Macross Delta – 16

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Aside from a brief (and fairly pointless) visit to Windermere and a scene with Mikumo proposing they use the ruins to counter the Song of the Wind, this episode was given over completely to celebrating Freyja’s fifteenth birthday with a surprise party. As it’s the middle of a Windermeran’s lifespan, Maki and Reina wanted to make it special.

In other words, there’s no action whatsoever, nor is there any movement on the galactic war front. The episode is carried only by the characters, so how much you enjoyed it depends on how much you like and/or care about said characters when they’re not fighting (or singing) to save the galaxy.

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I went on record as saying I liked how desperate things had gotten a couple weeks back when the lights went off on the Island Ship, but now that Elysion is docked with it, there’s little difference between the ship and being on Ragna, which kind of undermines the peril.

That said, I did appreciate the efforts made to expound on the Freyja/Hayate/Mirage triangle in a less stressful environment. At the same time, Mirage’s shopping “date” makes it clear Hayate is “denser than a black hole”, as his stalkers put it.

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He’s aware that he has a special bond with Freyja (and even hears her song from afar), but he doesn’t come right out an call it romance, nor is he even a little aware of Mirage’s burgeoning feelings for him. Mirage plays the good friend to both, though, when the night of the party comes.

The party is when Freyja and the episode shine, as her story about when she discovered Earth music and started singing for her villagewas actually very moving. Her surprise and elation at everyone coming together for her sake was also infectious.

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Finally, Hayate is very late to the party, but for a good reason: after a lengthy but fruitless trip to the mall, he realized the best birthday gift he could give her was home, in the form of snow. And if he realized how close he was to Freyja before, their little moment in the snow was likely the final nail the coffin for poor Mirage and her unacknowledged, unrequited love.

Then again, there were moments for both Ranka Lee and Sheryl Nome when one thought the other had won the Alto Sweepstakes, and it ended up being a triangle that was never broken in Frontier. But in terms of who made the most of this brief respite from intergalactic warfare, I’m inclined to place Freyja firmly in the winner’s column.

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Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 04

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In theory, Satoru’s task is simple: if he remains in close contact with Kayo consistently for one more week, and they can celebrate their birthdays together at his house, he believes he’ll be able to change history by preventing her kidnapping and murder.

He makes it a point to try to hang out with Kayo on a Saturday date to the museum, hoping to get her away from her home so her mother won’t be tempted to beat her. And in another amusing instance of Satoru-29 thinking out loud, Satoru doesn’t mince words in asking Kayo on a date.

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Kayo’s mother proves a formidable obstacle to that day of bliss – were it not for Satoru’s truly heroic mother stopping Kayo’s mom from striking her after she admits she wants to go out. With Sachiko there (who knows exactly what kind of person she is), Kayo’s mom, concerned with appearances, weighs her options and decides to allow the date.

Thank goodness after Satoru and his mom left the episode didn’t cut to Kayo’s mom taking out her anger on Kayo. When I saw Satoru and Kayo standing before the stuffed bear, I breathed a sigh of relief.

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Of course, this being far more than just a slice-of-life romantic tale, it’s not all peaches and sunshine at the museum. On numerous occasions, Satoru gets deja vu-style flashes of Kayo saying and doing things she’s already said and done, leading him (and me) to believe that he hasn’t yet taken Kayo off the path that leads to her death, and the future won’t be changed so easily.

The film reel pattern in the letterboxing and the visualization of the various timelines as a tangle of said film is effectively used but not overused, particularly when both fast-forward to the same outcome: Kayo’s funerary portrait and total defeat.

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Satoru sticks to the plan, his courage buoyed, not cowed by his sense of duty to protect and save Kayo. He thinks out loud, in front of the whole class, that Kayo is pretty (her reactions to these slip-ups are priceless), he walks her home before being intercepted by her mother, and he tells her he’ll be at her house in the morning – the morning of Day X, which will decide everything – so they can walk to school together, which they do hand in hand.

If one were to liken Satoru’s quest as a war, we would call his 29-year-old self a grizzled veteran, hardened by the despair of the bad future that didn’t just affect him and Kayo negatively. Yuuki’s in prison and his mom is dead. There’s a lot riding on his success, but his previous 10-year-old self would never have been able to achieve what he achieves during this week, because he lacked that foresight, that loss of innocence, that ability to see beyond himself. This Satoru can.

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So he only very grudingly breaks contact with Kayo on this last day, seeing her right to her door, getting up before midnight to watch over her house and wait for the stroke of midnight. This entire day and in particular those last moments of it, are positively brimming with suspence, so much so I had to make sure to control my breathing just in case something awful transpired.

The episode also made sure to show us what Kenya, Yashiro, and Kayo’s mom – all persons of interest with regards to her potential disappearance – but none of them are anywhere near Kayo, and aren’t doing anything suspicious. When the second hand ticked past the twelve, I felt I could relax a little…but only a little.

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Seeing Kayo in her jammies receive a waiting Satoru at her door was a moment of triumph, as well as another perfect use of her unofficial catchphrase “Are you stupid?” As the hours and minutes until their birthday party ticked away, the suspense started to build all over again, especially when Yashiro told the two to do cleaning duty after school.

Turns out both that, and the suspicious-at-the-time meeting between Yashiro and Kenya that ended last week, were perfectly innocent: Satoru’s friends planned a surprise party for him and Kayo. Isn’t that something? Gee, it’s really dusty in here…or maybe there’s an raw onion nearby? *sniffle*

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The joy and mirth of the festivities are matched, and then some, when the episode inevitably, mercilessly brings the hammer down. At some point Satoru has to walk Kayo home and wish her good night, she promises to give him his birthday present tomorrow, and waves goodbye wearing the mittens he got her.

The promise is never fulfilled. The next morning at school, Kayo is absent. Satoru was able to change the future, but only by one day. I’d say I can only imagine what became of her in those evening hours they were apart…but I honestly have no freakin’ clue.

When confronting Kayo’s mother, Satoru exclaims, beyond the years of his physical body, “when it comes to saving a friend, there are no gains and losses!” And he’s absolutely right. Just as he wrongly thought getting past the X-Day was a victory, he’s wrong if he thinks this latest development is a loss.

Even if it is, and even if he doesn’t have ready acces to an IBN 5100, the results of those past battles don’t matter. The war goes on. It has really only just begun.

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Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 05

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DnH is doing a good job balancing all the simultaneous relationships Kyoutarou is cultivating with the various girls in his life. Last week he got a little bit of time with Kana, then made Tsugumi’s year by agreeing to stick with the Happy Project. He spends the first third of this episode with Tamamo, who he noticed is working extra hard for the very, popular and successful club. I wonder if Sayumi realized just how big a favor dressing the club up in cosplay was going to be.

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Anyway, it’s a cute little segment, which like the others, has a way of making one feel like Tamamo is the only girl he’s having these kinds of segments with, even though as I said, all these dealings with these girls is happening concurrently. Not that he’s being a man-whore or anything; it’s the girls, after all, that seem to be interpreting his kindness as a sign he’s interested in romance. And hey, he catches Tamamo clean: no boob or crotch grabs!

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Another girl whose gotten a fair share of Kyoutarou’s personal attention of late is Nagi, who is a suspicious as ever standing in the shadows observing Kyoutarou. We then find out that observing Kyoutarou with the aim of assessing his fitness to be a (The?) Shepherd is her job, handed down by a mysterious suited fellow.

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The buxom Nagi is simultaneously jealous of all the attention her boss is giving Kyoutarou and resentful that he’s seen as having more potential. She’s taken her duty to the extreme by moving next door to him and coming to his house all the time. Things get closer than ever before, and Kyoutarou even whips out the pre-cog power we’ve not seen since he saved Tsugumi to try to see Nagi’s future. Disturbingly, he finds nothing there but a white void and an invisible wall.

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It vexes him, and when he confronts Nagi at school, a chase ensues. Kana and Senri hear him yell something about “last night”, and the rumor mill springs into action. Poor Ikkei and Gizaemon can only sit in the corner, unable to contribute to what is essentially the girls wondering what the heck Kyoutarou is up to. But Kyoutarou has problems that circumvent whatever awkwardness may be brewing in the club room.

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Something’s just not quite right about Nagi, and he finally pays her a visit in her apartment — her dark, empty apartment where she clearly doesn’t really live. She’s got her: she’s the Shepherd who’s been emailing him (though that doesn’t mean she’s The Shepherd; clever wording on her part). And there’s that same Man in Black waiting for him, saying he’s cleared preliminary examination and inviting him to come to the “Magic Library” he’s seen flashes of in his premonitions. Nurturing romances while propelling the mystery forward: this episode was firing on all cylinders.

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Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 04

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Books had always been Kakei Kyoutarou’s Truth; he couldn’t hope to ever encounter anyone as pure, elemental and honest as black words on white paper. So he found companionship in books. He Befriended books. Dated books. Other people were merely obstacles that got in the way of his reading. He saw from a young age how hypocritical and false they often were. Better to get lost in books, which wouldn’t put on airs, betray or hurt him.

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Kyoutarou is kind of a messed-up individual. Sure, all kinds of people loath their birthday, but to have a sepia dream about hospital staff (or something) pretending to have a fun birthday party for him when he knew they’d rather be someplace else? Frankly, treating all people as if they were like that is as silly and wrong-headed as Senri thinking Tsugumi had ulterior motives for nursing her to health.

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Obviously, Kyoutarou’s time in the Library Club has switched on entirely new lights in his world, ones that have nothing to do with books. When he flags down Senri and gets her to believe Tsugumi’s intentions were good, and Senri asks him what good good intentions are, it’s a reflective moment for him. Seeing Senri run from the club mirrored the turmoil in his head regarding whether to stick with it past Golden Week, along with his past distrust of anyone and everyone’s kindness.

