Sonny Boy – 07 – Nagara Inverted

Sonny Boy loves starting episodes in media res, and this week is no different, as we sit in on the 601,344th meeting of the Drift Victims Society. If it’s a weekly meeting, that means it’s been going on for 11,564 years, give or take a decade. Needless to say, the majority of those assembled are looking for someone to blame for this predicament.

Now they know it’s Nagara, and they condemn him and promise justice, whipping the enraged mob into a bitter froth.

Meanwhile on the island, the Mizuho, Pony, and Yamada watch Hoshi’s faction loads up the Ark with supplies in preparation for a journey from which they won’t be returning. Yamada, who’s been around as long at least half of those meetings, describes the thousands of other castaways, and how it’s taken thousands of years for them to figure out how to travel between worlds.

That this newest class was able to do it in a matter of weeks or months means whatever this “culling” is that God is doing, it’s breeding more capable students with each generation.

When Nagara liberates Rajdhani’s ant farm before he lets the ants start eating each other, he comes upon an exercise bar, and when he decides to flip himself on it. That’s when the episode goes full Patema Inverted, as his world is flipped upside down. A strange student who is completely covered by a giant folded umbrella greets him before he starts falling…up.

Nagara wakes up in the middle of a shift, with helmeted students working tirelessly like worker ants building an endlessly tall tower (but oddly enough, carrying the building blocks downward). Nagara being Nagara, he tries to keep his head down and roll with the punches. He’s bailed out and befriended by the kindhearted Futatsubushi…who’s been at this for over two centuries.

Futatsubushi is charmed by Nagara’s “new guy” aura. Everyone in this world were students of the same school, but now all they’re doing is building the tower…and eating gross invertebrates and insects during their breaks. Hakuna Matata, I guess. Futatsubushi makes it feel like a simple, honest life, even if its seemingly dead-end one.

That night, Nagara is ready to return home, only to find he can’t use his powers. That’s because the “Host” or boss of this world—a guy with glasses who wears a tall sock on his head and is umbrella guy’s associate in an elite group of castaways called Beatnik—is able to nullify those powers. The two hang out atop Babel, basically waiting to see if and when Nagara can figure his way out of this place.

While striking out with Futatsubushi to discover the urban legend of shooting stars, Nagara instead discovers a macro version of the predatory luminescent bugs Rajdhani once showed him. We don’t watch his gruesome “end”—only his screams—but before that he has a very bittersweet monologue about how it’s important to believe in nonsense or continuing to go after a hope, even if it’s false…because otherwise, what is there?

The question of “if not this, than what?” seems foremost in the mind of Nozomi as she watches the cubic Ark carrying Nozomi and most of the rest of the class off to parts unknown grow smaller and smaller in the sky before disappearing altogether. It’s such a simple image as presented, but so haunting and lonely. Meanwhile, the prickly but loyal Mizuho searches diligently for her friend Nagara.

Futatsubushi probably inspired our guy to keep going forward and putting in an effort, even if Hoshi has said many times before that getting home is not in the cards. After remembering when he’d try to flip on the exercise bar as a child while another kid nicknamed “Koumori” (“Bat”) flipped with ease.

Once he’s up at the top of Babel, he walks straight out the railing-less balcony…and re-inverts to his original orientation. Since he figured things out, both Sockhead and Koumori (the same kid he saw that day in his youth) let him go.

No sooner does Nagara return, having been found by Mizuho and Yamada, is it revealed that Rajdhani is also off on his own personal voyage of discover and wonder. Nozomi, a tearful Mizuho, and Nagara all give him big hugs, and I have to admit this completely unexpected goodbye scene really made the air in my room dusty.

With Rajdhani gone, apparently the only ones still on the island are Nagara, Nozomi, Mizuho, Yamada, Asakaze, and possibly the members of Aki-sensei’s faction that didn’t leave on the Ark (Aki-sensei, it’s revealed, is just another student). I almost wish it’s just the five of them left. While the ideas and allegories are growing bigger and more complex, I’m excited at the prospect of the cast getting drastically stripped down to the basics.

