on TV as a reflection of what goes on in the Hori household, she is forcing both Miyamura and, more pointedly, her dad, to watch a horror movie in which a daughter kills her father. It underscores both Hori’s taste in cinema and the tactics she’ll use to try to get her dad to leave the room, which he eventually does.

Almost the moment her dad’s gone, Hori brushes her knees together and tries her hand at Miyamura’s patented casual romantic utterances, stating “you never make any moves on me, huh.” When Miyaura responds by asking “do you want me to?” she turns red with embarrassment, causing him to chuckle over how cute she looks. Then he asks what kind of moves she wants him to make, then leans in to kiss her.

Kyousuke barges back in asking for change to buy his smokes, and the two lovebirds immediately separate, invoking her dad’s cheeky suspicion, and causing Hori to attempt to reenact the dad-murdering scene from the movie. While I’d hoped they could have shared their first kiss in which both of them were aware a kiss was going to happen here and now, at least they didn’t chicken out; they were simply interrupted. They’ll soon learn to seek places with a bit more privacy!


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.

Uzaki-chan wa Asobitai! – 08 – Beautiful from Any Angle

Ever since she got wasted and threw up on his futon, Uzaki has been out of sorts. While apologizing in public and offering money for the futon, bystanders get the wrong idea thanks to a lot of unfortunate phrasing. But at the cafe, Ami has the antidote for Uzaki’s recent blues. Sakurai will take Uzaki out to the fireworks festival, and if he’s nice and compliments the hell out of her yukata, she’ll cheer up: Ami guarantees it.

The night of the festival Ami is proven right; Uzaki is still down and things are awkward, and despite how annoying he’s typically found her, Sakurai just thinks it’s wrong for Uzaki to be so down. His steady stream of compliments eventually bring out the usual energetic Uzaki-chan, but also results in her accidentally hitting him too hard in the head with her purse.

Even before the blow, Uzaki’s quiet-and-meek disposition reminded him of her when they were still in high school, and while he’s out cold, he remembers one evening she was practicing alone (which is dangerous) and he jumped in the pool to help guide her. That night they came across the fireworks festival, he bought them grilled corn (perfect after all that swimming), and he watched Uzaki’s subdued face brighten up for the first time.

When Sakurai comes to, he’s in Uzaki’s lap, not quite able to see her face, but he can tell she’s back to being meek and contrite over braining him. So Sakurai does what a good guy would do: look back on their time together since reuniting at college and admitting it’s all been pretty fun. He’s been able to see and do so many things he otherwise wouldn’t, so he tells her not to be so down, and invites her to hang out more before summer is over.

Sakurai may not be able to see the reaction in Uzaki’s face either to his words or the fireworks, but it doesn’t matter; “the view is fine” from where he is. While last week’s interactions were lubricated by alcohol and looser inhibitions, this was the true romantic standout episode thus far, when Sakurai is open and honest about how he feels about their time together, and Uzaki shows more than her usual quasi-loner-bullying default mode. Nice work, all!

Uzaki-chan wa Asobitai! – 07 – The Cause and the Solution

“Please be with me. I need you.” These are the words that cause Uzaki to rush to Sakurai’s side, only to be disappointed: he couldn’t go into a cat cafe without someone with him.

I realize he probably didn’t consider how his words over the phone sounded, but he’s gotta be more careful with his words as he spends more time with Uzaki! Sakurai, who loves cute things, is over the moon to be surrounded by friendly cats; Uzaki is both charmed and creeped out by this side of him.

But for briefly leading her on, she punishes him by poking his foot with hers while his legs are asleep from being folded too long. The barista tosses them out for unauthorized “play”, but both Sakurai and Uzaki had a good time.

Because he owes her for “being with him”, he offers to do something for her. In response, she just says her 20th birthday is coming up (the age Japanese can legally purchase alcohol), and expects “great things”.

While racking his brain for a gift she won’t reject or mock him for, he gets the same kind of misleadingly amorous call he gave her, though apparently she’s not getting back at him on purpose; she just doesn’t want to go into a pub alone. So her birthday plan is sorted: Sakurai guides her through the world of alcohol and its role in heightening enjoyment of food, the night…and company.

Homer Simpson once toasted alcohol as “the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.” Now that Uzaki is a part of that world (and loving every minute of it) one wonders if a little of it (or in her case, a lot) would grease the wheels of romantic progress with these two (along with the actual grease of the fried food they eat with their drinks).

