Summertime Render – 16 – One Mio, Two Mio, Red Mio, Blue Mio

Once successfully hacked by Ushio and disconnected from Haine’s control, Shadow Mio is no longer a killbot, but retains her distinct deadpan delivery (in contrast to the real MioCoy’s higher, more bubbly lilt). As with Hikasa Youko and the two Minakatas, credit is due to seiyu Shirasu Saho for producing two distinct Mios.

Times may be desperate, but there’s still room in STR for a little bit of comedy as the two Mios act like opposing twins (and seriously throw off Sou, who as we know is in love with Mio). Mio II offers further insight into the nature of Shadows. Since she’s a “child”, she can only birth one child Shadow, and if Mio I doesn’t die in six days, Mio II will revert to black goo, essentially dying.

Mio II also has a little fun with Shinpei, whom she’s killed perhaps dozens of times, but points out she hasn’t killed him nor does she wish to. She also knows that Mio I is in love with him, and almost spills the beans but for the arrival of the truck. It’s interesting how there are aspects of Mio I’s personality baked into II, but she’s also her own person. She even asks Shin if he has a girlfriend in Tokyo, something Mio I could never ask.

Bottom line, Mio II is now on the good guys’ side, which is certainly a boon, and she promises she’ll keep her original safe. Shin decides their next objective is to track down Tokiko and Sou’s father and confront him about Haine’s true plan. That means heading to the clinic, which is also the Hishigatas’ home. They find all the furniture has been erased, as if the Shadows were trying to hide something.

While the Mios, Tetsu, and Nezu wait in the truck, the rest of the group heads deeper into the bowels of the dark abandoned hospital, freaking out Ushio even in Wristwatch Mode. These scenes have a great atmosphere and dread; if last week was a gory thriller, this is a slithering horror movie where you never know what might creep up behind you.

They find Tokiko and Sou’s mom’s wheelchair, but in the basement morgue where Ushio’s body is supposed to be, the body has vanished, and along with it the possibility of Ushio recovering fully from the battle. They follow an alternate underground tunnel to Haine’s nest, and find Tokiko and Sou’s mom lifting their dad by the neck and choking him out…never something kids need to see their parents doing.

Ushio runs up to the mom and hacks her, releasing her from Haine’s control, and she passes out, but the dad isn’t breathing. Tokiko and Sou show they’re doctor’s kids by administering CPR, and for their trouble their dad knocks the little Derringer out of an enraged Sou’s hand and shoots Tokiko with it for being disloyal. At first I was like “Oh no, they didn’t kill Tokiko again…”, but turns out it isn’t Tokiko…it’s Mio II.

Tokiko let Mio copy her, probably well aware her dad might pull the very shit he tried to pull. Back in the truck, Tokiko tells Mio that when a Shadow copies you they copy everything—right down to the depths of a person’s heart—but she’s fine with it. She’s done with secrets and hiding things. She’s lkely glad that one of the Mios truly understands just how much she means to Tokiko.

Having saved everyone, Mio II asks Shinpei if he trusts her now. He says he does, and if she doesn’t believe him she can copy him. But there’s no way Mio II would do that, as learning the inner depths of Shin’s heart would confirm to her that while he loves both Mio and Ushio, he’s only in love with Ushio.

Even after he’s been defeated, Sou’s dad keeps ordering no one in particular to kill for him. Then Mio tries to copy him but fails, because he’s already had a Shadow of himself made and died, giving him immunity. This comes as a shock to him. Then his assistant Negoro appears deeper into the cave, carrying Ushio’s body.

Ushio wants to go after her, but Shinpei tells her to stop, as she’s clearly trying to bait them on behalf of Haine and Shide. Shin’s been through enough that he’s not going to fall for the usual tricks anymore. Now that Tokiko and Sou’s dad knows the Haine have released the Hishigatas from her service, he has no further reason to hide anything, and reveals the location of a buried safe, which they dig up.

Back in the morgue, Ushio gives both of Tokiko and Sou’s parents all of the amassed information from the loops, as she did with everyone else. Now the mom finally knows she’s a Shadow. Pops reveals Haine’s ultimate goal is to “go home” with her amassed Shadow family, to a place far beyond the ocean where time doesn’t exist. He and his wife, and eventually Tokiko and Sou were to all become Shadows and join her in that eternal country.

He also tells Shinpei that if he achieves his goal of killing Haine, all Shadows will die, including Ushio. In response to this, Ushio says she’s ready to die if it means eliminating the threat to her family, friends, and island. She considers the time she’s lived since being killed to be “bonus time” anyway. It’s such a noble, selfless, and brave sentiment that Shinpei is ashamed for thinking his Ushio would feel any differently. It’s probably a big part of why he loves her.

Dr. Hishigata’s wife Chitose tells him that even if she dies, he still has his children and the people of the village to care for. Dr. Hishigata also isn’t done revealing secrets. Inside the safe is a list of all the people he diagnosed with “Shadow Sickness”, but actually became food for Haine. That list includes Shinpei’s parents, who discovered Haine’s cave and were killed for threatening to expose it.

Finally, Pops also knows the true identity of Shide: he was once his ancestor Hishigata Shidehiko, the founder and first director of the Hishigata clinic. Family ties, indeed. One Mio stronger in number and armed with all this information, it’s going to be an interesting final nine episodes spanning the final two days before the Shadowpocalypse.

Classroom of the Elite – S2 03 – Slap in the Face

When Yukimura simply can’t watch anymore, he steps out from his hiding spot to put a stop to Shiho and her cohorts’ abuse of Kei. But if he’s expecting gratitude from Kei, he doesn’t get it, and Kiyotaka probably assumed that would be the result of getting involved. When Venus group’s test concludes early, Kiyotaka deduces that Class C is the favorite to win, and starts making some moves.

Those moves involve arranging so both Kei and Chiho’s gang meet in the bowels of the ship, and this time Chiho brings Rika, the girl she demands Kei apologize to. The girls rough Kei up some more, culminating in Chiho realizing that Kei has been traumatized by bullying, and even gets Rika to start slapping Kei silly. All of this is to get Kei to “rock bottom” so he can recruit her for his purposes.

After Chiho leaves, Kiyotaka approaches Kei, who is an absolute wreck, and twists the knife like the true piece of work he is. He tells her he knows what she truly is, and that she and Hirata were never actually dating, and she assumes he’s blackmailing her for her body or something to that extent.

Of course, we know that’s not Kiyotaka’s style, but it’s still a dark and unsettling scene between the two. Kiyotaka would argue, however, that it is all necessary to send Kei to the absolute brink so she’ll take him seriously as an ally. He shows her video of Shiho’s crimes, and offers to protect her from now on in a way the previous guys couldn’t. Because for all the wounds Kei bears—emotional and physical—he still believes she and not Suzune is the best chance of Class D uniting and rising.

Before the final discussion on the last day of the test, Kiyotaka finds Ichinose dozing on the couch, and the two talk about their mutual desire to graduate in Class A (and how she knows he knows how many points she has, but she’s not going to say anything more about that). When the discussion begins, Hamaguchi proposes that everyone should show the rest of the group their phones to reach a better outcome.

Kiyotaka knows that while Hamaguchi presents this option, Ichinose is behind it, and it fits the gambit he already prepared. One by one, Mars Group is convinced to reveal their phones until the VIP is exposed: Yukimura. We then cut to a flashback of Kiyotaka and Yukimura switching phones. Even so, Ichinose calls Kiyotaka and exposes Kiyotaka and Yukimura’s scheme.

But that’s fine, because Kiyotaka isn’t the VIP either…Kei is, and always was. Not only did he switch phones with her before switching with Yukimura, but he also used his personal points to buy the means to switch out the SIM cards, so if someone called his phone, her phone (in Yukimura’s hands) would ring. It’s a great double-switcheroo trap that Mars Group falls for…except for Ichinose, who figured it out, but didn’t stop it because of her rapport with Kiyotaka.

So Class D is the victor, right? Wrong. Class A loses the most points while Class B breaks even, but in a gut punch of an ending Class C is revealed as the ultimate winner. Ryuuen, of whom I am getting thoroughly tired, was able to learn from a Class D student that Kikyou was a VIP. He once again confronts Suzune to gloat and continue to act like a skeevy prick around her. Kiyotaka shows no emotion, but can tell that as this cruise test ends, it’s not going to be smooth sailing for Class D.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Lycoris Recoil – 02 – Gathering Acorns

LycoReco takes on a job involving two feuding hackers. Robota wants to be the top dog in Tokyo, so he hires a semi-pro assassination team to take out his rival Walnut. It’s Chisato and Takina’s job is simple on paper: Keep Walnut Alive.

Takina watches in bemusement as Chisato treats this serious, hazardous mission like she treats any other day: with casual cheer, playfulness, and joie de vivre. A jelly drink packet may be quick and efficient, but it’s no substitute for a limited express bento.

When they approach the parking lot and find a very loud red Lexus LFA, Chisato is excited and really wants to drive, only for Walnut to arrive in a modest (and far less conspicuous) Honda City. Less conspicuous is Walnut’s squirrel mascot suit.

When Robota hacks the Honda (sidebar: not sure why, a car that age shouldn’t be connected to the internet at all, but I guess in this particular world it is), Walnut works to undo the hack while Takina’s marksmanship is again tested as she must take the drone out while the car is airborne.

Walnut manages to mess up the Robohack just before the car plunges into the ocean, but once everyone exits the car it slides into the water. They head into an abandoned supermarket, which is a perfect place for the kill squad to ambush them. Fortunately for Takina, Walnut’s suitcase containing all worldly possessions is also bulletproof.

Takina and Walnut alike proceed to watch in awe as Chisato not only dodges machine gun fire, but walks towards it and takes out the baddies one by one with her non-lethal rubber rounds. But when their leader (who has no love for Robota, just their money) suffers a serious wound, Chisato has Takina and Walnut go ahead as she administers triage.

Neither Takina nor the wounded guy understand why Chisato is doing this, because both of them feel like getting wounded or killed is part of the game. Not so for Chisato; a mission isn’t a true success unless it ends with no one dead. Unfortunately, there are still members of the kill squad outside when Walnut stupidly walks out first…and gets riddled with bullets and dies in a pool of blood.

The mood is somber on the ambulance, as all the fun Chisato was having now feels wholly inappropriate and unprofessional. It’s Takina, however, who apologizes for letting Walnut go out first, only for Chisato to tell her it’s not her fault. Sometimes things just go wrong. You can’t win them all.

Except…Walnut isn’t dead.

Suddenly they start moving and pulls off the squirrel head to reveal Mizuki, who was posing as Walnut all along. The suit is not only bulletproof, but full of bloody squibs to put on a convincing show. The real Walnut is a tiny girl who was hiding in the suitcase all along; she’s safe and sound while their adversary believes she’s dead. The mission is a success and no one is dead, which means it’s a win in Chisato’s book too.

It was a fun switcheroo, as like Chisato and Takina Mizuki and Mika had me going right up until she pulled off the squirrel head. The mood back at LycoReco is thus happy and laid back, only briefly interrupted by Yoshi-san, a regular at the café who also ordered the hit on Walnut, and Walnut herself, AKA Kurumi, who is now living at the café in exchange for her hacking services.

While I’m sure Yoshi has nothing good planned for the Lycoris, I admire Chisato for simply living her life and doing her job on her terms. It almost went sideways, but as she tells Takina, their “enemies” on this job were only the enemy today. They could be clients, allies, or even friends down the line. Valuing life in every interaction is in their stragtegic interests.

The episode ends on a mischievous note as Takina removes a hair tie and prepares to playfully fire it at Chisato, only for Chisato to dodge and the band to hit lil’ Kurumi square in her big forehead. It’s good to see Takina letting her hair down a bit (literally and figuratively), and the addition of Kurumi to this quirky little family is a welcome one.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Executioner and Her Way of Life – 01 (First Impressions) – Pure, Just, and Strong

As isekai anime go, this one starts out pretty ordinary: after a stinger involving someone’s dream about being in a class where everyone likes them and they have one “best friend of all”, a boy, Mitsuki, is suddenly summoned into the court of a king, but when judged to be lacking, Mitsuki is promptly tossed out of the castle, where he meets the lovely priestess Menou.

Menou offers a roof under Mitsuki’s head and food and money if he’s willing to work for it. Menou informs him that he’s not the first “lost one” from Japan; in fact, this world has been so influenced by summoned Japanese, the culture there in full force. That said, this world still has its own strict social ladder in which the Faust, or members of the church like Menou, sit even higher than kings and lords.

Mitsuki laments he has no powers, saying the wizard back at the castle said they were “null”, but when Menou gets him to summon his powers, they learn that he actually has the power to nullify anyting, as in making it cease to exist. Once the kid realizes what this means, he immediately start to show signs that suggest he might well abuse that power if left unchecked…

…And so Menou checks him, plunging a dagger straight through his skull. Turns out her true duty is as an executioner of Lost Ones, neutralizing their threat to her world and its balance of power. This wasn’t Mitsuki’s story. It was never supposed to be. It’s Menou’s.

Mind you, Menou doesn’t enjoy doing this, it’s simply her duty, and considering how much chaos carnage a Nullify power could have caused, it’s a damned important duty at that. It’s just great to see the typical isekai (and typical dull MC) formula subverted so promptly and completely.

Menou understands all too well how important her role is, as she is the sole survivor of a calamity that resulted from a Lost One—another high school student from Japan—accidentally turning an entire town into snow (or something white and powdery).

Menou is saved when Flare, the priestess who will become her master, kills the girl. When the girl comes back as a giant snow monster, Flare’s old master Orwell takes care of it. I loved the haunting bleakness of the scene, with the snow (or whatever) serving as a stark contrast to the usual flame-themed dark flashbacks.

Back in the present, Menou meets with her aide Momo, who unlike Menou treats this whole business like a fun game, perhaps her way of coping with the things that must be done to uphold balance and peace (not agreeing with that philosophy per se, jut acknowledging it’s there).

Momo is also infatuated with Menou, an attempt to add some levity to a very dark and bloody business. When the king’s guards come to the church, Menou deals with them quickly and efficiently, while Momo takes care of the one who got away.

Momo determined that the second Lost One the king summoned after the boy Menou already killed is a “guest” of the castle. The king, being of the Noblesse class below the Faust, is hoping this Japanese girl could be used as a weapon to being the Faust down. The episode ends with Menou descending on the girl on the castle balcony.

Menou is immediately a complex and thus fascinating character to watch: ever since she was rescued from that disaster she’s been trained for nothing but what she’s doing, and even parrots Flare’s slogan that a priestess must always be pure, just, and strong. There’s a bitterness in the way Menou says it.

You could say she really is all three of those things, and that the potential threat of the Lost Ones justifies her cold vigilance and laser focus on duty. But to see her master Flare and her aide Momo seem to revel in their bloody deeds in the past and present, while she gives the boy she executed a proper burial, there’s definitely a kernel of moral conflict that this second Lost One will likely help to sprout.

Her Way of Life borrows a lot from its isekai predecessors, but I’ve always been one to say if you can tweak the formula enough that it’s fresh and execute it well, you’ve probably got me as a viewer. Menou’s complexity, concise world-building, the dark comedy of the would-be MC boy’s fate, and combat scenes that pack a punch all conspire to make this one a sure keeper.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 32 – Serious Kero, Comical Li

This episode starts rather than ends with a cardcapture, and the rest of it deals with the lingering effects of the card. Because it’s the Change card, and both Syaoran and Kero-chan were in contact with it when Sakura sealed it, the two end up swapping bodies. As soon as I heard Kero speaking in a normal Japanese accent while Syaoran broke out the full Osaka dialect, I knew we’d be in for a rare treat. Even Sakura can’t quite contain her delight at such a development!