Appare-Ranman! – 13 (Fin) – Crossing the Finish in Style

It’s Final Boss time, and the battle with Gil takes on a decidedly Final Fantasy flavor, in no small part due to everyone’s outrageous costumes and the fact that Gil remains one tough customer even outnumbered nine to one. There’s a lot of bullet-dodging and slicing and Xialian and Al hitting nothing but the air around the speedy Gil, but thanks to a well-placed firecracker Gil is sufficiently softened up for a final showdown with Dylan and TJ, the latter finally revealing his steely gaze!

While the Thousand Three go at it, the others chase down the runaway train packed with explosives headed to Chicago. Al and Xialian leap aboard and take out the guards, but the train has no brakes and Al can’t break Sofia’s chain. Their only hope is for Appare’s ramshackle boat-car to take a position in front of the train and give his hybrid engine everything it’s got, slowing down and stopping the train just in time to avert disaster.

Like the anachronistic outfits and music, you just have to suspend disbelief in terms of physics. If people can dodge and slice bullets, it’s not a stretch for a car to stop a train without derailing it. Dylan and TJ end up defeating Gil but spare his life, giving him to the police like their Claudia would have wanted. Two months later the race is back in operation, and Appare & Co. narrowly beat out Xialian, Al, Dylan and TJ with a thrilling photo-finish that involves going airborne in the final corner.

With the race won, the racers go their separate ways. Kosame is all ready to return to Japan, leaving Appare and Hototo in NYC, but at the last second decides to simply send a letter instead. When Appare does the rom-com last-minute chase for his love and sees the ship has already sailed, he gives a very uncharacteristically heartwarming monologue about how building an airplane and moon rocket won’t be as much fun without Kosame…only for Kosame to sneak up behind him, having never left.

Back in Japan Kosame and Appare’s relations learn that not only are they okay, but thriving in America. All’s well that ends well, and so ends a wonderfully quirky fun adventure series that captured both the thrill of a race on a grand stage of sprawling America and the way the racers grew into a family that banded together to defeat the super-charismatic Big Bad. It truly was…[puts on anachronistic sunglasses]…a gas.

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – 11 – Sisters Act

It all starts with Pecorine not wanting Karyl’s breakfast to get cold. When Karyl doesn’t answer her door, Peco fears the worst and burst through her window like an action hero, damaging her favorite stuffed animal. Turns out Peco has never heard of the concept of “personal space”, and assumes it’s something to eat.

Kokkoro is confident she can mend the plushie, so she, Yuuki and Peco take a trip into the city to buy materials. The three don’t have any luck and split up, and that’s when Yuuki is attacked by a Shadow that was attacking someone else, and is rescued by Shizuru, his…big sister? Yes, that’s right: throughout most of his adventures he’s been watched over by Shizuru, along with his little sister Rino.

After cleaning up her room, Karyl heads into the city to pay Her Majesty a visit, and even picks some pretty white flowers for her. She finds her boss surrounded and preoccupied by numerous Shadows that she seems to be modifying to be even more dangerous, and their dark presence wilts the flowers, which the boss calls “filth.” Jeez, Karyl was just tryin’ to be nice!

When Kokkoro heads to a fountain to wet her handkerchief so she can clean the hot dog ketchup from Yuuki’s face and clothes (whew) she ends up meeting a jealous Rino, who learns that Kokkoro is Yuuki’s servant. But Yuuki suddenly vanishes. Fearing the Shadows got him again, they follow rumors to the food critic’s lair (who is more grotesque than ever) and end up rescuing Charlie, not Yuuki.

Turns out Yuuki was hiding from one of the demon girls from the hospital when he spotted a quest to acquire a rainbow silkworm, and completed it all on his own, off-camera. I guess he’s more capable alone than we thought! Shizuru and Rino end up receding from view after confirming that despite having lost his memories of them and a lot besides, their brother remains a kind and decent lad, and has found some good friends.

Karyl returns home in a far worse mood than she left, and feels even more down when she finds the guild house empty. However, Yuuki, Pecorine and Kokkoro arrive right behind her, proudly carrying her fully-repaired stuffed animal. The look on Karyl’s face says it all: the dark empty place she’d walked into was just a house; these three friends make it a home. And perhaps her increasingly unhinged boss doesn’t deserve her continued loyalty.

After the end credits we meet the red-haired woman who sent Shizuru and Rino to observe Yuuki, called Queen Labyrinth by her fellow “Seven Crowns leader” Metamorregnant. They seem to both be investigating “Omniscient Kaiser”, but Meta isn’t yet interested in collaborating. Not much to say about these two; hopefully we’ll learn a little about them and how they fit into the bigger picture in the penultimate episode next week.

Gleipnir – 05 – Man Gotta Have a Code

The cold open establishes the hazards of the woods where the Gatherers are gathered. One of them is searching for coins when she’s surrounded by a group who claim the woods as their turf. But if there’s no risk, there’s no reward. Claire believes the right strategy is to meet the danger head-on, lest the coins all get snatched up while they’re being slow and cautious.

Her strategy is soon put to the test when they encounter a demonic-looking Gatherer with swords for arms. But despite his evil looks there’s a reasonable man inside—a college student named Tadanori Sanbe. He reveals his identity as thanks for when Claire puts her life on the line to fight him; all others have run from him, and with good reason: he’s hella strong.

Claire wonders if she erred here, but when Sanbe reveals he’s a decent guy, and Shuuichi’s gun manages to pierce one of his arms, the duo splits up, with Shuuichi as the bait giving Sanbe a bear hug while Claire holds him at bay with the gun. Sanbe, who is very samurai-like in his outlook, takes the defeat in stride, and is also bashful around a half-naked Claire.

Their friendly chat is suddenly interrupted by another Gatherer in the form of a green Titan. He’s snapped photos of everyone and declared them his new slaves, and promises he and his friends will do all kinds of awful stuff to Claire in particular. This gives Sanbe the chance to reveal another part of his code: he won’t kill needlessly, but a threat from a scumbag is met by swift, deadly force.

Claire is delighted that Sanbe is clearly on the stronger side of the scale, so it’s great that he’s now on their side: he’ll help them collect coins if he can continue testing his strength and honing custom unique martial art. He has no qualms about partnering with two worthy adversaries.

It’s clear now that at least where fights are concerned, Claire is no longer the puppet and Shuuichi the puppeter: there’s true cooperation at play…not to mention Claire remains steadfast in her commitment to die with Shuuichi. Sanbe’s an interesting Chad-like addition to their weird little party.

Golden Kamuy – 16 – Climbing Out of the Swamp

Shiraishi rather carelessly falling into the custody of the 7th Division is one more detour on the increasingly complex road to meeting Nopperabo. Hijikata cannot act when so outnumbered by armed soldiers, but he can lie in wait at a fragile hanging bridge that causes them to bottleneck.

Hijikata cuts the bridge, sending the soldiers and Shiraishi into the river, and Kiroranke is waiting to pick him up in a boat. But Shiraishi remembers his nightmare of being killed by Sugimoto for his betrayal, and hesitates to grab Kiro’s arm, and ends up right back in his captors’.

After imagining his annoying self in their heads, everyone kind of shrugs at the prospect of losing him, but decide that his know-how is worth traveling to the 7th Division base, infiltrating it, and rescuing him.

Meanwhile, we learn a little more about how Tsurumi intends to carry out his grand plan: Lt. General Arisaka’s top-quality weapons will sell like hotcakes; those weapons will be used to kill and maim in war after war; opium from Tsurumi’s cold-weather poppies will supply the drugs to sooth those who survive the battles. But he needs capital for his venture, hence the need to find the Ainu gold.

Tsurumi also had Arisaka built Nikaidou a new leg, all but assuring one more rematch between him and Sugimoto, who himself finally puts two and two together and realizes that Shiraishi was feeding info to Hijikata. Asirpa urges him not to kill anyone unless necessary, implying Shiraishi isn’t that.

On the contrary, he’s crucial enough to their plan for Hijikata to reach out to a fellow inmate at Abashiri, Suzukawa, who is a master of disguise. They’ll have him impersonate Abashiri’s warden Inudou Shirosuke in order to infiltrate the 7th’s base. Sugimoto accompanies him, also in disguise.

