Urusei Yatsura – 06 – Earth, Lightning, Fire and Ice

Ataru is a man of simple pleasures. When it’s sukiyaki night at the Moroboshi house, he’s super-pumped. Unfortunately he’s never able to partake in the feast, as Lum grabs him and leaps through an inter-dimensional portal she made in his closet that leads to the Oni homeworld.

Lum is in battle gear, and soon so is Ataru. The lines are drawn between the Oni and the “Lucky Gods”. Ataru feels like some kind of bloody, horrific war is going to start, but the “battle” takes the form of…tower basket ball toss, an even not out of place on school sports days.

This is kinda boring to Ataru, until he spots a major babe in Benten, one of Lum’s old friends (Ishigami Shizuka). Back home, Ataru’s parents wait as long as they can, then eat all the sukiyaki, before hearing their son’s voice and freaking out. Cherry arrives to help them speak to their son, now allegedly dearly departed to the hereafter.

In reality, they can just hear him through the portal as he flirts with Benten. While she’s understandably “who is this guy” at first, once she realizes he’s Lum’s husband she decides to have a little fun at her expense and plays along. This results in Lum and Benten, the two basket minders, ignoring the game completely to fight over Ataru.

Before Cherry summons Ataru’s voice again, he has Ataru’s folks make more sukiyaki, at which point his mom has lost her patience and holds the tiny priest at knifepoint. He does the same nonsensical chanting as his niece Sakura, tuning into Ataru just as he’s facing his “punishment” as the weakest link on the losing team: being pelted with pellets by both sides.

As is typical of Urusei Yatsura, the next morning is a bit of a reset, but Ataru is in bed with a cold. Somewhat surprisingly, Shinobu is by his side tending to him, and Lum is nowhere to be found. Soon Mendou, Ataru’s friends, and Cherry are crowding the room, just as it starts to grow very cold and snowy.

Lum went to Neptune to visit a friend through the portal, so a bit of the icy world seems to be “leaking” into his room, including an avalanche’s worth of snow that buries Ataru. He’s dug up not by Shinobu or his friends, but by a new character who resembles a yuki-onna. She goes back through the portal and then down a deep chasm.

Starting with Ataru (who is pushed), everyone follows suit, and lands upside-down on the snow-packed surface of Neptune. There, Ataru reunites with Lum (in a smart tiger-print two-piece combo more appropriate for the climate than her usual bikini), who reveals the yuki-onna is her old friend Oyuki (Hayami Saori, of course).

Neptune is a world full of nothing but women, which makes it a paradise for Mendou, who is all to happy to dig snow for them endlessly. Meanwhile, Oyuki invites Ataru, Lum, Shinobu and Cherry into her futuristic mansion. Ataru can’t help but flirt with Oyuki, incurring the rage of both Shinobu and Lum (as well as Lum’s lightning).

Ataru begs to go somewhere where he’ll be safe from their wrath, praising Oyuki for being a pure, gentle, and above all non-violent maiden. However he soon finds that Oyuki, who ditched her outdoor robes for a revealing ice-blue one-piece, was planning to seduce Ataru all along. Things are about to get racy when the wall crumbles before them and B-Bo, Oyuki’s yeti attendant, takes exception to Ataru’s presence.

B-Bo chases Ataru through the Neptunian wastes and back through the portal to Earth, where news choppers capture the ensuing rooftop spectacle. Once the King Kong style incident is over, Ataru finds himself in a full body cast, tended to by both Shinobu and Lum, who hoped he learned his lesson about chasing every girl with a pulse. Of course, he didn’t learn, and will never learn—otherwise he wouldn’t be Moroboshi Ataru!

The third and final segment is the shortest, and takes place after the credits. At the end of the semester, Ataru has an announcement for everyone: he’s retiring. His teacher thinks this means he’s dropping out due to his upsettingly terrible grades, but it’s Mendou who shatters the fourth wall by assuming Ataru was retiring … as the main character of Urusei Yatsura.

Everyone goes along with this, because everyone wants to be his replacement. It results in a callback to every character large and small we’ve met so far in the first six episodes, each making their case. Finally Ataru has to disappoint them all: he’s not retiring from being the MC, but from the school presidency.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Classroom of the Elite – S2 13 (Fin) – Pax Kiyotaka

In a nice change of pace, this episode starts from Ibuki Mio’s perspective, of all things, as she visits Ryuuen’s dorm and then tracks him down. The swelling has gone down, but Ryuuen has abandoned all plans to continue the fight; he’s done. Mio doesn’t like it, and gives him a kick in frustration, but there’s no changing his mind. Clearly Kiyotaka’s beatdown had a lasting effect.

Kei wakes up realizing, in spite of knowing what kind of person he is, that she has developed feelings for him as a result of his white knight act. The cheeks don’t lie. She’s then ambushed by Maya, who like everyone else thinks she’s some expert on boys and dating due to her fake relationship with Yousuke. Maya asks for advice on her first date with Ayanokouji, even proposing a double date.

That night, Kei gets a call from Maya’s crush, but is slightly disappointed when it’s yet another business call. Still, she’s glad to be getting calls from him again, even after he’d terminated their arrangement. He wants her to investigate Maya and find out as much about her as she can.

