Yuru Camp△ 2 – 12 – Crossing the Rubi-tombolo

Yuru Camp takes a quick look back at when Nadeshiko was saying a tearful goodbye to her best friend Ayano; and I agree with the commenter that Kurosawa Tomoyo is a perfect voice to match Aya-chan’s personality—I just wish Kurosawa voiced a main character! Aya assures Nadeshiko that she’ll make new friends (which she does) and says that once she’s in a new place, she should try a new thing.

That new thing turns out to be camping up an absolute storm, culminating in this latest group trip to the geospot and lookout-packed Izu peninsula. After a refreshing breakfast of sashimi rice bowls, the group heads to Dougashima and the famed tombolo of Sanshiroujima. Akari is heartbroken to learn, her big sis was having her on; “tombolo” isn’t food, but the sandy bridge between islands that appears during low tide.

Removing their boots and braving the frigid waters, the group crosses the shallows and explores the island before the tide comes in. Nadeshiko thinks this would be a perfect spot to visit in the summer when the water is warm enough to swim in, leading to what I believe is the series’ very first cutaway to the girls in swimsuits.

From there, Rin takes point in her 30km/h moped for the drive along the glorious Nishiizu Skyline to their campsite. I can’t help but recall a similar drive I took up Mount Evans, on the highest paved road in North America. Evans is 2km taller than Fuji-san, so you can imagine words will hardly do the majesty of the scenery justice. It truly is, as Rin says, like driving in the sky.

Once they arrive at the Daruma Forest Campsite on the Darumayama highland, Aki, Rin and Ena start prepping for dinner early, while Akari leads the birthday girls Nadeshiko and Aoi away to check out the baths near Cape Mihama (which is sometimes mistaken for Cape Ose). To Akari’s shock, they already know a birthday meal is being prepared, since Aki specifically told Aoi that back at school, and their grocery shopping included things like whipped cream.

But even though it’s not a complete surprise, Nadeshiko and Aoi are still delighted by the celebration prepared by the others, who go all-out with decorations, a (pancake-based) cake, and the gift of durable and easy-to-maintain wooden cooking pans.

A suitably sumptuous feast of shrimp and tomato risotto awaits, made with spiny lobster broth and made extra-shrimpy by the addition of a highly-concentrated shrimp sauce. While Toba-sensei is enjoying the snacks the girls prepared to go with her booze, she gets a call from her Ryouko, who is herself solo camping much closer to Fuji-san out of her sister’s Suzuki Hustler.

Ryouko can tell her sister isn’t that drunk (yet) and congratulates her for being a good advisor. Minami admits she “wasn’t too keen” on becoming one at first due to the time it took up, but watching her students growing up before her eyes, she totally gets the appeal now!

With everyone now on the same sleep clock, the girls eschew movies and head to bed early so they can get up in time to watch the sun rise from the peak of Duramayama. The extra 500-meter climb nearly kills Aki all over again, but Rin and Nadeshiko reach the top first with time to spare, and Nade prepares instant miso soup with more of the spiny lobster broth, telling Rin the shell can be used more than once and even ground down into powder for future use.

While Toba-sensei stays in the van with a still-sleeping Akari, Aki, Aoi and Ena join Nadeshiko and Rin at the top, and the three formally bow and thank Rin for saving them. They also intend to visit the Iidas to properly thank them (and play with their adorable Corgi, Choko).

Then that sun rises and begins to bathe the landscape in its warm, silky light, rewarding the girls for their effort. Did I mention that shortly after starting this show I’ve started getting up early to watch the sunrise? There’s really nothing quite like that light. Yuru Camp isn’t just about immersing yourself in its warm and fuzzy therapeutic goodness, but inspiring you to get out there and give something new a try, as Aya urged Nadeshiko to do.

Yuru Camp△ 2 – 02 – Four Sunrises

Rin arrives at Iwata, and it’s everything a gal from a landlocked prefecture could hope for: crystal-clear skies and endless ocean. Riding her moped beside the sea feels great, until the cold and wind get to be too much. Fortunately her mom recommended a tea place, and who should be minding the store but the mountain climbing lady she met at the Yashajin Pass.

Yuru Camp seems to be running with the idea that Japan is just a big small town, where you’re always bumping into people you know by chance. I don’t mind, it’s fun! Rin goes to the upstairs café for a matcha tiramisu set, and suddenly wants to set up her tent right there.

Rin also visits the Mitsuki-Tenjin Shrine, but learns that Shippeitarou III passed away years ago, making Rin suddenly think about how short dogs’ lives are, even going so far as to text Ena her worries about Chikuma. Ena says she’ll be devastated when it happens, but it’s inevitable. All she can do is make sure her pup has as many good times as possible.

Rin switches gears from pondering mortality to getting a fire and dinner going. With no pine cones or twigs on the campground, Rin uses her knife to make a feather stick to start her fire, showing how there are plenty of tricks she still learning. After whipping up a duck soup nameko mushroom soba, she sends all of her pics to the gang, and Nadeshiko reports that it’s snowing back home.

After getting a few hours of sleep, Rin gets up to watch the first sunrise of the new year from Furude Beach, where many others are already gathered and a torii gate is set up for the event. Toba-sensei elects to drive Chiaki, Aoi, and Aoi’s little sister Akari to Mt. Minobu.

They take the ropeway, pray at the shrine, buy some dango, drink some amazuke, and find a good spot to watch the sun rise. In both locations, there’s a palpable electricity in the air, a sense of anticipation in the literal darkness before the dawn.

Then the sun rises in all her majesty, filling that darkness with blinding light and vivid colors. Rin aligns herself so the rising sun appears directly within the torii gate, as if a great spirit were emerging. Yuru Camp has previously displayed a gift for depicting sunrises and sunsets, but it really outdoes itself this time, showing us the same sunrise from multiple locations.

As the day goes on, Rin is looking forward to trying out Iwata’s local specialty pig’s foot curry, but is tempted by a food truck selling pizza and pot-au-feu, and decides to indulge. Chiaki gets Toba and the others to hurry off Mt. Minobu so they can try to catch a second sunrise in Fujikawa City fifty minutes after the first—and one that looks like a diamond rising over Fujiyama’s summit.

While Toba-sensei drifts her Suzuki Hustler up and around the mountain road with the skill of a rally driver, they arrive to find the sun already high above Fuji-san—Chiaki was off by a whole half-hour. The last to see a “sunrise” is Ena, once it’s already pretty high in the sky. Still, I’m sure she enjoyed the extra sleep!

While Rin is starting to think about preparing to check out, she gets a call from her mom: Yamanashi has frozen over in the night, making the roads home too dangerous to attempt, particularly on a moped. The new plan is for her grandpa to drive out in his van to get her and her bike. She just has to sit tight for two days. Considering she’s a short walk from the beach, there are far worse places to be “stuck!”

Yuru Camp△ – 12 (Fin) – Campvengers: Tentgame

The final episode of Yuru Camp’s first season ends somewhat confusingly with flash-forward that starts exactly how the previous episode ended: with Rin on a bike. Only this time instead of a moped it’s a motorcycle (possibly her grandpa’s), and ten years have passed. Rin meets up with Chiaki, Aoi, and Ena at Asagiri campground, which has presumably become a Christmas tradition ever since the first time.

It’s mentioned that Nadeshiko founded a camping equipment company that really took off, and just when I’m expecting her to arrive by helicopter, she arrives instead by rocket-powered tent instead—like the one in the OP! Turns out Nadeshiko of the present is merely musing about what the future might hold. Then Rin returns with the gas, ginger, and no alcohol for Toba-sensei, and she’s welcomed home.

While Aoi, Ena, and Chiaki take their baths first, Rin and Nadeshiko wonder why Toba-sensei isn’t with her boyfriend for Christmas, referring to the capable young lad who helped them start their fire on Lake Shibire. Turns out that wasn’t her boyfriend or her brother, but her kid sister, who is often mistaken for a boy. Their father instilled in them a love of camping, just as Rin’s gramps did for her.

Then it’s Rin, Nadeshiko and Toba-sensei’s turn to bathe, and upon returning find that everyone is sporting a “Shimarin Bun” courtesy of Ena, hairstylin’ extraordinaire. Nadeshiko wants the same treatment, and then agrees to take a group picture without realizing that Ena actually gave her more of a Cactuar-esque bun.

It’s a bit too early to turn in, so on Chiaki’s suggestion, they avail themselves of the streaming service she signed up for prior to the trip so they could watch media to their hearts’ content. While I’d normally object to breaking out the technology when they’re supposed to be enjoying the untouched wilderness, it’s a cold night, and they’re basically running out the clock until they’re sleepy enough to retire, so I’m fine with it.

Rin and Nadeshiko officially share a tent for the first time here, first lying outside and watching the starry sky. They talk about Moped Journey, and how part of it took place where Nadeshiko is from. Rin thinks she’ll be working for new years, while Nadeshiko isn’t having luck finding a job. Before Nadeshiko nods off while smiling, she says they should go camping lots more next year. Rin in turn smiles and agrees. It’s one of many lovely, quite moments of friendship this series has so excelled at.

Rin wakes up to a 5:00 AM alarm, and wakes Nadeshiko, who is still so out of it she wishes Rin a Happy New Year a week too early. Before the sun rises over a very blue Fuji-san, Rin helps out as Nadeshiko prepares a traditional Japanese breakfast, using leftover meat and broth from the sukiyaki and the ginger Rin bought to make Yamato stew to go with grilled salmon and Rin’s veggie and natto miso soup.

Everyone gets up to break their fast together, and suddenly the sun emerges from behind Fuji-san. It’s as beautiful a sight as you will ever see—whether in this episode or in real life—as all sunrises call to mind rebirth, redemption, and new beginnings in general. And this Christmas Camping trip was certainly the beginning of friendships which could last well past Nadeshiko’s ten-year look forward.

After breakfast, the six young women break camp, Sakura arrives to take Nadeshiko and Ena home, Toba-sensei drives Aoi and Chiaki home, and Rin rides home herself. A bit later, while Rin is working at the bookstore, she’s approached by Ena to buy a camping book, having liked her first experience camping in cold weather.

Meanwhile, Chiaki tells Aoi and Nadeshiko that she tried to recruit Ena while they were camping, but Ena isn’t quite ready to quit the “Going Home Club”.  And so, expecting to remain in their mail slot of a club room for the foreseeable future the trio gives it a top-to-bottom cleaning.

While walking home, Nadeshiko’s worries about seeking employment are allayed by a text from Rin, who puts her in contact with Ena, who has a temp job writing New Years cards and tells Nadeshiko there’s a position for her. This…This is how Nadeshiko’s ground-up camping supply empire gets started! Roll credits.

After the credits, Nadeshiko makes a solitary journey by bike to the same seaside campsite where Rin soloed back in the first episode, when I all but immediately fell in love with this series. As soon as she’s all set up (complete with her retro gas lamp), she gets a text from Rin asking what she’s up to.

Nadeshiko says she’s soloing; so is Rin. Rin asks where; Nadeshiko decides to make it a guessing game based on the photos. Rin sends back a photo fo the exact same place, only with Nadeshiko in the shot—they went to the same place! It’s such a beautiful moment of friendship I’m not ashamed to say I teared up a bit!

It’s pretty much the perfect epilogue, and while viewers of Yuru Camp would have to wait three excruciating years for more Rin and Nadeshiko (including 2020, which was more like ten years), All I need to do is hit “Next Episode” to continue following their story in Yuru Camp Season 2!

Yuru Camp△ – 03 – Return of the Favor

We watch the day Rin goes camping from Nadeshiko’s perspective, as she searches the family storage shed for a tent only to find it’s a canopy tent; useless for cold nights. When she gets word Rin is at Fumoto, Nadeshiko has her very cool sister Sakura drive her there—in her extremely cool Nissan Rasheen.

That’s how Nadeshiko comes to surprise Rin with hot pot ingredients. Last time she intruded on Rin’s camping, it was unintentional, and she mooched off of her; this time she wants to pay her back by preparing a home-cooked meal for her. Who’s going to refuse that?!

By the time it’s ready, night has fallen, and Rin has learned that Nadeshiko is fond of doing a “country granny bit”. Still, upon tasting the dish, both Rin and Nadeshiko are overcome by warmth and coziness, so much so in fact that they must shed some layers even in the cold night!

Rin also observes that Nadeshiko is an absolute pro at making food look really, really good…and is also fond of eating a lot of it! After dinner, Rin apologizes for coming off as annoyed at school, while Nadeshiko apologizes for being too imposing. Rin agrees to go camping with her and maybe others in the future.

With that Rin, retires to her tent, while Nadeshiko sleeps in the car with her sister. Sakura has to force the issue when the alarm goes off and Nadeshiko insists she’s awake even though she’s still horizontal. As Sakura drives off to buy breakfast, Nadeshiko makes good on her plan to be up at dawn.

Watching the night sky gradually brighten as the sun rises from behind Fuji-san is a gorgeous, majestic sight to behold. As someone who is rarely up for sunrises, whenever I am by choice it’s definitely a warm, empowering feeling…the feeling of accomplishment, and the feeling that everything is just beginning.

Eventually, the sun proves too bright for the still very drowsy Nadeshiko, so she curls up inside Rin’s tent. When Rin wakes up and notices her, it’s time to wake up, but she can’t rouse her, so she goes back to sleep too. The next day at school, Rin looks through all the pics she took on her phone, including with Nadeshiko.

Her friend Saitou Ena (Takahashi Rie!) is glad the two are getting along, mentioning she too would consider camping once it gets warmer in six months or so. The main takeaway is that there’s nothing wrong with camping solo, but camping with someone also has its appeal, just as sharing a meal with someone usually makes that meal taste better.

Talentless Nana – 07 – Just Girl Talk

When Yuuka scoffs at Nana’s barb, Nana tries a different tack, stating “Humans don’t believe the truth. They believe people.” Even if Yuuka knows what Nana tried to do, Nana has the trust of the others, while Yuuka is someone who screws her dead boyfriend. So Nana proposes a deal.

She’ll keep Yuuka’s dirty secret and even read her beloved Shinji’s thoughts if Yuuka releases her. Because Yuuka is “a hopeless romantic” she falls for the ruse, and Nana says Shinji is thinking “Kill Nana”, which Shinji later confirms is the true, though Nana was again simply bluffing. Bottom line, she gets the hulking Shinji off her back and flees into the woods.

During the ensuing nighttime game of cat-and-mouse, Nana gains crucial intel on Yuuka’s powers. Yuuka needs a”relic” (an item the deceased has touched) to raise someone. This culminates in her having a whole pile of weird stuff under her bed, and Nana is chased not just by Yuuka and Shinji, but a whole zombie army composed of dead students and teachers.

The presense of so many dead people ont he island suggests that the “Committee” Nana serves didn’t tell her everything, but she’s too busy trying to survive to give that the thought it deserves. That brings us to Yuuka’s other weakness: her zombies, including Shinji, only “work” during the night.

Nana proves that theory by putting her life on the line, locking herself in Shinji’s cabin where zombies are lying in wait. They fall asleep once the sun rises over the horizon, so she’s safe for the time being, but then Yuuka locks her in the cabin for the day, content to finish the job once the sun is back down.

When Yuuka and Shinji return to the cabin after going to class (during which time Kyouya mentions how the clasp of Yuuka’s necklace is damaged and loose), Nana is nowhere to be found. There’s a nice double fake-out when I figured Nana was pretending to be the zombie girl with a similar hairstyle, but that was a red herring.

Nana not only managed to escape from the cabin, but gets the jump on Yuuka as she’s carrying a dormant Shinji during the next sunrise. Then she pulls the real relic Yuuka uses for Shinji from her back pocket. The necklace was a decoy; the scrap of a test is the real thing. And now that it’s in Nana’s possession, Yuuka is in her pocket.

Nana explains that while it looked like she was panicking and barricading the door to the cabin to seal herself in, in reality she was removing screws from the lock, then covering it with tape so Yuuka wouldn’t notice. That’s why she was able to escape the locked room…it wasn’t really locked. She then replaced the screws before Yuuka and Shinji returned.

When Yuuka offers to do anything for Nana, Nana is perhaps a bit too cruel in saying “I’m a cat person…I don’t need another dog,” referencing Michiru. She then has Yuuka return her needles, but drops the scrap of paper off the cliff anyway. With no more relic, Yuuka will be unable to revive her undead boyfriend…he’s gone forever. But that’s not the end of the story.

Nana is curious why Yuuka chose something so flimsy for a relic for someone so important to her. Breaking down the details of Yuuka’s story about their movie date and ensuing fire, she determines that Yuuka and Shinji were never boyfriend and girlfriend; that Yuuka was merely a stalker, and she set the fire to kill the girl he was going with.

This sends an already crazed, despair-ridden Yuuka fully off the deep end, but Nana doesn’t bother pushing her off the cliff. Instead, she kills her with a needle, and the phone confirms she saved 500,000 lives by doing so. Her greatest threat thus far has been eliminated, but in the process a lot has been revealed about just how little she knows about the people who hired her. She could well be struggling and fighting for the wrong side!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Fruits Basket – 08 – All is Quiet on New Year’s Day

Everyone has somewhere to be for the New Year’s holiday…everyone but Tooru, whose parents are dead and whose remaining family is off to Hawaii. Yet no matter how hard Uo and Hana try to invite them to their places, she insists she’ll be fine, and that they should spend the time with their families.

After reveling in winter cleaning with the Soumas, Tooru learns the three are headed to the main house for the big banquet and other festivities. Tooru, not being a Souma, is not invited, but she’s content to hold the fort at Shigure’s house, even though it will mean ringing in the new year all alone.

Despite her insistence she’ll be fine, Yuki and Kyou are uneasy the whole time they’re en route to the main house. They know her well enough (it’s been four months) to know she can be a bit of a space cadet, and is prone to accidents. What if she gets hurt and no one is there to help her?

Shigure finds the two young lads’ worrying about her like their baby chick to be most entertaining, and so stirs the pot by saying there’s a burglar in their neighborhood who has yet to be caught. The final straw is when they run into Saki, who very simply and concisely asks them to consider how she’s feeling all alone at their house for New Years; to put themselves in her shoes, knowing both what she’s been through.

Yuki and Kyou bump heads rushing back home to her, cursing themselves for not realizing they accepted Tooru’s polite insistence far too easily. Saying you’re fine being alone and being fine alone are not the same thing, even with Tooru. Their suspicions are confirmed when they arrive to find her holding her mother’s portrait and crying while listening to Enka music on the telly.

Wondering what the heck happened, an exhausted Yuki and Kyou collapse to the floor and say, simply, “I’m home”…and Tooru tears right back up, only they’re tears of joy. Despite always smiling on the outside, Tooru is not always happy and cheerful on the inside; the lads were right not to leave her alone on the holiday; she’s happiest when she’s with people she cares about.

Shigure meets with Hatori, Hatsuhare, and Momiji, informing them Yuki and Kyou have skipped. Hatsuhare can understand, as he himself contemplates running from things he’d rather not engage in. But Shigure tells him this wasn’t about running away from Akito (in Yuki’s case) or Kagura (in Kyou’s); not this time.

Instead, it was about running to someone, someone both in greater need and more deserving of their presence. That’s hammered home when Shigure checks in on a morose Akito. Shigure is actually glad to see the family head reaping what he sowed. Shigure is the one harboring Yuki and Kyou during their self-exile, after all; it makes sense he’d be on their side with this…situation.

Meanwhile, by spending New Years with Tooru, keeping her company, sharing mochi (and chewing carefully!), and finally climbing up the roof together to watch the gorgeous first sun rise out of the horizon, the guilt Yuki and Kyou initially felt about abandoning their formal family obligations eventually melts away.

No, Yuki and Kyou needed Tooru every bit as much as Tooru needed them. Far from being a night they’ll regret, it turns out to be a night—and morning—the three of them won’t soon forget. They get to see Tooru smile without a hint of weariness hidden behind it as she looks forward to another year with two of the four people (along with Uo and Saki) most important in her life; her real family.

Made in Abyss – 02

Wherever he came from—Riko believes he’s from the furthest depths of the Abyss…in a nice way!—she along with her friends Sigy and Nat, know that the arrival Reg is huge. Bigger than the discovery of any other relic in the Abyss to date. He’s like ten relics in one, and more importantly, he walks, talks, and even blushes when Riko gets too close.

Her hilariously embarrassing report on the results of her very thorough examination of Reg’s every nook and cranny notwithstanding, they determine the safest place for him to hide is in plain sight, so they give him a whole backstory and Leader accepts him to the Orphanage, and eventually a job cave-raiding.

The ruse goes swimmingly, with Reg fitting in nicely at the orphanage, and growing close to Riko, who sees him not as some relic, but a friend and member of their big family. Then news comes that some elite cave raiders—among them Black Whistles—have completed their descent from the place where Lyza the Annihilator fell.

Who is Lyza, you ask? Only one of the most famous and distinguished explorers of her age…and yeah, Riko’s MOM. Leader was old enough to remember what a drunken, short-tempered mess Lyza was…but also reveals to Riko that she was born on that expedition, deep in the Abyss, protected by a relic that minimized the effects of the Abyss’ “Curse.”

Lyza also abandoned the expedition to recover a prime relic—The Unheard Bell—to ensure baby Riko got back to the surface and survived. So she has, albeit with an eye condition that requires crystal lenses to avoid headaches. Oh, and some rather large shoes to fill!

Riko being presented with Lyza’s ornate White Whistle caused all the reminiscing, and gaining new insight into her mom (and her own beginnings) from Leader only increased her desire to become a White Whistle of her own. It feels like destiny.

That feeling likely isn’t diminished when Riko is brought before unsealed documents that were with Lyza’s White Whistle. Among them is a sketch of a robot boy just like Reg, as well as a note saying “At the netherworld’s bottom, I’ll be waiting.” That there’s no mention of Lyza’s body ever being recovered only increases the likelihood she may still be alive somewhere down there.

Maybe Lyza sent Reg up to the surface to protect Riko and help her reach the depths of the Abyss where she was, in a way, made (i.e. born). Is she ready to descend that deep? The grown-ups think not. We’ll see.

Made in Abyss – 01 (First Impressions)

Just a minute or two into Made in Abyss and I was already thinking What have I been doing these last five weeks, not watching this? I don’t know how it goes from here, but you can scarcely do a first episode better than this right here. Grandeur. Wonder. And sure, a little cutesiness. Abyss offers it all in spades, plus one of the most surprising, badass anime soundtracks I’ve heard in a long time.

Abyss goes into Tell Mode, but not until the very end, once it’s showed a whole lot. Seriously, it gets the showing down pat in no time, as the ethereal soundtrack plays over an otherwise soundless montage during which the fantastical yet cozy world is unveiled, bit by tantalizing bit. This is after the heroine saved her friend by drawing a monster to her, only to herself need prompt rescuing from a mysterious “robot boy” she takes home.

Home is the Belchero Orphanage—Riko and Nat are orphans—a grand place that has vertical classrooms with desks nailed to the wall accessable by ladder. That right there is some good fantasy, along with the familiar and yet otherworldly scenery, architecture, and clothing.

But just as gorgeous as the scenery, vistas, and lived-in interiors is what’s going on between the characters. As I said, they’re little kids—and I’m most certainly not—and yet they are never for a second annoying. They remind me more of the Goonies or the kids in Stranger Things, because they’re so easy to watch and imagine ourselves at that age having adventures, getting one over on the stodgy adults (and older kids)…and stubbing our toes while running. And the android Regu is just the kind of friend you’d want if you were a little kid: one who shoots powerful beams and has extendable arms.

Having successfully escaped responsibility and punishment for causing a blackout in the orphanage, Riko takes Regu to the best spot to watch the sun rise over her magnificent city of Orth, which surrounds the kilometer-wide-diameter aperture of the titular Abyss, the true depth of which no one knows, and the depth of previously unknown relics and treasures seems to similarly know no bounds.

Riko wants to follow in her late mother’s footsteps by going as deep as a human has ever gone in that Abyss, and bring back something new and amazing. But she may have already stumbled upon that discovery in Regu, without even descending more than 100 meters. It’s a great start for her, and for Made in Abyss. I’m fully onboard.

Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider – 08

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After spending much of the previous episode apart, this episode almost revels in pairing up Moe with Saikawa once more. With dawn approaching and the police soon on their way, Moe believes she can get her uncle in the police department to keep Shiki’s murder a secret for the length of time the lab needs; that way no one has to lie. Moe goes to the roof to try to determine how Shindo’s killer could have gotten on or off the roof from the outside, but more than anything she’s just happy to be with Saikawa.

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As for that sunset, it’s a really lovely scene during which the sky gradually lightens and the sun comes up over the trees as Moe and Saikawa lean on the rail, enjoying each other’s company. Moe talks about how she hurt her when she lashed out in her mad grief all those years ago, but Saikawa never held it against her; “glasses can be fixed.” It was more important to him that Moe knew she wasn’t alone, even though her parents were gone.

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The pleasant domestic theme continues when Moe takes a shower and Saikawa makes a hearty breakfast of bacon & eggs, and then Saikawa lets Moe doze off for a few hours, then for the two to keep each other company during a slightly scary blackout as the lab’s computer is rebooted.

Saikawa notes how differently he and Moe think: he sees the path and carefully walks along it to find the answer, while Moe grasps at random facts and tries to make connections. Saikawa implies Moe has much to learn, but can’t deny that she presents ideas that he wouldn’t have come up with. They make a good team.

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With Moe, who feels much lighter since  by his side in the dark as he puffs away at a cigarette, Saikawa comes upon what he believes to be a truth that may turn everything on its head: the Magata Shiki Moe spoke to via teleconference wasn’t really Magata Shiki. The episode also brings up the possibility of passing Miki off as Shiki, despite being taller and more filled out…but what if Miki IS Shiki?

What if that whole English conversation Saikawa had was with Shiki? Could the whole “sister” thing be one long con? Or, even more distrubing, did Shiki cut off Miki’s longer limbs to pass her corpse off as her own, thus faking her death? Shiki considers bodies mere containers, so she’s definitely capable of it.

All this time I’ve been operating under the assumption Shiki was definitely dead, even if a part of her still existed in, say, the computer system. But now even that fact is in dispute. If Miki is Shiki, that’s a whole new ballgame.

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Kakumeiki Valvrave – 01

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On a Dyson Sphere where 70% of the human population lives, the neutral, peace-loving nation of JIOR falls victim to a vicious surprise attack by militaristic Dorssia, who attack from within with young special forces led by L-Elf and from outside with a squadron of flying mecha. Tokishima Haruto is about to confess to his friend Sashinami Shouko when fighting breaks. Shouko is killed by an errant weapons blast.

A scientist manages to deploy the experimental mecha Valvrave before L-Elf can get to it. A devastated Haruto boards it to take his revenge. After agreeing to “resign his humanity”, he easily dispatches the enemy squadron. His actions are recorded by a hacker and streamed to the world, making him an instant celebrity and a hero. When he exits Valvrave, L-Elf is there, and kills him, but Haruto wakes back up and bites him in the neck.

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9/10ths of this episode is a pretty by-the-numbers shonen mecha story: weak, un-driven kid from a peaceful world is thrust into despair by the loss of someone precious, and is in the right place at the right time to take control of the super-duper brand-new mecha suit. There’s about two dozen characters and there’s only time to paint them with the broadest of strokes. What’s more important is the spectacle and style of everything that transpires around them. Still, Valvrave offers some interesting new tricks to the usually solid, sometimes stolid Gundam formula.

First of all, the modern double-edged sword of social meda rears its head early, and as the official factions war, a hacker in a dark room can influence millions. Haruto also has to deal with fame at the same time he’s dealing with terrible loss, both of his love and his innocence. Oh yeah, and Valvrave makes him lose his humanity, and not in a figurative sense: he literally turns into an immortal vampire beast of sorts. Which is very sudden and weird, but we certainly like the clashing of genres, and are eager to see where they go with it.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Stray Observations:

  • For a series clearly not afraid to show blood and graphic deaths, the “romance” between Haruto and Shouko was over-tame by comparison. Then again, not even having time to say he loved her before he lost her must sting particularly hard.
  • Yes, the mecha designer has done most Gundams, including SEED/Destiny and 00, the two series we’ve watched in full.
  • Valvrave is suitably menacing and powerful looking, and moves with equal parts grace and fury.
  • Dorssia, the evil empire where you can never get a table.
  • Why the hell did there have to be five “transfer students” instead of two? At least two of those guys are extraneous…
  • This is our Spring “dark horse”;  the series we hadn’t even heard of but decided  to jump into late. Previous dark horses include Kotoura-san and Penguindrum.