Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu 2 – 04

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After each episode, and after announcing the next, a character thanks us for our “continued support,” and my continued support of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu has never gone unrewarded.

Case in point: another absolute gem, combining lovely family slice-of-life (with a very unique and cool family), the clouds hanging over Yakumo’s head, and Konatsu getting to do something, out of the blue, she never dreamed of actually doing.

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That adorable little kid up there is Konatsu and Yota’s kid. Some time has passed, but not too much: he’s only in kindergarten, and yet, he’s already surprising and delighting all, even his parents, with his nascent rakugo skills. They may have a genius on their hands.

He’s every bit as charismatic as Konatsu was. Even Yakumo can’t stay mad, going quickly into Grandpa Mode. By the way, how often does a show come around where so much time passes, we get to watch both Konatsu and her son at the same age? It’s a generational show.

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It’s generations that Higuchi Eisuke wishes to discuss with Yakumo, who grudgingly gives him a ride home and his ear for the five or so minutes. Eisuke doesn’t waste them, almost going too far in proclaiming he won’t let Yakumo kill rakugo off, or even define it as something dead or dying. With Yota, Eisuke aims to keep it alive, changing to suit the mood of a generation, just as it always has.

Ever the rigid bamboo, Yakumo won’t hear of any of that, nor will he have any part in Eisuke’s project. And when Yakumo says rakugo is dead, he’s not just talking about how it would die with him, but perhaps how it already died with Sukeroku, someone Yakumo has always believed to be better than him.

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Yota is very much the progressive, without even being that aware of it, because he knows how good “Sis” is at rakugo and thinks if she loves it so much she should just do it. What’s the harm in going out there and trying it? Such an idea is unspeakable to Konatsu, however, and considering the man who raised her, her attitude is hardly surprising. Instead, she’s being trained in shamisen, so she can play her husband and others in and out.

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But when they both go to their kid’s school to perform, Yota gets inspired by the scenario, warms the crowd of mostly little kids up, and then…hands the show over to Konatsu. All of a sudden, she’s doing something she hasn’t done since she was a pint-sized urchin, living with her father.

While initially flustered and overwhelmed, a switch flips and all of a sudden Konatsu us that urchin in the bar, without skipping a beat. Scratch that; after years with Yakumo as a father, she’s gotten better, despite having never performed in public. She’s also, in my opinion, better than Yota, at least in terms of better differentiating between the characters she voices (all kudos to the great Kobayashi Yuu here).

“Jugemu” is a simple story that’s not too raunchy or complicated for the kids, and it involves quite a bit of linguistic limberness to repeat the overly-long name of the titular child over and over at increasingly faster speeds. But it’s a cakewalk for Konatsu. She’d have brought down the house no matter what the makeup of the crowd was.

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And holy crap, the surging of emotions going through Konatsu before, during and after her impromptu performance were just a delight to behold, right up until she embraces her hubby with tears of relief and joy, and he essentially says “See? Rakugo’s hella fun, right?”

The next morning, Konatsu’s back to “usual”, and despite Yota’s protests, she still won’t commit to ever doing rakugo again. It just doesn’t seem right to her to crash something that’s been a “boy’s-only” affair for so long.

It’s an old-fashioned view of a very old-fashioned art, but par for the course for someone with her upbringing, which may have been laissez-faire with Sukeroku, but got real conservative real fast with Yakumo. So while, like Yota, I’m disappointed, and think it’s a waste, I understand why she feels the way she does.

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Yakumo, meanwhile, holds Sukeroku’s fan – old Sukeroku’s; not Yota’s. And as he holds it, a figure appears behind him – Sukeroku’s ghost, I presume. There’s no hint of arrogance or superiority in this moment, as Yakumo seems haunted by the fact a someone as loathsome and untalented as he is “all that’s left” of rakugo.

Yota will probably never be able to impress him, just as he won’t be able to impress himself. Eisuke may be right that rakugo needs to evolve, and Yota may be right that someone of Konatsu’s talent should be a part of that evolution. But you’ll never convince Yakumo of that, and Konatsu will never think it’s appropriate to be anything but musical accompaniment.

That leaves the youngin’. Who knows what future he’ll see that no one else will be around to see. What I hope we do see is Yota’s rakugo continuing to be popular, and that rakugo continuing to grow into something his son can inherit. But Yakumo’s warning about how quickly a fall can come makes me weary of too many good times to come.

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Kamisama Hajimemashita 2 – 12 (Fin)

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Kami-Haji wastes no time piling on the adorableness in its final episode. Lil’ Nanami is button cute, just the kind of person you want to hold and squeeze and protect for all time. But we learn along with Tomoe that that cuteness is tempered by a steely resolve to look out for herself and be wary of men; advice given by her mother, who herself could not escape a life of bad luck with a crappy excuse for a man. We also learn that the women in her family only ever bear more women, all of them beautiful.

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Tomoe is positively transfixed by this educational foray into Nanami’s past, and even though Mizuki tries on numerous occasions to nudge him to put an end to it, Tomoe watches on, even as things go from bad (Nanami’s mother dying, as expected) to worse (Nanami living with her awful dad, who does nothing but goof off and burn their house down). The things that happen to Nanami are almost comically cruel, but for all the slapstick mixed in with the narrative, the episode never makes light of her plight.

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It also makes it clear these are the experiences that made Nanami the young woman she is today, and that something great and beautiful can come out of all that suffering and hardship. With that, Mizuki again confronts the lil’ Nanami to try to coax her back to the present, and again, she flees from Mizuki, who if we’re honest doesn’t have the most trustworthy aura about him.

Tomoe is different, though. Even though he’s a man, Nanami seems to trust him implicitly. Is it the connection she has with him in the present shining through here, or the connection between her family lineage and the god who granted them beauty at a heavy yet bearable and character-building cost?

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Tomoe isn’t just a fan of lil’ Nanami because she’s adorable. He also likes the fact that everything she desires is clear to him here in her flashback world, as things she concentrates more on appear with more detail and in greater focus. Seeing everything she wants to clearly, and having the power to grant it all, Tomoe’s devotion for her grows. Here, when asked if he truly loves her and is someone she can count on, he can answer directly: yes he does.

Heck, he even proposes marriage, and she accepts…but when the grown Nanami wakes up, she’s seemingly forgotten everything about her dream, which deflates Tomoe quite a bit, because he thought he’d actually made progress.

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He laments the fact that the happy-go-lucky yet delicate girl he was able to confess to so easily was lost in the twelve years since, especially when she’s able to single-handedly convince the zodiac sheep to allow the new year god to shear him. Then Nanami surprises Tomoe again and makes him rethink everything when the Year God furnishes her with a photo of her mother.

Now, that wouldn’t seem such an impactful gift, but considering her mother died when Nanami was very young and all photos of her were lost in the fire (a heartbreaking fact), it means multitudes for Nanami to finally see her face clearly. And in doing so, Tomoe sees that neither Lil’ Nanami nor her mother really vanished; they’re still within Nanami.

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Back at the Shrine, Nanami is back to work on her talismans, and Tomoe is back to work denigrating their poor quality, earning her defiant scowls. But when relaxing after a long day ushering in the new year for worshippers and the like, Nanami settles down for some tea and TV with her shrine family, whom she’s been with now for a year.

When she steps outside, the falling snow reminds her of what a shadowy figure once said to her in a half-forgotten memory of the past (which we know to have just happened at the Torii gates), in which Tomoe tells her younger self she won’t always be alone and wary, but be “the lady and mistress of a household more rowdy than she could wish for.”

And so it’s come to pass. She has a family, without having resorted to marriage she’d sworn off. And yet, when asked again, Nanami adds the qualified “probably” to that swearing-off, opening the door for Tomoe, if he wishes to walk through it.

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Kamisama Hajimemashita 2 – 11

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“Dang it Mom, I’m working on my science project!”

Kami-Haji is really in the zone in its home stretch, such that it can abruptly change gears from the Tengu arc to Kirihito without breaking a sweat. Mind you, I was a little skeptical of the choice of gear—there’s only two eps left; get back to Nanami and Tomoe!—I decided to be patient and see where the show was going with this. It was a good decision, and my patience was rewarded handsomely.

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Having built a new portal to the Netherworld…in his house (probably not the best idea), Kirihito—or I should say Akura-oh—prepares to dive back in to look for his body. What’s interesting is the means with which he does so: by using the bracelet he made from Nanami’s hair (quite a bit of it…yikes!) to keep his human body intact while down there. That’s right, Mr. Big Bad can’t do a thing without Nanami’s (indirect) help, and he knows it.

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The Netherworld is just as dark and dreary and unpleasant as it was last time, but it doesn’t take long for Akura to find his body. Just a slight niggle: it’s on top of a volcano, in an eternal cycle of being simultaneously burnt and regenerating.

Yatori tagged along as is ridiculous 90% of the time, but we see why he came when he gets serious and stops Kirihito from doing something reckless. His hair bracelet will be of little use; what he needs is the ability to quell the volcano’s fire…and the best thing for that is fox fire; specifically Tomoe’s.

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So, okay, Kirihito will be paying Tomoe (and by extension Nanami) soon. Is there really time for that? Never mind; Kirihito’s side of this episode comes to a beautiful end: once Yatori gets him back to the mundane world, the portal starts leaking poison from the Netherworld. At first Kirihito/Akura is unconcerned, even after one of his shikigami turns to dust; he slaved over that portal and he’ll be damned if he’s going to seal it.

But then he remembers he’s in Kirihito’s house, and his mother is at his door with a late night snack. And he seals that portal right up. It’s an incredible feat for someone so nasty and self-concerned, but Akura-oh clearly inherited more than just Kirihito’s body.

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Embedded in Kirihito’s side of the story is a cutaway to Tomoe, the guy who betrayed him by falling for a human woman and thinking he could be a human himself, who is in that moment making hamburger steak for his human/god master, because it’s her favorite.

First of all, BAAAAAAAAW. Secondly, Kirihito may poo-poo Tomoe’s love and devotion for a human (first Yukiji, now Nanami), but he kinda loses his philosophical ground when he puts the safety of his host body’s mother before his own.

Like Kirihito sealing the portal later, Tomoe suddenly feels guilty removes the shiitake mushrooms he meant to sneak into the mix after Nanami expresses excitement about him making her favorite dish. DOUBLE BAAAAAAW.

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The second half begins with Nanami watching a wedding on TV, and brings up the fact she’s agreed to host Himemiko’s wedding when it happens. Mizuki and Tomoe briefly misunderstood her phrasing to mean she was getting married, to which she responds “I’m not getting married. Ever.” And she says it with a creepy face that suffers no debate.

Her stance is harsh, but understandable, considering she comes from a broken home, and the marriage she’s most familiar with—that of her parents—obviously didn’t end well.

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How apropos then, that when Nanami tags alone with Tomoe and Mizuki to visit the Year God, she ends up revisiting those rough years, even transforming into her twelve-year-younger self.

One wonders why in the world Nanami would ever think looking back on her past twelve years would “sound fun”, but call it curiousity and awe at her surroundings, combined with her special brand of hard-headed recklessness Tomoe both loves and hates about her.

And while I maintain Tengu Nanami remains The Best, Lil’ Nanami is no slouch in the adorableness department!

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Tomoe and Mizuki fail to catch Lil’ Nanami (who lands a fantastic jump-kick on the latter, believing him a kidnapper), but they’re able to bear witness to her experiences at this age, from being given a chocolate bar by her deadbeat dad just before he runs off for good, to her mother being hounded by debtors.

It’s a lot for a little kid to take in, but even at her young age, she becomes overcome by shame at enjoying a luxurious chocolate bar as her mother struggles to scrape by. (Mind you, it’s her Dad’s fault, not hers).

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Even in the face of such hardships, the moment Nanami’s mom notices her daughter, her face brightens and she embraces her treasure, as if to assure her that everything will be all right. I had no idea Nanami’s mother was so kind, decent, and loving. Fortunately for us, Nanami took after her mother in that regard.

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So the question is, what happened to make Nanami family-less and homeless? Tomoe learns this after getting a good look (and possibly feeling the aura of) Nanami’s mother: she’s very ill, and doesn’t have long to live. Her mom didn’t run off like her dad…she died.

Being a little kid, Nanami has no knowledge of her mother’s impending death. And as we know, once she’s gone there’s no one else to take her in, until she comes upon the earth god shrine. But Tomoe tells Mizuki not to interfere; he wants to see a bit more. After all, he’s witnessing a side of the woman he loves he’s never seen before. Maybe seeing that side will finally give him the courage to tell her of his love. Here’s hoping.

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Kamisama Hajimemashita 2 – 10

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This episode features the unlikely but increasingly tolerable pairing of Nanami and a somewhat humbled (and therefore more reasonable) Brother Jiro, as they search for the Sojobo’s soul. He’s still stern and no nonsense, but he doesn’t prevent Nanami from following him down into a secret cavern.

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Jiro even tells her this was where Shinjuro got into trouble with a thunderbolt beast, and where Suiro lost his ability to fly by rescuing him. But when Jiro drops into a deeper chasm, even when lightning shoots up, nay, because it does, Nanami goes in after Jiro, not because she doesn’t trust him, but because he had the bearing of a man going to his death.

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The beast rears its head for Nanami first, and while she’s able to fire off a barrier against evil, it counterattacks with a massive lightning strike. It’s in this moment Jiro finally understands why Suiro saved Shinjuro and regrets nothing: the despair of losing his ability to fly was small compared to the despair of losing someone he loves.

Before Suiro knew it, he was moving to save Shinjuro. And before Jiro knows it, he’s moving to save Nanami, whom he admits he’s fallen for, and can’t bear to watch die.

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I love how over-the-top Shinjuro’s reaction to learning the soul is hidden in the same place where he was traumitized, but he quickly composes himself, knowing that not only is he a far stronger tengu now, in part because of that experience, but he’s also not alone: Tomoe is with him and Nanami is further in.

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Tomoe dispatches the “kitten” with his superior fox fire, but he isn’t able to bask in the light of Nanami’s gratitude for saving her as he usually does. Nanami is too concerned with Jiro, who is badly injured and loses consciousness.

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In a really nice icebreaker, the defeated thunderbolt beast, suddenly not so fearsome-looking anymore, coughs up the Sojobo’s soul like a hairball. Kamisama Kiss has always been great at tempering or punctuating its more serious scenes with lighter fare. Unlike, say, Violin girl, its slapstick never ruins the mood, but rather keeps it in check.

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Nanami’s continued concern for Jiro irks Tomoe, because he doesn’t like the idea of Nanami, whom he likes, worrying about another man. Still, he’s able to comfort her by assuring her Jiro will happily bear whatever consequences he must, because he got to save Nanami. He speaks form his own extensive experience: saving Nanami is always worth it.

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Kamisama Kiss puts on a romantic comedy/drama clinic this week, perfectly balancing Nanami’s joy and relief when Jiro comes to (thanks to her peach pills) with the embarrassment of walking in on a nude Jiro being bathed by Suiro.

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Tomoe initially playfully teases Nanami, but as usual goes a little bit farther than he should due to his own frustration of holding in his true feelings for the lass. When he tells her it makes no difference to him whether she goes back home with him or stays with Jiro to get to know him better, it clearly wounds Nanami, who contrary to Tomoe’s jealous suspicions, hasn’t simply flipped her love switch from Tomoe to Jiro.

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Still, Jiro did manage to do one thing Tomoe hasn’t been able to yet: clearly confess his feelings for Nanami. So at the cherry blossom tree viewing/Sojobo & Jiro recovery party (that’s a mouthful), Nanami is receptive to Jiro’s own attempts at courtship, which aren’t bad for someone who’s never laid eyes on a woman before.

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The beauty of the restored cherry tree makes for about as romantic a locale as one could hope for, but as much charm and respect Jiro has for Nanami, when she tells him how precious the peach pills she used to save him are, and how she wants Tomoe to have them if anything ever happens to her, it becomes clearer to him that he’s barking up the wrong tree.

Consider: when he flew her up into the tree, in a moment of fear Nanami called out for Tomoe. Also, when she has too many high-proof sake-filled steamed buns and gets wasted, she repeats his name again and again. With the walls of sobriety down, she also lowers her toughing-it-out mask. The only one she wants is Tomoe, and she’s far more happy being carried on his warm comfortable back than being in the middle of a cherry tree with Jiro.

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She even unabashedly lets off an “I love you”, not her first nor her last directed at Tomoe. And perhaps knowing she’s passed out and won’t hear it, he says he loves her too out loud. It’s a small step, but he knows it’s a necessary one.

As Shinjuro tells him, it’s precisely because human lives are so short, that if you have to say something, you’d better say it before it’s too late. Tomoe has technically said what he needs to say, but this time doesn’t count. Can he do it when Nanami is conscious? We’ll see.

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Kamisama Hajimemashita 2 – 09

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I had a feeling this “heist” episode was going to be a good one, but I wasn’t prepared for how much ass it kicked, much of it courtesy of our heroine Nanami. It’s quite simply one of her finest hours. It’s all because she has to be herself, which means tapping into her stores of morality, decency, and emptahy along with her increasingly potent divine powers.

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But first of all, I just want to reiterate that Tengu Nanami just made my year. He/She is so friggin’ cute she makes Botanmaru look like a pile of puke! The spiral glasses are a particularly nice touch. But along with that cuteness comes great strength.

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But anyway, the reason Nanami is able to steal the show is that the (somewhat) carefully orchestrated operation doesn’t go according to plan. Kurama had hoped to get Jiro drunk on mundane world medicinal alcohol, but the bull has formidable tolerance.

Tomoe, furious that Jiro hurt Nanami, tries to work his magic, posing as a slightly sultrier Nanami to throw Jiro off his game (helped at least a little by the booze). It works for a time; at least long enough for Nanami to find the Sojobo.

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Kurama and Tomoe are undone when Tomoe breaks character and brings up Nanami, the maiden Jiro met, and even threatens violence. Kurama stops his “familiar”, but Jiro imprisons them both in a strong, anti-yokai barrier prison. With these two out of commission, it’s Nanami’s game to lose.

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She doesn’t lose. The plan fails mostly because she and the others weren’t aware of the existence of a yokai under Jiro’s employ (Yatori), or the fact the Sojobo has been petrified as a result of his soul being extracted.

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Nanami, in top heroine goddess form, doesn’t cower in fear before the bombastic Jiro. In fact, when he smacks Botanmaru, she gives him a stern scolding, one he probably hasn’t heard in a long time, if ever, and sorely needed. He blames Botanmaru for being weak, but Nanami points out Jiro hasn’t been running this mountain himself, all alone. Even the strongest have people they rely on.

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Jiro doesn’t know how this litle whelp of a tengu knows about such stuff, because he doesn’t know he’s talking to a human land god. When Nanami brings up Sojobo’s soul extraction, Yatori butts in a shoos Jiro away. In case you were wondering, yes, this guy is up to no good, and is simply using Jiro to secure an army for Akura-oh.

But Yatori is just as clueless about this tengu lad as Jiro, and when he threatens to off him and Botanmaru, the wig and gloves come off and Nanami enters Full Bad-Ass Mode, a mode she remains in for the duration of the episode.

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With Mamoru by her side, she casts a barrier against evil that easily dispatches Yatori. One could say he’s dealt with too easily, but this has never been a show about long, drawn-out physical battles, but rather battles of wits, timing, and ideals. In any case, it’s awesome to see Nanami wield such power so comfortably and confidently, and we know why: the people she loves and cares are counting on her, and she won’t let them down.

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Even in disguise, her words prove just as powerful a weapon against the big dumb mean bear that is Jiro, within whom lies a precocious but insecure boy desperate to earn the Sojobo’s approval.

When he isn’t watching where he’s going he bumps into the three adorable little tengu we met last week, who all expect to be reprimanded severely for getting in his way. But Nanami’s words echo through his head, and suddenly picking on a bunch of little kids seems stupid. Good for him. Better for Nanami!

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Jiro’s sudden crisis of the heart also means his hold on his “encampment” is tawdry at best, and Nanami takes advantage. Ignoring Yatori’s pleas to keep him around since he’s the only one who knows where the Sojobo’s soul is stashed, she decides to simply cancel out all of the barriers in the compound with one big barrier against evil, and find the soul herself.

As she “tears” through the place, she scares the bejesus out of various tengu who’ve never laid eyes on a woman before, and even leaves a gleaming golden trail in her wake. Once her barrier is cast, the whole place starts to sparkle. When Tomoe and Kurama’s prison fades away in the golden light, Tomoe knows exactly what’s up: his Nanami is demonstrating precisely why she’s worth falling for.

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Kamisama Hajimemashita 2 – 08

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The tables are turned on the human Nanami early this week as for once she is the one being regarded as a rare and strange supernatural creature, a “celestial nymph,” by Jiro. He’s not the gentlest soul to her, either, roughly grabbing her arm and threatening to break it before Mamoru, true to his name manages to spring her.

Scared, trembling, and sporting a sore arm, the sight of the far gentler Tomoe is enough to make Nanami collapse into his bosom ing joyful relief. This is the side of Nanami that makes Tomoe want to protect her with everything he’s got. And I’m sure Nanami would always prefer for Tomoe to be waiting with open arms whenever she gets into such a state.

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After being treated roughly and then gently, Suiro continues to talk to Nanami while facing Tomoe, as if her countenance is too awful to look upon. When she forces the issue, he admits he’s simply not used to interacting with women, especially, as he says, “beautiful maidens.”

After glimpsing his impossibly gorgeous face, Nanami has to wonder if he’s just being nice. Don’t get me wrong, Nanami is super-cute, and I wouldn’t call her plain, but it’s clear her’s is a more normal, casual beauty compared to all these magazine cover bishounen. 

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Suiro, perhaps the most classically feminine of the characters in the room, has always mothered Shinjuro, and now that he’s back it’s as if nothing has changed: he still sees him as a little kid with mussed hair who can be placated with apples and promises “it will all work out.” Only Kurama isn’t a kid, and isn’t buying it. Nothing will work out this time unless he acts.

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When Kurama storms out to cool his head, Suiro asks Nanami and Tomoe not just to leave themselves after giving the peach pills to give to Kurama’s sire, but to take Kurama with them as well. He can tell that Kurama left a lot behind in the mundane world to come to the mountain, and he shouldn’t be expected to abandon the life he’s lived for seventeen years.

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Nanami’s response is simple: she and Tomoe aren’t leaving until Kurama says he wants to go. They both find Kurama surveying Jiro’s heavily-fortified compound, and Kurama comes to the same conclusion Tomoe does: he can’t do this alone. Nanami volunteers to help in anyway they can, because she’s not just someone who runs scared into the arms of others. She’s both vulnerable and strong; scared and brave; all seemingly contradictory traits that perplex Tomoe so.

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Kurama doesn’t even have to ask Nanami, but he does anyway as a courtesy; not an easy thing at all for him to do, considering he prefers to shoulder all the burdens himself. What’s so funny is the cliff they’re on is so windy, Nanami doesn’t quite hear him ask for her help, and Kurama is too bashful to ask again. Thankfully, Tomoe heard.

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Meanwhile, within compound they intend to infiltrate tomorrow, it’s plain to Yatori—and us—that Nanami has had an effect on Jiro. You could say he’s been enchanted; his heart and mind are in disarray. His instincts made him act forcefully to a potential threat in the nymph, yet he cannot deny her presence in his mind has been all but constant ever since their meeting. You can call it puppy love, but no doubt he sees it as a weakness, one he’ll hide from his subordinates at all costs, even as he continues to cull young tengu who aren’t strong enough to pass muster.

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This episode is immediately made better by frikking having Tomoe in it, saying more than one line; although a few of his lines are obviously defensive barbs loosed against the girl he’s fallen for flustering him simply by existing. As fate would have it, they share a bedroom that night.

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Nothing really happens, despite what these images might suggest, but when coming back from the bathroom, Nanami accidentally curls up in Tomoe’s bed, and while initially freaked out, Tomoe is surprised to find himself embracing her, right up until she comes to. It’s all very “romawkward”, as one would expect from two people still on the very fringes of a romantic relationship, and still not comfortable openly talking about it or even acknowledging the mutual attraction exists.

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That morning, we see the plan that will get them into the compound: Kurama will pose as the land god Nanami really is, Tomoe will pose as his familiar instead of Nanami’s, and Nanami will pose as an apprentice tengu, which introduces us to Nanami Tengu Drag, which might be the most adorable thing I’ve seen all Winter.

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Kamisama Hajimemashita 2 – 07

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Botanmaru’s wretched state (he passes out from the mundane world “poison” and has welts from lashings) convinces Kurama to return to his home mountain from whence he descended seventeen years ago, when he wasn’t much bigger than lil’ Botan. I like how he admits he’s far more into the mundane world scene because of all the cute girls.

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One of those cute girls insists on tagging along in case she can support Kurama. Nanami constantly referring to her damn white talismans is a nice little running gag, but it’s also a more serious sign that she’s no longer one to sit on the sidelines as friends—or even mere acquaintances—face challenges. And fixing the problem on the tengu mountain is definitely a challenge.

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Kurama didn’t just hesitate to return because there are no women on the mountain. When he says he’s a failure, he means it; and not only did he flee the mountain, but he fled after his beloved brother Suiro, who was the fastest tengu on the mountain, saved him from a cruel trial, costing his mentor his wings, which, for a tengu, are everything. The one who put Kurama thorugh that trial is now poised to succeed the dying leader.

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The mountain is also covered in thick, nasty misasma in which evil spirits lurk, one of which exploits Kurama’s weakness and takes Suiro’s form. At first I was like “Okay, this guy is kind of lame for spouting all this exposition like this” but it turns out he was an imposter. The real Suiro is much kinder, though notably cold to Nanami, sending her on a trek to the outhouse.

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The somewhat mannerless Yatori has slinked his way into Jiro’s court, which is troublesome, since we know Yatori aims to hand this mountain over to Akura-oh. As friendly as he’s being with Jiro, this guy is no ally. Jiro, all puffed-up and tough; the yang to Suiro’s yin, doesn’t see Yatori as a threat, which could prove fatal as the crisis on the mountain worsens.

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The change of setting would be refreshing if it weren’t essentially a bunch of thick green-gray fog and dead trees. The mountain is a very dreary place right now, though Nanami is hopeful she can bring some light and joy, if only to a few wary fledglings, one of whom had his orphaned boar piglet slaughtered by Jiro while cradling it in his arms.

Jiro is all about tough love and strength; he has no time for the weak or sentimental. But it’s not at all certain Jiro is the right one to ascend to leadership—especially with Yatori hanging off of him.

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Jiro is built up throughout the episode as a bit of an ass, but these are dire times and he has cause to put up a hard line. So when he spots Nanami under the cherry blossom tree she temporarily restored and seems to be instantly smitten (and why not; Nanami is a cutey), it’s clear this guy isn’t your normal villain/usurper. But while I realize this is the introduction to a more tengu-focused story arc, I was still miffed by Tomoe’s exceedinly scant presence.

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Kamisama Hajimemashita 2 – 06

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Following the Divine Assembly, this week’s Kami-Haji is a bit of a disjointed grab bag, with some parts superior (in terms of my interest in them) to others. I’ll get right to my favorite part: the aftermath of Nanami’s talk with Mikage. Despite Mikage’s blessing, without knowing explicitly why Mikage wants Tomoe to “choose” her so badly (beyond wanting him to be free of him), Nanami remains hesitant in her courtship of Tomoe, especially when Lord Okuninushi recommends against it.

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Nanami even travels home separately from Tomoe in order to give her situation more thought, but thankfully, she gets another viewpoint, and one she should give more weight than Okuninushi, who as far as we know hasn’t ever truly loved a human. That other viewpoint comes from Himemiko. It only takes one look at Nanami to sense her uncertainty, and wastes no time setting her straight.

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Nanami thinks she’s being reckless and foolish to cultivate a romance with Tomoe because she knows she’ll die long before him, and thus knows she could break his heart when that day arrives. She’s doubly concerned with the fact this would be the second time in Tomoe’s existence that he’s survived a human lover. But I, like Himemiko, think Nanami has it all backwards.

It’ll do Nanami no good to conceal her love the rest of her days, or settle for someone she doesn’t love. Rather, she should treasure what time she has in the living world with Tomoe, expressing her true and unfiltered feelings, not letting those years go to waste and lead to regret. Himemiko speaks from experience: the pain of one day losing her human love Kota will pale in comparison to the regret she’d have in her heart had she never pursued him.

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As great as Himemiko and Nanami’s day of shopping and love talk is, it doesn’t quite fill a whole episode, which is a good thing, as I preferred the montage (during which a lovely arrangement of the first season’s opening theme plays) to a more heavily-padded shopping scenes. Still, that means the balance of the episode must be filled, and in this case, it’s filled with less compelling stuff.

Kirihito/Akura-oh’s quest to restore himself has promise, but the introduction of Yatori is sudden and shrug-worthy. Sure, I dig Yatori’s Sia Wig and crazy green eyes, and the fact he’s aware Kirihito is really Akura-oh (and Kirihito believes him to be a fool, which he isn’t), makes for an interesting dynamic. But nothing happens yet; Yatori only promises to raise a force and begin a campaign against the tengu mountain of Kurama in Akura-oh’s name. Kirihito’s just, like…“um, thanks?”

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The mention of Kurama calls to mind Nanami’s crow-tengu classmate and sometime-ally Kurama, who just happens to be having a concert that Ami invites Nanami to (Tomoe outright refuses). She then accidentally steps on a little tengu named Botanmaru who just happens to be looking for a fellow tengu who came down from the mountain seventeen years ago.

Botanmaru is specifically after this tengu because he doesn’t believe the commonly-held opinion among his peers that leaving the mountain made him a failure. He also looks up to him as an inspiration, because both of them are late-bloomers (Botan still can’t fly) and hopes he’ll be able to offer some advice.

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To Nanami’s surprise, the one Botanmaru seeks is Kurama. With her extra ticket, she takes Botanmaru to his concert, where he’s in Full Fallen Angel Idol Mode, and not anywhere any guy, particularly Tomoe, wants to be. The episode concludes without the two tengu meeting yet, but it seems the next main storyline will be about this, and I suspect Tomoe will object to Nanami intervening in tengu affairs, for no other reason than it means having to hang out with Kurama.

Nanami’s observation at the end that Kurama never actually plays the acoustic guitar he breaks out on stage for his “ballad”—it was just a prop—is a funny way to close.

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Gundam: G no Reconguista – 15

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I LOL’d. Most undignified space shower ever!

Hannah has seen fit to relinquish Gundam G to me alone (THE POWAH…) just when things seem to be picking up.

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And by picking up I mean RARA’S A REAL PERSON NOW. Rara has been such a wasted comic relief mascot up to this point (and Noredo has been resigned to babysitter), it’s fantastic finally listening to her using proper grammar prattling on about proper noun-heavy random stuff just like everyone else.

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Is that so? I’ll bet that mythical creature had a better haircut. If Towasanga has cheerleaders, I bet they accidentally grab his head all the time.

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SUUUURRRGGE!

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No, YOU don’t surge, Aida…you hang back and keep an eye on the Megafauna. Oh, and hey, make the boys some sandwiches while you’re at it! Seriously, all Aida ever does is hang back. I know she’s not a very good mobile suit pilot, but that begs the question, why is she piloting a mobile suit? Put Rara in one.

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Happa equips the G-Self with the Assault Pack, which is designed to UNLEASH HELL and make Bell a much bigger target. Happa quips that even an idiot can use it. Well, that’s not really a quip. Bell is an idiot, he’s just an idiot whose biology happens to work really well with mobile suits. A kind of “flesh battery”, if you will; a necessary evil…though I bet Happa wishes he could just control G-Self by remote.

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OMG YES. Not ‘Yes you can keep playing around’, but ‘Yes, Rara is piloting the captured mobile suit. Lest we forget, she was G-Self’s original pilot, and was capable enough that they sent her on a very important forward mission in it. She’s got skills (unlike Aida); she’s just probably rusty.

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Aw screw it…FIRE EVERYTHING!!!

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Bell is in full Destruction Mode, with a slight adjustment: he’s constantly asking his targets not to die once he fires at them. Mind you, they can’t hear him. He’s just saying this so he can sleep at night.

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Then again, long-range targets he can’t see or hear and tries not to blow up entirely means no faces of those he’s killed when he closes his eyes! Oh, and the Alincato? Another piece of tech introduced just this week that turned out to be a dud against the G-Self. Even the suit models chosen over the experimental G-Self (which Rara says was really called the “YT-111”) have trouble with Bell. He’s a machine.

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Rusty Rara takes it slow, since she’s still technically in developmental rehab, and aids the Megafauna’s defense. Still, even a little action is good to see, and I hope we see more of it.

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The heck is that thing? Looks like a giant finger bone wrapped with lots of gold watches. And it’s gi-normous. The moon was apparently blocking it all this time, but I’m surprised it doesn’t exert tidal forces of its own.

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Nah, it’s probably fine.

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See? It was only a trap for those who entered through Port I, Klim and Mick!

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The Megafauna enters through Port IV, and end up in Rara’s neighborhood, which is home to some kind of Towasanga resistance. I’m sure we’ll be pummeled with more info on that next week.

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Gundam: G no Reconguista – 14

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Would Gundam take the Christmas week off? Not a chance! Besides, in the SU-Cordist calendar, Christmas is called Schmistmas and it takes place on Flancember the 46th!

Still, I found it highly amusing that while showing off their new threads Noredo mentions how there are ‘no decent stores’ because this is…ahem…‘holy ground’…

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…And the camera cuts to Aida’s new cocktail dress. First of all, Noredo was lying about there being no decent stores (unless Aida made that red number). Second: how is this appropriate dress on so-called holy ground? Maybe Holy Ground is the name of Sankt Porto’s hottest nightclub?

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Ya hear that, Bell? You gotta do better than “You look nice” when a woman goes to the trouble of contorting herself into a garment of that caliber.

The juxtaposition of Noredo’s holy ground line with the dress makes me wonder if each character’s dialogue is written by a different writer, not knowing what lines the others are writing. If this is the case it’s a novel process, if a bit of a crapshoot.

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I guess even Aida thought her dress was a bit risque for the diplomatic talks, so the next time we see her she’s dressed normally, even though Rara and Noredo are still rocking their new threads (or did the animator forget what Aida was supposed to be wearing?)

Never mind, though…the sight of the delegation from the Moon not only sparks Rara’s memories, but she starts talking in full sentences with proper syntax! This is an awesome development, because the non-talking Rara has become more of a shrug-inducing afterthought than Bellri’s compliments.

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I liked how the quartet left in the middle of the meeting, because it was so damn boring. They even bump into Manny, if only for a moment, in which she tells them she’s a soldier now and she has to go! Hey, you went up to them!

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Manny just wants to be close to Mask at all times, perhaps sensing he’s really her boyfriend Luin, or maybe just has a thing for masks. In any case, she gets a tender moment with him (about as tender as you can get when separated by glass), but then BARARAAA calls him over and the two have a little twirl and Manny is JELLY.

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Yes, only then will you get to spend even more time with that ineffectual blowhard, whom you’ll have to take orders from even though you’d probably by a better pilot. Aim higher, Manny!

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Manny has a point though…whether it’s Mask and BARARAAAA, Bell and Aida, or Klim and Mick here, all the couples seem to be mobile suit partners.

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Mick has even started emulating Klim’s in-cockpit monologue style…

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…though she’s a few decades too early to think about taking his throne in that arena.

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Meanwhile, back in his G-Self, Bell is all about the murderin’ this week. He even counts off his kills: “One horrific death, ah-ah-ah! Two horrific deaths, ah-ah-ah!” It’s all good; he can’t see the pilots inside. No nightmares for him!

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Although interestingly, one of the Towasanga pilots puts up his hands and drops his weapon, and Bell somehow manages to stop his killing blow in time to save him. That was close, as the pilot was out of his cockpit, and while Bell has no problem killing people, the sight of blood makes him woozy!

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Can’t argue with that! But what’s with the slingshot? What is she, Denise the Menace?

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Not sure what Bell was grabbing for there, but it’s seriously great news that as they approach her home on the moon, Rara is finally talking and identifying the others by name. It’s almost like she’s going to start being a character…instead of a vapid mascot!

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Oh great…another ambiguous romance. And does the blondie let his five-year-old niece cut his hair, or what? No matter. This was not a bad episode, and we have the whole moon to look forward to next time.

It even ended with one of the more pointed, true-to-character, Gundam-y exchanges between Aida, Bellri and Noredo, which I’ll leave you with.

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Well said, all of you! All that was missing was a hearty “Chuchumy!” from Rara, for old time’s sake.

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Gundam: G no Reconguista – 13

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She does? Well that’s good. What’s also good: I think kinda understand the situation too! Representatives of Capital Tower and Ameria find themselves at Sankt Porto, faced with a common enemy from the Moon. The two entities that have been warring all this time are better off forming a united front against this enemy.

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To that end, the grown-up have to talk it out and discuss the wherefores and particulars and whatnot…

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Hey Bell, this is boring, right? How ’bout we head back out into space and kick some mobile ass!

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RED RUM. RED RUM.

Rara may understand the situation, but it’s still tricky to understand her, or her sudden and cryptic reactions to things. And her vocabulary remains shockingly limited.

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Well, yeah. What are you fogeys going to do…talk the enemy to death? Actually, that might work.

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I like how Kerbes Yoh is the voice of reason in wondering why Bell is going into battle with two civilians stuffed into his cockpit. For their part, Neither Noredo nor Rara want to leave, and Bell is so used to being surrounded by girls in his cockpit that it would have never occured to him to drop them off somewhere safe.

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A tender moment between Mask and BARARA. Of course, he’s telling her they’ll only go so far in their cooperation with the Amerians. If the opportunity arises to get the upper hand on them, they’ll take it. Bara likes how he’s thinking.

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Bell and Aida board the Garanden under a flag of truce, and they’re surprised to find their old friend Manny there, she having followed Luin but lost track of him, probably because now he wears a mask, making all his other distinguishing features invisible to the eye (apparently).

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It’s actually a pretty cool sight to see the Capital Mack Knifes in a joint formation with the G-Self and other various suits, then meeting up with Klim and his sidekick. As the moon fleet sends negotiators to Sankt, Klim decides to use a false white flag to get closer to them.

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It doesn’t work at all, and I’m glad it doesn’t, because it means these Moonies are your typical idiotic tacticians. They launch a torrent of missles at the joint formation, but all are deflected or destroyed, and everyone retreats back to the port. The Moonies cease fire, not wanting to hit the port.

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This leads to maybe one of the best moments in the show, when everyone who had been battling each other all this time, for various purposes (or due to outright misunderstandings) all end up in the same elevator together. The line above really says it all.

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Alright…WHO FARTED? I’m lookin’ at you, Maskie.

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From the elevator, everyone eventually files into a large audience chamber where Aida’s Dad, Bell’s Mom, and His Holiness are already talking things over with the Moonies, and again you get the feeling the youths would rather be somewhere else shooting or punching something. In fact, a fistfight does almost break out between Klim and one of the Moon pilots, but Bell comes between them.

Oh, Klim also is the first to say “reconguista” in the show, because of course he is.

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Ultimately, Aida isn’t going to take the Moonies by their many many boring words. She wants to spring back into action, which means heading to the moon herself and seeing what she sees with eyes unclouded by the motives of other parties. So that’s where she and Bell and likely the rest of the gang are headed next week.

Entering it’s second half, Recon in G is finally starting to make some doggone sense! But the plot still didn’t interest me so much as all the lovely reluctant alliances and strange bedfellows created this week.

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Gundam: G no Reconguista – 12

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Raraiya Monday is upset about the G-Self being saddled with an Assault Pack, ostensibly because she doesn’t want the G used for battle…which begs the question, what should it be used for? Was was she up to in it? When will she remember? Maybe sooner than I think; maybe not.

In any case, hitting her with a slingshot-propelled sneeze bomb? I like how Noredo thinks! If only her character had a purpose beyond tagging along beside Bellri and Rara-sitting.

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Meanwhile, Klim, who everyone calls “Genius Klim” this week despite the fact he is not a genius (maybe it’s an inside joke?), has an audacious plan to occupy the Sankt Porto, the highest nut of Capital Tower, holiest site of CU Cordism, and the distribution center for all photon batteries. His reason is, for once, pretty simple: he, and by extension America, wants a piece of the action.

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No you won’t. They’re way, way ahead of you, strategically speaking. You’re just going to fight another pointless battle and retreat, like you always do, because you’re a dreadful disappointment of a nemesis, yes you are!

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Klim is talking rather insensitively about Aida here, and while I can’t say he’s wrong, he could say the same of Mask. Klim himself is not particularly capable either, but at least he’s good and loud and cocky!

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Ummm…not so sure about that, Bunny Lady: there is this thing called anti-aircraft warfare. I’m sure there is a SPACE version of it.

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But you have let them, and continue to let them! And why are you spinning around like that? Are you remotely serious about anything? 

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Okay. Now this was kind of out of left field. Sankt Porto is, I suppose, a holy religious site that many on Earth believe will curse you if you try to enter. But Bellri’s outrage seems so out of left field. I mean, didn’t he know there was going to be a battle around the very place where they were headed? There’s always a battle!

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Even more confusing is AIda’s reaction to Bell’s reaction. She acts as if she forgot he was super-sensitive about fighting near Sankt Porto. But she didn’t forget, because that was never a thing. Bell is just making up character traits as he goes along! And what’s with the persistent lack of romantic development?

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I like this guy. I’ll bet he has to refocus the captain’s attention all the time like this. The captain’s probably writing an anime blog or something. These guys are such amateurs!

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Huh…who know Bellri was into mobile bondage?

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Wait…does she know where she’s going?

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A WARNING.

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Oh wow look: another force of nincompoops! At least their fleet and gridlike moon development looks pretty cool. Here is the long-sought ‘threat from space’, which is really a threat from the moon. Maybe this is where Raraiya is from? Could they give her a pill or something so that she can be a cohesive person? Please?

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WHOA. (Kerbes) Yoh. Sloh your rolhl, Broh. That ain’t cool.

I’m probably being overoptimistic; these are the bad guys, and it’s likely both Ameria and Capital will team up to fight them. And by ‘fight’ I mean more engage-and-retreats of dubious effect using newly-developed, oddly-named mobile suits and accessories that come out of nowhere. Looking forward to it!

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Gundam: G no Reconguista – 11

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I held out hope that space would be a kind of clarifying salve for Recon in G; a fitting venue to restore some measure of structure and cohesion to the story after going astray or running into dead ends down on the surface. Something that would encourage me to do more than simply snark-watch.

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But that was only false hope, a fool’s hope; for all who watch this show are fools. But like Mask, I shall embrace my failures and continue to be handsomely rewarded for them!

This week, the G-Self applies SPACE LOTION to Megafauna. But because its pilot Bellri was Bred For Combat and not piddling manual labor, he struggles with even this relatively simple procedure and must be watched like a hawk lest he smash a hole in the ship.

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None of this has anything to do with anything, Bell’s Mom. This is the credo of Recon in G.

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Poor Deck Scruber Fifth Class Manny Ambassada. It’s clear from Mask/Luin’s interactions with Barara the Eureka Seven Reject that the two are sleeping together. Just look at that foot caress. I’ll bet she gives great mask.

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Aida’s Dad (Is it Aida’s Dad? I can’t keep track of all the olds) makes one hell of an entrance, crashing a ship-launching ceremony, and proceeds to have a very public argument about how to proceed with the man at the lectern, whose name is President Zucchini and is apparently Klim’s Dad. The crap these two spew wouldn’t be out of place in that horrible senate babble scene in Star Wars Episode I.

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Either this is an air show, or a very expensive music video is about to start. But no matter what anyone says, I think eleven members is just too many for a rock band!

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Pray, would that be experience as a BODACIOUS Space Pirate, or just a Regular one? Ya know what, forget it. Just stay in the ship and don’t do anything, Princess.

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That line was old in the sixties, man. Get new material.

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DON’T ENCOURAGE HIM! Whoever you are.

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Bellri is face-to-face with his nemesis for the first time, and this is his first observation. Never change, Bellri.

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NOW you’ve done it; he’s never going to shut up! He’s quite proud of that mask. If only it actually helped him win a battle, which he still has yet to do. Probably should have stayed in his cockpit. Why exactly was EVA necessary here? Seemed like a ridiculously unwarranted risk.

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I’m not the biggest fan of Mask’s weird Mack Knife mobile suit with its splaying legs. After getting kicked in the balls by G-Self, I’ll bet Mask isn’t either! How many times now has this state-of-the-art suit gotten its ass handed to it. Now it’ll have to sing “Mack the Knife” in soprano.

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I know that’s the name of his fairy-like comrade, but from the way Mask belts it out it seems like BARARA! is also a curse word.

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LOL YOU’RE JUST REALIZING THIS NOW? Go home you’re drunk Rara.

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