As is appropriate for a season finale, Kiyotaka also checks in with the other major players, making an opening proposition for Suzune to join the StuCo, though he doesn’t push too hard. Kikyou spots them from a balcony above and gives them the stinkeye.

Most notably, Kiyotaka meets up with Ryuuen, who fully accepts his new role as former tyrant. He even demonstrated a measure of honor and selflessness by copping to a crime that wouldn’t get his whole crew expelled. But Kiyotaka made it so even he wouldn’t get the boot, because now that Ryuuen has been properly cowed, he is a valuable asset in his coming battle to get Kikyou expelled.

It’s not often that someone gets one over on Kiyotaka, so it’s pretty amusing that Maya turns out to be one of those people. Shortly after meeting him for their date, Kei and Hirata arrive, seemingly by coincidence, and Maya and Kei suggests the double date they wanted from the start.

Kiyotaka is a go-with-the-flow kinda guy in these situations, and so that’s just what he does as the quartet goes to see a movie and then heads to a café for some refreshment. Maya asks Kiyotaka about his future, and he says he’ll probably just go to college. Throughout the date, Kei shoots subtle little looks Kiyotaka’s way, but they either go unnoticed or ignored.

The two couples eventually split around dusk, when Maya plans to make her big confession. Kei may not be experienced in dating, but she’s 100% correct that it is both intense and a bit ludicrous to ask someone out after a first date on Christmas day. Kiyotaka turns her down how you’d expect: matter-of-factly and dispassionately, and she runs off accepting of his decision, but in tears.

That’s when Kiyotaka tells Kei to come out of her hiding spot, or she’ll catch cold. It starts to snow just as the two have a seat in the park. When she asks why he rejected Maya, Kiyotaka simply says she was a poor substitute for Kei.

Of course, he means as a pawn and informant, but Kei also happens to be a much more interesting (and after recent events, much stronger) person in general. The contrast is clear: Maya liked an idealized version of him; Kei likes the real him.

Kei casually offers Kiyotaka a Christmas gift, and is surprised when he gives her one in turn. While it’s just cold medicine, it’s the thought that counts, and she’s flattered that he worried about her to that extent, even if only in a purely practical way.

As they walk back to the dorms, Kiyotaka reveals that his abrupt termination of their arrangement, as well as rescuing her at the absolute last moment, galvanized Kei’s genuine trust in him, making her all but betrayal-proof. As he puts it, a good chunk of him has never left the White Room, where people are only tools to be used and discarded.

Those thoughts are apropos of the encounter that follows him and Kei parting ways for their respective dorms, as Sakayanaki Arisu. She greets him as if they’d known each other long ago, then references the White Room by name, notes that he, the “False Genius”, is his father’s “ultimate masterpiece”, and states that the role of “burying” him should fall to her.

So the curtain falls on a second season that ended in relative peace, with the promise of ever more intense personal battles to follow in next year’s Season 3. Whether it’s continuing his quasi-romance with Kei, making use of his new tool Ryuuen to bring Kikyou down, convincing Suzune to join the StuCo, or fending off whatever Arisu serves up, Kiyotaka will have no shortage of work to do.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Lycoris Recoil – 09 – God Is Whimsical

No sooner does Chisato not pick up than Takina is racing to the clinic like a bat out of hell. She enters the OR gun blazing, forcing Himegama to make a hasty retreat out the window, but the damage is already done. Chisato eventually awakens from the sedative, but the electric shock overloaded her heart’s battery, which can no longer be recharged. Chisato now has just two months to live.

Both Chisato and Takina are true-to-character in their reactions. Chisato basically shrugs it off as two months and ten years longer than she would have lived, and accepts her fate. Takina doesn’t want accept it, and doesn’t like how her best friend is so quick to.

Chisato heads to the DA for what she believes might be the final time, and when Kusunoki asks her to return to DA for the operation to bring down Majima, her condition is that Takina be reinstated. Sure enough, Fuki and Sakura are at LycoReco delivering Takina’s reinstatement.

After another routine mission where this time Takina apologizes for making Chisato run (she wants the battery to last as long as it can), Takina and Mizuki end up arriving at LycoReco in the middle of a private conversation between Mika and Kurumi, who has dug up enough online that Mika is compelled to tell her the story of Chisato.

Chisato had a singular talent for killing and avoiding being killed (at least by guns), but had a congenital heart condition. Yoshimatsu Shinji struck a deal with Mika, who also happened to be his lover at the time. Chisato would be fitted with a bleeding-edge artificial heart by Alan Institute, and Mika would see to it she fulfilled the promise of her talent.

Shinji made clear that even with this tech, Chisato would probably only lie to 18 – typically the retirement age for a Lycoris (if they live that long). Before the procedure, Chisato encounter Shinji in a hallway on accident, and immediately pegged him as her “Mr. Savior”, giving him a hug of gratitude. Shinji accepted the hug but soon left both her and Mika’s lives for a long while.

Having overheard Mika’s tale, Takina resolves to do everything she can to extend Chisato’s life. If that means leaving LycoReco, returning to the DA, and helping capture Majima, so be it. But before dropping this news on Chisato, she decides to take her out for what might be their last day off shopping and having fun.

