Jujutsu Kaisen – 11 – Let the Hate Flow

Nanami has no intention of working further “overtime” than he needs to, so he executes the attack that has the best chance of disabling Mahito and then retreats when he has the upper hand. He does this by basically removing the limiter to his cursed energy and then depositing it into a wall, which crumbles atop Mahito after his right foot is sliced off.

Nanami recognizes that Mahito is a threat that requires more than just his abilities to contend with; Gojou, who doesn’t appear this week, would seem to have been proven right that the old fogeys in charge of sorcery have been caught flat-footed. For now, a lightly wounded Nanami calls for Ijichi to come pick him up.

It’s then that he learns Yuuji isn’t with Ijichi, but went off to talk to Yoshino Junpei. Unable to reach Ijichi for further instructions, Yuuji simply swings from the hip, asking Yoshino if he has any other info about the theater incident. The two start immediately bond over their love of movies, then Yoshino’s mom passes by and invites Yuuji to dinner.

For one lovely evening, Yuuji and Yoshino are friends, joking around about movies while Yoshino’s mom joins in the fun but drinks too much beer and falls asleep at the table. Yoshino asks if Yuuji is a Jujutsu sorcerer, and if he’s ever killed anyone.

Yuuji has a very eloquent reason for not wanting to ever kill: if it ever becomes an option for him, it will be too easy for it to turn into the only option, clouding the value of life and tainting his soul in the process. Alas, Yoshino’s mom wakes up to find one of Sukuna’s fingers on the table, and is then visited and then killed by a cursed spirit.

That spirit may well have been human once, and the creation of Mahito. Later he and Getou admit they placed the finger there to lure the curse, as they never intended for Yoshino to be anything other than a lure with which to bait Yuuji. Yoshino suspects one of his bullies to be responsible for killing his mom, and so lets Mahito drops a cursed veil over the school.

Dressed in black that mourns both his mom and his old life, Yoshino steps around all the other students who are passed out to get to his long-time tormentor, then lifts him into the air with cursed energy and starts beating and torturing him right back. Yuuji arrives in time to witness Yoshino’s apparent heel-turn. Everything is going according to Getou’s plan: forcing Yuuji to draw on his pact with Sukuna in order to stop Yoshino.

Just like that, I’ve only got one more episode of JK’s Fall cour. This week’s omake reinforces that there are currently two shows running in parallel, but we’re only privy to Yuuji’s show while Nobara and Megumi’s training proceeds off-camera. I imagine this Yoshino situation will reach some kind of conclusion in the Fall cour’s twelfth and final episode, and only after that will Yuuji reunite with the others.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jujutsu Kaisen – 10 – Working Overtime

It’s pretty bold to spend the first three episodes of your anime introducing your core trio, only for them to be together in part of just one episode, then keep them separated for the next six episodes, and likely more. It’s a risk a two-cour series can afford to take, and while part of me is miffed by the withheld gratification of watching the trio reunite at last, I can’t say I dislike what the show is doing in the meantime.

To live a day in Yoshino Junpei’s shoes, you have to take a look at the whole Jujutsu sorcery profession and say to yourself “So what?” He encounters cursed creatures just as fearsome as the sorcerers, only his are fully human. It’s what makes him such a good fit for Mahito’s mentorship: Mahito is among those cursed spirits who believe his kind to be the true humans, because at least they’re honest.

Human monsters like Yoshino’s peers who disguise themselves as high school students doesn’t fly for Mahito, who makes both study and sport of disfiguring the bodies that surround their souls. He’s made one human two stories tall, while another fits in the palm of Yoshino’s hand. But again, Mahito’s experiments are no sweat for the already horrror-attuned Yoshino.

When Yuuji and Ijichi track down Yoshino, the kid has just been given sanction by Mahito to kill someone he hates as if he were eating because he was hungry; life is meaningless, so you might as well do what you want. This is another form of the fundamental “honesty” Mahito and the other cursed spirits believe makes them more human than humans.

One of Yoshino’s teachers also tracks him down, and scolds him for not attending the funerals of his tormentors. This teacher saw Yoshino being bullied by those same three students, but seemingly chose to see it as four friends just messing around. For this, Yoshino is on the cusp of killing him as Mahito gave him leave to do, but Yuuji interrupts, using the low-level curse to test whether Yoshino can see and fight curses.

Meanwhile, Nanami encounters Mahito in the sewers and the two face off. The former severs the latter’s wrist with his weak-spot technique, but Mahito quickly heals by using his soul to maintain the original shape of his body. Mahito’s “Idle Transformation” is a bad matchup for Nanami, who relies on his technique to create debilitating wounds that last.

It appears that Yoshino can see the curse (which tracks, since he can also see Mahito), but the teacher doesn’t think Yuuji can possibly have anything to say to Yoshino that’s more important than what he’s saying. So Yuuji steals the teacher’s pants and runs off them. The teacher gives chase, but Yuuji is fast enough to loop around back to Yoshino.

Yoshino is willing and even intrigued to have a chat with Yuuji, who intrinsically sensed that Yoshino hated the teacher he was talking to. I’m still holding out hope Yuuji can save this kid before he goes too far down the cursed rabbit hole with Mahito, whom I can’t imagine truly has Yoshino’s best interests at heart.

As for Mahito, he starts getting confident that if he simply makes physical contact with Nanami enough, he’ll eventually be able to control his soul and transform him into one of this living sculptures. He also uses disfigured humans as weapons, extending the battle.

But lest we forget, Nanami is a former salaryman, and thus religiously sticks to the 10-to-6 business day model. Once his watch hits six, he goes into “overtime”, which means the kid gloves come off. The next stage of their battle should be pretty cool—as all battles in this show have been so far.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jujutsu Kaisen – 04 – You’ve Really Made the (Special) Grade

After the conclusion of last week’s episode, a log entry details an incident involving a Curse at a juvenile detention center to which three first-year Jujutsu Tech sorcerers respond—and one of them dies. 

This episode chronicles that incident, in which our newly formed trio of first-years are immediately dropped into a seemingly no-win scenario involving the very highest level of Curses: a “Special-Grade.” As the coordinator Ijichi puts it, carpet-bombing one of these with cluster bombs merely evens the playing field a bit.

Suffice it to say the Curse inhabiting the detention center is way out of Yuuji, Megumi, and Nobara’s league. But not only do they have to face this threat on their own (Gojou-sensei is away, possibly dealing with other threats), this is usually the norm: there simply aren’t enough high-grade sorcerers available to deal with all Curses, which means students are pressed into service. Talk about School of Hard Knocks.

Still, Yuuji isn’t about to shirk his duties, however insurmountable the odds may be. That’s because he hears the cries of a guardian of one of the inmates. But they enter a house of horrors with the Curse’s illusory abilities twisting the interior of the facility to have impossible interior heights and vanishing exits.

When Yuuji finds the inmate the woman was crying about already torn to pieces, he wants to get the body outside so the guardian knows for sure he’s dead. Megumi tries to get his head back in the game; this is about verifying the five inmates in the center, not rescuing anyone. Besides, the inmate Yuuji would have saved had killed a girl while driving without a license. Megumi makes Yuuji consider the crimes those he saves might commit.

Kobara tries to break the two up, but falls through the floor. When Megumi wonders why the Curse wasn’t detected by his demon dog, he sees the dog smashed into a wall, and a second later, the immensely creepy and powerful Special-Grade Curse appears before them. When Yuuji tries to use his blade, the Curse lops his hand off. Shit just got real…fast.

Yuuji sents Megumi away to save Nobara, who ends up swarmed by weird doll faces and eyeball Curses from above. She quickly runs out of ammo and is nearly swallowed up, but Megumi arrives in time to save her by having a giant frog he summoned pluck Megumi away from the curse with its tongue. Nobara, by the way, hates frogs.

As for Yuuji, he struggles with whether to unleash Sukuna onto this Curse. As Sukuna is “King of Curses”, he’d have no problem defeating it…but Sukuna threatens to kill Megumi and Nobara if Yuuji lets him out, as punishment for not fully relinqueshing control of his body. Yuuji tries to focus his cursed energy into his fist on his own, but the Curse easily blocks his punch.

Then Yuuji hears the howling of one of Megumi’s demon dogs, indicating that he successfully recovered Nobara, and he lets Sukuna out. He tried his best on his own, but the only way to fight a Special-Grade is with a Special-Grade.

Sukuna proceeds to toy with his fellow Special-Grade, and demonstrates that despite technically having the same ranking, the gap between their power is so great, relatively speaking the other Curse is as ignorant of the true nature of Curses as a whelp like Yuuji.

To see a Curse that so easily had its way with Yuuji be neatly sliced with ease, Damien Hirst-style, really drives the point home: Ryoumen Sukuna is a force to be reckoned with. The entire boss battle is a tour-de-force of combat animation.

