The Quintessential Quintuplets – 17 – Working Five to Five

The New Year is here, and Fuutarou and Raiha spot the Quints at the local shrine positively resplendent in their kimonos. I don’t often comment on the wardrobe of the sisters, but it is never not 100% on point, whether it’s modern or traditional garb. From there, Raiha invites herself to their new place, which means Fuutarou comes too.

The Quints’ new apartment is far more modest and normal than their previous spacious penthouse, and while, say, even Nino is fine with sharing the warmth of the kotatsu, the sisters simply aren’t used to the close quarters (Itsuki excepted, as she lived with the Uesugis for a while).

Newly reunited and empowered, the sisters are on a blessedly united front on the subject of Uesugi continuing to tutor them…they just don’t know how to pay him back! Ichika is the only one working, and is falling asleep during their first study session of the year, which isn’t a good sign! Because they’re watching a romantic TV show, there’s talk of a “peck on the cheek”, which is carried out by Yotsuba when she nonchalantly eats cream off his face.

Realizing having only Ichika pay their way isn’t tenable, the other sisters consider other jobs, which is really an excuse for the show to have sumptuous pans of them in various career outfits: Ichika as a tutor, Yotsuba as a grocery clerk, Miku as a café maid, and Nino as a dominatrix!

Speaking of cafés, Fuutarou is trying to advance at the one he works at, but while the apple pie he bakes looks identical, it is underdone. His boss then tells him they’re closing at noon to allow a film crew to shoot there, and who should Fuu encounter but Ichika—in full horror movie ditzy high school girl costume.

“Tamako-chan” wall-slams Fuu in a very romantically lit back room scene, voicing her embarassment with him watching her perform such a silly role. She feels she has no choice but to take any and all acting work she can, since rent, food, and utilities are proving more expensive than she thought. Nevertheless, the eldest sister will be strong for the other girls, and won’t let Fuu try to convince her otherwise.

To her surprise Fuu doesn’t scold her; in fact, he’s proud of how hard she’s working and grateful she’s making it possible for him to keep tutoring them. Once her scenes are filmed, Fuu catches her studying on her own, only to nod off from fatigue. Fuu provides a shoulder for her to nap upon and he says “good work”. Little does Fuu know she’s only pretending to sleep…she can’t let him see her blushing face!

While on a shopping trip in which she and Fuu are being used as Nino’s pack mules, Nino almost drops a bag of rice Yotsuba gives her to tie her shoe, but Fuu catches her, causing her to blush and her heart to beat faster. Having just gotten over his blonde alter ego, Nino simply isn’t ready to accept that Fuu is her “prince.”

While heading home, Yotsuba spots Ichika at a Starbucks with their dad. Believing her to be the most “amenable” (read: malleable) daughter, he insists that she and the other sisters return home immediately. When Ichika mentions Fuu, her dad says he’ll be welcomed back too…but as an aide to a professional tutor of his choosing.

When Ichika bristles at that, he asks her if she really believes Yotsuba can earn a passing grade with Fuu’s continued tutoring. Fuu, Nino, and Yotsuba are listening in from the bar, and Fuu cannot stand to hear the sisters run down by their own father, but Nino takes his hand and asks him to hold off.

Instead, Yotsuba approaches the table and tells their dad they’ll be continuing with Fuu and Fuu alone. Her Dad’s fine with that, but on the condition that this is collectively their last chance to pass. If they fail again under Fuu’s tutoring, he’ll transfer them to a different school for their third year—one that will accept them regardless of their scores.

Papa Nakano is an odd duck. One can’t overlook his resemblance to Fuutarou, nor his cold manner to match his wan complexion. He loves his daughters in his own way, but like most dads with daughters their age, he’s loath to let any man have them. He comes right out and tells Itsuki he “hates” Fuu. Part of that could be that Fuu chewed him out when he resigned, telling him to be more of an active father and calling him an asshole.

But another part of him could simply be envious that Fuu is able to spend so much time with them. Like Ichika, her dad works alone to pay the bills that come with raising five girls at once. I wonder if he regrets the sacrifice he made so they could live in luxury, seeing as how the result of never being around was that they moved out.

In any case, the Quints have really put themselves and Fuutarou on the spot. If Dad is to be believed, this is their last shot. They’ll have to improve their scores considerably, or they’ll end up at different schools next year. I wish that felt more threatening, but they spend so little time actually in school—it’s more that Fuutarou truly does want to help them. If they fail again, he’s failed again That can’t happen.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Episode Five Quintuplet Ranking:

  1. Ichika: Between being surprised by almost bumping into Fuu in the new place (so he can examine her mouth) to the whole Tamako-chan performance and their quality time “backstage”, Ichika takes her first win of the season. It was only a matter of time! Total Points: 13 (3rd)
  2. Yotsuba: The other girls are all talk and blushing, but only she actually puts her mouth on Fuu’s face, so she wins on that front. Combine that with the fact she carries a bag of rice for Fuu and stands up to their dad with conviction, and #4 had her best episode yet. Total Points: 12 (4th)
  3. Nino: For once Nino wasn’t in the spotlight, but her feelings for Fuu continue to simmer at key points this week. Her inviting him to sit under the kotatsu and taking his hand at the café were both nice moments.  Total Points: 22 (1st)
  4. Itsuki: I’m not saying she would have folded without backup, but I’m glad Yotsuba was there to back her up against their manipulative papa. Total Points: 18 (2nd)
  5. Miku: That Miku has yet to even slightly improve her culinary skills stretches credulity at this point—the joke is officially stale. There’s no doubt that she’d be a popular café maid, though. Total Points: 10 (5th)

Akudama Drive – 12 (Fin) – Good Trouble

You could sense this was going to be a particularly intense finale when it starts with Swindler, Courier, and the kids surviving a violent Shinkansen derailing. Brother thinks it’s all over, but Sister still believes in her big sis. Swindler may have a badly broken leg, but she’s not ready to give up.

