Hinamatsuri – 03

This week three of Hinamatsuri’s young women learn the value, rewards, and pitfalls of hard work from three very different vantage points, starting with Anzu. Anzu is unable to return to her mystery home, so she is homeless. She resorts to petty theft in Utako’s shopping district, but the constant chasing is getting exhausting, and one never knows when she might accidentally cut loose with her powers.

The hobo that once gave up her location to Sabu takes Anzu under his wing and shows her how to make honest money to pay for food. It’s a lot of work for a pittance, and even when she and Yassan show up to the hobo camp with sake to share, the mostly old men there treat her like crap…until she sings them an old nostalgic song that brings many of them to tears.

Anzu is rewarded with a canned drink and membership into the tribe, with all the benefits that entails. But the next day it’s back to the drudgery of searching for stray coins and collecting cans, during which time she runs into Nitta. Seeing her situation and seeing through her half-hearted explanations, Nitta assumes the worst and attempts to solve it with money.

The same stubborn pride that keeps Anzu on the streets also makes her angry at the handout, and she throws the 40,000 yen back in his face. However, when she remembers the hobos talking about how steel and aluminum price drops will cut deeply into their haul, she swallows her pride, chases Nitta’s car down, and accepts his gift.

When she’s immediately surrounded by Usako and the other proprietors she stole from, she loses more than 39,000 of it as repayment, and returns to camp dejected and ashamed. But Yassan assures her it’s for the best: she’s no longer wanted for theft; she has a fresh start as a “homeless girl.” If she keeps working hard as she can (and accepts gifts like Nitta’s when they come), she’ll be able to survive, as they have. Without using her powers.

Next we move on to Mishima Hitomi, who already knows the value of hard work and has applied it to studying, resulting in her position as top student in class, a position she takes great pride in. However, after her impromptu go at bartending last week, Utako wants her to keep working there, and is willing to blackmail her with an incriminating photo to make it happen.

Hitomi counters with a recording of Utako blackmailing her, and Utako takes a different tack, suggesting they both delete their data on each other…but Utako had already downloaded the photo to her PC, so it’s Game, Set, and Match Utako: Hitomi starts working at her bar for 1,500 yen an hour. She is a hit, not because she’s a middle schooler, but because she’s just too damn good at mixing drinks.

Just as at school, she works hard, takes no shortcuts, and comes to take great pride in her good work at the bar. But her two world collide when her homeroom teacher comes into the bar with the vice principal (who is already drunk), trying to nab the position of head teacher.

The teacher is not drunk, and quickly recognizes Hitomi, but decides its in both their best interests to keep the secret to himself. But he still doesn’t let Hitomi off the hook: as something of a mixology aficionado, he challenges Hitomi to make him a Million Dollar, and then a Bartender, to test her shaking and stirring skills. Hitomi passes with flying colors, and he’s duly impressed in her skills, as Usako and the other patrons knew he would be.

While a misunderstanding and her own passivity got her into the job to start, and she was blackmailed into continuing it, her natural talent for the job keeps her coming back…and the mad stacks she’s depositing into the bank account her parents don’t know about don’t hurt one bit! Not only that you watch Hitomi work behind the bar, you can tell she’s in her happy place.

Anzu expanded her world by transitioning from theft to a modest but honest living, while Hitomi expanded hers by adding paid labor to a repertoire that had once been unpaid study, though that will pay off when she needs to get in a good high school and college. And because she’s making so much bank, she needn’t worry about burdening her folks with tuition.

That brings us to the young woman at the top of the social ladder, simply by having her egg land in a rich yakuza’s apartment and that yakuza having a heart of gold…in other words, privilege and luck. Though she may have helped Nitta out off-camera, since the first episode she hasn’t really worked. Having seen Anzu surviving on the streets, Nitta wonders out loud why Hina couldn’t try to do the same thing (is he half-joking? quarter-joking?)

Hina gets the message, and after a frightening dream in which she’s filthy and destitute on the street while Nitta walks past with a glamorous Anzu on his arm, Hina adopts a more genial and eager-to-please attitude that understandably throws him off. When he goes off to work late, she attempts to work hard so he won’t throw her out.

But unlike Anzu and Hitomi, Hina’s hard work ends up working against her goals, not towards them, while her attempt to expand her skills through various household chores ends in one huge mess after another. Her comedy of errors, while predictable, is nonetheless cleverly depicted. I especially liked her attempt to air out a blanket, only for it to fly away into the Tokyo cityscape like a  magic carpet.

Worse, when things get messy, Hina simply gives up and moves on to the next chore, and when she finds a bowl of ikura in the fridge marked “rewards for Hina” she unilaterally decides she’s worked hard enough to give herself the reward.

Fittingly, as Nitta tells his associates, it’s been so long since Hina has done anything to earn a reward, the ikura in the fridge has gone bad, something Hina’s stomach suddenly realizes while she has every dish in the house levitating and dripping soapy water all over the hardwood floors. The dishes shatter, she goes down, and Nitta, who was impressed by how nice she was being before he left, is poised for a rude surprise.

Basically, Hina could learn a lot from Anzu and Hitomi about the importance of being competent at the hard work you are attempting. She did it before with the forestry (and the raid of Nitta’s rivals); she can do it again. She just needs more practice! Ultimately, everyone, even Hina, wants to feel needed, and to strike a proper balance between taking and giving.

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Hinamatsuri – 02 – Savin’ the Nation, then Hittin’ the Clubs

When another telekinetic middle school-aged girl suddenly appears naked in the street at night, then promptly dispatches the entire bike gang whose path she barred, it occurred to me we could get a new super-powered egg brat every week. It also occurred to me that might be too many brats, but this episode would come to allay my fears.

This latest one, Anzu, is not only a problem because she didn’t materialize in the apartment of one a mild-mannered and reasonable yakuza, but because she is on a specific mission to find and eliminate Hina.

