Dororo – 16 – Nobody Listens to Dororo

I wish that instead of a large trove of gold that continues to paint a literal target on Dororo’s back, his dad’s “lifelong ambition” could have been something as simple as giving his daughter he raised as a son a safe and comfortable life. That would have meant setting aside larger ambitions like rebelling against the samurai, but it would prevented Dororo from living such a hard life, and from being in his current predicament: captured by his dad’s former No.2, Itachi.

Itachi dug up Dororo’s mother’s remains and found half of the map, and he believes her son has the other half, if not on his back then in his head. To that end, he takes Dororo to the cove where the treasure was stashed, and makes his latest in a long line of mistakes: trusting a crazy-eyed one-armed sole survivor of a village, whose self-proclaimed family consists of two giant sharks. Did I mention he fed them his arm, and has made a habit of feeding him live humans?

Dororo warned Itachi not to trust the kid, and of course, Dororo turns out to be right. One of the two boats carrying half of Itachi’s men is capsized, and its occupants eaten by one of the sharks. He promises to return at sundown to finish off the other half, including Itachi and Dororo, and orders one of the sharks to keep watch.

Itachi—now a brigand again after being double-crossed by the samurai he double-crossed Hibukuro to join—quickly loses hope in getting out of this alive, but Dororo loudly admonishes him, using his own shit life so far as an example of the importance of keeping one’s head up and not giving up even when death seems close. Itachi notes that Dororo sounds like his old man.

If he spoke too many words “for a little runt”, Dororo decides to be the first to take action. He dives fearlessly into the sea to lure the shark guarding them, then leads him to leap up by the side of the boat where Itachi and his men are ready with swords.

It’s an audacious gambit to be sure; not sure quite how Dororo doesn’t get himself killed in six different ways, but hey, I guess that’s why he’s lived so long without parents up to this point: he’s good at surviving. Unfortunately, the sharks are often somewhat poorly drawn and animated, which blunts the impact of the action.

When the shark’s “brother” returns and finds the shark slain on the coast of the cove, he’s caught in an ambush and then viciously beaten. His life is only spared because Dororo insists, but that could prove a bad move if the guy, who is let go and vows revenge, considers Dororo to be one with the brigands who killed half his family.

Meanwhile, Itachi insists Dororo spill the beans about the exact location of the treasure. When Dororo lets slip that even if he knows where it is he doesn’t want to reveal it (believing whatever Itachi does with it beneath his father’s legacy) Itachi has him stripped down and learns that he’s biologically a she. The heat of the fire then reveals the map on Dororo’s back, and Itachi traces it and heads off with his men, leaving Dororo tied up.

Where is Hyakkimaru in all this? While he sees the trail Itachi’s horses made, his makeshift leg slows him considerably. So it’s fortuitous he comes across a stranger who tells him there’s someone around who makes new limbs for those who have lost them. That’s right: Jukai’s back. Assuming Dororo and Hyakkimaru remain separated most if not all of next week, I suspect Hyakkimaru will be reuniting with the man who first gave him a functional life—the closest thing to a father he ever had.

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Made in Abyss – 13 (Fin)

Always cold and hungry yet full of longing to see the wonders of the Abyss, the still-human Nanachi was lured, along with a good deal of other disadvantaged children, to their doom by the dastardly White Whistle Bondrewd the Novel.

On the way down to the unreassuringly-named Sea of Corpses, Nanachi meets the ebullient Mitty. Weary at first, they hit it off almost immediately, buoyed by the exciting, life-changing adventure they’re about to undertake.

Did I say exciting and life-changing? I meant nightmarish and life-ruining/ending. One by one Bondrewd comes for the children until Nanachi and Mitty are the only ones left.

Neither has any idea what’s happening to the others until Bondrewd comes for Mitty, but not Nanachi, in the night. But Nanachi, now all alone, follows them, and sees and hears things she shouldn’t.

Bondrewd takes Nanachi’s disobedience as an auspicious event, and places them in a tube right beside a frightened, already-trapped Mitty, and calmly explains how the “experiment” is going to go down. The two descend to the Sixth Layer, where a horde of formerly-human things gather around their tubes.