Alas, Uzaki isnt the heavyweight she thinks she is, and it all hits her at once by the time they leave the pub. It shouldn’t be a surprise that her drunk self is simply a less restrained, more wobbly version of her sober self, but Sakurai wonders if she planned for them to be out until the trains stop running and when he’s out of cash for taxi fare.

Grudgingly letting her stay over at his place, she tries to stay up playing games, and when he apparently falls asleep she leans in to kiss him, proving that he was only pretending and delighted by his bashful reaction. But a near-kiss is all that happens, as Uzaki soon passes out, enabling Sakurai to finally get some sleep.

Uzaki experienced the joys of alcohol, and in the morning come the horrors in the form of a five-alarm hangover; her very first but probably not her last. Sakurai watches over her as she prays empathically to the porcelain god, and puts her up in bed.

Before he leaves for the store, Uzaki earnestly thanks him for sharing her first pub visit, saying she had fun. Sakurai feels likewise…but the lovely moment is ruined when Uzaki vomits all over herself and the futon! Ah well, a ruined futon and steep pub check are a small price to pay for making Uzaki happy on her birthday.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 43 – Meiling Out

While in the middle of another disastrous attempt to bake an edible cake for Syaoran (has she never heard of a timer?) Meiling gets a call from her mother: she’s to return to Hong Kong in a week. When Mizuki-sensei announces she’ll be transferring out the class is shocked, but it’s Syaoran’s tepid reaction that hurts her the most.

Say what you will about Meiling’s possessiveness and clinginess since arriving; Syaoran has almost always been a cold jerk to her, making her feel like she’s only in the way. They seem poised to part ways on not so great terms when Cardcaptor Sakura decides to try her hand at fence-mending, inviting Meiling to sleep over at her house for the first time.

After a delicious meal courtesy of Sakura’s dad, Sakura and Meiling get to have a nice chat over tea and later while curled up in their beds. Sakura tries to reassure Meiling that Syaoran does indeed care for her. During the sleepover, a Clow Card in the form of twins starts to cause mischief in town by doubling things, starting with a mailbox.

While Sakura admits it was love at first sight vis-a-vis Yukito, Meiling reveals her falling for Syaoran wasn’t immediate, due to how stoic and indifferent he acted around her while they trained together. It wasn’t until he saw her crying over losing her pet bird that he comforted her, went out in the rain, and retrieved the bird. It’s a sweet story unfortunately interrupted by Sakura sensing the TWIN card, and suiting up in a cool new battle costume as Tomoyo meets her at her house.

It’s at Syaoran’s suddenly twinned house (complete with twin Weis) that Sakura attempts to subdue and seal the twins, but when she only manages to immobilize one of the two, she’s not able to seal the card. She and Syaoran decide to try launching twin lightning attacks, but the fact they have to signal each other causes a lag that allows the card to escape.

Even though Meiling was ready to stay behind lest she “get in the way”, Sakura took her hand and had her join the party, because, as she says, there are things only Meiling can do sometimes. In this case, that’s stay in perfect rhythm with Syaoran as the two deliver a twin beatdown to the twins, restraining them long enough for Sakura to seal the card. It flies into Syaoran’s hand, but it’s just as much Meiling’s card.

With that, Syaoran and Meiling make up, and at the airport before departing, she asks him if he remembers their promise. Soon after he found her bird Meiling confesses to Syaoran, and badgers him into agreeing to make her his fiancee…until he finds someone he likes more. Whether she’s noticed Syaoran’s attitude towards Sakura softening/warming, and that’s the reason she’s not fighting her summons home, who can say. All I know is, I’ll miss the adorable, clingy, goodhearted little brat!

Cardcaptor Sakura – 23 – Songs After Dark

Sakura is in a very good mood one morning, which can almost always be attributed to Yukito (all other instances are likely food-related). Sure enough, he’ll be spending the night at her house as he and Touya plan for the athletic festival (sure…why not?).

Despite whispering this to Tomoyo, Syaoran overhears, and then Meiling inserts herself in the conversation. Then Sakura’s mood is totally destroyed by talk of a creepy singing voice coming from the music room late at night—possibly the voice of a g-g-g-ghost!