There’s now a lot going on, with the Hijikata/Sugimoto alliance (more like a truce) just barely covering up the fact that there are nearly as many competing motives as there are characters. The crowded field also means Asirpa gets another short shrift, with only one line that I recall. Sidelineing my favorite part of the first season—Sugimoto and Asirpa’s blooming friendship—had better bear some compelling fruit.

Golden Kamuy – 15 – The Brains are Always Delicious

I think the mad taxidermist exited stage right at just the right time; before his antics grew repetitive and boring. His legacy is briefly carried on by the Nikaidou brother who lost an ear to Sugimoto, and is part of the contingent that attacks the house to destroy evidence of how to identify the fake skins.

In the ensuing fracas, Sugimoto ends up saving Ogata’s life, while Nikaidou ends up losing an ankle and a foot to Hijikata’s blade. The cat watches the house burn, and its meow either signifies “good riddance to bad rubbish” or “feed me.”

The newly-formed Hijitaka alliance splits in two, ultimately to rendezvous at Ashibetsu. Both parties have a camp dinner, with Asirpa trying to get everyone to like woodcock brains and Hijitaka and Nagakura reminiscing on when the latter discovered the former was in prison, when both were younger men.

One man who can tell fake skin from real is Nopperabo, and so Hijitaka plans to utilize Shiraishi’s Escape King skills to break in and meet with him. Only two problems: Shiraishi is worried about getting killed by Sugimoto for discovering he’s been passing intel to Hijitaka, and when he tries to peace out, he’s surrounded by troops.

Golden Kamuy is staying fresh and nimble by serving up new character dynamics as a result of the shifting alliances, but draw quite a bit of value from the resulting banter. Asirpa and Sugimoto aren’t featured as prominently this season, but that’s not really an issue as the show has such a deep and strong bench.

Kokkoku – 02

Kokkoku’s second “moment” delivers some welcome answers. The bad guys are part of some kind of religious cult, they want Grandpa’s stone, and the giant “Handler” (the cult calls it the “Herald”) stops anyone who tries to break the rules of the Stasis (crunching a hired goon’s head for trying to kill the “stalled” Makoto.

However, after a relatively nicely staged and directed opening action set piece last week, things kind of devolve into wandering around the drab frozen city, with Grandpa filling Juri in more on the details, while the bad guys send goons after them as they kinda stand around and wait.

One important new addition to the cast is Majima, a mysterious woman who seems to have assited the cult in finding the Yukawa family stone, which they call the “Master Stone” and is crucial for their plans.

A flashback seems to suggest Majima and Juri may have been friends at one time, and she witnessed the stone being used; this also explains Juri’s vague memories of being exposed to the time-stopping powers before.

There’s a funny moment when Gramps and Juri realize they left Takafumi behind, but in keeping with this family’s tendency to close ranks when shit hits the fan, there’s no question of rescuing him before using the stone again in hopes of escaping to a new Stasis, leaving the bad guys behind.

Just a few issues: One of the “jellyfish” turns Tsubasa from stalled to moving, and he’s very, very confused and flustered. When he finds Makoto unresponsive, he heads to the nearest hospital, where he’ll get no help whatsoever (and may even incur the wrath of the Handler).

So if they commit their plan without Tsubasa, they’ll never see him again. But even more detrimental to their plan is the fact Gramps didn’t know the cult was after the stone until he and Juri split up (never a good idea), with him going to free Takafumi and Juri going home to grab the stone.

Unfortunately, Juri simply ran there without trying to be sneaky at all. Even if she had been, the whole group of bad guys were staking the place out, waiting for someone to show up. Since it’s Juri, who they presume they don’t need to activate the stone, her death by strangulation is ordered, and she passes out before the credits roll.

Now, you and I both know Juri ain’t dying…but perhaps something more interesting will happen as a result of the goons’ attempt. Whatever that is, I think it’s time the Yukawa’s were allowed some kind of win. I also want to know what’s up with Majima; if and how she and Juri are connected, and why she’s okay with her being strangled.