She produces the 500-yen coin that started her run of “bad luck” (putting it quite mildly) and places it on Courier’s chest. It’s payment for one last job: ensure the kids get to Shikoku safely. Through their prickly, foul-mouthed repartee, Courier too can sense that Swindler is cashing out.

After wishing the kids godspeed, Swindler limps out into the open and almost immediately spotted and surrounded by police drones. But she finally gets her own official Akudama intro sequence (this show’s version of the magical girl transition) as she pulls off one last Swindle.

At first, it seems like nothing other than stalling the Executioners—whose mundane banter in the midst of such carnage only heightens their monstrousness. She pretends to be an ordinary civilian caught in the crossfire, but she’s quickly identified as Swindler, and is stabbed through the chest by one of the Executioners.

That woman Executioner thinks it’s creepy that the Akudama wears a bright smile even in death, but Swindler has every reason to smile: not only did she succeed in buying crucial moments for Courier and the kids, but also sparked something even the Executioners won’t be able to contend with.

Oh, they certainly put on a show of force in surrounding Courier’s bike with seemingly every Executioner, drone, and airship in the city. A feisty Executioner is even able to lunge at Courier, but Brother comes between them an ensures the wound isn’t deep enough to kill Courier yet.

That’s key, because they still need Courier to help them out of this mess. Of course, Courier isn’t enough, especially in his battered state and woefully outnumbered and outgunned. That is, until, the fruits of Swindler’s Last Swindle are borne. Her execution, ruthlessly carried out while pleading she was just an ordinary person? That was caught on video.

The girl whose parents were killed last week steps between the Executioners and Courier and the kids, and even shoots one of them with a gun she found. She’s not alone. Soon the Executioners and their arrogant Boss are surrounded by a far larger force of ordinary citizens rising up against the violence. Even Bunny & Shark’s message is retooled: the Executioners are the Akudama now.

The resurgence of public unrest keeps the Executioners busy enough that Courier is able to charge up his bike railgun and not only bring down the Police station and its looming tower, but uses the tower wreckage as a goddamn ramp to escape with the kids.

He follows the train tracks towards Shikoku until his bike warns him it’s running low on juice, and in any case there are three Executioner airships still in pursuit. Courier stops near a windswept tree, the kids alight from the bike and continue on foot while he’ll go back and stop the airships…at any cost.

Akudama Drive has never had a problem with absolutely bonkers action sequences, but as expected the finale takes them to entirely new heights, reaching Synthwave Music Video levels of serene awesomeness. Courier dances on his bike to dodge enemy fire as long as he possibly can, but is eventually swallowed up by a railgun beam and seemingly vaporized, all while Brother and Sister run away as fast as their little legs can carry them.

BUT…it turns out Courier isn’t quite dead yet after being turned into a black-on-white sketch—usually a death sentence for most characters, but Courier and the Akudama aren’t “most”! He uses his metal arm to replace one of the two prongs on the bike’s railgun that melted away, focusing the beam enough to land a direct hit on the third and final airship pursuing the kids, and destroying it.

With nothing and no one else chasing Brother and Sister, Courier slumps over wearing a smile of relief and satisfaction as the morning sun washes over him. He just managed accomplished his final delivery mission. Before parting with the kids, he gave them the 500-yen coin Swindler gave him, making his last job technically gratis.

Aside from a parting shot showing the wreckage of the police tower, the remainder of the episode is given over to Brother and Sister continuing on to Shikoku as the end credits roll. They reach a tunnel through which there is nothing but light, and walk through it while holding hands, vanishing into the blinding white.

What Shikoku is like and what becomes of them is left ambiguous; suffice it to saw they are safe and free. So is Kansai, it would seem, with the fall of the murderous Executioners. Swindler’s heroic death made her a martyr, and caused the spark that lit the match that brought about the downfall of the region’s old, unjust order—what the late John Lewis called “good trouble.”

Hey, I never thought I’d be quoting a civil rights icon in a show about goofy Danganronpa-style archetype criminals on the run, but here we are! In its finale Akudama’s lyrical action sequences, heart-wrenching character moments and operatic soundtrack all combined to elevate a previously goofily over-the-top series to an epic cinematic experience. And like any great movie or series, I’m holding myself back from immediately watching it all over again.

Akudama Drive – 11 – Their Little Dream

Suddenly, we’re back where we began: Ordinary Person gets off work on time and spots a takoyaki stand. Instead of being accused of not paying, she pays without interacting with Courier and the two go their separate ways. Of course, if this is how things had gone down in the first episode, there wouldn’t be a story.

This is clearly not reality. What is reality is Pupil waking up in a hospital bed to find that not only have nearly 6,000 ordinary people been marked as Akudama, but nearly a third of them have been executed, and his senpai seems perfectly fine with it, as is their Boss, who is praised by Kanto. Order in Kansai has been restored—even if the odd orphan has to be tossed off their parent’s corpse into the cold.

Swindler at first revels in the comfort of her ordinary apartment, and could presumably continue living there as if all of the crazy events in which she participated was all just a very weird dream. But this is the dream, just as a young Courier discovering his mentor, the previous (and female) Courier murdered is a dream.

Bunny and Shark—in crisp HD for the first time—deliver their latest lesson with Swindler and Courier as an audience: they explain the “Butterfly Dream” in which one asks themselves if they’re dreaming of a butterfly or the butterfly’s dream. Apparently, in Kanto, it doesn’t matter: you can be both or neither.

The animal stick puppet characters assert this is where Swindler and Courier “truly belong”: a place where they can dream of whatever and whenever they want and live in their happiest moments forever! Swindler even has a little Shoujo Manga moment with Courier…before both he and the takoyaki stand beging to digitally degrade and evaporate, leaving only the interior of the Shinkansen.

Swindler and Courier escape this world of coddling and restraining illusion thanks to Hacker’s Haro bot, with which the real Hacker is able to interface and which serves as a kind of dream totem for Swindler and Courier; their means of realizing they’re in a dream. The Bunny & Shark program is a form of brainwashing meant to separate body from mind (and free will) when entering Kanto. It is the effect of the Decontamination Zone.

Why would Kanto insist anyone who enters have their mind separated from their body? That becomes clear when Hacker leads them outside of the train to see something even stranger than their dreams: an endless deep blue sky full of eternally floating wreckage of old Tokyo.

As for Kanto, its true form is that of a complex quantum computer with a morphing geometric black structure resembling an Angel from Eva. Everyone in Kanto converted their consciousness to data and stored it in this structure (again, like Eva’s Human Instrumentality Project). Hacker turns back and cheekily breaks the fourth wall, commenting on how crazy a twist this is!

Swindler’s first priority is the kids, whom Hacker points out are currently being restrained by the Kanto structure. It’s presently breaking down, and the siblings were always meant to be Kanto’s new and everlasting vessels. All of Kanto’s data is being transferred to them.

Needless to say, Swindler isn’t cool with the kids being used once more as mere tools. She’s long since completely devoted her mind and body ensuring brother and sister’s one “little dream”—to be alive, safe, and together—is fulfilled. Whatever else they are and whatever Kanto perceives their use to be, she insists they’re ordinary kids who deserve and ordinary life.

Unfortunately, her attempts to physically attack Kanto are repelled by its gravitational wave defense system, which means it’s up to Hacker to go into Kanto and play the toughest—and most fun—game of his life. That’s just fine to him, as the whole reason he’s helping Swindler and Courier comes down to profound boredom. If he can die doing what he loves, he’s okay with that.

This is definitely Akudama Drive at its most baroque and psychedelic, and even though The Day I Became a God had a quantum supercomputer and trippy virtual hacker fight first this season, Akudama is able to put a different spin on both. Hacker’s battlefield resembles FFXIII’s final dungeon, Orphan’s Cradle, while the floating wreckage reminded me of FFXIII-2’s final dungeon, Labyrinth of Chaos.

Hacker ends up succeeding in freeing the siblings, but only by sacrificing his digital self, which is all that’s left of him. He lies about being “just fine” to Swindler and offers her a final token of gratitude for returning his Haro drone intact: coordinates to “a mystical place nobody’s heard about, let alone been to,” which he deems a “perfect place” for them.

He then urges everyone to hurry aboard the Shinkansen, which he programs to return to Kansai, and from there they can presumably head to those coordinates. As Sister surprises Brother with her new street smarts (and potty mouth—”You were shit at protecting me!”), Swindler thanks Courier for all his help. Of course, for Courier, finishing the job wasn’t a choice, but a necessity.

That’s when we return to Kansai where the approaching Shinkansen is placed in crosshairs. Three choppers open fire on it, knocking it off the tracks in a huge fireball as Pupil and New Pupil look on. Here’s hoping Swindler and the kids alighted before the train blew up!

Assuming they did, there are likely to be more hardships—and a likely final showdown with the Executioners—before they can reach their promised haven. Whatever happens in the finale, this episode was a master class in twisty, surreal, mind-bending, truth-dropping, beautifully batshit fun.

Star Trek: Lower Decks – 05 – Red(shirt) Herring

This is one of those fast-paced grab-bag episodes where nearly every member of the main cast is given time to shine, yet doesn’t feel overstuffed. We start with the C-plot, in which Captain Freeman meets the haughty captain of the USS Vancouver, which is newer and superior in every way to the Cerritos.

The two ships are tasked with removing a rogue moon on a collision course with a planet, but first Freeman has to wade into interminable negotiations with inhabitants of the planet who for various reasons don’t want the moon destroyed. I’m immediately reminded of two season 3 TNG episodes: “Deja Q”, which involves moving a moon, and “The Vengeance Factor” which involves mediation with aliens.

The Vancouver also happens to be the ship where Boimler’s girlfriend is stationed, which means they get to meet up, forming the A-plot. At first Mariner is convinced Lt. Barbara Brinson is either made up or a hologram, and when she finally meets her, she finds her to be a bit too perfect. Boimler also feels threatened when he learns Brinson will be working closely with Jet, her burly ex from the Cerritos.

Finally we have the B-plot, in which Tendi and Rutherford are instantly enamored with the Vancouver and all her advanced bells and whistles unheard of on the technologically modest Cerritos, including a nearly mythical diagnostic tool called the T-88. The two are assigned one each by Lt. Cmdr. Ron Docent with the promise that whoever does the most with it will get to keep it.

“When a Starfleet relationship seems too good to be true, then red alert, man—it probably is!” So says Mariner, who as the crew’s Trek Fan Surrogate, knows what she’s talking about. Not only have the TV shows been full of these kinds of one-off relationships in which the significant other turns out to be a spy or alien or parasite, but Mariner herself witnessed a friend’s face being melted off by her seemingly perfect boyfriend years back.

Worried about her getting back with Jet, Boimler ends up breaking work-life boundaries by visiting Brinson at work, while Mariner follows him to try to investigate Brinson’s true identity. Neither Brad nor Beckett come off particularly well.

But it doesn’t end there. Mariner becomes increasingly paranoid, to the point she sets up a bulletin board with string connecting possibilities (this board is packed with references) like Charlie’s “Pepe Silvia” investigation in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. What is effective is that based on past Trek and her own traumatic experience, it’s never 100% certain she’s not right, even though you expect the episode to subvert the trope.

Boimler than tries to compensate for what he feels are personal shortcomings by wearing the coolest outfit ever (as determined by computer algorithm) and joining Brinson and Jet in the mess for a beer. Trouble is, Brinson and Jet are still on duty. Then Boimler trips and spills beer on Brinson (pulling what in Starfleet should be called a Sonya Gomez), then a crazed Mariner snips off some of her hair.

When Boimler comes to Brinson to apologize for being such a jealous jerk she agrees to a reset, but still not convinced Brinson is a normal hot human woman, Mariner goes so far as to go on a totally unauthorized EVA to one of the orbital platforms where Boimler and Brinson are working alone. There, she encounters a naked Boimler who mistook her for Brinson. I guess disregard for regulations is rubbing off on him, eh?

Back on the Vancouver, Tendi and Rutherford get into a heated competition for who can scan the most with their shiny new T-88s, hoping to show them off to their division-mates back home. Docent announces they achieved the exact same amount of work, so they both get the tools, plus something they didn’t know they were vying for: a transfer to the Vancouver.

After Boimler bumps his head on a console and passes out, Brinson and Mariner start to fight. Turns out Brinson has been suspecting Mariner all of the things Mariner suspected of her. Why? Because Mariner is such a badass, it seems unlikely she’d be friends with a guy like Boimler.

Learning of Brinson’s esteem for her, the two start to hit it off as friends in their own right, bonding over their shared amusement with Boimler’s many greenhorn mistakes. Eventually, Captain Freeman orders the immediate implosion of the moon when she learns the last holdout and his wife were the only inhabitants of a second planet that would be made uninhabitable. As Spock once said, The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

When checking on Boimler, Brinson and Mariner discover a parasite attached to his brain, which was making him chemically irresistible to select others of his species. This was a factor in Brinson’s falling for him so fast, but as she notes it isn’t the only factor—she actually does like the guy!

Unfortunately for him she likes her career a bit more, and the need to research the parasite from his head means it’s probably best if they part ways rather than exacerbate what is already an interstellar long distance relationship. That said, she’s made plans to hang out with Mariner in the future, so maybe we’ll see her again.

Finally, Tendi and Rutherford decide they don’t want to abandon their friends and comrades on the Cerritos, something Docent is furious about because he intended to swap with them, leaving behind the stress of being a Vancouver crew member, which is more akin to being one on the Enterprise-D: just about every week, something epic happens.

Back on Home Sweet Cerritos, Tendi and Rutherford reveal they both stole duffels full of T-88s for each other, thus confirming why they are friends. All in all, this episode was a great vehicle to further explore the main cast all doing their things while held together by the overarching moon mission. Well-constructed and imminently charming and entertaining.

Stray Obervations:

  • Mariner mentions a lot of possibilities for Brinson’s true form, but one of the funnier ones is “sexy people in rompers who will execute you for stepping on the grass”, a reference to the TNG first season episode “Justice”.
  • She also mentions “salt succubi”, referring to the monster in very first episode of Star Trek: “The Man Trap”, which aired fifty-four years ago next Tuesday!
  • She also mentions Q (who actually helped the Enterprise move the moon in “Deja Q” and Captain Picard Day, which was first celebrated on-camera in “The Pegasus”.
  • Mariner’s ship, the Keto, resembles Captain Beverly Picard’s medical ship, the USS Pasteur, in an alternate future shown in the TNG finale “All Good Things.” Its spherical primary hull is itself an homage to some of the earliest designs of the first Enterprise, before the saucer shape was chosen.
  • Furthermore, the Keto is docked at Deep Space Nine, while the Starfleet uniforms match those worn in DS9’s final season.
  • Mariner’s fake code prior to going on EVA is “Mariner 8”, which was a spacecraft meant to orbit Mars that, like Beckett’s carrer, failed to launch.
  • Mariner compares Jet to both Kirk and the Enterprise (NX-01)’s chief engineer, Trip Tucker.

 

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 01 (First Impressions) – Five Times the Tutoring Trouble

Uesugi Fuutarou is a studious loner from a poor family trying to have his frugal lunch when an unfamiliar redhead in the uniform of another school tries to take a seat at the same spot with a 1000-yen megafeast. When he starts rudely studying in front of her, she spots the 100-scored exam he blatantly left out in the open, and she gets an idea: this guy could help her study! Instead, he storms off, telling her she’ll gain weight if she keeps over-ordering lunch. Wrong answer, pal!

Fuutarou later realizes the error of his ways, especially when his sister Raiha informs him that a lucrative tutoring job is available, and the redhead is the client. It turns out this girl, one Nakano Itsuki, is one of five quintuplets who have transferred to the school, all of them in need of tutoring. His other initial interactions include the flirty, teasing Ichika and the friendly Yotsuba. The quiet Miku and hostile Nino round out the quintet.

When Fuutarou arrives at the sisters’ opulent penthouse apartment, he’s met with resistance at nearly every turn, with the exception of the kind Yotsuba, who tries to help him wrangle her skeptical sisters in a harrowing room-by-room gauntlet. Even when they’re drawn together at the coffee table, it’s only because of the promise of cookies—no one ends up doing any actual studying during his first tutoring session.

Nino even manages to get Fuutarou out of the house by drugging his water, but Itsuki accompanies him on a taxi ride home. That’s when Fuutarou’s secret weapon imouto Raiha comes into play, using her cuteness to get Itsuki to join them for dinner. That’s when Itsuki learns that Fuutarou’s family is depending on the five-fold tutoring fee he stands to gain to pay off debts.

In light of the fact she’d be hurting more than him if she refused, Itsuki agrees to let him continue his tutoring sessions, with the caveat that she won’t accept “tutelage” from him, but will seek to improve her scores without his help. That’s good enough for Fuutarou, but he has yet to realize the gravity of the task before him: all five of the quintuplets are failing, which is why all five transferred to his less prestigious school.

The Quintessential Quintuplets (lets call it QQ) aired back in Winter 2019, but I neither watched nor reviewed, and it seems I missed out. I figured “5/5” would be the appropriate time to correct that error, but unfortunately I’m a couple days off. No matter: QQ is a ton of fun right off the bat. The premise couldn’t be simpler or more obvious and familiar, but the execution is solid.

Production values are high, the character designs and personalities are distinct, diverse, and well-balanced, and the all-star voice cast is pitch-perfect. Everyone comes off as likable despite their flaws, and the comedy works more often than not.

Sometimes you just need a good high school harem rom-com (this episode is intriguingly book-ended by marriage scenes), and there’s no harm in looking back to the recent past for a shining example, which is what we seem to have here.

Fire Force – 09 – Decisive Battle

“Second Sun” was my other choice to name this review, though I went with “Decisive Battle” in homage to the best battle theme in anime history. And this was a decisive battle, in that it dispensed with the enthusiastic but ultimately one-note villain of Lt. Rekka as quickly and efficiently as he was revealed.

My other reason for recalling Eva’s battle theme is that both the music and the visuals took on a decidedly Eva-esque flavor, while Rekka’s rants were full of “Evangelists.” Of course, with all the crosses and creative expliosions flying around, comparisons have been in-Eva-table from the start. Sure enough, one of Fire Force’s storyboarders did key animation on Eva.

While Shinra is quite different MC from Shinji, his hot/cold, love-hate relationship with Tamaki echoes that Shinji and Asuka. Tamaki’s Lucky Lechery ability means Shinra always has a soft body to land on when Rekka blasts him back. Rekka’s flames also conveniently burn most of her clothes off, while Shinra’s jumpsuit is unaffected.

Still, having been unable to fight Rekka herself, Tamaki offers Shinra support as she urges him to do what she couldn’t. Shinra rises to the occasion, exploiting his superior mobility in the warehouse and delivering an unpredictable parkour-style offense to Rekka’s more conventional two-feet-on-the-ground strategy. The battlemation is, as ever, bright, bold, and beautiful.

The times when Rekka knocks Shinra back, he makes sure to rant more about what his cult is trying to do: make the Earth a second sun. It’s your typical “villain wants to burn the world down to make a new one” position, and Rekka goes all out despite the fact that his friend Karim has always had his back, and today is no exception.

The only difference is, instead of backing him up, Karim freezes him out, converting his overheated flames into an ice prison. Karim kept him alive, hoping to get more info about who he works for out of him, but a fire sniper (clever concept) shoots a round straight through the frozen Rekka’s chest, killing him, then starts firing at Karim, Shinra, Tamaki, and the kids.

Karim has Shinra put up a smokescreen and locate the snipers, then freezes Tamaki’s twin fire tails as they point out the sniper’s location, causing them to wig out and retreat lest they get exposed. Their main objective of eliminating Rekka as a source of information was a success, but Karim vows to assits the 8th’s investigation of the Evangelist in any way he can.

In an after-credits sequence, we find Shinra has returned to the 8th, with his inter-company training suspended after the Rekka incident. He’s glad to be home with his fam, but finds that two people are out of place. Arthur “got lost” during the incident, and they can’t find him (to be continued).  Tamaki, suspended from the 1st for her role in the incident, is now on the 8th with Shinra, no doubt to be a source of both glee and woe—hopefully more of the former.

Fruits Basket – 02 – Sodium in Water

When Kyou, Yuki and Shigure all transform into animals, Tooru panics, right up until the dog signs for a package with his seal, and they start talking with human speech. Turns out each member of the Souma clan is possessed by an animal of the Zodiac, and when hugged by the opposite sex, they transform into those animals for a time, eventually changing back to (buck naked) humans.

To call Yuki and Kyou like oil and water would be inaccurate: oil kinda just sits on top of water. Yuki’s more like sodium and Kyou water; it always ends up with an unpleasantly violent explosion. Once’s everyone’s dressed they go at it again, and Kyou breaks a table in his rage, accidentally injuring Tooru’s forehead. Yuki has had enough, and decides to show why sparring with Kyou is never fun for him: he always wins handily.

At school, suspicions from Yuki’s fan club persist, but he doesn’t pay them any mind, and meets with Tooru in an empty classroom, asking if she told anyone about “them.” Tooru takes this to mean the Souma family secret of animal transformation, but it could just as easily be asking if Tooru told her friends she was now friends with Yuki and living in his house.

Regardless, Yuki informs Tooru that Shigure has to report to the Souma family head, Akito, who will determine what if anything is to be done about Tooru knowing, up to and including memory-suppressing hypnosis. Tooru accidentally bumps into him, turning him into a rat, but once the shock of that is over, Tooru expresses her wish that even if her memories do have to be altered, she’d like to still be friends with Yuki afterwards.

Back home, Kyou is making preliminary repairs on Tooru’s ceiling, and is about to offer some kind of apology when Shigure returns home with good news: as long as Tooru keeps their secret, she’s free to live there without any memory modification. Tooru celebrates by putting her well-honed cleaning and cooking skills to use. That night, she learns Shigure has arranged for Kyou to transfer to Yuki and Tooru’s school.

The reason for this is because he essentially dropped out of the school he was attending to train his body and mind to defeat Yuki, and he could use a fresh start to learn more about interacting with people in ways other than confrontation and combat. True to his Zodiac sign, this is better said than done.

He causes an instant sensation at school, as the girls flock to his desk to chat with him. Not used to so much attention, he tries to get away, but one of the girls clings to him, and he puts her in a painful arm lock before jumping out a high window (and landing on his feet, natch). In other words, not a good start!

Outside, Yuki tracks Kyou down and scolds him, and their two diametrically opposed goals are made plain: Kyou wants to work to become a full-fledged member of the Souma clan, something Yuki considers a cage he’d rather escape.

The fight gets heated, and Tooru intervenes, resulting in Kyou transforming into a cat. The enraged Kyou snaps at Tooru once more, and she slinks away, believing Kyou truly hates him. Yuki doesn’t even bother punching him.

Back home, Shigure tells Kyou it’s simply not going to be easy, but he has to keep going to school, and consider it training. That means hurting, being hurt, and developing empathy that informs his future words and actions, not just going with his impulses.

As Tooru walks home from work later that night, she remembers her vow to her mom to cease being a Dog and become a Cat in solidarity for the way the Cat was treated in the Zodiac legend, but now that she’s met the Cat, he seems to hate her. Of course, that’s not strictly true; Kyou simply isn’t sure how to act around Tooru yet, and takes Yuki’s place as her escort home as an olive branch.

He snaps at her again once or twice, but takes the advice from Shigure—not every strike, verbal or physical, needs to be carried through. He can stop short; hold his tongue or fist; consider a less extreme response. He tells her she can call his name even if she doesn’t need anything, can hang around where he can see her, and she’s welcome to hit him if she says or does something she doesn’t like. It’s his way of apologizing, and it lifts Tooru’s spirits considerably. She tells Kyou about her love of the Cat, and her desire to be friends with its vessel.

Kyou reacts somewhat like a tsundere would, and Tooru feels she finally understands Kyou has a gentle heart under the rough exterior. Having thus made peace with Cat and having official permission from the family head to live with Yuki and Shigure, Tooru is looking forward to fun-filled days ahead. Here’s hoping she gets them; she’s already experienced enough of the other kind.

Tsuki ga Kirei – 11

Sooo…this episode was just about perfect, which doesn’t really surprise me at this point. Kotarou and Akane are on splendid terms, so Kotarou faces two new conflicts this week, which prove more complex and challenging than winning Akane’s heart. Gaining the approval of his parents, and being accepted into Koumei.

We know Akane’s grades are great and her family is the reason she’s changing schools, so there’s not much tension on her end; just whether or not Kotarou will like her hand-knit scarf (which…DUH of course he will).  So instead we delve deep into Kotarou’s small, quiet family, and navigate the treacherous waters with him.

Like Kotarou and Akane’s romance, Kotarou’s problems with his folks are portrayed with a heightened sense of realism and equilibrium. His mom may sound worse than nails on a chalkboard when nagging Kotarou, but she’s only nagging because she cares so fiercely about her son’s future.

That being said, I don’t decry Kotarou pushing back against the path she’s already laid out in her head for him. It is HIS future, after all. But just as Kotarou was initially so bad at communicating his feelings (or anything else) with Akane, he’s equally bad at explaining why he’s so hellbent on attending Koumei.

Hell, he never even seems to try, which works against him early on as his mother quickly dismisses his intention to follow a “girl he likes” as teenage caprice. We know better—Kotarou near-as-makes-no-difference loves Akane, and she loves him, but his folks have no choice but to work with the information they have, which is scanty.

Rather than hearing it from him, Kotarou’s mother comes to gather more information on her own, as she watches her son furiously studying late into the night. She can tell he’s working hard for something he believes in, so obviously she’s not going to come in and crush his dreams by forcing him into a municipal school. Instead, she adopts a wait-and-see approach, putting her faith in her son by letting him hold the keys to his future.

The constant studying wears Kotarou down, and his mock exams are, uh, nothing special, so it’s great to see Akane spearhead a Christmas meetup that serves as a much-needed break for both of them, as well as an opportunity to exchange presents.

It’s lovely to watch the couple so comfortable and warm around each other, especially the lack of hesitation when they lean in for another kiss. You really get the feeling, both here and after all we’ve seen, that this isn’t mere puppy love; these kids have a future together…even if they don’t end up in the same school.

One night, Kotarou’s father lays it out: they’ll let him apply for Koumei, but if he fails, he’s going to a public school. Kotarou accepts the fair conditions, then stands slack-jawed when his dad tells him when his homeroom teacher told his mom Koumei wasn’t a realistic choice for Kotarou, she fought back, leading to an awesome thunderbolt of a quintessential Dad Line: “She can be naggy, but…Well, there you have it.”

Sure enough, when heading downstairs at 1 am for a snack, Kotarou finds his mother there, making some fresh onigiri; forming the balls with love, care, and gentleness before heading off to bed. His mom is no longer an impediment to his dreams of attending school with Akane. She never was. She saw the effort he was putting in, and decided to support and even fight for him.

The morning of his big, decisive exam—the last true impediment to his happiness (though not really since as I said their love seems likely to endure the lengthy but non-permanent distance)—both Kotarou’s mom and dad are up to make sure he has everything he needs, to wish him luck, and to see him off. And Kotarou does something he hadn’t done all episode, but sorely needed to do: he thanks his mom.

These family interactions are so understated and relatable, and really form a nice little arc within the episode as understanding is achieved between the parties and the conflict is revealed only as a measure of concern. Kotarou puts in the work to assure them they needn’t worry, and they show him that they are and always will be on his side.

Now he just needs to pass that goddamn exam!

Tsuki ga Kirei – 10

Akane’s text about moving is such a shock to Kotarou, he actually calls her on the phone (!) in what is known as a “phone call” for all of you born after the iPhone. Both seem terribly down about the idea of being apart, but also agree that they’ll make it work somehow.

That, despite the dubious success of long-distance relationships throughout history they can’t and shouldn’t think about, lest they get way too depressed. Kotarou also considers applying for the same school in Chiba she’ll be transferring to, which would obviously allow them to see each other regularly.

The festival that follows their talk will be the last one Akane attends as a resident of Kawagoe, so it too has a pall of sadness over it, even though the presence of Kotarou in full fox regalia performing the Hayashi dance on the mobile stage in the streets combines that sadness with a sense of awe and venerability.

But since Akane attends the festival with the track team, she inevitably ends up alone with Hira again, and at the worst possible time – when Akane is about to meet Kotarou on his break. Worse still, Kotarou happens to see the two together. Hira confesses to Akane, who promptly turns him down, but when she sees Kotarou, he can’t hide his annoyance and, yes, his anger; he can deny it all he wants!

While one could say he’s been over-possessive here (especially since Hira has no chance against him), let’s not forget how young and inexperienced in the relationship arts this kid is. He’s never been in a true “fight” with Akane until now; with “fight” meaning a failure to properly communicate at the proper time and place.

Both are miserable and still unable to talk to one another the next day, but by the time that day is at an end and Akane and Kotarou are done cram school, Akane notices a book on Koumei high schools was requested at the municipal-office-thingy-place, and Akane uses her mad running skillz to track down Kotarou.

He’s not coy; he was the one who requested the book. He’s seriously applying to her school, and was going to tell her once he told his parents (who still don’t know and at least one of whom, his mother, will be hard to convince).

Their silly row at the festival quickly fades away as a rush of happiness comes over Akane, after hearing Kotarou tell her whatever shape his future takes, he wants them to be together in it. That’s what Akane wants too, and after rushing into Kotarou’s arms, crying tears not of frustration, but joy, she quickly dries her raw eyes and leans in to kiss him.

Their road ahead will have more bumps, but I’m pretty dang confident in the staying power of this couple’s love…and confident the show isn’t about to break their—and our—hearts in the home stretch. They’re going to be just fine. I take comfort in that.

Masamune-kun no Revenge – 08

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I was right at the edge with Masamune-kun no Revenge, and with the gang planning to hang at the pool, it looked like we were in for another color-by-numbers harem outing. Instead, things got a little more serious…all because Masamune’s photo is gone, and he suspects Neko of taking it—which she did.

While meeting Akagaki at a family restaurant so she can give him back luggage he left at her villa, the photo distracts Masamune to the point where Adagaki is insulted by his distance and leaves. The minute she leaves (without paying for the four sundaes she ate) Masamune gets a call from Neko, which leads to him asking if they can meet so he can somehow bring up the photo she stole.

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It’s here where things get hot and heavy in a hurry, and very unexpectedly so. Neko doesn’t jump his bones like a cat in heat, no; in fact, it’s Masamune who sneaks into her room to look for the photo, then comes across the same romance novel she saw at his house.

Neko catches him snooping, but thinks nothing of it, and before long owns up to the theft of the photo, saying the young him—not the young Adagaki—was just too cute for her to resist. His self-image poisoned by his interactions with Adagaki and others, Masamune never once considered himself cute, but Neko means it.

So what if he was fat? Well, the fact he was once fat means everything to Masamune, both in terms of his present obsession with fitness and his vendetta with Adagaki.

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Masamune is so messed up, to the end he believes Neko is working some other angle, some ulterior motive he’s on the cusp of discovering. So when she advances on him, he questions whether she really likes him, then takes the photo and leaves, telling her choosing Adagaki is his…revenge.

After he leaves, Neko doesn’t seem like her plan had failed. She looks heartbroken, and says as much. For his part, Masamune is pretty messed up too – he just had his first kiss with a girl, and having rejected her out of hand, his stomach hurts something fierce. He’s just not sure whether he did the right thing, only that he can’t get Adagaki off his mind.

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The pool party is an afterthought, both narratively (because the Neko incident takes precedence) and practically (there’s no animation, just a bunch of panning stills). But that’s okay; what matters isn’t what happened at the pool, but who didn’t attend: Neko told Futaba she wasn’t feeling well. And again, Masamune feels frustratingly far away to Adagaki.

While everyone is leaving the pool, Neko’s attendant pulls up, asking what Masamue did to her, as she’s now missing and without her meds. That’s right: Neko isn’t just some vitamin junkie; she’s a very sickly young woman and a seizure risk. Masamune was wrong. So he tells the truth – he went to Neko’s to tell her he couldn’t go out with her because he was choosing Adagaki.

The episode ends there, with us wondering how much those words may have affected Adagaki, and knowing that with Neko who-knows-where without vital meds, this isn’t a game or test of courage. They’ve gotta find her first, then deal with the romantic ramifications.

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Masamune-kun no Revenge – 07

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Masamune-kun no Revenge got off to a halfway clever start, but in the last few weeks has been leaning heavily on overused rom-com tropes. This episode is no different, combining three such tropes: The Beach Trip, The Test of Courage, and the Man-Hating Older Woman (MHOW). As such, it’s an adequate but unexceptional outing.

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In an attempt to add stakes, while on the yacht to the island where the Adagaki beach manse is located Koiwai warns Masamune that if he doesn’t make progress on this trip, she’ll spill the beans to her master – all of them.

It spooks Masamune into taking risks, like telling the trip chaperone—Adagaki’s dad’s secretary Yuisaki Midori (the MHOW)—that he’s Adagaki’s boyfriend. He knows Adagaki cares greatly about appearances where other women are concerned, and it pays off…just.

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We know the reason why: on some level, Adagaki wouldn’t mind actually dating Masamune. She’s keeping up appearances, both by allowing the lie and making sure Neko stays away from her man, but also because she doesn’t want Neko sniffing around Masamune anyway.

Masamune later goes to Yuisaki for suggestions on what to do that’s good for a dating pair, and she suggests the dreaded Test of Courage (I like how she considers it childish, but the still pretty childish Masamune is fine with it).

He rigs it so he’ll have to save Adagaki when she’s trembling in fear, and we get another one of his far-fetched fantasies where she says and does things the really Adagaki never would, at least not yet.

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But because Yusaki hates men, and wants Adagaki to become like her, she tries to dispose of Masamune by trying to scare him. Instead, Koiwai (whom Masamune sent in first so she could brandish a chainsaw) ends up scaring Yuisaki, who hits her head and has to be carried home by Masamune. Yuisaki learns that the dating is a lie, but also learns that Masamune is actually a good guy and she feels bad for prejudging him.

I never thought for a second Koiwai was going to spill the beans, so there wasn’t really much in the way of stakes this week. He doesn’t make much in the way of progress, nor do we learn anything more of Neko (oddly we now know more about Yuisaki than her). Here’s hoping the show is troped out and will do something a little more interesting next week.

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Masamune-kun no Revenge – 06

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That Masamune-kun’s big grand scheme to destroy Adagaki is put in jeopardy by the mere offer of a kiss is yet another indication that he simply hasn’t thought this through that much, that he’s better at losing weight and keeping it off than relationship stuff, and that he’s very lucky to have Yoshino on his side; otherwise he’d be toast.

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Masamune’s outer timidity around Adagaki belies his tougher inner revenge plotter, and Adagaki seems to make it clear: if he can’t kiss her, he must not really like her.

Watching his plan’s life flash before his eyes, he quickly envisions Adagaki as a piece of meat and goes in for a bite, only for a flustered Adagaki to recoil and delivering unto him a crushing (and physics-defying) uppercut.

This is two people inexperienced in love and romance fumbling around, unable to read or predict one another because they can scarcely predict themselves.

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After an awkward scene in the school courtyard, Yoshino decides Neko needs to be tailed, lest she be up to something that will disrupt her accord with Masamune regarding her master. When Neko ends up at Masamune’s house, both she and Yoshino are snatched up by Masamune’s tiny loli mom.

I’m all for representation of little people in anime, but I’m not sure that’s what his mom is, and it’s kind of irritating that her character design is indistinguishable from that of a grade schooler. It was less of a concern when she was a background, but we see a lot more of her this week.

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In fact, the whole episode kinda grinds to a halt at Masamune’s house when he comes home to find two members of his harem plus the two female members of his family amicably mingling. All he manages to do is complain that Yoshino and Neko are there, that the food is fattening, and that they dress up in yukata to light fireworks after dinner.

Masamune deems all of this a waste of time he could be spending lifting weights or something, but I can’t say I relate to his displeasure with what seemed by all accounts a warm, pleasant weeknight. As for Neko, she’s happy her obsession with health (through more medicinal means) mirrors Masamune’s obsession with fitness. She also steals his photo of him and Adagaki. Not cool, Neko!

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Masamune-kun no Revenge – 05

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I’ve found that it’s tricky switching gears from Kuzu no Honkai, an R-rated seinen show, with Masamune-kun’s Revenge, a PG-13 rom-com that’s becoming increasingly harem-y. You won’t see a lot of girls posing with airsoft guns in Kuzu.

The two shows, while ostensibly about relationships between people, go about their business in very different ways. Revenge, even at its most serious, is still a much “lighter” show than the leaden Kuzu. I realize I’m not saying anything particularly groundbreaking here, just noting an observation.

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For one thing, Revenge utilizes an array of familiar, well-trodden elements from its genre as it progresses. Masamune truly wants to get Adagaki to fall for him so he can exact his revenge, but he’s unwittingly finding himself flush with women, due partially to his hot guy status, but also his genuine, if sometimes, reluctant, kindness, borne from once being on the other side.

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Put up against Adagaki, Yoshino, and even class-rep Futaba, so far Fujinomiya Neko is the weakest of the girls now in his orbit, for two big reasons. First, she’s less of a character than a collection of odd quirks (elaborate lies, going commando, fake blood) that doesn’t yet add up to anything. Second, like Masamune we know nothing about her, why she truly respects/admires him, and why she transferred.

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Her most interesting moment comes when she spots her competition, Adagaki (which had me thinking of and comparing her to Akane over at Kuzu, which I really shouldn’t do). But again, because we have no idea why she’s going after Masamune specifically, I’m not really invested in her mission to beat Adagaki.

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Masamune, meanwhile, ends up firmly back on Adagaki’s bad side, for, among other reasons not being more forceful in rebuke her advances. Adagaki is still figuring out what she feels about this guy, but it’s clear she really doesn’t like watching another girl get too close to him, or the fact he does next to nothing to stop it. It makes her think he’s shallow to fall under another’s spell so easily.

The two get to have it out, somewhat, when they’re punished for skipping class by having to clean the pool (which is oddly full of water). Because it’s a pool, Adagaki naturally ends up in it, can’t swim, and almost has to be rescued.

When pressed, Masamune admits he can’t help but want to save her, since he likes her so much. Adagaki wants proof: a kiss. Looks like the turbulence caused by Neko didn’t fully snuff out the flame…unless, like last week, another unfortunate interruption ruins the moment…again!

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