Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou – 07 – Four Bad Kitties

Keiichi enters the storeroom with Shion Tanako Miyo, which not only contains an ornate statue of Oyashiro, but also a wide variety of very suspicious “ritual tools”. Clearly relishing every moment of freaking Keiichi the fuck out, Miyo tells them the tale of Onigafuchi, AKA “the demon’s abyss”—the original name of Hinamizawa.

When man-eating demons attacked the townsfolk, Oyashiro intervened, but not by killing the demons. Instead he gave them human forms so they could coexist with humans, and the gene pool of the town mixed from that point on through the generations.

Because the residents of Onigafuchi were descended in part from man-eating demons, they every so often went to other villages to kidnap human sacrifices for Oyashiro…making the “tools” in the storeroom more like…cooking utensils. We even learn the wata in watanagashi can mean both “cotton” and “entrails”…which is what were originally “drifted” back in the day.

It may be a couple weeks after Halloween, but Higurashi decided to whip out one of its spookier scary stories for this episode. Miyo herself is hard to read: is she legitimately overwhelmed by excitement upon discovering this motherlode of killing tools, or intentionally hiking up the creep-factor for the benefit(?) of Keiichi.

In any case, Shion touches the statue and its head slides off and splits in two…which was never going to be a good thing! Tokitake checks in on them, then leaves with Miyo to catch the end of the festival. Shion also takes her leave, making Kei promise not to tell anyone where they were or what they did. Kei reunites with Mion, Rena, Satoko, and Rika, who wonders if he saw her dance; he lies and says he did, but needlessly adds she made “no mistakes”, when in truth she apparently did.

Mion takes Kei by the hand and asks if he was hanging out with Shion, Tanako, or Tomitake. He lies again, and says he wasn’t. Finally, Detective Ooishi asks him if he’s seen Tanako or Tomitake, and mentions that Shion and Mion’s father is a prominent yakuza head. Kei lies once again…but Ooishi knows he’s lying.

Later that night Kei gets a call from Shion, telling him that Tanako and Tomitake have gone missing. While she claimed to be only joking about the four of them being the top candidates for Oyashiro’s curse, the call and her concern reveal otherwise. The curse is real, two of them are already missing, and they may be next. Kei lashes out, claiming he has “nothing to do” with any of this, and Shion hangs up on him.

Keiichi can plead ignorance and innocence all he wants; he did go inside that forbidden storeroom, learned the truth about the village and its deity, and has done nothing but lie about it ever since. It’s clear he’s freaking out to this degree because deep down he knows he fucked up.

The next day at school his friends note neither he nor Mion got much sleep last night—would you if you knew the curse could be coming for you? As Keiichi sulks, Rika comes to pat his head and ask what’s troubling him, and Kei finally owns up to what happened—albeit with a pathetic attempt to make it “rhetorical” and distanct himself by describing the four of them as “bad kitties”.

His story makes Rika laugh and speak in a voice Kei’s never heard from her before, and when he looks at her, her eyes are glowing red. She tells Kei not to worry, because there’s no point: he, she, the world, are all finished anyway. He should’ve just watched her dance…blissfully unaware that the cotton in the ceremony represents the entrails of human sacrifice.

Star Trek: Lower Decks – 03 – Buffer Time

While in the turbolift trying to make small talk with the captain, Boimler ends up letting slip two words no senior officer should ever hear: buffer time. Once she learns the lower decks are over-inflating work time estimates (the way even Scotty used to do) in order to secure more free time, the captain puts an immediate stop to it.

And I do mean immediate: suddenly everyone is equipped with a PADD that issues a ticking clock for every task they perform—like an Amazon fulfillment center technician. Free time is eliminated, which means stress and anxiety build up with no time for release…or adequate sleep! And as the TNG episode “Night Terrors” thoroughly demonstrated, Starfleet officers need REM sleep.

As a result of heightened anxiety and increased fatigue among the crew, mistakes are bound to be made. Mistakes like, say, when someone brings along not only the wrong cultural artifact for a diplomatic mission, but one that enrages the aliens to such an extent that they decide to launch an invasion of the Cerritos—the crew of which is in no condition to repel boarders.

Character-wise, Rutherford and Tendi are so slammed by work they come pretty close to taking it out on each other. Boimler, who was already operating on zero buffer time, is happy as a clam even as the rest of the crew crumbles, and Mariner ends up on the ill-fated away mission with the first officer, Commander Ransom, a Starfleet officer in the Kirk/Riker mold.

When the aliens do board the Cerritos, each member of the crew is so lost in their own personal hell of ticking clocks and trying to make up time that will never be made up, there’s barely any time to notice there are intruders aboard ship, let alone do anything about it.

As such, the intruders initially run wild, spraying graffiti all over the exterior and corridors of the ship, despite only being armed with spears, which as Boimler points out are no match against even one hand phaser. Soon he learns the senior officers and captain have also shifted to the new work schedules, resulting in the captain having to virtually run the bridge all by herself.

Down on the planet, the aliens (who are a pretty standard Star Trek alien race of the week) decide that if Ransom or Mariner can defeat their hulking champion, they’ll let them and the other officers go free. Mariner shows Ransom all of the scars that show she’s best suited to participate in the gladitorial match.

Even so, Ransom refuses to let his subordinate fight for him; indeed, he’d rather—and does—stab Mariner through the goddamn foot so that she has no choice but to stand down. While Trak makes clear part of command is being able to send junior officers to their probable deaths for the good of the ship, this is not one of those instances, and Ransom is personally eager to test his mettle—not to mention his honed physique, which Mariner can’t help but notice.

While Mariner and Ransom ultimately bond over their shared near-death experience (and Ransom’s righteous beat-down of the so-called champion, who turns out to be a lot more interested in reading books than fighting) Boimler snaps the captain out of her devotion to the scheduling system that could lead to the loss of the ship.

Realizing perhaps to late to be credible that eliminating down time is a bad idea, the captain makes a shipwide announcement to all crew to bend or break every regulation necessary to secure the ship. The crew then proceeds to use the very PADDs that had been oppressing them to beat the alien intruders back to their ships.

The ship is saved largely due to Boimler urging his captian to essentially backtrack on a system he believed would have ensured maximum crew efficiency. But realistically, that would only happen if everyone was a workaholic like Boimler: the real world is different. And so it is that Boimler’s name is affixed to an edict essentially calling for laziness where indicated, contrary to his hallowed values.

When Tendi assures him no one will ever remember “the Boimler Effect”, we jump forward to the distant future in which it’s being taught in school—and they built a statue of him. That said, he’s not as important a historical figure as Chief Miles O’Brien…obviously!

Stray Observations:

  • The entire main premise of the Cerritos-based plotline is an homage to officers like Scotty and LaForge being lauded as “miracle workers” for getting work done far quicker than estimated, when in reality they just know how to manage expectations.
  • Ransom’s duel with the huge alien champion is akin to Kirk’s battle with the Gorn in “Arena”, as well as other bouts that usually caused his uniform to tear or even fall off.
  • I appreciated Mariner’s mixed feelings about Ransom’s fight, both being outraged that he’d fight in her place and kind of turned on once it’s clear Ransom’s got this.
  • Interesting how Mariner and her Captain/Mom have barely interacted so far. One assumes Boimler/Tendi/Rutherford will learn about that connection at some point…
  • The gold plaque Boimler receives is similar to the dedication plaques that hang in some corner of the bridge of every Starfleet ship.
  • The future teacher describes the eagle on Statue Boimler’s arm as “The Great Bird of the Galaxy”—which was the nickname of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.
  • Chief O’Brien probably needs no introduction. His illustrious career spanned from the first episode of TNG and the last episode of DS9 and beyond. He also devised Scotch-flavored chewing gum, bless him.

Sarazanmai – 01 (First Impressions) – Secrets, Lies, and Butt Stuff

“The world is full of connections,” muses Yakaza Kazuki at the start of things. Yeah, no duh, Kierkegaard. That’s especially true in Tokyo (Asakasa specifically), where many people are connected both by technology and the relatively small amount of space they share. There’s one connection in particular Kazuki never wants to lose.

Turns out that connection is a ritual exchange of selfies with the local idol, Sarakappa, who is constantly keeping the folk appraised of the latest Asakusa news via the public video screens. While Sara herself is taking a selfie, she happens to catch someone breaking into a car. That someone is Kuji Toi, who chases after her.

Instead, Toi encounters Kazuki, notices he has the same phone strap as the girl, and lunges at him with his ruler-cum-slimjim. Kazuki happens to be grabbing at statue of the Prince of the Kappa Kingdom, and in the ensuing violence, the statue is destroyed, releasing a great gust of wind.

The next day at school the two lads hear a clear ringing bell no one else can, and start compulsively acting like kappas, dousing themselves with water, doing a sumo dance, or eating cucumbers. Neither knows what the heck is going on.

The ringing leads them back to the destroyed statue (now a crime scene), where they are introduced to the actual Prince of the Kappas, Keppi, whom they awoke with their roughhousing. Keppi seems level-headed enough…until Toi dares to call him a “frog.”

Keppi reaches into their anuses (yep) and extracts their shirikodama, an organ containing desire, then gobbles them up and transforms them into kappas themselves. When Kazuki’s best mate Enta arrives to see what’s up, he ends up calling Keppi a frog, so he’s transformed as well. It’s a very gross process!

The gross weirdness continues when Keppi assigns them their mission: extract the shirikodama from a “zombie kappa” in the “Field of Desires,” a realm between life and death where no humans can see them, but where the kappa and zombie kappa dwell.

This particular zombie is hoarding stolen “Kappamazon” packages, and his deep dark secret is his compulsion to empty the boxes and place them on his head while naked. The three kappa-lads work together to sing a musical number, blast through the zombie’s defenses, reach and enter his anus, and successfully extract his shirikodama. Again, quite gross!

After the extraction, before they pass the shirikodama to Keppi, the three undergo the titular “Sarazanmai”—a connection of mind and soul between the three. Within that state, Toi learns that Kazuki and the girl he saw were one and the same, and Enta learns his best friend cross-dresses as an idol, all to send selfies of himself as Sara religiously.

The other two learn Toi is a car thief, but Toi isn’t outwardly ashamed by that, but after the initial embarrassment has passed, neither is Kazuki. Even when Enta tells him he’s cool with his “quirk”, Kazuki insists he isn’t asking for understanding, only for his secret to remain his and his alone…which is fair.

Post-ED (a lush merging of live-action footage, augmented reality lightwork and animation with a very catchy peggies song) there’s another strange incident involving two very pale, stylish cops extracting something from their prisoner, but that will have to wait until next week.

Sarazanmai is nothing if not visually bold and doggedly inventive with its madcap brew of mythology, symbology, philosophy, and sociology you tend to get from the work of Ikuhara Kunihiko. Its narrative isn’t always the easiest to follow but you can be assured it’s going to look and sound cool and explore ideas few anime do (especially when it comes to contemporary social issues), which definitely helps.

Non-fans of kappas (or, incidently, Ikuhara) probably need not apply, nor should anyone who is uncomfortable with the occasional…stylized anal extraction. But there’s a lot to like here so far.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – 08

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The battle of Antae is won, and King Charioce offers Jeanne her own lands as a reward, perhaps to get her out of the limelight. Naturally, she refuses, and the king doesn’t take the refusal well. He started out as a somewhat bumbling and generally harmless monarch, but it was only a matter of time before her power and his butted up. Ironically, Jeanne couldn’t care less about the power the king is desperate to maintain. She just wants to do her duty.

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Meanwhile, staring at the Bahamut statue brings all kinds of memories to the surface for Amira, including when a demon lord told her she was special and directed her to Helheim, where “her wish will certainly be fulfilled.” For Amira, that means finding her mother.

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As for her father, Amira deduces that it’s none other than Sir Lavalley of the Orleans Knights, Jeanne’s lieutenant. While Jeanne turns down land, Kaisar takes the king’s offer of knighthood graciously, while Favaro pretty much just goes alone with it, because hell, if nothing else he gets his nice knife back! The ceremony is crashed by the angel Michael, who’s there to bestow a new, even more bad-ass sword.

The king has his arms outstretched, but it lands in Jeanne’s hands. Doesn’t Michael know it’s not a good idea to make this king look weak? He doesn’t. Must be the disconnect between human psychology and the angels’ logic-based reasoning.

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While we’re on the subject of parents, the King looks at a portrait of his dearly departed mother, who then appears in ghost form to warn him that someone is preparing to betray him; Jeanne, specifically. That’s total horseshit, but the king swallows it because he’s a petty, paranoid fellow.

This may also be the handiwork of the demons, but it would be fine if it wasn’t, too, because for the king to be such a volatile wild card at this stage certainly makes things interesting.

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Favaro shows Amira (who calls him “Fava”) Lavalley’s quarters, and there we learn that while he’s not her father, he was a bodyguard for her mother, Nicole, who was an angel exiled from heaven. On a particularly nasty demon attack, the demon lord Beelzebub snatched baby Amira away. That demon sped Amira’s growth, which explains why she Amira acts so childish despite being grown-up in appearance.

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Before relieving him to go look for her daughter, Nicole gave Lavalley a pendant identical to the one Amira carries. When put together, they bring up a map of her present location: Prudisia, the Valley of Demons. Amira wastes no time sneaking out of the city, and while Fava bristles at the idea of going with her and simply wants his tail gone (as useful as it was last week), she beckons for him to join her and meet her mother, and he tags along.

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Of course, this means that they’re leaving Antae, which is where the angels wanted Amira to stay put under the protection of the king. Of course, the king is too busy with betrayals, trysts, murders and conspiracies, which allows Amira slip through his fingers, bound to the absolute last place the Angels want her to go: demon territory.

Then again, considering all the weird crap going on in Antae and with the king, maybe getting away is the safest move after all, at least for now.

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Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – 07

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Bahamut bursts out of its recap week gate full speed ahead with a very well-orchestrated and balanced episode, as Azazel leads a large demon host to the walls of Antae to re-capture the God Key, AKA Amira.

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The episode is clever in that on one side of the castle walls, Jeanne d’Arc leads the defense of the city in a big, loud, shiny, yelly battle, in which she successfully uses her trusty Maltet to dispatch Pazuzu. But this battle isn’t the whole episode. In fact, the battle is just a distraction so Azazel can sneak in.

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Inside the castle walls, the episode hasn’t forgotten about our quartet of heroes and heroines, but while there’s certainly plenty of dread – especially when Azazel arrives, there’s the feeling the larger battle is far away. It’s a lot more claustrophobic, but also a lot livlier thanks to the banter between Favaro and Kaisar.

After meeting with that shadowy guy, Amira just wants to eat eat eat, and if she didn’t pass out from the wine, she herself would be one more obstacles to keeping her alive and free from the fallen angel’s clutches.

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The episode doesn’t pretend this is an even fight, either: Azazel looks down on Favaro, Kaisar, and Rita like they’re insignificant ants to be swiped away before claiming his prize. They can’t hope to beat him, but they can take turns delaying him. First Favaro stays behind so the others can escape, in a display that clearly shows some of what Jeanne said to him about being more than just an ex-bounty hunter stuck. Heck, he even puts his demon tail into it!

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Once Rita has Amira safely away from the fight, Kaisar returns, not about to allow someone else to kill “his father’s killer.” Again Fav and Kai show how well they work together and stab Azazel through the heart. But, of course, Azazel doesn’t have a heart, and human weapons can’t kill him. He still plays dead for a moment just to mess with them. This, and his response after Favaro accused him of cheating, are both great moments for the evil yet irreverant bastard: “Well, I am a demon.” You are indeed.

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The guys are in a bad way, but Kaisar happens to turn his sword in such a way that he notices a faint glimmer of light down in the city streets. He then makes a seemingly suicidal rush at Azazel, but in the knick of time, a great light appears behind him. It’s not the rising sun, but Jeanne with Maltet, who spotted Azazel and needed those few moments Kaisar gave her to execute her attack and send Azazel packing.

I’m not sure exactly how the physics of Kaisar’s stunt worked, but nor do I care; it was a sweet setpiece that also united the battle that had been going on inside the castle with the one happening outside. Rita, unfortunately got the short end of the stick, but she definitely contributed.

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With the demon army repelled and the day won, all that’s left is to stuff Amira back in her room to keep her safe. Alas, it only takes a moment (after she glimpses her ‘father’) for Amira to wander away from Rita and into the square where the giant Bahamut statue stands. There, the terrifying power of Bahamut and the past destruction it’s caused flashes through her bandaged head. We witnessed a lovely battle, but it was only a battle. There are plenty more foes to fight before the war is won.

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