From those slices, Sukuna pulls out one of his own fingers, which will be the third of twenty Yuuji consumes. But here’s the thing: Yuuji never awakens, even when Sukuna tells him to do it already, before he displays a truly devilish smirk—the same smirk a fox might have if it just gained access to the hen house.

That’s what makes this merely part one of two. Nobara is off to the hospital, while Megumi will head back to the center to wait for Yuuji. It also remains to be seen exactly how “lost” within himself Yuuji is, what devilry (if any) Nobara gets up to while he has more time, and if Megumi gets his wish of a Grade-1-or-higher sorcerer (ideally Gojou) arriving to save the day.

All I can say is the first-years did remarkably well considering what they were up against…and that I hope, if they all get out of this alive, they can get an easier mission next time.

Jujutsu Kaisen – 03 – Gauging the Crazy

Here I thought we’d be spending more times in the woods of Tokyo’s outskirts, but Yuuji joins Gojou and Megumi to Harajuku to pick up Jujutsu Tech’s third first-year student, Kugisaki Nobara, voiced by Seto Asami of Chihayafuru fame.

Her first act in Tokyo is to try to browbeat a modeling scout into signing her, and her first reaction to meeting Yuuji and Megumi is to let out a blatant sigh. I immediately came to like her, and while she’s short-tempered and mercurial, she and Yuuji soon bond over love All Things Tokyo.

Unfortunately for them both, sightseeing and sushi (revolving or otherwise) will have to wait, as Gojou has the two of them enter a curse-infested, graveyard-adjacent abandoned building in Roppongi. Nobara exhibits her lack of patience with Yuuji and unwillingness to work together.

They split up, with Yuuji starting at the bottom with the miniature Buster Sword Gojou gave him. He has no problem with the Curses he encounters, but as Gojou tells Megumi (who is sitting this one out), this is more a test for Nobara anyway. She’s used to country Curses, but in the big city where there are more people and negative energy to draw on, the Curses are on a different level.

Nobara learns the hard way that “level” means more than cursed energy, but also cunning. After she uses her customized hammer and nails to defeat a mannequin Curse (using the hilariously bad catchphrase “Nailed it”), a scared child hiding behind boxes is taken hostage by another Curse.

After weighing her life and the little boy’s, Nobara tries to get the Curse to release him by dropping her weapons, but the Curse won’t bite. Fortunately Yuuji arrives in the nick of time, punching through the (unreinforced) concrete and slicing off the arm of the Curse that was holding the kid.

With the kid safe, Nobara finishes off the Curse by using a voodoo-like straw doll to hammer a cursed nail into its heart as it flees, defeating it. I hasten to add that no one has made hammering a nail into a straw doll look cooler than Jujutsu Kaisen! She then proceeds to ask Yuuji how the hell he managed to punch through solid concrete.

As the ordeal is resolved, we learn a little bit about Nobara’s reason for leaving the countryside. The brass tacks (pun intended): when she was in first grade she met Saori-chan, a beautiful girl from the city who was ostracized by the townsfolk to the point she was forced to leave. Nobara simply didn’t want to be in a place that did that to her friend.

After earnestly thanking Yuuji for his help with a bright smile, she seemingly devolves into first-grade mode, telling him they’re even now. As for her more superficial reason for joining Jujutsu Tech? She likes Tokyo, but didn’t want to deal with the considerable expense.

With that, the field test is passed, and the group escorts the kid back home and then they grab some grub, though Yuuji and and a hangry Nobara bicker over the kind of sushi place they should go to. Megumi remains aloof the whole time, giving the other two the opportunity to bond over their mutual vivaciousness.

Nobara makes for a fine addition to the Jujutsu first-year class, alternating between frolicsome fervor, coarse sullenness, and everything in between. She’s a blast, full stop, and I can’t wait to watch the full trio in action.

Jujutsu Kaisen – 02 – Choose Your Hell

Fushiguro is about to summarily execute Yuuji, only for Yuuji to wrest control of his body back from Sukuna. Fushiguro’s teacher Gojou Satoru arrives to take control of the situation, and asks Yuuji to switch to Sukuna Mode for ten seconds. During that time, Gojou (the self-proclaimed “strongest” sorcerer) is able to easily keep up with Sukuna!Yuuji, and when time is up Yuuji reliably regains control.

That tells Gojou that all is not immediately lost for Yuuji. When Fushiguro asks him to find a solution that doesn’t involve immediate execution, Gojou finds one: rather than die now, Yuuji has the choice to track down and absorb all twenty of Sukuna’s fingers (he had four arms), then be executed along with Sukuna forever.

Gojou gives Yuuji the day to think about it. He visits Iguchi in the hospital, who’ll be fine once healed by a sorcerer, and assures Sasaki what happened wasn’t her fault. He then must oversee his grandfather’s cremation, and gathers the ash and bone fragments into an urn. As Gojou warns, that solemn task is a cakewalk compared to the shit he’d get up to if he agreed to become a Jujutsu sorcerer.

Now that Yuuji is aware of the threat of Sukuna he can’t stand by, or ignore his gramps’ dying request, so he’s in. He eats a second finger Gojou gives him without incident, and they head to the picturesque Tokyo Metropolitan Jujutsu Technical High School, located on the woodsy outskirts of the metropolis.

Yuuji learns that while he can still control his mind and body fine, Sukuna still “leaks out” from time to time in the form of a mouth that can emerge anywhere from Yuuji’s body to make some snide or rueful remark. Gojou then tells Yuuji he’s to meet with Principal Yaga, who will decide if he’s Jujutsu Tech material.

Yaga immediately throws Yuuji off by sewing cute plush dolls when they meet, but the principal can infuse his Curse into the dolls and use them as weapons—which is exactly what he does while asking Yuuji why he wants to enroll. As the kappa doll beats him up, Yaga makes him realize that “because by gramps said so” isn’t enough: it’s because Yuuji is the only one who can absorb Sukuna and survive.

One Yuuji realizes this himself (and pins the kappa), Yaga passes him, and has Gojou show him to his spacious dorm room. Yuuji learns Fushiguro Megumi is his next-door neighbor, and along with an incoming female student, the three of them are the only first-years at Jujutsu Tech.

In addition to being the vessel for Sukuna, Yuuji also serves as a Sukuna Radar. That said, some fingers will put up tougher fights than others, especially those that have already been absorbed by other Curses. No doubt he’ll be relying not just on his fellow first-years (the third of whom we’ll meet next), but the upperclassmen and faculty like Gojou.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Misfit of Demon King Academy – 05 – Very Old Friends

In a flashback to two thousand years ago, Anos sends his most trusted subordinate Shin to defeat the Great Water Spirit Lignon, which he does easily. When Anos offers him a reward, Shin asks to be resurrected, even if his resurrected self loses his memories and experiences, he wants to remain by his lord’s side.

Back in the present, Emilia also announces a new transfer student, a prodigy known as the “Master of Magic Sword”, and that the class will start sword training with two Elder Demon Emperors. She also tries to pretend the specter has been “stolen” in order to deprive Team Anos of a perfect score, only for Anos to pull said scepter out of one of the students ordered to hide it.

Before he does, one white uniform comes to his defense: Misa Iriologue, a demon-spirit hybrid and member of the Unitarians, who work towards a more racially and class-equitable nation, one not dominated by “Royalty” who just happened to be born with pure blood.

Misa and her associates believe Anos is the Demon King of Tyranny. Not only does she want to join Team Anos, but she wants to tell them more of their efforts in hopes Anos will join the cause, as one Elder Demon Emperor already has.

I never thought MDKA would have been able to pull off sociopolitical worldbuilding with an Anos fan club full of bookworms who swoon and faint in his presence and consider the same air he breathes to be a direct kiss…but here we are!

The Unitarians seem like a nice bunch of hardworking girls who just want to make the world a more just and equal place, and while Anos has thankfully never come off as a horndog in want or need of a harem, their mission statement aligns with his own distaste for blood purity trumping merit.

During the sword training, Anos is the first and only student to successfully pull his sword out of the ground, Excalibur-style … until a second student does it with similar ease. He’s the new transfer student and sword prodigy, and my first thought was that he was the reincarnated Shin.

My confidence that this Ray Gransdori is Shin is reinforced when he shocks Emilia by declaring he’d rather have a competent leader giving him orders than lead a team himself. He also pays Anos’ “Misfit” label and white uniforms no mind; it’s clear he shares both Anos and the Unitarians’ belief that parentage isn’t as important as achievement.

Anos initially refuses Ray’s request to join his team because he doesn’t want to make it too easy for him. Both he and Ray have clearly been rearing for a good sword battle lasting more than a couple seconds, and no one else has proven a challenge to either. Anos issues a challenge: Ray will lead Misa and the fan club against Team Anos, which they get to join if they fare well.

With her new ice ring, Misha is able to build a giant ice castle in a matter of moments, while her and Sasha’s newly upgraded sources (due to the time travel stuff last week) mean they are now considerably more powerful, and when they join forces are able to easily bring down the fan club’s golem-like mobile castle.

While the “kids” play with castles and immensely powerful magic spells, Anos and Ray have a good old-fashioned sword duel, only Ray’s sword is dull and Anos’ sword is just a tree branch. The ensuing clash is everything both of them could have hoped for, and you can tell they’re having a ton of fun.

Anos obviously bests Ray, but Ray proved he’s worthy of joining the team. Ray also has a strange feeling that they’ve crossed swords before. Surely Anos could tell from the way Ray fought and the instinctive desire to serve him that he has his right-hand-man back.

Sometimes when a transfer student shows up they’re meant to be a rival or obstacle to the MC, but this was a nice subversion of that formula. It’s also refreshing to have a male character who isn’t Anos—or an asshole. Both he and Misa are welcome additions. On to the Magic Sword Tournament, in which Anos and Ray are clear favorites to make the finals.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 12 – Endless HOEEEight

A decade before “Endless Eight” there was “Sakura’s Never-Ending Day”. The episode starts out normally enough, with Sakua’s dad being a guest teacher. Some shows (Including The Simpsons) would play “parent teaching kid’s class” for embarassment, but this isn’t your typical show, and Sakura beams with pride at her dad’s academic prowess. He also enthralls Syaoran with his lecture on ancient Egypt—only for Syaoran to learn whose dad he is!

The next day, Sakura has a recorder test for which she didn’t prepare. She messes up a bit but Tomoyo  encourages her and she gets through it without being expelled or barred from future employment. While she celebrates that night with her dad and brother (who also had an exam that day) she’s frustrated when she goes to bed, only to be awoken at midnight by the bell of the school’s clock tower—unheard of at such an hour.

The next day, the events of the previous day repeat, and the only she seems to notice. Since she practiced the part she messed up on, she does better at the recorder test, but having to take the test again still sucks. Syaoran ends up kicking an errant soccer ball into goal from fifty yards away, but in a different way, as he too notices things are repeating and concludes it’s a Clow Card.

That night, donning a the green and yellow fairy-style battle costume (which we first saw at Tomoyo’s house in the previous episode) Sakura takes flight and heads to the bell to secure the card, only for it to slow her and Kero-chan down to a claw (resulting in some distorted voices). When midnight strikes the day rewinds once more.

After living the same day a third time, Sakura, Kero and Tomoyo return again that night and encounter Syaoran there, who suggests a stealthier approach. I figured Shadow would come into play, but instead Sakura sneaks closer to Time and casts Shield to protect her from its time magic.

After a short chase, it’s Syaoran who manages to trap Time from escaping with his lightning magic, so that even when Sakura secures the Clow Card, it passes her over and flies into the hand of a very smug Syaoran, it’s new rightful owner due to a technicality.

Frankly, Syaoran needed a win in order to remain credible as, you know, an actual rival to Sakura as opposed to a guy who always gets the short end of the stick as comeuppance for his Sakura-negging. On the other hand, Time seems like a pretty powerful card that Sakura doesn’t have, and one he could use to collect more cards.

All that said, there can only be one Cardcaptor, and Sakura is the one with the staff. That, combined with the fact Sakura has a huge lead and many powerful cards at her disposal, means the two had better get used to cooperating in order to collect all the cards in an efficient manner.

On that note, as day-repetition episodes go, this was efficient yet satisfying, providing just enough of the temporal weirdness without overplaying the gimmick. It helped that Sakura understood what was happening pretty quickly and didn’t have to convince Tomoyo or anyone else. Sure, it could have been stretched across eight episodes and over 15,000 repetitions…but there’s other cards to capture!

Isekai Quartet 2 – 04 – Time Cheaters

In a light, brisk episode that flies by even quicker than most IQ half-episodes, Roswaal informs the class that The Test is nigh, so they’d best study. Among the most nervous is Ainz, who in real life didn’t even finish middle school, and Aqua, who challenged Ainz to a bet to see who gets the higher score. Meanwhile Subaru feels nostalgic studying with Rem and Emilia, even though he can’t recall ever doing it.

The day of the test arrives, and a panicking Ainz stops time in order to copy someone else’s answers. However, Aqua is immune to the magic due to her goddess status, and both Subaru and Tanya also aren’t affected. When he sees Aqua blatantly cheating Ainz reconsiders doing the same and resumes time…before Aqua can get back to her desk. An unfrozen Roswaal makes her wait outside, while Ainz takes the chance that the answers on the test form the shape of its creator, Pandora’s Actor.

Unfortunately, the characters from Shield Hero don’t even appear this week after only the briefest glimpse of them last week. Hopefully they get something meaningful to do at some point…

Overlord III – 04 – Underwhelming Monsters

Despite Beta being scolded for not reporting about the Giant and Snake of the East and West, at least for now it would seem she was correct: they weren’t really worth reporting, at least as credible threats. Sure, they could be a problem for the humans and goblins of Carne, but like Hamasuke they’re not really worth their lofty directional titles.

Maybe, like Beta, I’m underestimating their relative power in this world, but when Ains and Aura (whom he worries isn’t eating enough) actually visit the lair of these apparently fearsome monsters, what they find is pretty underwhelming.

The “giant” is just a troll and the “demon snake”, an old naga. His attempts with the former lead to him using an Aura of Despair spell to knock the troll and his cohorts out, but the naga is willing to submit himself to Lord Ains after witnessing just how pointless it is to try to resist him with physical attacks or even flee with invisibility magic.

Meanwhile, Ains has sent Beta back to Carne with the mission/test of protecting not the village, but the three people he values there: Nphirea, Enri, Lizzy (Nemu isn’t mentioned). Aside from them, Ains doesn’t really care about anyone else. Pretty quiet incremental episode; we’ll have to see how Beta fares in her mission next week at the earliest.

Citrus – 10

Mei unblinkingly offers Yuzu her body with open arms, ostensibly out of gratitude for how Yuzu helped her with her grandfather and father. But when Yuzu finally has the object of her infatuation in her arms…she just can’t do it.

Emphasis on she; Mei looked ready to go all the way, and from the look of her reaction to Yuzu’s declining, isn’t cool with being turned down. That feeling lasts the length of the month of January, with the two stepsisters rarely talking.

When Matsuri hears the two didn’t do it on Christmas after all, she mocks Yuzu for wanting her romance to be perfect like the shoujo-ai manga she hides in her bookshelf. She also scolds Yuzu for not properly considering Mei’s feelings. Even if that’s a bit rich coming from her, she’s not wrong. Mei opened up, and Yuzu ran.

When Yuzu oversleeps the morning of their class trip to Kyoto, Mei leaves without her, and Yuzu misses her class’s train. As it would happen, another big sister from another school ends up missing her train and separated from her little sister.

That sister is Tachibana Sara, and she and Yuzu end up meeting and getting on the next train headed to Kyoto, and from there, the coincidences keep piling up. Yuzu and Sara set out to find their respective classes and learn they each have virtually the same schedule and are even staying at the same hotel.

In the process, Yuzu and Sara become friends, which I knew would make things interesting when Sara learns that the nice girl she fell for (and mentions to her sister Nina earlier in the ep) is Yuzu’s stepsister, whom Yuzu told her she fell for and is currently unable to reconcile with.

Sara and Nina reunite, and Yuzu learns Sara’s “little” sister is huge, and a gyaru to boot! But Himeko catches Yuzu and gives her the third degree, even interrupting Yuzu’s attempt to get Mei to talk.

They eventually do meet, later that night, but Mei is not in a patient mood, and when she asks Yuzu “What do you think of me?”, Yuzu has nothing but shallow answers, even if they’re the best she can come up with on short notice. Mei isn’t moved, and tells Yuzu to forget Christmas night.

In one final coincidence, Nina happens to overhear this conversation between Sara’s new friend Yuzu and the black-haired girl Nina knows her sister likes.

A coincidence or two can be perfectly fine, but when there are this many it can make the resulting drama a bit manufactured and thus less satisfying. And while I knew the Tachibana twins were coming from the promo art, and they weren’t nearly as grating as Matsuri, they were also just a bit dull.

Citrus – 09

It’s a given that Matsuri would lose the Battle of Yuzu, and that she’d lose for one simple reason: it’s not a battle, or at least it’s not supposed to be. Life isn’t a video game and it isn’t zero-sum.

While that can be unsatisfying and frustrating for someone so seemingly adept at “playing the game”, it reveals that Matsuri’s “game” is actually very limited, specialized, even stunted, and that there’s a lot more for her to learn, much like Mei and Yuzu.

For now, however, Mei simply concedes the first round, with a longer game plan that’s a lot clearer than I thought, but with no guarantee of success. Matsuri tells her to buzz off or she’ll leak the photo of them kissing, and just to twist the knife, orders Mei to go on a date with one of Matsuri’s old creepy “texting buddies.”

Mei knows how much Yuzu is looking forward to the Christmas party—she can hear Yuzu gushing to Mama from the hallway, but Mei tells her she must decline…”extra council work that can’t wait.” When Yuzu tries to persuade her to reconsider, Mei tells Yuzu to be with Matsuri, stating “that girl needs you.”

The next day after school, Mama Harumin almost inadvertently gets Yuzu to discovr Mei isn’t working with the school council when she suggests Yuzu help out with the council if she wants to party with Mei later. Unfortunately, Matsuri intercepts Yuzu on the way to the office, and insists they go on their date together. Heeding Mei’s words last night and goes along.

So, round two goes to Matsuri as well, and that’s a win, right? I mean, she’s on a date with Yuzu and Yuzu alone, while Mei is sleeping with some creep! Well, it’s not that simple. When Matsuri expresses her distaste for the frequency with with Yuzu talks about Mei, she loses her cool and reveals the her plan, trying in vain to convince Yuzu that Mei is a slutty little liar.

In hindsight, Matsuri should probably be ashamed of herself for thinking Yuzu would react by shunning Mei and running into her open arms. Then again, at this point in her emotional development, winning, and beating Mei, and anyone else between her and Yuzu, is more important than how Yuzu feels.

Round Three is ALL MEI. Yuzu may not have seen what Matsuri was doing before, but she’s sure woke to it now, and excoriates Matsuri for trying to hurt Mei, the person who “looked at her the most”, even urging her to pay more attention to Matsuri.

“Relationships aren’t games,” Yuzu yells in the full restaurant, not giving AF who hears. “Don’t sum them up with cheap words like winning and losing!” Dayum Yuzu, coming through in the clutch.

Turns out Mei didn’t have to sleep with anyone; and Yuzu manages to find her at the meeting point. She runs to Mei and hugs her, in tears over what Mei went through, or more precisely, what she let Matsuri put her through.

The three share the train ride back. Matsuri is still thinking in terms of winning and losing, (and let’s be honest, Mei DID win here) but at least tries to correct herself from that kind of talk.

The reason Mei won is that she and Matsuri are so similar, seeking love everywhere while hating those around them, closing their hearts, and refusing to accept anything. It left Mei empty, as empty as Matsuri must have been feeling.

But she didn’t count on a “meddlesome person” like Yuzu entering her life and giving her unconditional love even when she didn’t ask for it, filling a bit of that emptiness.

Matsuri is rightly impressed by Mei’s recklessness, but Mei trusted Yuzu enough to believe that as soon as she got wise to Matsuri’s games, she’d come running to her side, and that’s just what happened. Matsuri leaves the two, but before she does, whispers in Yuzu’s ear that Mei really likes her, before loudly, jokingly suggesting a threesome in the future. Frankly, Matsuri got off pretty easy here.

That night, Mei insists on having a slice of the cake Yuzu worked so hard to make for Christmas. Yuzu calls her stubborn, but Mei replies that’s who I am. Just as Matsuri had to learn that relationships aren’t only about winning and losing, Mei has to learn to be more open and honest to Yuzu.

And the truth is this: Yuzu makes her heart race, just like Mei makes hers. But there’s things inside Mei that will please her, and things that will terrify her. Bottom line, if she’s still adamant about some kind of romance, Mei is game, but Yuzu will have to take and accept all of her, including the warts, and be content that she isn’t going to change, any more than Yuzu should.

Made in Abyss – 11

Thanks to the careful ministrations of Nanachi the Hollow, Riko’s arm is stabilized and she’d given another 12 or so hours of life to play with.

Turns out Nanachi had been shadowing her and Reg since they reached the Fourth Layer, but only revealed herself out of pity for Reg, who mewled like a “lost little kid” when Riko went blue.

She warns Reg Riko is far from out of the woods: to save her life, he’ll have to go back out into the Goblet to collect a number of items within those 12 hours.

Then another sound comes from the tent, and Nanachi introduces Reg to OH GAAAAAAAH JESUS CHRIST WHAT THE HELL IS THAT … THAT THING? Honestly, after the “meat” Ozen brought back to life and last week’s gruesome ordeal, you’d think I’d be more desensitized to the horrors of the Abyss, but “Mitty” provides another, well, layer of darkness and dread.

Nanachi makes it clear that Mitty in her current form (which is barely a form at all) is nearer to the rule, not the exception, where Hollows are concerned. Both Nanachi and Mitty ascended from the Sixth Layer. Both were changed irrevocably, but only Nanachi maintained her humanoid form and mental faculties – an “exception among exceptions.”

Mitty is…well, hollow. For most humans who undergo such a transformation, death by their comrades usually follows, but not in this case. Nanachi not only hasn’t put Mitty out of her misery, but keeps her around like a kind of pet.

Perhaps it’s an act of penance. In some flashes of the past we see what is probably a pre-ascent Mitty—a girl with eyes the same reddish hue as the eye of post-ascent Mitty—and a younger, post-ascent Nanachi being praised by the White Whistle Bondrewd the Novel, who is happy “the experiment” was a success. Perhaps Nanachi and Mitty were the subjects of that experiment, and only Nanachi survived (relatively) intact.

Reg collects all the items on Nanachi’s list without too much difficulty, only to learn that just one of those items—the purple mushrooms that grow on shroombears—was necessary to save Riko; the other things were merely for Nanachi to eat. But Nanachi makes a good point: she cannot forage for food while tending Riko, so someone had to.

Reg is also instructed to wash Riko’s soiled clothes at a nearby riverbank behind Nanachi’s hut. The utterly gorgeous verdant landscape he beholds is peppered with graves, somewhat souring the awe with melancholy.

But Reg starts seeing things – the field of flowers of fortitude, Blaze Reap marking a grave – and also hears his own voice speaking to Lyza. He wonders if he buried Lyza, but remembers Ozen said “no one was buried” there.

The thing is, “no one” could be construed as “nothing human”—i.e., a hollow—but when back in the tent, what’s left of Mitty suddenly approaches a sleeping Riko. Does this behavior suggest that Riko’s presence is somehow drawing out the humanity in Mitty, like the mushrooms are drawing out the piercer’s poison? Does Mitty recognize Lyza’s daughter?

Made in Abyss – 10

Riko and Reg’s first impressions of the Fourth Layer are that it’s very damp, humid, and majestic. the “Goblets” that give the Layer its name are filled with something that smells “vinegary”, which leads me to think it’s another kind of digestive juice you don’t want to be wading around in too long.

While looking for a place to camp (the first place they found had an odd presence shadowing them), they encounter an orbed-piercer – a predator that can kill them a heck of a lot quicker than gut juice. It’s a fearsome thing to behold – a growling yet unreadable red face with five holes, surrounded by shaggy white fur and poisonous barbs that can cut through steel.

Scary looks and pointy bits aren’t the only things in its arsenal – the piercer is also a lot smarter than the beasts they’ve encountered thus far, as Ozen warned them they would get. It’s quick, crafty, and thinks a step ahead.

Reg can’t get away from it, and in a matter of moments, three absolute disasters occur: they lose the Blaze Reap, their best weapon against tougher beasts (Reg dare not use his Incinerator); their umbrella shield is easily shattered, and one of the barbs pierces Riko’s left hand.

Reg has to deal with that quickly before the poison spreads and kills Riko, so he does something else that threatens her life: he escapes by ascending. In the fourth layer, humans start bleeding profusely out of every orifice, and that’s what happens to poor Riko.

As if that wasn’t grim enough, Riko’s hand swells to three times its size, and before passing out, she tells him the only thing for it is to cut her hand off. Reg breaks the bone first and then fights back tears as he works away at the arm with his knife, but the blood attracts a cloud of bugs that interrupt his work.

Both Riko and Reg are saved when “presence” they felt before makes its appearance – a rabbit-like creature offering help.

After following the creature’s instructions and giving a very purple Riko the kiss of life (without a moment’s hesitation, or bashfulness), she starts breathing again, thank the gods. Their new friend then leads them to her very cool and comfy-looking home in a place where the Curse of the Abyss has no effect, and introduces herself as Nanachi, what the upworlders would call a “Hollow.”

Made in Abyss continues to plumb new depths of acute peril and danger, not treating Riko or Reg—who are only little kids after all—with any more mercy than their surroundings.

I knew things would never be the same the moment Riko’s hand was pierced, and the entire ordeal to stabilize her was simply gutting, as we weren’t spared the most grisly details (haring Reg breaking and cutting Riko’s wrist was bad, but so was watching more blood bubble out of her eye after he wiped it dry).

Here’s hoping this Hollow person Nanachi can work some kind of magic to save Riko’s hand, even if, as she said, it will never be the same. That seems to be the enduring theme of Abyss – the further down they go, the quicker it is to be slaughtered, and the more things will never be the same.