Re: Zero – 38 – The Starting Line of Resolve

Just as Subaru is dealing with Echidna’s apparent heel turn, along with the antics of all the other whimsical witches, Satella shuffles back into his presence, forever enrobed in black miasma, loving him and wanting him to love her. But for the first time, Satty has more to say about love, specifically begging him to love himself more.

Subie isn’t about to be lectured by a bunch of witches. The way he does things and saves those he loves is his business, and if he has to keep suffering and dying, so be it, as long as he doesn’t lose anyone else like he lost Ram. He’s had so much of his fill of these witches he decides to peace out by biting his tongue and bleeding out.

But when it comes down to it, he doesn’t want to die, or even be hurt. Minerva can sense this, and so heals him with a headbutt. The witches share the sentiment that Subaru is someone worth keeping alive and watching, and so he acknowledges that each one of them has helped him in some form or another.

Heck, if not for Satella, he wouldn’t have Return by Death, his only means thus far of doing anything in this world. Yet when Echidna holds out her hand for Subaru to take, promising him she’ll take him to whatever future he desires, he rejects it. If he’s going to find his value to others beyond his continued death, he feels he must look for it himself.

Before parting, he does take the hand of the most unexpected witch: Satella’s, promising he’ll endeavor to love himself a little more, and also that one day he’ll honor her wish to return and “kill” her.


Of c0urse, even if Subie is proceeding without direct witch assistance, he’s still going to need allies. He awakens outside for once; Otto tells him Patrasche entered the graveyard to retrieve him. When Subaru asks why, Otto mocks his denseness; clearly, it’s because Patrache loves him and cares about him. And despite his tsundere reaction, Otto clearly feels the same way.

But while Subaru has loving friends in Otto and Patrache, he’ll find no such affection from Roswaal, beyond his role as the margrave’s avatar of hope. He insists on Subaru following his recommendations to put Emilia first and everyone else second; Roswall sees Subie as a tool to save only one and no one else. Doing everything for Emilia’s sake, to him, means ignoring everything she wants.

That said, Roswaal believes Subie has yet to find his resolve, and indeed is only barely on the starting line on the road to that resolve. So he forces the issue, copping to having ordered the assassins at the mansion. By creating a situation where even someone with Return by Death can only be in one place at one time, he’s forcing Subie to make a choice: Emilia, or the others.

And I thought Echidna was bad! She’s only true to her nature as a witch of greed; Roswaal is, and fully admits to being, completely insane, and has been so ever since he first saw the witch’s eyes. But to him, insanity is a requisite, not a liability, to achieving his goals, and he wants Subie to be just like him.

Subaru runs out, determined not to be anything like him, but the shock of learning he’s been set up in this way by Roswaal for just that purpose sends him into another uncontrollable fit of despair, running through the forest until he trips and takes a tumble, then repeating over and over what he should do, and coming up blank.

When in such a state, there’s nothing for it but for someone to pull him out, and Otto happily takes up that mantle by punching Subaru in the face. Subtle it ain’t, but it was what Subie needed, when it was needed. Otto scolds him for continuing to put up a brave face right up until he’s on the edge of madness-by-despair.

Hopefully Subaru has gotten the hint that yes, doggone it, people like him, and with our without the witches’ help or Roswaal’s hindrance, they’ll find out what to do together. Unfortunately, we won’t find out what until part two in January 2021, when hopefully things will be looking up a bit in our own world!

Cardcaptor Sakura – 37 – The Voice

We begin this episode with the demonstration of a new Daidouji Brand prototype portable karaoke mic, perfect for picnics like the one Sakura and her friends are having. While ostensibly there to view the cherry blossoms, Syaoran is viewing Sakura the human girl, and when she looks back he can’t help but blush and turn away. Every episode it seems there’s a little reminder that his feelings for her are slowly but surely growing.

The star of the karaoke demonstration is the daughter of the woman whose company made the mic, but when Tomoyo is practicing for a chorus recital, a Clow Card overhears her and steals her voice! Suddenly the school’s best singer can’t even talk, and Sakura blames herself for not finding and sealing the card before it could cause trouble.

Tomoyo goes home and ends up taking a sick day, and her mom Sonomi also takes the next day off to spend time with her daughter. Tomoyo puts a brave face on this incident but she’s no doubt frightened of never being able to speak or sing again, and her mom knows the power of simply being there for a hug. Back at school, Sakura is down in the dumps and wondering what to do, and Syaoran is worried about her, and volunteers to help her search for the Voice card.

They go to Tomoyo’s house, but his compass doesn’t turn anything up; once Voice has a voice it likes, it goes into hiding. Hours pass without progress, and Sakura voices her frustration and guilt, seeing as how this is the second time Tomoyo has fallen victim to a Clow Card; the first being when Song copied her voice.

That gives Syaoran an idea: lure Voice out with Song, who still has that copy. Sure enough, Voice can’t resist Song’s Tomoyo-like singing. Syaoran traps it inside with magical talismans, and Sakura returns it into its rightful guise.

Tomoyo’s voice is restored, and Sakura embraces her, tearful with relief. All that’s left is to sit back and listen to Tomoyo’s delicately gorgeous voice at the recital as she knocks her performance out of the park.

While there are many friends in Sakura’s orbit she holds dear, there’s no one more important to her than Tomoyo, who in turn loves Sakua so much even without a voice she was urging her to cheer up. When Sakura is happy, Tomoyo is happy, and vice versa.

No Guns Life – 16 – Free Will Ain’t Free

While Juuzou destroyed Victor’s first fake body, he has a smaller spare extended backed in a suitcase. Nevertheless, Avi Cobo has Mary at gunpoint, and demands to know where Victor’s real body is, shooting her in the foot to show he means business. Even if the backup had an open shot, Avi has electroreceptors like those of a shark that allow him to dodge most attacks.

Emphasis on most, as Juuzou comes in unwilling to stand by and let one innocent young woman suffer any further harm. He starts the sequence to release his Gun Slave Unit limiters, enabling him to create a smokescreen and fabricate new arms. While Backup Victor sacrifices its arm to create a field that confuses Avi’s receptors and gets Mary out of danger, Juuzou gives Avi the mother of all forehead flicks, rendering him unconscious.

While Olivier and EMS arrive, Juuzou delays the grunts to allow Mary to talk to Victor properly. Like last week, way too much time is spent in a static location as exposition is delivered. Much of it we already know or have grasped from events thus far, but what we didn’t know was why Victor killed the man who took them in: he threatened to sell Mary’s body if Victor left for the military.

While Victor is still determined to destroy all of the Extendeds his hands created, Mary remains adamant that Extended components can be used for good, in the way Victor originally intended.

While recovering from the bullet to her foot, Mary ponders whether to take Lefty apart in order to determine just how the machine with the intelligence (and quite a few behavioral characteristics) of a dog functions. Lefty is not cooperative, understandably opposed to its own dissection.

Meanwhile, Wachowski pays a visit to Tetsuro’s quarters/cell, and we learn he had an engineer fix Tetsuro’s components so he can speak with his own voice, an apparent gesture of good faith. However, Wachowski’s plans for Tetsuro are anything but peaceful. The Gun Slave Unit Seven is a big thorn in Spitzbergen’s side, but only a GSU can defeat a GSU, and in his current state, Juuzou is no match for Seven.

Wachowski wants Tetsuro to use Harmony to unleash Juuzou’s full GSU potential, which is only possible when the original host surrenders all free will and humanity and becomes a mere tool of destruction. If Tetsuro agrees to do this, everyone he cares about will be safe. If he refuses, they won’t be safe. Pretty raw deal either way, I’d say.

No Guns Life – 15 – Remote Arms Race

Looking back at her brief but happy time with her brother, Mary remembers a kind and gentle boy who took care of her despite being young himself. He always held her hand, and even braided her hair. When he left, she was proud of him for finding the Place Where He Belongs, but in doing so he was taking what she deemed to be her place (by his side) away.

Mary doesn’t see any of that old Victor in the monster before her, so she does what any sister would do when pinned to the wall by her brother’s mecha-ribbons: launch her boob rockets. I’ll admit to having slightly missed the point of Juuzou’s bashfulness at the sight of Mary’s larger chest last week.

As cool as this tactic was, I still don’t know how Mary’s face and body weren’t horribly burned in the process. Regardless, she’s able to stop Victor from dissecting Juuzou until his uncontrollable final form comes out, and Juuzou is able to rip his arms off, which is key because Victor’s hands can dismantle any technology they touch (including one of the rockets).

Unable to discern whether the “real” Victor was the brother she loved or the monster before her now, the only way to keep him from hurting those she cares about is to put him down. She does so by firing Juuzou’s trigger, which blows off Victor’s head and most of his shoulders, ending the immediate threat.

After that, “Lefty” suddenly reappears, damaged but still intact. He even hooks himself up to the voice box of one of the police Extendeds so he can talk to them properly. Turns out the “real” Victor was never the demented puppet they tangled with.

Victor’s own body has been taken over by the dual parallel sub-brain he’d developed, which has a personality and will all their own. Destroying the puppet this “Shadow” Victor was controlling caused enough of a shock to allow “real” Victor to surface and open a dialogue.

Victor tells Juuzou and Mary how as an engineer he was committed to ending the loss of life and limb on the battlefield through the development of ever more advanced Extendeds, working towards fully remote models that would eliminate the need for flesh-and-blood boots on the ground entirely. Of course, it wasn’t until he tested out one such model on the front lines that he realized that what he was doing wasn’t saving anyone, simply upping the volume and efficiency of the  carnage.

The shock of seeing this created an opening for the sub-brain to take over his real body. The thought he had at the moment of transfer—that all Extended should be destroyed—became Shadow Victor’s primary driving force, which led him to join Spitzbergen. Before Shadow Victor regains control, Victor begs Juuzou and Mary to find his real body and remove the sub-brain. Only then will the shadow’s reign of terror end.

While I’m glad the circumstances surrounding Mary’s brother aren’t as simple as “boy turned evil”, this episode got fairly bogged down in Victor’s exposition, which killed the momentum of present events. As a practical matter, having to sit and listen to him also meant Juuzou and Mary couldn’t escape to some safer location.

They really should have tried to do this, as Mr. Law Upholder Avi Cobo walks right up to them, shoots Juuzou down, and holds his gun to Mary’s head, telling her she’s not doing anything with Victor’s real body. He’s going to take it into custody “in accordance with the law.” Mary in mortal danger to end two straight episodes? C’mon, NGL.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 23 – Songs After Dark

Sakura is in a very good mood one morning, which can almost always be attributed to Yukito (all other instances are likely food-related). Sure enough, he’ll be spending the night at her house as he and Touya plan for the athletic festival (sure…why not?).

Despite whispering this to Tomoyo, Syaoran overhears, and then Meiling inserts herself in the conversation. Then Sakura’s mood is totally destroyed by talk of a creepy singing voice coming from the music room late at night—possibly the voice of a g-g-g-ghost!

Even though it’s more likely to be a Clow Card singing in there, the mere fact people are talking about the possibility it’s a ghost sparks Sakura’s crippling phasmophobia, such that she outright refuses to go to school late at night, bowling Kero-chan over.

The thing is, she doesn’t want to leave home anyway because Yukito will be there. But no sooner do he and Touya arrive that he mentions the rumor about the singing voice, and notes how it’s apparently a beautiful voice that he’d love to hear if he could.

Yukito’s request is all Sakura needs to steel herself sufficiently to sneak into school at 10PM with a voice recorder. Tomoyo meets her there and she changes into a pink music-themed battle costume. That said, she’s still extremely on edge, such that when Syaoran and Meiling suddenly appear, she lets out her loudest HOEEEEE yet.

Before long they can hear the voice, and the nearer they get to the music room, the more scared Sakura is, such that she’s constantly asking Tomoyo to assure her it isn’t really a ghost. The strange thing is, the voice sounds a lot like Tomoyo’s. Kero-chan explains that it must be the Song card, which records and mimics the best singing voice it can find.

I knew I was going to run into a number of CCS “firsts” since this is the original series and all, and this episode is no different, marking the first time Tomoyo contributes directly to the sealing of a card. She does so by singing what is admittedly a very pretty song, and Song can’t resist joining her in a duet. Much later, Tomoyo will sing a duet with Akiho while Syaoran accompanies on the piano, leading to the capture of the Record card.

Once the song is over, Song becomes visible, enabling her to seal it. Only her other main objective of the night—recording the voice for Yukito—wasn’t achieved, since she was busy capturing and Tomoyo was busy singing. No biggie; Tomoyo simply needs to sing the song once more, and Song will join her, enabling Sakura to record it and gain some additional EXP.

Wave, Listen to Me! – 11 – Cough Up the Karma

Minare’s latest weird late-night occult/philosophy radio show continues as Mitsuo climbs out of the ground with his broken neck bent 90 degrees to the side. He invites Minare and “Matt” deep below the Sea of Trees where there’s a reincarnation of Asama-no-Okami (the deity personifying Mt. Fuji), who in turn will offer to take their karma and decided where they’ll be reincarnated, and as whom.

I have to admit, it’s all a bit trippy and bizarre, but aside from a few snickers (the deity decides to send all three to Sweden for their next lives because of it’s “established welfare”), it wasn’t really the funniest bit? More than a comedy, it’s meant to take hold of listeners as they determine which of the three people they’re most like: Matt, who murdered dozens for his work; Mitsuo, who wants to come back as someone who’s more aware of when he’s hurting others…or Minare, who doesn’t want to go to Sweden at all.

At the end of the show, Kureko again leaves a big empty space in the script for Minare to ad-lib, which is what she does best. She provides a litany of things she did in real life to real people (most of whom are listening; and Mitsuo is wearing a neck brace after her suplex), but having all that swept under the rug and being shipped to a new life Sweden isn’t for her. She’s a “wandering Japanese”, with no interest in any other country, and simply wants to return to the Sea of Trees. The deity obliges.

At the post-show meeting, Minare learns the voice of the deity was Chisato and the voice of Mitsuo was Koumoto, while Kureko thinks he got Mitsuo’s character down accurately. When Minare accuses Kureko of hating her for having such huge holes in the script, Matou admits he had Kureko leave lots of opportunities for ad-libbing on purpose, in order to assess and exploit Minare’s inherent adaptability. And adaptability, more than any other quality, is what makes a great radio personality.

Matou informs Minare that her next show will be from an idea she creates, or otherwise acquires from, say, listeners via email or social media. He also encourages her to listen to her favorite personalities on radio to get a feel for the increased freedom the medium provides over TV. That night, Mizuho is worried about Mizuho and her cheerful brave front in the midst of Kureko quitting radio, considering she wanted Kureko on her radio “dream team” once she’s promoted.

That night, Mizuho seems to lean in for a kiss, in what is surely one of the sexiest pieces of animation Wave has turned out—only for her to be rousing Minare to listen to a comic midnight broadcast. Mizuho also tells Minare that Matou is looking for her to create something “wild, living in the moment, and anarchistic”.

Whatever Minare comes up with, she only has one more episode to pull it off. After her momentous victory over Mitsuo, the last two weeks have taken a step back, and overall the show feels like it’s stalled. Still, better to peak in week 9 than not at all!

Wave, Listen to Me! – 10 – The Galactic Campaign

This week, which bears little resemblance to the last, starts with Mizuho asking a departing Kureko if he’s free for a meal sometime. It remains to be seen if Mizuho has feelings for the guy or simply likes and respects him as a friend and mentor, but though Kureko is too busy to commit to anything, Mizuho still wishes him well. All the while, Koumoto, who unsuccessfully courted Mizuho, watches from the shadows…which is kinda creepy!

Whatever Mizuho’s preference in terms of the age of a potential partner, she’s sad to hear that Minare has decided to move out sooner rather than later. Minare has learned from her recent experience that people tend to deteriorate as they come to rely on the kindness of others. She’s even observed that she’s someone predisposed to devoting herself to her partner, feeling as sense of pleasure from spoiling them.

While Minare exhibits signs of growth and self-reflection as part of a larger effort to avoid repeating past mistakes, she also exhibits a blind spot in her relationship to Nakahara. This blind spot is exposed by none other than Makie, who is not only frustrated by what she considers Minare’s continued “toying” with Nakahara, but Nakahara’s lack of interest in her.

There’s every indication Makie wants to move beyond indebted house guest (or refugee, or general object of pity), but whether she’s aware of it or not, Minare is an obstacle to that. For the record, Minare considers Nakahara incompatable simply because he’s so darned self-sufficient: not only is he not one to ask to borrow large sums of money, but he cooks, cleans, and even sows freakin’ leather!

That aside, Matou used Minare’s recordings of her date with Mitsuo (that’s right, she was wired for the whole thing!) in a way Minare did not expect. Rather than broadcast the date either in full or in edited form, he gave the samples of Mitsuo’s voice to a couple of legendary veteran sound engineers who go by the pseudonyms “Katokon and Kakoen”.

Masters of both foley and waveforms, they were able to create a synthetic voice that sounds just like Mitsuo, but can say whatever they require him to say in a broadcast. These two are a couple of colorful characters—you could also call them sound nerds—and Mizuho is delighted by their very old-school foley tricks like beads on fans.

The next episode of Wave, Listen to Me documents the “burial” of Mitsuo by fictional versions of Matou and Minare on a rainy day (to hide the burying sounds). The two foley masters work their magic while Mizuho and Koumoto provide support in this live radio drama.

Once Minare and Matou finish burying Mitsuo, they share a long and passionate kiss…only for Mitsuo’s hand to burst out of the ground and his formerly-lifeless corpse to move and speak anew with the synth voice the master techs devised. Matou’s ultimate goal is to also bury “Minare Koda”, and for a new legendary voice to rise from those ashes. All I can say is so far so good!

Wave, Listen to Me! – 08 – The Culture is Maturing

In a heartwarming cold open, Minare rants about how, like mankind throughout history with nature, she’s “lived her life selfishly without thinking about the suffering of others”, with Mizuho being her latest victim (along with a Coelocanth Nakahara and a Dodo Takarada).

But Mizuho speaks up, refusing to be the victim. She’s been told all her life what a nice, helpful, proper girl she is, but it’s not all she is, and it can blind those who think that’s all she is to her actual weaknesses. To Mizuho, Minare isn’t a burden, but a very necessary inspiration.

The two women complement each other almost perfectly, leading me to wish Minare was less jokey about her romantic designs toward her. While Mizuho’s disinterest in one man shouldn’t be seen as a disinterest in all men, so far I don’t see a life partner better for Minare than Mizuho, and vice versa!

And now, back to the studio. We’re back on the night the show opened with: the bear attack segment. Earlier that night, with no ideas of her own Minare is saddled with a “phone conversation with a family member” segment, something which she’s not particularly motivated to do.

The resulting call, however, is hilarious, with her jokester of a dad coming up with increasingly ridiculous origins of her unusual name “Minare”—first because it jumped out at him on the cover of a dirty mag, and second because he combined the first syllable of the names of the three women he was fooling around with before she was born.

When Takarada unexpectedly shows up at Voyager with Makie’s psycho controlling brother, things look primed to turn very unfunny indeed. But when the brother starts ordering Makie around, she manages to stand up to him, and Nakahara even backs her up…though a bit too forcefully, leading to him getting lifted up by his throat and nearly strangled!

We later learn that the brother has a condition in which he enters a kind of ultraviolent fugue state when he senses his sister is in danger. This certainly makes him more of a sympathetic figure but Nakahara is clearly right that he really should seek professional help for it. It’s a miracle he’s never killed anyone during these “fits”!

The bro’s mind is set at ease (or at least his anxiety de-escalated) after a chat on the phone with Nakahara’s sister Maiko about how much help Makie’s been with the baby. Makie returns home to the Nakaharas and I earnestly hope she’s out of danger and the brother gets help soon, but who knows.

Makie may be more naive than the average person due to her extended isolation, but she still knows what she wants, and it doesn’t involve becoming a housewife or jumping between safe houses. It’s even hinted at that her plans for her life may be more ambitious than her hosts. The fact she’s never been assertive enough with her brother doesn’t preclude the fact that she could be if she tried, and when it counts.

Later that night, Minare performs the Bear Attack show, reading at least in part from a hastily but well-written script from Kureko that made it easier for her to do what she does best in the broadcast booth. After the broadcast she makes sure to thank Kureko, who surprises her by saying it’s a “parting gift”; he’s moving on to other things.

Matou hints that those other things involve something called the “Ranzo Arakawa Prize” before we slip into a sepia-toned flashback of a much younger Matou (note the eyebrows) meeting his comedy idol, Sissel Komei. Only Sissels speaks, in what I’m assuming is the Ainu language.

Matou sits all but entranced as she talks about how the Ainu were great tellers of dirty jokes (owing to all the time they had sheltering from the cold)  and the Monty Python style of comedy that’s more about embarrassing yourself than putting others down. She then tells him the name she’d use if she had a child: Mina re, which means “to make laugh”.

Could it be that Matou’s new talent has the same name as his idol’s potential child? If that’s the case, I can understand how he’d feel like finding her in that bar was akin to an act of providence and destiny. Not that I believe Minare and Sissel are biologically related; only in spirit.

We’re also reminded that Minare ended her bear show by promising to murder Mitsuo…who texts her later that night asking if she wants to meet up. All I know about Mitsuo is that Minare claims he stole her money, and that he found another woman after Minare relatively quickly. Suffice it to say I’m eager to learn more about him!

On the whole, this episode not quite as compelling as other recent outings, due in large part to bouncing awkwardly between the A-(Minare) and B-(Makie) plots, not to mention the fast-forwarding of the bear attack, which while practically necessary undermined the episode’s natural pace. Still, it was great to see Makie stand up to her crazy bro, and finally “meeting” Sissel was uniquely captivating. So an “8” it is!

Wave, Listen to Me! – 07 – The Evil is Defeated

 

“I have no doubt other women have thought of doing what I did. They just didn’t do it.”Abe Saba, who cut off her lover’s genitals while making love. She also worked at a restaurant, FWIW…

Minare’s first radio job in the field is turning out to be a weird one, but she and Mizuho are able to calm Shinji down enough to talk about his lost dead Slavic girlfriend, Azohara Ritsuko. When he proposed they “cross the line” from friendship to romance, they agreed upon a secluded volcanic hot spring in Zao as the dramatic venue for their inaugural doing of the nasty.

However, after disrobing but before getting down, Shinji passed out from the volcanic gasses. He woke up in a cabin, rescued by good Samaritans…but they only found him. For all he knows, Ritsuko could be dead or still wandering around Zao as they speak.

With his tale of woe out of the way, Minare climbs into the ceiling to investigate the stinky dark liquid, and finds an absolute nightmare: six fly-covered garbage bags filled with what she assumes to be the remains of a petite woman, soaked by a leaking shower line.

Minare calls the police, and Shinji is arrested on suspicion of killing Ritsuko and storing her remains in the ceilng. But at no point does Shinji admit this, or even get overexcited: he merely calmly asserts his innocence, all while Minare is certain “evil was destroyed” in that apartment.

In the face of such a traumatic experience (Mizuho got less of the meat juice on her but still needed three showers), Minare crafts an even more fanciful story nevertheless rooted in reality rather than the supernatural.

She imagines that Ritsuka was a Russian spy, and Shinji proposed the remote site to speak to her without being surveilled. Ritsuka was trained to kill if her cover was  blown, but whether due to her love for Shinji or the effects of the gas, she couldn’t do it.

However, neither the murder and dismemberment story nor the spy thriller make it to her first official broadcast of Wave, Listen to Me! The afternoon before the show she stops by the police for questioning, and the real, unvarnished mundane truth is laid bare: the stinking dark liquids, and the bags from which they seeped, were originally put there…by Minare herself.

They were the remains not of a murdered Ritsuka but of 50 kilos of on-the-bone mutton delivered to her apartment by her parents when she first moved there. She stowed them in the under-floor compartment as a temporary measure but then completely forgot about them. They sank through the floor into the space above Shinji’s apartment, mixed with the leaking water, and the rest is stinky history.

This puts Minare in a bind, as she’s facing charges to be brought by Shinji, whom it’s indisputable was someone to whom she did harm, even if she didn’t mean to, and then went further by having him arrested. But Shinji magnanimously provides Minare with an out: she’ll break down the truth of what happened and apologize to all involved. Shinji is in the booth when she does this, just to make sure.

Not only that, Minare makes the theme of the show for, about, and by “people who have caused countless problems for others” in hopes of finding ways for those people (including her) who don’t want their lives going to waste simply because they’re predisposed to such troublemaking.

It’s not at all what she expected to be doing, but rotting mutton comes at you fast, and it’s actually a great subject for a radio show airing so late at night. An audience will no doubt project themselves in the stranger-than-fiction scenarios Minare puts herself, and appreciate how she’s is open, vulnerable, and ready to be redeemed.

She won’t claim to have all the answers—that’s for that sumo guy—but she’ll have plenty of entertaining questions!

Wave, Listen to Me! – 06 – A Warm Fluffy Towel Drenched in BLOOD

We’ve now reached the halfway point of WLM!, and while this week’s installment lacks the adrenaline high that accompanies a live broadcast and the moments leading up to it, it further fleshes out its eclectic, sometimes eccentric, but always authentic-feeling cast of characters, while setting up stranger things to befall Minare on her path to becoming a radio star.

We learn more about Minare through those she came from, starting with her dad when she accidentally calls him. He’s outside a pachinko parlor on his fifth or sixth beer (Sapporo, natch) so he’s…got some issues, but you can tell he loves his daughter and just wants her to be happy— just as sure as Minare can smell the alcohol through the phone!

Meanwhile, Casa Nakahara is hardly the sordid lovenest Minare might imagine in her more jealous moments. Yes, Makie is living there, but so is Nakahara’s sister Meiko (Minare, Makie, Meiko…dude knows some M’s!), who walked out on her husband with their baby for going to a hostess club. Far from being treated as a burden, Nakahara is appreciative of Meiko for being to get Makie to talk more in the wee hours of the night as the two women lie in adjacent futons.

Makie confides in her that after her parents died in the mountains, her brother grew obsessively protective and locked her up like Kaspar Hauser…which explains her manner. Meiko tells her she shouldn’t feel ashamed for using the car accident as an opportunity to reclaim her agency freedom, which she has every right to have.

After a thoroughly confusing little sequence involving Minare’s dad talking about a dream of “decades ago” and a “brutal accident”, we suddenly cut to Minare talking to her mom this time. Unlike her dad, her mom is a littler sterner, insisting she seek out “a life people can respect”, not just one in which she’s happy, and not to listen to a “loser” like her dad. And her little “It makes me sad…oh, very sad” line about Minare telling her dad about her radio job first—*Chef’s Kiss*

Still, her dad still managed to buy her daughter a slick Sky Sensor 5900 radio as a cute “good-luck-in-your-radio-pursuits” gift. Makie’s family may have bitten the tragedy bug, but it’s refreshing that our protagonist Minare not only has both parents still living, but on talking terms with her (if not one another). Like Makie, her parents feel like longingly-rendered real human beings.

Her dad was also responsible for delivering four whole Aramaki salmon, which won’t fit in Minare’s little fridge. After Nakahara drops off his ideas for Minare on possible radio story ideas (hilariously, she reads them and immediately apologizes for even asking him!) she decides to hang the fish from the doorknobs of her neighbors, which Nakahara mentions could be construed as some kind of criminal mischief.

By the way, another absolute doozy of an exchange: Minare describes her dad to Nakahara, and all Nakahara can see is Minare. Drunk half the time? Check. Either in dirty joke-telling mode, venting mode, or preaching mode? Check. Goes off on random tangents? Check. Makes no sense at all? Check. Can’t have a proper conversation? Check!

Granted, these are exaggerations of who Minare really is, but sometimes the rougher edges stick out more…especially from the perspective of someone like Nakahara, pursuing her with little to show for it. Another main takeaway from the fish-hanging scene is that Oki Shinji, who accepts one of the fish without hesitation, looks very out of sorts, and Nakahara notices the stench of rotting protein emanating from Shinji’s apartment.

The strangeness continues at the studio, where Mizuho shows Minare a creepily-scrawled fax about a dead girlfriend who hasn’t forgiven the writer…who happens to be Oki Shinji! Minare wants to shift gears to something more fluffy and less occult, but Matou is eager for her to learn the full ropes, which means she and Mizuho are going on a field recording adventure!

After reiterating her commitment to always protect her (something Mizuho doesn’t remember her saying before), Minare drives them to their destination: her former apartment building (note that Mizuho calls Minare’s car a “mini” but it’s not a MINI Cooper, but rather a Daihatsu Mina Giro Minilite. IMO the Giro’s cooler than any Cooper!) They also dress for the occasion, like an onmyouji and a shrine maiden.

Shinji welcomes them in without so much as a flinch from Minare’s stellar long-range joke about the same woman showing up drunk to his door also showing up to appease a spirit since “rituals, sake, and women” have been inexorably intertwined throughout history. Still, Shinji has good reason to be the way he is, because something very very strange and gross is happening inside his apartment.

Reddish-black liquid starts to ooze from the ceilings and drops on what couldn’t have been a cheap costume rental. Then again, it’s likely the station will cover the dry cleaning, just as Matou promises to bail out Minare should things take a turn. After all striking out into the untamed wilds diagonally below her old place means she’s no longer an amateur, but a professional, like Mizuho…risking their very lives for entertainment.

Wave, Listen to Me! – 05 – The Irregular at MRS High

Minare arrives at the station with a birthday cake for Mizuho only to find that Matou has already presented her with a cake. Mizuho smooths things over by telling Minare she’s never been happier to celebrate it twice on the same day, and the preparations for Minare’s first broadcast as a pro begin.

Matou has devised a “broadcast gaffe” that will break into and out of the normal late night music a la War of the Worlds. He makes sure Minare understands that the ceiling for success is as high as the stakes are low. There isn’t a sponsor, which means they have a little more leeway to go wild.

Minare takes the barebones, improv-filled script and runs with it. It involves the moment she just killed Mitsuo by stabbing, making good on the threat from her last broadcast. By amazing coincidence, a different woman has bound and gagged Mitsuo and is about to stab him when Minare’s program suddenly interrupts the music.

Had the mundane music continued, she may well have murdered Mitsuo for real. But are these events actually happening? I would say yes, since it isn’t Minare in the role of the murderer, and the woman hasn’t carried out the murder yet. They’re out of sync in a way that’s very advantageous for Mitsuo, who lives to break another heart.

The buildup and countdown to the broadcast gave me goosebumps, in the same manner as the tension and anticipation that immediately preceded a performance in Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, or Hibike! Euphonium. Those are all five-star anime, and I don’t mention them or compare the emotions felt during Minare’s monologue lightly.

As with her previous shows, Sugiyama Riho absolutely knocks it out of the park, taking scarce narrative crumbs and creating a chocolate mocha mille-fille. Minare flubs yet a single word yet comes off as unhinged, vulnerable, empty, grateful, and above all raw and human. She may not know it, but her passion and talent saved Mitsuo’s life.

More importantly, while Minare walked in an emotional mess due to witnessing Nakahara inviting another woman home, she walks out of the station at the crack of dawn feeling like a billion yen. Matou is genuinely impressed, and Mizuho is proud of her.

That night, due to the talk of Martians and UFOs (an homage to War) she dreams of having to save Mitsuo via a nutriet-absorbing facehugger that turns out to be one of Mizuho’s turtles sitting on her face…and shitting in her mouth!

That morning, Minare and Mizuho discover a lively online discussion, which is exactly what Matou both hoped and worked towards, discretely  posting the audio online as if he were an independent listener. As he suspected, Minare’s the kind of voice that creates buzz, and he’s eager to have her create more.