All Anzu says its that it’s “orders from the brass”, but the less we know about where Hina and Anzu come from, the better, I say. The whys and wherefores aren’t necessary; just the fact that they’re here, and Nitta has to deal with it in a responsible way.

Nitta first hears about a little girl taking out the bike gang from his subordinate Sabu, but it isn’t long before she’s at the same ramen shop trying to dine and dash. Nitta pays for her, again placing the responsibility for an extremely powerful and dangerous being on his admittedly broad shoulders.

Nitta realizes that by treating the arrival of Hina the way he has, he may well have saved the nation, a fact he casually remarks to Sabu (who can’t possibly know what he’s talking about). He doesn’t shrink from his duty to save it again, this time from a potentially cataclysmic battle between two unchecked adolescent espers.

Once he gets a tip about Anzu’s position from Sabu via the network of homeless they pay to keep their eyes and ears open, he brings Anzu and Hina together, but gets Anzu to agree to a game of “look-that-way” rock-paper-scissors, with the two using their powers to try to make the other look in a certain direction.

Not only does the execution of this plan eliminate the threat of cataclysm, it also results in some seriously hilarious faces from Hina and Anzu as they try to force-pull each others faces up, down, and to the side.

Ultimately, Hina defeats a frustrated Anzu with ease, but when Anzu realizes how much Hina has changed since they last met (she talks and everything!), she decides it’s enough to take a lock of her hair and tell the bosses that the deed is done.

Hina, in turn, invites Anzu to hang out a bit before she returns home (wherever that is; I don’t want to know). After some video games, dinner, and a load of laundry, Hina and Nitta send Anzu on her way…only for her red ball teleporter thingy to not function because it was in the wash, leaving Anzu stranded and homeless (again). Maybe this time gangs will keep a wider berth.

While this leaves open the possibility Hina and Anzu will cross paths again, and I wouldn’t mind such crossings, she doesn’t wear out her welcome here, and isn’t present in the episode’s second half, in which Nitta realizes that ever since he took in Hina, he’s been off his Game.

His bartender/occasional date Utako thinks he’s joking when he asks her out with Hina sitting nearby; his usual girls at the girly club have heard rumors he’s put his Don Juaning on hold in order to lavish time, love, attention and money on his “daughter.” Nitta is appalled. He’s got to get his game back.

He does so in a less-than-subtle way, essentially ripping the time-consuming Hina off like a band-aid, leaving her alone in the apartment with a cold can of mackerel while he hits the bar or club or goes out on dates. Hina finds the mackerel novel and tasty at first, but soon it gets old and tedious, and she doesn’t like the loneliness.

Hina decides to take matters into her own hands, first by insisting she get to go out with him (resulting in a hilarious chase in which she’s waiting for him on the subway at the end, and he lets the doors close without getting in) to enlisting the aid of her too-nice-for-her-own-good classmate Hitomi. Hina learned from TV it’s better to use more than one person to follow someone, but she promptly ditches Hitomi at Utako’s bar, which is closed.

There’s a distinct feeling of not belonging in such an adult place, yet when one of the regular lushes lumbers in to tie one on, he’s no so much confused as delighted that the new barkeep is so young. He doesn’t even mind she doesn’t know how to make a highball; he’ll teach her.

And thus Hitomi, who as I said is way too nice to turn down an old drunk man’s offer to teach her how to make cocktails for him, ends up tending bar all night. When Nitta finally shows up, she’s relieved, but when she calls him Hina’s “dad” he gets upset and becomes another customer (rather than rescuing her).

Meanwhile, Utako ends up crossing paths with Hina, and tells her Nitta won’t understand what she wants unless she tells him straight up. It’s a great little playground scene that’s made more “Hinamatsuri-ish” by the fact Hina levitates off the swing and does a few lazy flips in the air while Utako is dispensing advice.

By the time Utako and Hina get to the bar, Hitomi has, just, like, become a bartender. I didn’t think I’d ever come across an anime not only in which a middle schooler is ditched in a closed bar, but accidentally becomes a thoroughly competent bartender over the course of an evening, without even particularly wanting to! It is ludicrous and amazing.

And there, to a somewhat sloshed Nitta, Hina tells him straight-up what she wants: to go to a girly club with him. In’s an odd request, but Nitta gives in to the booze-lubricated mood of the room and agrees.

But rather than just Nitta and Hina, everyone comes along: Utako closes the bar and comes, the regular drunk comes, a comple random salarymen come…and Hitomi comes too. The increasingly drunk Nitta even lets Hina levitate a bottle of champagne over a tower of glasses (even though such a service has to be specially ordered).

Finally, Hitomi gets a call from her worried-sick mother, who doesn’t believe her for a second when she tells the truth about where she is so late at night. The question Hitomi wants answered is why is she there. I can think of two main reasons: Hina, and passivity.

In the morning Nitta wakes up on the couch, in his boxers, with a hangover, an invoice for 2.5 million yen ($23,000) and a Hina eager to go out that night and do it all over again. Nitta pumps the brakes; from that day until further notice it will be a frugal household. Break out the mackerel!

Hinamatsuri – 01 – Not Your Average Brat (First Impressions)

Nitta Yoshifumi is your typical low-to-mid-level yakuza, doing pretty well for himself without getting his hands bloody, preferring the art hustle to less civilized ventures. He has a fine condo with fine furniture, fine objets d’art, and fine wine.

Then quite suddenly (as these things tend to happen), a strange metal egg with a face falls from above. Nitta decides to pretend its not there and go to bed. But of course, it’s still there in the morning, and he presses the red button as the face instructs to reveal Hina, a blue-haired brat with telekinetic powers.