Even though it’s more likely to be a Clow Card singing in there, the mere fact people are talking about the possibility it’s a ghost sparks Sakura’s crippling phasmophobia, such that she outright refuses to go to school late at night, bowling Kero-chan over.

The thing is, she doesn’t want to leave home anyway because Yukito will be there. But no sooner do he and Touya arrive that he mentions the rumor about the singing voice, and notes how it’s apparently a beautiful voice that he’d love to hear if he could.

Yukito’s request is all Sakura needs to steel herself sufficiently to sneak into school at 10PM with a voice recorder. Tomoyo meets her there and she changes into a pink music-themed battle costume. That said, she’s still extremely on edge, such that when Syaoran and Meiling suddenly appear, she lets out her loudest HOEEEEE yet.

Before long they can hear the voice, and the nearer they get to the music room, the more scared Sakura is, such that she’s constantly asking Tomoyo to assure her it isn’t really a ghost. The strange thing is, the voice sounds a lot like Tomoyo’s. Kero-chan explains that it must be the Song card, which records and mimics the best singing voice it can find.

I knew I was going to run into a number of CCS “firsts” since this is the original series and all, and this episode is no different, marking the first time Tomoyo contributes directly to the sealing of a card. She does so by singing what is admittedly a very pretty song, and Song can’t resist joining her in a duet. Much later, Tomoyo will sing a duet with Akiho while Syaoran accompanies on the piano, leading to the capture of the Record card.

Once the song is over, Song becomes visible, enabling her to seal it. Only her other main objective of the night—recording the voice for Yukito—wasn’t achieved, since she was busy capturing and Tomoyo was busy singing. No biggie; Tomoyo simply needs to sing the song once more, and Song will join her, enabling Sakura to record it and gain some additional EXP.

Hamefura – 09 – Anna Bakanina

Ever since bonking her head, Catarina has been possessed by the soul of a middle-class modern Japanese high school student, which means she’s a lot more likely to befriend her maid than the originally “programmed” Catarina. So it’s no surprise Catarina has befriended her maid, Anna.

Most of this episode is told from the perspective of Anna, who may not be a member of Catarina’s harem per se, but does owe her present life and happiness to Catarina’s kindness and strength.

This show is about more than Catarina unwittingly making all of her friends fall madly in love with her. It’s also about her intentionally trying to better the lives of others. When she successfully advances to the second year at magic academy, Catarina throws a pajama party for her girlfriends, and even suggests a boys-only party for the guys.

When talk turns to romance and the girls (taking a page from Catarina) ask Anna about her prospects for marriage, Catarina discretely deflects the question, saving Anna much awkwardness. It’s a gesture that indicates that while she’s too dense to sense the infatuation wafting off her friends, she’s not too dense to detect discomfort in her other friend, Anna, and has her back.

Anna needed someone’s back. The bastard daughter of a rich baron and his maid, when her mom died in a fire and her own arm was burned, the baron basically disowned her, as she no longer had any value as a marriage pawn. That’s when the distantly-related Claes family hired Anna as a maid, and she met Catarina.

Catarina was your typical willful spoiled haughty child of rich people, until she hit her head and…changed. Before she knew it, Catarina was inspiring Anna to start standing up for herself rather than acting so meek and submissive, and Lil’ Catarina has her back when it comes time to refuse her arranged marriage.

If it weren’t for Catarina being a good person and friend to Anna, there’s no telling what awful husband she would have ended up with. In any case, being apart from Catarina wasn’t a viable option for Anna, who had never even celebrated her birthday before she befriended Catarina.

To this day, she keeps Catarina’s little gifts in a wooden box she got from her the first time they celebrated. Anna’s story seemingly comes out of nowhere, but we knew Catarina was all about treating everyone equally regardless of their station in life, and despite it’s sudden inclusion in the story, I still admit to tearing up when Anna told her story. Now we know the first person to fall for her!

As Catarina and Alan had a romantic segment at the end of last week’s outing, it was looking like it would be Gerald’s turn at the end of this week’s, as he gets a fancy handwritten invitation from Catarina. With a sudden hop in his step, he devises the perfect gift for her: a new pair of gardening shears. He was listening, and he knows she’s not like other girls!