Then the ascent begins, and all of the Curse is transferred to Mitty in a graphic, gruesome, and thoroughly upsetting sequence. Nanachi can only watch in the other tube, absolutely powerless to help. Mitty was Nanachi’s one and only true “treasure”, more important than any relic they might have found in the Abyss.

But, as we know, Mitty isn’t gone. Well, not totally. To Bondrewd’s delight, the double-dose of Sixth-Layer Curse not only took Mitty’s human form, but made it impossible for her to die. She is constantly disintegrating, regenerating…and suffering.

Nanachi flees Bondrewd’s clutches with Mitty (though it’s highly likely he lets them go) and eventually finds a place to live. But there is nothing Nanachi can do for Mitty. It’s not that they can’t put Mitty out of her misery due to emotional considerations…it simply isn’t possible.

Not until Reg and Riko came around. With his Incinerator, which Nanachi calls “Sparagmos”, or the “light that returns to the cardinal point”, Nanachi believes she can finally free Mitty’s long-suffering soul from what’s left of her body.

Reg asks for time to think it over, and worries that if he kills Mitty, Nanachi will feel they have no more reason to live, and might take their own life. Nanachi promises they won’t, and convinces Reg of the only right and proper course of action when they tell him that when they one day do die, Mitty will be left alone, suffering for all eternity.

After preparing a tasteful site for “sending off” Mitty, Nanachi only halts Reg from firing Incinerator for one last goodbye to her treasure, then tells him to do it. The ensuing inferno consumes every bit of Mitty until there’s nothing left. Just like that, she’s gone.

It’s ruinously sad, but I’ll admit, a HUGE relief her suffering is at an end. After all, her last words as a human to Nanachi in that tube were “kill me.” Hers was the kind of pure lasting suffering that’s hard to imagine or even comprehend, but I can grasp the catharsis, even if the hurt remains in the hearts of those who sent her off.

Things thankfully take a lighter turn when Reg awakens to find Riko is also awake, and starting her rehabilitation. Riko takes an instant liking to the cute and fuzzy Nanachi, and both Nanachi and Reg appreciate Riko’s far superior culinary skills.

After going through that emotional, visceral ringer, It’s awfully nice to see Riko back to normal. Then she asks if there wasn’t someone else there besides the three of them, and recalls a dream that made her think that.

The creepy dream we saw part of last week is put into context thanks to Riko. She is consumed by a kind of skin (representing her deep illness) and can only cry and panic, but when she sees that terrified, crying eye—Mitty’s eye in the waking world—she calms down, stares back, and tries to comfort her.

Then, after Reg sends Mitty off, Riko perceives it as Mitty (or rather, her soul) being restored to its human form before passing on. Then Riko realizes she needs to “get going”, and follows the light back to consciousness and out of her wounded stupor.

Upon hearing this “dream”, which was likely something more significant, Nanachi looks grateful that someone saw their treasure in the moment she finally achieved her freedom.

Nanachi takes Riko and Reg to a kind of healing hot spring, and enjoys watching Reg squirm as Riko proceeds to have no qualms whatsoever about bathing with him naked, all while quietly asking Mitty to wait “a little longer,” which could either be interpreted as Nanachi planning to take her life and join Mitty soon, or not until after she’s lived a life that now includes two new potential “treasures” in Reg and Riko.

After removing the mushrooms from her arm (another highly painful, unpleasant ordeal), Riko eventually regains the ability to lift her arm and even move her thumb. Reg blames his crappy amputation attempt for the state of her arm, but Riko doesn’t blame him; she asked him to do it, after all. She also heared from Nanachi how tearfully and desperately Reg tried to save her, and thanks him for that, regarding her nasty scar as “precious proof” he protected her.

Riko, like Reg before her, asks Nanachi if they’ll join them as they continue their journey further down the Abyss, and Nanachi agrees. The credits then roll over a lovely montage: Riko ties her backpack to a balloon and releases it, and they prepare for their journey as it makes its harrowing ascent past all the layers they’d passed, even requiring Marulk to free it from a branch and repair it.

