Lycoris Recoil – 05 – Heart of Steel

LycoReco’s next mission seems almost as innocuous as Chisato and Takina’s day off of shopping: serving as a Tokyo tour guides for Mr. Matsushita, a man with advanced ALS who wants to see the sights of his homeland one last time. The reason he’s hiring two Lycoris is that by returning to Japan he makes himself a target to the same assassin who killed his wife and daughter two years ago.

Chisato lovingly hand-crafts the best darn tour itinerary possible, only to realize once the client arrives that he’ll need it in digital format; thankfully they have Kurumi to digitize it. When he asks if Chisato thinks it’s strange that machines are keeping him alive, she says not at all, and casually drops perhaps the biggest bombshell yet about herself: she has a completely artificial heart.

While Chisato and Takina take Matsushita on a water bus to avoid Sumida Ward traffic and Chisato flashes her elite tour guide skills, Detective Abe is down in the ruins of the train station with his young partner, finding a whole mess of bullet holes evidencing a terrorist attack. The thing is, they’re not supposed to be there, and when they see flashlights they slip away.

That Chisato spots Abe and his partner on the street and greets them is one of those small-world-in-a-big-city moments that really brings the setting to life. Tokyo is as much a character this week anyone else, with its bustling streets and historic landmarks.

While taking a breather back on the water bus, Takina wants follow-up on Chisato’s claim of an artificial heart. Chisato adds it works an absolute treat despite her not having a heartbeat. Takina can’t resist trying to feel. Meanwhile, the assassin Matsushida was fearing shows up.

This whole time Kurumi has eyes on the girls and client via her trusty drone, while Mizuki is on the ground shadowing the assassin once he arrives. His nickname is “Silent Jin” and he’s a no-nonsense consummate professional Mika happened to once work with. It’s really fun watching LycoReco coordinate their efforts…until their whole system gets blown up.

Jin immediately sets about demonstrating what a badass professional he is by shooting down Kurumi’s drone and finding and neutralizing Mizuki (though not before she slaps a transmitter on his coat). Kurumi does the most physical activity she’s probably done in days by running to the window of the café and tossing out a spare drone.

But that drone will take time to get where she needs it to be, and with Mizuki temporarily off the board (she later turns up alive) Chisato and Takina are on their own. Takina acts as a lure for Jin, leading him away from Matsushita, but Matsushita then goes off on his own.

Chisato catches up to him in front of Tokyo Station, and he tells her he’s realized from their behavior that the assassin who killed his family is nearby, and intends to kill him. There’s a resignation in the way he seems to be intentionally making himself a prime target for Jin, who has a high vantage point in some scaffolding.

Takina manages to cause Jin’s killing shot to miss and then bum rushes him, and the two fall through the scaffolding. Takina fortunately lands on some soft bags of building material, but it’s another demonstration of how she acts before thinking long-term (which has its pros and cons).

An out-of-breath Mizuki finally arrives (she really had a workout this week), and Chisato leaves Matsushita in her care, worried that Takina could be in trouble. Sure enough, Takina gets grazed in the leg and her mobility is severely curtailed, leaving her a sitting duck for Jin.

Well, Chisato isn’t about to let her partner get killed, so she springs into action, firing rounds that create puffs of colored sand to blind Jin (a modern take on an ancient ninja blinding tactic metsubushi) then gets right up in Jin’s business and unloads a clip of concussive rounds that put him down without ending his life.

When Matsushita sees Jin is still alive, he insists Chisato kill him, reminding her of the mission she carries as an Alan Child. Because Chisato is Chisato, she respectfully declines to kill Jin, saying she only wants to help others, like the person who gave her her Alan pendant. With that, all of Matsushita’s machines shut down, and we get the biggest twist of the episode: Matsushita didn’t exist.

It turns out a medical patient that was missing from a facility was used as a “fake” Matsushita by a third party, who saw through the goggles on the man’s eyes, remote controled his wheelchair, and spoke via the internet. Why this person went through so much trouble to specifically try to make Chisato kill Jin, we don’t know. We only know that a woman paid Jin cash to kill “Matsushita” and he didn’t ask any more questions.

