Dagashi Kashi – 10

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This week’s DK starts off with a little mystery, as Tou is confronted by an out-of-breath, distraught Hotaru who has been running in her stocking feet, takes Tou’s hands, and begs him for help. But with what? What is her big issue? And where are her shoes?

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After the credits, we’re in Coco’s store, only Hotaru isn’t there. She hasn’t come by for two days, which to Coco isn’t just bizarre; it’s a little scary. When he doesn’t find her at Saya’s cafe either, the two pay a visit to Hotaru’s massive house for the first time, and find Hotaru in her pajamas and a surgical mask, looking very much the worse for wear.

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They mystery deepens as Hotaru seems to freak out whenever she sees Coco’s face. And while she seems interested in the snacks he brought for her, she always ends up recoiling in fear, and can’t complete a sentence without wincing in pain multiple times.

Turns out the mouth ulcer she had last week—and continued to torture with pop rocks and the like—has only gotten worse, swelling her cheek to a ludicrous degree.

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When pressed for answers, Hotaru tells them the tale that led to her encounter with Tou the other night. She used Pop-a-Fortunes to try to wish for her mouth to heal before a new Baby Ramen flavor release, but the candy instead tells her to go on an “outing”, which she goes on immediately (without putting on her shoes).

That led her to Tou, who gave her advice to abstain from candy until her mouth fully heals. That way, the candy will taste even better, since absence makes the heart (and stomach) grow fonder and all that. The only problem is, that abstinence has led to candy withdrawal.

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When Hotaru just can’t hold back anymore, she has to be physically restrained by both Coco and Saya. Her cuckoo clock snaps her out of her trance, letting her know to take her disgusting-looking but lovely-smelling homemade medicine.

That “medicine” turns out to be the culprit behind her increasingly huge mouth ulcer: it’s made from a combination of powdered pine, melon, and “American Cola” drink mixes. In other words, it’s pure sugar.

Upon learning Hotaru’s cure (and her candy abstinence) is a sham, they take off, leaving her to continuing drinking her nasty—and very harmful—witch’s brew. But what’s the daughter of a candy company to do?

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Dagashi Kashi – 09

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This week brings back evenly-spaced variety and some interesting candy, all consumed while Hotaru is nursing a pretty bad canker sore (mouth ulcer). Of course, Hotaru has no idea how she got it, and when Saya suggests the obvious—too much candy—Hotaru swiftly laughs it off and pops the equivalent of cotton candy with Pop Rocks in her mouth.

This marks the return of “Candy POV” in DK, in which two of the straggler bits of explosive rock linger on her tongue, saying their heartfelt goodbyes before popping, causing a cascade of sharp pain. However, once it’s all over, Hotaru says it feels great. There’s a fine line between pleasure and pain.

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The discomfort becomes more mental than physical for Saya as she innocently points out a cute cartoon animal package that turns out to be the new hit product for primary schoolers: UnChoco (or PoopChoco), little grape-chocolate balls that are “pooped” out of a hole in the back.

Saya thinks she and Hotaru are a little too old for such things, so Hotaru classes it up by creating a mature lady’s al fresco tea party atmosphere, belying the fundamental immaturity of eating what are essentially candy turds. Hotaru never makes the connection (despite saying poop repeatedly); instead, she likens the candy to eggs being laid.

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Since no one character can withstand an entire episode alone with Hotaru’s hijinx (hojinx?) Saya is swapped out for Koko at the midpoint, and he’s perplexed to find her eating a bowl of rice (the canker sore goes unmentioned here, but we still see it; it’s not going away in a candy store!)

The reason Hotaru is eating rice is because the sweet and sour taste of Sakura Daikon makes her want to. She also decides to confess to Koko that she’s from Osaka, and has always been hiding a Kansai dialect. However, her Kansai-ed-out exclamations feel a bit forced to Koko (not to mention really irritating), so he’s not surprised when she confesses she isn’t actually from Osaka.

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This entire episode takes place in the Shikada storeroom, which technically makes it a “bottle episode”, but the final segment involves not the bottle, but the breast.

Hotaru asks Koko straight-up what he thinks of boobs, and he initially responds as if Hotaru were a normal girl – that they’re no big deal to him. Incidentally, this line would have worked well on Saya, who, while not necessarily normal herself, doesn’t need Koko to be boob-crazed considering her bust size.

But because it’s Hotaru, she nearly storms out at his measured response. He quickly reverses his opinion, and she presents him with tamago ice cream, which she calls “boob ice cream”, but which he’s always called “bomb” ice cream.

In one of the more raunchily suggestive sequences of the show to date, both nicknames are validated, first when Hotaru squishes the ball like a boob, then when the balls explode like bombs, releasing melted vanilla ice cream all over the place, making Hotaru’s clothes see-through. Call it mutual understanding through confectionary…er…release.

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Akuma no Riddle – 10

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With Nio apparently content with hanging back and observing (for now), Hanabusa Sumireko is the only assassin still around to threaten Haru, and threaten her she does: with sweet smiles, impeccable etiquette, a gorgeous dress, and an invitation to a very special tea party on the school’s 99th floor. Behind every smile and perfectly-formed sentence lurks an immensity of pridefulness and malice.

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Sumireko’s badassness has never really been in question, but nor has it really been explored thus far. She has demonstrated the colossal wealth of the Hanabusa conglomerate to which she belongs, but this is the first time we see her bear her fangs in earnest, and it’s quite terrifying. The dread builds slowly but steadily as she lures Haru and Tokaku into her web of death and destruction.

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Sumireko’s strength is previewed when Takehi Otoya of all people escapes from prison and sneaks back into school. But not only does Sumi block her best scissor shot with her bare hand, she crushes her scissors into crumpled bits with that same hand. This episode went on to deliver the most complex, intense, protracted, and best battles of the show, and it was everything I could have hoped for.

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The episode was full of misdirection and feints, starting with the possibility Haru could be able to negotiate some form of rapprochement with Sumi; no dice. All Sumireko lives for is to defeat Haru—the “queen bee” of an older clan—and proving her superiority as the one and only queen. Also, Takehi looks like she could serve as a wild card, but she accomplishes nothing and is later dragged away by Nio for committing a “no-no”…gulp.

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The last feint is the first time we see the whole gang assembled at the party; the cameras far back enough that it looks like the real deal, and then Gahh, creepy killbots, all of which turn on Tokaku when Sumireko dispenses with the pleasantries and gets down to business, tearing off her dress to reveal a skintight battle suit. Tokaku hangs around as long as she can, but her guns, knives, and flesh-and-blood limbs are no match against Sumireko, who sheds her suit to reveal a skimpier Kill la Kill-style outfit that reveals she’s bionic. You gotta hand it to her, she has a flair for the theatrical.

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It only takes a few fleeting flashes into Sumireko’s past to know what makes her tick: like Haru, she’s been targeted and scarred by enemies her entire life. The difference is, she’s never had a “worker bee” like Tokaku buzzing around protecting her. She’s borne the brunt, and had entire pieces of herself hacked off and replaced with stronger metal to help her endure even more (whether she wanted that or not, now she believes it. She has to). Her implacability is on full display as she delivers a merciless, bruising beatdown upon poor Tokaku.

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When Tokaku is out for the count, Haru proves yet again she’s no damsel in distress, staging an elaborate counterattack that consists of blowing out the door with a bazooka, luring Sumireko down an elevator shaft, and tossing many grenades down to her. That doesn’t kill her, and the chase resumes to the skyscraper’s rooftop, where Haru makes use of Sumireko’s own extended cables to sends her plummeting to the ground screaming—an unignified death for the self-styled “supremely powerful” royal.

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What’s best about the fight is that it felt really substantial, but Haru’s victory didn’t feel hollow, nor did Sumireko look particularly foolish or tactically unsound; Haru simply got the better of her, mostly by using her head, and exploiting the fact Sumireko was a bit too full of herself and underestimated her prey. And I loved the look on Tokaku’s face when she learns that even after everything she’s done for her, Haru still isn’t ready to tell her who she really is. One thing she isn’t: weak.

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P.S. It’s probably a coincidence, but Sumireko bears a passing resemblance to Takakura Himari from Mawaru Penguindrum, whom Arakawa Miho also lent her delicate, dignified voice, and who also dressed in skimpy outfits.