Takina makes up a long and detailed schedule and keeps Chisato on it to the very minute with phone alarms. But despite being whisked from one place to another and having to move on just when she’s getting comfortable, Chisato still admits that she’s having fun, because that’s what happens whenever she’s with Takina.

The final leg in Takina’s fun day off itinerary is sitting on a bench at a hilltop park with a view of the city just when it’s supposed to start snowing. The snow doesn’t come at first, but Chisato can tell without Takina saying anything that this is about her returning to the DA. After all, it’s what Chisato told the DA would be a condition of her own return.

But for now, Chisato and Takina are to part ways. The snow finally comes while they’re still in view of one another, and they exchange bittersweet smiles of mutual affection. Chisato may have accepted the fact she only has two months left, but Takina is going back to the DA not because it’s what she wanted, but because it’s what she thinks she needs to do to give Chisato a chance she herself isn’t worrying about.

Takina is returning to the DA just as Majima and his henchmen capture Shinji and Himegama. Can Majima still be a possible ally in getting Shinji or Alan to cough up the needed tech to repair Chisato’s heart? Will the heart give out once she reaches adulthood anyway? With four episodes left, I’m hoping Takina, with help from the rest of the LycoReco crew, DA, and maybe even Majima, can save Chisato. If they can’t, that would suck!

Aharen-san wa Hakarenai – 11 – What Does Normal Mean?

Ever since that camp kiss I’ve been itching for some kind of confirmation of what was said between Aharen and Raidou, and why she ran to her tent in tears after kissing him. Unfortunately the show has zero interest in elucidating those matters, so the key to enjoying the episodes that follow has been tabling that curiosity and not letting it curdle into frustration.

Once that’s done, one can enjoy the first fallen snow of the season, which Aharen uses to build a giant Shirorin igloo where she dresses up as a maid and lovingly prepares a fancy marinated steak for Raidou’s breakfast. “Official” or not, it’s clear Aharen cares enough about this galoot to go to these lengths.

When she invites him back to the Café Aharen after school, they find it has collapsed, probably due to the heat of that day’s sun. Raidou comforts Aharen by waxing philosphical on the impermanence of all things and offers to help her rebuild. This results in the construction of a Godzilla igloo…for some reason.

After their efforts, Raidou notices Aharen’s hands are red and shivering, so he takes them into his and warms them up. Lest there be any doubt about Aharen’s feelings for Raidou, she warms up extremely quickly while the redness becomes localized in the facial area.

The next day Aharen greets and walks so stiffly, Raidou wonders if she’s turned into some kind of Mega Man. They go to the nurse’s office, but neither the nurse nor Ooshiro are there, so Raidou volunteers to help her stretch. Turns out she can take quite a bit more force than he expected, as his efforts to go easy on her only lead to her wanting more.

When Aharen notices Raidou is also stiff in the back and shoulders, she agrees to walk on his back. She’s worried she’s “too heavy”, but he says he’s not that delicate, and indeed she’s the perfect weight an her steps the perfect rhythm to lull him to sleep. Aharen tries to use this to steal another kiss, but the nurse arrives at just the wrong moment.

It’s comforting to know I am not the only one curious about what happened at the camping trip; audience surrogates and “normal kids” Satou and Ishikawa are trying to determine the same thing.

In the process, Satou and Ishikawa have a nice little one-on-one chat where she notes that everyone around them is so weird she wonders if she’s not normal for being normal, while Ishikawa, her childhood friend, tells her he likes the variety, and also thinks she’s interesting too. Maybe these two normies should be looking in a mirror as to who is dating whom!

The next day is the weekend, and without explanation we see Raidou in street clothes waiting for Aharen, who was up late deciding what to wear. This is clearly date stuff, but neither of them comments on it, because they probably aren’t aware.

Raidou assumed Aharen wanted to participate in the blade spinner tournament at the mall, but for much of their date she seems to be surveying all the available food, leading him to wonder if she’s secretly a hotel tycoon. Aharen clears things up; she’s going all-out for her family’s New Years dinner.

Just when Raidou is starting to realize this might be, if not a date, a very good day, Futaba and Akkun show up. Akkun sees Aharen clinging to Raidou and challenges the “junior apprentice” to a blade spinner duel at the tournament. Both lose in the first round, while Aharen wins her fifth straight Ultimate Division belt. Turns out she stayed up late customizing her spinner after choosing what to wear!

Finally, the definition of their day comes down to the mouths of babes, specifically Futaba. When Raidou describes what he and Aharen have done, she informs them that that’s, like…a damn date. With that realization, Aharen once again turns red and starts steaming.

Even if we’re not getting any straight or normal answers, it’s pretty clear these two are an inseparable pair, and actions matter more than definitions. As for why Ooshiro was absent this entire episode? She’s been training her mind and body for what seems to be a final challenge to Raidou.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 3 – 10 – A Better Snowman

Dang photo bombers…your ruining the shot!

Knowing it would be hard-pressed to top last week’s full-length Takagi x Nishikata wonder-date, this week’s episode doesn’t bother; instead it returns to the warm, cozy, less dramatic flow of the couple’s interactions. Last week wasn’t an official acknowledgment that they’re dating now, but such a formality isn’t needed with these two. They’re fine just existing beside one another, fitting like, well, gloves!