If last week’s Lycoris massacre wasn’t foreboding enough, the penultimate scene in this episode features Mashima’s grey overall-wearing associates luring the attention of a Lycoris so he can run her down with his car, and then they empty their clips into her for good measure. All of these guys have a serious hatred of the Lycoris, and they’re surely not done. Someone will have to stop them, and lethal force may be necessary.

But at least for a little while longer (probably too short a while), Chisato and Takina don’t have to worry about that. Unaware of the Lycrois killings, Chisato is more worried about whether being called an amazing tour guide was just a lie. Takina assures her that she wasn’t, and whoever was controlling that poor old man was genuine in their praise.

Then, with no one else around, Takina sees Chisato is open and lays her head upon her chest so she can hear—or rather not hear—her lack of a heartbeat. It is a beautifully animated (no surprise for this show) and incredibly heartwarming gesture that shows just how close these two have become. Unfortunately, this comes just in time for the shit to hit the fan courtesy of Mashima.

A Couple of Cuckoos – 10 – Cup Ramen and Foie Gras

When Erika takes off to hang out with her mom (the one who raised her) Sachi doesn’t waste the sudden opportunity to hang out with her Onii. She ostensibly wants to buy a gift for their mom, but both of seem to agree their mom isn’t much of a gift receiver, so you have to think part of her just wants to see what it’s like to go on something like a date with Nagi.

The two settle on an apron (and sure enough, their mom could take or leave it) but when Sachi comes upon the idea, Nagi rewards her with a head pat, which pisses her off to no end. As much as she pretends not to stand him, Sachi wants Nagi to see her as a girl, not an imouto. Alas, he’s utterly oblivious. He just wants to study and win Hiro, which is why he’s probably none too pleased about suddenly being yanked out of the house by Erika.

Erika, who herself was blissfully reveling in her first cup ramen, got a text from her dad saying he’s coming—no discussion, not argument, he’s just coming and that’s that—so she ditches both wallet and phone, grabs Nagi, and heads out. Where doesn’t matter; that even she’s not sure is the point. No GPS or purchase history means even someone as rich and powerful as her dad can’t find her if she doesn’t want to see him.

Instead, Sachi is person who encounters her dad making himself at home in the house. She initially thinks he’s a burglar, but she should have called the cops anyway, considering he later lures her out and plys her with foie gras. I’m with the wait staff of his restaurant: it’s weird that he suddenly takes Sachi out to dinner.

Sachi is there for the foie gras, and also considers it equitable to tell Erika’s father about how she and Nagi are getting along. She probably doesn’t realize she’s being a snitch, because she’s distracted by the fact this is another opportunity for her: if she says they’re terrible together, she could potentially be able to swoop in and have Nagi to herself (again).

But Sachi is not a bad person, so she tells Erika’s father the truth: as mismatched as their personalities seem, Erika and Nagi definitely have a spark—je ne fois gras, if you will. Their chat is interposed between scenes of Nagi showing Erika a good time with zero yen thanks to a steep hill and a piece of cardboard.

As for Erika’s increasingly creepy dad, he heads into his office to admire a framed photo of him and Erika’s dad with Erika…and Nagi, looking like older toddlers. This is strange, as my understanding is they were separated at birth; this suggests they were reunited at some point. It also gives credence to the fact the “certain someone” Erika is trying to reach through SM is, in fact, Nagi, and the two of them simply somehow forgot they knew each other as kids.

Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story – 07 – Around the Bend

When you consider that Nicholas and Catherine are using Eve and Rose to settle a score that might’ve taken a lot more time, cost a lot more money and spilled a lot more blood on the streets, you can’t help but think that her $100 million underground golf course is worth every penny of her money—both dirty and legitimate.

Of course, Eve and Rose don’t particularly care about their bosses; they’re doing this for pride. Rose even told her underling to leave Eve alone a year ago, when she was only six months into her betting golf career. Only now that “the fruit is ripe” does Rose want to pluck it from the branch and sink her teeth into it.

Make no mistake: Rose is good. Like Eve, she was trained by Leo (who makes a rather baffling appearance at the bar while Klein is packing up) and also calls her shots “bullets” (though in her case she has only one color: crimson rose). The two play hole after hole to draw after draw. Since the stakes are their lives, this is a double-edged sword.

There is certainly a level of suspense, especially the way the balls just miss the holes. But that’s tempered by the inescapable knowledge that Eve is most certainly not going to die as a result of this match, and I’m not even convinced Rose will either.

This episode is also let down a bit by two factors: the ridiculousness of the underground configurable golf course was already established for the duel with Vipére, so its novelty and shine wear off a bit (especially as they use all the same shots as the first time we saw it, only in a different order).

When Catherine cheats and has a hole made that requires a slice, she does so believing, Wile E. Coyote-style, that the Road Runner isn’t capable of learning. Turns out Aoi taught Eve a new “Purple Bullet” that does indeed slice. Worse for Cathy still, there’s a very concerning crack when Rose hits her shot.

When Rose tries to match Eve’s 287-yard Blue Bullet bomb, she manages to do so, but there’s that cracking sound again, and it’s followed by Rose clutching her right arm and screaming in pain. Then, and mind you this is after the credits, something happened that made me cackle like Catherine after something goes her way.

Turns out Rose’s freaking arm is a bionic arm, and it shatters. I’d say that’s the end of the game…but this is Birdie Wing. It’s possible she has a spare, or just plays with one arm. Either way I can’t see her outright dying … but by golly that arm was one hell of a surprise.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Mieruko-chan – 04 – Chestnut Pudding

First of all, a ghost haunting the konbini Miko frequents adding three percent tax to the items the living cashier is ringing up, and Miko’s dry observation of it, got a huge laugh out of me. I just loved the creepy, absurd, yet mundane nature of it.

You’d think Miko would want to watch something, anything other than paranormal TV shows, but either she’s being a good big sis by watching with her little brother Kyousuke, or she genuinely likes ghost stories…she just doesn’t like being able to see said ghosts.

Something spooks Miko into going to the nearest vending machine, where she finds tiny little spirits when she drops her 500-yen coin. Oddly charmed by these bitty, seemingly harmless little guys, she follows one as he skitters away, only to end up in an alley with a giant ghost who eats the little ones like a snack. When she tries and fails to pick up the coin, a crow bails her out by stealing it.

Mieruko-chan once again proves its horror movie bona fides by giving us the classic situation of being visited by a ghost in one’s most vulnerable state: while naked in the bath. This is apparently the first time it’s happening to Miko, and she’s genuinely voicing her limits. She thought she could rely on the bathroom for solace, but now that’s no longer true.

This time her savior is Kyousuke. Worried she’s dating some dude (she’s not) wants to get in the bath with her, and she enthusiastically offers to wash his back. If he’s in there with her, the ghost isn’t as scary.

Every morning, Miko tells us she makes a wish to no longer “see them”, but that wish is seemingly ignored day after day, as she’s seemingly seeing more ghosts in more places all the time. She’s not even given a moment’s peace to eat breakfast with her family thanks to ghosts swarming the table and breathing on her food.

Throughout the episode, Miko had been all gung-ho about procuring some chestnut pudding. In addition to sounding freakin’ delicious (seriously, I need to find a recipe and make some if I can’t find some at the Japanese grocery store), I figured it was one small way Miko copes with her ghost sightings.

Then the episode throws us a twist by showing that the chestnut pudding has special significance: it’s not for her, but as an offering for her dad…who was dead all along! It’s a hell of a twist that builds on the fact Miko can see more than the ugly invasive ghosts, but ordinary ones too.

The post-credits sequence is a replay of the first segment in which Miko was watching TV with Kyousuke, only this time we see what Miko saw, and why that shampoo commercial freaked her out enough to go out for drinks.

