Urusei Yatsura – 10 – Autumn Red

Ataru’s mom arrives at school for parents day and just hopes she doesn’t run into anyone she knows. It’s telling that just like Shinobu doesn’t exist if another cutie is in Ataru’s sight, his mom doesn’t remember Shinobu’s mom! The two are flabberghasted by the gaudy arrival of Mendou’s mother via oxcart procession, which is promptly upstaged by the arrival of Lum’s mother, who doesn’t speak Japanese.

It isn’t until Lum arrives to hug her mom that Ataru’s mom can breathe a sigh of relief that Lum’s mom isn’t another one of Ataru’s girlfriends. As for Mendou’s mom, she doesn’t speak loudly enough for anyone to hear her so it falls to Mendou to tell Lum’s mom that his mom is challenging her to a duel. Only because Lum is translating, her mom mistakes it for an offer for her to marry Mendou, which she must bashfully decline!

While it’s fun to meet Lum, Shinobu, and Mendou’s moms, the second segment is the kind of story I’ve been waiting for for some time: something with actual substance and emotional resonance. We see Lum hard at work sewing something throughout the episode, then see how her routine of waking Ataru up ensures he’s not late for class anymore.

She joins Ataru’s family for breakfast and then walks (or rather floats) with Ataru to school. Lum notices the trees are changing color, while Ataru tries flirting with a random girl and gets zapped. All pretty standard Ataru/Lum stuff so far.

While Ataru tries to pick up other girls with his yo-yo skills of all things, Lum is still hard at work sewing something. The bottom line is, Ataru simply isn’t paying any attention to her, and anyone can see he’s taking her for granted as a partner.

That evening at home, he’s short and brusque with her, treating her like a nuisance before going to bed. Lum, apparently out of patience, says a solemn “bye-bye” and flies out the window, shedding a few tears along the way. The next morning he oversleeps, but Lum doesn’t wake him up; his mom has to.

In Lum’s place is a little plush Lum doll that she had been making, which in addition to being extremely well-made also happens to be absolutely adorable. In Lum’s absence, Ataru carries the doll in his breast pocket, close to his heart, and contemplates what it, and Lum’s absence, might mean.

As the maple tree on the way to school turns a bold red in preparation to drop its leaves, Ataru walks to and from school alone, and to Shinobu and other girls’ shock, doesn’t bother flirting with anyone. He’s not in the mood. The dude misses her.

When three days pass and still no Lum, Ataru finally tells the others she’s been missing. Mendou flexes the might of his family’s private police force on a fantastically elaborate and expensive womanhunt, to no avail. Ataru runs to the arena where he first grabbed Lum by the horns, and keeps running to places where they shared fun times.

That night, he cries himself to sleep with the Lum doll in his hands, and we cut to Lum on her parents’ spaceship. Turns out she had to return home to renew her passport so she could stay on earth. When her parents ask if she has any notion about returning home, she says she’s happy by her Darling’s side.

Reinforcing her affection for Ataru and trust that he cares for her too is the fact that the doll has a microphone embedded inside it, which enables her to hear Ataru crying himself to sleep over missing her. She holds the radio tight, no doubt eager to return to her new home.

The next morning, Ataru once again solemnly walks to school alone. By now the maple tree is dropping its brilliant red leaves, but a shadow streaks overhead, and Lum lets out a hearty “Darling!” from behind. Ataru is shocked at first, then so moved that he has to turn his head to avoid letting her see him shed a tear of joy and relief.

The falling leaves add to the drama and beauty of their heartwarming reunion, as the camera rotates lovingly around her and her elegantly falling hair. Ataru lies through his teeth about having almost been free of her, but she knows the truth, thanks to the bug in the doll that he’s kept so close to him.

While I cannot condone secret audio surveillance of one’s partner, in Lum’s case it’s justified due to Ataru’s unapologetic Don Juan-ish nature. But even if she didn’t intend to frighten him with her sudden departure, it’s very telling that for all the indifference towards her he’s shown, the minute she left his life, he was an absolute wreck.

Like Kevin in Home Alone, Ataru’s brief time apart from something with which he thought he was fed up made him understand how much Lum actually meant to him. When given the freedom to pursue any girl, all he could do was pine for her. She’s special, and he’s lucky to have her.

Isekai Ojisan – 07 – Power Trip

We witness along with Takafumi and Fujimiya Ojisan’s continued misinterpreting of Elf’s words and actions (ironic considering his translation ability), accusing her of being a thief for insisting on keeping the hoodie she believe was gived to her as a gift.

That said, Elf did give Ojisan something in return: her sparkly green dress you can bet cost a lot more than the ratty hoodie. Ojisan lets Fujimiya try it on, and Takafumi admits she looks good in it. The trio are trying to determing how Ojisan’s “Wild Talker” translation is triggered, but Fujimiya is called away on an errand.

Takafumi and Ojisan keep watching, and come upon the first time Ojisan met Alicia (Toyosaki Aki) and her party-mates Raiga and Edgar, who came to fight a horde of goblins and assumed Ojisan was one of them due to his looks. The group then teams up to fight the actual goblin horde.

That said, Alicia’s party doesn’t get to do much but watch as Ojisan puts on an amazing display of magic. Ojisan claims that playing Golden Axe on Genesis prepared him for this fight while the opposite is true. That said, he prevails, and as the party heads to the village for their reward, Alicia takes Ojisan aside and tells him she witnessed him raising the barrier protecting Luvaldram.

Rather than trust her to keep the secret (and she says she will), he wipes her memory and those of Edgar and Raiga, ending their friendship before it could really take off. However, Ojisan soon encounters the three again, this time assuming he’s the beast they were sent to slay due to his appearance It’s not deja vu for them since all memory of him was wiped.

When they describe the beast as a prickly hedgehog that rolls up into a ball to attack, Ojisan’s mind naturally wanders to visions of Sonic. However, the actual beast turns out to be a biologically correct hedgehog, and thus unrecognizable to Ojisan. Worse, when he uses Wild Talker to converse, he learns the giant hedgehog is a sadistic monster, and incinerates him on the spot.

Suddenly a phone rings; Fujimiya’s phone, which she left at Takafumi’s. He enlists his uncle’s aid in flying him to Fujimiya’s college where they spot her being hassled by a skeevy looking dude. Ojisan leaves the handling of the situation to his nephew, lending him his powers for an hour, just in case.

But when Takafumi gets a better look at the red-haired menace who is all over Fujimiya, he suddenly recognizes him as her cute little brother, Chiaki…who is still in the fourth damn grade. Similarly, when Chiaki realizes it’s Takafumi, his twisted, grotesque face (a quality his older sister shared at that age) suddenly becomes flush and enthusiastic.

Chiaki looking like a skeevy twenty-year old while he’s actually Fujimiya’s fourth-grade brother is an amazing joke that had me rolling, especially due to the consistency with which young Fujimiyas are depicted as more orc (or goblin)-like than everyone in the other world regarded Ojisan. As a little kid, he has also never heard of most of the stuff Ojisan talks to him about, once he joins the group.

When Fujimiya asks what Takafumi would have done if Chiaki had been an adult guy flirting with her, he shows off his temporary uncle powers and makes the two of them invisible, creates two holographic decoys, then teleports them to Fujimiya’s lecture hall several stories up.

Fujimiya is impressed by how quickly Takafumi has managed to master Ojisan’s magic, and notes that this situation reminds her of when he stood up for her when she got shoved by three boys back in grade school. Takafumi decides to tap into her memories and project them as Ojisan does so they can take a look at what happened.

Naturally, things unfolded much differently than either party remembers. Fujimiya wasn’t shoved, she was the shover, and was probably going to do more had Takafumi not arrived to “rescue” her. But even though she was the instigator, Fujimiya was happy then, just as she’s happy now to know he’s got her back.

Takafumi then meets Sawa, Fujimiya’s friend since high school, who tells him Fujimiya has gotten quite popular with the guys since “becoming cuter” in the last six months. Takafumi, still drunk on Ojisan’s temporary power, demands to know the names and locations of said guys (so he can wipe all memory of Fujimiya from their heads).

This protectiveness/possessiveness and his blushing when Fujimiya leaned in to whisper to him suggest there’s something there, but she has a long way to go to get out of the Friendzone. Back at Takafumi’s, he and Fujimiya watch as Alicia reveals herself to be the Hero, AKA “Shining Crusader”, just as I suspected she would be. I look forward to her future interactions with Ojisan.

Isekai Ojisan – 06 – Skipping Karaage Night

Ojisan continues to show Takafumi and Fujimiya his torturous first days in another world, where his captors try to sell him but end up making forty times more bronze coins selling a used scoring pad, adding insult to injury. Ojisan is imprisoned for seven days, but thanks to his translation ability is able to communicate with the world’s spirit of light.

He reaches out to the beam of moonlight in his cell, and it becomes a solid sword in his hands. He uses that to break out of jail and release all the cute little creatures imprisoned there, but they turn out to be vicious monsters and he spends the rest of the night slaughtering them.

This, to Ojisan, represents being “off to a good start.” Fujimiya gets a text from home; it’s fried chicken night, but she’s eager to learn more about how he saved Elf from the vemon dragon. She later regrets passing on the chicken as the dragon fight is over in five seconds. Ojisan makes the right first move by offering the half-naked Elf his hoodie, but she temporarily “glitches” from the sudden urge to kill the orc-looking man before him.

She checks herself and stows her dagger in the transdimensional inventory, but to Ojisan it looks like she’s stabbing herself, and lifts up the hoodie expecting to find a gaping wound. Needless to say, it’s not the best first impression to expose a girl’s nudity right after covering it, so in this instance Elf’s berating of Ojisan is justified. But he’d only ever interpret that verbal abuse as contempt, when really the opposite is true.

That’s proven to be the case when Ojisan fast-forwards to the night he was frozen by Mabel, as he wakes up with both Elf and Mabel sleeping on top of him, perhaps to hasten his thawing but also because at least in Elf’s case she has a thing for the guy despite herself (and his looks).

Elf’s monopoly on Ojisan is disrupted by Mabel, who talks in her sleep about not wanting to work. Ojisan suggests that after sleeping in a bit, they go out for breakfast. Mabel and Elf formally introduce themselves and their goals (Mabel wants to explore, Elf wants to find ancient relics, and Ojisan, AKA “Wolfgunblood”, wants to find a way home. “Wolf”, as Mabel starts calling him for short, plans to scout out a dungeon where the storied Hero known as the “Shining Crusader” apparently is.

For now, though, it’s late, and Fujimiya is starving from skipping dinner. Ojisan in his magnanimity offers to treat her and Takafumi to ramen. Even though Takafumi ends up being a few yen short and Fujimiya has to pay after all, the three slurp with great abandon, as watching Ojisan’s adventures clearly worked up an appetite.

I imagine next week will pick up on the part of Ojisan’s story where he currently has two ostensible party members and seems poised to gain a third. I bet the “Hero” mentioned is the third female character in the OP and promo art, voiced by Toyosaki Aki.

Considering what entertaining characters Elf and Mabel are, I’m looking forward to her introduction and seeing how she bounces off the others…not to mention how Takafumi and Fujimiya react and comment on her arrival in Ojisan’s life.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Isekai Ojisan – 05 – Another Region Code

It’s clearly become a daily habit for Fujimiya to come by Takafumi’s place where they watch video of Ojisan’s isekai adventures. They’re basically couch potatoes watching fantasy reality TV. But hey, if it’s entertaining, and there’s no other way Fujimiya knows of to hang out with the oblivious Takafumi, so be it!

The latest “episode” they tuck into is when Ojisan was “nearly assassinated” The identity of her assailant in the night is made plain by her ice sword and silvery blue bangs. It’s Mabel, whom Ojisan scorned by ignoring the hints she dropped and defeating the Blaze Dragon without the god-freezing sword.

No sooner does Ojisan express worry about whether Mabel is eating well does she pass out, and she wakes up in an inn. When he asks what happened to her life of leisure, she says the village cut down the tree she lived in and gave her an ultimatum: get a job, or become the village pet. She chose neither, and instead froze everyone from the hips down and dropped icy water down their backs before fleeing.

She now finds herself aimless, but Ojisan tells her she already has the means to live the life she chooses, not just with the ice sword, but with a Cosmite ring he slipped on her finger while she slept. When Mabel considers reforming her gloomy personality, Ojisan rejects the notion that being an introvert is a bad thing, and says her eyes are attractive.

Between the ring and the compliments, Mabel has the distinct feeling she’s being proposed to by Ojisan. She offers him the ring back, but her claim about having no romantic feelings is debunked by the fact the ice seal on the sword (and thus, her heart) is melting like gangbusters behind her.

When Ojisan insists she keep it and that they should turn in for the night, Mabel’s first instinct is to ask for change for the public bath. That’s when Ojisan breaks her misunderstanding by saying once she sells the ring she can get change for the bath and everything else for the remainder of her life. Realizing this was not a proposal, her heart and the sword freeze so violently Ojisan takes defensive action.

When Elf hears the commotion and comes in the room, she finds what looks like Ojisan magically tying Mabel down to have his way with her, so she snaps his chains and lets Mabel free to encase him in ice for the night. The two women find kinship in their mutual emotional suffering at the hands of Ojisan. Mind you, he isn’t doing this intentionally…his brain just has a different region code.

The idea of being able to translate body language, sarcasm, and innuendo is expanded as the story continues, with Mabel and Elf chatting while Ojisan stands frozen. Takafumi and Fujimiya are intrigued when they hear Mabel say the word “Japan”, and starts to tell a story of another traveler from Japan who came to their world and was greeted by a god who bestowed upon him a divine power.

Mabel creates beautiful visuals for her story with ice and tells the story well, but it’s a story Elf has already heard, and she harshly cuts her off, resulting in having to comfort her with hug when she breaks down into tears. Back in our world, meanwhile, Ojisan feels cheated: when he ended up in another world, he wasn’t greeted by a god or given any divine power.

That leads his audience of two to insist that he rewind his memories all the way back to 18 years ago when he was 17 (and actually young looking!) and first arrived in the other world. While rewinding, he passes by dozens of instances of him being hunted, captured, persecuted, and nearly executed in a number of different ways, underscoring how rough Uncle has had it and how amazing it is he’s as well-adjusted and untraumatized as he is.

But the elegantly set up joke is that a “god” did in fact speak to him when he first arrived…he was just too busy being beaten up by adventurers who thought he was an orc to hear. Also, the “god” in question was simply a recording in Mandarin, which when Takafumi translates with his phone, reveals that when Ojisan was being beaten, he wished to be able to understand the language of his attackers, and that wish came true.

While we know from his misadventures over the next eighteen years that this didn’t make life in this new world much easier, it did make it possible, such that when he did come upon a couple of souls like Elf and Mabel who were willing to see him as more than just a hideous orc variant, he gained companions.

Of course, with Ojisan’s brain region coded as it was, simply speaking the language wasn’t enough. He missed the nuance and context of their words and actions and almost always completely misinterpreted them. One wonders if Elf and Mabel themselves were bestowed with divine patience to endure his infuriating conduct without murdering him!

Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou – 07 – Four Bad Kitties

Keiichi enters the storeroom with Shion Tanako Miyo, which not only contains an ornate statue of Oyashiro, but also a wide variety of very suspicious “ritual tools”. Clearly relishing every moment of freaking Keiichi the fuck out, Miyo tells them the tale of Onigafuchi, AKA “the demon’s abyss”—the original name of Hinamizawa.

When man-eating demons attacked the townsfolk, Oyashiro intervened, but not by killing the demons. Instead he gave them human forms so they could coexist with humans, and the gene pool of the town mixed from that point on through the generations.

Because the residents of Onigafuchi were descended in part from man-eating demons, they every so often went to other villages to kidnap human sacrifices for Oyashiro…making the “tools” in the storeroom more like…cooking utensils. We even learn the wata in watanagashi can mean both “cotton” and “entrails”…which is what were originally “drifted” back in the day.

It may be a couple weeks after Halloween, but Higurashi decided to whip out one of its spookier scary stories for this episode. Miyo herself is hard to read: is she legitimately overwhelmed by excitement upon discovering this motherlode of killing tools, or intentionally hiking up the creep-factor for the benefit(?) of Keiichi.

In any case, Shion touches the statue and its head slides off and splits in two…which was never going to be a good thing! Tokitake checks in on them, then leaves with Miyo to catch the end of the festival. Shion also takes her leave, making Kei promise not to tell anyone where they were or what they did. Kei reunites with Mion, Rena, Satoko, and Rika, who wonders if he saw her dance; he lies and says he did, but needlessly adds she made “no mistakes”, when in truth she apparently did.

Mion takes Kei by the hand and asks if he was hanging out with Shion, Tanako, or Tomitake. He lies again, and says he wasn’t. Finally, Detective Ooishi asks him if he’s seen Tanako or Tomitake, and mentions that Shion and Mion’s father is a prominent yakuza head. Kei lies once again…but Ooishi knows he’s lying.

Later that night Kei gets a call from Shion, telling him that Tanako and Tomitake have gone missing. While she claimed to be only joking about the four of them being the top candidates for Oyashiro’s curse, the call and her concern reveal otherwise. The curse is real, two of them are already missing, and they may be next. Kei lashes out, claiming he has “nothing to do” with any of this, and Shion hangs up on him.

Keiichi can plead ignorance and innocence all he wants; he did go inside that forbidden storeroom, learned the truth about the village and its deity, and has done nothing but lie about it ever since. It’s clear he’s freaking out to this degree because deep down he knows he fucked up.

The next day at school his friends note neither he nor Mion got much sleep last night—would you if you knew the curse could be coming for you? As Keiichi sulks, Rika comes to pat his head and ask what’s troubling him, and Kei finally owns up to what happened—albeit with a pathetic attempt to make it “rhetorical” and distanct himself by describing the four of them as “bad kitties”.

His story makes Rika laugh and speak in a voice Kei’s never heard from her before, and when he looks at her, her eyes are glowing red. She tells Kei not to worry, because there’s no point: he, she, the world, are all finished anyway. He should’ve just watched her dance…blissfully unaware that the cotton in the ceremony represents the entrails of human sacrifice.

Kakushigoto – 09 – The Time Traveling Virtuoso

We’re nearing the end of June IRL, but in the world of Hidden Things December has come. That means the harrowing end-of-year grind when editors crack the whip on the creatives. So why is Kakushi’s team so upbeat? Because they’re expecting the reward of a fancy hotel Christmas party at the end of the tunnel. Kakushi was originally not going to go, but will use whatever methods of motivation are needed to get through the grind.

Leave it to Tomaruin to pop everyone’s balloon of motivation by informing them that due to the publishing recession the company will only be holding a modest bar-and-karaoke gathering. Still, Rasuna scrounges up an invite from a rival publisher Kakushi worked for a while ago, and they are having a fancy party they can attend. Kakushi can even bring Hime, since it’s unlikely anyone there will recognize him as a mangaka.

Throughout this talk of parties is a discussion on the use of titles like “sensei” or “virtuoso” to describe mangakas. Those on the rungs below a manga artist use them as terms of respect; editors use them mockingly or as an expression of resentment. Naturally, Tomaruin calls Kakushi both, and for both reasons!

Kakushi likes the idea of showing Hime the “dignity” of his fake office job through a fancy party, and to correct her misapplication of the word “chandelier” to more lowly disco balls. He even digs himself a bit of a hole by calling December by its old Japanese name, Shiwasu, describing it as a time “when all the senseis are running” (due to the end-of-year grind).

Hime’s penchant for misinterpreting words means she starts to believe that all runners she sees are senseis, even though all senseis are runners—including her dad when he runs to get her after a misunderstanding regarding party invitations.

Tomaruin (perpetual thorn in Kakushi’s side, him!) invites Nadila to the lame party, so she take Hime there instead of the fancy hotel. Having already seen a “chandelier” at the karaoke, Hime assigns the term “Cinderella” to the real chandelier at the hotel, since it resembles that character’s flowing dress.

Kakushi learns he’s safe in his suit (no higher-ups at the rival publisher will suspect a mangaka of wearing one), but he has a different problem: that’s right, Tomaruin. He crashes the party hoping to poach an artist, and looks for one based on their outward appearance. In this case, since female artists are popular, a girl in a frilly dress flanked by a man in a suit.

The first such person to match that description…is Hime. She thankfully doesn’t recognize Tomaruin, but by taking back the business card given to her, Kakushi learns that it’s not the first Hime has gotten. Despite Hime’s misgivings, she actually attracts a lot of attention as a child magazine model.

When word spreads that there’s a poacher from a rival publisher, the exits are blocked. Tomaruin is dressed up dingily by Kakushi and the assistants in order to escape safely, but Kakushi himself is briefly suspected as the poacher—he’s wearing a suit, after all!

The misunderstanding is cleared up when a higher-up recognizes him. He’s reimbursed for his destroyed suit, but the bare-chested Kakushi needs some covering to leave, and must settle for the same embarrassing loli shirt Tomaruin wore to pose as a mangaka.

It’s a night of books incorrectly judged by their covers, but Hime still had a lot of fun, and Kakushi’s true profession remains a secret, so we’ll call it a win for him. Before heading home, the father and daughter encounter the “virtuoso” of chandeliers: a dazzling LED stylized Christmas tree Hime calls a “Super Cinderella.” Kakushi wisely doesn’t try to correct her…let her have her own adorable terms for things!

The ever-so-brief obligatory flash forward provides one more clue about Kakushi’s future status in the form of another incorrect term: “disappeared”. His former assistant Shiji, now working at a bookstore, sells a book to a customer about three mangakas who disappeared, one of whom is Kakushi, before quietly declaring that a lie. My first thought? He kept drawing, but merely changed pen names. In any case, I’m fearing the worst about this future less and less.

BokuBen 2 – 04 – Lost in Translation

The minute Rizu enters a salon for the first time, the bored owner is suddenly inspired to give her a full makeover for the price of a cut and blow dry (much to her assistant’s dismay). The resulting Rizu almost looks like a different person, aside from the fact she’s the same size and speaks with the same voice.

Still, in the BokuBen universe, the makeover is extreme enough that Nariyuki doesn’t recognize her, but instead believes a very gorgeous girl is hitting on him, something he should be used to by now but in this case isn’t. He even texts Rizu, but doesn’t notice when her phone buzzes.

The misunderstanding could have been cleared up sooner had Rizu done what she often does and refer to Nariyuki by name, but at no point during the study session does she ever do so, which seems a bit convenient to the comedy, but fine.

When this pretty girl starts following Nariyuki home, then comes right out and asks if he wants to go to her place, he decides to take her up on her offer…so he can talk to her father about how fast she is! Only then does he learn that she is actually Rizu…but can still scarcely believe it.

In part two, Rizu and Fumino interrupt what looks like a behind-the-school confession session between Uruka and Nariyuki, as they’re just standing there staring at each other. But in fact, the two have agreed to help her practice casual conversation by speaking in nothing but English for the whole day.

What follows is one of the best uses of the language barrier I’ve seen in an episode of anime in some time; certainly the first I can remember which explores the ways two people for whom English is not quite a true second language can get tripped up. The two make English sound just as challenging as it must be for those who didn’t grow up speaking it.

Obviously, that includes Nariyuki complimenting Uruka’s “language skills” but Uruka thinking he said “lingerie” and becoming suitably mortified. Or how Uruka initially thinks “give up” is Japanese when it’s actually a English loan phrase. Or when two Americans ask Uruka for directions; a true test of her skills!

She manages to steer them in the right direction using her English, but then they ask if she wants to attend a barbecue with them, and she gets all flustered. That’s when Nariyuki emerges from the convenience store and they ask him what his relationship with her is.

He tries to say she’s his “precious study partner” but ends up sounding like “precious steady”, which both the Americans and Uruka construe as a steady girlfriend. Uruka is so beet-red embarrassed/happy that she has to flee from Nariyuki at once (but she stretches first, like the athlete she is!), while he’s left wondering what he said to make her react so strongly.

Then there’s the downright bizarre, self-effacing post-credits sequence where the puppy who was hanging out with Uruka tells its mother about all the errors the humans made in their English—while speaking in much better English. Great stuff!

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou – 12 (Fin)

Aboard the derelict sub, the girls find a clean boat, chocolate…and a kind of patchwork history of everybody and everything that came before them, thanks to the camera auto-syncing with the monitors on the bridge. In addition to all the pictures they took, and those Hanakawa took before them, the camera is a veritable cornucopia of visual (and audiovisual) information.

The content ranges from simple images of life and death, to the reports of a school robotic research club, to news reports of a worsening geopolitical situation that leads to large-scale war and genocide. On the whole, though, Chito and Yuuri feel less lonely, now that they were able to watch how others lived.

Suddenly processing more information than they ever had before proves exhausting for the girls, who fall asleep under the consoles and dream of their escape from their town.

When Chito wakes, she’s too late to do anything about Yuuri getting swallowed up by a giant version of Cut. Chito suspects Cut might’ve been some kind of lure used by the bigger ones, but Cut’s body language suggests that’s not the case.

Chito runs through the submarine, desperate to find her one and only companion, and eventually emerges from the conning tower to find the Big Cut isn’t interested in eating living humans, and spits Yuuri out. It then transforms to reveal it’s a kind of semi-sentient mushroom.

The mushroom has a mix of good and bad news…though I guess it’s mostly bad for humanity. They are systematically ridding the earth of toxins leftover from the human population after it destroyed itself with war. Yuuri and Chito are the last two humans left, by the mushrooms’ reckoning.

All machinery will shut down around them, and after they’ve passed away, the world will enter a period of rest and inactivity, as the mushrooms hibernate. With that all said, mushrooms emerge from the nuclear missile tubes of the sub and they all ascend into the sky, likely to start “cleaning” the higher levels.

There’s not much for Chito and Yuuri to do but continue on their tour, with the goal of reaching the highest level. Even with their companion/pet Cut gone off with its brethren, Chito and Yuuri aren’t lonely, nor do they care if the world ends, because they have one another.

As with so much relating to this show, it’s simultaneously a deeply bittersweet ending, conveying the lesson to not be troubled by things life you can’t control (like the ending of the world) and take comfort in those you can—like who you choose to spend your days with.

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou – 11

In “CULTURE”, as Yuu feeds the “cut” bullets of increasing size, the girls roll into an armory, but Chito is far less interested in the tanks than a book lying on the ground. Titled “War and Human Civilization”, it’s written in English, which means even Chito can’t read it, calling them “letters from an old, far-off place.”

Considering the state of civilization in this show, that would seem to be something of an understatement. We build taller and taller buildings; Saudi Arabia is building one that will be 1km tall when finished. But we’re a long way from stacking cities on top of other cities like so many pizza boxes.

The book and its language, like the elaborate giant whirligig, are elements of human culture that should be preserved and understood if lessons are going to be learned by future generations.

It’s all well and good to feed an animal bullets, but to possess a book about how and why that animal can eat bullets—or detect where radio waves are originating—is even better.

Lessons of being mortally injured by falling objects or stray bullets led to the development of helmets, and in “DESTRUCTION” Chito gets and object lesson on why they still wear them even though there’s no one else around: their environment can be extremely hazardous at the drop of a hat…or bolt.

That bolt is the vanguard of a hail of shards of metal and machinery, as a gargantuan robot that could be a flesh-less warrior from the Seven Days of Fire plummets into a heap. The girls explore, and the cut shapes its body into a key of sorts to activate the robot. Yuu activates the first lever she sees, and a cruise missile is launched and detonates a few thousand feet away.

She presses another button, and the robot emits a laser beam that causes even greater destruction and widespread fires just off in the distance. Yuu starts laughing uncontrollably, saying it’s “fun”, but Chito gives her a closed-fist punch, telling her that nothing about this is funny. Yuu apologizes.

If they didn’t before, a first-hand demonstration of the destructive capabilities of civilization helps the girls to understand a little better why so much of the world is abandoned and in tatters. And yet there’s stuff all over the city and its environs that is still on, long after humans disappeared.

In “THE PAST”, Using their new pet as a guide, Chito and Yuri traverse a forest of windmills in, and come across a nuclear submarine. Again the animal creates a key out of its body, granting them access. The submarine may be beached, but it’s in working order, to the girls’ amazement.

It’s nuclear reactor seems to still be generating power (though I worry about radiation), while the girls traverse another forest within the sub on foot: a forest of what look like ICBMs.

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou – 10

This week, the girls find a train, a radio signal, and a furry companion. As usual, they are absolutely dwarfed just by the vertical scale of the train, to say nothing of its length. Judging by the number of “robot corpses” strewn across its interior, it seems the design had to accommodate robots far bigger than humans.

After Yuuri experiences the boredom of waiting for the train to reach the destination, she and Chito do what I do when possible—head to the front. Yuuri points out that they’re going faster than usual because they’re moving on a moving train. It starts a fun discussion about the rotation of the earth and relative speed.

If there’s a commonality to these little talks it’s that it reveals both that Chito is very bright and just doesn’t have all the words needed to describe the scientific principles she understands, and Yuuri, while perhaps less bright, nonetheless comes to some perceptive conclusions of her own, despite having even less vocabulary than Chito.

At the end of the line they alight from the train and continue through another vast expanse of infrastructure. For a moment, Yuuri picks up something on the radio: what sounded like a sad song.

They look for a way to ascend to where the waves will be stronger, and happen to stop right on an ascending platform…only it either needs maintenance or wasn’t meant to convey humans and kettenkrads, because it moves extremely fast and stops on a dime.

That leads to a great bit of physical comedy as the girls and rig keep moving even when the platform stops; naturally, Yuuri lands on her feet. They’re met at the top by an eerily red sunset and a much clearer and more consistent transmission of the song, which is indeed sad, albeit very beautiful and moving in general, especially combined with the sad sunset.

I especially liked when the graininess of the radio feed gave way to a clear, crisp performance of the song. I just wished they could’ve tuned the radio to something more upbeat; they could’ve used some cheer after that last song.

When they come upon a massive hole—with another massive hole in the level above—Yuuri wonders if it was caused by the battle all the broken weaponry around them was used for. Chito surmises the hole predates the weapons, and that the hole was more recently merely a venue for a later battle. In any case, the image of a tank being repurposed as a fountain by nature and gravity is a sight to behold, especially when Yuuri literally soaks her head.

In what looks like a rocket tube, Yuuri finds a strange creature that neither she nor Chito can quite place, and so settle on “cat.” While they don’t mention it themselves, it very much also resembles those tall white idols they’ve encountered here and there. When the animal makes noise, the radio seems to translate it, even though the animal only seems to be repeating the girls with slight variation.

While the end of the train line and the sunset provided suitable ending points for the first and second vignettes, the third looks poised to continue, as the “cat” follows the girls, who decide to keep it with them for now. As Chito puts it, they’re always throwing things away or using them up, it’s nice to add something for a change.

Houseki no Kuni – 07

Phos lies prostrate before the Amethyst twins as Rutile repairs them, but once they’re whole enough to speak, it’s the twins apologizing to Phos: they were overzealous in their efforts to show Phos how badass they are and let their guard down.

Phos doesn’t feel any better about freezing up, and runs off, both to try to outrun the shame, but also because that when circumstances necessitate an immediate retreat, Phos has to be able to do it. Phos’ legs lead to Cinnabar, whom Phos still doesn’t feel right speak to quite yet.

Phos’ state of incomplete development comes at a bad time for them; Winter has come, and with it the time when all gems hibernate until Spring—and sufficient sunlight for them to function—returns.

The only two who normally stay awake while the others sleep are Master Kongou, and the heretofore-unseen Antarcticite, voiced by Ise Mariya.

Antarcticite was unseen because they only become solid when the temperatures drop enough; when it’s warm, Antarcticite occupies a vat in their room, in a liquid state. “Antarc” also has a particular like of Kongou, and cherishes the time when they patrol together.

Then, while the two are hugging, Phos emerges from behind a wall. Unable to sleep, Phos requests to be allowed to stay up and train up in these harsher-than-usual conditions rather than waste them hibernating. Kongou agrees and partners Antarc with Phos.

Antarc is initially quite annoyed by this decision, but only because they remember Phos of yore, not the present Phos, willing and able to grow. When Phos tells Antarc of the desire to become better and more useful, Antarc takes a more patient tack.

Phos is particularly sluggish in the dim winter chill, but toughs it out until the two reach their destination: a field of eerily gorgeous and hazardous ice floes that let out blood-curdling screeches when grinding together.

Like Amethyst, Antarc is quick to demonstrate their duty to Phos: cleaving the surfacing ice floes with a saw in order to stop them from disturbing the hibernating Gems. Watching Antarc spring into action, balance a high heel atop the ice, then unleash a massive blow, is really something to behold.

The spectacle, and the utterly pristine whites, blues, purples and aquas of the frigid winterscape lend this episode a unique beauty, backed up by some of the most conspicuously excellent music of the show.

I’ve always liked “ice levels” as a kind of aesthetic palate-cleanser. Winter turns the Land of the Lustrous into another world, and it’s a glorious thing to see and hear. The stark beauty is nicely complemented and warmed up by the understated Phos-Antarc buddy comedy.

Antarc shows Phos all of the various duties they must perform; some menial, others herculean, and others downright weird, like making sure to put down the sleepwalking gems—and, occasionally, cover Master Kongou when he smashes into a wall—with blankets. Phos simply tries to keep up, but it’s a lot of work and has to be done with a minimum of energy due to the low sun.

Then, just as Phos is wondering whether they bit off more than they can chew and ponders the hopelessness of achieving their goals, the ice floes seem to call out, echoing the anxieties in Phos’ head. Kongou warns Phos to ignore the voices, giving Phos yet another challenge to overcome among all the others.

It ultimately proves too much. While out on patrol, Phos considers sawing off both arms so that they be replaced with a stronger ones, as Phos’ legs were. Phos stops themselves, but slips and falls into a frigid pool. Antarc pulls Phos out, but Phos is missing both forearms—and if they can’t be retrieved, many more memories.

Antarc has been shown to be proficient in making minor repairs, but this is a job for Rutile, who is hibernating. So yeah, we close another episode with Phos’ existence at another crossroads. Here I thought Phos would find a way to attach saws to their legs and use them to cleave the floes; now I just hope the Phos I know and love can get out of yet another spot.

Houseki no Kuni – 06

We meet Yellow Diamond and Zircon as they battle Lunarians. Zircon’s head is cleaved off, but Yellow performs repairs, letting Rutile rest. Yellow is the oldest of the gems, and one of the costs of being the oldest is that you’ve seen the most Gems taken to the moon.

The reason we haven’t met Ruby, Sapphire, Green Diamond or Pink Topaz? They’re all on the moon, and they were all former partners of Yellow. As such, Yellow doesn’t like or feel deserving of the respect and veneration given by the other Gems simply for knowing when to run.

Phos has incredible speed now, but can’t yet control it, leading to an amusing encounter with the also speedy Yellow, who thinks Phos is intentionally running away. Yellow catches Phos without harming them by grabbing the fabric of their robe.

Despite the lack of control, Phos still wants to join the fight against the Lunarians. Master Kongou asks why Phos is hell-bent on participating despite a thorough lack of fighting ability; Phos says out loud what all the other Gems think: Kongou has a special place in Phos’ heart. I believe it’s the first we’ve heard of the Gems loving their master.

Kongou agrees to let Phos join the battle. But as Phos can barely hold the lightest sword in the armory, a pairing with Amethyst is most suitable, since Amethyst is actually two twin Gems—#84 and #33—and they can handle themselves on the battlefield.

What Phos quickly learns is that 90% of patrolling is waiting around, doing nothing, and anticipating. Every little sound or movement in the sky, on the ground, or in the water, spooks Phos, who expects the Lunarians to pop up at any time.

The constant stress levels quickly exhaust Phos, who is sluggish at a most inopportune time: when the Lunarians suddenly pop up. I will never tire of their elaborate entrance from the sky, otherworldly beautiful, ethereal, and deeply unnerving in equal measure.

The Amethyst twins (voiced by Itou Kanae) seem to have things under control…at least initially, springing into action, tossing their sword sheaths and working in tandem to eliminate all of the Lunarian minions before cross-cutting the larger “leader” in the center of the cloud.

But the twins are just a bit cocky, and in showing Phos How It’s Done, they turn their backs on the Lunarians, who break out a new trick: Venus Fly Trap-like jaws with blue crystal teeth that may well be the remnants of the late Sapphire. Since Sapphire is harder than Amethyst, the twins are shattered to pieces.

Only the timely arrival of Bort, Dia, Yellow, and finally Master Kongou—who obliterates the Lunarian cloud with a flick of his hand in an impressive demonstration of his power—saves Phos. We see pieces of Amethyst being collected, so the twins are probably okay, but Bort is furious, and has questions, like why Phos sat by and did nothing, not even running away on those new legs to alert others.

In Phos’ defense, it was their very first battle, freezing up can happen, and even the Twins were caught off-guard by the Lunarian’s new weapon. But regardless, will Phos’ first battle also be the last?

Houseki no Kuni – 05

When Phos can’t be found, Kongou musters the entire group to go perform a search. Diamond encourages Cinnabar to assist, but Cinnabar demurs. Meanwhile, Phos, weak and with smashed legs, is fished out of the sea by the Lunarians, who circle Phos like a bunch of ravenous customers at the local buffet.

Ventricosus would like to be on her way with her brother Aculeatus, but the Lunarians alter the deal, and basically tell Ventri to pray they don’t alter it any further. They want more Gems before handing over her brother. These guys are straight-up jerks, but it’s only fair that a betrayer get betrayed. When Ventri protests, they attack her, and Acule awakens and smashes them to bits, showing his admirabilis form (which Phos finds adorable) before taking humanoid form and assisting Ventri.

Acule is ready to continue using Phos as a bargaining chip to free their family members still imprisoned on the moon. But Ventri seeing a literally broken Phos who won’t even offer words of resistance (Phos is exhausted and immobile; why bother?) causes Ventri to have a change of heart.

Phos has forgiven Ventri after the betrayal, and Ventri sees it as an opportunity to not be like the Lunarians. She and her brother escape, and set Phos free. Just as Kongou prepares to send everyone under the sea to search for Phos, Phose washes ashore…right beside Cinnabar.

Phos apologizes for going another day without keeping the promise made to Cinnabar, and promises to try harder tomorrow. For some reason, rather than call out to Kongou and the others, Cinnabar sneaks into HQ and leaves Phos in the infirmary, to be found later by Rutile.

Kongou’s rage is something to behold, as every step he takes creates cracks in the building; all of the Gems scatter for shelter from his wrath. But while he calls Phos an insolent fool with a force that almost causes Phos to shatter, he then catches Phos before that actually happens—a nice moment of compassion from the master.

He’ll have Rutile do whatever can be done to repair Phos, then hear a report tomorrow. He also summarily cancels Phos’ encyclopedia-writing assignment, leaving Phos once more without a job.

Phos washed ashore with two spikes from Acule’s shell, and Rutile notes they contain agate, which is more than twice as hard as Phos’ structure. Rutile manages to craft new legs for Phos, which have a distinctive iridescent black-and-white striped pattern (pretty cool-looking), but upon standing up, Phos finds the legs useless. Phos has also lost a good deal of memories—including those of Jade—as a result of the loss of the original pair of legs.

As the others leave one by one to attend to their other duties (which will be harder to attend to after that exhausting search), Phos laments being worse off than before all of this started and sulks in the grass, but after thinking of Cinnabar (who is in a worse situation than Phos anyway you look at it), Phos suddenly jumps up and finds that not only do the legs work, but Phos is now unbelievably fast.

Perhaps Phos’ latest brush with destruction has now produced a better situation, and those new legs will give Phos new hope of being useful to Cinnabar, Kongou, and the others.

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