To whit: the two didn’t plan to meet at the shrine visit; their families just happened to come at the same time. It sure looks like those two married couples were their parents, doesn’t it? I feel like at some point they’ll have to meet each other’s parents, but that they don’t mean we get more time with these two. hen Takagi is called back to her folks, Nishikata says they should do it again next year…which she says happened to be her shrine wish. Who’s to say it wasn’t?

Yes, that’s right…make that ball bigger…

The next segment is classic Master Teaser, with Takagi up to her old tricks in cornering Nishikata into a snowman-building contest knowing full well that he’ll get to ambitious. While he’s sweatily rolling dirty lumpen mounds trying to build a Snow Titan, Takagi puts a lot of time and care and quite effortlessly builds the cutest lil’ snowman in all the land…so cute Nishikata doubts he’d have won. even if he’d finished…which Takagi helps him do.

NGL, from a distance this looks like a confession…

After Nishikata’s friends and the three girls have their little mini-scenes talking about the new year, we come to “Advice”, when Houjou takes Nishikata aside and asks him what he thinks Hamaguchi might like for his birthday. Yuuki Aoi is masterful at sounding both mature and incredibly hot-and-cold. For his part, Nishikata is both thoughtful and helpful. Then Houjou asks him to keep their chat a secret.

Little did Nishikata know that Takagi spotted him talking with Houjou, and asks him what about. When Nishikata demurs, she guesses correctly on the first guess, and pretty much knows, but Nishikata still won’t break his secret. Takagi’s facial expressions are so subtle here, but you can tell she’s a little mad Nishikata is keeping something from her…even if she knows what it is with 99.99% certainty!

Takagi expresses her jealousy by trying to stoke Nishikata’s, saying she wants to know what to get a “15-year-old boy”—not a Chihuahua, but a third-year middle schooler. This does affect Nishikata, who doesn’t want to give advice for some other guy…even though these two spend so much time together he would know of such a guy!

Of course, this time, Takagi is referring to Nishikata on his next birthday. He’s quite relieved, and apologizes for not being able to break his promise. Takagi apologizes too, owning up to the fact she did do something a little mean. When Nishikata asks her why she doesn’t always think that, she says this and her usual gentle teasing are two different things!

When Nishikata flat-out asks Takagi why she teases him, her answer is as expected…“Who knows?” But she knows, and so does Nishikata, and it’s the same reason they’re already making plans for spending next year together.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 3 – 09 – The Thing You Wanted Most

Once, in a blue moon, an anime gives you exactly what you want. This was one of those times. All I wanted was to bask in the adorable bliss of Takagi and Nishikata’s 100% Unrequited Love: The Movie Date, and that is what I got. No school, no ancillary characters…just our main couple, together, like they were always meant to be.

The show teases us a bit by starting with Nishikata’s dream of “SanTa-kagi” visiting his home in the middle of the night and giving him a gag gift, then shows us Takagi at the ferry pier looking lonely and a little worried…until she spots Nishikata running to her, late and apologetic.

Nishikata realizes that with the year about to end he hasn’t scored a single victory against Takagi; a wrong he’s determined to right. After the ferry ride, he suggests they kill time at an arcade, and come across a new 100% crane game. His heart is set on the Kyunko+Ikeo plushie set, but tries to go for the easier score: a puzzle.

He fails, losing both to Takagi and to himself for trying for the easy win at the cost of what he really wanted. Then it’s Takagi’s turn at the controls and she quickly and effortlessly acquires the plushie set…which she can tell was the thing Nishikata really wanted, and so immediately gifts to him. She’s simply happy to have done something to make him happy.

When the two move on to the movie theater, Nishikata is very cognizant of the fact that some “couples” there might be fake couples who are only putting on airs so they can get the special gift for couples. While he considers himself and Takagi to be one of those “couples of convenience”, he’s determined to pass them off as a real couple (which of course they actually are).

This results in him strutting up to one of the attendants and declaring “two tickets for the Nishikata couple”—rather than Nishikata reservation—both surprising and delighting Takagi in the process. They also decide to go in on a “100% In Love Set”—two sodas and a large popcorn to share. Before heading into the theater, Nishikata hangs back to go to the bathroom, but he really just needs some time alone to write a Christmas card for Takagi.

When he enters the theater and spots the familiar back of Takagi’s head, he thinks to himself “I’m gonna sit…right next to her?” Yes you are, Nishikata, and you’ll like it! The two unwrap the special couple gift, which turns out to be a set of miniature figurines of a Santa Ikeo giving Shunko a Christmas gift.

The movie starts, and as the two lovebird dip into the popcorn their hands touch. As we know, the same voice actors who voice them also voice Shunko and Ikeo. The two thoroughly enjoy the movie, with Nishikata unable to hold back tears as the credits roll.

After the movie, the two stroll around town a bit, with Takagi asking Nishikata what kind of girl is his type, guessing that it’s someone like Kyunko—a bit of a klutz but also earnest and kind and always trying her best. Nishikata says he doesn’t think of Kyunko quite that way, and that’s to be expected, as he’s the Kyunko to Takagi’s Ikeo in their relationship!

Quite suddenly, Takagi challenges Nishikata to a race to an electric pole, which he wins easily, netting him his first and only “win” of the year, just what he wanted. Naturally, he gets totally full of himself and believes he simply cannot lose to Takagi, proving it by having her guess which hand he has a coin in.