This episode really accentuated the sheer weight of Miko’s ESP, and how it’s adversely affecting her sleep, behavior, and appetite. Could the new character who’ll (finally) be formally introduced next week, be a fellow “seer” who might have some tips for Miko finding some relief? I hope so!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Detective Is Already Dead – 09 – Foregone Conclusion

We’ve now arrived back at that scene on the boat where Siesta, Kimihiko, and Char—who is still not really a character—are headed to Secret Evil SPES Island. It’s as clear as it is by the name of the anime that this will be Siesta’s last mission, especially since Char keeps telling Kimi he’s going to regret not hugging Siesta or having her pat his head.

Kimi and Char go off on their own armed only with guns against an enemy they know to be superpowered. Seems kinda dumb! But then the entire excursion into the deeply unimpressive SPES HQ is a bit of a waste of time, unless you got anything at all out of the deadpan monologue of SPES’ space plant uber-boss. I was just waiting for Kimi to go back to Siesta. When he does, she’s only playing dead…at least at this point.

It’s a trick as cheap as much of the animation, framing, and general direction of the final showdown between Hel and Siesta/Kimi. Giant vines pop out of the ground, but they’re mostly a series of still shots. Our heroes move awkwardly and stiffly across the barren, boring battlefield. Hel reveals that she’s a personality created by Alicia to deal with all the torture, or something.

Then the giant stupid monster comes out of nowhere and tries to eat Kimi, only for Siesta to dive into harm’s way, push Kimi aside, and get killed. Yet even this is so oddly and sloppily presented that finally witnessing how the Detective who was Already Dead dies elicited no more than a shrug, and a bit of a yawn.

As if there weren’t enough clichés in this episode, it ends with Kimi waking up in his bed, presumably in the present when he’s rolling with Nagisa…but who knows? It’s a bit frustrating to think that all these episodes that took place with Siesta, and indeed made up the bulk of this cour, were just one long flashback that undermined the show’s premise. Sure, the Detective is Already Dead…but we’re spending most of the time with her still alive. Now that she’s gone, I’m not sure I care where this show goes next…

The Detective Is Already Dead – 08 – She’ll Steal Your Heart

This episode starts off with a gag—that the carrots in the curry Kimi made are too hard. They’re hard because he couldn’t find the kitchen knife, which Siesta confirms is still missing. Siesta is rather harsh and perhaps even a little possessive of her Sidekick when she informs Alicia that her services as substitute detective are no longer required. Kimi disagrees, and allows Alicia to continue investigating beside him.

Then sirens blare, and the next victim of the heart-stealer is revealed. Siesta, Kimi, and Alicia visit the grief-stricken mother of the woman, and regrets only taking and never giving to her daughter. Siesta is again harsh and clinical in questioning the grieving mother, causing Kimi to interrupt, while Alicia comforts the mother by assuring her that it wasn’t a one-sided relationship.

Siesta and Kimi have a tiff and go their separate ways for the day, but Alicia isn’t far behind, and Kimi presents her with a gift—the ring she liked at the curbside jeweler—and she asks him to slip it on her finger as a groom would. Siesta returns to apologize, only to see the two together, wish them every happiness, and storms off in a fresh barely-concealed huff.

Needless to say, Kimi has become quite fond and trusting of Alicia, in spite of the fact so much of her is still shrouded in mystery. In place of all the things he doesn’t know, he fills his heart with all the things he does, including that she’s a good person, and completely misses how she suspects she used to be a bad one. Turns out the ring was a tracking device, and Kimi soon finds a stabbed but not killed police officer…and Alicia on the ground with a gunshot wound.

It was when Alicia first said she was once bad that it first popped into my head she was Hel in a different form. That’s because everything I’d seen so far pointed to that. So I fully expected the episode to zag instead of zig, and pull something completely different out of nowhere; once again to prove it doesn’t really care about process or clues so much as the final twist.

Instead, it just zigged—Alicia is Hel, or at least the innocent, kind surface side of Hel. She’s been unknowingly switching into Hel Mode and stealing the hearts of the victims. Once she put the pieces together for herself, Alicia was left with nothing but the inevitability that her fun with Kimi had to come to an abrupt end.

Just as her reveal as Hell was earned, so is Alicia’s tearful goodbye to Kimi before turning into a knife-brandishing Hel. It was truly heartbreaking after all the moments—both tender and fraught—they’d shared, and become a kind of big-brother/little sister detective duo.

Again, Siesta comes in to do what is necessary, tackling Hel!Alicia before she can kill Kimi, then preparing to shoot her in the head before Kimi pulls his gun on Siesta. His heart may still be beating in his chest, but there’s no denying that Alicia stole it anyway. How else could he point a gun at Siesta?

Kimi was emotionally compromised. He’s a human being; it happens. Siesta doesn’t hold it against him, nor does she impose some kind of punishment for him losing objectivity. On the contrary, Siesta admits that Alicia was so trustworthy to her that she didn’t start suspecting her until the most recent victims, meaning she didn’t have the knowledge to act before anyone was killed. Call me crazy, but I like the fact that while Siesta is legendary, she’s not perfect.

But as both Kimi and Siesta were trying to do the right thing and were momentarily at odd with one another like never before in their three-plus years together, they’re soon reunited when Chameleon abducts Hel!Alicia and dares them to follow him to his not-so-secret private island base (which…what a stock villain move). They have a comrade to save, and they’ll do it the best way they know how: together.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Detective Is Already Dead – 04 – Blue Moon in Her Eye

Huh…well that was…something? I dunno, there’s something very odd and random about just running into an idol concert and randomly wandering around until you realize the bad guy can hear you even through all the noise…and the bad guy gives away his position for no reason. Also, both the crowd of weird shadow people who all have identical green light sticks (why not…blue?), Yui’s performance, and the general sound mix left a lot to be desired.

I’ll, admit, while I suspected Yui made that threat letter, I didn’t think the giant sapphire would her false left eye. That’s odd in more a cool way than a head-scratching one. Still, the entire concert scene that culminated in Kimizuka leaping to push Yui out of the path of a crossbow bolt lacked suspense and the appropriate level of production value.

Matters aren’t helped when Yui explains why her eye is a sapphire and while I obviously sympathize with her losing her parents at such an age, only to inherit a giant mansion, immense fortune, and oh yeah, a sapphire eye that SPES is apparently trying to steal.

That brings us to the most contrived part of the episode: that Yui was manipulated by SPES into trying to kill Kimizuka and Nagisa by rigging a bomb in the jewel vault. This is indeed a twist, but Kimizuka’s manner of deducing it makes no sense. Also her eye has x-ray vision…so I guess it’s not just a sapphire, and Yui is part cyborg?

It’s all moot, as despite the fact Yui pulls a gun on Kimizuka and Nagisa, five minutes later she’s lowering it and crying about not wanting her jewel eye stolen. This begs the question of why is SPES only now trying to steal it. It also seems strange that a secret evil organization would choose such a public and audacious manner of trying to steal it as shooting a crossbow bolt through a beloved idol’s eye.

These are the kind of questions I’d rather not have, but because this episode is only interested in conclusions and twists and not doing any of the work to set them up properly, my mind wandered often.

In any case, Yui is now a friend and compatriot of Kimizuka and Nagisa, fellow targets of the nebulous Bad Guys. The next day, as news of Kimizuka rescuing Yui plasters the city’s video screens, another person from Kimizuka’s past arrives: a blonde bombshell named Char whom we learn—in a flashback in the most obnoxiously expositiony way possible—is the brawn to Kimizuka’s brains.

Siesta insisted that the two learn to get along and cover for each others’ weaknesses. Either that never happened or it never had a chance to happen, because that day on the boat with Kimizuka and Char was Siesta’s last. I foresee next week focusing on Char’s return to Kimizuka’s life, the two trying and failing to get along, but not giving up on trying in honor of their mentor…whose heart is alive and well in Nagisa.

Hear what Crow has to say about episode 4 here.