Alas, when Gerald arrives, he finds everyone else has not only been invited, but gave Catarina the same gift (they were all listening, and know she’s not like other girls)! She’s gathered them there not to confess her love, but because it’s her Harvest Day and she wants everyone to help out. To that end, she’s had matching olive-green gardening uniforms for everyone…which is an awesome sight to behold! The Cult of Catarina is officially militarized.

Yup, things couldn’t be going any better for Catarina, and it’s frankly been refreshing and heartwarming to see. Unfortunately, nothing ever lasts, and Catarina seems poised for some kind of reckoning, as an anti-Catarina group has been formed from those she stopped from bullying Maria.

They vow to “expose all of the evil deeds” she has committed, which confuses Catarina…as well as myself! What “evil deeds” could these be? Are these girls simply running on older otome code from back when Catarina was programmed to be the chief villainess? Regardless, there’s trouble in paradise…unless she can make this posse fall for her, of course…

Oh…my…GOD she’s in an eggplant costume…

Wave, Listen to Me! – 07 – The Evil is Defeated

 

“I have no doubt other women have thought of doing what I did. They just didn’t do it.”Abe Saba, who cut off her lover’s genitals while making love. She also worked at a restaurant, FWIW…

Minare’s first radio job in the field is turning out to be a weird one, but she and Mizuho are able to calm Shinji down enough to talk about his lost dead Slavic girlfriend, Azohara Ritsuko. When he proposed they “cross the line” from friendship to romance, they agreed upon a secluded volcanic hot spring in Zao as the dramatic venue for their inaugural doing of the nasty.

However, after disrobing but before getting down, Shinji passed out from the volcanic gasses. He woke up in a cabin, rescued by good Samaritans…but they only found him. For all he knows, Ritsuko could be dead or still wandering around Zao as they speak.

With his tale of woe out of the way, Minare climbs into the ceiling to investigate the stinky dark liquid, and finds an absolute nightmare: six fly-covered garbage bags filled with what she assumes to be the remains of a petite woman, soaked by a leaking shower line.

Minare calls the police, and Shinji is arrested on suspicion of killing Ritsuko and storing her remains in the ceilng. But at no point does Shinji admit this, or even get overexcited: he merely calmly asserts his innocence, all while Minare is certain “evil was destroyed” in that apartment.

In the face of such a traumatic experience (Mizuho got less of the meat juice on her but still needed three showers), Minare crafts an even more fanciful story nevertheless rooted in reality rather than the supernatural.

She imagines that Ritsuka was a Russian spy, and Shinji proposed the remote site to speak to her without being surveilled. Ritsuka was trained to kill if her cover was  blown, but whether due to her love for Shinji or the effects of the gas, she couldn’t do it.

However, neither the murder and dismemberment story nor the spy thriller make it to her first official broadcast of Wave, Listen to Me! The afternoon before the show she stops by the police for questioning, and the real, unvarnished mundane truth is laid bare: the stinking dark liquids, and the bags from which they seeped, were originally put there…by Minare herself.

They were the remains not of a murdered Ritsuka but of 50 kilos of on-the-bone mutton delivered to her apartment by her parents when she first moved there. She stowed them in the under-floor compartment as a temporary measure but then completely forgot about them. They sank through the floor into the space above Shinji’s apartment, mixed with the leaking water, and the rest is stinky history.

This puts Minare in a bind, as she’s facing charges to be brought by Shinji, whom it’s indisputable was someone to whom she did harm, even if she didn’t mean to, and then went further by having him arrested. But Shinji magnanimously provides Minare with an out: she’ll break down the truth of what happened and apologize to all involved. Shinji is in the booth when she does this, just to make sure.

Not only that, Minare makes the theme of the show for, about, and by “people who have caused countless problems for others” in hopes of finding ways for those people (including her) who don’t want their lives going to waste simply because they’re predisposed to such troublemaking.

It’s not at all what she expected to be doing, but rotting mutton comes at you fast, and it’s actually a great subject for a radio show airing so late at night. An audience will no doubt project themselves in the stranger-than-fiction scenarios Minare puts herself, and appreciate how she’s is open, vulnerable, and ready to be redeemed.

She won’t claim to have all the answers—that’s for that sumo guy—but she’ll have plenty of entertaining questions!

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 06 – Dad Wants Results

As a result of all his help at the fireworks festival, Fuutarou is well-liked enough by Ichika that she walks to school with him, something any lad in his right mind would die for! But as good terms as he’s on with the eldest quint, the youngest continues to harbor a deep animosity for him.