Nitta…goes with it. I mean, Hina doesn’t give him much choice, wordlessly threatening to destroy all the fine things he owns unless he acquiesces to her demands, which range from “clothes” of any kind to cover her up, to over eight thousand dollars worth of merch at the mall.

Hina isn’t the expressive sort, but lots of TV-watching gives her a vocabulary Nitta can immediately identify when she uses it. He finds himself feeling like a caregiver all of a sudden, rather than somebody only in this life for himself and his organization.

When Hina decides she’s going to school, Nitta gets her to promise not to use her powers, lest chaos ensue. As Hina makes a fine first impression by forgetting her assumed last name, then sleeps through every class, Nitta wrings his hands at a meeting with his fellow yakuza, worried about how she’s doing—and they misinterpret his intensity for being gung-ho about taking on a rival group.

Well, chaos ensues anyway, because she neglects to tell him that if she doesn’t use her powers for too long, the power builds up and explodes, trashing his whole place. I loved the suddenness with which this escalated.

Since she has to use her powers anyway, Nitta tries to find a practical use for them, and finds one in a forest-clearing job for a shady developer. Uprooting mature trees, cleanly stripping their branches, foliage, and bark, and filling the holes in the ground is child’s play to Hina, who privately wonders why this Nitta guy is being so nice and not ordering her to kill people.

Nitta makes a killing on the tree job, but gets no congratulations from the Chief, because in his absence the Boss got shot, requiring their group to respond in kind. Nitta doesn’t even think of taking Hina with him, but resolves to take care of it himself, despite lacking any credible bona fides in the violence department.

Hina tags along (and scares the shit out of Nitta in the car) of her own volition, asking him why he won’t give her orders to kill the men in the building. Nitta’s all-too-decent response is a revelation to Hina: “Why should you have to do that? This has nothing to do with you!” Touched that he cares for her, she smirks and decides to take care of business without orders.

Hina is as efficient at clearing out the rival groups’ hideout and serving up their boss as she was clearing the forest, and we listen along with Nitta to the screams and grunts of the building’s occupants as she goes floor-to-floor, tossing every peron and piece of furniture out into the street (though notably never hitting Nitta with anything).

Everybody wins: Nitta is promoted for his excellent work (he neglects to mention his “brat” did it all; not that he wants it known she has powers), and Hina gets to exercise her telekinetic valves. Nitta generously rewards her (another concept unfamiliar to Hina from her previous life) with the finest kind of her so-far favorite food (red caviar), and the two settle into a mutually beneficial situation.

Post-credits, Nitta accidentally locks himself in the metal egg Hina arrived in, and Hina exacts a bit of revenge by leaving him in there all night, only releasing him in the morning after he’d wet himself (the moment of his release is played exactly like Ahnold’s arrival in Terminator, only with a cloud of piss.)

Hinamatsuri is a ton of fun. It’s also an absolute hoot. I was snickering or laughing for virtually the entire run time, as Nitta’s reactions to Hina’s deadpan remarks were constantly entertaining, as was the physical comedy of the telekinetic hi-jinx. There were too many hilarious lines to list.

The show has a marvelous sense of comedic timing in both dialogue and editing, but the comedy never overshadows what is, at its heart, a warm and sincere story of a man who suddenly has someone to care about, and a former human weapon who suddenly has the freedom to be a normal girl, even if she occasionally has to literally blow off some steam. I’m on board!

Devilman: Crybaby – 01 (First Impressions)

So begins my foray into the venerable Devilman franchise, which dates to 1974, its latest iteration available on Netflix at the same time in America as Japan. It’s actually been available for a while now, but I didn’t get around to cracking it open until now.

The first episode of Crybaby is brisk, starting with some heady philosophizing, giving us a quick glimpse of friends Asuka Ryou (a cold realist even in his youth) and Fudou Akira (the titular crybaby, who has enough empathy for both of them).

It isn’t long before the mundaneness of P.E. (and the somewhat head-scratchiness of a random attack by beatboxing rappers) is left behind in a cloud of Ryou’s Mitsuoka Orochi exhaust and the innocent, sensitive Akira finds himself in a debaucherous orgy of hedonism in which drugs and sex reign supreme, the escape of the young, rich, and bored.

Ryou brought Akira here to pop his cherry…in a sense. Ryou’s experience abroad has led him to believe a human can merge with a devil/demon and gain its power while maintaining their humanity, and Akira is the perfect vessel to test that theory.

However, the orgy isn’t, well, bloody or gory enough to draw out any devils, so Ryou rectifies that by wrecking up the place. He and Akira are very nearly beaten to death in the fracas, and before long devils start sprouting from the orifices of women and what were once areas of pleasure become weapons of evisceration.

It’s a huge mess, but Ryou gets what he came for: the demon Amon possesses Akira and merges with him, resulting in the titular Devilman. Perhaps because of how good and pure Amon’s human vessel is, Devilman is particularly powerful, and dispatches the other nasties without too much trouble, and with quite a bit of satisfaction.

And there you have it! Oh wait, why is Ryou doing this? For SCIENCE, I suppose; humans aren’t evolving fast enough for him; perhaps he believes it’s time to shake things up by nurturing such mergings as Akira with Amon. Or maybe that one merge was all he cared about, in hopes his friend, always a crybaby, would benefit in some way.

Yuasa Masaaki’s unique style is unmistakable here, and though this is certainly more violent than the only other work of his I’ve seen. As I said, it’s a brisk and relatively straightforward episode with a decent hook: what the hell will become of Akira now that Ryou has condemned him to share his existence with a demon?

Sagrada Reset – 17

Another week, another dense, intricate Sakurada Reset. Let’s wade in, shall we? First of all, Souma’s second voice message to Kei leads to another incident involving abilities – specifically, an entire supermarket breaks out in laughter, including Kei and Haruki, which is actually pretty momentous considering how subtly the two usually express emotion.

