Tokyo Revengers – 07 – The True Puzzle

It often feels like Takemichi is butting up against the breakers, with just as much success as any of us would have against the ceaseless power of the sea. Tempers are hot, Moebius has arrived in force (no less than fifty in number), and a fight resulting in Draken’s death seems as inevitable as the tides.

Takemichi makes the first mistake of starring too long at Osanai, but he cant be blamed; after all, how the hell did this brute end up so defeated and pathetic in the future? Osanai seems to sense this brat is looking down on him and starts to rain blows upon him, but Takemichi is saved by Pah, not because Pah likes him, but because Osanai is his opponent.

Unfortunately, the already battered Pah is no match for Osanai’s boxing skills, and is soon barely conscious on his feet. Mikey insists the fight go on, even as Takemichi calls it nothing but cruel torture. However, once Pah slumps onto Mikey’s shoulder, essentially tagging him in, we witness just how much of a damn Osanai’s fancy suits and staggering numbers matter against Mikey-kun.

Specifically, none whatsoever. With one precise and devastating kick to the side of Osanai’s head, he’s down. When he gets back up to rush Mikey with a broken bottle, Draken stops him and puts him in a lock—without getting stabbed by said bottle, as Takemichi feared. With Moebius’ commander soundly defeated, Mikey declares that they’re all part of Toman now.

Then police sirens ring out, and as everyone starts to scatter, Pah plunges a pocketknife into Osanai’s midsection. Pah then decides to stay behind and turn himself in, while Draken drags Mikey away. As Takemichi flees with them, he suddenly loses consciousness, demonstrating he’s not so indestructable after all.

Takemichi wakes up in a hospital bed, and upon stretching accidentally gropes Emma, who Draken called to retrieve him and waited by his bedside. Emma reports that Draken and Mikey got in a fight over leaving Pah behind, and its looking bad. She slumps over and cries into Takemichi’s lap just as Hina arrives and pulls back the curtain, seeing something that’s not at all what it looks like.

If I have a gripe about this episode, it’s that this is all we get of Hina, with the implication she hits him again in response to seeing him with Emma, despite him being laid up in the hospital. I really wish they’d get back to the Emma of previous episodes who wasn’t being portrayed as a jealous, violent shrew. Why harp on a love triangle that isn’t really a thing when Emma still likes Draken?

Instead, Takemichi ends up at home convalescing while the situation between Toman’s top two deteriorates. Akkun and his other friends visit him, but after giving him a scare, assure him that those two fight all the time and it will resolve itself in time. But when Draken shows up with a watermelon to see how Takemichy is doing, he seems done with Mikey, and thinks Toman just might be done for.

When Takemichi brings up Mikey, Draken destroys a 2,500-piece puzzle he’d spent three days working on without sleep. Then Mikey shows up to see Takemichy just when Draken is leaving, and the two end up in a scrap that leads to all of Takemichi’s cherished possessions being destroyed one by one.

Even then, the two are still not done sizing each other up and getting ready for a real brawl, but seeing all of the irreplaceable treasures of his formative years seems to light a fire within (and visually, behind) Takemichi.

His eyes glow white with fury as he orders Draken and Mikey to “CUT THE SHIT!” Maybe, just maybe, with him conscious, fired up, and standing between them, he can stop them from doing something that can’t be undone. After all, he considers them both friends.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Tokyo Revengers – 06 –Part of His Plan

Takemichi is still watching Draken from the shadows as Mikey is chauffeured away from the hospital. I kept waiting for Draken to tell him to come out because he’s doing a shitty job masking his presence. Instead, we get Draken’s backstory.

His mom was a prostitute and he was raised and lived in a brothel. He got his head tattooed when he was in fifth grade, prompting the artist to predict he’ll be “one rotten adult”, the irony being he never comes close to even reaching 18.

But back then Draken still got his ass beat by middle schoolers, who made him escort Mikey over so they can teach him a lesson. Draken is bemused by this tiny weird kid, but when Mikey is the one teaching his tormentors a lesson, he suddenly gets it, while Mikey can tell Draken is friend material.

Surprisingly, Takemichi is back in the present with Naoto, tracking down the former leader of Moebius, Osenai, who is now even more of a pathetic loser than Takemichi had become. He’s still haunted by the August 3rd battle between Moebius and Toman that led to Draken’s death, but makes it clear the battle was part of a larger plan by someone to create a rift within Toman.

Why neither Naoto nor Takemichi mention Kisaki Tetta’s name, considering he’s the prime candidate for the identity of the puppetmaster, I have no idea. But Takemichi zaps back to his past self, who thankfully isn’t under a girl this time. Instead, he’s on the back of Akkun’s bike.

Takemichi can’t contain his joy upon seeing his friend alive again, and wastes no time getting all sentimental. While not as perceptive as Hina that this is a “different” Takemichi, when asked what his dream is, a blushing Akkun earnestly tells him he wants to be a hairdresser. Takemichi tells him to make that dream come true, and he’ll have his back all the way.

His heart-to-heart with Akkun once again impressed the urgency of Takemichi’s mission. He must save Hina, Draken, and Akkun, and he’s pretty sure that can’t happen if Toman fights Moebius. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a plan any better than barging in on a secret meeting of the Toman brass and demanding they call off the fight.

Mikey pulls rank here, saying he’s already made up his mind. When Takemichi endures a beating from Pah-chin and still stands his ground, Draken suggests they look into Moebius, but Mikey sees this as Draken going against Toman (i.e., him).

For all of Takemichi’s talk of it being unthinkable that these two would fight, it happens right here before his eyes: a tiny crack that could quickly turn into a yawning chasm of pent-up bad vibes that are inevitable in any power structure—particularly one run by literal frikkin’ adolescents.

If that isn’t enough, Prime Osanai arrives, resplendent in his embroidered red shirt and matching pants. He heard Toman was looking for a fight, and so he brought it to them, bringing dozens of his soldiers and setting up a seemingly hopeless mismatch…until you remember that Mikey and Draken have superhuman strength and Takemichi is virtually indestructible.

Tokyo Revengers – 05 – Babes and Bikes

When Takemichi, whom I maintain looks way too babyfaced for a dead-end adult, is unceremoniously fired, he returns to Naoto, because it’s not like he has anything else going on in this life. He asks if he could just ask tell Past Hina everything, but Naoto says he only believed him because he was into the occult at the time. He worries Hina might think Takemichi is insane and stop liking him. I was internally yelling at Naoto “So?”

Wouldn’t it be worth a shot for Takemichi to break things off with Hina in the past, thus severing her connection to the gangs altogether? Then again, perhaps too much happened in the time between Takemichi and Hina breaking up for that to work. In any case, Naoto has found articles about a scuffle at the Mushashi shrine on August 3rd (two weeks from now) of 12 years ago between the Mikey and Draken crews of the Toman Gang, resulting in Draken’s death.

Takemichi can’t believe how the articles say it was a fight between two people he observed to be closer than brothers, but regardless of if and how things got that way, his new mission is to save Draken from dying. If he does that, he may be able to save Hina and Akkun. He and Naoto shake hands, and he finds himself in a very compromising position with a beautiful blonde in nothing but her underwear in a karaoke booth.

Completely disoriented and freaked out, Takemichi runs…almost directly into Hina, who’d just been walking home from cram school. Hina’s sharp enough to know when Takemichi is being a “kid” and when he’s being an “adult”. Lately he’d been a kid, and cold and distant towards her. Now, however, he’s considerably kinder. Then Draken calls, and Hina insists on tagging along.

Takemichi’s in no position to argue: since time moves at the same rate in past and present, Past Takemichi has been inadvertently complicating his future self’s mission by being a youthful, impulsive little shit. Takemichi and Hina arrive at the Musashi Shrine and are ambushed by bikers, but it turns out to be a big meeting of all the Toman divisions.

Draken greets Hina warmly and the two exchange apologies, then Draken asks his girlfriend Emma to take care of Hina while they talk. Emma, as it turns out, is the lovely young lady ready to go all the way (sans kissing) with Takemichi at Karaoke. Takemichi has no coherent defense (though he’s not lying when he says he doesn’t remember how he ended up that way).

Hina dispenses swift punishment, beating bloody the same kid she was so worried about always getting into scraps. Aside from still being around when the Toman meeting is over, that’s all we get of Hina, which was a bit frustrating, since so much between her and Takemichi is left up in the air.

As for Emma, she tells Takemichi she’s not actually into him, she just wanted to “grow up faster”, sleeping with him in hopes of making Draken, whom she is into, jealous, and lamenting that all he cares about is “Mikey, bikes, and fighting.”

As for the big Toman meeting, Takemichi is impressed by Mikey’s ability to command and inspire his troops. When the third division’s captain and vice-captain—Pah and Peh—come to him with a problem, they have Mikey’s full attention. A friend of Pah’s got into it with Osanai, leader of the Moebius gang, over “something stupid”. The friend got the shit beat out of him, and the friend’s girlfriend was raped and beaten.

Moebius may be two generations older than Toman and may control Shinjuku, but when Pah says he demands satisfaction nonetheless, Mikey asks if anyone objects, and no one does, which means there’s going to be a battle between Toman and Moebius, and it’s going to take place…on August 3.

That’s news to Takemichi, since the news articles Naoto had said the fight was between Mikey and Draken’s crews. Did the reporter just mix up the names and groups involved, or did the particulars of the conflict change because Takemichi went back in time again?

He doesn’t know either, but one thing he does know is that he has to save Draken. But when he approaches him the next day volunteering to be his bodyguard, Draken curtly declines. Takemichi doesn’t give up right there, however, and decides to follow Draken as he goes about his day.

Unsurprisingly, most of that day is filled with Mikey, whom Takemichi gets to see in a wildly different light than when he’s commanding his crew. For one thing, he’s upset his Kids Meal doesn’t come with a flag, but Draken happens to have one, and Mikey’s spirits are immediately raised.

Draken and Mikey’s day shifts from comedy to drama when Draken takes Mikey to the hospital, where Pah’s friend’s girlfriend has been lying in the ICU with a coma for the last few days. Her parents confront them and her dad levels all manner of curses at them. Mikey is upset because he didn’t do anything, but Draken bows deeply in apology and makes Mikey do the same.

He impresses upon Mikey the need to minimize collateral harm to innocent people, including the friends and family of his crew. Mikey may have nothing to lose, but that doesn’t go for everyone he commands. Draken tells Mikey to always “have a heart that cares for others” while conducting Toman business.

That exchange clinches it for Takemichi: Draken isn’t just Mikey’s muscle,  piggyback ride, or consigliere. He’s all of those things too, but most importantly, he’s Mikey’s heart; his conscience. Which explains why Mikey turns bad when Draken dies. Conspicuous in his absence throughout this episode was Kisaki Tetta, who filled the void left by Draken, a relationship eventually leading to Hina’s death and Akkun’s suicide. It feels like Kisaki is a wild card in the scheduled August 3 battle with Moebius.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Tokyo Revengers – 04 – Crybaby Hero

So far Takemichi’s mission has been all about saving Hinata, and just in case we forgot, she demonstrates that she’s a hero in her own right, using her cuteness and forwardness to make some boys make space for an old lady to sit down on the train. From this display, to how embarrassed she is by her mom, to the way she watches fireworks, she is unassailably one of the Best Girls.

It’s not a question of if Takemichi can save her…he has to, or this show and I are going to have some words. But of course, it’s not so simple, just as Takemichi trying to hold Hinata’s hand somehow goes wrong and he ends up shaking young Naoto’s instead, thus torpedoing a beautiful romantic scene he never experienced the first time around. Heck, he’d never even been in Hinata’s room before.

It’s for the best that Takemichi return to the present, even if it was on accident. For one thing, it confirms that no matter which timeline he’s in, shaking Naoto’s hand sends him to the other, and his body ends up in a state of “suspended animation”, meaning they shouldn’t do it again except in the safety of Naoto’s apartment.

Takemichi also learns that while there’s still much more to be done, he did manage to change history again; specifically, Akkun’s fate. Originally, Akkun did stab Kiyomasa and ended up being arrested and convicted at sixteen. But now that Takemichi’s bravery stayed Akkun’s hand, he went on to join the Toman Gang, meaning they have a potential in for meeting with present-day Mikey.

After tracking down his old contact book, Akkun’s old phone number amazingly still works, and leads him and Naoto to a hostess club Akkun runs. There, Akkun introduces himself and his new, close-cropped and life-worn appearance. Honestly upon seeing him I worried he was dying of a terminal illness, or had become a drug addict.

Instead, Akkun is simply haunted. Takemichi is right that Akkun considers them friends for life, but he admits that he was the one who pushed Takemichi onto the tracks. That should have killed him, but Naoto saved him, which planted the seed in Akkun’s head that Takemichi can travel through time.

Takemichi tries to deflect Akkun’s ideas as insane ravings, but the bottom line is Akkun had been waiting for him. You see, it may look like he made the big time and has anything and anyone he wants, but the one thing he doesn’t have is freedom. He’s one of Kisaki Tetta’s soldiers, and the way he talks about him, disobedience is death. As for Mikey, Akkun hasn’t seen him in years.

Akkun must’ve been following Kisaki’s orders when he pushed Takemichi, but between failing to kill him and telling Takemichi all these things now, Akkun has already sealed his fate…at least in this timeline. So as Takemichi watches in horror, Akkun climbs up to the ledge, tells his “crybaby hero” Takemichi to save everyone, then jumps to his death. As Takemichi cries out in anguish, Kisaki is on that same rooftop, utterly unmoved.

It must’ve been tough to witness what he did, but in doing so Takemichi finally realizes this is about far more than Hinata. Hinata died because Mikey turned evil, but he turned evil because of Kisaki Tetta after Ryuugjuu Ken died. If Takemichi wants to have any chance of saving Hinata, he’ll have to save Akkun and Draken too. He has to stand his ground, tears and all, and keep fighting for a brighter future for everyone.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Tokyo Revengers – 03 – A Rare Thing

Once Takemichi calls out Kiyomasa, he’s determined not to let him win. No matter how many crushing blows he lands, the pain can’t compare to the pain of having failed to save Hinata. So he tells Kiyomasa straight up: unless he literally kills him, he’s not going to lose.

That’s just fine with Kiyomasa, who asks for his bat, but his fun is interrupted by his bosses, Koman Vice-Commander Ryuuguuji Ken and Commander Sano “Mikey” Manjirou. After beating Kiyomasa for making Koman look bad, Manjirou declares Takemichi his friend.

This is precisely what Takemichi was hoping for in fighting Kiyomasa. Honestly, it’s a little too tidy, except for the part where Takemichi put his very life on the line with no guarantee he wouldn’t lose it. There’s also something about the eccentric “Mikey”…for one thing, he can’t believe Takemichi is really a middle schooler, which…well, he’s not.

After heading to school on time Takemichi encounters Hinata, who arranges a date before her cram school. Then Mikey and Ken barge right into his class despite being from a different school, and insist Takemichi hand out with them. Hinata intervenes, slapping Mikey and vowing to protect Takemichi from the bullies who keep beating her beau up.

As Hinata tries to flee with Takemichi, Ken  puts his hand on her, but while Takemichi notices her shaking, she stands her ground. Takemichi then puts his hand on Ken and warns him to get his off off Hinata. Mikey says it’s a shame Takemichi doesn’t want to be friends, but now he’ll have to kill him. Again, Takemichi doesn’t back down, and Mikey turns out to simply be messing around.

Hinata’s misunderstanding is cleared up, and both Takemichi and Hinata gain respect from Mikey and Ken. Hinata, glad they’re his friends, tells him to go hang out with them, and after a bike ride they end up watching the sun set from an embankment while Mikey talks about creating a new kind of delinquent—one who will need people like Takemichi, who are willing to put everything on the line for something they need to do.

After this encounter, Takemichi can’t imagine Mikey or even Ken bringing about the kind of Koman Gang that would kill Hinata in the future. But that’s because he hasn’t met Kisaki Tetta, of whom Takemichi catches his first glimpse without quite realizing. One look at Kisaki and you can tell he’s the kind of sadist and bad influence who could one day corrupt Mikey’s heart. Befriending a pre-Kisaki Mikey was no problem for Takemichi. The true challenge will be preventing a post-Kisaki Mikey.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Tokyo Revengers – 02 – Done Running

MPD Sergeant Tachibana Naoto has been busy since Takemichi told him the day and manner of his and Hinata’s deaths. At first Takemichi think the kid has gone off the deep end, until he remembers that Naoto is only here because he can, in fact, travel back in time. If he’s a Hinata-saving, gang-stopping time agent, Naoto takes up the mantle of his operator, briefing him on what actions should be taken once he returns to the past.

Naoto’s first task is simple: try to cut off the head of the Tokyo Manji Gang in the past before its the big deal it is in the present. That means Takemichi needs to make contact with its two founders—Sano Manjirou and Kisaki Tetta—and ensure they never meet.

As for how he’ll get back to the past, that’s solved pretty quickly: he just has to shake hands with Naoto again and he’s back in his middle school body, just in time to take a knockout punch to the face. Honestly, the “science” of his time travelling is unimportant, so I’m glad Revengers doesn’t dwell on it.

Unfortunately, the meat grinder doesn’t end with that single punch. Older delinquents like Kiyomasa and his henchmen had money riding on their “slave” putting up more than a fight, so they punish him by beating him again. Takemichi then makes things worse for himself by mentioning the two names Naoto said he had to meet. Kiyomasa takes a wooden bat, beats him bloody, and threatens to kill him if those names come out of his mouth again.

Having suffered three brutal beatdowns in less than a day, part of me wonders exactly what kind of high-strength alloy Takemichi’s bones are made of…but then this is a shounen series, and as such carries with it a heightened sense of reality with an appropriate suspension of disbelief.

More to the point, Takemichi is emotionally beaten, and all he wants to do now is run back to the present. His life there might suck, but it doesn’t involve the regular beatings of his tortured youth. He goes to the Tachibana residence so he can shake hands with Naoto and end this charade…but Hinata greets him instead.

Their exchange goes pretty much the way it did the other day, with her scolding him for fighting (not understanding that it’s the last thing he wants to do), but this time she laments not being a boy, because she’s sure she’d be stronger than him. In fact, since she knows karate, she probably is stronger than him, regardless of gender.

Knowing she’d go to bat for him soothes Takemichi’s bruised heart, and he thrusts his fist out promising to protect her, he accidentally blurts out the shortened form of her first name—Hina—causing them both to blush. Hinata tells him to call her that from now on, and insists that she’ll be the one to protect him.

Considering how Takemichi’s interaction with Naoto saved the guy’s life and set him on the path of law enforcement, part of me hopes these new exchanges with Hinata he never had in his first go-around may similarly influence Hinata’s actions and choices. If he can just stay with her, protect her, and let her protect him, maybe her death can be prevented.

But for now, Takemichi still has to at least try to meet the founding members of the Tokan Gang, and after meeting with Hinata, he no longer wants to run; he wants to fight with everything he has, even if it’s not much. He’s further inspired to action when he watches his friends offer emotional support to Takuya, whom Kiyomasa has chosen to fight next despite (or maybe because of) his frail constitution.

When he first arrived in the past, Takamichi thought his pals were as pathetic and lame as he was when he first saw that bright hair in the mirror. But now he sees he was lucky to have such good friends, whose bonds never broke no matter how much the older kids stomped on them.

Takamichi interrupts the conspicuously in-the-open fight club match (where are the cops? I guess there are lookouts) before Takuya has to fight, and challenges Kiyomasa himself to a fight, billing it a “king vs. slave” match. Crying and running has gotten him nowhere but a shitty life and a dead ex-first-and-only girlfriend. He’s done with both. He has to be: for his sake, his friends’ sakes, and for Hina’s sake.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Tokyo Revengers – 01 (First Impressions) – Keen on the Grindstone

“We are kept keen on the grindstone of pain and necessity.”
― H.G. Wells, The Time Machine

Hanagaki Takemichi, 27. Former delinquent, peaked in middle school. Virgin. Aimless. Menial employee, prone to mistakes. Too used to the mess in his apartment. Too used to apologizing and having it not be enough. A pebble worn smooth and shiny, the better to be carried by the whims of the river.

Then a news bulletin arrests Takemichi’s listless flow: gang violence has claimed innocent lives, including Tachibana Hinata, his first and only girlfriend, and her brother Naoto. That name from his past makes him look at his present and wonder Where Things Went Wrong.

Then Takemichi falls—no, is pushed—onto the track as a train approaches. There’s a flash of light, and the first image in his head is of Hinata, shamefully blurry for someone he was once so close to—a symptom of the dreary inertia of the ensuing twelve years.

Before Takemichi knows it, he’s not under a train, but on one. He catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror: open collar, bleached hair, baggy pants. To his contemporary eyes it’s all too brutally lame…and yet this is when he says he peaked. When he was a delinquent in middle school. When he was Hinata’s boyfriend.

Sensing that his life must be flashing before his eyes, those times twelve years ago slowly come back to him, making him realizing how easily he forgot them. By the time he realizes he and his four delinquent friends are walking into an ambush by third-years and his tough-talking cousin is merely their errand boy, it’s too late to avoid the beatdown by the hands of the Tokyo Manji Gang—the same group responsible for killing the Tachibana siblings.

And yet, as Wells quote above makes clear, it is only through adversity and failure, personal or collective, that we are compelled to change and improve. The beatdown is a wake-up call to the adult Takemichi. He splits off from his friends and rushes to Hinata’s apartment.

When he rings her doorbell, Hinata answers, and her first reaction is concern that he’s been fighting again, asking if he needs help. Takemichi is so happy to see Hinata’s face clearly for the first time, and so ashamed that he forgot it and his love for her, he begins bawling.

Hinata, in turn, doesn’t believe for a second that nothing is wrong, and tells him to come out with it. After all, she’s his girlfriend, and she wants to know everything about him. Seeing her face and feeling her hands on his serve as another wake-up call—another turn on the grindstone—in twelve years, this wonderful person will die needlessly.

As Takemichi contemplates his present situation, a small boy is being hassled for changed by three slightly older kids. They’re interrupting the moment Takemichi is trying to have, something in him snaps, and suddenly all of the worries and questions that flooded his head earlier when he first realized he’d be getting into a fight disappear.

He slugs one of the harassing kids, then breaks a bottle in half and threatens to kill the other two if they don’t piss off. He’s left with the small boy, whose first instinct isn’t to thank him for saving him, but to say it’s dangerous to just throw the broken bottle on the ground.

After properly disposing of the glass, Takemichi gives the kid some pointers about having confidence and resolve—things he never had—before learning that the kid is Tachibana Naoto, Hinata’s little brother. Takemachi goes for broke and tells Naoto how he’s travelled back in time, and Naoto, possessed of the open, curious mind of youth, believes him: on July 1, 2017, he and his sister die. But now that he’s warned him, Naoto can protect her.

If this is real, then I want to change the future, Takemichi thinks to himself before shaking on it with Naoto. Upon that handshake, an odd spark runs through Takemichi, and next thing he knows he’s coming to in the train station infirmary, very much not dead, on July 4, 2017. He’s told a man saved his life at the last second, who is there to speak to him.

That man is none other than Tachibana Naoto, who credits Takemichi with changing his fate. Thanks to his warning twelve years ago, he worked hard to become a cop so he could protect Hinata, and survived the gang attack so he could save him in turn. Despite all that, in this timeline, Hinata is still dead. Which means Takemichi’s quest is far from over.

While no one can mistake this for a fully or even remotely original affair (with elements of Erased, ReLIFE, and Steins;Gate, along with Groundhog Day and Back to the Future), its straightforward, confident execution and blooming emotional resonance count for a lot.

And while even his 27-year-old self is a bit of a wide-eyed baby-face (some weight gain and scraggly beard would better sell his plight) Takemichi makes for a surprisingly likable protagonist, ready and willing to make the most of the second chance the universe has given him. It remains to be seen if he can change enough of the future to save Hinata, but I’m committed to watching him try.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina – 09 – Estelles;Gate

Last week’s doll-and-face fetish episode, and the grape-stomping maiden episode before it, made for some particularly goofy Journeys of Elaina, making me wonder when and if show would get dark again. Sure enough, this episode arrives with an “Explicit Content” warning, opens on a starving, broke Elaina, and no OP! What the heck are we in for? At the time, I had no idea.

Elaina finds a flyer promising good pay for “ultra-short-term” work, and encounters a fellow Witch, Estelle. Through meeting her, Elaina is pleased to learn that while Estelle became an apprentice when she was younger, it took her longer than Elaina to become a full-fledged Witch. Wand-measuring aside, Estelle is offering a giant sack of gold coins for the job.

What is the job? Well, first, a sad story: Back while Estelle was training abroad, her dear childhood friend Selena’s parents were murdered in a robbery. Selena’s uncle took her in, and proceeded to abuse her. Selena eventually snapped, murdering her uncle, and then several others. It ultimately fell to Estelle to apprehend Selena…and execute her.

Estelle seeks to use magic to go back in time so she can save Selena’s parents and prevent the chain of events that lead to her having to kill her own best friend. Time-traveling requires more magic than any one witch has, so Estelle has been gradually draining her blood to augment the spell.

The other problem is that once they’re actually in the past, Estelle will be drained of all magic, which is why she needs Elaina. By wearing matching magical rings, Elaina will be able to share her magic with Estelle. This job is not without its risks and inconveniences—hence the generous payday.

Elaina, confident and cocksure as always, proudly proclaims herself to be a traveler, and so the next logical step in her journey is to travel through time and see how things used to be in the past. So she slips on the ring, Estelle activates the spell, and off they go.

The witches safely arrive ten years into the past, but only have one hour to do what needs to be done before being sent back to the present. Estelle makes it clear that the timeline in which she executes Selena has happened and can’t un-happen; changing events will create a tangent, but that’s enough for her, as long as there is a timeline in which Selena gets to live on.

Their broom-flight to Selena’s house is interrupted when Estelle spots young Selena walking down the street, and can resist giving her a big hug, no matter how much it weirds the girl out. Elaina notes that Estelle got quie the cold reaction from Selena, but Estelle insists that deep down Selena is very kind.

Estelle proceeds to get Selena’s parents out of the house under the guise that she’s Selena’s half-sister and has business with them. Elaina stakes out the house, waiting for the robber to arrive, but it dawns on her that the murder of the parents was too grisly for a mere robbery. Then her magic-sharing ring glows and shoots a red beam in Estelle’s direction: she’s engaged in battle.

When Elaina arrives, she finds a horrifying sight: Selena has viciously attacked Estelle, and has blood on her mouth just like her photo in the future papers. It turns out Selena’s parents abused her long before her uncle had the chance, twisting her into homicidal mania, even sadism. It doesn’t matter whether Estelle was her best friend or she and Elaina are trying to “help”—Selena is already beyond helping.

While the blood and gore on display in this scene is indeed explicit, I for one am glad we didn’t have to witness the abuse Selena suffered at the hands of her parents, and the warning was meant for the violence. And there is a lot of it—the most in the series’ run for sure.

When Selena prepares to attack Elaina, Estelle gets up and stops her in her tracks. Having worked so hard and sacrificed her own blood to try to save Selena, she is overcome by heartbreak and despair, and there’s nothing left but to kill Selena again before she can kill Elaina or anyone else.

Elaina tries to stop this by removing the ring, but Estelle simply sacrifices her memories of Selena in order to summon enough magic to explode her head off. The hour is up and the two witches return to the present. Sure enough, Estelle doesn’t remember Selena, and barely remembers Elaina. She’s a ruined husk of a witch, and Elaina is so upset by the experience she runs out of Estelles house, pointedly leaving the bag of gold behind.

That, and Elaina’s subsequent breakdown on the bench in front of the clock tower, shows that the effects of this particular journey will (or at least should) last beyond just this episode. Elaina weeps uncontrollably, her confident façade utterly shattered. She no longer thinks of herself as a special or exemplary; only an “ordinary” traveler and witch, inexperienced and unable to do anything.

She’s being a bit hard on herself, as who the heck could have handled that situation better? It was largely out of her hands. The best thing to do would have been to refuse the job, but she really needed money and was intrigued by the prospect of a different kind of traveling. The episode fades to black and the credits roll without images. Black Friday, indeed.

Read Crow’s review of episode 9 here!

Talentless Nana – 02 – A Matter of Time

Talentless Nana let the cat out of the bag in its first episode, and while that was an excellent twist, it also made it much harder for subsequent episodes to deliver the same impact. We’re told about the history of the Talented in an infodump, and it’s not pretty: after a five year war that the Non-Talented won, remaining Talented were basically isolated on islands. Missing from this story is exactly HOW they won against an army of superheroes. Sheer numbers? Kryptonite?

Hiiragi Nana stood before a dark and foreboding Talentless government entity, and given the directive to eliminate the Talented on the island, and threatened with serious consequences if she failed. Not explained: That said, she chose to take the mission and is determined to carry it out. What we don’t quite know yet is why her and only her. Did Supes Talented kill her family?

I mention “Supes” because Nana is giving me some Hughie vibes from Amazon’s The Boys: an unpowered individual seeking to bring down the superpowered despite being at a overwhelming disadvantage. The difference is the Supes in The Boys are almost all horrible people; the kids at the school are arrogant but are ultimately innocent.

They could go bad when they grow up, like their forbears back during the war, but preemptively eliminating them before they’ve done anything wrong is ethnic cleansing, at best! That creates a conflict when it comes to routing for Nana, especially since we don’t know of any motivation she has besides a sense of loyalty duty to the Non-Talented race.

At any rate, the moment Nana pushed Nanao off a cliff, the show transformed completely. Right now, it’s about Nana identifying the most powerful Talented and rubbing them out one by one (though she’d probably take a twofer if conditions were right!) At first her next target would seem to be the Ice Prince, but Shibusawa Youhei is even more dangerous, since he can manipulate time.

Nana does the same thing she did to Nanao and gets friendly and bubbly with Shibusawa. The difference is, this week we get her full internal monologue. While I’m not opposed to this shift in the way the story is told, she withdraws into her thoughts a lot, and often what she has to say is obvious or redundant, like Icy Prince’s tell, or the threat Shubusawa represents.

Still, Nana is good at her job or she wouldn’t be alive, and manages to not only wrest the true nature of Shibusawa’s ability: he can only go back in time. But she soon attracts the attention of the ever aloof and suspicious Onodera Kyouya. He knows Nanao has disappeared because their dorms are adjacent and he never returned home, and he believes Nana was the last person who saw him.

Nana would seem to be in a bind when Kyouya asks Shibusawa if he could investigate Nanao’s disappearance by going back in time. But even as Kyouya caresses her pigtails, she manages to regain control of the narrative by delicately turning suspicions onto Kyouya. He even seems to realize what she’s done and makes a tactical withdrawal, but his business with her isn’t over.

For now, Nana has two objectives: prevent Shibusawa from discovering she killed Nanao, and eliminating him. Pretending to cooperate with his investigation, she learns more about his abilities. He becomes fatigued and short of breath whenever he jumps, and the further back in time he goes, the more pronounced the side effects. More than twelve hours makes him vomit.

Ultimately, Nana can’t stop Shibusawa from going back to the time when she and Nanao were on the cliff. Indeed, last week someone was hiding behind a tree nearby; now we know it was him. But there’s one other key limitation to his time traveling: if anyone from that time spots him, he’s automatically sent back to the present.

Nana can’t warn her past self, she can only trust that she’ll be diligent and observant regardless of the situation. Nanao may have been an easy win for her, but she still followed the best practices of all assassins, namely to make sure you’re not being watched when you do the deed. Sure enough, Shibusawa returns automatically; Nana noticed him after she held hands with Nanao, but before she let go and shoved him to his death.

Still, considering how Shibusawa initially harbored suspicions of Nana since she was the last one with Nanao, it’s odd how he all but drops those suspicions simply because he saw them lovey-dovey together. His abrupt exit from that scene before he saw it play out would seem to be a gaping hole Nana’s testimony—and that’s before considering questions like why he can’t go back again and again, in the off-chance past Nana doesn’t spot him.

Instead, Shibusawa’s satisfied she had nothing to do with Nanao’s disappearance and they call it a night, making it certain too much time will pass by morning for him to go back again. But of course, that’s only one of Nana’s two objectives is complete. To kill him, she devises a dastardly plot that utilizes everything she’s learned about him.

Later that night, Nana goes to Shibusawa’s dorm to tell him the full story: after visiting the cliffs, she and Nanao were ambushed by an Enemy of Humanity, and it ate him. She rushes out to show him where it happened so he can jump back in time to save Nanao, and Shibusawa, with his strong sense of justice, follows her…to the precise spot she prepared.

When he time jumps at that spot, too much time passes and he doesn’t come back, indicating he won’t be coming back. That’s because the spot is really a section of the lake Kori Seiya had frozen Nana covered with earth earlier in the night. She recalled that Shibusawa couldn’t swim, which combined with his shortness of breath after jumping, resulted in him drowning in the past, unfrozen lake, and his body was then entombed within the ice.

It’s an clever, elegant, poetic, and utterly diabolical assassination—and Nana’s superiors estimate she saved 800,000 lives by getting rid of Mr. Time Travel. I still have reservations about whether either Nana or TA can keep this up before things get truly ridiculous, but if they keep delivering fun yarns like this, I’ll keep coming back for more!

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.

The Misfit of Demon King Academy – 04 – Live Like There’s a Tomorrow

Anos deduces that Misha and Sasha are actually the same person, since Sasha was able to break a Zacht unilaterally. Ivis Necron utilized “Division Fusion Resurrection Magic” Dino Jixes two create a more powerful race when the two beings fused into one on their fifteenth birthday. But Anos isn’t going to let that happen.

He’s going to make sure Misha lives on. He just needs her to believe there’ll be a tomorrow for her…because he said so. When they catch up to Sasha, she’s still pretending like she hates Misha, when in reality, she sets up two massive magical circles, one of which will be used to transform Misha into the original, instead of Sasha.

Sasha had been trying for years to get Misha to hate her so she’d reject her and welcome the transformation, but Misha never could. Anos proposes he send the two of them back in time fifteen years, which would cause two “new” sources to appear for a total of four, which would fuse into two separate beings: the two sisters.

That’s when Ivis shows up and stabs Anos through the heart in order to prevent him from disrupting his plan to create a vessel for the founding ancestor via Dino Jixes. Of course, Anos is the founding ancestor, so not only does Ivis’ attempt on his life fail, but he’s able to toss Ivis across the room with little effort.

Anos begins the Rivide spell that sends the sisters back in time, but his actions attract the attention of Eugo La Raviaz, the Guardian God of Time, who doesn’t take kindly to people messing with his domain. He lends his godly powers to Ivis, who stops time both the sisters and Anos’ initial attacks.

Even with Eugo’s power, Ivis again fails to do away with Anos, who stubbornly remains alive…because he’s the Demon King. He restarts time for the sisters, and urges them to declare their belief in him as the Demon King, which they do wholeheartedly.

Since this is all taking place within Anos’ castle, he’s able to summon the Magic Sword of Destruction Venuzdnor, which he not only uses to shatter Ivis’ time prison, but to purge Ivis of Eugo’s godly power. Anos is also able to remove the influence of the impostor and restore some of Ivis’ memories. He tasks him with investigating that impostor while letting him believe he’s still under his control.

With the sisters now secure as two separate entities and any threat of Ivis eliminated, Anos leads Misha and Sasha to the castle entrance to collect their perfect score, something that for all his power he’s never actually attained.

It’s all part in parcel of becoming weary of war and being glad to be resurrected in a world of peace, even there are only two people willing to acknowledge him. He gives Misha the magic ice ring for her birthday, while Sasha gets to keep her magic coat. All’s well that ends well, but damn did this episode throw a lot of jargon out there—Demons, gods, spells, weapons, and concepts, oh my! 

My head was spinning for a while, until I decided to let much of it flow over my head and simply enjoy the brass tacks, once the elaborate details are stripped away: Reality isn’t what others tell Anos it can or can’t be—it is what he makes of it, simply by being the most powerful individual in the world. In this case, that meant eliminating the need to sacrifice one sister to save the other.

Gibiate – 02 – Lights Out

Remember my comment about being able to feel the enthusiasm of the assembled talent emanating from the first episode? Yeah, that wasn’t the case this week, as Gibiate joins the list of anime I won’t be continuing this Summer. It’s a disappointing, but unavoidable cut considering its misfires.

However, things start out okay, with Kathleen recording Sensui for posterity, then sparring with him to determine his ability. He’s pretty good, and is even trained in Western swordsmanship. If only he had a more worthy opponent than the Gibia.

I also like the explanation both for Sensui and Kenroku’s RPG glow-up and Kathleen’s own cheerful attire: in such dark times, one must look as awesome as possible. This means Sensui not looks very much like a lone-wolf FF protagonist. Kenroku now rocks blue hair, making the two more discernable from a distance.

There’s also a beat where Kathleen’s mom—an Edo-period history buff, which is kinda convenient—informs Sensui how his lord and guardian ended up dying. Sensui carries the guilt of not being by his lord’s side at his end…ignoring the fact the lord sent him off into exile for his own missteps. I imagine Sensui didn’t even consider that betrayal.

Despite a relatively solid first half involving character interactions in the light, Kathleen and Senroku mostly remain ciphers while Sensui is your typical stoic honorable samurai. Then the lights of the camp go out and all hell breaks loose…and unfortunately not in a good way.

First, the ease of the Gibia’s attack calls into question how this camp even survived as long as it did. This night doesn’t seem any different than previous nights other than the fact Sensui and Senroku have joined the survivors, so I guess that’s when the plot decides it’s time to expose the camp’s many many logistical and tactical flaws.

“No backup lights or power” is pretty egregious. “Guards firing off all their ammo in all directions” is another. The supposedly brilliant Yoshinaga deciding to burn the camp to create light that will repel the Gibia, only for fire to be too dim to make any difference. Of course, all of this is overridden by an unavoidably fatal flaw: the Gibia designs and CGI is embarrassingly horrible.

This camp looks utterly doomed if it wasn’t for Sensui stepping up with the katana Maeda finally gets to him, but only after the old man suffers wounds we know will eventually turn him into a Gibia. When there’s a Gibia with armor too thick, Senroku tosses a grenade at it. Oddly, the blast disables the Gibia but doesn’t hurt Sensui—who was standing right there.

The Gibia attack that must have claimed at least a quarter of the already fewer than 100 survivors. And yet only one person gets a hero’s sendoff, complete with cheesy Casino keyboard music: Maeda, who we barely knew. There’s no accounting for how many others were lost or whether this whole camp thing can continue.

There’s also the little matter of Gibia being a virus, and that by slashing them left and right like a crazed banshee, Sensui gets their blood and guts and other fluids all over the damn place. Isn’t that, like, a problem? Never mind; this episode has killed by enthusiasm for continuing with Gibiate. Which is a shame, because the first episode had so much potential.

Gibiate – 01 (First Impressions) – Samurai Pandemico

Okay, this might not seem like the best time for an anime about a goddamn pandemic, but there are times when battling literal monsters seems preferable to the current sociopolitical situation, and it looks like Gibiate will have plenty of that, so let’s dig in, shall we?

It’s 2030, and a virus that transforms humans into monsters has spread across the globe (likely hastened by anti-maskers). Kathleen Funada is one of only one hundred people in all of Tokyo who hasn’t been infected.

There’s an immediate realism and intimacy to introducing her via a home video diary of events for posterity. And despite her idolish appearance, her gloom is palpable, and reflected in the de-saturated palette.

Meanwhile, all the way back in 1600, samurai Kanzaki Sensui and ninja Sanada Kenroku are on a boat leaving Edo. Both have been exiled; Sensui because he took the blame for his lord’s strategic blunder; Kenroku for murdering a motherfucker (who apparently deserved it).

When they’re caught in a horrific electrical storm, they both pass out and wake up in Edo, now Tokyo, 430 years later. Definitely some shades of Kuromukuro, which I enjoyed quite a bit, and potential for amusing fish-out-of-waterage (and samurai ownage).

The two wander the strange streets until they encounter a man who transforms into a bizarre beast (the CGI is merely passable). With no weapons, the pair can only do so much, but they’re fortunately saved by Kathleen, armed with a heavy-duty taser.

Sensui and Kenroku accept a ride with Kathleen and an old man named Maeda, neither of whom doubt the origin of the two very traditionally dressed and spoken men. By the same token, the pair aren’t particularly freaked out by the “wagon” that’s faster than any horse. They learn they’re in what was once Edo, and that the monsters are called Gibia.

Maeda gets dropped off to grab a katana he owns so Sensui can be useful, while Kathleen drives them to the camp where what’s left of Tokyo’s uninfected hold out. She introduces them to her mom, whom she later laments is so “mentally broken” she can’t tell humans and Gibia apart.

They then meet Kathleen’s boss, Professor Yoshinaga, who is trying to develop a cure for the virus and end the last two years of misery. He may look like a Final Fantasy villain (thanks to awesome character design by Yoshitaka Amano), but Sensui also looks particularly “Amano-y”, so I’ll trust that both of them are good guys for now, and just ridiculously cool-looking.

The professor warns Sensui and Kenroku to avoid being stung lest they want to be Gibia themselves, and if they can hear the sound of drops of water inside their head, it’s a sign they’re already infected. Interestingly enough, the first scene in the episode is Kathleen in a bathtub listening to water drip out of the shower head.

In addition to the Amano design, the OP theme was composed by the Yoshida Brothers, and many other eminent Japanese creatives are involved in its production. It feels more like there’s more passion and sincerity than calculation and cynicism behind this project.

Gibiate is a fun grab bag of classic anime tropes, and I’m already stoked to see how two vintage warriors can contribute to the cause. While it’s too early to tell if it will add up to more the sum of its myriad parts, it is nevertheless a very well-executed piece of entertainment, balancing the dreary bleakness of its future with the occasional vivid flash of hope.