Itsuki still holds a grudge for him refusing to help her study back when they met. She and Nino remain outside the study circle, and his attempts to convince them to join it are rejected with prejudice. That said, Fuutarou was way too loose with his words to Nino in front of her friends, making it sound like the two of them slept together!

Fuutarou remains committed to studying, so he declines to join Ichika, Miku and Yotsuba for parfaits, but Itsuki flags him down on the way home and puts him on the phone with their father, who informs Fuutarou in no uncertain terms that he expects results for his investment: if any of his daughters fails the upcoming midterms, he’ll be fired.

It’s a gut punch for Fuutarou, who doesn’t immediately react well to the warning, as he takes out his anxiety on Itsuki, who is convinced he’s only doing this for the money and doesn’t want his half-assed help after rejecting her. The two end things in a bad place, declaring they’ll never work with one another ever.

When Fuutarou comes to the quints’ place so he work with Ichika, Miku, and Yotsuba, Itsuki is nowhere to be found, but Nino is around, so he can’t let the others know the cost of failure lest Nino exploit that information to sabotage him. Nino gets the info anyway when she pretends to be Itsuki while Fuutarou is in the bath. I guess her goodwill toward him didn’t last past the fireworks festival, huh?

Meanwhile, Ichika has picked up on Miku’s feelings for Fuutarou, and makes every effort to put the two in closer contact with one another, from insisting Fuutarou spend the night (hence the bath) to plain ol’ shoving Miku into Fuutarou’s chest, then having Yotsuba check his pulse…which is high, but to be fair Yotsuba chased him around the house!

When Miku comes right out and asks him what type of girl he likes, Fuutarou only doles out his three top qualities in a girl after the three each complete a page of notes. Ichika invites Fuutarou onto the balcony for a break, and brings up his fight with Itsuki. She sees Itsuki and Fuutarou as “too alike” for their own good, but thinks it’s fine for friends to fight, but as friends, not sworn enemies.

She also knows both of them are stubborn and its holding up their reconciling. She’ll do what she can for him, but at the end of the day it’s up to him to make things right with her. Fuutarou is impressed with how much of an “oldest sister” Ichika is, and follows her advice to praise her by patting her head, causing her to blush profusely.

Still, Ichika is being the good big sister by deferring to Miku’s feelings regarding Fuutarou…at least for now. When it’s time for bed, Miku bunks with Ichika and volunteers her bed for him, only to drowsily return to her bed out of habit after going to the bathroom. Fuutarou wakes up to find Miku curled up beside him!

Whatever consequences result from this innocent mix-up will pale in comparison to what happens if any of the sisters fails the midterms. This isn’t just about Fuutarou losing his job and the money his family needs. He’ll suddenly be cut off from the five young women who are gradually helping him grow as a person, just as he’s helping them. So I hope, for all their sakes, he finds a way to help them all pass.

Wave, Listen to Me! – 06 – A Warm Fluffy Towel Drenched in BLOOD

We’ve now reached the halfway point of WLM!, and while this week’s installment lacks the adrenaline high that accompanies a live broadcast and the moments leading up to it, it further fleshes out its eclectic, sometimes eccentric, but always authentic-feeling cast of characters, while setting up stranger things to befall Minare on her path to becoming a radio star.

We learn more about Minare through those she came from, starting with her dad when she accidentally calls him. He’s outside a pachinko parlor on his fifth or sixth beer (Sapporo, natch) so he’s…got some issues, but you can tell he loves his daughter and just wants her to be happy— just as sure as Minare can smell the alcohol through the phone!

Meanwhile, Casa Nakahara is hardly the sordid lovenest Minare might imagine in her more jealous moments. Yes, Makie is living there, but so is Nakahara’s sister Meiko (Minare, Makie, Meiko…dude knows some M’s!), who walked out on her husband with their baby for going to a hostess club. Far from being treated as a burden, Nakahara is appreciative of Meiko for being to get Makie to talk more in the wee hours of the night as the two women lie in adjacent futons.

Makie confides in her that after her parents died in the mountains, her brother grew obsessively protective and locked her up like Kaspar Hauser…which explains her manner. Meiko tells her she shouldn’t feel ashamed for using the car accident as an opportunity to reclaim her agency freedom, which she has every right to have.

