Classroom of the Elite – 07

As soon as it was clear this was not only a pool episode, but an underlying operation by the guys to peep on the girls in their changing room (immediately), I sat back and settled in for what I imagined would be a pleasant but lightweight episode, “7” stamp in my hand, ready to strike.

But hidden among all the usual pool episode fanservice cliches and peeping scheme antics, this episode turned out to be something I didn’t know it was until the end, and felt silly for not realizing it. At the same time, it ever-so-gently nudged a character towards a slightly more normal human high school life.

If this episode were a sandwich, the insides would be pretty monotonous, while the bread, particularly the bottom slice, would be where the true action is. Yet the middle part—let’s call it egg salad for the purposes of this metaphor—was nevertheless crucial in setting up the twist at the end.

Clues are everywhere as to what kind of phone conversation went on between Horikita and Ayanokouji that led to her joining him, the three bad apples (including Sudo), Ichinose, Kushida, and Sakura at a lovely Summer day at the pool, rather than her usual day composed solely of study, eating, and sleeping.

‘Leisure” and “friends” are a waste of time and energy for Horikita, so what is she doing here? Nah. Merely humoring Ayano and the others? Worried he and Kushida (or Sakura, or Ichinose) will get too close if she’s not there? Nope.

Once the ridiculously overwrought and over-dramatic peeping scheme is in dire jeopardy, and Ayano asks Horikita to climb the highest diving board and deliver a stirring speech that gets the nod from her Class D colleagues but rankles the other classes, it should be clear she’s not in on the peeping scheme either…and neither is Ayanokouji.

Rather, Ayano, AKA Argos-4, served as a double agent, knowing the other guys would go through with the scheme even if he protested or failed to participate; better to let them think he’s on their side and let them fail all on their own. But the consequences of failure would spread to all of Class D, so Ayano appealed to Horikita’s pride and desire to reach Class A, and help him neutralize one more obstacle to that goal.

She does, swiping all of the SD cards from the cameras set up in the changing room, and thus while the guys’ scheme failed, Ayano’s succeeds. Getting to see Horikita in a bikini, and having her hang out with people who would be her friends if she just let them, is pretty much just a bonus for Ayano. He dunks Horikita, but when reaching out to pull her out, she pulls him in with her…as “payback” (Sakura also tries and fails—quite hilariously—to join in the fun).

Back home and in her usual routine, Horikita gets a text from Ayano: a photo of him and her with the others at the pool; a memory of a fun time. Horikita collapses on the bed, maintaining that being alone is “easier”, but does she truly want everything to be easy? Doesn’t a challenge make one’s results more satisfying?

Classroom of the Elite let its hair down a little this week, but it deserves kudos for taking the tired pool episode and peeping scheme premises and adapting them to the specific thrust of the show: Horikita and Ayano keeping Class D above water as part of the greater goal to get promoted to Class A. It also allowed Horikita to loosen up ever so slightly, while perpetuating the complex relationship between her and the still very mysterious Ayano. A win on all fronts.

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Koi to Uso – 06

Whoa, hold on, what are Yukari and Ririna doing, making out in bed? Oh, it’s just Ririna’s first sexy dream about Yukari. Little did she—or I—know that by episode’s end that dream would become shockingly close to reality.

This is due to a combination of factors, including a genuine growing affection for one another as they get to know each other better, the scientific process by which they were chosen to marry one another, and oh yeah, a ruthless alternate-universe Japanese government that is NOT FUCKING AROUND when it comes to population growth.

Yes, this episode checks in momentarily with Misaki and Nisaka, and new characters are introduced in Ririna’s new friend Arisa and Yukari’s middle-school classmate Igarashi, but thankfully the focus is on the two people that aggressive government program determined should get hitched, get it on, and have at least 2 children.

To that end, everyone who recently got their notices are instructed to leave school early and report to…a hotel…uh-oh. The strangeness of the situation is definitely felt by our surrogates, Yukari and Ririna. He sees aa classmate with his “pre-Yukari way-out-of-his-league” future wife, and turns inward to wonder if people look at him and Ririna like he’s looking at them.

Then that very thing happens. Ririna arrives sporting a new hairstyle and the gift of a creepy figuring that Yukari loses his shit over. He has a gift for her two, and his classmate and future wife marvel at how well this system seems to pick people who clearly like each other.

