Assassins Pride – 02 – The Right Time to Shine

In a welcome scene of student and teacher bonding, Melida learns that despite his stoic look and manner he’s both embarrassed to have to examine her body (her being a girl and all) but has been trained to hide his true emotions. While that was implied last week, it’s good to hear him actually voice it, as well as voice his sincere hope for her success.

While Melida’s mana has awakened, she’s not a Paladin, but a Samurai class, like Kufa. Kufa warns her to keep her awakening secret and forbids her from using mana against anyone but him. Since he estimates she’s currently only able to summon half of her mana, she’ll rely on the element of surprise to win in the school tournament.

Keeping cards close to one’s vest, and waiting for the opportune time to reveal them, are all part in parcel of what Kufa is all about. But he learns something about her too when she defends him against the mocking words of her “friend” Nerva: she’ll more readily summon what strength she has for others before herself.

When the tournament begins, even Melida’s allies aren’t aware she can use mana, and she doesn’t use it until Nerva is at the very height of her arrogance. Thankfully it’s not a one-sided affair, as there’s a lot of back-and-forth as Nerva ups her game. But in the end, there’s a card in Melida’s hand she kept even from her tutor, taking a page from his book.

That card is a phantom-blade technique he only demonstrated to her once, meaning she either learned it from that one time, or trained a bunch on her own. She thought mutliple moves ahead in her fight with Nerva, making it seem like she was totally out of mana, only to summon the rest of it when Nerva opened herself up to finish her.

In the end, Melida surprised Nerva to the point that after their match she returns the book she took from her and apologizes, apparently continue to value the “friendship” she said they’d have no matter what happens. I appreciated that extra dimension to Nerva, who isn’t just a sneering, bullying bitch after all.

Melida also addresses her father and master of the house, and as Kufa remarks, just the fact her father responded to her (by basically telling her not to get too cocky until she’s accomplished more) is another victory. If she continues to improve, it’s looking less and less likely Kufa will have to kill her, or worry about getting killed himself for failing.

But even with a chastened Nerva and an semi-acknowledging father, Melida faces a lot more adversity, both from her overachieving Paladin cousin Elsie to some unsavory lancanthropes lurking in the shadows.

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BokuBen – 12 – The Sting of Defeat

Nariyuki and Uruka are a great couple I’m proud to ship, and they’re only a five-minute proper conversation away from living happily ever after. While I’d like to say I’m under no illusions that BokuBen will actually ever make them a thing, the teasing keeps me coming back. I guess I’m saying I’m an idiot…but a generally happy one, so who cares!

This week both halves of my favorite couple are sick of the awkwardness that’s cast a pall over their once lively friendship, and both seek the advice of their sensei Fumino. In addition to stringing along a NariUka shipper like me, they continue to lock Fumino in a cycle of pushing her own potential feelings for Nariyuki aside in favor of supporting her friends, Uruka and Riko.

She’s unsure how to break out of this cycle, and is worried Uruka and Nariyuki’s continued problems will have an adverse effect on their studying, so she decides to break neutrality and help Uruka out this time. To closely supervise her two students, she shows up to their rendezvous in a shrewd disguise.

Fumino quickly learns things are much worse than she thought regarding these two. Every effort to spark a conversation is quickly snuffed out when the talk quickly goes back to the source of the awkwardness, whether it’s Uruka’s see-through top after the rain, or her sexily modified uniform at the shrine.

As the two grow more and more awkward and discouraged, their texts to Fumino grow less and less coherent. Matters aren’t helped by Nariyuki and Uruka constantly insisting they’re not talking about themselves, but “friends of theirs,” a conceit that grows less and less plausible as the meeting digresses.

Finally, Fumino’s complicated texting is interrupted by Sawako asking about hairstyles, and she sends the wrong texts to the wrong party by accident. Thanks to pure dumb luck (or good karma on Fumino’s part) it all works out somehow, thanks to one of the hairstyles Sawako mentioned being the same one Uruka has. Nariyuki follows the text and declares Uruka cute, and Uruka gets him to repeat that comment over and over. Ice broken!

Nariyuki attends Uruka’s swimming tournament, in which she wins the 200m free, but loses in the relay when a kohai has a false start. Nariyuki tries to cheer Uruka up afterwards, and ends up with more evidence for why Uruka would be such a good choice for a partner.

Uruka doesn’t pretend either to her kohai or to Nariyuki that it’s not a big deal to have lost, and that she doesn’t want to cry her eyes out about it. But, and this is key, if that kohai learned a lesson she can carry forward and succeed later in her career, their loss won’t have been in vain. That’s Uruka for you: an ace and a team player, through and through.

Uruka even shows signs of boosted confidence when she invites Nariyuki to hang out with her that night. She takes him to their old middle school, where “it all began,” with “it” being their friendship and her feelings for him. Those years ago, when she was ready to quit out of frustration for losing, he encouraged her to stick with it. To be as serious about something as she was about swimming was something rare and precious to him.

All this increasingly non-vague talk about their history together leads Nariyuki to ask her if she ever managed to confess to the “guy she likes”, still—and perhaps perpetually—unaware it’s him. Uruka really shot herself in the foot by lying about it not being him, since now he can offer, without a hint of awkwardness, to be the one she confesses her feelings to as a “dry run”.

But because Nariyuki’s words, out of context, sound like he’s urging her to tell him the truth, a flustered Uruka comes right out and does just that. She well and truly confesses that she likes Nariyuki, a lot, and always has. Too bad then that her previous lie dooms his ability to take her seriously. He thinks she’s practicing on him.

Rather than clear this up by saying something like “no, actually you are the guy I like and there truly isn’t another person”—admittedly out-of-character—she tosses Nariyuki into the drink. He takes her arm and drags her in too. When he protests, calling her Takemoto, she gets him to say her first name Uruka again, and is all better again.

With other characters with routes to wrap up, this may have been Uruka’s last chance. But I do think she’s being more honest than anything else when she told Fumino she just wants things to be good with Nariyuki…and for him to occasionally note her cuteness. So while, like me, Uruka may be a fool when it comes to settling for less than total victory, as long as she’s happy, that’s what matters. I just hope she keeps trying, because I won’t stop rooting!

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card – 12 – The Butler is Up to Something

This week’s opening scene practically oozes foreboding, and Yuna D. Kaito has never looked more suspicious as he prepares tea for Akiho. Whether there’s something in that tea or not, the scene all but confirms he’s operating against Sakura behind the shadows—unbeknownst to Sakura, Syaoran, and even Akiho.

It’s also pretty much certain Akiho is the cloaked figure in Sakura’s dreams, and that the dreams are being shared between the girls, with neither of them know the other is in them. All Akiho knows is the feeling of wanting  something the other person has. That thing is Sakura’s key, and Yuna seems pleased the dream is “progressing”, most likely in his favor.

By laying out some meaty plot progression right off the bat, the more slice-of-life ball sports tournament at school feels more earned and less like more stalling (though if you’re not watching Sakura at least in part for her high school slice-of-life…why are you watching?). 

It helps that the sports are a lot of fun, as watching BasketBaller Sakura toss no-look passes, crossover dribble, and nail shots from downtown is just as fun—and smoothly-animated—as watching her battle and capture cards.

The school doesn’t allow students to film the events, but Tomoyo finds a way around that by using Kero-chan, who is more than game to redeem himself after the playground footage debacle.

The sports tournament again demonstrates not only Sakura’s athletic skills, but those of Syaoran and Akiho, the latter two specifically in the field of badminton. I loved how seriously Sayoran was taking his match, which Akiho was keeping very close, and how Sakura wanted to root for both of them.

Just as she hopes for a tie, a surprise hailstorm rolls in, ending the match in a tie and sending everyone scattering for shelter. Sakura stays out, because she’s pretty sure this is a new Card. Unfortunately, as of yet she has no fire-element Clear Cards, and Reflect only sends hail into the building, causing damage.

Syaoran, still sore about not being able to put Akiho away (if he was even capable of doing so!), summons his fire sword to help out his girlfriend. His initial lower-powered attack isn’t effective, so he breaks out a bigger spell that stops the Card in its tracks, allowing Sakura to secure it.

It’s a great bit of Sakura/Syaoran teamwork, and shows that her friends will be there to fill in her weakness (in this case, no fire Card). Now, at least, if she comes upon a fire Card, she’ll have Hail to counter it.

After the battle Akiho comes running, and when she sees Sakura in the poncho Tomoyo made, she assumes it’s for another play that doesn’t really exist, but Sakura doesn’t correct her. That night Sakura turns in early, seeing as how it was a very active day and she overslept that morning.

Upon falling asleep, Sakura’s right back in Clockworld with Cloaky, who we can now assume is an unwitting Akiho, possibly working as Yuna D. Kaito’s puppet in the dream. She again tries to steal Sakura’s key, but Sakura grabs it back, and a giant dragon appears just below Cloaky, ready to swallow Sakura up.

She wakes up before that happens, and checks to make sure she still has her key before going back to bed. But she’s definitely unsettled than ever before. The figure is not only taking things up a notch in the dream, but perched on a utility pole just outside Sakura’s house. Some great semi-revelations this week that really escalate the tension.

That all of this is going on without any of Sakura’s allies’ knowledge makes me feel all the more worried for Sakura. If she were to lose her key, she wouldn’t be able to capture or use cards. That…would be bad!

Hoe Count: 4

P.S. Going forward, we at RABUJOI have agreed to use more descriptive (if not always the most perceptive) titles to our posts. We’ll see how that goes!

3-gatsu no Lion – 20

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After losing the first three matches, and on the eve of the fourth which will determine whether he’ll get to play in his hometown, Shimada has a dream about a seemingly ideal life.

His girlfriend never left him, he gave up on being a pro, and he lived happily in his hometown with a big extended family. Yet even in the dream, there is shogi. As lovely as it looks, it might be a nightmare to him, because he gave up.

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At one point in the final match, Shimada actually seems to be glad to have a “black bog” churning in the pit of his stomach, because he feels alive. The pain keeps him focused from all the people talking no-so-behind his back about how he won’t win a single game.

Rei has to hear the same negativity while on stage with another A-ranker who leaves before the match is even over once he’s satisfied Souya has him where he wants him. The grizzled veteran makes Rei amazed stomach pains are all Shimada has suffered, and how frightening and impossible the prospect of surviving in rank A seems, at least at this point in his career.

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Shimada’s ideal dream/nightmare, it would seem, was a consoltion for the fact he wouldn’t make it to his hometown, because there would be no fifth match. Souta simply silently covers him in layer after layer of snow until he’s well and truly buried.

By the time Rei rushes to the monitors, hoping to will him into the move that could save the match, Shimada has already conceded. Like Rei in his match with Shimada, there was a gap that was simply too wide to be crossed.

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Watching his mentor’s defeat, and everything that surrounded it, is a vital learning experience for Rei. Already convinced he will not attain the heights of previous middle school pros, and always dubious of his own worth in general, Rei sought a reversal of all the pessimism around him, perhaps to also convince himself to have faith things could turn around.

But instead he learns that beyond the storm is just another, more severe storm, and Shimada has weathered those storms, and feels better for doing so. Rei will also have to learn not to wither before seemingly insurmountable odds, nor fear defeat, because win or lose, something is learned, and life is enriched.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 19

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We step away from the Kawamoto sisters this week, but we see their warm caring nature reflected in Rei as he takes care of Shimada. Flashbacks indicate he’s had often-crippling stomach pains since he was a teenager, likely due in part to the pressure his small but well-meaning village put on him to become a master. He doesn’t want to let them down any more than himself.

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The Lion King Tournament with Souya is really doing a number on his already shaky health, so Rei comes by to make him a delicious udon bowl, stating his father (not Kouda-san) had the same stomach problems. Rei doesn’t cook for himself at home, but he’s happy to do it here, and is actually good at it. I can just imagine Hina’s joy (as well as Akari and Momo’s, but particularly Hina’s) if he whipped up a bowl for her!

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Rei goes against his better judgement and acquiesces to Shimada’s demand to play shogi with him, despite the fact what the dude needs most is sleep. But Rei is flattered to hear the reason why: like Souya, Rei is an all-rounder with similar “viewpoints” on the game Shimada can’t get elsewhere. Rei may be a stopgap (i.e. nowhere near as good) but he’s better than nothing. Souya even used the same word to describe the 3-g silver (or whatever) move: “disturbing.”

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From his house, Rei gets Shimada on the shinkansen, into his hotel room, and thanks to an altruistic assist from Souya, Shimada’s role in the pre-match reception is mercifully brief. The day of the match, Rei still second-guesses staying and playing with Shimada instead of insisting he rest back home, but there’s nothing he can do about it now. All he can do is hope Shimada has enough left in the tank to grab a win.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 18

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Nikaidou and Shigeta are always fighting over the proper move to make, on diametrically opposite sides like Vader and Obi-wan. Neither ever seems to back down, resulting in escalation that has to be refereed by Shimada.

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The boys’ pulpy, comic-booky visualizations contrast sharply with the match Rei gets into with Shimada. Their visuals are more refined and rooted in classical art. It’s not just a matter of how the two pairs approach the shogi workshop.

Shimada’s elegant blue waves crashing against Rei’s hazy red base until he and it are consumed by the torrent. The exhaustion Rei feels afterwards in his overlfowing tub, are a means of expressing what it’s like for an A-rank player to come at your with everything he’s got.

Shimada isn’t just trying to beat Rei, but to learn something new from him, something that might not have occurred to him. Anything will do; after all, he’s one loss away from a do-or-die match with the reigning champion.

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Back at school, Rei examines his report card, which indicates he just squeaked by and will be advancing to the next grade. When he looks at the last school year, Rei laments how little he accomplished.

Hayashida-sensei lets him know what an ordinary 17-year-old typically accomplishes (not much) and how little he accomplished at that age, and puts things in perspective. Rei is not a kid who seeks praise directly, so as usual he finds all this praise uncomfortable.

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In another nice crossover of worlds, Hina comes by with Momo in tow to collect their empty food boxes. Both girls are very on-edge, but after downing a stiff drink composed of cold milk, Hina asks what she came to ask—who that beautiful, bad-tempered girl was—and gets an answer that satisfies both her and Mom.

Kyouko isn’t, in fact, a witch, she’s just his big sister. Siblings fight all the time, but they’re still close. The girls comprehend this from their own experiences with each other and Akari. It’s a nice air-clearing scene that brings warmth to Rei’s apartment, and lil’ kid expert Kuno Misaki and superstar Kana-chan kick ass as usual.

 

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I’ll just leave this here because it gave me a chuckle. It’s been a minute since I’ve seen Castle in the Sky…

Of course, when that’s what Hina tells Akari back home, the older sister wonders if it’s not actually worse than if Kyouko were Rei’s girlfriend. After all, from what she saw, Rei and Kyouko weren’t very close, despite ten years of living together.

Akari suspects that distance was the reason Rei yearned to leave that home, though to be fair to Rei and Kyouko, Akari doesn’t know the intricacies of their relationship, or the fact that every time they see one another they struggle to resolve what exactly they are, while simultaneously never doubting for a second that they’re…something.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 17

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Note: I have taken over reviews of 3-gatsu no Lion from Zane in exchange for ceding Little Witch Academia to Franklin. Call it a three-way trade. What does Zane get? RESPECT.

This was the first 3G of the show’s second half that never really felt like it was dragging. Even in its “weakest” first section, there’s still the formal exchange between Rei and his father, as well as the sun shower and encounter with the ethereal Touji Souda, who could either be a god or a devil.

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Because his dad can tell by reading his face, Rei lets slip that Kyouko isn’t really staying over at his place all the time, and she derides Rei as a snitch under the bridge.

In a 3G first, the Kawamoto sisters finally see Rei with Kyouko, and their reactions are both priceless and true-to-character: Kyouko assumes Rei has found another home to ruin, Akari is polite and stays out of Rei’s business, and Momo is petrified of the Rei-bullying “witch.”

Hina is, well, pissed. So pissed, in fact, that she runs back to Rei and gives him a towering box of food to cheer him up—and all indications are she succeeds in the moment. She also makes sure to give Kyouko a withering middle-schooler stare before steaming off. Akari agrees “just a little bit” with her younger sister that it’s not fair that Rei should just take the “strong-willed woman’s” abuse.

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Kyouko is certainly cast as the Wolf to Red Riding Rei, but in the next segment, 3G turns that on its head, showing the far less outwardly confident and strong Kyouko. She basically stress-eats all of the food meant for Rei. She calls home to tell their dad where she is, but has to give the phone to Rei, because their dad doesn’t trust her.

Curling into (Rei’s) bed (again), Kyouko doesn’t know what to do with herself. She also doesn’t know why she chose Gotou, a man she can’t possibly bring home for Dad to see. In the night, Rei notices her checking her phone over and over, and the blue LCD light it creates, giving the impression the two of them are sinking into the bottom of the sea.

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Kyouko has crossed adulthood, but seems threatened by the only slightly-older Akari has achieved (in the brief, limited moment they crossed paths, that is). Rei is nearing adulthood, and at 18 will still be a second-year at school. Nikaidou has reached his rank, catching up to him, and is looking forward to proving his worthiness as a rival in an official match soon.

Rei puts it perfectly when he says he and Kyouko don’t know how to be proper siblings, nor can they be strangers, so they’re caught in between. Perhaps as they grow older and more mature they can learn and change. For now, Rei awaits the arrival of Spring, the first month of which I hear…comes in like a lion.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 16

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While it could be argued Hayashida-sensei got Rei in this hole by miscounting his absences, he gets resourceful in a bid to dig him out of it, including introducing Rei to the After School (Bunsen) Burners Club, a group of passionate nerds happy to help Rei out with science-y stuff. This was a lot of fun and engendered the most laughs; the mustachioed guy in particular was hilarious, somewhat Excalibur-like.

It’s a relief to the teacher to see Rei interacting and laughing with fellow students. The lesson he imparts upon Rei is that when he cannot overcome something alone, seek out someone to help; otherwise no one will ever seek him out.

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After a brief fake-out with a too-confident looking Gotou, we learn that Shimada was the victor in the third and final match, making him the challenger against the ethereal reigning champion Touji Souya. Gotou was prepared to give remarks on his loss, while Shimada is so spent from the exertion he can barely stand or talk. His spirits are buoyed when Rin asks if he can join his shogi workshop.

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Back at the Kawamoto’s, the girls and gramps are making special boxes for the girls festival and planning what kind of meal to prepare for the special occasion. Hina is frustrated that Rei hasn’t been by, and doesn’t understand why he’d deprive himself of food (and their company) for so long. Gramps understands, though; it’s a matter of pride. He’ll come back when he’s ready.

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The workshop is at Shimada’s house, a modest but gorgeous little home dramatically perched atop a hill in the oldest part of town. There’s a sense Rei has climbed a mountain to reach some kind of temple in order to aid him on his quest to enlightenment. In reality, he doesn’t spend enough time playing in non-competitive matches with peers, which is why Shimada was able to run roughshod over him.

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Shimada is glad to host three gung-ho shogi players in his home for the workshop, but once the three start getting defensive, digging in their heels and barking like petty feudal lords, the toll Shimada’s matches exacted upon his body are amplified, and he cuts the ‘shop short, blaming a stomachache.

Nevertheless, Rei is being exposed to different forms of play, with nothing on the line except his still-narrow personal view of shogi play. Nikaidou even follows him home, as their argument over use of certain pieces at a certain time inspires him to want to demonstrate to Rei what he’s on about on a shogi board.

Overall, this was a pleasant (if a bit thin-feeling) episode that shows some of the incremental steps Rei is taking towards…well, growing up, becoming both a better shogi player and a better man. Notably, there were no scary flashbacks (or scary Kyouko) to be had, but like Hina I too hope he’ll end his self-imposed exile from the Kawamotos soon.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 15

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Rei gets back to analyzing Kyouko, likening her to a glass with cracks that can never be fully filled. Rei blames himself and Kyouko’s and his dad for creating those cracks. Dad might’ve been the instigator, but Rei puts just as much weight in his role as object of favoritism, whether it was justified or not.

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The new wrinkle here is that Kyouko didn’t want Rei to go away, leaving her even more lonely. But he did. He felt he had to. Considering what Kyouko and her brother had to pay for Rei to be in the position he’s in, he felt it necessary to become an adult as soon as possible so he could “protect them”.

But leaving didn’t end Kyouko’s suffering, it only created a new void in her heart; a new crack. We also learn she first connected with Gotou because his wife is in the hospital, and the loneliness she perceives in him mirrors her own. I wonder if Kyouko ever expected Rei would up and leave the way he did – that he would challenge the status quo so forcefully, at such a young age.

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But leave and challenge it he did…and he failed, and got humiliated, and had his whole world turned upside down. And you know what? Even Grandpa Kawamoto knows (from experience) that failure is good; failure is necessary. No one ever knows that when it’s happening, because it feels terrible, as losing to Gotou in the first of three final matches feels to Shimada.

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Rei already shows some growth by ceasing his skulking and going back to the shogi hall to watch Shimada and Gotou in action with his colleagues. Unfortunately, due to a clerical error by Hayashida-sensei, Rei finds himself two attendance days in the red and heaps of schoolwork to do in order to prevent repeating the grade. Again, he faces potential humiliation and failure, but it will ultimately make him a better person.

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Shimada regathers himself and expends a great deal of his charisma in the second match, in which he manages to defeat Gotou and bring the series even. Afterwards Shimada walks with Nikaidou, who tells him why he wanted him to kick Rei’s ass so soundly.

Nikaidou’s many victories against uninspiring opponents who clearly didn’t work as hard as he did left him “reduced to a lump of ego”, with a head to match. That big head was split in two when he faced off against Rei, but Rei also pulled him out of the dirt and offered him water in the searing heat. Rei saved him, and he repaid the favor with Shimada’s help.

In an interesting merging of the two plot lines, Shimada spots Kyouko yelling over being rejected once more by Gotou on his way home. Seing the young, beautiful woman so strongly affected by the far older Gotou serves as another means of indirect psychological warfare (to go along with Gotou’s impressive arsenal of the direct kind).

But Shimada quickly snaps out of it: it’s just another momentary humiliation; another fleeting failure; either of which will only serve to make him stronger. So too will Rei grow stronger from such things. Now, Shimada, for the love of God: beat that pompous gangster!

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3-gatsu no Lion – 14

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3GL gets back on track by bringing Rei and Shimada’s match to an end, and I realize the match was supposed to start out boring at the beginning last week, to reflect how little of it Rei thought. Shimada was only a hurdle to leap over on the way to teaching Gotou a lesson.

How wrong Rei was: Shimada wasn’t an opponent to toss aside with half-assed preparation. Rei totally misjudged his level and got totally destroyed. Finding out how early in the match he was toast (far earlier than he realized when playing) only pours gas on the fire.

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He runs off like someone rejected by their crush, thinking he’s lost everything. He loads up on sleep, gets depressed and dehydrated, and even starts to think of other ways to make his way in the world besides shogi (which is tough when one is only seventeen). Rei had taken on the trappings of adulthood without having the experiences necessary to become one.

But as Shimada and Smith say, this happens to everyone, in one way or another. You’re young, you feel invincible, then you’re struck down and never saw it coming, and think It’s All Over. Heck, it sounds a lot like one’s first rejection or breakup.

But such defeats are necessary and vital to growth, which is probably why Nikaidou asked Shimada to “crack [Rei’s] head in two.” Rei needed a jolt like this, because more defeats will come in life and he needs to learn how to deal with them.

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Rei tries to find some solace at school, but it’s just as unapproachable and incompatible to him as ever. Again, the only one he talks with is Hayashida-sensei, making him one of the least social high school anime characters (who isn’t just a shut-in) in recent memory.

Hayashida also wants to impress upon Rei the fact that if he’s “over-capacity”, and it certainly looks like he is, there’s no shame in stepping back from those adult trappings, moving back home, and having at least some of the things currently overloading his life be taken care of.

Additionally, Hayashida suggests Rei join Shimada’s workshop (of which Nikaido is also a member), as learning from someone who beat you (especially so badly) is a great opportunity.

Rei has to get past his anger with Shimada for getting beaten, his uneasiness with being back home, and of course, his own obsessive insistence on not running. Doing these things isn’t running, it’s learning and growing.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 13

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Well, that was surprising. After 12 episodes with nothing lower than an 8, 3GL lays an egg in its thirteenth. Was it because Friday the 13th was yesterday? Maybe, but there were a lot of other reasons this episode…just didn’t work for me.

First, it almost seems at times like the episode is marking time, in no particular hurry to show or tell us anything new. The cold open is literally the last few minutes of the last episode.

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The show also repeated the scene between Gotou and Rei where the latter has to be held back by Misumi. Considering there was a recap just a couple weeks ago, it seemed like needless padding.

Once it got into new material, we get an interminable, clunkily-animated scene of Misumi of all people eating various things while vigorously preparing for his shogi match with Gotou, which he then goes on lose anyway.

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It’s all well and good to build up Gotou into a kind of Goliath Rei must slay, and it lays on the pressure even more when Rei gets off his game against Shimada and ends up in real trouble, but Misumi just hasn’t been that integral a character in the show, and that was a lot of time spent on him. Rei is supposed to face off against Gotou, but that was delayed here, and with little to show for it.

Even though this show typically splits episodes into two or more episodic pieces, the flow was far worse than usual, and lacked urgency. The bits of recap padding, the editing, and the animation, something was just off with this episode, and it kept me at arm’s length.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 12

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I watched this episode in a similar environment to the one Rei keeps finding himself in after recovering from his illness; a place very hard to leave once you’re there, like a kotatsu. It’s currently 20 degrees F and snowing outside, but I’m nice and toasty in my apartment with a hot mug of cocoa, and because it’s Saturday and I don’t have a possibly career-defining tournament to participate in, I’m more than content to stay right there!

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Now that he’s better, Rei has some serious things to consider. Chief among them is ‘not losing anymore this year’, including the huge highly-publicized Lion King Tournament. He just barely defeats one opponent (who has a bizarre way with words), and may well have to go up against Gotou, the guy who calls Kyoko a “stalker girl” and who once beat him up. If it wasn’t for Smith, he’d have gotten beaten up again.

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Instead, he heads to the Kawamotos with bags bursting with freshly-caught fish from the association president, and Akari couldn’t be happier, as it means they can save on food expenses for a while. As usual, the home is warm, fuzzy, full of love and hard to leave…but Rei has to leave. He can’t be the best shogi player he can be if he doesn’t go home and study. So he tells Momo as earnestly as he can, and she and Hina tell him to do his best.

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Perhaps like no previous episode, this one really strongly marked the contrast between the Kawamoto Kotatsu and the world outside, using every visual method at its disposal. As bright and warm and colorful as it is in the sisters’ house, it’s dark and cold and bleak, even threatening outside.

But Rei is determined to become someone who can live in both worlds, and neither be trapped in one or unable to endure the other. Joy and pain are both inescapable parts of life he must learn to balance. And the beast inside relishes the potential opportunity to deliver a blow or two to Gotou, not with his fists, but on the shogi board.

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ReLIFE – 10

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Both gifted and cursed by immense natural athletic talent that made her peers resent her and take her for granted, Honoka turned down all the powerhouses and sought refuge at Aoba High, a prep school not too serious about sports, where no one knew who she was.

But when she tried out for the team, someone knew who she was, and was angry she didn’t give it her all. She makes Honoka spike a ball at her as hard as she can, knocking her down, but she gets up laughing, her suspicions confirmed. Her name is Kariu Rena, and she wants to play volleyball with Honoka.

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For three years they played and had fun, but one thing that goes unmentioned is that the rift caused by her ankle injury wasn’t helped by the fact she never really caught up to Honoka’s level, and trying to stand beside her on a still-tender ankle felt impossible.

So Kariu said some very mean things and retired from the team, two actions she felt she could not undo, no matter how much she wanted to. She didn’t realize just how genuinely worried her friends were, and how they’d let her undo whatever she said or did if she’d just…play and be friends with Honoka again. It’s what everyone wants.

Hishiro’s role in the talk with Honoka is masterful, chronicling all the times she transferred and introduced herself with less and less enthusiasm, “giving up on knowing people” as her heart gradually numbed. The bond between Kariu and Honoka makes her jealous. She won’t let it crumble needlessly.

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Kariu is caught listening in on Honoka, and maintains her stubborn iron guard. Oga remains to assure Honoka she didn’t mean the things she said (again), and Honoka is in agreement. Kaizaki, basically acting as Hishiro’s backup thus far, surveys his friends and Honokas; they’re all of the same mind. They give Kariu time and space, trusting her to show up for the tournament.

When she doesn’t, Hishiro is pissed, and vows to drag Kariu there if she has to. Yoake helplfully provides Kaizaki with Kariu’s address. An points out to Yoake that he’s getting more involved these days, because he likes how things are changing. So does she. Kaizaki & Friends exploits are changing them too.

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Hishiro almost makes the rookie mistake of stating her name after ringing Kariu’s bell. Kaizaki shushes her and pretends to be a delivery man, Kariu answers the door, and they barge in. She’s in her tracksuit, with her uniform on underneath. It would appear their trust in her was not misplaced, only their confidence in her ability take the step of going to the tournament on her own. She’s still stuck at home.

Kariu calls Hishiro dense, that she can’t possibly understand how she feels, but Hishiro doesn’t care. Kariu’s her friend; she’s allowed to be worried about her. She’s come to fulfill her own selfish desire: to make Kariu play with Honoka again. She takes Kariu’s head in her hands and ask her what her selfish desire is.

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Turns out, it’s the same thing; Kariu was just afraid it was too late to achieve, but it wasn’t. All their selfish desires align. All that’s left is to act. Kariu accompanies Hishiro and Kaizaki back to school. Kariu enters the gym, and the match. Honoka stops looking, as Hishiro puts it, “ugly” and “dead.” They play, and have fun, like they’ve played for three years.

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They also lose, and are eliminated, and are officially done with high school volleyball for good. But as they both share a good cry behind the gym (with Hishiro sitting between them, a choice she initially regrets), Honoka makes it clear that winning without Kariu would not have been fun or made her happy. Losing is fine if it means she has Kariu back. And Kariu points out they can still play volleyball in college. Duh!

They exchange apologies before turning their gratitude and affection on Hishiro, who couldn’t be happier herself. She’d only just become friends with these two, and she was going to be damned if she was going to let their bond crumble. So she worked her butt off and it paid off marvelously, to the joy and relief of all. Stellar stuff.

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