Naturally, neither Kero nor Syaoran find this remotely amusing, as they’re not exactly fond of one another. However, since the effects of Change won’t wear off for 24 hours, they’re stuck in each other’s bodies. Interestingly, Kero!Syaoran heads to his home while Syaoran!Kero stays with Sakura, leading to him blushing over her for the second time. As luck would have it, Yukito stays for dinner, but when Kero leaves the safety of Sakura’s room, he’s almost accosted by a cat!

Meanwhile, Kero does his best to make dinner, but the taste of the soup and the sound of his accent immediately cause Meling to be suspicious. After all, he’s the love of her life, so she’d be the first to notice if he’s not himself—which of course he isn’t! That suspicion only intensifies the next day when he animatedly gives the class video game pointers…despite the fact Syaoran doesn’t play video games!

Like Meiling with Syaoran, there’s no fooling Tomoyo regarding what’s going on, especially when she holds up her camera and Syaoran!Kero strikes a classic Kero pose. Similarly, Kero’s clumsiness in Syaoran’s body is plain for all to see during a soccer match when he runs on all fours. Syaoran doesn’t fare any better in Kero’s body—he can’t fly, and he’s accidentally carried off by Terada-sensei, who bought a plush toy for his niece that’s a dead ringer for Kero.

Meiling also learns the truth, and joins Sakura and Kero as they track down Terada, who exchanged Syaoran for a different toy. Kero then has to play a claw crane game for the first time in order to pluck Syaoran out of the glass box. He gets fired up and eventually succeeds, and the two put their differences aside long enough to enter an embrace while Sakura re-activates Change in order to switch them back to their rightful bodies.

The episode pulls a clever fast one when Syaoran arrives back at school to find Sakura and Kero have now switched (Sakura’s Osaka ‘lect is great, though I wish Kero had gotten a good HOEEE in)! Then Syaoran realizes he’s swapped with Meiling, only to wake up in his bed; it was just a dream, and Meiling is glad Syaoran is Syaoran—as he was meant to be.

While normally standing out with its gorgeous visuals, the success of this ultra-entertaining outing primarily came down to the performances of Hisakawa Aya (Kero) and Kumai Motoko (Syaoran), doing impressions of each others’ usual performances. They pulled it off without a hitch! Now if we could just get a Sakura-Tomoyo swap (desu wa!)…or Touya-Yukito for that matter!

Holmes of Kyoto – 06 – Oh No They Cela-Didn’t

At school we see Aoi has remained in touch with Kaori. Aoi has been invited to the Owner’s 77th birthday party, which is apparently quite a bash. Aoi learns quite a bit of new things the day of the party.

First, Holmes has a kind of male version of her in Takiyama Rikyu, a kid whose 40-ish mom (who looks half her age) is the Owner’s girlfriend, Yoshie. When Aoi finds she’s under-dressed for the occasion, Yoshie hooks her up.

The “mystery”, which is a bit contrived almost to the point of exhibition (though I guess that was true of last week with the monk too) involves the Owner’s most valuable antique—a Chinese Celadon vase—that for some reason is not encased in glass like the rest of the less valuable vases. That was weird for a start. Even weirder is that Holmes has the key to the hall of antiques, and leaves that key in Aoi’s possession. To which I say…why?

The story about the two proteges of a famous magician exacting revenge on the owner by pretending to break the vase by switching it out for a shattered fake, getting everyone to look up at what would have been an obviously visible chandelier, and using some kind of portable speaker to make the shattering noise…again, it’s all very strained and artificial.

Unlike previous “cases” I couldn’t help but ask questions the show wasn’t interested in addressing like “why aren’t there servants in such a big house?”, or “how did Owner make so much money?”, or “why was the vase out in the open like that for anyone to knock over?”

Elsewhere, Aoi’s nebulous/intermittent interest in Holmes is starting to wear thin, as is Holmes’ seeming omniscience with the cards. And don’t get me started on the show’s looks…it doesn’t have any. But I’m probably being too granular and harsh on a show that’s just trying to tell a series of fun little mysteries.

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