Later, she bumps into him from behind, and, sensing something’s up, asks her straight-up what’s up with her. Turns out she decided to try acting like the klutzy-yet-earnest Kyunko for a little while, hoping he’d think she was cute. But Nishikata likes Takagi the way she is, teasing and all.

Takagi just happens to pose in front of the town Christmas tree as it lights up, spurning Nishikata to produce his Christmas present to her: a pair of gloves to keep her hands warm. Takagi can’t hide her surprise, nor her joy, at being given a thoughtful gift by the boy she likes. Nishikata notes that this isn’t turning out anything like his dream…which is good!

Takagi then gives Nishikata her Christmas gift to him: a scarf she made for him, partly while they were on library duty. Then they board the ferry back home, and Nishikata walks Takagi to her house, and they wave goodbye to each other. There’s no classic “confession” scene…but there doesn’t have to be one.

Nishikata walks, then runs home full of joy, having experienced perhaps the best day of his life. The Christmas card he bought and wrote for Takagi was advertised at the store as something “to someone you care about!” Turns out Takagi bought the very same card for him.

So while the actual messaging on the cards is somewhat cordial—he writes “Thanks for everything today”; she writes “Thanks for another fun year”—the more important message conveyed to one another is that they wrote those messages on a card they bought knowing it was for someone they cared about. Someone they love spending time with.

I don’t see how Nishikata can ever dare to deny who Takagi is to him anymore. Not after he, and Takagi, and all of us got everything we could have ever asked for, and more, out of the Best Date Ever.

RABUJOI WORLD HERITAGE LIST

Shin no Nakama – 09 – Warm Hands, Full Hearts

Ruti takes Tisse and their Fisher-Price airship and head for Zoltan to break an alchemist out of jail. Why is the Hero abandoning the rest of her party to do crimes? Because the goatman gave her a sample of the Devil’s Blessing, which weakens her Hero’s Blessing and makes her more human.

She wants a steady supply of the drug, and she trusts Tisse. We get more time with the tiny assassin than all previous episodes combined, and thanks to the legendary Kugimiya Rie (Tisse’s seiyu) and the adorable Crawly Wawly, all of that time is a delight. This is an episode full of jokes that keep things light, unlike the last two weeks where all the self-serious plotting got on my nerves.

I also said the last two weeks that all I really care about is the main couple, but that’s not true; I always cared about Ruti and was fascinated by the curse of her Blessing, and now I care about her and Tisse, who hides the fact that she’s a sweaty bundle of nerves beneath her cool exterior.

Speaking of cool, Winter has come to Zoltan, and business at Red and Rit’s is slow since people don’t want to leave their homes. Rit suggests Red craft a hand warmer similar to the ones form Loggervia, and they’re a big hit in town. Rit saves one warmer for her and Red to share, strolling until they find a private park bench where they  can cuddle and smooch.

That’s the good stuff right there: the Quiet Life of the show’s very long title that both OP and ED promise and that drew me to this show to begin with. That said, that coziness blends well with the gently building tension as Ruti and Tisse get closer to Zoltan, but don’t run into Red and Rit immediately.

In fact, both Ruti and Red end up dealing with the same bridge knight seeking to challenge anyone who crosses. Ruti easily dispatches him into the river where he loses all of his possession. When he challenges Red in nothing but his bear boxers, Red does the same thing, and he loses he boxers too.

Tisse encounters Red first, not knowing who he is when they’re sitting beside each other at a very chill udon stand. As both are seasoned professionals, they quickly but discreetly size one another up and determine that they could be trouble; Tisse because she’s a capable assassin, and Red because Tisse can tell he’s a far stronger knight than the one who lost his drawers.

As expected, Ruti has no trouble at all executing a prison break and extracting Godwin, the alchemist, who will make as much of whatever Ruti wants if she just stops staring at him. The next morning Tisse wakes up to find Ruti didn’t sleep…but you get the feeling if she had enough Devil’s Blessing, she could, and she wants to.

What leads Ruti and Red to finally cross paths at the very end of the episode is nothing contrived, but a practical matter of Ruti not wanting to heal Godwin’s wounds with her Hero’s magic lest her cover be blown. For that, she needs an apothecary, and Tisse, who had already scouted the whole place, knows where the best one is.

What Ruti didn’t know is that the apothecary is the same guy who she met at the udon stand. Fresh from a fairy hamlet on Zoltan’s outskirts where he healed a very blue, very pretty, very naked undine from a cold-like curse that seems to be going around, there he is, welcoming new customers. When Ruti and Red lock eyes and realize that fate has brought them together, Ruti can’t conceal her overflowing happiness.

With tears of joy in her eyes and a huge smile, she pounces on her onii-chan with abandon. I suspect the beautiful reunion will be somewhat marred once Red learns Ruti is in Zoltan to procure drugs that make her a weaker hero. In any case, this week was a marked improvement on the previous two.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Sonny Boy – 09 – 3 Cats and a Kotatsu

I’m still thinking about Episode 8, so I knew it would be hard to top it…for anything to top it anytime soon. Episode 9 doesn’t come close…but it does begin with the three Nyamazon cats shooting the shit like three wise old farts under a kotatsu. It’s just the latest reminder that predicting what Sonny Boy will throw at you from one week to the next is like trying to predict every move in a chess game when you’re not in the same room.

The cats, famous lovers of warmth, are under the kotatsu because outside the kotatsu is a frozen, snowy world. Nozomi, Nagara, Yamabiko, and their human Mizuho have traveled there to try to settle a thousands-of-years-old battle between two twins over who has the most hairs on their head (one claims to have one more). But it’s also a look back at Mizuho, and how the white cat Sakura believes she can’t survive without the three of them.

Honestly, the twin story is a bit dull, but it at least ties into the concept of duplication, which we learn is to be Mizuho’s true power. Everything the cats deliver to Mizuho and the others is a copy of products from the original world they came from. While Mizuho’s inner circle certainly wouldn’t hold it against her, the cats, who have been with Mizuho since she was a kid and still believe her to be one, are determined to keep it under wraps.

It’s Yamabiko who approaches Sakura with his suspicion that everything the cats deliver is copies. Sakura then admits that Rajdhani had previously figured out that Mizuho had copied everyone from the world, and now they’re drifting as copies of the people they once were, both the same and different, like the twins. Mind you, this dawned on Rajdhani when two copies of a tick dating Game Boy game(!) arrived, even though he knows there was only ever one in existence.

Yet Rajdhani didn’t tell a soul, proving to the cats he had “a fine character, for being so hairless”. Two copies were made of Sou Seiji, like someone accidentally ordering two of something on Amazon by clicking twice.

Sakura is caught in a bear trap to be a sacrifice of one of the twins, but Mizuho and Yamabiko save her. When armed with a gold ray gun by the shit-stirrer Aki-sensei, the other twin ends up with another ray gun, resulting in a duel that ends with only one twin standing, only for that surviving twin to take his own life.

Mixed in with this is how Asakaze seems to be making a habit of lashing out at Nozomi for not liking him romantically, leading to her spending the night outside sulking. One of the cats keeps her company all night, and in the blood red morning Nagara joins them, thanking her for “showing him the light”, leading him to change.

In a world full of copies and sheep, Nozomi, Nagara, Mizuho and Yamabiko (not to mention Rajdhani) stand out as one-of-a-kind souls who all thank the likes of Aki-sensei or Asakaze to let them pick their own places.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Duke of Death and His Maid – 09 – Secondborns Roasting on an Open Fire

It’s Christmas, and for the first time, Bocchan is going to host a party. Caph and Zain are coming, and so is Viola with the gift of a handkerchief for Rob. When their mom insists that Viola spend Christmas with “family” she does just that: by spending it with her dear brother. Strangely enough, Walter ends up doing so as well, as he replaces Viola’s driver in order to get a better idea of who he’s dealing with in Bocchan.

Zain ends up finally telling Caph she’s pretty while she’s apparently napping, but she was actually awake and heard his words. In her haste to see Rob, Viola drops her gift, which is picked up by Walter, who then finds a Santa costume in the hall and puts it on just as Caph crosses paths with him. Since Caph still believes in Santa she assumes the gift is for her.

As Caph and Viola bicker over the gift, Walter comes down the chimney in a cloud of soot and issues a challenge his older brother: the first one to discover the secret of the curse will become the new head of the family. As for their mother, well, she gets to eat dinner alone, because she’s an awful bitch who tried and failed to ruin at least two of her three kids!

As the new prologue to episodes states, Bocchan is never lonely, ever since he decided not to give up, and to instead spend his days together with Alice, whom he loves and who loves him in return. Alice very much wants a kiss under the mistletoe, and part of me thought this was the moment they learned the curse didn’t affect her…but she settles for sharing the “coldness” of the snow by lying down next to Bocchan after he trips and falls.

It’s a pleasant if somewhat static episode. I couldn’t care less about Walter and his challenge, but it was sweet to see Zain and Caph’s relationship take a baby step forward. As for the curse, there’s still three episodes to break it. Better get cracking, Bocchan!

The Duke of Death and His Maid – 08 – Beauty and the Grouch

This week’s first segment introduces us to Bocchan’s younger brother Walter, and…he’s a lot. First and foremost, he’s a bit of an arrogant prick, already measuring the drapes for his ascension to head of the family. He’s also got a complex about being called the secondborn son…even though that’s what he is. His goofy antics and physical comedy aside, Walter is not a good guy. At least Viola visits her big brother and treats him like a person!

While her official stance is neutral, I imagine Viola prefers Bocchan to Walter, and hopes he’ll break the curse. During her latest visit, she meets Caph, initially assumes she’s a burglar (not a bad instinct!) and attempts to tackle her, only to bounce off her bust. Then she sits on Caph and ties her up by the fire, which is the scene Rob walks in on, much to Viola’s dismay.

While Viola is charming, cute and fun to watch, the real meat of the episode comes in the final extended segment, during which both Bocchan and Alice play a game of chess during a snowy winter night and reminisce about a similar night years ago, when Alice was appointed Bocchan’s maid. Bocchan was in a much darker, more nihilistic emotional place then, and his first instincts were to dismiss Alice and suspect she’s laughing at him on the inside.

This is because, no doubt due in part to the trauma of suffering the witch’s curse, he doesn’t remember Alice. He certainly isn’t aware of just how momentous him taking her hand and helping her off the ground meant to her at that difficult time in her life. That’s right: the kid who now kills anything he touches once essentially saved Alice’s life…with his touch.

No matter how many insults Bocchan flings Alice’s way or derides her mere presence, or tells her he flat out hates her, Alice does not bend, at least not in front of him; we see a rare moment of her vulnerability after he leaves his room and sighs. When he gives her an ultimatum of cleaning his rock starred-up room in three days or she’s fired, she does it in one night, even though she cuts up her fingers picking up shards of glass.

When Bocchan sees Alice isn’t leaving, he decides to leave instead, trudging out into a winter storm until he’s lost and freezing. It’s then that he decides it would be better to just die than continue living the joke of a life he’s endured thus far, unable to touch or be touched.

But it’s while lying in the snow that he finally remembers who Alice was. That’s when Alice arrives to help him up the way he helped her up years ago. The only difference is there’s an umbrella between their hands this time. Alice fell for Bocchan that day, and never stopped falling for him since.

The Witch told Bocchan “No one shall love you, and you shall love no one. You will live a life of misery.” But that’s no longer true once the two come in from the cold and warm themselves by the fire. Alice does love and care for Bocchan, then and always, and Bocchan soon comes to love her right back as the misery in his life gives way to that love and the joy it brings.

Could it be that ever since that snowy night, the witch’s curse has been broken all this time, except that he can only touch Alice? If Bocchan can touch Alice, could it be long before he can safely touch Viola, or Rob, or Caph and Zain, or Walter…or even his mother? Maybe it will all come down to loving and being loved. We shall see in the final third of Duke of Death and His Maid

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Duke of Death and His Maid – 04 – The Witch and the Snow Fairy

After three weeks of chiding her for getting so close to him, one day Alice is keeping her distance, seemingly avoiding Bocchan. When he tries to approach her, she Shunpos away like a Shinigami out of Bleach. But he soon deduces that she’s caught a cold and doesn’t want to give it to him.

Defying her caution, he tucks her into bed in her cottage and vows to stay by her side until she’s better. It’s a lovely inversion of their usual dynamic, with Alice seeminly capable of anything while Bocchan is weak an ineffectual.

Winter has come to Bocchan’s villa, and with it a fresh blanket of morning snow. The episode really captures the childlike glee that comes with the first sight of such a snowfall (assuming you’re not trying to drive to work that morning).

Bocchan is similarly elated to get to see Alice set against the pure white backdrop, accentuating her loveliness. The two and Rob build a snowman and have a spirited snowball fight, with Alice demonstrating she also has Matrix-like powers of evasion.

In the midst of all the wintry fun, Alice loses one of her earrings, which belonged to her mother and is thus precious and irreplaceable. By the time she realizes it’s gone it’s nighttime and snowing harder, but Bocchan goes out unbidden to dig through the snow looking for it.

The conditions quickly sap his energy, and he’s soon lying in the snow, exhausted. This is how the witch Caph finds him, and when she hears what hes doing, for whom, and why, and that he won’t give up, her initially hostile stance softens, and she decides to help him with her fire magic.

The earring thus found, Bocchan and Caph go in and the witch is introduced to Alice. A lazier or more obvious choice would be to make Alice jealous of Caph for vice versa, but the two women get along famously, and in any case, Caph apparently has her own guy friend whom she admires and adores the similar to how Bocchan and Alice adore each other.

What she doesn’t have is any concrete answers for Bocchan about his curse or how to break it, no matter how much Alice plies her with food, tea, and dessert. Caph is sympathetic to Bocchan’s plight and has even taken a shine to the guy, but she doesn’t consider herself anywhere near the league of the witch who did this to him.

Caph flies off in her bat form, but I’m sure she’ll be back. The next day while outside touching up the Bocchan snowman, Alice recalls a memory from when she was bullied by the rich kids for not being rich, even though she was adorable. Only Bocchan was kind to her, dusting the snow off of her (he could touch people at the time) and saying she looks like a beautiful snow fairy when set against the white powder.

It really brings into focus Alice’s love and devotion to Bocchan, and when he says the same thing he said back then—that she’s like a snow fairy—Alice can’t help but chortle gleefully, for her beloved Bocchan has scarcely changed in all these years. Indeed, the main change is the curse, about which hopefully something will be done before this series concludes.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Super Cub – 10 – The Girls of Winter

For me, there are few things better than waking up in a warm cozy bed, pulling open the curtains and discovering that the world has become white—or silver, as Koguma puts it—with a fresh, immaculate coat of snow. So when Koguma does just this, I can relate.

And while she prepares for a day in, as she doesn’t want to try to ride on the slick roads, Reiko gives her a call demanding she come to the cabin, and Koguma braves the suddenly very steep and terrifying hill from her apartment building. She’s rewarded with tire chains for her Cub.

Once properly affixed to the tires, Koguma and Reiko can truly go wherever the fuck they want, and they decide to head up into the mountains for a bit of mechanical horseplay. Koguma crashes her Cub for the first time ever, but thanks to the thick, soft snow, she’s able to pop right back up and remount her trusty steel steed.

She even follows Reiko in doing some jumps and then basically riding around so wildly that they both crash almost on purpose. Especially when they remove their helmets and layers, I kept waiting for a chime and message to pop up saying “Do not attempt. Messing around on motorbikes can cause serious injury or death”…but it never came!

We’ve seen Reiko continually battle Fujiyama, but this is the first time we’ve seen Koguma really cut loose and go wild, following her friend’s lead. There’s a wonderful sense of momentousness mixed with mundaneness in watching them share their usual bikeside meal with such a majestic alpine backdrop.

After lunch, it’s back to playing with their Cubs in the snow. Reiko starts a snowball fight, but Koguma escalates by peeling out her Cub so it shoots loads of snow on Reiko in retaliation. They wrap up their fun but tiring day with a relaxing cup of joe at Buerre, assuring Shii that she can join them next time, with Reiko joking that she’ll stuff her in her cargo box.

As winter goes on, Koguma and Reiko continue to augment their riding kit with ever-thicker, warmer, tougher gear. All the while, Koguma can tell Shii is working hard on converting part of Buerre to an Italian café. While having coffee there with Shii out, her dad says he’s glad she’s finally enjoying the quirky Alex Moulton bike he gave her, and that it’s as if she’s trying to catch up to Koguma and Reiko. But for the record, he’s happy the girls are insipiring Shii.

Unfortunately, while neither Koguma nor Reiko have ever suffered any serious injuries from riding, Shii isn’t so lucky on her Moulton. I’d say it was inevitable the winter would claim someone, but I figured it would be one of the girls suffering a fever or something. Certainly not the realization of a parent’s worst and most absurd fears: “What if you were in a ditch somewhere?!”

Well, Shii is in a ditch, half submerged in icy water and apparently unable to move. Thankfully she’s able to call Koguma, and Koguma answers. Hopefully she (perhaps with help from Reiko and Shii’s parents) will track her down and she’ll be okay. But that doesn’t lessen the sheer horror of seeing Shii in that position, or the audacity of the episode simply ending without getting her out of danger!

Fruits Basket – 53 – Let’s Make Footprints Together

Kuragi Machi hates perfection. She hates it wherever it is, such that when presented with a fresh box of chalk, she must dash it on the floor, shattering every piece. Two classmates report her stunt to Yuki at the StuCo office, mentioning a rumor she was kicked out of her home for trying to kill her brother. Machi stops by the office just in time to see her classmates have spread the rumor to Yuki, and runs off with her awful parents’ voices in her head.

Manabe partially corroborates the classmates’ story, but he admits he only knows the story the parents fed him, so it might not be true. What Manabe does know is that he once watched Machi obsessively make footprints in the freshly fallen snow. Manabe takes Yuki to Machi’s apartment, which Yuki charitiably describes as the “Sea of Decay”, while Manabe hands him one of her bras. Manabe then leaves the two alone to take out the trash.

Manabe leaves the two alone to take out the trash, and as Yuki tapes her cracked window, Machi tells him to ask and believe whatever he wants, since she’s given up trying to set the record straight. Yuki rather easily deduces that Machi is bothered by orderly things. It harkens to the fact her awful parents demanded absolute perfection, then dismissed her as boring and lacking in individuality.

When her little brother was born, her parents got the son they wanted, and had no further use for her. Yuki rejects her being something her parents “got wrong”, as she worked hard to be the Machi he knows and he’s glad she’s there. Machi admits she was never jealous of her brother; she was only trying to place a blanket on him when she thought he might get cold.

It was her psycho mom who accused her of trying to kill him, leading to her exile and the rumors. Then Yuki says if the snow piles up, he’ll make footprints in it with her. That hella-smooth line almost leads to a kiss between the two, were it not for the unsilenced phone of an  eavesdropping Manabe.

The next day at the StuCo meeting, Kimi thoughtlessly slides another fresh box of chalk in Machi’s face, but just as Machi is freaking out, Yuki reaches over and snaps one of the pieces without interrupting his announcements.

For the first time, Machi looks forward to the next time it snows, while I look forward to Machi and Yuki growing closer. After the meeting, Yuki makes a quick check-in and is just in time to save Tooru from a ladder off which Kyou falls. Then he heads to an “appointment” with none other than graduating senior Minagawa Motoko.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Motoko despite her often underhanded tactics to get a little closer to Yuki, so I was perfectly fine with her getting a proper sendoff scene here, in which she wants to make clear and plain her feelings to Yuki not so he’ll return them, but just so he knows she loved him, he made her school days happy, and she hopes he’ll find happiness too, or greater happiness if he’s already happy.

We then learn why Nao has been so hostile towards Yuki and even called him his “rival”, when he locates Motoko giving the classroom one last look and tries his best to make his feelings known to her. Like she did with Yuki, it’s more about wishing her well in the future than confessing and expecting an answer, and Motoko’s response seems more than enough for Nao.

The final few minutes are a grab bag, as Hiro meets his baby sister Hinata, Kagura worries about Isuzu’s whereabouts to Hatori and Shigure, and Isuzu emerges from what looks like a building on the Souma compound, donning a white robe and having just cut her hair short. I couldn’t help but notice how closely she resembles Akito from behind, and that might just be intentional on her part. To be continued…

Rating: 4/5 Stars

%d bloggers like this: