Jouran: The Princess of Snow and Blood – 03 – A Blue Coffin

After Sawa learns that Yoshinobu himself ordered Kuzuhara to have the Treasurer killed, Makoto suggests that Sawa drop the “sister act” and cut little Asahi loose. All of them in Nue have assigned roles to play, and none of them can afford to let sentiment dull their wits.

After recalling when Kuzuhara first showed her a slideshow of her family and village’s destruction and the person responsible, ordering her not to cry, Sawa puts up the hard front Kuzuhara aimed to teach her in dealing with Asahi. Sawa refuses to let Asahi kill her until she’s killed Janome, and tells her to be gone by the time she returns that night.

Sawa, Elena, and Makoto all confront Nue’s cleaner, whom they suspect is a traitor passing secrets to Kuchinawa, finding money in the coffin he’s pushing. He pleads his innocence, then sets off a bomb with a detonator in his hat. Sawa follows him down a secret tunnel hidden in a tomb, while Elena intends to head him off on the surface. Meanwhile, a dejected Asahi seeks comfort in her grandmotherly neighbor Yamazaki.

But the cleaner never went in the tunnel; he hid in the coffin. When Makoto, who lied to Elena about a twisted ankle, opens it and the cleaner pulls a gun. A shot rings out, and Makoto later reports that the cleaner killed himself. But at this point Makoto was already acting super suspicious.

While burying the cleaner themselves, Elena asks Sawa what coffin she’d want to be buried in, her preference being red. Sawa doesn’t answer at first, then says blue, like her blood and that of her clan. That said, she won’t be put into a coffin until Janome is in his.

Makoto meets with Kuzuhara, who reveals he is a woman by tearing his clothes to reveal her chest binding, warning her to never forget where she stands. But Kuzuharais seemingly in the dark about where Makoto actually stands. Before the Treasurer died, she gave Makoto a karuta card that serves as a treasure map. Makoto follows it and discovers a small book that the Treasurer said could bring down “Tokugawa, Nue…all of it.”

Sawa comes home to find Asahi gone, but on her desk is the piece of paper with “Yuki” written on it Asahi had reconstructed with paste. Sawa then sees that Asahi left the satchel she gave her containing cash and a boat ticket to her new home, and blood on the walls.

Her white crow comes to help her search for Asahi, but we find out where she is first: in the clutches of Janome, who had disguised himself as Yamazaki with an elaborate prosthetic suit. We also learn that Makoto is indeed in cahoots with Janome, serving as a double agent. Or maybe triple, if Kuzuhara knows she’s infiltrated Kuchinawa.

In any case, for Sawa, who’d prefer clarity and simplicity, nothing is simple or clear, and never really was. To whit: she aims to save her would-be murderer from the man who murdered her family, and with whom her fellow Nue agent is working. Not ideal!

Jouran: The Princess of Snow and Blood – 02 – Nothing Else Is of Any Concern

Makoto meets with Jin on two matters: one is to be briefed on a mission to find the one within Nue who is feeding Kuchinawa assassination targets. The other is to ask about Sawa. Makoto responds to the latter by saying “it saddens me to report that she survived”.

Last week, Asahi prepared to stab Sawa in her sleep. When we see both next, the only thing Asahi is slicing is a daikon radish, and Sawa is very much un-stabbed. This week we learn more about Sawa and Asahi’s pasts, and … Spoilers: those pasts are dark and bloody. First up is Sawa, and if Black Widow has “red in her ledger”, Sawa’s got “blue in her diary.” Well, her mom’s diary.

We know how Sawa hid while her mother, father, and brother were slaughtered. But how did Sawa end up an assassin with Yue? Jin arrived at the ruins of her village as she was trying to bury the charred remains of her family. His mere presence there the morning after their deaths might’ve normally raised a red flag for Sawa, but the very light had gone out of her eyes.

It didn’t matter at the time if there was a chance Jin had something to do with the death of her family. He was offering her a chance at revenge, and that chance brought the light back to her eyes. Under his tutelage she became a graceful and efficient killing machine. Jin made a deal: he’d use her to make Nue stronger, and she’d use him to get her revenge.

Sawa puts the blank diary of dark memories away and joins Elena for their next mission: make contact with a Nue agent named “the Treasurer” and get her to safety. They identify her waiting tables at a restaurant by the fact she can memorize everyone’s orders and whisk her away, crossbowing and beheading the Kuchinawa gunmen along the way.

While Sawa escorts her through the tunnels, the Treasurer mentions how the shogunate is content to ignore the mounting opposition to their regime outside of Tokyo. She also knows a lot about Sawa, because she’s a memorization savant. Meanwhile, Makoto pays Asahi a visit at the bookstore, offering her a bottle of black pills that “kill in ten seconds.” , to use on the person who killed her parents.

That’s right: in the recent past while on a mission, Sawa murdered Sawa’s parents while she was in the next room under burning wreckage of the house they were in. Granted, Asahi’s mother was apparently dolling her up in order to serve her up to a pervert before Sawa arrived, but facts are facts.