Akudama Drive – 12 (Fin) – Good Trouble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Akudama Drive – 11 – Their Little Dream

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uzaki-chan wa Asobitai! – 12 (Fin) – The Hanging Out Continues

As expected, last week’s shocking cliffhanger is resolved within the episode’s first two minutes, as Uzaki clarifies she can’t hang out with him because she still has to do her college summer homework. Sakurai closes the door in her face, despite the fact she’s soaked by the rain. Pretty lame fake-out there, to be honest. Also, college summer homework? Sounds high schoolly to me…

When the cafe owner throws out his back lifting something he should have left to his hulking employee, it affords Ami an opportunity to ask Uzaki how she and Sakurai were like in high school. Uzaki basically reiterates that while she was initially intimidated by his scary face, she soon learned he’s a kind, earnest guy. What Uzaki didn’t realize until Ami tells her is that she’s picked up his speech patterns!

On to the next vignette, in which Uzaki, having shown her whole ass (figuratively speaking) to Sakurai when drunk, is determined to get Sakurai into a similar state of vulnerability. Sakaki tells her Sak intentionally keeps his alcohol intake down to avoid showing that side of himself, so she’ll have to work for it.

To that end, she cooks a delicious but spicy dinner for the two, pretends to drink so he’ll keep up, and brings bad shark disaster movies to distract him from his intake. By the end of the evening, Uzaki is successful as Sakurai is very drunk and for once couldn’t act cool if he wanted to, but when he earnestly praises Uzaki’s cooking and lets the word “love” slip, it leads Uzaki to binge drink in order to steel herself.

The end result is Sakaki puts drunk Sakurai in his futon to get a good night’s sleep, and drunk Uzaki crawls into the bed with him. When they wake up face-to-face, they have no memory of what, if anything, happened, and head to the cafe to treat their hangovers with quality coffee.

Naturally, Ami and her dad are eager to hear details about what happened, and are perhaps too amused by the fact neither Sakurai nor Uzaki can definitively state that they did not have a drunken tussle. One would hope that if and when they do it, they’d be in charge of their faculties and, more importantly, remember the experience!

The next college semester starts, and Uzaki has breakfast with her mom and previously unseen(?) little brother. Uzaki spots Sakurai on campus and catches up to his lumbering gait. She’s still experiencing post-summer break shock, and is mostly down in the dumps because she thinks they won’t hang out with classes in session.

Sakurai assures her, perhaps too earnestly, that it doesn’t have to be summer for them to hang out, and that “they’ll always be together.” That last bit brings out Uzaki’s mischievous flesh fang, and we’re basically back to their warm, cozy status quo dynamic.

While watchable and possessed of some nice moments here and there, Uzaki-chan wants to Hang Out! was a pretty ho-hum, take-it-or-leave-it rom-com. Too often the leads felt more like high schoolers than the adults they’re supposed to be. The antics of the Owner/Ami/Sakaki rooting triad grew stale, while the weird Tottori tourism ad episode was…a weird Tottori tourism ad.

That said, Oozora Naomi gave a solid performance as Uzaki, and I’ll be keeping an ear out for her in other lead roles (she’s also great in the far-superior Chio’s School Road). Other than that this show was a somewhat marginal-effort Summer time-passer…which will be back for a second season of hanging out!

Season Average: 7.5

Uzaki-chan wa Asobitai! – 11 – The Inevitable Precipice

Following their Tottori trip (which goes completely unmentioned here), Uzaki and Sakurai continue to ride high as an item, with Uzaki coming over virtually every day and leaving her junk behind, a definite sign of intimacy. However, Sakurai’s a neat freak and when the junk piles up he makes Uzaki clean it up. However, when she cooks him dinner he apologizes for being so harsh, while Uzaki revels at how easy it is to calm him.

When he’s offered cooking duties at the cafe, Sakurai’s attempt at pasta it inedible, so he comes to Uzaki’s house to have a crash course in cooking. He finally meets Uzaki’s cats, but of course her mom overhears him talking about petting them and assumes he’s talking about her. It’s a rehash of a joke that wasn’t particularly funny the first time, but at least we get Hayami Saori “hoo-hoo-hoo” laugh out of it!

We then move on somewhat clunkily to a day of rock climbing, something that comes naturally to Sakurai but which exhausts Uzaki almost instantly. She has no choice but to accept defeat in this particular competition, and simply watches as her “himbo” climbs his heart out while barely breaking a sweat.