It eventually reaches Nat, who looks shocked and elated to finally possess evidence of Riko and Reg’s progress. Having completed their preparations (and the construction of a big, sturdy new backpack), the new party of Riko, Reg, and Nanachi leave Nanachi’s cozy house behind, in search of trying to satisfy that most unstoppable longing for the unknown.

Meanwhile, in Bondrewd the Novel’s lab, he notices one of dozens of lights has gone out; a light signifying Mitty’s life. He is proud of and grateful to Nanachi for having finally gotten it done, as if letting them escape was yet another experiment. And he’s eager to meet her again. Ouzen was right; she’s kind and pleasant compared to this evil bastard.

And there we are; that’s a wrap! At least until a second season comes along. While I can assure you there are very few shows I’d want to jump into the second season of immediately, and this is one of them, I think a good long rest is in order, to recover from the emotional wounds it left in this final, epic, horrendously devastating yet still somehow hopeful, and achingly beautiful finale. I want to believe Riko’s mom is waiting for her. I have to.

Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 35

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35 episodes in, I’m wondering, is Takahashi, Okayama satisfied with their arrangement with this anime? Do they feel they’re getting their money’s worth? I mean, the wooded environs of Junai High seem like a nice enough place, but they don’t feel like a specific place; they feel pretty generic, to be honest. I guess it depends on how much money they contributed, of if the “sponsorship” was more of a ceremonial thing. In any case, I’m not quite sure how this show is promoting tourism.

That aside, we haven’t had an episode in which students try to have a sleepover at Tenchi’s house yet, and this episode rectifies that by having Momo, Touri, Hachiko, and Hana insist on spending the night in case the Science Club decides to kidnap him again.

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If ATM! excels at one thing (it actually excels at more than one thing, but bear with me), it’s consistency of its characters. Momo has the innocent good girl with a heart of gold; Hachiko is deeply loyal and up for any challenge; Touri is highly analytical, except where Samami is involved, with whom she’s almost disturbingly smitten. In fact, let’s leave out  the almost! And Hana, well, she’s a fujoshi, but also a masochist in her interactions with the older, stronger Ayeka. Everyone makes sense as a character, and watching the wildly clashing personalities is a lot of fun.

I also like the idea of Ryouko, Momo, and Hachiko getting all gung-ho about a cook-off, but spend so much time preparing, Tenchi, Ayeka, and Sasami make do with cup noodles instead. It’s a nice little bait-and-switch. Also, Touri seems to derive all the nourishment (and pleasure) she needs (and wants) by plunging her face in Sasami’s bathwater, which…GROSS.

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In other news, the Science Club’s secret contact urges them to continue their efforts to recover the treasure, even though the caverns have collapsed. The contact suggests they become active in the upcoming election to choose a new Student Council. We also learn that Kurihara-sensei is a member of the Galaxy Police, and both Momo and Beni are in her crosshairs as ‘time anomaly suspects’ or some-such. Between her continued investigations and the upcoming election, ATM! seems to be in for more upheaval in its home stretch.

Note: Again, I don’t count the “Looking Back” recaps in my episode numbering. But if I did, this would be episode 43, with at least one more recap in store. So we kinda are in the home stretch despite this being only the 35th ‘real’ episode. Here is a handy episode list to clarify what the heck I’m on about.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 34

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Wait, I don’t understand, what the heck is going on?

It’s really quite simple, Fuka-san: Momo and Beni activate a new search app on the smartphone that shows them the treasure they’re looking for is directly beneath them, despite the face they were standing on a totally random spot. Also, Touri has a thing for Sasami. Upstairs, Ryouko destroys Hachiko’s swords, inadvertantly turning her into a bawling child. I guess she hadn’t overcome that weakness after all!

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They dig and hit paydirt: a Juria Sword, which when grabbed by both Momo and Beni completes the tripartite sword that unlocks the Jurai starship buried below; the very ship that brought Momo and Beni to the planet to begin with. Now we’re getting somewhere!

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Like Ryouko, Ayeka has no trouble making her opponent tap out (and swear fealty). Then they feel the upheaval going on downstairs as if it were and earthquake. The earth does indeed quake and rend below, and Beni must make a choice between grabbing the sword and ‘taking back who she really is’, or accepting Tenchi’s hand and accepting who she is, who Momo loves regardless. She choses the hand, and the ruins and the building above them collapse. Perhaps it was for the best.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 33

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Hachiko and Hana take on Gouriki, demonstrating that x-acto knives and wooden swords are curiously effective against killbots while allowing Momo and Touri to get to the caves.

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Down there, the Science Club and Tenchi’s crew join forces to try to find the treasure, whatever it is. Yuki points out that while she just wants money, the treasure is more important to Beni. Also, as things would work out, Momo happens to land her tush on Tenchi’s face and bounce into Beni’s arms.

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Above ground, Ryouko and Ayeka take up arms against Hachiko and Hana in Tenchi’s name, and Hana even pisses off Ayeka by calling her ‘Auntie’. Down below, having seen the photo of Tenchi and Sasami, Touri throws the smartphone at Tenchi, but misses. It ends up in the hands of Momo and Beni, who start to glow, then Washuu elatedly reports that “It’s happening!”

What’s happening? Not sure. Temporal re-alignment? The reveal of the treasure? We must watch on to find out.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 32

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Another piece of the puzzle falls into place, as Mihoshi explains her reason for being in the mines: she came to investigate a possible time crime, and decided to give Yuki a hand trying to find a treasure, even though she doubts there’s anything there.

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Yuki begs to differ, and flanked by Beni, Rui, and Gouriki, offers to show Tenchi and the others proof. Meanwhile, Touri, Hachiko and Hana are convinced Tenchi was taken away for nefarious purposes and formulate a rescue plan as an incredulous Momo looks on.

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Yuki produces a smartphone that was found deep in the caverns and has determined it is from 1,300 years ago, making it an OOPArt (not ‘oppai’, Ryouko. That was too easy). This, of course, is the phone Tenchi dropped into a chasm when he was in the past.

When Yuki switches it on, everyone is less shocked that Tenchi is on the 1,300 -year-old wallpaper than they are skeeved out by the fact he’s posing shirtless with a loli swimsuit-wearing Sasami.

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Up above the caverns, Touri, Hachiko and Hana begin their mission, starting with getting past an improved Gouriki. How far will they go before they realize they’ve got the wrong idea?

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 31

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After that lovely communal barbecue/bonding exercise, the science club is back to confering with a giant black monolith with a glowing red crab insignia, telling them to “find the treasure.” Again with this nebulous treasure? What could it be? I’m assuming it’s not Momo here.

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Seeing the science club in the spot they’re in, unofficial member Beni does what she can to help them by getting on her non animal print boot-adorned knees and begging Tenchi, Ayeka, Sasami and Ryouko to help her search for the treasure, knowing they’re different from ordinary people.

Surprised by her seriousness and deference, they agree. When Tenchi doesn’t show up in the faculty lounge later, Kurihara-sensei assumes he’s been kidnapped.

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Beni leads them to the caverns deep under the school, a setting we haven’t been to since episode 5. There, the gang is surprised to find Kuramitsu Mihoshi of the galaxy police, someone we haven’t seen since she and Ryouko dueled in the past back in episode 13.

She doesn’t seem to be making much progress with her pickaxe — unless she’s the one who carved out the whole of these tunnels — but nor does she seemed to concerned about it. So…Treasure Hunt on!

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 26

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Tenchi patrols the hallways after lights-out, notices lights on, and discovers Yuki and Rui bent over some contraband ramen like a couple of junkies. However, they offer him a cup and he goes easy on them. As they tuck in, Tenchi learns a lot more about the Science Club girls.

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For instance, while Fuka built Gouriki’s basic structure, she has no idea what powers him; that Kinojou isn’t technically a club member and has no memory of her past, and Fuka and Rui are simply helping her look for…something. Gouriki’s head’s “treasure detector” indicates is below their dorm, but they find nothing and Yuki shoos Tenchi away.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 25

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For some reason, Tenchi’s duties as Dorm Supervisor include cleaning the girls’ bath dangerously close to bath time. Why can the girls keep their own bath clean? Like LostAi Tenchi Muyo! isn’t interested in answering questions, only posing new ones, like ‘Why doesn’t Tenchi simply stay out in the open and explain his innocent presence there?’

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How about ‘Why is Hana massaging Momo’s boobs when Momo’s boobs aren’t really that small at all?’ It’s not all that surprising the innocent Momo isn’t upset to find Tenchi in there at all, but it is rather odd that the other three student council members don’t notice the fully-clothed guy lurking behind her, especially when he and Momo talk. It’s as if just because those characters are out of that particular shot, they cannot see or hear anything going on three feet away from them!

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Anyway, enough with cataloging the illogic; somehow, Momo gets Tenchi out of there without him being detected (or drowning). And while he’s in there, Tenchi gains another piece of the school’s puzzle: the student council and science clubs are locked in a struggle for some kind of “treasure”, treasure he may or may not also be looking for. This may be another case of being in the dark because this is my first exposure to the franchise and I have no idea what Tenchi is really up to, but unlike Hatoko, I’m content to stay in the dark and see what happens.

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Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin – 03

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As a ghost Nanana remains resolutely neutral, not even telling Juugo where any of her treasures are, because what would be the point of that? Also, the episodes would only need to be three minutes long, because they’d consist merely of Nanana telling Juugo and Tensai exactly where each treasure is and how to get to it. The experiences had while searching for a treasure are as important as the treasure itself.

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Last week we got a taste of what it takes to get to a treasure in the test that Juugo and Tensai take, in which Juugo’s stamina and toughness helped Tensai work out the system. This week we get an official “Ruin”, which Tensai discovers by observing the peculiar construction of the hexagonal mall tower perched 1000m above ground. What they find inside is yet another elaborate CGI setpiece of a very cool labyrinth. It actually reminded me of the Great Crystal dungeon or any other number of tricky video game mazes.

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When the puzzle is first robotically constructed, it could well have tipped the master detective Tensai off as to its solution. The translucent maze is built from some kind of rigid foam, chunks of which are cut away and subsequently rebuilt in a specific order. The sound effects are great. When Yuiga warns them that they’ll be risking their lives, and Tensai keeps almost falling down a yawning abyss to her death, it had my full attention.

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Precise study is required to fully devine the pattern, but Tensai succeeds, and leaves the gruntwork to Juugo once again; I must say they make a great team. Things took a definite turn for the sinister when Yuiga suddenly betrays them, grabbing the treasure—a wizard’s staff that grants its user practically anything—for himself and leaving Juugo and Tensai behind. What an ass! But I have to admit he had me totally fooled that he wasn’t right up to the moment I learned he was.

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The consequences turn out to be less severe and mortal as I thought though, as Juugo and Tensai simply have to keep from falling off the treasure chest floating in midair until the police arrive. It’s an cute scene between the two, being forced to hug. Interestingly the lady cops turn out to be dirty, stripping and beating Juugo, but he buys time for Tensai to track down Yuiga, who’s apparently just an errand boy of the head of the Great 7, suggesting this is about more than harmless fun and memories.

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Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin – 02

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Nanana’s first episode did a fine job quickly laying out the world and introducing the two central characters and establishing their relationship. This week, a lot more people are introduced, including the other two girls who appear in the promo art—or the other girl and guy, to be precise, as Hoshino Daruku (Hanazawa Kana) seems to be a boy who’s always in drag.

The show makes this apparent to Juugo quite suddenly but without getting too hammy about it. Daruku (is he called that just because he’s…dark?) is constantly following behind Ikkyuu Tensai (Asumi Kana), self-proclaimed Master Detective, who made a very positive impression on me. She may appear to be your classic pint-sized bratty know-it-all, she shows to be much more.

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For one thing, while “Master” may be pushing it, she’s definitely a keen observer; or maybe she’s just good at surrounding herself with worse observers (Daruku; Juugo). But seriously, I know she’s good when she arrives at Juugo’s door with Daruku in a maid’s outfit; the first and only door she knocks on.