After a thoroughly confusing little sequence involving Minare’s dad talking about a dream of “decades ago” and a “brutal accident”, we suddenly cut to Minare talking to her mom this time. Unlike her dad, her mom is a littler sterner, insisting she seek out “a life people can respect”, not just one in which she’s happy, and not to listen to a “loser” like her dad. And her little “It makes me sad…oh, very sad” line about Minare telling her dad about her radio job first—*Chef’s Kiss*

Still, her dad still managed to buy her daughter a slick Sky Sensor 5900 radio as a cute “good-luck-in-your-radio-pursuits” gift. Makie’s family may have bitten the tragedy bug, but it’s refreshing that our protagonist Minare not only has both parents still living, but on talking terms with her (if not one another). Like Makie, her parents feel like longingly-rendered real human beings.

Her dad was also responsible for delivering four whole Aramaki salmon, which won’t fit in Minare’s little fridge. After Nakahara drops off his ideas for Minare on possible radio story ideas (hilariously, she reads them and immediately apologizes for even asking him!) she decides to hang the fish from the doorknobs of her neighbors, which Nakahara mentions could be construed as some kind of criminal mischief.

By the way, another absolute doozy of an exchange: Minare describes her dad to Nakahara, and all Nakahara can see is Minare. Drunk half the time? Check. Either in dirty joke-telling mode, venting mode, or preaching mode? Check. Goes off on random tangents? Check. Makes no sense at all? Check. Can’t have a proper conversation? Check!

Granted, these are exaggerations of who Minare really is, but sometimes the rougher edges stick out more…especially from the perspective of someone like Nakahara, pursuing her with little to show for it. Another main takeaway from the fish-hanging scene is that Oki Shinji, who accepts one of the fish without hesitation, looks very out of sorts, and Nakahara notices the stench of rotting protein emanating from Shinji’s apartment.

The strangeness continues at the studio, where Mizuho shows Minare a creepily-scrawled fax about a dead girlfriend who hasn’t forgiven the writer…who happens to be Oki Shinji! Minare wants to shift gears to something more fluffy and less occult, but Matou is eager for her to learn the full ropes, which means she and Mizuho are going on a field recording adventure!

After reiterating her commitment to always protect her (something Mizuho doesn’t remember her saying before), Minare drives them to their destination: her former apartment building (note that Mizuho calls Minare’s car a “mini” but it’s not a MINI Cooper, but rather a Daihatsu Mina Giro Minilite. IMO the Giro’s cooler than any Cooper!) They also dress for the occasion, like an onmyouji and a shrine maiden.

Shinji welcomes them in without so much as a flinch from Minare’s stellar long-range joke about the same woman showing up drunk to his door also showing up to appease a spirit since “rituals, sake, and women” have been inexorably intertwined throughout history. Still, Shinji has good reason to be the way he is, because something very very strange and gross is happening inside his apartment.

Reddish-black liquid starts to ooze from the ceilings and drops on what couldn’t have been a cheap costume rental. Then again, it’s likely the station will cover the dry cleaning, just as Matou promises to bail out Minare should things take a turn. After all striking out into the untamed wilds diagonally below her old place means she’s no longer an amateur, but a professional, like Mizuho…risking their very lives for entertainment.

Kakushigoto – 05 – Bathrobe Party!

Tomaruin has signed Kakushi up as a judge for a manga competition. Despite his gag manga specialty, he actually proves quite astute at judging his assistant Keshi’s manga (which is far too verbose), impressing the other assistants. He’s initially against being a judge, but convinced by Hime that he should do his duty, or “society will crumble.”

Tomaruin makes a big mess of things, first by almost burying Hime in boxes of submissions (though only one submission per box, Amazon package-style), then adding “(LOL)” to the end of every one of Kakushi’s published assessments, leading to internet ire about him not taking the duty seriously.

Speaking of duty, we see Kakei delivering manuscripts to the hilltop house Hime visits in the future, since it’s Kakei’s turn for that particular duty. The sight of a chore wheel confirms that Kakushi, his wife, and Hime lived together there once.

When the editorial board demands the last eight pages of a manuscript be redrawn, Tomaruin seals Kakushi up in a fancy hotel room, where he’s to stay until the work’s done. He’s worried about Hime being lonely (and unattended), so asks Nadila to stay past her usual time. When she can’t, Tomaruin volunteers to watch her. But for him, “her” is Nadila, on whom he has a crush, not Hime.

Kakushi is surprised when Sumita exits the shower of his hotel room, but she came to help him with his work. Because he can’t work in a suit, he changes into a bathrobe, and Sumita follows suit. As other assistants arrive to help throughout the night it gradually becomes a bathrobe party.

Meanwhile, Nadila arrives to watch Hime (her other client canceled) but Naru is already there, having run away from a fight with her parents. She and Nadila have a fun sleepover with Hime.

Tomaruin continues stalking Nadila until he’s caught by Ichiko (seemingly always on predator patrol), and Nadila, Hime, and Naru all identify him as someone different based on their past dealings with him.

While this sequence is fun, and it’s good Hime wasn’t lonely, Kakushi should probably be a bit more on top of, ya know, who comes and goes in his house, and who watches his daughter!

Another night while watching an athletic medal ceremony, Hime presents her dad with a gold medal she made. Kakushi knows that it’s likely that one day Hime will fall in love with someone and Kakushi will be relegated to “silver medal” status, but he writes the date on the medal so that when that time comes—hopefully years from then—he’ll be able to bear it.

Fast-forward to the future, when older Hime recalls when her dad wrote on the back of the medal she gave him. She realizes these newer boxes weren’t prepared by her mom, but by her dad. Tearing up, she pulls out the “17” box and hugs it, as if she were hugging a part of her dad…who it seems stills holds the “gold” for now.

Because really, she is. That eliminates any lingering doubt that she’s now an orphan. I wonder if we’ll ever learn what happened to Kakushi and more about what future Hime will do. Perhaps in the future timeline some combination of Ichiko, Naru, Nadila, and the assistants continue to figure into her equation.

Assassins Pride – 06 – Kick Back, then Run for Your Lives

Since the tournament ended so abruptly last week, I was glad for some kind of epilogue, which happens to come in the form of a belated Halloween episode. It starts with Rosetti entering Kufa’s room at night with ominous news, and then we see Melida and Elise meeting up with Salacha and Mule and heading to a secret underground pajama after-party held by the seniors of the two schools.

It’s a welcome opportunity both for the characters to relax and for this newly formed quartet to interact and bond some more. I also liked how they all admitted they had no love lives to speak of, but Mule still didn’t even bother asking poor Elli!

Then Mule and Salacha regale Melida and Elise with the harrowing legend of the Gray Witch, and how there’s a murderer in Flandore copying her M.O. of cutting out the hearts of her victims. It’s enough to make Elli faint, confirming her Little Sister status.

When the lights suddenly go out on the party and a witch appears, wreathed in pink mana, there wasn’t really any doubt was was going on: Rosetti found out about the secret party, and decided to have some fun by putting a scare into them as punishment for breaking the rules.

Of course, the girls don’t know this, and end up getting chased by the witch through wet underground waterways and getting covered in a strange squishy pink substance. It’s enough for Elli to consider simply tearing off her robes, but the others hold her back.

Personally I thought Rosa and Kufa went way too far with their fright-fest…at times it bounded on straight-up cruelty. These girls just went through a very stressful ordeal (the tournament plus Madia) and just want to kick back and relax for one night…haven’t they earned that much?

Once the Witch catches up to them, there’s a wonderful comedic moment when Salacha sprouts winged feet to fight her, and the others make a collective impressed noise…only for Salacha to bonk her head on the ceiling, followed by the others making a collective…unimpressed noise.

When they finally exit the waterway to street level, they’re relieved to find Kufa there, but the adults aren’t quite done with their tricks, as he reveals he’s bleeding from the chest and mouth, having had his heart ripped out.

Thus thoroughly terrified and chastened, Kufa has the girls apologize for breaking curfew and whatnot, but then they turn on him for his liberal use of the pink goo, which they see as perverted.

After all that running around scared, when the girls try to rise from their kneeling positions, they find their legs are asleep, so Kufa has to carry them all to a bed to sleep, only for Melida to grab his hand while he sits beside the bed, ensuring he won’t be sleeping tonight.

While the identity of the witch, and thus the stakes of the episode, were never in doubt or particularly high, respectively, this was still a fun, well-executed, seasonally appropriate episode that got to let its hair down and provided an extended intro to Salacha and Mule.