We cut awkwardly again to Sakurai doing solo karaoke, the rise of which is explained by a “wise narrator” type I don’t remember hearing much of before, but is only notable because it’s such a poor imitation of Kaguya-sama: Love is War—of which this show isn’t even a pale shadow of a pale shadow.

A tipsy Uzaki and Ami spot him and join in the fun, and due to their reduced inhibitions even dress up and crowd him with chinese dresses, a cop uniform, and a bunny girl suit, the latter of which an unguarded Sakurai declares to be his favorite.

Since this is apparently an episode full of sharp cuts to unrelated events, it ends in the same fashion. Suddenly it’s a dark and rainy day (or night), and Uzaki shows up at Sakurai’s door absolutely soaked…but won’t come in. She declares that she “can’t hang out” with Sakurai anymore, and tears fall down her cheeks.

I’m not sure what to make of this. It’s unusual for a rom-com couple to hit a “low point” or reach some kind of “precipice” before the big finale, but it’s all been goofy fun and games to this point with scarcely any drama aside from the high school swimming flashback.

While this is totally out of left field for the show, I’m still eager to learn why exactly their fun has to come to an end, and would welcome a measure of genuine drama. Was it because Sakurai said the bunny girl was best? Are she and her mom suddenly moving? It could be anything.

ID: INVADED – 04 – Hiding a Leaf in the Forest

We begin with one of the worst things that can be done to a person: high schooler Kikuchi Keiko has been buried alive. She is the seventh such victim of the “Graverobber”, and is aware of the past victims because like her, they were all livesteamed on the internet to a morbidly fascinated audience. Once again, the police are fighting against a ticking clock to prevent a seventh death.

Worse still, their most reliable “pilot” drove another criminal to suicide simply by talking to him about the furthest reaches of their psyche, which of course he saw when in their Id Wells. He’s in solitary while they try to use the Perforater as a substitute pilot, but his survival rate is too low to make any progress. It has to be Narihisago. He’s the best they’ve got.

And yet, even the Brilliant Detective Sakaido finds that the Id Well they were able to create from the perp’s cognition particles has a high level of difficulty. He’s trapped in a massive, undulating apartment block that is currently on fire and full of burnt corpses.

The stange thing is, he finds a burnt-to-death Kaeru above the flames, suggesting they weren’t the flames that killed her. He spots a ten-year-old Keiko on the other side of a huge gap between blocks, and wants to rescue her, but solving Kaeru’s murder must come first if they’re to find the real life Keiko.

As Narihisago is killed and re-injected again and again into the Well, he gets more exhausted and makes mistakes. Momoki decides to give him a break, but neither he nor his colleagues are interested in taking a break themselves, even if it means staying up two straight days. There’s a girl buried somewhere who is slowly running out of air. Rest can come once they find her.

This episode has an air of urgency and desperation that surpasses the previous episodes (with the possible exception of the one in which Hondomachi was kidnapped). And even though Narihisago is a murderer who has driven five other inmates to suicide while in captivity, the officers still end up rooting for him to survive and “win” in the Id Well, because if he wins, they win.

Sakaido finally makes it to the other side and climbs up to the unburnt apartment where the young Keiko is waiting. She even says something that helps Sakaido crack the case wide open. Kaeru wasn’t killed, i.e. Keiko wasn’t buried by the Graverobber at all, but by a copycat.

Young Keiko even points out by name the “failure” of a man responsible, and the police move quickly to locate and apprehend him (it comes down to the pattern of the rug under Kaeru’s corpse matching the one in the suspect’s lair, under which Keiko is sealed in an airtight barrel.

Alas, the livestream was never live to begin with, but a recording that gave the police a false sense that they still had time. In reality, Keiko has been dead of asphyxiation for nearly a week. After working so hard to find her, it’s a gut punch for all involved, including Sakaido once he hears the bad news from Momoki.

Pulling the rug out from beneath our feet, we the audience are similarly frustrated and that much more angered at the creature of a man that is the copycat Graverobber, not to mention the still-at-large Graverobber himself. The case wasn’t solved in this episode, but it did make the case for why, having spent time in their psyches, a once-righteous detective like Narihisago could develop sudden impulse to kill the suspects he helps capture.