Both Yukari and Ririna bristle at that, but as the afternoon progresses, The State systematically runs roughshod over whatever doubts and reservations the two may have. Indeed, Ririna, having only recently researched French kissing, is particularly uncomfortable with all the sex talk going on by the Ministry’s presenter, a True Believer in the Yukari System if ever there was one.

Condoms are passed out. The now-healthy birthrate is mentioned to tout the success of the system. Sex is healthily discussed in terms of its physiological and mental benefits, in addition to just feeling good. It’s gotta be a lot to take in for a bunch of 16-year-olds, and that is no accident on the part of the Ministry.

After concluding the lecture with a very informative porno that leaves Ririna shaking and Yukari desperate to keep Misaki out of his head, all of the husband-wife pairs are assigned hotel rooms and ordered to spend the night together. A random Ministry guy hinting (in jest) that they’ll be “watched” and an overheard rumor about consequences for “not banging” only hikes up the pressure.

Before they know it, Yukari and Ririna are alone in a tastefully lit, comfortable room, staring down a big bed. There are no chairs, as Ririna helpfully points out. Yukari is LOSING IT. He’s stuck in his head, and at least finally realizes it, but when he tries to think of what he can do for Ririna, what he comes up with mirrors the beginning of her dream in which they make out: he pins her to the bed. As she awaits the next move, the episode mercilessly (or mercifully) fades to black…

The Yukari Law was born out of necessity. Japan’s birthrate hovered around 1.46 births per woman in 2015. That’s just not good enough to make up for the people aging and dying. There’s no telling what the economic, social, and cultural consequences will be, but you can bet they’ll be bad. Robots aren’t the answer. People study and work too much to get by or get ahead. Family often takes a backseat to success. A lot of younger people just don’t want it.

These are the harsh realities that face the Japan here, in our world. And while it’s doubtful anything as comprehensively invasive as Yukari will ever be implemented, Koi to Uso still serves as a kind of thought experiment in which a relatively simple fix is applied: get people to make more babies. Simple in concept, but ridiculously complex and problem-fraught in execution.

Its exploration of that what-if scenario, with a focus on four youths going against the grain, is as unsettling as it is riveting.

Koi to Uso – 05

The potentially infamous Love Quadrangle Camping Trip from Hell is upon us, and things start out expectedly bumpy, with Ririna protesting Yukari’s choice to invite Nisaka along and Nisaka and Misaki exchanging looks that to us clearly look like two rivals in love, but to Yukari like they’re into each other.

Inevitably, Yukari ends up catching the girls playing in the river in their swimsuits, but neither accuses him of being a pervert. Indeed, Ririna thinks nothing of calling him over to play with them, only to twist her ankle and require he princess-carry her back to camp (since she considers piggyback to be too lewd).

Ririna is a bit of a tsundere for most of this trip where Yukari is concerned, but there’s a good reason for that: she’s increasingly unable to hold back her own feelings for Yukari for her good friend Misaki’s sake. Her face even blushes when she finds herself admiring Yukari as he talks so passionately about researching burial mounds.

Then there’s Nisaka, who Yukari has the exact wrong idea about. Nisaka isn’t into Misaki; he’s into Yukari. But despite having a golden opportunity to do so, Nisaka is unable to come out and confess this. But to be fair, this is a guy who likes guys in a society where guys are matched up with girls by the government and told in no uncertain terms (a la Adama) to “make babies.” Also he values his friendship with Yukari and doesn’t want to ruin it.

Despite the conflicting feelings floating around her head, Ririna is still committed to getting true lovers together as often as she can, even to the point of pairing herself with Nisaka, whom she has a very low opinion of, so Yukari and Misaki can be alone together.

Again, things turn out how one would expect: while chasing a firefly, Misaki slips and starts to fall down a hill. Yukari can’t catch her, but she grabs his arm and takes him down with her. They then spend a good long time on the ground, in each others’ arms, simply listening to their hearts pound against each other.

Nisaka is aware of Ririna’s gambit and straight-up questions what she hopes to get out of it. If Misaki and Yukari marry, it’s not like there’ll be some kind of ménage à trois situation, like the creator of Wonder Woman. Ririna could fall by the wayside…or would she?

