In the Heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki – 03 – Adversity is the Greatest Uniter

Tsubaki is almost at the end of her kusari-fundo regarding the near-constant bickering between Sazanka and Asagao. That’s when Uikyou and Kikyou, the polar opposite of that pair, show up. Their speech and movements are so in sync, they might well be identical twins. They also offer the secret to getting along in scroll form.

The only catch? The scroll has to be taken from them. Tsubaki makes things interesting by tying Sazanka and Asagao together by the leg so they have no choice but to work together against their far-better coordinated opponents. Uikyou and Kikyou have no trouble slipping out of their grasp and making them look foolish.

Ultimately, Sazanka and Asagao stop arguing and start doing something that will help their odds. That means Sazanka clinging to the larger, stronger Asagao so the latter can move freely without worrying about the rope. Alas, the twins use sleep bell jutsu, and the two have to punch each other to stay awake.

In their dreams, it works, and they manage to defeat the twins. But in reality, they fell asleep despite all the pinching. Nevertheless, the twins report to Tsubaki that they worked hard, and together, while also admitting the scroll containing the secret to getting allong was blank. Ultimately, the only ket to getting along is practice, like any other skill.

In the second half, Hana-senpai is fed up with the girls constantly making fun of men. She cancels classes and announces that there will be a game of tag. She’ll be “it” an will play the role of a male, while anyone she catches will go without dinner. Every girl knows they’re no match for Hana, so the exercise seems to pay immediate dividends.

Hana is able to catch just about every girl, and when an overconfident Benisumomo comes straight at her, she reminds her of the still yawning gap of ability between them. After seeing Beni and Tsubaki fight on pretty much equal ground, Hana is on a totally different level…which makes you wonder why she fears males so much and insists the others do the same.

Whiel Asagao quickly falls victim to an all-too-easy caveman meat trap, Tsubaki has a plan for defeating Hana. It involves Sazanka using transformation jutsu to let Hana’s guard down. When Hana notices Sazanka’s imitation of her fellow teacher Konoha is not quite right, Sazanka is captured by the “real” Konoha…but that’s really Tsubaki in disguise.

Because Tsubaki’s transformation jutsu is far more convincing, Hana speaks to her as if she were speaking to the real Konoha, and lets slip that the men being scary is merely a lie they must uphold at all costs. Tsubaki is so shocked by this she transforms back into her normal form and darts away.

When Hana tries to give chase, her bad back starts barking at her, and the real real Konoha comes to help her. Hana tells her to find Tsubaki, who heard something she shouldn’t have, and is now all mixed up.

In the Heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki – 02 – Three Dogs, Three Sheep, a Duel and Double Meat

The repetitive conjecture about otoko (i.e., males) so prevalent in the opener is entirely absent here, with one half focusing on a Dog v. Sheep combat training. Tachiaoi invited Tsubaki to join them first, but cocky Team Sheep leader Benisumomo insists on taking Team Dog on. But Sheep member Touwata, obsessed with hard work and willpower, thinks her leader Beni is relying to much on her talen

Her concern leads her to parlay with Team Dog for Tsubaki to give Beni a “good thrashing” in hopes it will convince her to start working harder. Tsubaki agrees, and in the meantime Sazanka and Asagao break the parlay by capturing Touwata, only for both of them to get caught in Sheep’s trap expert Mizubahou’s rope net (a net she’d only set up due to habit!).

You immediately get the feeling Tsubaki is only humoring the younger Touwata, and sure enough, Tsubaki is one of the only people who knows that Benisumomo’s cool lazy act is just that: an act. In reality, Beni works her ass off and always has. She just worries that if anyone else knew her secret it would harm her carefully maintained rep.

After a friendly greeting, Tsubaki and Beni get down to business. It’s clear from their sparring that these are indeed two of the most talented kunoichi in the village, and their jumps, flips, feints, kicks, and punches comprise a beautiful, deadly dance. The two flow like water until breathing flame one another, creating a big boom that draws their kohai rush to the scene. Tsubaki and Beni say they came to a draw, but Beni promises Touwata that she’ll win next time.

In the second segment, Sazanka wants more of Tsubaki’s attention but the two are in different huts for their respective classes. But Tsubaki has apparently been more distracted because of otoko of late (though you wouldn’t know it from this episode). So Tsubaki sneaks out of class through the bathroom, telling Asagao to stay put and cover for her. Before long Asagao is threatened with no dinner and instructed to catch Sazanka at all costs.

While glancing out the window in class, Tsubaki spots her kohais playing hooky and intercepts them. I love how Sazanka rushes at her big sis only to catch nothing but air as Tsubaki flips over her while tying her up in one lovely acrobatic flourish. But when asked directly why she snuck out of class, Sazanka surprises Asagao by not giving the true reason, not wanting Tsubaki to feel like this was her fault for neglecting her kohai.

Tsubaki, however, is as wise as she is strong, and knows Sazanka was lying about simply wanting to go for a walk in the nice weather. So she keeps the camellias Sazanka picked for her (symbolizing love, natch), and makes sure to give her some love later. Sazanka makes good on her promise to give Asagao all of her meat, and Tsubaki shares half of hers with Sazanka.

From the friendly but intense competition between Tsubaki and Benisumomo, to the similar dynamic between the two older girls’ eager kohais, to the sisterly affection that surrounds both Team Dog and the Akane community as a whole, this episode was a compelling slice of kunoichi life.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

In the Heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki – 01 (First Impressions) – The Art of Perturbability

What if Takagi-san had a kunoichi ancestor…and instead of sitting next to the boy she likes in class, the ancestor lives in an all-female village where girls are raised to fear and avoid men? Even though said men are just on the other side of the mountain…and the ancestor really wants to meet one?

That’s In the Heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki in a nutshell. The titular Tsubaki is the best kunoichi student in her village, but she’s also growing up and starting to think about boys, even though she’s never met or even seen one. But hey, sometimes it’s the unknown that drives us.

Most if not all of the other girls harbor a similar curiosity, but mixed with a hatred and prejudice for the gender, often to the tune of repeating the same jokes about them (they’re monkeys, their crotches are weak, they stink). Two of her own kohai, Sazanka and Ahegao, even go off on their own to try to meet and then beat up the men when reports come in that they’re nearby.

Tsubaki striking out into the night to bring the two younger girls home provides much of the episode’s action, and the chase is beautifully storyboarded, directed, and animated. These wee ninja are quick as darts and twice as sharp. They can also breath fire and change their forms, you get the feeling any men out there would be at a disadvantage.

Tsubaki very nearly lets her own curiosity about men (which again, is different and less hostile than that of the other girls) lead to contact with the men, as she concedes that no harm can come from simply watching them from afar.

However, when one of those men appears behind them, Tsubaki freaks out and they escape. The tiny Sazanka wanted to fight them (she wants to fight everyone), but Tsubaki had more than enough unknown for the night, having walked right up to the edge only to retreat in the end.

Whether the near-encounter with a man was real or just Tsubaki’s dream, what becomes clear that morning is that the Akane clan’s village is a lot like Takagi-san’s school (again, if it were all women), with a colorful array of characters at different stages of adolescence.

The Takagi-san style art with larger heads can make it hard to nail down how old everyone’s supposed to be, but judging by the character designs of both elementary and middle school students in Takagi, it’s a similar mix here, with some girls making more kiddy jokes like boys are some kind of beast, while others closer to Tsubaki in age seeming to share a more complex curiosity about them.

One thing is certain: Tsubaki’s recent preoccupation with men is distracting her from her training, both in class and out in on the grounds. Asagao Sazanka soon puts two and two together and notices her big sis seems to get flustered when she hears the word man. This is unfortunate development as a lot of people say “man” a lot in this episode.

Sazanka thus issues a challenge to Tsubaki: if she can use her flame jutsu to evaporate a large puddle of water while she whispers “man” in her ear, it will prove to her that Tsubaki isn’t afraid of men. Tsubaki ends up creating enough flames to make a huge crater, thus putting Sazanka’s concerns to rest.

Nevertheless, Tsubaki wants to meet a guy. She doesn’t know why, or even what she’d say or do if she did, she just knows she wants to meet one really bad. This, despite the fact her elders and peers have all been conditioned to believe men are brutal savages.

Leaving aside a more specific desire for romance, a part of Tsubaki is telling her there is more to this world than her village, and that it may just prove beneficial to learn more about what lies beyond its borders.

DanMachi III – 11 – Don’t Speak

Welf and Mikoto manage to successfully stall Gareth with a last-minute assist from Tsubaki, ordered by Hephaistos to assist Hestia Familia. Wiene manages to give Tiona the slip, but the chase continues. In the process, the Amazoness witnesses Wiene save a demi child from a crumbling bridge.

When she corners her again, Tiona can’t go through with killing her, and lets her go, now sensing what it is Argonaut-kun saw in her, and acknowledging she’s more than just another monster.

Wiene reunites with Bell and Haruhime, but it’s not long before they’re confronted by Bete. Again asserting her newfound confidence and strength, Haruhime stalls Bete to allow the others to flee, then uses Uchide no Kozuchi to summon a leveled-up Aisha.

Haruhime may not be that good in an offensive battle, but those who love her like Aisha consider her battles to be their battles, and gladly fight in her place. Even though Aisha loses and doesn’t feel particularly cool about it, the fact is, she is extremely cool, while Bete’s just a hotheaded dork.

That brings us to the titular Decisive Battle, in which Bell and Ais dance once more, only this time with blades instead of eveningwear. As Finn expected, Ais isn’t prepared to make any distinction between Wiene and Monsters Who Make People Cry based on what she’s seen. Wiene went berserk before, she could do so again, and she can’t allow it.

That said, she is surprised that Bell is able to hold his own in their initial scuffle, such that she dispenses with holding back for the sake of their unique bond, and takes things up a notch. Bell can’t keep up, so he spams Firebolt at the stone arch above them and uses the debris cloud as cover to escape.

Finding the barred gate to a secret passage where he once stood up for Hestia, Bell has Wiene go through to meet up with the other Xenos, promising he’ll be right behind her. Round 2 with Ais commences, and Ais is not playing around. Her only accomodation to Bell is to warn him that she is going to cut him and it will hurt, a lot.

If she were to spill Bell’s blood, I doubt things would ever be the same between them—maybe they won’t be anyway—but thankfully Wiene sensed Bell was only lying to protect her (again) and comes back to put herself between Ais and Bell. Ais is shocked to hear her speak and express emotion—specifically concern for Bell.

It’s an inconvenient truth she’d rather not deal with. Things were easier when she thought Wiene was just a monster; now it will hurt her to kill her, but she’ll still kill her, because she has “deadly claws” and a “terrifying wing”. Wiene responds to that by literally tearing off the monstrous parts of her (not her jewel, that would kill her).

Wiene tearfully assures Ais that she ever loses herself again she’ll disappear “like she’s supposed to”, but she doesn’t want to go back to being in the “pitch black”. Bell saved her, and she wants to stay with him. Having witnessed Wiene act not like a monster at all, Ais concludes she can no longer kill her. She tosses Bell a potion and lets them go.

Bell and a healed Wiene meet up with Haruhime, Lili, and some Xenos who got separated from the main group, and Bell and Wiene say goodbye one more time. This time Wiene tells him she won’t cry while they’re apart because she doesn’t want him or the Familia to worry about her. Haruhime suggests Wiene and Bell pinky swear that they’ll meet again.

Unfortunately, that might not happen, as throughout this whole operation, the trickster Hermes was playing the good guys like a fiddle. The main Xenos group encounter a dead end that wasn’t on Daedalus’ map, and Hermes arrives with Asfi to confess he faked the map to corner them. He condemns the Xenos as “heretical” and politely asks them to die. As expected, he has his own personal agenda, and he’s making his move.

Oresuki – 12 – The Problem is Ongoing

A week after involving Hose, Cherry, and Tsukimi, the library has been saved. But while the more bustling atmosphere doesn’t bother Pansy, continuing to deal with Hose does. Joro hasn’t figured out a way to help her in this matter, so reaches out to Tampopo.

He’s learned through Asunaro that she’s in love with Hose, and thus worked hard to get Pansy a boyfriend so she’d be off the board. She’s too busy with baseball to visit the library after school, so advises Joro to ask Pansy out immediately.

Joro still isn’t emotionally equipped to do that, and so the problem lingers and becomes more complicated. We learn that Sun-chan’s exchange with Pansy last week was to ask her to be his girlfriend if his team made it to Koushien. In the library, when Joro asks to talk to Pansy she tells him she’s accepted Sun’s offer, to the shock of both Hose and Joro. She also tells Joro to stay away from her…”for a while.”

When Joro meets with Sun-chan, his best friend confirms what Pansy said, adding that he’s been a good best friend thus far, and now it’s Joro’s turn to return the favor and “do what he’s supposed to do.” Tsubaki overhears this and grasps the situation, but Joro is still lost in the weeds.

He stays away from the library, working at Tsubaki’s family’s restaurant, he still gets to interact with her, Himawari, Cosmos, Asunaro, and yes, even Sasanqua (who works up yet more courage to offer support to him, but just can’t quite help herself from going Full Tsundere whilst around him).

Joro rightly considers this to still be a pretty sweet deal, and resigns himself to a Pansy-less life. The thing is, Joro read Pansy wrong in this case, and the ever-reliable Tsubaki is there to set him straight. Pansy may have called him a useless nuisance, but she said that and agreed to Sun’s offer to protect him from getting caught up in her problem.

It’s Joro’s choice whether to get caught up, and the “for a while” (rather than “forever”) was a small SOS to invite Joro to choose to help her despite the trouble. And he does just that, strolling into the library as the arrogant jerk Pansy fell in love with in the first place, just as Hose asks her out in the even Sun’s team doesn’t make the cut.

As expected, the unflincingly loyal Cherry and Tsukimi run interference for Hose, but Joro powers through, and Pansy lets him speak. Joro devises a challenge to Hose, giving each girl one of the excess barrettes Tampopo acquired while trying to win his heart. The barrettes represent votes: the girls should give the barrette to the guy they think should be with Pansy.

Predictably, this backfires for Joro, and he’s the only one who didn’t see it coming. Cosmos, Himawari, and Asunaro give their barrettes to Hose, not Joro, and take the opportunity to profess their love for Joro. Since he gave them the choice, none of them are willing to be runner-up. Cherry and Tsukimi actually inspired them to strive for love and friendship.

Hose also rescinds his friendship with Joro, as he cannot be friends with anyone who would keep him from Pansy. That’s kind of false equivalence, however, as it’s Pansy who doesn’t want to be with Hose, and has made it pretty clear! If Pansy and Joro love each other and want to be a couple the two of them need to break some hearts, full stop.

Hose, Cosmos, Himawari, and Asunaro need to be rejected in no uncertain terms. Sadly, so does Sasanqua, while Joro and Pansy need to clearly define their relationship going forward as one of a boyfriend and girlfriend. There can be no more half-measures creating hope for the others.

Will they take those difficult steps in the series-concluding OVA? One can hope. Joro wants to “leave all rom-coms in the dust.” One surefire way for Oresuki to stand out from a crowd is to have an unambiguous final couple.

Oresuki – 11 – Stifled by Righteousness

After Joro dispatches Tampopo for running another kooky op—this time on him with Pansy’s cooperation—Cosmos rushes in to tell them the bad news: the school is shutting down the library. I won’t go into how bizarre and random a development this is…but it’s as bizarre and random as Tampopo’s ops!

Turns out there IS a way to save Pansy’s haven, but it might be a case of the cure being worse than the disease. It’s nice if her friends all tell their friends to start packing into the library, but isn’t the whole point for Pansy that it’s a place of peace, tranquility, and (present company excepted) relative solitude?

Oddly, this quandary isn’t really addressed, and it suffices that the end of the library remaining open will justify whatever means are used. It could also mean that having been warmly welcomed into Joro’s circle of friends, Pansy is ready to graduate to larger social networks.

Instead of exploring whether the rescued library will still be a place for Pansy, the episode instead ruminates on who is helping with the rescue, and why. Enter Hazuki “Hose” Yasuo, the seemingly perfect buddy who helped Joro out in a previous episode. Joro lacks a large group to call upon to help with filling the library, but he does have Hose.

Hose comes to Joro’s school with Sakurabara “Cherry” Momo and Kusami “Tsukimi” Luna, his StuCo president and childhood friend. It’s like “Bizarro” version of Oresuki, with Hose as Joro, Cherry as Cosmos, and Tsukimi as Himawari. They’ve come to help with the library problem in any way they can.

Joro could have probably predicted the resulting interactions would threaten to supplant him as MC. What Joro doesn’t know until it’s a problem is that Hose, Cherry, and Tsukimi all went to middle school with Pansy. Hose is the boy everyone in class wanted her to date, eventually leading her to disguise herself for high school.

At the end of the day, after Joro orders Asunaro to take Pansy to her house to talk newspaper story on the library (so that a visibly uncomfortable Pansy doesn’t have to walk home with Hose), Cherry and Tsukimi meet with Joro, Cosmos and Himawari. They come right out and say it: they’re both in love with Hose, but are putting their friendship with him and each other before those feelings.

They also know he loves Pansy, so they’re dedicated to getting them together. As the wheels turn in Joro’s head, he can’t help but conclude that there’s nothing inherently wrong or malicious about the two girls’ positions. Tsukimi even directly asked Joro if he liked Pansy. When he reflexively responds in the negative, she takes it as the truth.

That truth is all she needs to know that even if Pansy loves him, she’ll eventually have her heart broken, thus their nudging her towards someone who actually has feelings for her. But there’s a piece of this seemingly even-steven puzzle Joro feels is missing.

That piece is revealed and confirmed when he speaks with Pansy about it: Hose “doesn’t understand the other side of people’s feelings,” and his good intentions unintentionally hurt people. He’s hurting the two girls who love him, but he’s so good and kind and righteous that they feel compelled to put his feelings before their own. And he hurt Pansy too, even if he never meant to.

Pansy likens him to a demon. Even when he resisted his own feelings for her in order to protect her from others in middle school, he was only tackling the surface of her feelings. Joro has seen how conveniently things always seem to work out for Hose, but that’s only because, unlike him, Hose simply isn’t seeing the whole picture. His Bizarro counterpart is a cautionary tale: paths of least resistance can still cause great harm and even suffering.

Joro vows to make sure Pansy won’t be hurt or made uncomfortable any more, but while he’s off doing so, Pansy is confronted by Sun-chan, who for some reason thinks his “chance has finally come around,” following that up with an uncouth smirk. I knew they should have excommunicated this dirtbag when he threatened her back then!

Oresuki – 10 – Mission Creep

This week, Joro ends up back on the Bench from Hell, this time sharing it with a new girl. Well, not entirely new, as we caught a glimpse of her when she refused to participate in the Flower Dance. She’s baseball coach Kamata “Tampopo” Kimie, and right off the bat (pun intended), she exudes arrogance and egotism to match any New York Yankee (or Yomiuri Giant).

Joro at least knows full well by now that no good can come from whatever Tampopo wants during their bench chat. Turns out she wants him to help her hook up Sun-chan and Pansy, so Sun-chan will play better baseball, so their school will Win It All and increase Tampopo’s own notoriety.

Tampopo is so confident of her cuteness, she offers Joro a racy picture of her as payment for his services, which he accepts. But Asunaro happened to spot Joro being pulled into the science lab with Tampopo, and so inserts herself into this little venture. In exchange for being able to observe and write about their progress, she’ll also write a glowing article on Tampopo.

Asunaro loves a good story, but she’s also rooting for Pansy to get hooked up with someone other than Joro, which will increase her chances with him. Of course, that still leaves Cosmos, Tsubaki, and Himawari in the way. And while the episode almost forgets about poor sidelined Sasanqua, I won’t—though her brave attempt to ask Joro out to an amusement park while her clique watches…doesn’t go so well. The frikkin’ Queen Bee of his class wants to date him, and he doesn’t see it!

After a very ill-conceived quasi-military operation crashes and burns (earning Tampopo the deserved moniker “Commander Crazypants”) Joro offers a counter-scheme. To serve as the romantic rival Tampopo believes is needed to bring Pansy and Sun together, Joro will come right out and confess to Pansy behind the school. But that’s just what Joro says will take place.

At first I was worried that Joro was again playing games with people rather than being honest and confronting conflicts when they exist (as he’s done thus far in his happy little library group), thus inviting further ire from Pansy. However, that’s not the case! He actually brings Pansy in on this, with the new information that Tampopo and Pansy went to the same middle school.

Back then, before she disguised herself, Pansy was often pressured into getting a boyfriend by her peers. With this scheme, Tampopo hoped to get her a boyfriend by using Joro as an indirect catalyst rather than repeating the direct pressure of the past. She was thinking of Pansy. Tampopo’s baseball connection with Sun was just a happy coincidence.

Pansy then tells Tampopo that she’s already in love with Joro (AKA “Slipper Man”). When asks why she went through so much subterfuge when telling the truth from the start would have been fine, Tampopo hesitates then runs off before telling “the truth.” Is that truth that she actually likes Joro, and was getting Pansy out of the way?

Regardless, this was a mostly self-contained episode designed to introduce yet another girl to Joro’s already sizable cadre, but at the unfortunate cost of marginalizing another (Sasanqua), not to mention stop Himawari’s recent developments in their tracks. It didn’t really feel necessary.

Then there’s Cosmos, whose pained looks this week might be less about being neglected of late, and more because she’s the only one who knows the school is planning to close the library—Pansy’s sanctuary and their sacred meeting place—and not even she as StuCo President can do anything about it. I’m just hoping that on a show now brimming with relationships, a non-relationship plot development won’t get in the way in the last two episodes.

I also hope there’s a second season!

Programming Note: Just as there was no Oresuki episode last week, there’s no Cautious Hero episode this week.

Oresuki – 09 – Not Just a Background Character

Joro has gotten the hang of his new gig at Tsubaki’s family’s restaurant, and even Sasanqua comes by to have the guy in which she suddenly has interest server her and her gal friends. But when Tsubaki’s praise of his performance starts to sound like too much, Joro reveals his inferiority complex: he feels he’s just doing what he can as a background character while his more impressive friends accomplish greater things.

Since Joro’s job eats into his library time with Pansy, lunches are tense, especially with Himawari not there to lighten the mood (she’s prepping for a tennis tournament). Then, one night, Joro messes up at work, gets yelled at by an angry customer, and has to be bailed out by Tsubaki.

Pansy is already on record in her opposition of him working solely to repay his debt to her, since it’s nothing more than saving face. When she meets him after work, she says as much, and tries to assure him he’s okay and he’s already a good person. This isn’t a good time for him to hear this, so he snaps at her, something he immediately regrets.

This naturally makes things even more awkward in the library, but a chance meeting with a young lad named Hazuki Yasuo raises his spirits by reinforcing what Sun-chan tried to tell him. Basically, he can’t be afraid of “swinging and missing” or getting hurt, but has to “go all out” his own way.

The next day Joro apologizes to Pansy, but also tells her he’s going to keep working—not to repay a perceived debt to her, but because he simply wants to buy her a new book, something she not only accepts, but supports. But when he finally gets enough money, the book has already been sold—to Himawari.

All this time, she’s been putting off practice and saving up to buy him a book. What we have here is basically a “penance triangle”, with Himawari working to pay back Joro, who was working to pay back Pansy. At first, Joro is angry at her for risking everything, but as Himawari tells him, he matters to her as much if not more than tennis.

Himawari ends up winning her tournament anyway, reinforcing how awesome she is. Before her first match, she shocks Joro, Pansy, Cosmos and Tsubaki by stealing a kiss from him, not-so-cryptically telling him there’s “someone she likes” now, complicating matters for the others.

Tsubaki also manages to subvert expectations by not having any dark ulterior motive to getting Joro to work at her restaurant. Turns out she wanted the job to help him build confidence in himself as someone other than “second banana”, but the main character which some truly awesome and amazing friends.

That brings us to the situation at episode’s end, in which Joro is back on that damnable bench, being asked by Himawari Tampopo to hook Pansy up with Sun-chan…here we go again…

Oresuki – 08 – Deep-Fried Joro-on-a-Stick

“What new devilry is this?”, Joro must be thinking when Yoki Chiharu, a classmate for all of thirty seconds, approaches him, bends the knee, kisses his hand and pledges fealty like he’s some nobleman.

Even if there’s no damnable bench in sight this week, it doesn’t change the fact that not a single woman in his life has ever been what he initially assumed her to be, nor are her intentions ever clear from the get-go.

Sasanqua, recently interested in his desk neighbor to the point of dying her hair, doesn’t like this one bit. Chiharu, AKA Tsubaki, claims to be paying Joro back for showing her (yes, during that baseball game a year ago) that it’s worth working your tail off for someone, as he was by buying consolatory skewers for Sun-chan. At no point does she drop the kind, dutiful, angelic act to anyone.

And yet Joro can’t help but think something smells rotten in Denmark. In a hilarious half-chuuni, half-rakugo inner monologue that belies his cheerful exterior, he warns himself again and again not to fall for this act, even as her act proves so goddamn effective, he doesn’t even care if he’s being deceived. At one point he asks the fourth wall why this angel wasn’t in the first episode!

Tsubaki joining the group causes almost immediate tension, as she makes and presents to Joro a lunch the same day Cosmos made him one. He accepts both, even though it’s too much food. Later, Pansy calls him out for trying to maintain the status quo. By accepting Tsubaki’s gratitude-fueled behavior, he can “dodge” Pansy and Cosmos’ love-fueled affection. “That’s not kindness, it’s running away,” she says.

When Pansy lends Joro a very valuable hand-written novel to read so they can talk about it later, he quickly loses it after Himawari tackles him in the street. That night he searches for it, and Ram and Rem from Re:Zero recover it for him under extremely suspicious circumstances, but it is totally ruined.

Joro vows to get a job so he can make enough money to replace the extremely expensive book, which not only means spacing out at lunch with the others, but cancelling all future library visits while he works…at Tsubaki’s family’s fried skewer restaurant. Again, Tsubaki has exactly what he needs when he needs it. Pansy states unequivocally that she’d rather he kept visiting her than get a job to replace her book.

But Joro is obstinate; he’s going to replace it, which means he has to work when he’d usually visit her, and which also means he’ll be spending a lot more time with Tsubaki, who finally potentially betrays to no one but us that she has some kind of “payback” plan in motion.

Whether that’s sinister or not remains to be seen; her expression is inscrutable. One thing is certain: maintaining the status quo, as Pansy is sure he’s so eager to do, is no longer tenable—not as long as Tsubaki has him all to himself. Closing note: Tsubaki could, in fact, be the girl Sun mentioned to Pansy a few eps back, whom Sun liked in middle school but who chose Joro. Perhaps Joro’s full memory of her hasn’t quite surfaced. We’ll see.

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 09

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Apparently it was onsen week, as Samurai Flamenco, Nisekoi, and now Zvezda all featured hot springs. Of the three, we’d have to say Zvezda’s offering was the most creative and impactful. Having both White Light and Zvezda hold their company retreats at the same hot spring, and not knowing the either would be there, is both silly and brilliant—as is having the elderly innkeepers be on opposite sides.

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When White Robin bumps into Dva, one would think Robin would immediately engage in combat, but it doesn’t go that way; Dva buys her a soda and they simply relax in this neutral place. After all, both “companies” are there to relax; maintaining a truce with the enemy keeps things from getting unrelaxed. But thanks to White Egret, a battle breaks out anyway.

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While not happy with Miki picking a fight with Dva, Falcon decides to launch an all-out assault. Watching different halves of the assembled “employees” pull off their robes to unveil their true colors was a great bit of stagecraft, and the innkeepers duelling as Kate dozes below them is both thrilling and hilarious (Kate shows a lot of her kid-side this week by being immodest in the bath, conquering milk, and getting drowsy when its her bedtime). What was really cool was how casually Renge learned that Egret and Dva were Miki and Asuta all along.

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Asuta still doesn’t know Renge is Robin, but we thought it was significant that Robin saved Dva before she knew who he was—not because she was betraying White Light, but because she didn’t see him as a threat. Now she knows, and her immediate reaction is tentative. As the war between White Light and Zvezda escalates (it sure looks like Yase betrayed Zvezda and their HQ has been blown up), there will probably be more instances when Renge will have to choose what matters more: duty or love.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

 

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 08

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Zvezda has been very zany, witty, whimsical and fun over its first seven outings, but it’s not what you’d call sophisticated drama. This episode aims to change that, as Zvezda’s secret base is infiltrated deeper than ever before, while the history of Zvezda’s dependable rock General Pepel AKA Shikabane Gorou is explored deeper than before. The show decides not to immediately jump into the confrontation between Asuta and his dad, instead revealing the mysterious commander of White Light, who harbors a personal grudge against Zvezda and its chief, Gorou.

Things start off innocently enough, as Gorou is checking out pastry exhibition, which is hilariously random but also disarming, since maybe the old man’s just there for the sweets. After their big battle last week, Asuta, Kate, and Robo are simply kicking back, and the lead voice actress in Kate’s favorite anime turns out to be White Light’s commander, White Falcon. Things take a turn for the worse when she bombards Kate, Asuta, Robo, and Tasha with puppeteer waves and invites herself to their base, where she deploys a large White Light contingent.

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It’s a very nice dastardly plot because it comes out of nowhere, as does Falcon herself. Even so, she makes a lot of progress because she identified and isolated Zvezda’s most conventionally powerful (i.e., non-magical) member at the moment. The connections come fast and furious: the pastry chef Pierre was thrown out of the gang by Gorou’s wife(?), Tsubaki; White Falcon is really Tsubaki’s sister (possibly making her Gorou’s sister-in-law); Itsuka is Tsubaki’s daughter. All these ties both enrich and explain the underlying conflict between Zvezda and White Light; now it more closely resembles a family feud.

This episode also bucked the trend of focusing on Asuta (the ostensible protagonist) or Kate (the ostensible leader of Zvezda), and focused on the underutilized but incredibly Badass Old Dude; his Old Dude friend who’s really good at baking (and stopping steamrollers); and his Old Dude past, which shaped the Old Dude he is today. After being disguised as a stationary bronze bust for the last two weeks, he gets his time in the spotlight, brings a welcome dose of seriousness and gravitas, and shows Kaori that he won’t allow himself or Zvezda and the ideal of world conquest to be defeated as neatly as she’d planned.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

 

 

Sket Dance – 76

In the first half, Katou Kiri pledges serve Tsubaki in everything. This makes Tsubaki uncomfortable at first, but eventually learns he can use his power to turn Katou into a useful member of the student council, as he helps anyone who needs it using his ninjitsu. In the second half, the Sket-dan teams up with Tsubaki, Asahina, Unyuu and Katou to try to cure Usami of her dual personalities. The girls try dressing like guys, but that doesn’t work; then the guys dress up as girls, and Bossun and Switch are convincing enough to prevent her from transforming into Bunny, if only briefly.

Prior to watching this episode, we learned that this would be the next-to-last episode of Sket Dance, which will wrap after a robust 77 episodes. This is a pretty by-the-numbers episode, focusing heavily on the new student council in the first half, then pulling out the ol’ gender switcheroo premise for the second half. While we felt a subtle but distinct hint of going through the motions, this was still an enjoyable episode.

Like previous dramatic episodes in which a character underwent some kind of change, that change carries through to the episodes that follow. Thus Katou will obey any order Tsubaki gives him – including the order to obey the other student council members. Grateful for Tsubaki’s loyalty, friendship, and for saving his ass, this makes perfect sense. Usami, meanwhile, has yet to overcome her personality-splitting ways, despite some very convincing (to Himeko, anyway) “girl talk” by Bossun and Switch (Tsubaki and Katou shrink before this particular task). It showed that the Sket-dan still had something unique to contribute with only one more episode remaining.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Sket Dance – 74

In the first half, Bossun is playing with a collectable toy car in the hallway when he’s scolded by Tsubaki, who breaks it while attempting to confiscate it. Mimorin recognizes the car as the same kind her father collects, and invites Tsubaki, Bossun, and Himeko over to her “house”, which is more like an underground city. In the second half, the ramen shop owner challenges Captain to a rematch, but Bossun’s indelicate words lead to her retiring her “Cap’n Munch” special eating move. Bossun takes her place in the challenge, but can’t cut it. She swoops in and uses a supersonic “Neo-Cap’n Munch” to defeat the shop owner once more, until she learns she ate hard-boiled eggs and throws everything up.

This week was a very special episode of Sket Dance, in which we get an inside look at the living conditions of perhaps the wealthiest anime characters we’ve ever known, the Unyuus. Worth at least 5 quintillion yen (50 followed by eighteen zeros), we learn that all of Mimorin’s boasts throughout the series were justified…and then some. Her family is in fact worth many times more than the whole rest of the world economy, which is fun. More to the point, we love just how over-the-top and uncompromising her wealth is depicted. She doesn’t just have a butler; she has hundreds of servants who live in an underground city with a stark palette. Her above-ground entrance hall occupies several city blocks. It’s nuts, but hilariously so.

The second half can’t quite match the scale of the first, but it exceeds it in passion – or should we say, “Cap’passion”; as in the infectious competitive passion of the captain, Takahashi Chiaki, who gets another chance to show off her eating skills. Like the first half, it starts small: Bossun makes an offhand comment about how quickly Captain eats. It puts her in a self-conscious, sulky mood, and she gives up the “Cap’n Munch” ability. Still, Bossun, Switch, the ramen shop owner, and eventually even Hani and Asahina get all fired up, and their passion then re-stokes hers as she sees Bossun struggling. It’s all very dramatic and powerfully depicted, only to be comically and suddenly cut short at the end when she barfs it all up (off-camera), thanks to the end credits rolling in the middle.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Car Cameos: This episode was replete with some classics, being about collecting cars: Bossun is playing with a toy Mercedes-Benz SSK, and gets an SSKL from the Unyuus after a lot of trouble. Among the model and real cars Rintarou owns are a Mercedes-Benz 300SL, a Volkswagen Beetle (pictured), a Volkswagen Golf MkI, and a Mercedes-Benz 280SL. In Mimorin’s recollection, there’s also a Shelby Cobra, Beetle Cabriolet, and a ’55-’56 GMC Truck. None of the cars and trucks in the Unyuu underground city were detailed enough to be identified, but they looked to be of general 70s-80s vintage.

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