That night, Hitsuchi calls just when Kei is about to call him, asking him for a head shot of Souma Sumire. He also tells Kei about about the Bureau’s current fear of every ability user in Sakurada using their abilities simultaneously.

Kei then remembers what he read in Manuscript 407, which is about the events of 40 years ago when the Bureau was first founded by the only three ability users who were aware of their abilities. Two were a married couple; the husband could “take something” from the entire world at once, and the wife could “retain” something. The third would later be known as the Nameless Witch.

Because of the husband, none of the people in Sakurada know of their abilities, but when he dies, the “spell will be broken”, and there will be chaos. So the Witch proposes they work together to expand the boundary of the wife’s ability (which negates memory loss the husband is causing worldwide), so that when the husband does die, people will know about abilities and they’ll be in a position to keep them under control; thus the Bureau was born.

Back in the present, Hitsuchi eventually sends Kei info on the ability users involved in the last two incidents, then calls Kei to report that after seeing Souma’s photo, he remembered certain things about two years ago. before Souma died, she went to Hitsuchi, who she used to borrow the ability of Tomoki to create voice messages without Tomoki remembering what he did. The messages, then, are from the Souma of the past, before she died.

Traveling with Sakuin, Souma engages with the human lie detector in non-superficial conversation, asking her opinion on the Bureau. Sakuin believes the Bureau’s foundation has started to crumble, even going so far as to call her boss Urachi a “monster” that nothing can be done about. Urachi’s plan is to eliminate information on abilities from the town, which would, after all turn Souma back into a “normal student,” which is her intent.

Despite knowing Urachi’s methods may not be the most moral, Sakuin is of the mind that abilities are “unnecessary,” but as she lacks the means to remove them from the town, she leaves it in Urachi’s hands. As for Kei, all the remembering of information—including the realizaiton Souma may have died for him—has led to him having a rough time; something Haruki can sense when he visits her house.

Why does he visit her house? No, not for a booty call…Souma’s third voice message instructs him to deliver a copy of his favorite book to Haruki. We don’t learn what that book is, nor does Haruki (he left it in her mailbox to look at later), but when Kei opens up about his problems to her, Haruki is heartened. She suggests he rests, but there’s more he needs to do, and Haruki isn’t about to stop him that.

That ‘something more to do’ apparently involves returning to Haruki’s dreamworld, where he finds both Michiru and Chiruchiru “locked” by Urachi’s underling. According to a blue bird Chiruchiru created to tell Kei what happened, the Bureau entered the dream world and locked Michiru, Chiruchiru, and the world’s Souma.

The bird implores Kei to help Michiru escape the lock, and also gives him the name of his “nemesis”, which he hadn’t known was Urachi until just then. It’s a name he knows, because two of the three founders, the husband and wife, had the same name, making Masamune their son.

After his parents basically kicked the abilities can down the road, Masamune is looking for a permanent fix, and seems to be getting closer. It remains to be seen if he’ll succeed, or what succeeding will mean for Kei, Haruki, Souma, and everyone else in Sakurada.

Sagrada Reset – 16

Urachi has a plan. His plan is to wipe out all of the abilities of Sakurada and start everything anew as if the last forty years of people with abilities never happened. In effect, it’s a plan to “fix” something that is not in its natural state. Sakurada should be a normal town, and yet it isn’t, and hasn’t been for four decades. He merely plans to fix that.

Considering it’s the job of our protagonists, or ‘heroes’, Kei and Haruki, to use their abilities to help people and improve lives, Urachi’s plan would seem to be at odds with their reason for being…and yet I can’t regard Urachi as a ‘villain’, no matter how much he may smirk (in his sleep or otherwise).

For if there were no abilities, Kei and Haruki would no longer have the responsibilities that come with them; they could merely carry on as normal humans, as a normal couple, in normal love with each other. What’s so wrong with that?

Nothing, IMO, which is why I won’t be “held hostage” emotionally by this latest four-episode arc, in which Souma believes “everything will end in a few more days.” I’m game for any outcome. I’m along for the ride.

Souma reaches out to Urachi, agreeing to identify herself (though only as the “second witch”) if he halted investigations into her (and Kei) for one month; he agrees. Meanwhile, Kei takes stock of his relationship with Haruki, and concludes that while she has progressed a great deal despite all the resets (they save all the time, after all), he has “stopped”, keeping what they have as a collaboration of ability users.

He is his own worst enemy, so during the cultural festival at school (in which he and Haruki will play lovers on stage despite not really being lovers), he makes a concerted effort to get moving again; to progress, as Haruki has progressed. Meeting her on the rooftop, Haruki is the first to speak, apologizing for the reality that she has come to hate Souma as a rival for his attention, both ability-wise and romantically.

But Kei makes it clear to her that he’d want to be with her even if she didn’t have her ability. I think that’s huge, becaue all signs seem to be pointing to that anyway. It’s not Souma he wants to be with; it’s Haruki. Upon hearing these words, out loud, and not having to worry or create scenarios in her head, Haruki blushes and beams…while Souma stews in a dark bedroom, accusing Haruki of being in a place where she “can’t get hurt” while she, Souma, feels all of that hurt. She’s tired.

After Kei and Haruki save (not wanting to risk resetting their time on the roof), Kei receives a voice message from Souma that Tomoki says he didn’t send, suggesting someone else out there can send such messages. She tells Kei to go to a very specific intersection with Haruki and collect trash.

Souma then meets with Urachi in person, and he brings along not just his lie detecting underling, but another who can “lock things” in time, whether to give them a private instance in which to talk over things, or to prevent his notes from being reset. Urachi’s notes are key, because his ability is “memory cancellation,” making it hard for a precog like Souma to use her ability on him specifically.

However, Urachi and Souma seem to be in agreement that abilities should disappear from the town; and she says she’ll do nothing to impede him. When his lie detector confirms Souma is speaking the truth, he’s satisfied his plan will succeed. Will it actually succeed? Well, we’ll just have to keep watching, won’t we!

The next morning Kei and Haruki do clean up duty and…a very odd sequence of events occurs: A girl trips on the sidewalk, a car backs into another car, causing minor damage and minor injuries to one man…but neither Kei nor Haruki can turn their heads to see the actual accident, almost as if they’re being prevented from doing so by some unknown ability.

Souma is as close to Urachi and his associates as she can be, and his lie detector is always confirming she’s being truthful…but that’s only because Souma didn’t tell Kei anything face-to-face; she relied on a voice messaging ability. She uses it again to instruct Kei to go shopping with Haruki at a certain mall, at a certain time. It’s almost as if she’s lulled Urachi into a sense of supreme confidence…but she’s clearly up to something she’s not telling him.

 

Sagrada Reset – 15

Katagiri Honoka has gotten to a state where she’ll soon stop using her ability, essentially rejecting her “Fake Eden”, an action akin to suicide. The Stray Cat House Man is awake, but insists to Nonoo that she carry on and not worry about him; he doesn’t mind being alone.

Kei calls for a Reset, but before doing so, asks Haruki if there’s anything of note she told Chiruchiru. She lies to his face that there’s nothing, despite the fact the talk with the fake god led to the discovery of her true desire: to “grow up” and become the person with the “greatest worth” to him.

Kei knows she’s hiding something, but lets it go, and the Reset happens. Kei and the others go back in, and Kei tells the Michiru who greets him he wants to help her find her blue bird—her real blue bird.

With the help of Souma, Kei gets a meeting with Chiruchiru and informs him of Katagiri’s impending rejection of the world and the steps that need to be taken to save her—part of their deal where he helps with Michiru’s problem and Chiruchiru will lend him a hand with his “Souma Exit Project” research.

Meanwhile, Nonoo meets back with the STHM and they talk again of friendship, specifically the role of friends: to rid one another of their loneliness. As she asks him for a favor, Michiru, who ran away from Kei, is chased by the monster, only to be rescued in heroic fashion by…Kei.

It’s all part of Kei’s plan to show Michiru, or rather Katagiri Honoka, that the “One Hand Eden” will never be as stable as a “Two Hand” one, of the kind that can only be made and shared between friends, not on one’s own.

While Kei carries out his plan, Haruki has nothing to do so she confronts Souma on a rooftop, asking her her objective (a secret), whether her actions will sadden Kei (maybe, but so be it), and whether she’s Kei’s enemy (she’s not). Okay then, glad we had that little chat! I tell ya, this is one bizarre love triangle…

Kei bows out and is replaced by SHCM, who tells Michiru he was sent to help his friend’s friend who was crying. He talks of the difference between gods (smile for others) and demons (for themselves), and that he considers her the god of this world.

As such, he asks the god to do something about the monster, which destroyed his house…and she does. Katagiri has her real blue bird back and now accepts who she is. The monster is gone, SHCM’s house is back. It would seem Kei has fulfilled his end of the bargain, which means now Chiruchiru will help him with his Souma experiment.

Only we don’t see Chiruchiru again, and Souma herself doesn’t actually want to leave Sakurada, ever. Furthermore, as if twisting a knife, Souma casually points out what Kei erased in the last reset: a Haruki on the cusp of escaping her own One Hand Eden and becoming the “normal girl he had wanted two years ago”.


Ouch. Of course, that’s not to say she’ll never reach that point again; just that it took a unique individual like Chiruchiru to bring it out there and then. And the fact remains, no one is affected more by a reset than Haruki herself.

By resetting again and again, one could say she is going two steps back after one step forward; forever the ideal, perfectly “pure good” human that would otherwise be impossible. And Kei is the one directing those resets.

That final jab by Souma—both its implications for Haruki’s growth and its role in bringing into focus what kind of character Souma has become (or always was)—was compelling, but I’m not sure four episodes of dream world lead-up were quite worth it.

Rather than crescendo, this arc was pretty steady and level throughout before falling off, groaning under the weight all of its plot machinations. I’ll also admit to having not gotten much out of the B-plot involving Nonoo and the SCHM.

Sagrada Reset – 14

As was fairly evident the first time we entered Michiru’s Dream World, said world is a kind of prison (or birdcage) isolating her from the outside world and from any connections to anyone.

Ukawa, who can alter anything that’s not living, decides this isn’t any kind of world to live in, and so, by placing a ring on her finger and activating her ability, erases all of the buildings in the world in an effort to “rectify” it.

In doing so, Ukawa doesn’t really destroy the dream world but only the buildings, but hopes that the shock will drive Michiru to remember that she’s Katagiri Honoka.

As Urachi uses abilities like Ukawa’s and Kagaya’s to further his goals, he tells his underling Sakuin that it’s good that she hates her ability, because all ability users should hate their own abilities. It makes me wonder what, if anything, is Urachi’s ability…beyond being an ominous jerk.


But hey, at least he doesn’t follow through on his desire to “snuff out” a troublemaker like Kei…at least this week. Rather, he pretty much leaves Kei alone, and Kei capitalizes by figuring out that the inverted world they’ve been in is actually a world within the dream world, which isn’t inverted.

Approaching the wall of white wind with Haruki (who describes the building-less place they’re in as looking “like the end of the world”), Kei appeals to Chiruchiru for an audience, and a hole in the wall appears.

Kei and Haruki go through, and after jumping on a bus with a destination marked “Chiruchiru” find themselves at school… another Monogatari quality to go with all the lengthy dialogue.

In a dark classroom, Chiruchiru, fake god and creation of Michiru, isolates Kei and Haruki, and tries to play some mind games with both, perhaps to test their mettle. He hits a lot of nails on the head with Haruki in particular, even taking her form, resulting in Haruki debating with Haruki the merits of—and threats to—her special relationship with Kei.

While it’s clear she just plain likes the guy, it’s never been as explicitly stated what her situation is than by Chiruchiru: “strongly tied down by one boy”; a “facade of not wanting anything”; “two contradicting selves” (hence the two Harukis); the thought of Souma Sumire dominating Kei’s attentions; “the possibility that [she] personally might not be making Kei’s happiness [her] top priority”; hating “the geeling of wanting to keep him all to [her]self”…

“Chiruchiru Haruki” tries to make the argument that Haruki, like Katagiri Honoka, created an “easygoing paradise”—the titular “one-handed Eden”—but Haruki is never all that fazed by her pseudo-self-grilling, adamantly standing by her man; abiding by his decision, and claiming not to let jealousy or some perceived competition with Souma play a factor (Souma is notably absent all episode).

As for Kei, he turns his one-on-one with Chiruchiru into a negotiation; the “god” doesn’t take his form. Chiruchiru admits “the true objective [he] was meant to fulfill” is the only one he never can…but Kei believes he may be able to. Michiru wants to connect with people, but having created a god—and a monster, something the god must protect her from—has had the opposite effect.

So Kei tells Chiruchiru he’ll come up with a way to solve Michiru’s problem and erase her lonliness, if Chiruchiru helps him with Souma’s case, using the dream world as his testbed.

The dream world isn’t just Katagiri Honoka’s birdcage…it’s Katagiri Honoka. The buildings, the white wall, Chiruchiru, even the monster, it’s all her, because it’s all her dream. The monster represents the part of her that is sad, alone, and lashing out at world she’s made, which is a poor substitute for the real thing at the moment.

We’ll see what Kei manages to come up with. Whatever it is, Haruki seems sure to abide by it, while Urachi will continue to sneer at Kei and possibly even try to undermine his efforts. Just one episode left in this four-episode arc, which is already Sagrada’s most dense, ambitious, introspective, and intriguing.

Sagrada Reset – 13

After seeing the monster, and being told the monster is a monster by Dream Haruki, Kei wakes up…and that’s it for the monster this week. After a new, jauntier OP with a latin-inspired beat (replacing the old whispery one), the story jumps from place to place and opaque, metaphor-laded conversation to conversation seemingly involving everything and anything but the monster.

Kei talks with the revived Sumire about how he’s happy in the current situation (what with her being alive), but due mostly to his retained memories of the process by which she returned, it still doesn’t feel real to him, and he doesn’t see how he can stay living in that kind of world forever. Sumire reads it as a kind of rejection.

There’s also precious little Michiru in this episode, as Sumire visits her in the dream world and talks about things she’s not that interested in, and which Chiruchiru (in blue bird form) warns Sumire not to bring up around her. Chiru wants to protect Michiru by not upsetting her with things like the fact there’s a way to save her from her present state.

Rather than Michiru or the monster, Kei, Haruki, and Nonoo investigate the “Stray Cat House Man” (SCHM) who, the way he’s described, is nothing less than one of the most powerful beings in the world, as his ability is to write “The Script”, which governs all people, things and events in the world, even resets and predictions of the future.

He’s even ahead of the Witch or Sumire in that their ability is governed by his. There’s also the fact he’s more of a humble vessel for the ability than an arrogant braggart; after all, the pen in his hand moves on its own, filling books. His physical body has deteriorated to the point he can no longer write, so starting with Book No. 852, he’s worked in the dream world exclusively.

Nonoo remembers him (and he her) from their interactions about five years ago, when she was the only visitor to his house, and whom he tried in his own small way to guide her on how to exist, live, and be happy in the world. In the present she tells him he “saved” her, because now she has people like Kei and Haruki she can call friends.

Kei goes through the manuscripts for The Script, but can find nothing before No. 852, while Sumire instructed him to find and carefully read No. 407. That, and all manuscripts before SCHM entered the dream world, are in the possession of the Bureau, members of which arrive to basically cordially kick Kei out of the SCHM’s house.

Once Kei leaves, the leader of the Bureau members there isn’t coy about his true feelings about Kei: he thinks his ability is a nuisance, especially when used in concert with Haruki or others, and he’s generally an eyesore he’d like to “snuff out” if necessary. Who knows what that entails (he joked about stabbing him in the heart, but was that just a joke), but it’s clear this cour has a more reliable villain than Oka Eri.

Like many earlier episodes of the first cour and a few there in the middle, I only really understood a little more than half of everything that was said and done, but as I refuse to let my enjoyment of this deeply intriguing and offbeat show be governed by my level of understanding, that’s not really of great concern.

Still, moments like Kei calmly pointing out to Haruki and Nonoo that they should pay more attention to the fact they’re wearing skirts while crawling through a drain to get into the SCHM’s house, or Sumire’s apparent displeasure with how things are with Kei (hinted at in the new ED as well), are easier to understand and appreciated.

With all the different players and agendas in play, combined with the new dream world setting, Sagrada Reset is poised to have an even more ambitious, and possibly more baffling, second cour. I’ll be here to attempt to make some kind of sense of it.

Sagrada Reset – 12

Last week was seemingly an indication that Sagrada Reset was content with a quiet end to its first cour, as it has an entire second cour with which to work. It slowed things way down to allow us to spend some more quality, non-perilous time with Haruki—as well as inside her head.

There was no indication in the episode that “Something Big” was looming in the shadows or lurking around the corner…that was just Mirai stalking Haruki. The question is, would the twelfth and final Spring episode of Reset maintain that casual tone, or would that Something Big turn up after all?

Ah…well…Something Big it is! Let’s get right to it, shall we?

The episode sure does, having more of a connection to the tenth than the eleventh with its Souma-heavy opening. Now that Kei has brought Souma back, he wants her to live a normal life as a normal girl…in the normal world. That is, he means to send her away from Sakurada. Only then, he believes, will her death disappear, both from the world and from her memories.

It is then Souma, not Haruki, who primarily drives Kei’s latest mission. That mission is a little nebulous at first, as we start off with that mission in progress. Sakuin has instructed Kei to investigate Katagiri Honoka, a girl who has been asleep for nine years, but whose ability has created a dream world in which she now resides.

Because it’s a dream world, and thus not “real”, Kei believes it’s the perfect “test facility” to experiment with his theory about sending Souma away. After all, there are no do-overs in the real world; in Katagiri’s world, he can simply wake up, Reset, and try something else the next time. And it just so happens Kei goes on a long date with Haruki on the day they reset.

Before starting off on this journey to the dream world, Kei receives an unexpected visitor, Nonoo, who was sent by Souma to make contact with…someone who may well be…another Souma. But before that, she, Kei and Haruki go to the hospital and fall asleep in a room adjacent to Katagiri’s. It’s notable that we never see her in the real world.

There’s a Wizard of Oz-like quality to the trio nodding off then awakening in another world…a world where left and right, east and west are reversed. Kei is actually the last to arrive, while Nonoo doesn’t appear to have come along for the ride. Along with Haruki, there’s a new person in the room: a girl who goes by Michiru, with a bluebird on her shoulder.

 

Ebulliently voiced by Uchida Maaya (this show has great casting), Michiru insists she’s Michiru and not Katagiri Honoka, and asks Kei and Haruki if there’s anything they wish they could have. She’ll contact “Chiruchiru” who will then grant that wish. It’s a case of Katagiri, a god of her own world, abdicated her power to a surrogate, so that she could feel the joy of having her dreams granted by a god.

The bureau doesn’t approve of the “fake” happiness such a “closed eden” provides, perhaps fearing its grip would cause people to lose their grip on reality. That certainly seems to be the case with Katagiri. After Kei and Haruki leave the hospital to explore this mirror image of the real world, they discover a wall of fog that surrounds this version of Sakurada, ostensibly preventing Kei from performing his experiment.

As for Souma, she shows up in the hospital to read Chiruchiru’s future, which looks the same as always. “Michiru” never changes (this is an Eden, after all). Chiruchiru voices his frustration with the apparent pointlessness of his efforts, but Souma tells him they’ll be rewarded—but it’s up to Kei, not her.

Kei and Haruki encounter Ukawa, sent by the bureau for an initial report, who states ominously that, depending on the circumstances, she’s supposed to “crush” the dream world. While having dinner with Haruki in a restaurant the reverse of the one in the real world (like everything else), Kei gets a call from Chiruchiru, warning them not to go out at night.

Since they’re already out, Chiruchiru teleports them to Kei’s bedroom. Kei manages to get him to answer two questions: the white wall is an “isolated birdcage” for the “blue bird”, and Michiru is definitely Katagiri Honoka, only she’s forgotten that fact.

With that, Kei and Haruki start yawning and rubbing their eyes, meaning it’s getting to be time to wake up in the real world. After Kei frets a bit over the proper sleeping arrangements (he offers Haruki the bed and takes the floor, but Haruki wants to be on the floor too), Haruki dozes off before him, just as she did in the real world.

But she’s not asleep long, as a tremendous racket emanates from outside. Kei watches with quiet awe as a colossal, grotesque, slimy monster emerges from the white wall and starts wreaking havoc in the town. A suddenly awake Haruki calls the monster a monster, which appears at night to “destroy the world”.

Reset’s second cour starts off an episode early, with style…and in Top Bizarro form. With an ability user apparently trapped in such a world, does it fall to Kei to free her and restore the memory of who she was, even if it means destroying the Eden she created? Is Chiruchiru the monster? How will this mission further his desire to “finish saving” Souma?

It seems we’ve got three more episodes of this arc to sort through it all. I don’t doubt things will get stranger before they get…less strange.

Sagrada Reset – 11

As we approach the halfway point of Sagrada Reset, the show does something different, something far more low key. For one thing, Haruki doesn’t reset once this week. Indeed, no abilities at all are used. There’s no peril, no Souma Sumire, no Asai Kei.

The only things that take place are two extended conversations: one between Haruki and the lazy cat girl Nonoo Seika, and one with Haruki by herself.

The first is in aid of Haruki’s mission to make friends, which was suggested by Kei in an earlier episode. Haruki proves adorably inept at this at first, but thanks to Nonoo’s patience, manages to muddle through and is officially made an acquaintance of the raven-haired truant, with the promise of friendship if they stay in touch.

Haruki also learns about such things as “small talk”, or silly little conversations with no real meaning except to pass the time and hasten fatigue. In this, Nonoo praises Haruki as a natural, and the two commemorate their encounter with an exchange of cute pictures they took of one another.

That was nice, but if I’m as honest as Haruki, it dragged a bit. Somehow more exciting and entertaining was Haruki’s inner monologue in the second segment, where her mission, spurred on by Minami Mirai, is make a house visit to Kei, who is absent from school with a cold.

Haruki makes it a point to be extremely prepared for this visit, constantly listing the items she needs to bring to make him rice porridge, then adding to that list when she finds herself “off-balance”, both due to the weight of the items and the fact Kei isn’t walking beside her.

Pretty much anyone, including Minami, sees Haruki’s dilemma for what it is: a deep desire to see Kei, tempered by her reluctance to put him out. Which is why when she gets cold feet and heads home, and gets a text from Kei that’s clearly not his writing, and Minami springs out from around the corner to own up to the subterfuge and convince Haruki to visit him after all, because he’ll be glad to see her.

And because this episode is more about the journey than the destination, we never see how Haruki’s visit to Kei’s goes. The episode ends on the tantalizing moment before she rings his doorbell. But we can assume it goes fine. Let’s just hope Kei doesn’t order her to reset after she kisses (or attempts to kiss) him!

Sagrada Reset – 10

We are made to hear the Witch’s parting words to Kei one last time so we can see his reaction later on: tears of joy. In the last two years, the one thing that has driven Kei is the hope that some day, in a city full of what would be considered miracles in the outside world, he would find the means to bring Souma Sumire back to life.

The Witch essentially confirms that this was the right and proper course all along, because he is destined to meet Souma again, and Souma runs a test to see if he can bring something from a photo world into the real world without that thing vanishing.

The test is a success; a cherry petal from the photo remains even after ten minutes—ironic, considering the nature of sakura. They are something both joyful (because of their stirring beauty) and morose (because they are ephemeral).


But before we get that confirmation the test worked, we’re taken back to the past once more; this time, to when Kei was in the sixth grade and a relative newbie to Sakurada. Even as a little kid he’s a smart cookie, determining before the Bureau rep has to say it that his memory retention ability would work even outside of Sakurada.

Because of this, the Bureau offers him a comfortable life and livelihood in Sakurada…but he can never leave. In effect, Asai Kei is the one ability-user (aside from those who could copy or steal his ability) who could most threaten the city’s very existence by exposing it to the outside world, breaking its Shrödinger’s Cat-like status.

Kei loves this city, so he quickly agrees—discarding his past in the process. Then he experiences a Reset for the first time, and if anything, he’s more excited than ever to be in such a place and such a position. He’s won the lottery, basically.

As Kei sets up the Save Point in the same place where Souma appears in the photo, Haruki resigns herself to the fact Kei will make her and the others forget everything henceforth. As she’s dedicated herself to following his lead, she’s fine with everything, but does wonder if, like Mari, the Souma they save will be the “real” one.

It doesn’t really matter to Kei, but he knows that whoever he revives may not enjoy a “peaceful” life due to her ability. Even so, he must bring her back; follow the script Souma laid out for everyone. He sees the MacGuffin as proof of this: the one who holds it (i.e. Kei, now) will have “all the abilities in Sakurada.”

It was the object whose power was created through rumor and never was anything other than an ordinary stone, and yet it drove Kei to become the protagonist of this story by gathering the ability-users he needed to bring Souma back from the dead.

When the time comes to actually do that, the tension is palpable, and all the tiny hairs on the back of my neck stood up, as the feeling that something momentous was about to take place washed over me. (The show grossly underestimates how hard it is to tear a Polaroid, but no matter.)

Once in the photo, everything happens with a quiet but purposeful haste. Kei doesn’t even run over to Souma, but waits for Sakagami and Murase to do their stuff, then tells Haruki to reset. He’s that sure this will work, even though I wasn’t.

And so it does: by utilizing the abilities of the others, Kei wielded the MacGuffin, rose to become the protagonist of the story, and brought Souma back to life, just as she was sure he would—she shows no surprise in seeing him. Kei hides his delight at having succeeded, in part because he’s a reserved guy and in part because he doesn’t know how the future will progress past this point.

For now, it’s enough that Souma is back. She comments on how he’s grown, both in stature, ability, and in his friendship with Haruki. He also reports how much Haruki has grown, and that he’s come to want her to keep making progress on the road to finding a sense of self, even if it breaks the “pure goodness” he may have fell for earlier.

Souma even set things up with Tomoki so that if she was really Souma and not some kind of copy, she’d receive a voice message meant for her two years in the future. She receives that message, then asks Kei which Souma he’d like to meet, confident he’ll make the correct choice. He is the protagonist, after all. She made him so.

Sagrada Reset – 09


Sakurada Reset pulled off quite a lot last week, and got particularly exciting when things started coming together, but there’s still something unsatisfying about following it up with another flashback. Momentum had been built up, but this episode killed it, by valuing context-through-lengthy explanation over progress.

Mind you, I’m not mad about learning more about what happened just after Souma Sumire died—the two-year jump was pretty dang abrupt! It’s more a matter of timing, and the fact that I’d grown accustomed to being in the “present” of two years later.

With that said, this is an opportunity to see Kei and Haruki before they figured out how to be a well-oiled reset/recall machine. After Souma dies, both of them suspect the reset ability: Haruki, the ability itself, and Kei, the fact he used it so “thoughtlessly”—and in doing so sealing Souma’s fate.

While Haruki tries in vain over and over to reset on her own, Kei visits the spot where Souma fell, and meets a young Kit-Kat-loving woman named Ukawa Sasane (Koshimizu Ami) who thinks he’s Souma’s boyfriend thinking of offing himself.

She’s wrong about him being a boyfriend, or being suicidal, but Ukawa’s assumption is couched in her desire to save others from dangerous places like the bridge, be it with a Kit-Kat (an invitation to “take a break” and chill out) or with her “fence-making” ability.

A call to the Bureau for answers (and a request to save Souma) goes nowhere, and Kei eventually decides his choice to reset wasn’t what killed Souma, while Haruki realizes she can’t reset on her own because a part of her is scared of being hated by Kei.

Ultimately, the two come together and agree that the people they can help with their combined abilities outweighs the possible suffering resetting might cause. Kei tells Haruki to reset, it works, and they complete their actual first job in the Service Club.

Kei, however, isn’t done trying to find a way to bring Souma back. Her death and his inability to prevent it clearly still haunt him, and he believes if there’s a place where someone can be brought back from the dead, it’s Sakurada.

It would seem that he’ll eventually be proven right, since two years later the “Witch” considers Souma her successor, and assures Asai he’ll see her again. One can’t succeed anyone unless they’re alive, after all.

But this week, at least, is just more fuel for the fire of the show’s detractors. It lent more context to later events and positions, and introduced a new character, but even by Sagrada standards it was a dull trudge, not helped by the fact it took place entirely in a tension-sapping flashback.