Because of this, he’s not even sure he can call himself a person anymore, but Momoki assures him he is. And when Momoki asks if Narihisago still considers him a friend (they were once partners on the force), Narihisago tells him that friendship one of the only things he has left tethering him to reason.

Being dumped into the minds of depraved criminals is enough to drive anyone from reason, but somehow Narihisago has endured. He’ll have to continue to endure as the cops try to find leads to the real Graverobber’s whereabouts. The newly recovered Hondomachi may have found the first such clue in Kazuta Haruka, a missing person and one of the Perforator’s victims.

Oresuki – 05 – Not Working Out

We saw Asunaro’s smirk last week as she looked over an inflammatory article about Joro’s alleged three-timing, so when she invited him up on the roof, I feared the worst for him, even as he thought Asunaro was poised to confess. It isn’t until he sees that damnable bench that he knows nothing good will come of their imminent conversation.

Sure enough, Asunaro isn’t there to confess, but to warn him about the article she’s about to publish documenting his Don-Juanery, with photos of him very close to Cosmos, Himawari and Pansy to prove it. However, Asunaro believes in publishing the truth, and so agrees to shadow Joro and give him a chance to clear his name.

Sure enough, his next interaction with Cosmos does nothing to assuage Asunaro’s suspicions. He asks the three girls if they can just keep their distance for a bit, and all refuse. On the contrary, he’s doomed to stick close to them until the festival, as he’s been chosen as the boy in the Flower Dance, while Cosmos and Himawari are two of the three girls with whom he’ll dance.

When Cosmos asks if he’ll accompany her to meet the first-year who will be the third to dance with him, he asks if she’ll treat him more strictly around Asunaro, but she ends up pulls out a completely over-the-top full samurai lord act. As for the first year, the nasty rumors about Joro are still floating around her grade, and he’s known as the “Slipper Man” for licking girls’ hallway shoes. So yeah…she’s out of the Flower Dance.

Cosmos picks Sun to replace her (still not sure why Sun is even in the picture anymore after his horrendous threat to Pansy), and gets permission from the adults, which means the whole study group (plus Pansy) end up spending more time together, both practicing and buying outfits for the dance. The more she shadows him during these events, the less Asunaro is convinced of the accuracy of her article—which, it should be said, begs the question of why it ever got from draft to ready-to-print status.

That fact ends up costing Joro a lot when the unedited original article is accidentally published and distributed to the whole school. Joro is confronted by the elites in his class who promise punishment for anyone who hurts girls. They’re not even entirely convinced when President Cosmos arrives to defend him, as they suspect she’s one of the three girls in the article. It takes Asunaro to call them off, and she seems incredibly apologetic and upset to the point she doesn’t even check her dialect.

She offers to personally retrieve every copy, but there’s no letting the genie out of the bottle, and Cosmos seems to realize that when she can’t convince the gals. She decides to call off the rest of the practices between her, and basically tells him it will be best to avoid hanging around each other for the time being. Not just her, but Himawari and Pansy too. Cosmos is worried continuing to interact so closely will only create more misunderstandings, for which Joro will bear the brunt.

This leaves Asunaro as the only girl still in Joro’s orbit at the end of the episode, and considering how many twists this show has already presented, part of me can’t help but wonder if this was her plan all along. The article, the rooftop meeting, the shadowing, the “accidental” publishing, her offer to help fix everything, and finally, her eagerness to practice dancing with him (in which she appears to take great joy); all of that can be construed as a sequence of actions undertaken by someone who wanted to likes Joro and wanted to isolate him from the other girls.

If that was the plan, it’s worked perfectly so far. Chances are it wasn’t the plan, because this is Oresuki, which loves flipping the script. But if it was, she hasn’t achieved total victory quite yet; Cosmos watched them dancing on the roof, and despite being a bit of a goofball most of the time, has the smarts to expose and foil Asunaro’s plot…again, if it is indeed even the plot!

%d bloggers like this: