Fruits Basket – 14 – A Selfish Wish

On the one-year anniversary of her mother’s death, Tooru announces her plans to visit her grave, but pointedly doesn’t ask anyone to join her, in another demonstration of her fanatical desire never to trouble anyone. Still, Yuki asks if he can come, while Kyon is more tentative…for some reason.

Naturally, Arisa and Saki will also be attending, as Tooru’s friends and effectively, her surrogate parents. Saki notes how Tooru can be so cheerful after losing her dear mother just a year ago, and can only chalk it up to very, very hard work for which Tooru should be praised.

As if Tooru didn’t have enough on her plate, a seemingly innocent question about which one of Momiji’s parents is German turns into a whole thing. Momiji’s mother is German, and he looks just like her, but she doesn’t remember him. When she gave birth to him (two months early, as is typical of zodiac births), both her body and mind rejected him (which can also happen).

The only way to save Momiji’s mother from suicide was to wipe all her memories of Momiji, something his father told him had to happen, and that he’d love him enough for the both of them. Rather than forget himself what happened to his mom, Momiji long ago decided to carry every memory, no matter how heavy. He would have preferred if his mom had “stuck with it” and tried to accept him, just as it seems Tooru had wished to be there when her mom died—but they both consider those “selfish wishes.”

The day of the grave visit arrives, and Uo is resplendent in the “Crimson Butterfly” bike gang coat she inherited from Kyouko. Yuki also learns why Tooru was so upset about him catching cold: Tooru the tragedy magnet’s dad died of complications from a cold. And yet despite losing both parents, rather than radiate despair, she’s always smiling and exuding cheerfulness. He just doesn’t get it, but he’s glad to be close to such a person.

As for Kyon, he acts super-shifty and suspicious throughout the grave visit. When he stalks off, Saki follows him, and he asks her if she can talk to ghosts (she can’t). She proceeds to explain the difference between waves (to which she’s attuned) and spiritual energy (of which she has none), and she can sense from his waves of “chaos” that he feels some kind of regret in this place.

Uo and Saki are glad Tooru is doing so well with Yuki and Kyon, but the two lads’ minds remain “ruled by dark troubled thoughts” which will, for the interim, prevent either of them from romantic thoughts (which is fine with Saki as she’s not yet ready to give Tooru away as a bride).

Kyon’s actions later that day seem to bear that out. As the wind blows the hat either Yuki or Kyon gave to Tooru off its perch, Kyon leans in close to Tooru’s face, not to kiss her, but to tell her he’s “sorry”. About what? Did he, perchance, have a part in Kyouko’s death? Is that why he had waves of regret at the cemetery, and why he feels the need to apologize?

As many mysteries still swirl around Yuki and Kyon’s past, present, and future with Honda Tooru, the one constant is that she’s not going to let anything keep her spirits down. Not losing both parents, and probably not learning someone close might’ve had something to do with one of those losses.

Fruits Basket – 13 – Yuki-kun, Adult Version

I always get antsy whenever Tooru’s hanging with Yuki in his garden, wondering what new devilry will come afoul of them. In this case, it’s a snake, but it’s okay, that snake is Souma Ayame, The Snake of the Zodiac. Being cold-blooded, he doesn’t do well when it’s cold, but you still have to wonder if he just used that as an excuse to hide inside Tooru’s shirt dress.

Ayame, who is actually Yuki’s ten-years-older brother he never once mentioned, is quite forward and ebullient, ordering Tooru to serve him lunch, then taking her out for gyoza when she doesn’t respond (due to Yuki telling him to check his rudeness). Turns out Ayame didn’t come to meet Tooru. He heard that Yuki interacted with Akito at school, and was checking in on him, knowing the terror he feels around Akito is on a whole other level as the other Soumas.

When he talks about how hard it’s been to reconcile his younger self (who was less interested in connecting with his baby bro) with his older self (who wants to repent for that younger Ayame) Tooru naturally parrots her mother’s advice about parents not knowing how to be parents…until they’re parents. But also the importants of remembering what it was like to be a child, such that as an adult one can empathize with the next generation.

Ayame is impressed with Tooru’s wisdom, and while Tooru doesn’t take credit, she definitely deserves it simply for absorbing every last iota of her mother’s wisdom (not something most kids do) and being able to so effortlessly apply it to others in order to sooth their troubles.

But as much as she might want Yuki and Ayame to close the yawning rift between them, it just doesn’t happen this time around. Part of that is Ayame is usually an unapologetic cad, and has been one since school when he was classmates with Shigure and Hatori.

He’s also possessed of a particularly silver tongue; whenever he broke the rules, either by growing his hair out or getting caught in a pleasure district, he could talk his way out of it with colorful oratory that would either inspire or annoy his foes into submission.

As Ayame and Shigure reminisce—and Yuki and Kyou sit there and stew—once gets the sense that all his bravado and good cheer on the surface is hiding that deep-seated regret for not being there when his little bro needed him most. Even if he was beholden to Akito like everyone else in the clan, shouldn’t he have put everything on the line to save Yuki…even exile or worse?

He didn’t, and that, much more than his salacious past and forwardness with Tooru, probably keeps that rift between the brothers as wide as it is. In the end, Shigure was more of a big brother to him than Ayame, since he at least got Yuki out of that hell.

Luckily for Yuki, Haruhatsu learns that Ayame is hanging around Yuki, and he informs the only one who Ayame listens to (since he’s always loved and admired the guy): Hatori, who shows up to collect Ayame, ending his reign of terror at Casa Shigure. Later at school Yuki makes sure to thank Hatsu.

And yet, just because a rift will never close doesn’t mean it can’t narrow a little. Yuki learning about Ayame’s devotion to Hatori does that somewhat, which Tooru takes as a sign they’re not an entirely hopeless cause.

Fruits Basket – 12 – Someone Scary This Way Comes

This episode starts out so harmlessly…and silly. It’s a new term, Tooru, Yuki, Kyou, and the others are all second years, and the new first year girls are extremely aggressive in making their existence known to Yuki. Tooru is targeted as an “easy mark” by first year boys, and Kyou scares them off with a move that hilariously befuddles her. New first years Momiji and Haruhatsu brazenly flout the dress code: Momiji by wearing half of a girls’ uni; Haru with jewelry and white-over-black hair.

They are immediately singled out by StuCo President Takei Makoto, who seems like a character from another show, even if FB is not above slapstick. This bespectacled dingus has a thing for Yuki, and his two nearly identical female lieutenants are soon won over by Momiji’s cuteness, while Haruhatsu proves he didn’t illegally die his hair by showing him his pubes in the men’s room.

Unfortunately for this half the episode Tooru is just kind of off in the background as all these Soumas bicker and test authority. I’m well aware Tooru was not always the focus of the source material and in some cases was totally absent as the cast expanded, but the broad goofy comedy on display here doesn’t really make a strong case for keeping her out of the anime spotlight.

Tooru does not play a small role in the second half, when she’s confronted by none other than Souma family head, Akito (voiced by Sakamoto Maaya in her best honey-poison imperiousness). Tooru is caught totally off guard by the sudden and very casual encounter, and Akito never says a single thing I am inclined to either take at face value or believe.

The one person Yuki doesn’t want near Akito less than himself is Tooru, so he comes to her rescue, only to be utterly neutralized by Akito, who after all threw him in a dark room and psychologically tortured him for years until Shigure finally put a stop to it by letting Yuki live with him.

So it’s up to Space Cadet Tooru to rescue Yuki-hime, demonstrating quicker thinking than would usually be expected of her in explaining an action that could’ve cost someone else their life (shoving Akito away from Yuki). In the moment, she knew Yuki was in pain, and she did what she had to do to stop it.

In his report to Hatori about the car ride home, Shigure says Akito would later call Tooru “ugly” and not a threat to him, assured that one day Yuki would come crawling back, citing his fear of him as proof. But Akito seems like the kind of person whose threat assessments vary from day to day, or mood to mood. In any case, Tooru is far from safe, nor is Yuki.

Still, Tooru tries to refocus a clearly traumatized Yuki by joining a big ol’ badminton game with the gang. She doesn’t want to waste, or let others waste, the precious time they have, and she has no illusions about that time being infinite, or even indefinite. Something cold could come out of the shadows and freeze these poor warm people and warm life in which they’ve never been happier. But not today. Today, for a little while, they’ll forget their fears and have fun volleying a shuttle around.

Citrus – 01 (First Impressions)

The flashy, glamorous Aihara Yuzu tries to make it clear to the outside world that she’s a gal who gets around, but has never actually been in love or even kissed anyone.

This is hardly a new story, but what makes things a little more interesting is that when she transfers to a new, all-girls school where she sticks out like a sore thumb, the hard-nosed student council president Aihara Mei turns out to be her new, slightly younger stepsister.

The knowledge that Mei is betrothed to an “elite teacher” is seemingly confirmed when Yuzu accidentally catches Mei and the teacher making out in a secluded spot; Yuzu is so flustered she flees in a not-so-inconspicuous manner.

In any case, her insistence on dolling herself up and flaunting the school dress code in every way possible brand her as a delinquent in the eyes of the mostly drab, sheltered student body (one exception being Taniguchi Harumi, a “gal in disguise”).

While Yuzu may talk the talk, Mei seems to walk the walk, and Mei essentially sends Yuzu’s perfect maze of deception crashing down around her when Yuzu tries to force Mei into talking to her by bringing up her sucking face with the hot teacher.

Mei reacts by pinning Yuzu down and giving her a long, deep kiss with tongue before leaving the room, telling her “that’s what a kiss is like.” Yuzu’s first kiss is thus not only with a girl, but with someone she just learned is her “little” sister…and someone she butted heads with the moment they met.

Mei has also demonstrated beyond doubt that while Yuzu possesses all the outward trappings of boy-crazy gal, like Jon Snow, she really knows nothing, while Mei has actually experienced a measure of love and desire.

Decent yuri anime are few and far between, but this one at least shows glimmers of promise with its full-length episode format, attractive visuals, and a complex (if somewhat contrived) scenario that should be fraught with similarly complicated emotions on the part of both leads as their relationship evolves beyond the sizing-up stage.

Kuromukuro – 23

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I must say I didn’t expect Yukina, Ken, and Muetta to go to school what with everything that’s going on, but it’s not as if there’s that much more for them to do. The Efidolg are being really really nice in not trying to kill anyone else or attempting to secure either the Kuromukuro or Muetta’s glongur, but the Earthlings don’t really have a plan for how to proceed quite yet. As such, we get a calm-bef0re-the-storm episode, and a fair amount of fanservice, starting with Muetta in Yukina’s spare uni.

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In this calm, both Ken and Muetta try to figure out what they’re going to do with themselves if and when Earth survives the Efidolg onslaught. Again, the timing for a career counseling session seems a bit odd, but I appreciated the practicality of a samurai figuring out something else to do with his life – though I’m pretty sure he could make good money in the modern world demonstrating his fighting skills for education, entertainment, or both.

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As for Muetta, she is even more a fish out of water than Ken, since she’s not sure who or what she is anymore, whereas at least he had his ideals and an object of devotion in Yukihime. Just as the other teacher gives Ken some sage (if somewhat obvious) advice about the future, Marina also flexes her counseling skills by telling Muetta not to despair in her new situation, but to take life by the horns, as all humans do.

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I enjoyed Muetta’s reaction to the deliciousness of omelette rice (and the speed with which she consumed it), her description of the sustenance she’s used to (“square”), and her general bemusement with English loan words and earth technology (like “movies”). Ken is equally amusing as unreliable translator – the blind leading the blind.

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Most importantly, Ken has made peace with the fact that Muetta is not Yukihime, but her own person…and he wants her to fight with them. He expresses this wish during a shoot for a movie, the script for which Carlos has been working on since the attack and by all accounts seems completely absurd and incomprehensible.

I’ve gone on record as not being the biggest fan of Carlos or his desire to be remembered, but the shoot is fine harmless fun, even if it’s mostly a chance to see various characters in different outfits.

This was a quiet, somewhat rambling episode, but it wasn’t entirely pointless, and is likely the last episode of its kind. With only three left, Kuromukuro needs to get down to the business of thwarting the Efidolg threat.

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Sansha Sanyou – 05

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Sonobe adds to her collection of cute high school part-timers as Hayama and Futaba fill in for an exhausted Yoko-sama. In the process, Hayama learns her outwardly sweet personality works wonders for customer service, as does Futaba’s encyclopedic knowledge of pastries.

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When Hayama’s sister stops by wanting to bake sweets with her, she is politely shoo-ed off, but somehow gets one of her home remedies to the back room for Yoko to eat. The next day Yoko is full of energy, but perhaps too full, as she did not sleep last night and is still eerily alert, almost robotic. The mind boggles over what was in that purple sludge!

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The three friends learn they can work together at the cafe just as amicably, but when Kondou twists Nishiyama to come with her to the cafe, the Hayama-Nishiyama feud continues…something Sonobe tries to perpetuate for her own entertainment at every turn, invoking the wrath of Yamagi, who would prefer if she not play games with people’s lives in such a way.

The ensuing duel between Sonobe and Yamagi freaks out Nishiyama, but also creates an opening through which Hayama offers her pink-haired frenemy an olive branch: treats she made for her beloved cat.

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The next day, Nishiyama falls into Sonobe’s web, is put in a frilly pink maid uniform, and made to work a shift for the day; an experiment to see if she really can do everything Hayama can do better. Hayama does not revel in Nishiyama’s embarrassment, but when things get busy, she along with Futaba and Yoko, offer help with customers in their plainclothes.

Nishiyama leaves not quite sur ehow she ended up working at Sonobe’s cafe, but happy she has more treats for her kitty, and a little more money to go towards an SLR camera. As for Sonobe, she was able to collect many a photo of Nishiyama for use in promotional materials…or blackmail!

Another fine, breezy episode with some welcome sharp edges to the soft-focus pastel aesthetic, and a fairly genuine look at how frenemies are made and maintained.

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Sansha Sanyou – 04

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Sansha Sanyou is proving a consistently enjoyable low-effort watch because just when you think it’s getting too cute and soft and fluffy, its sharper, more sardonic or absurd sides spring up.

One such absurdity is the cat photo rivalry between Serina and Teru, which is called off when they both admit their cats are cute. The thing is, both are only imagining the cats are there, so they’re only petting air!

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Another is Yamagi, who could easily turn into a nuisance, but his preternatural stick-fetching skills, combined with the fact you never know from what angle he’ll pop up from, creates an amusing tension between him and the girls, who really don’t like it when he goes all ninja on them.

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For all its cynical or buzz-killing moments, SanSan also has a few tender ones mixed in, like when Hayama and Futaba join Yoko for her first visit to a fast food joint, thus fulfilling one of her dreams, which includes sitting in the McD’s “talking endlessly about vague and silly things!”

The joke is, they end up talking about isn’t vague or silly at all, with Hayama and Futaba learning that Yoko’s mother is deceased and her Dad is out in the world somewhere trying to get back what he lost. They re-double their devotion to her, assuring her they’ll be there should she ever need anything. It’s very sweet and unexpected.

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We return to silliness when Yoko’s young “betrothed” Yu shows up to re-establish his intent to marry Yoko someday, even if there’s no official arrangement between their families and Yoko has moved on.

We also meet Futaba’s cousin Sakura, who is cute…and knows it, not being the slightest bit modest in the fact she’s in the upper percentiles and has planned out her entire life, including her post-idol career and overseas retirement (a dream brilliantly visualized as an isometric RPG, complete with the recently-ruined Yoko in a wasteland far below Sakura).

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Yu seems like a well-cultured, polite, kind young man, but informing Yoko & Co. he’s still loaded was a warning sign of another side to him, which we see when he cruelly mocks Yamagi for “pretending to still be her servant.”

The truth is, Yamagi still is her servant regardless of whether he’s paid. And there’s honor and nobility in that Yu clearly lacks. Which is why I’m glad Sakura gloms onto Yu when the two cross paths. Those two twerps deserve each other!

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Finally, in a segment that wouldn’t be out of place in Koufuku Graffiti, Futaba finally proves to a dubious Teru and an eager Yoko that she has legit cooking chops, and isn’t just an eater. Yoko attempts to cook the splendid Wagyu beef Yu gifted to her, but ends up ruining it.

Enter Futaba, who treats the beef with all due care and respect and flashes her home cooking skills. By the end of it, the previously skeptical Teru is calling her “mom”, and Yoko is over the moon for having had her first meal with friends at her house, which likely feels more like a home now. She also vows to improve her cooking skills, lest future quality ingredients make the ultimate sacrifice.

Lots of variety this week, with diverse sources of laughs, and a good balance between cutesiness, cynicism, and warm sentimentality.

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Sansha Sanyou – 03

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A typhoon descends on the town, and with it comes a Marry Poppins-style maid flying in with a brolly…or is she simply riding the wind? In any case, when Futaba mentions she’s out of spending money and considering a part-time job, Yoko decides she’ll look for one too. Strangely, Yamagi is missing from his usual spot in the bushes.

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That leads girls to a quaint cafe called Secret Garden, where they find what looks at first like a murder scene—if this was Danganronpa, that is. Turns out it’s just a combination of jam and fatigue. The maid is Sonobe, and she used to work in Yoko’s household and is all too happy to give her former master a job.

As for Yamagi, he is not enthralled about the idea of making Yoko-sama work, and ends up fighting Sonobe with baking utensils. Naturally, Futaba and Hayama are frightened by the sheer weirdness of Yoko’s former servants.

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Still, the next day Yoko is working there, and to her friends’ surprise, not dressed as a maid; cosplay is just Sonobe’s hobby (though I was surprised to see the tomboy Futaba wearing a long skirt).

Sonobe shows off this hobby again the next day when she comes to Yoko’s school dressed in their school uniform, which she designed and carefully made the night before from memory.

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Despite her looks, Yoko estimates Sonobe to be in her thirties, so it makes sense for her to want to use her youthful looks to continue being in proximity to girls whose age she resembles, that she might “draw youthful energy” or some such from them.

To that end, she kills three birds with one stone by making sure Yoko’s new friends are taking care of her, delivering some mayo-heavy lunch, and using her disguise-not-disguise to hand out flyers for her cafe to Yoko’s schoolmates.

Sonobe’s definitely an odd duck, and her presence infused a bit of magical realism into these week’s proceedings, but we got a little too much of her this week; I prefer the focus to be on our reliable affable core trio.

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Prison School – 07

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It’s been interesting to watch the deterioration of Kiyoshi and Shingo’s relationship over the last seven weeks, but to Prison School’s credit, Shingo is not always just the bad guy. Or at least, there’s more to him than simply his feud with Kiyoshi, as nicely demonstrated this week when he’s released into the wild by Meiko. He meets the bold, lovely Anzu in an arcade, who says she’ll take him on anytime; in video games, but also, perhaps, more than that.

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Among the inmates who aren’t Kiyoshi, Shingo is definitely the most “normal”, and there’s nothing normal about being in prison school for two months, so it stands to reason he’d do anything even for fleeting instances of freedom and normal life. Meiko knows that, and milks him for all he’s worth. When Shingo presents the missing sword from Gakuto’s figurine (which no one else knows about except Kiyoshi), which he found on the bathroom floor, Meiko does some googling and snooping and not only finds the figuring in the bathroom closet, but deduces it must be Gakuto’s—or “Dirty Four-Eyes.”

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For his quite accidental informing, Shingo gets another few hours on the outside, and his flirtation with Anzu continues, from her playing video games over his shoulder to sharing their ice cream cones to her offering to take him to go see The Grapes of Wrath. The two have nice chemistry, and feel very natural and normal together. While I wouldn’t want this to be the whole show, it is nice to see Prison School successfully playing the romantic slice-of-life straight, without any ecchi mayhem.

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Of course, it almost seems to make up for that normalcy by having Mari and Meiko unveil their suspicions about Gakuto in the strangest, meanest, wrongest way possible, offering one snack kernel for each inmate, but putting the missing sword in Gakuto’s hand and testing his reaction.

When he doesn’t bite (even when she places the figuring in her cleavage),  she mounts the horse it came with, threatening to crush it with her ample frame. Gakuto scoops it from beneath her, but before Mari can finish her judgment, he smashes it against the ground all by himself, declaring he’s not into those kinds of things.

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Just like that, Gakuto’s seven years of life go up in tiny shards of plastic. But he did it so he wouldn’t waste his entire life putting trinkets ahead of his hard-won friendships. He also apologizes for shunning Kiyoshi. I daresay it’s one of the most honorable moments from Gakuto not involving soiling himself.

As for Meiko, her little scheme backfired, and Shingo blurts out where the sword Mari touched came from (the boy’s bathroom), causing Mari to faint from shock, then to shun a Meiko who desperately wants to be whipped, in a very clever ecchi Twister game of tea time.

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Mari’s punishment for Meiko is to wear a skirt and shirt that cover her breasts and panties, but which prove so unbearably restrictive, Meiko almost faints in the hallway. Chiyo is there to help her, and by hanging around the council office, she’s able to learn for the first time about her sister’s DTO operation, which she surely takes exception to, as she’s one, like Anzu, who don’t mind boys at the school.

Mari’s “final phase” of the plan to expel the boys, seems to involve Andre, who they know is a masochist who keeps a “slave diary” (with some very nice illustrations in it, I must add!), but also notable this week is that all the inmates other than Shingo have now forgiven Kiyoshi, and also forgive Gakuto after he smashed his figurine.

Now it’s not Kiyoshi on an island, but Shingo. Would he still be so eager to continue help Meiko if he knew it was in service of getting the boys—including him—expelled? Certainly, being able to hang out with Anzu certainly makes it easier, but if he’s expelled, they won’t go to the same school anymore. Quite the quandary.

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Prison School – 06

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You wouldn’t think a day in which Kiyoshi was shanked in the ass by a tree branch and almost peed on by Hana would end up being a good day for him, but that’s the kind of crazy world Prison School is. There’s no situation too inappropriate or absurd that won’t befall its protagonist, and yet he remains resolutely human and moral.

Knowing a rift has formed between Kiyoshi and Shingo, Mari aims to drive a large, voluptuous wedge right through that rift, widening it. That wedge is Meiko, who begins giving Shingo special attention treatment, plying him with sweet treats and panoramic views in order to make him a snitch. Shingo, still pissed about his extended sentence, obliges all too easily.

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What’s weird and kind of endearing about Meiko is that while she’s built like a brick shithouse, the show makes sure to keep ambiguous whether she’s aware of how seductive she is. Her inner thoughts are more interested in making sure she doesn’t say something to upset Mari, who will then sic her crows on her. Regardless of her self-awareness, the sound effects employed whenever she’s doing something are pretty amazing.

With an inmate who will do whatever they want, Mari decides to implement a plan to stir up trouble, after intentionally applying more stress and punishment to the other inmates (or, to Andre’s detriment, less punishment). Her target is Joe, the least stable of the quintet, who loses it when it appears a crow is killing his beloved ants.

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He’s just waking up when he notices Meiko and Shingo talking in the shadows, but Kiyoshi still finds it odd that the entire council is out in force in the schoolyard. Then Joe produces a branch-as-shank and lunges at Mari, and something happens the president did not expect: a man protected her from harm. And in front of half the school watching from the windows. Unfortunately, his good deed is overshadowed by the fact the branch went up his ass, creating a great deal of blood. …And the fact Mari still despises men.

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Joe is thrown in solitary (after being told the crow was only “bathing” in ants as a grooming exercise, not killing them; a neat bit of ornithology mixed into our ecchi comedy!), and Kiyoshi is escorted to the nurse’s office…by Hana. Last week Hana promised she’d pay Kiyoshi back, and after being unable to force him to pee into a jug, she decides to accelerate her plan and pee on him herself. Things get pretty far, with her shedding her leggings and panties, but Chiyo inadvertently, temporarily saves Kiyoshi when she pays a visit to the nurse’s office.

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Unfortunately, that also means Hana and Kiyoshi have to hide from her, under the bed, occupying as little space as possible to avoid detection. As neither Kiyoshi or Hana are wearing underwear, Hana is a girl, and Kiyoshi is a guy, things outside his control start to happen. He’s bailed out again when Hana passes out, either due to the heat or from overexcitement.

In any case, Kiyoshi and Hana continue their very bizarre kinky physical relationship rooted in dominance and tit-for-tat; the precise opposite of the wholesome romance he desires with Chiyo (or, in his own words, “coming on to her just enough that she doesnt’ think he’s a creep”). While that’s going on, Mari’s dad the Chairman has his own close call when Mari visits him in his office…just as he’s opening a latin ass jerk-off device he ordered from Amazon(ess). That latest blunder from her dad kills any goodwill Kiyoshi might have created by saving Mari from Joe.

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But his heroism wasn’t all for naught: he didn’t just save Mari from a shanking; he saved Joe from possible arrest and internment at a real prison, something Joe thanks Kiyoshi for, being the first inmate to break the “shunning line” set by Shingo. At this point, even a weirdo like Joe can tell something not quite kosher is up with Shingo, and Kiyoshi lets him know that whole lunch break situation was similarly odd.

This is good, because it means Kiyoshi’s instincts aren’t entirely blind to the council’s DTO machinations. But he still doesn’t know what’s going on, only that things are off. With Meiko offering Shingo a uniform and two hours of freedom off-campus, Shingo remains in the council’s pocket. Whether he knows it or not, he is the weapon Mari intends to use to get all the guys kicked out—something, by the way, Hana seemed reluctant to agree with at first; I must look out for that, as she has her own agenda.

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Prison School – 05

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Rarely has an anime made me feel so goddamn down as when Kiyoshi’s house of cards crumbled. So very much was riding on him performing the mission perfectly, and more to the point, the first nine tenths of the episode, with its sense of optimism, occasion, and essentially adolescent paradise, perfectly set us up to be as devastated as possible when the curtain fell.

But the show was cleverer than simply having Shiraki kicking in the door to find an empty stall. Instead, it played us once more, juxtaposing two scenes without indicating their exact timing with regard to one another. By the time the jig is up and Shiraki kicks in that door, Kiyoshi not only got back, but got back with Gakuto’s prized figurines.

Then Kiyoshi walks outside, and Mari is waiting for him, and she knows everything. Not because she realized he was the girl she stopped at the gate, but because her sister Chiyo texted her and their dad a picture of her with him. Pretty damning evidence, right there! But crucially, Chiyo didn’t send it in scorn or spite; she sent it before she found her uni in Kiyoshi’s bag, back when she was so overjoyed by the experience she was having she couldn’t resist sharing it. She also assumed Kiyoshi got permission from her sister and father.

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Chiyo’s intent, however, doesn’t change the fact that Kiyoshi is in deep shit, and not just with Mari and Chiyo, but with his comrades in stripes. Shingo in particular is extremely hurt and upset Kiyoshi didn’t trust them enough to tell them of his plans; had he done so, they wouldn’t necessarily have stopped him, but things might’ve gone smoother. He’s also extended everyone’s sentence another month, so they have every right to feel mad and betrayed.

As for Kiyoshi, Mari informs him he’ll be expelled, but we later learn behind closed doors she technically lacks the authority to do so and would prefer not to involve other parties. Whatever Kiyoshi’s intentions (and she of course assumes the worst, in part because of how her dad has shaped her opinion of men in general), his predicament is just what Mari needs to further her agenda of making her school all-girls once more.

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Mari can probably tell Kiyoshi feels terrible about what he did (which would indicate he’s not the degenerate she’s make him out to be—of course, that doesn’t serve her needs), and what lies in store for him in the next three years now that rumors of his misdeeds are already being spread. She intends to use that fear and despair to induce him to sign a withdrawal form, giving her the legal cover she needs to dispose of him. He’s ready to sign it, too; but he’d regret one thing from doing so: never having the opportunity to clear up the misunderstanding with Chiyo over her uni.

It would seem fortune wasn’t done smiling on Kiyoshi, and his inherent kindness and goodness thus far comes in to play as much a role in his fate as his badness. Chiyo, you see, is mostly upset that she stormed off without hearing an explanation, delivering a verdict with the barests of cases. Sure, her uniform in his bag looks bad, but she feels he deserves the chance to explain himself nonetheless.

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That fierce sense of decency and empathy leads her to storm into the office where Mari has Kiyoshi in her clutches, having heard rumors of him being expelled for what he did. She won’t stand for that, as she played a considerable role in getting him in the mess he’s in. Mari wants this situation to be seen as her looking out for her poor, naive, victimized sister, but Chiyo is a lot less messed up than Mari. She has a clear head and knows exactly what she’s saying and doing.

When Kiyoshi is about to fall for Mari’s bluff, Chiyo descends like an angel from on high, to call that bluff: if she makes Kiyoshi leave, she’s leaving too. Kiyoshi tells her—honestly—that he just grabbed her uniform from among hundreds by chance, and she believes him. And she doesn’t seem naive in doing so. Instead, she only ends up putting Mari in a tighter and tighter corner (even bringing up Kiyoshi’s affinity for Mari’s beloved crows), until she has to basically concede this battle.

But the reason I’ve come to love Chiyo so much—and why Kiyoshi probably only loves her more after all this—is not because she pressed his head to her chest, but because she showed us what she was made of. She’s not just some shallow pristine angel to be placed on a pedestal; she’s a fully fleshed-out individual with all manner of motivations and desires, ideals, and an iron will. She is Kiyoshi’s rock and his salvation. Now he must strive to be worthy of her.

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Mari may have lost this round, but she intends to wage a full-scale war on Kiyoshi and the other four boys, officially forming the “DTO”, or Boy’s Expulsion Operation. Shiraki, so strong and dominant towards the boys, cowers and sweats profusely in her president’s presence, and will do whatever she commands in service of this operation. I wouldn’t be surprised if they bend or break all the rules that are necessary; the ends will justify the means.

As for Kiyoshi, he managed to remain enrolled at school thanks almost entirely to Chiyo, but he immediately starts to see the effects of the means he employed to reach the ends (his sumo date). They seemed so innocent and logical and perfect at the time, but failure wouldn’t just mean more jail time or possible estrangement from Chiyo.

It also fundamentally damaged his relationship with Shingo, Joe, and Andre—but mostly Shingo, who forces the others to ostracize Kiyoshi. These wounds won’t be easily healed, if ever, but regardless Kiyoshi intends to bear the consequences of what he did.

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And that brings us, impeccably logically, to the Return of Hana. I said when they last parted that she wouldn’t be above pissing on him as payment for him pissing on her, and here we see her present that very idea to Kiyoshi in the bathroom, where she all but orders him to prove he doesn’t find her “dirty” by allowing her to do this at some point in the near future.

This could mean several things, or a combination of them, and more: Her sense of justice and equatability may be so rigid and literal, that this is the only way to settle the score. She could be a Mari plant, working towards inducing him to slip up again, in a way that will get him yet another month in jail and only one more infraction away from official expulsion.

Or perhaps Hana simply liked how things went down and wants to reciprocate, furthering her dominance of Kiyoshi (similar to Nakamura’s relationship with Kasuga in Aku no Hana). Last week everything seemed to be over for Kiyoshi. But everything—from his struggles in prison to his enduring relationship with Chiyo to Mari’s war agains the boys—is only just beginning.

With every episode of Prison School I watch, I feel dumber for not giving it a look when it was airing. The title scared me away, of all things! But it’s far more than its title, and it’s far more than silly ecchi comedy (though there is plenty of that); it’s a rich and dynamic exploration of the complexities of morality and adolescence. The two most compelling, relatable characters in Kiyoshi and Chiyo are also the most balanced on both fronts.

9_ses

Prison School – 04

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It doesn’t take long to reveal what Gakuto intended by assaulting both the vice president and president: he wanted the latter to “punish and forgive” him. At first, this is played out as Shiraki sodomizing Gakuto with a pixelated vibrator…but turns out to be just harmless electric clippers (thank GOD), with which she shaves his head, the clippings of which Gakuto offers to Kiyoshi as the all-important pigtails he’ll need to complete his girly look. Gosh, what a friend! If only his powerful intellect were used to better humanity…

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His wig thus acquired, he must grab a girl’s uniform from the laundry; no mean feat. This show is a master of portraying suspense and stress, and dangling everything on whether someone comes out of a doorway, or turns around, or, later, spills tea on a backpack.

Thanks again to Gakuto (who literally pisses himself distracting the laundry service guy), Kiyoshi gets away with a uniform undetected. With that, he has everything he needs for the sumo date, and tries to get some sleep, promising he won’t fail Chiyo. Meanwhile, Chiyo seems super-psyched for tomorrow.

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The day arrives: so full of potential pitfalls and foreboding, but also ample hope that all will go according to plan. As Kiyoshi and Gakuto collect the purses of the girls of various girls who have come for track day, Chiyo makes huge amounts of onigiri for Kiyoshi, assuming all boys eat several times more than girls…not to mention believing Kiyoshi got permission to leave.

As Kiyoshi enjoys a bento and some “fine asses” as noon and zero hour draws nearer, a sense of calm seems to settle over the two. Everything has been set into motion, and everything they worked and shat and pissed and sweated and bled for is finally about to come to fruition. Kiyoshi also remarks on how close a friendship he and Gakuto have achieved in the last three weeks. Gakuto says its all for the Three Kingdoms figurines.

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The bell rings. Zero Hour. From this point on, Prison School becomes a taut, elegant thriller, complete with a first-person perspective of Kiyoshi placing the fartbox on the toilet, slipping out the window, into the drainage channel, through tunnels, beneath Shiraki beating his comrades, and out to his changing zone.

He’s barely done transforming into “Kiya-tan” when Shiraki, no longer busy beating the others, calls out to him. He has a choice: run and risk being exposed, or stay put and hope he’s a convincing enough girl from behind to fool the glasses-wearing Shiraki. Somehow, some way, it works, and Shiraki moves on. Is this fortune smiling on Kiyoshi’s Big Day?

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Oh no! Mari grabs him by the backpack before he can step outside of school grounds! But wait, she just wants “her” to take her backpack off her back. When she spots the tear in Kiyoshi’s jacket, she apologizes and lets him go, showing Mari’s empathetic side for once. After that, it’s smooth sailing till the rendezvous point.

Chiyo truly outdoes herself in the adorableness department, between her outfit, the way she sneaks up on an overjoyed Kiyoshi, and her intense enthusiasm over watching a student sumo match with him. Her seiyu Hashimoto Chinami is one of the few voices in this show I’m not familiar with, but she does a great job projecting Chiyo’s warm and genial personality, along with her excitement with the whole affair.

Kiyoshi and Chiyo are just plain infectious to watch here; it’s like he’s died and gone to heaven. Sure, he doesn’t give a shit about sumo, and she sucks at cooking, but HE DOESN’T CARE IT’S CHIYO, for cryin’ out loud. He eats every bite of plain salted white rice, and gets rewarded with a close-in selfie with her, as if they were already boyfriend and girlfriend!

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Then…heaven turns to HELL, and so heart-rippingly fast it made my head spin. I was rooting so hard for Kiyoshi and his success, but in the back of my head I still remembered that he’d done things for which a penance would someday be exacted. I just didn’t think it would happen so fast! From peeping to peeing to stealing and fleeing, to so easily allowing Gakuto to sacrifice his dignity and high school years…Kiyoshi is no pure angel.

And yet, it’s nothing in particular he does or says that leads to him so harshly receiving his “karma” and being driven into the ground. It’s something that just happens, as a result of what he’s already said and done, along with what he failed to do, like check to see whose uniform he stole.

Turns out, he stole CHIYO’S. And because he ate too much of the rice to be “nice”, and had to go to the bathroom (for real this time), he leaves Chiyo alone with his bag, and when she spills tea on it, she notices her uniform in that bag, and it’s over. It’s ALL OVER. She manages to get “You’re disgusting” out before storming off.

Meanwhile, back at the school, his cover is about to be blown, as Shiraki loses patience, goes into the mens room, and prepares to knock down the door where the now-malfunctioning m-poop-3-player sits. It looks like the boys are in for another month of prison. But far, far worse, Kiyoshi’s aspirations with Chiyo are in tatters. It’s going to be tough to come back from all that.

10_sesRABUJOI World Heritage List

Ao no Exorcist 12

The gang of esquires is given a seemingly innocuous mission to extract a harmless ghost from the ridiculous “MepphyLand” amusement park, in which the most dramatic development could be Shiemi switching from her bulky kimono to an ordinary school uniform, complete with short skirt; but it turns into far more than that quite quickly. One of Mephisto’s brothers, Amaimon, shows up, takes Rin’s sword, and unsheaths it, releasing Rin’s demon side. Then he proceeds to mop the floor with him.

This underscores just how vulnerable not only Rin is, but also how fragile his grip on (relatively) ordinary life is. One minute, he’s arranging a date with Shiemi, the next, he’s transformed into a vicious monster through no fault of his own, and almost loses himself in the process. It’s only through the intervention of Shura – a “High Inspector, Upper First Class Exorcist” – that he’s able regain his humanity. Shura was disguised as the member of the gang always obscured by his hoodie. “He” is also a she.

My immediate first impression of Shura is, sadly, “stupid-looking”; Yoruichi-san looked sexy enough in a glorified tracksuit; why this person has to walk around in a tiny bikini top is beyond me. Still, it opens up a new can of worms regarding Rin: his identity as a son of satan is revealed to a very high-ranking exorcist, and that can’t be good. Not only that, but Amaimon will be back, and he may not be as playful next time. Are Rin’s hopes of living a normal life as a human exorcist toast? Rating: 3.5