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We say “past”, and used the past tense above, because while Kyoutarou still clings to his old reslusive bookworm persona, the reality is he is transforming into something else altogether; something far more sociable. And it’s understandably strange, frightening, and even a little fanciful feeling (the cosplay and the high level of attractiveness of his clubmates also contribute to the “too good to be true” vibe, or rather the “I’ve never felt like this before, so it must not be for me” vibe.

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Sure, it’s a bit bizarre and potentially problematic that every girl in the club seems to have varying levels of feelings for Kyoutarou, as exhibited in how they react to learning Nagi’s his neighbor and has been in his room. The bathhouse segment also seemed to be little more than an opportunity for the girls to be nude, compare boob sizes, but to their credit, the guys stay on their side and don’t try to sneak a peak. Saints! 

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But really, that’s all pretty painless and is over relatively quickly, and the episode moves on to Kyoutarou’s choice: whether to stay with Tsugumi, the others, and the Happy Project, or go back to being alone with his books. Neither choice could necessarily be called wrong, but the latter is certainly safer and more mundane. He’d be returning to a path already well-worn…by himself.

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In the end, even after all the fun and new experiences he’s had, Kyoutarou heads to the library club prepared to take that safer path anyway. “It’s been enough,” he thinks to himself, totally unprepared for a surprise birthday party, suggested and organized by everyone. In he presence of such unbridled joy, Kyoutarou’s heart stirs. It’s a feeling that’s inscrutable now, but like a good book, he wants to dive into it and continue to discover all he can about it, so he decides to stick with the club after all.

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Kotoura-san – 07

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Kotoura & Co. wrap up their summer trip with a dinner, and Moritani makes food that makes her and Manabe hallucinate all night long. The Head Priest informs Kotoura that her mother Fumiko stopped by, but wouldn’t meet with her; Kotoura isn’t bothered, and she and her friends return home. Kotoura calls Manabe every day but gets no response, and is hiding his thoughts from her, so Mifune suggests they follow him to determine what he’s up to. After much hand-wringing, Kotoura finally learns that his secret was to set up a surprise party for her birthday that he learned from her uncle, while he worked a summer job to afford a gift for her.

The food trip is in our opinion a rare example of an underutilized anime trope, and the food trip this episode opens with is a doozy. Manabe and Moritani are whacked out of their gourds, and all their inhibitions melt away. They took the concept of Moritani being bad at cooking and wasn’t subtle about it, which we appreciate. After all, this show started with an extremely powerful (and equally un-subtle) story of Kotoura’s trauma prior to making friends. We also like her mature attitude towards her mother’s no-show; the show could have made the mom more of a villain, but there’s this mutual understanding that their relationship is just too intractable, and they’re better off going their separate ways.

While Kotoura has shown incredible growth, Manabe’s extended absense has her falling into old habits, remembering the cold words of her mother in a nightmare, telling her she shouldn’t have been born to this world (which I’m sorry, that’s just child abuse). But after hanging with Mifune and Moritani, she decides to trust Manabe, and when school resumes, he really does a solid, throwing a suprise party, just when Kotoura needed to know he cared, and then some. If this very loving and lovely gesture by Manabe doesn’t convince her he’ll never leave her side, we don’t know what will. Kotoura’s pervy uncle is geting really fucking annoying, but this episode’s ending was so nice and uplifting, we decided to be generous in our rating.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Ao no Exorcist 19

*Clicks tongue*…surprise birthday party episode. But hey, I didn’t mind it nearly as much as the previous filler ep, the one with the kitchen demon. Perhaps because, like the best episodes of any series with a vibrant ensemble cast, it gives everyone something to do and allows for some very nice character interactions. Considering how much everyone’s been through the last three weeks, a break was inevitable, but also far better than expected. Also, by this point, we know everyone a lot better, making them more fun to watch even during filler.

When else would we learn that Bon is good at papercraft? Or that Konekomaru could work out his awkwardness with Rin by helping him bake? Or that Renzou and Paku have such great chemistry? The party is being planned for Izumo, who then keeps bumping into her friends as they plan. Most distressing is when she keeps seeing her best friend on an apparent date with Renzou, and her ill-fated undercover spy mission is cute, if misguided. I enjoyed the increased role of Paku; she may not exactly stand out, but she was fun to watch this week.

There are a whole lot of nice character moments in here, and I’m not going to pretend the episode was much more than that…but it did have at least a minor twist: the surprise was ruined (thanks to Izumo’s spying), so the party becomes one for everyone, not just her, by her request. Meanwhile, Yukio observes the festivities from a far, still having told no one about his ominous, worsening malady. Just to segue back to business, the episode ends with a report Rin and Yukio’s monastery is under attack. Wash down that X-mas cake and get movin!


Rating: 3