Musaigen no Phantom World – 04

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It’s very appropriate that this week’s episode of Phantom World begins with a binge session at a restaurant, as it’s Restaurant Week here and I just got back from stuffing myself. The episode then transforms into an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of whimsy focused on the show’s resident eating champion, Izumi Reina.

After dinner, she splits from Haru and Mai and ends up boarding a very unusual bus that takes her…somewhere. Our first go-round with the process is very mysterious, because one minute she’s boarding the bus, the next, she’s outside the front gate of her house. The next morning, Koito (Hi Koito!) confesses to witnessing the whole thing, determining that Reina is possessed by a phantom.

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That assertion proves very true when Haruhiko boards the bus with Reina next time. She’s totally out of it, as if hypnotized, but he’s lucid as the bus transports them, in a sequence that (not accidentally) owes much to the train journey in Spirited Away, to another place; an idealized storybook home complete with adorable bunny caricatures of Reina’s parents (who are a lot stricter in real life.)

As is usually the case in scenarios such as this, eating the food is a bad idea, but Haruhiko realizes this too late, and grows his own bunny ears and a pastel texture to his character design that indicates he’s been “taken” by this place. He acts out Reina’s fantasy as his big brother, until the fantasy breaks and the two are back at the front of her real house, with her real father wanting to know who Haruhiko is. Reina sends him home, promising to explain everything later.

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Turns out Mai reminds Reina very strongly of her real big sister, who got tired of their parent’s tightassery and flew the coop. So after Haruhiko fails miserably in trying to sketch-seal the bus the next time (he’s still under the phantoms’ influence), Mai and Ruru board with Haruhiko and Reina, and end up in the fantasy world with them. Ruru, who is unaffected by the food, ends up accidentally gives Mai a taste, thus bewitching her too.

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It’s not until Haruhiko goes to the bathroom of all things, that he snaps out of it; I imagined the food he ate was the cause of the hypnosis, and when he shat it out, the effects dissipated. He refers to the bathroom as a portal between the real and unreal, or some such. In any case, he takes a chance and ends up successfully snapping Reina out of it by hugging her, a gesture that always elicits a reaction in the form of a martial arts throw.

Once she’s lucid, watching the still-bewitched Mai interact with her “phantom parents” Reina realizes the phantoms fed on her desire for her family to be whole again, creating a world where she could live happily ever after even without that sister.

When the phantoms tell her to make a choice, Haruhiko beseeches her to stay in the world in which she belongs, so she can be there if and when her sister returns home. Reina chooses to reject the phantom world and stay strong beside her senpais. All in all, a very lush, atmospheric episode with heavy Ghibli influence, which taught us a little more about Reina. Though we still don’t know where all that food she eats goes…

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Sailor Moon Crystal – 03

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And then there were three.

Hino Rei AKA Sailor Mars is introduced quickly and efficiently, just in time to aid in the Guardian’s “toughest” fight to date, against one of the Four Kings of the Dark Kingdom, Jadeite, who is done delegating his work to underlings.

I hasten to note that the villains continue to be the most underwhelming aspect of this show so far, but there’s a certain retro appeal to their general ineptness. After all, who wants to see the Sailor Guardians lose, especially to these heels?

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Usagi meets Rei when Ami makes her aware of her existence, and Rei is so beautiful Usagi sets to work stalking her immediately. In this instance Usagi’s shallowness proves integral to not only recruiting Rei, but helping Rei discover why she was born with strange powers.

I liked how Rei sensed a “demonic atmosphere” when Usagi arrived at her shrine and acted accordingly. Usagi isn’t what I’d call “not trouble”, but it’s the good kind of trouble that protects the weak and punishes evil.

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Jadeite adopts a local legend of a “demon bus” that spirits people away, something for which the parents of one child blame Rei and her peculiar powers. But no, it’s just the bad guys taking loads of hostages to serve as Sailor Guardian bait, and it works like a charm.

You’d think Jadeite and his ilk would be able to sense Rei’s latent powers, but he treats her as another human hostage. Usagi’s impulsive, shortsighted nature leads to her discovering where the hostages are being held.

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Jadeite’s oversight proves poetically unfortunate. Moon and Mercury’s magic has little effect on him, but Rei’s fire easily cancels out his ice. Jadeite’s pal Nephrite talked big earlier, but he’s notably absent when Jadeite is suddenly outnumbered three-to-one.

With the introduction of the bad-ass Sailor Mars, we’ve got two more guardians to meet, plus they have to figure out who this “princess” is they’re supposed to protect, as well as locate the “Legendary Silver Crystal.” There’s lots more to do, but plenty of time to do it. Meanwhile, things are coming together nicely.

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Sasami-san@Ganbaranai – 08

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Having grown incredibly corpulent as a result of an alteration by the myriad gods, Sasami seals herself in an Ama-no-Iwato (heavenly rock cave). Kamiomi, Kagami, and Tama attempt to penetrate it to see what’s eating her, but she deflects them with a barrage of weaponry. Tsurugi returns from Yomi by using the Ame-no-Murakumo, and sends Sasami into the past. In this time, Sasami witnesses her mother fight for a better world to pass on to her, while she goofs off downtown and contracts an illness that turns out to be possession by Tamamo-no-Mae ( a nine-tailed fox), who attacks her mother with a sessho-seki (killing stone golem) and is aware of the preent-day Sasami’s presence.

We’re almost embarrassed to note that most of our knowledge of Japanese mythology is coming from this series as we watch it, so we have no idea how faithfully they’re portraying it. Our gross ignorance aside, we greatly enjoyed this episode, in which Sasami is the victim of an alteration rather than the lucky recipient, has her barrier besieged by her brother and the Yagami sisters, and is sent to the past by Tsurugi to resolve it. We thought we’d seen the last of her mother Juju-sama after her defeat last week, but she returns here in her prime, as a woman torn between being a dutiful shrine maiden and a loving, caring mother. She cannot be both, but she still tries.

Seeing her mom in this time, still alive and non-evil, working so hard to make the world a better place for her, Sasami can’t help but feel guilt for what she amounted to. She sees what she did – casting away her duty as her mother’s relief – as a betrayal, and she doesn’t feel great about it. But at the same time, her mother longed to be the normal human mother Sasami wanted her to be. This week we’re also introduced to Micchan, a girl who has been spirited away and forgotten her name and family (she’s even dressed kinda like Chihiro!), who feels she and Sasami are both insecure by the superior capability and excellence around them. And as we know, Sasami ultimately gave up.


Rating: 8 (Great)