She calmly, carefully discovered who ended up with the eye jewel thingy, and learned as much as she could about him before meeting him. Just so Juugo knows she’s not just messing around, Tensai produces compelling evidence that Juugo stole …ahem… conveeenience from the convenience store via maid magazine, which rather hilariously gets him in the doghouse with Nanana.

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The episode also introduces meet Yuiga Isshin, president of the school Adventure Club, and the Veep, Ibara Yuu, who seems to worship the ground beneath Yuiga. He has her don a sexy maid costume of her own to get Juugo’s attention. Yuiga also knows Nanana personally, and wants Juugo to join the club, inviting him to take the entrance test.

That’s when the imagery takes a turn for the computer-generated, as the test room is a very trippy, surreal place that spits you out if you take a wrong step. Juugo shows that his worth is in his stamina, toughness, and refusal to give up, but after ten-plus failures, Tensai steps in and takes a look. Both the test and the manner in which she solves it are pretty nifty, and if this is a taste of the kind of adventure the club will be getting into en route to discovering Nanana’s treasures, then I’m sold so far.

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Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin – 01

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When the show cut from three schoolgirls running through an Indiana Jones-style treasure dungeon to a sardonic Kyon wannabe arriving at the umpteenth “academy city on an island,” I’ll admit I let out a bit of a groan. But when Yama Juugo moves triumphantly into his first apartment and finds the ghost of one of the island’s seven elite founders, things started to look up.

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The ghost, the titular Ryuugajou Nanana, is a purple-haired girl voiced by Tanabe Rui right on the heels of another purple-haired girl voiced by Tanabe Rui I just finished watching. That’s okay, her innocent yet forthright voice is a good match so far. Nanana spends her days playing video games and eating pudding in the room she’s been bound to ever since she was stabbed ten years ago.

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Anoher member of the “Great 7” and a fiend of Nanana’s happens to be Juugo’s landlady; and in addition to not letting a haunted apartment go to waste, she’s glad Nanana will have a young lad to keep her company. Juugo’s sympathy, as well as the not-unattractive ghost’s promise to play his live-in girlfriend, compels him to agree to help solve the mystery of her premature demise.

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There’s also the little matter of much of her vast treasure of unknown billions of yen being hidden somewhere on the island, of which the broke, ramen-scarfing Juugo would certainly not mind a share. But whether it’s for money, love, compassion, or all of the above, there’s a lot laid out for Juugo to accomplish while he’s not attending high school. I’ve been itching for a nice breezy ghost story, and so far this hits the spot.

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Shining Hearts: Shiawase no Pan – 04

Local Chinese cat-girl Xiao Mei enlists the help of Rick and Neris in the salvage of a large underwater treasure trove. Neris’ attempt to hook the huge crate to a rope almost gets her drowned, and they require one of Hank’s machines to haul the crate out of the sea, destroying their rented ship and losing the machine in the process. Hank finds something related to the mechanical doll in his workshop, but before they can take stock of what they’ve salvaged, palace troops arrive and carry it all off.

Um, yeah, this series has some serious problems. The pacing is pretty slow, and the motivations of the characters is a bit wishy-washy, and the events of this particular episode make no physical sense. We’re made to believe a wimpy pulley on a small wooden boat and a thin hemp rope are enough to haul a crate that weighs at least a few tons out of the water. When the pulley inevitably breaks, the rope eats through the decking, but doesn’t break, even though pulling it by hand did. Neris can hold her breath way too long, there’s no explanation for how Hank gets a huge machine down the mountain and onto the ship, or how they get the crate onto land.

Beyond all the ignorance of the laws of physics, nobody considers the fact “the palace” will simply show up and snatch whatever they’ve found, in accordance with the island’s traditions, which forbid taking anything out of the sea that’s “not for eating” so as not to create conflicts amongst the villagers. But what the hell is up with this palace? Who put them in charge? Why didn’t Hank just “eat” the thing he wanted for his android? And why the heck is the mysterious girl still not recovered? There’s just way too much stuff that doesn’t make sense here. It’s a friggin’ mess.


Rating: 3 (Bad)