When Asahi tried to stab Sawa in her sleep, Sawa woke up instantly (if she was even asleep) and stopped the knife, telling Asahi she needs to strike where she’ll do the most damage, and wait until she’s more vulnerable. When Asahi bursts into tears, Sawa is there to hug her. It’s a strange situation, but it’s true to Sawa’s code: she’s not about to be a hypocrite. If Asahi should exact her revenge by killing her before she can exact hers, so be it.

Sawa, now knowing of the Treasurer’s ability, decides threaten her into telling her everything she knows about the Karasumori village massacre. The Treasurer says how those responsible wanted to keep the Karasumori clan’s blue blood a secret, while Janome stole an imperfect variant of that blood’s power. But the Treasurer stops there, saying Yoshinobu doesn’t tolerate treason.

Her five-year old son is being held hostage; should she betray Yoshinobu, he will die. So Sawa offers to protect her and her son in exchange for the information she wants. When the Treasurer asks why Sawa would go so far for revenge, Sawa answers simply that her entire life is for revenge—just a stretch of borrowed time, in which she’ll either get the job done or die trying.

Sawa and the Treasurer exit the tunnel near a quiet dock where she can be smuggled to safety, but they are intercepted by Kuchinawa agents, along with a Changeling. Elena shows up, and she handles the agents while Sawa enters her blue blood trance and defeats the Changeling.

But when it’s time to put the Treasurer on the boat, Elena stabs her instead and lets her fall into the river, after telling her her son has already died. I’m a little fuzzy on the details, but either the Treasurer fed intel to Kuchinawa, or she and her intel-packed brain were simply too dangerous to be kept alive.

In any case, Sawa loses her best chance yet at learning about what happened at her village and who was responsible. I don’t think she’ll kill Elena or quit Nue, but she can’t be happy that her road to revenge just hit a detour. In any case, this was another dark, bloody, brooding episode of Jouran, packed with bursts of cool action and bookended by an OP and ED by RAISE A SUILEN that both absolutely slap.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 07 – Two Pyramids

Once again Miyuki is relied upon by a fellow student for romantic advice, only this time, it’s something he’s confident he can handle: how to hold a girl’s hand. I mean, he has shared an umbrella with one already, no?”  Miyuki makes this all about economics, urging the boy to get a job so he can afford surgery for his sweaty hands, training for a boater’s license (which Miyuki himself inexplicably has), and rent a boat on which to introduce his hand to Kashiwagi’s.

Her “Love sense” going off, Detective Chika intervenes and offers the much simpler and much more affordable advice of “do your best,” which the lad takes with gratitude and ends up succeeding, sweaty palms and all. The eavesdropping Kaguya, not wanting Miyuki’s work to spoil her summer plans for him, offers side-splitting commentary during the advice session, while Miyuki loses the round because thanks to Chika he lost a potential part-time recruit.

From there we transition to a budget session between Miyuki and Yuu, with the latter going off on various anti-youth rants fueled by his jealousy for the sports club members getting all the girls. The two main status pyramids at the academy are that of economic background (how rich your parents are) and clubs (with anime club being below “no club at all” in precedence).

Miyuki is just trying to keep Yuu focused on crunching the numbers, but also says that participating in a cultural club is possible in the StuCo, as Chika (board games) and Kaguya (Japansese archery) are both club participants. That sends Yuu on a different rant, as he describes Kaguya’s flat chest as perfect for archery, compared to the bouncing Chika would have to contend with.

Little does he know both girls are right behind him. Chika carefully crafts a paper fan with which to beat Yuu senseless. When Yuu heads home to prepare a will, the girls start pulling at Miyuki, urging him to join their respective clubs. Even though he ultimately has to turn both down (his part-time job precludes clubs), he lets them tug at his arms for a bit, because it’s nice to be popular. This nets him a win to cancel out the first segment’s loss.

The third act doesn’t declare a decision either way for Miyuki or Kaguya, but the latter ends up embroiled in a fit of uncontrollable, boisterous laughter every time Chika says “wiener” in relation to her dog. While Miyuki has made great strides in her social interaction, she’s still a grade schooler when it comes to dirty words (or those that can be construed as such).

Once Chika realizes every time she says “wiener” Kaguya can’t help but roar with laughter, she’s already won; after all, she loves hearing Kaguya laugh, and the louder the better. She takes it up a notch when Miyuki arrives, threatening to make him say the word “wiener”, causing Kaguya to debase herself in front of her beloved President.

When Chika fails every time due to verbal blocks from Kaguya, she gives up and loudly protests that Miyuki “won’t give her wiener.” The resulting torrent of double entendres mortifies Miyuki, who quickly flees, while Yuu listens in on Chika’s continued liberal use of the word “wiener” from the other side of the door, his nose bleeding profusely. Winner: Chika.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 06 – Glamurderous Intent

This week we finally meet StuCo treasurer Ishigami Yuu, the sheltered, skittish yin to Chika’s gregarious, ebullient yang. Miyuki appointed him treasurer due to his considerable skills in financial management, and while he’s not often around, the work he does mostly at home keeps the StuCo solvent. So Miyuki is determined to discourage Yuu from suddenly resigning.

Yuu wants to resign because he has the complete wrong idea about Kaguya, mistaking her intense, imperious gaze for murderous intent she not only intends to act on, but has acted on before, and more than once. Matters aren’t helped when Kaguya scares the shit out of both guys by entering the office with a bloody knife and bloodstained tunic.

Turns out she’s just costume-fitting for the drama club, but she reminds Yuu—who doesn’t know better than to take her threats of pain and death 100% seriously—never to blab to Miyuki about hiding cafe coupons under the desk, hoping to lure Miyuki into a date. She also warns him not to quit the StuCo, so Yuu’s fear of being killed for resigning outweighs his fear of staying.

So the first segment is a bit ol’ loss for Yuu. In the second, Chika breaks out a book of psychological tests that determine who you like; a book Kaguya knew Chika would eventually acquire and read the whole thing in advance so that her answers wouldn’t subconsciously indicate her love for the President.

Miyuki also suspects Chika’s questions are a trap, and so gives a dishonest answer that indicates he’s a siscon, while Yuu’s answer indicates Stockholm Syndrome. Chika’s final question throws both Kaguya and Miyuki off, since it’s not from the book but online, and they both inadvertently answer honestly.

In this instance, Miyuki is determined to be the loser since his answer to gather an entire field of flowers indicates he harbors a similarly ridiculous amount of love for Kaguya, compared to Kaguya’s more modest bouquet. That being said, I don’t put a lot of stock in Chika’s unscientific tests, skewed as they are toward romantic intention.

In the final segment, Kaguya’s maid Hayasaka (who is apparently also a student there but has a gal-like persona with her friends) wants to give Miss “Swans don’t need ornamentation” Kaguya-sama some glam, starting with some gel nail polish with tasteful rhinestones on the ring fingers. Kaguya wants Miyuki to notice them and compliment her, but is also worried he’ll think they’re frivolous or silly.

Turns out he seemingly doesn’t notice the nails at all, even when she waves them inches from his eyes. The truth is, he immediately notices she’s being fashionable, but is worried about whether to respond, and how, assuming it’s another trap that will expose his feelings for her or simply to make him look foolish. He knows an improper compliment can be sexual harassment.

Yuu doesn’t make giving anyone compliments a particularly good idea when he correctly guesses that Chika has changed hair conditioners based on the smell, an observation Chika comes right out and calls “creepy”, leading Yuu to slink away wishing for death to come.

Once the day passes and Kaguya hears nothing from Miyuki, she starts to head home, on the verge of tears. But Miyuki, finally deciding what to do, races to her side in his bike, mentioning the nails, but coming just short of calling them “cute” (he only gets “cu-cu-cu” before chickening out and racing off).

Kaguya is frustrated he didn’t finish his thought, but the mere fact he noticed her nails after all, and was so bashful about it, makes her happy beyond belief, not to mention the winner of the segment.

Medaka Box – 06

The Swim team continues to dominate the aquatic events, due to their extreme and risky methods that show no regard for their well-being. It comes down to the surprise final event, a cavalry battle that pits them against the student council. Medaka makes a ‘pretentious appeal to innate goodness’ by deducing their insatiable greed is fueled by past trauma, which turns out to be correct. Even so, while beating them in the final challenge, Medaka lectures them on treasuring their own lives and each other before money, as she does. The Judo club wins the overall meet, and the Swim club president Kikaijima Mogana agrees to join the student council as treasurer.

We here at RABUJOI are unabashed capitalists; it’s just how we were brought up. We too sometimes dream of owning an olympic pool full of money…or water. Scrooge McDuck always looked so happy diving into his money bin. Though when you really think about it, bills would cause nasty papercuts and coins would cause bruising. Not to mention the nightmare of keeping that much cash clean…and above all, secure. It’s more trouble than it’s worth. But it’s a nice dream. Medaka thinks so too, which is why she doesn’t urge them to rethink their lives – only to reevaluate their priorities. Money is worthless if you’re dead.

This episode still had a couple problems: Nabeshima and Azo are right up there in the running for most irritating characters (you could almost make a drinking game with all of Nabeshima’s ku-ku-kus) and Shiranui continues to piss us with her non-stop eating. But at least the Big Bad swim team was cut down to size and got some (brief) backstory:  brought up stinking poor, and like one of our cats, they think every meal could be their last, so acquisition is their lives. We also thought the totally ridiculous swimming pool with its NERV-like mechanical doors and seals was a pretty strange and funny little detail…here we are talking about how there isn’t enough money to go around, and yet this pool complex must have cost at least five billion yen!


Rating: 5 (Average)