And while we finally learn there are no overt criminal penalties, it’s made clear by Nisaka that those who reject their matches are marked for life, and will find it tougher to realize their futures. Nisaka minces no words in accusing Ririna of courting disaster. (I say if you’re as desperately in love as Misaki and Yukari seem to be, I’d say it’s worth it. You can’t put a price on happiness, be it fines or lost wages.)

But Ririna…just wants two people in love to be together. When the two pairs reunite and find the clearing where a cloud of fireflies pepper the night, she defiantly takes the hands of both Misaki and Yukari. Yukari then inadvertently twists her intention by taking Nisaka’s hand as well.

Whatever labels society wants to put on his relationships, Yukari just wants to exist in that beautiful place with people he likes. The camping trip ends with him still thinking Nisaka likes Misaki, but I’ll allow him his blissful ignorance a little longer. A new notice in the mail suggests this love quadrangle’s trials have only just begun.

Eromanga-sensei – 12 (Fin)

Sagiri allowed Masamune to attend the data collection trip because Elf and Muramasa (without her knowledge, through Elf) agreed to “do whatever Eromanga-sensei wants them to do” afterwards. In the final episode of Eromanga-sensei, the bill comes due.

Sagiri’s “festival” ensues, where she boots Masamune, puts the two girls in swimsuits, and makes them play Twister so they’ll strike lewd poses she can draw. It’s basically heaven for Sagiri and hell for Muramasa and Elf…but a promise is a promise. Needless to say, the session is also an excuse for healthy amounts of fanservice.

When Tomoe shows up at Masamune’s door to congratulate him on the success of his new imouto LN, I feared the worst: that Sagiri, suspicious of this new girl and jealous of her interactions with her dear brother, would somehow get Tomoe into a swimsuit as well, or worse.

Thankfully, that doesn’t happen, and the girl who, in hindsight, seems like the best fit for Masamune leaves with her clothes intact, having delivered a doujinshi of the little sister novel that is actual, no-nonsense porn…then says if Masamune gets an anime and becomes famous, she’d be happy to be his wife.

Sagiri inevitably gets hold of the material not suitable for her, and immediately sets to work drawing her own erotic drawings based on the little bit she saw. When Masamune can’t quite put into words why her drawings aren’t quite anatomically accurate, she and Elf decide the best way to settle things is by stripping Masamune naked…

If they had succeeded, would have been only fair considering how many girls have had to strip for Eromanga. But before they do, Masamune gets on the horn with Megumi, who for all her talk is just as clueless as Elf and Sagiri. It takes Muramasa sketching Michelangelo’s David to show them once and for all how to draw…that.

With the sun low and Eromanga all lewd drawing-ed out, she and Masamune bid farewell to her models for the day, adding they’re welcome to come back anytime. And this time Sagiri opens the window and gives them a proper wave goodbye, showing further progress in her attempt to overcome her shut-in-ism.

As frikkin’ wrong as it may be, it’s thanks to lewd art—the lewder the better—that Sagiri can forget about the crippling fear of being outside or interacting with other people. Her digital life is a means of creative expression and a (surprisingly) safe space in which to have rudimentary human contact.

And thanks to her brother’s uncanny ability to draw girls into his orbit, she now has a slew of flesh-and-blood friends to laugh and have fun with…as well as draw in risqué positions.

Eromanga-sensei – 09

I don’t know if I’m in the minority among Eromanga-sensei viewers, but I’m not the biggest fan of the Masamune-Sagiri relationship, which is rife with inevitably icky undertones, whether or not their love is purely familial or not. So when the show gets away from that relationship and focuses on the more standard unrelated boy-girl variety, I’m all eyes and ears.

We certainly get an eye-full in this week’sbeach episode, but it’s not just empty skin calories. I couldn’t be happier with the fact that we’re out of Masamune’s stuffy house and focused on Elf, whose plans are right there in the subtitle in the cold open.

Shidou and Muramasa also attend the “data collection trip” approved by Sagiri in various off-camera negotiations, but aside from Muramasa appearing in a far smaller swimsuit than she planned, Masamune and Elf have the beach to themselves.

Elf tries to take advantage, passing off legitimate activities lovers undertake on the beach—applying the lotion, playfully splashing, walking arm-in-arm—for role-playing and research. But whatever the context, the fact remains they’e doing these things alone, together, and enjoying it.

At least, Masamune tries to enjoy it, but finds it a bit awkward whenever Elf’s big bro and editor Chris appears. That awkwardness follows Masamune to the men’s bath where Chris joins him and asks him about Elf, including whether he’d marry her.

Masamune insists they’re not actually dating, despite Elf telling Chris so; but Chris manages to get Masamune to say an awful lot of complimentary things about Elf—which Elf herself can hear from the women’s bath.

Really, it doesn’t take much coaxing; Masamune exhibits some much-needed awareness of what he has in Elf, even taking exception to Chris saying his sister’s flaws can overshadow her charms; for Masamune, it’s the opposite, and believes Elf would make a good wife. His wife? Well…

Because Elf overheard everything, she visits Masamune’s room that night and takes him to the same firefly-bejeweled “elven forest” that inspired her novels, as well as the place where her dad proposed to her mom. We know immediately where this is headed: she tells Masamune that she considers him a candidate for marriage, which is a roundabout way of saying she likes him. She even tells him her true name: Emily.

This is Yamada Elf at her most vulnerable, earnest, and endearing. She’s come such a long way since her first appearance, where she was introduced as a generic arrogant loli pest. The little tidbits about her family and upbringing that come to light only serve to deepen my emotional investment in Emily and her happiness.

A-1 Pictures’s pretty character design, sutble animation, and seiyu Takahashi Minami are all working in concert to brine Emily to vivid life. And to his credit, Masamune doesn’t come right out and reject her the way he did Muramasa two eps back. He’d have been a fool if he had.

Emily realizes he might not be in love with her enough to propose marriage, but she’s going to work to make sure that he is one day. Considering all she’s managed to accomplish so far in life, I’m not betting against her, even if the show ends up going in a different direction at her expense.

RokuAka – 07

Remaining true to its pattern halfway in, RokuAka takes a step back from last week’s plot-and-action-packed drama and keeps things nice and breezy, starting with some tight shots and dialogue between Sisti and Glenn that’s open-to-lewd-interpretation, until it’s revealed they’re merely doing hand-to-hand combat training.

Sisti is a little impatient about it, but when Glenn tells her if she wants to truly protect her sister with magic, she’ll need to master some non-magical fundamentals, she’s on board. It’s good to still see the friendship of these two continuing to grow.

What would have been a return to routine at the academy is suddenly broken by the arrival of a “transfer student”, Re=L, whose transfer had been thoroughly telegraphed by the OP and ED. As befits her tendency to rush at everything head-on, even a greeting, Re=L comes at Glenn with her giant sword, confident he’ll block it.

She’s ostensibly here to protect Rumia, but she claims she’d rather protect Glenn, which I actually prefer to her being an early-Rumia-rehash, i.e. having a low opinion of him to start. These two go way back, after all.

Re=L comes on a bit strong with her eccentricities and lack of social skills. The class and Sisti in particular are a bit dubious of whether this is all okay. Re=L eventually settles in nicely, thanks in large part to the always kind and friendly Rumia, who it should be noted is always ready to die, hence her fearlessness in being in such close proximity to the blue-haired newbie!

Glenn, relieved Re=L is starting to fit in, hopes she’ll make more progress on a class field trip to a tropical island, where he eggs on the guys in the class to take stock of their uniquely fortunate situation, seeing as how tropical island = beach = girls in swimsuits. Meanwhile the girls on more than one occasion marvel at the idiocy of the boys.

After some beach leisure and sports, the next stage involves the lads devising a very nerdy plan to infiltrate the girls’ rooms (in order to make “lasting memories”), a plan stymied by Glenn. I was worried for a second he would join them, which would have definitely added more than a few Bastard Points to his record.

He learns from Albert-in-disguise that she’s just a decoy, and Albert’s warning about her being “dangerous” weighing on his mind. But while resting alone on the beach under a gorgeous starry sky, Glenn spots Sisti, Rumia and Re=L running into the ocean to affirm their friendship and splash around. Also surprisingly, Glenn’s not a lewd bastard about this either, but is simply glad Re=L continues to seem okay…

…Only Re=L is not okay. She puts on a good show, but something’s been weighing on her all the time since she transferred: Why Glenn left the Imperial Court Mages; why she left her. When she says Glenn is “her everything” and lives “only for Glenn”, Glenn may think she’s just messing around, but her confrontation with him later in the night makes it clear she’s not.

Re=L thinks she’s gotten a raw deal here, in losing Glenn and then having Sisti and Rumia swoop in and steal him from her. This may not be 100% fair to Glenn, who has in a way “given himself” to all of his students, not just Sisti and Rumia. But I also feel he owes Re=L an explanation for suddenly abandoning her, even though he probably didn’t think it meant as much to her as it clearly did.

With Eleanor Chalet planning something devious, this is not the time for anyone on Glenn’s side to be in emotional turmoil; especially with his talk about the “dark side” of military magic one can be swayed by if not used correctly or in the right state of mind.

Saekano 2 – 00

Saekano is back, baby! And it has not changed its ways, no sir. In its Episode 00 special, it doubles down on the enticing Episode 00 of its predecessor, piling on the fan service thick and garnishing with witty banter.

We arrive in the middle of an argument between Eriri and Utaha about an anime they disagree about, and again they seem to be talking about the very anime they’re in, and whether it’s deserving of a second season. After this first taste, I’d tend to agree with Eriri.

Like the hot springs episode 00 of last season, all the girls are after Aki’s attentions in one way or another, and everyone remains consistent in their respective approaches: Michiru with the cousin angle, Eriri with the childhood friend angle, Utaha with the Mr. Ethical schtick, and Megumi with the stealthiness and running commentary. Saekano 2 adds Hashima Izumi, another childhood friend of Aki’s and a fan of Eriri’s, to the mix, because hey, why not?

At a hotel in Odaiba overlooking the Rainbow Bridge and Statue of Liberty (yes, Tokyo has its own small one) the game-making group has gathered, and donned swimsuits because Megumi wouldn’t pose in a bikini unless everyone else was so attired. Aki has zero designs on spending the night, but when all the girls but Utaha end up in the room and she’s nowhere to be found, it’s clear she’s used her power of the purse to arrange things so she’d end up alone with Aki.

She claims to have only poured ginger ale for Aki and herself, but he has the sneaking suspicion it’s actual alcohol, and we know how that turned out for him and the girls at the hot spring. Unfortunately for Utaha (but fortunate for everyone else), while she turned her phone off, Aki’s remains on, and the gig is up. Utaha has not given up, but I wonder how far she realistically thinks she can get with such schemes.

At first Michiru only seem to be here to do pool suplexes on her cousin and put him in holds that mean something a lot different now that they’ve both grown, but it turns out she’s been working hard like Eriri and Utaha, writing not one but ten pieces of BGM for the game so far. As she gives the others a sample, her work has a motivating effect on the artists and scriptwriter, and they whip out their own tools of the trade and get to work as Izumi looks on in awe.

That leaves Megumi free to slip out and admire Tokyo Bay with Aki, among many other couples. For all the attempts of the others in the harem, it’s clear who truly has the upper hand, and she makes it look effortless as usual. For all the inappropriate contact Aki endured from Michiru, the advances from Utaha, the hugs from Izumi, and the reminiscing with Eriri, simply standing close but not too close beside his heroine seems to be ideal for Aki.

The other girls may be shapely and beautiful (and the camera never lets us forget it) but Megumi’s appeal just seems to run deeper and fuller. I look forward to seeing how she, Aki, and the others traverse their relationships with each other as the development of their dating sim progresses. And the only people who would sit there and find faults in someone’s hard work are pathetic losers who have forgotten how to enjoy life!!!

Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 09

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It’s a beach episode, folks, with a lot of familiar elements from that subgenre, including vertical pan up to unveil the ladies’ swimsuits. Shiny! It’s also a rare Shinomiya-centered episode, in which most of the inner dialogue comes from him as he struggles to impress Kae, and makes mess after mess of trying.

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From accidentally launching himself into her boobs on the beach to having to hide behind his bigger friends as they scare off some creeps, Shino’s feeling particularly inadequate this week. When he knocks her down trying to save her from a snake, causing her to drop all her kebabs on the ground, it’s the last straw, and he runs off in tears.

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Concerned for Shinomiya’s well-being, the gang chases after him, but he manages to get way far ahead of them for some reason, while Shina seems oddly un-knowledgeable about the environs of her family’s beach manse. The gag with the bridge that breaks but the gang (sans Kae) only “plummets” a little is funny enough, until you wonder how that fall (which is at least ten feet) didn’t hurt anyone. They can’t blame mushrooms this week!

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Some odd choices about the journey to save Shino aside, I did enjoy how the two fujoshis embrace him for his “klutz appeal”, which ties into the themes of the show thus far. But it felt like someone jacked up Shino’s Klutziness and Anxiety Quotients to 11 for this and only this episode.

In trying to deepen the character, the show turned him into a outlandish caricature of himself. Of the episodes thus far that have centered on a single guy, Shino’s has been the worst. It wasn’t a bad episode, but I know Kiss Him Not Me can do better.

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Hundred – 07

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The Quest to Kill Karen continues: she survived a rowdy idol concert, so lets put her out in the blazing sun! Seriously, if she can endure this many trips outside her hospital room, why is she confined to that hospital room?

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For THAT. She’s got them hanging out for that. Gotta cushion Hayato’s clumsy falls, right?

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Oh, great, here we go: Bishounen Bad Guy #4,678,594. Claire’s older brother Judar. I’m sure he’s not up to no good, no sir!

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“Mmmm…but not you, Karen. Sorry.”

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Boobs? It’s boobs, right? Gotta be boobs.

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WHOA…Judar went and splurged on the most expensive lamp at IKEA Little Garden! Wait a minute…there’s a girl in there! Judging from all the white mist around her body, she’s nude, too! She’s your and Claire’s sister Liza, you say? Why’s your sister nude in there?

Never mind; Judar wants to see if Hayato’s Super-Awesome Energy can wake her up, even though she powers the entire city-ship? Uh, buddy, you got backup generators, or am I missing something?

Claire pulls a gun on her brother when she finds him down there with Hayato. How’d she catch up to them so fast, when it took the two of them so long to descend and get through all those security doors? Is Judar just messing with Hayato, and there’s a screen door that leads straight to the top deck?

Never mind again; I’d probably pull a gun on him too. Dude’s totally evil.

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Some people immediately took a hatred to Emilia’s highly-caffinated childhood friend Claudia Loetty and wanted to lower her into a volcano mere seconds after meeting her. Wouldn’t you know it, I was not one of those people!

I dunno…I kinda love her. Her voice actor (I wanna say Akasaki Chinatsu, but not sure) has stellar range and timing, and Claudia is pretty much the manifestation of all the built-up misfortune Hayato has been collecting while taking all of those lucky ass-backward trips into lady’s hearts, crotches, boobs, and mouths.

Sure, at some point Claudia may also come to fall for Hayato, but that seems a pretty long way off. And any cute girl who doesn’t love Hayato and is actively trying to make his life harder is alright with me. Hayato needs more people like this in his life, lest he take what he has (everything) for granted.

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You see? There is nothing inaccurate about this statement. This girl speaks the truth. She is after my heart. Take it to him, sister!

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Yes, because she’s desperately in love with Emilia (who turns out to be a princess back home in Gudenburg, dontchaknow!), Claudia has zero patience for those who’d seduce her  (hence her hissing and spitting upon meeting Hayato). She also challenges Hayato to a duel in a dojo, her with her flail/mace thingy, and he with his shinai.

It doesn’t seem like a fair fight, until Hayato easily defeats her in the most hilarious way possible. She then tries to bargain for a rematch, but is refused and runs off crying. Yes, Claudia is very very annoying, but I’m very glad she’s around. She made this normally bland, stolid love-fest genuinely interesting and funny for once!

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Sansha Sanyou – 06

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This week the girls go to the beach, if only, at first, to work at Sonobe’s beach dessert cafe. It’s not your typical beach episode, because it’s really light on fanservice, but as everyone has such fair skin, it makes practical sense to cover up.

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Yu arrives at the beach aboard his yacht, the landing of which strains credulity in a more serious show. But he simply wants to make things easy for his “betrothed”, which means eating way too many desserts and leaving no room for real food. For the first half-day of work, Yoko is dressed like Yoko…Ono!

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When a shark sighting keeps the girls from finally relaxing, Yu invites them to a private resort pool, only to run into his nemesis Sakura and become hospitalized from the emotional and physical stresses that result from the encounter. Akiyama also appears, but runs off soon thereafter.

That doesn’t stop the girls from enjoying themselves at the pool, where they finally break out their swimsuits. But again, the male gaze is mostly avoided. A nice running gag is Futaba’s weird tan that never gets evened out, but otherwise not a ton going on here.

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Ushio to Tora – 06

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U2T turns in yet another beautifully balanced blend of action, supernatural peril, comedy, drama, and even a little quiet romance in it’s beach episode. And hey, what do you know, the girls aren’t wearing string bikinis! They do run into an urchin who likes tossing sand on people’s stuff, and Ushio smacks him upside the head because it’s the kind of shit he hates, because he used to do it.

Meanwhile Tora is enjoying the ocean—the one thing in the world that hasn’t changed in 500 years!—and comes upon its guardian, Umizatou, who wants assistance dealing with an ayakashi, a kraken/leviathan/Monstro-like superbeast made from the souls of those lost at sea. Tora is game for a challenge, but Aya-tan is in a much higher weight class.

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Back on dry land, Asako chases down Tatsuya, the little kid Ushio smacked, having known a kid who lost his mom and acted out. He runs afoul of some toughs, but the badass Asako makes quick work of them (God, I love her) comforts Tatsuya, and fixes the toy phone his mom gave him. They then decide to go out in a boat…

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…Just when the ayakashi draws closer to the shore. He swallows up Tora, who tells Umizatou to summon Ushio, and then the ayakashi swallows up Asako and Tatsuya, boat and all. Interestingly, cell phone signals aren’t effected by the beast’s tough skin or ethereal barrier, and she gets in touch with Ushio, who tells her he’s on his way. Tatsuya is freaked out, but Asako is (quite understandably) scared too.

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Yet she teaches him an important lesson there: one can’t think about how scared they are when they’re scared. Fear is the mindkiller and all that, so even if she’s acting less scared than she is, she’s going to put on the act to keep hope alive. When things start attacking them, hope arrives in the form of Tora, who isn’t rescuing them out of the kindness of his heart per se, but only fears harsh reprisal if Ushio learns he let them die. I believe this is also the first time Tora talks directly to Asako, after interacting with Inoue last week (Inoue kinda gets this week off, but that’s okay).

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When Ushio finally arrives, the ayakashi proves a tough customer, and everyone ends up precariously dangling from it’s digestive wall and hanging on for dear life. When Asako passes out, it’s up to Tatsuya to forget about his fear long enough to climb down Ushio and Tora and grab hold of her before she’s sucked down into the stomach.

Ushio then tears a piece of his spear’s cloth, and the spear homes in on the ayakashi’s internal eye and stabs it. Thus weakened, Ushio and Tora (with the others in tow) combine spear and lightning to tear the ayakashi a new one, releasing a huge number of trapped souls in the process. It’s a great sequence, full of carefully-orchestrated chaos.

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The beast thus vanquished, Ushio, Asako and Mayuko head back home, having made friends with Tatsuya, who learned a lot from them (I continue to enjoy Ushio and Asako’s semi-flirtatious repartee). Ushio told him what Asako’s dad told him years ago, which is why one day he showed up looking from her perspective like he’d “grown up” a little bit: his mom is always watching, so not only shouldn’t he act out, but he shouldn’t ever feel scared or alone.

But what’s this? Umizatou knows the name Aotsuki Ushio, and apparently thinks his mom is still alive, and warns Tora to cut all ties with him as soon as possible. Is he merely talking youkai-to-youkai, and not understand the friendship growing, or will Ushio one day be unable to stop either himself, the Beast Spear, or both from whacking his increasingly loyal, empathetic tiger-like buddy?

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Gakkou Gurashi! – 05

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There’s no getting around it: these past two episodes, as fantastic as they were, had their peril somewhat dampened by the fact this is all happening in the past, and we know everyone will survive these events. They actually wouldn’t have made a bad first two episodes to GG!, but considering the shock the actual first episode delivered by delaying the story we get here (and feigning normalcy), I was more than willing to suspend my belief and dive into a good zombie mall episode. And it’s a good one.

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This episode is less about its inevitable destination (Yuuri, Kurumi and Yuki meeting Taroumaru and Miki) and more about the journey it takes to get there. The mall is dark and eerily silent, but Rii-san tells Yuki it’s because there’s a concert in session and they have to be quiet. Malls are usually so noisy with crowds and muzak, so in addition to visual impact of the trashed mall, there’s an aural impact from the white noise so unusual in such a place. And despite knowing she’ll be okay, watching Kurumi dart through the darker stores with her flashlight really does a good job isolating her in a hostile, threatening place that isn’t secure.

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I also liked how the girls spend a bit of time simply shopping like high school girls do, because that’s what they are. If they don’t want to be defined as simply survivors, they have to do more than just survive, but have fun when they can. Of course, that fun is cut short by a sound and their new ward Taroumaru’s yipping, indicating someone is near.

Because they’re on the fourth floor and the zombies have trouble climing steps, they consider the possibility it’s another survivor, but then Kurumi calls off the search when she peeks in a previously-barricaded theater packed with zombies. The wide shots peppered with quick close-ups and those horrible zombie noises accentuate the peril.

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The girls, led by Kurumi, blast through a gauntlet of zombies and hide in what looks like the child care room, which is apropos because Yuki is listing, exhausted from all the unexplained running. She also gets a couple of square looks at the zombies, and, at this point in the timeline, she’s still seeing partial flashes of what happened in her classroom the day of the fall, including an image of a blurry Megu-nee with a bloody arm, suggesting her teacher was infected.

As they rest, Kurumi thinks about the theater full of zombies—many of them kids—and shudders to think how their lives as humans ended, and how scared and alone they must have felt, before they were infected one by one. And in another unsettling juxtaposition of cheery high school girl life and the apocalyptic scenario, Kurumi makes Rii-san pinky-swear not to hesitate to kill her if she gets infected.

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Miki, meanwhile, has been sitting in her miniaturized, stifling little world, until she hears the yips of Taroumaru and is convinced they’re not in her cabin fever-addled brain. She braves the mall beyond her shelter, and immediately gets surrounded. She’s literally ten seconds from zombie lunch when Taroumaru, followed closely by Yuki and the others, come to her rescue.

Miki’s leaving the room and getting rescue shows her that survival isn’t just something to grasp  or hoard alone in a dark, stuffy room, but a gift to enjoy to its fullest, preferably with others. Before everyone piles into the Mini, Miki asks if the others saw anyone else, but it’s left up in the air what became of Kei. With Miki leaving the mall, it will be much trickier for them to ever reunite, but I for one hope she met a better fate than those kids in the theater, or Taroumaru’s owner.

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Nisekoi 2 – 09

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This episode’s super-easy to summarize: Part One: Pool Cleaning. Part Two: Nursing the Onodera Sisters. But both halves paired those basic activities with some welcome, if minor, character development.

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The first half put everyone in swimsuits, which is nice and all, but the part I liked most was the fact that Paula, a seasoned assassin, doesn’t do well in groups, and kept her distance. Enter Haru, who likes Paula and wants her to join in the fun. Interestingly, it’s Haru and Raku who both work, albeit independently, to bring Paula around.

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Sick Kosaki’s reaction to seeing Raku at the door was adorable, as was her not-all-that-reluctant acceptance of his help. Ruri may have set Raku up, but he’s still not going to abandon an ill Kosaki; even if Haru is there to take care of her. And Kosaki vacuuming her room was even more adorable.

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At first, Haru treats Raku as usual: like a two-timing man-monster, constantly casting aspersions or teasing him with her built-in closeness to Kosaki. But then Raku notices Haru is also running a fever, orders her to bed, and proceeds to dote on her, from delicious rice gruel to a cold compress.

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In his care, Haru’s opinion of Raku gradually improves, as his behavior just doesn’t mesh with the Raku she invented in her head and more closely resembles the kind and gentle soul her sis adores so. Her opinion of him improves so much, she decides to give him his locket back, though she still refuses to accept that he was the prince that saved her.

Instead, she’s putting it in his protective custody until such a time as her prince returns, whereupon she’ll ask for it back. It’s quite a roundabout, ass-covering way of non-admitting Raku was and is her prince. Between reaching out to Paula, her devotion to her sister, and coming around on Raku, this was a nice episode for Haru.

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