As for Minare, it’s back to working at the curry restaurant a mere five hours after she left the recording booth. And yet a group of men have already come to the restaurant as one of them recognized her voice. Minare loves the attention, and in the break room she declares to Nakahara that from now on she’ll be pursuing her radio career full-on.

She knows that what she felt in that booth and afterwards isn’t something she can get from that white waiter’s tunic—or from a man for that matter!

Wave, Listen to Me! – 04 – The Pleasure of Despair

The first day of Minare’s life gets off to a rough start as in the space of what feels like just a second or two, she oversleeps three hours. It’s a very relatable experience, and why I find myself so invested in Minare as a person. Like any other person, she’s often forced to react to things—good or bad—that come at her quite suddenly.

Far faster than the turtles she agrees to feed. One of those things is the breakfast Mizuho prepared for Minare. It’s so considerate and tasty she jokes that she’d marry Mizuho in a heartbeat and make love to her every night…until she finds the way-too-detailed feeding instructions! Suddenly things aren’t as simple as the seemed.

She sets out on a job-hunting excursion in slim hopes of gaining both an employer and sponsor. When Katou informs her of the massive cost of sponsorship, she basically gives up. But by having Nakahara join her, she finds life suddenly tossing her back into her own job, as Takahara and her replacement were injured in a car accident.

While it’s a dream come true for Nakahara—he always dreamed of running a restaurant as husband and wife—Minare is more ambiguous, and with good reason. Leaving Voyager felt like a step forward; returning there erases that step. And she’s still not sure about Nakahara as a partner; she asks him to wait until she’s 30…which is four years. Nakahara might be the kind of guy to wait that long, but does she really want a man who’ll do that?

Then the fourth woman in the pencil-sketched ED is introduced: Tachibana Makie (Noto Mamiko), the sister of the man who caused the accident involving Takarada. She comes offering her services for free, filling a much-needed labor gap.

She starts out washing dishes, then waits tables, works in the kitchen, and develops a new menu item. She even updates the blog, and gets rave online reviews for her gentle, quiet manner. And yet she seems to make Minare uneasy and suspicious—why would someone go this far on behalf of their brother?

There may be no need to be dubious of Makie’s motives, but because Minare feels something’s off, so do I. In the meantime, Minare comes home from the restaurant to share a meal and booze with Mizuho (whom we see refusing Koumoto’s advances right after regaling him of how she met Mr. Kureko. I also love how Mizuho is voiced by Iwami Manaka—Honda Tooru herself!

While Mizuho is glad Minare is working and making money again (far from a guarantee in these trying times!) she doesn’t want Minare to forget about radio. Whether Mizuho is on orders from someone at the station to encourage Minare or not, she seems to genuinely believe in her talents and doesn’t want her to feel overwhelmed or that Matou is overestimating her.

Life keeps coming at Minare fast on the night of Mizuho’s birthday. Minare gives a curt goodbye to Nakahara and Makie after closing, but doubles back to grab the cake from the kitchen fridge. That’s when he finds Nakahara confronting Makie about staying in the staff room…then offering to let her stay at his place, just as he did with Minare.

Clearly something is going on with Makie that makes her hesitant to go back to her home (if she even has a home). And when you put a man who loves hard-luck cases and a woman in an apparently uncertain emotional place, shenanigans are more than possible. Minare has taken Nakahara for granted as a will-they-won’t-they certainty, but Makie threatens that status quo.

Fortunately (or not), life isn’t done coming at her that night, as she gets a call from Matou urging her to report to the studio immediately to rehearse for a 20-minute slot that will air at 3:30 AM. It’s Go Time. No doubt her experiences with Nakahara Makie, and all the stuff that keeps coming at her will inspire her material. And no doubt it will be eminently watchable.

Wave, Listen to Me! – 03 – Graveyard Slot

Takarada fires Minare right after the festival, and no amount of ranting or begging can change his mind. After going out for commiseratory drinks with Takarada, he casually suggests she move in with him. After a quick simulation of their time together, she concludes he’d end up stabbed to death (though not by her!).

After tricking him into saying he loves sleeping naked (she doesn’t), she decilnes, assinging him the nickname Zenra (the fancy way to write “naked”). That said, she’ll him in mind should she fall into truly dire straits. Takarada feels used…but he wants to be used if it’s by someone like her.

Minare returns home…or at least she thinks it’s home, but there are immediately two troubling signs: her shoes aren’t lined up neatly in the genkan, and there are other pairs of shoes. The creepy man who ended last week’s episode and cold opened this one lifts her off the ground, and she goes into Self-Defense Mode and calls the cops.

Turns out she’s the one committing a crime, as she’s not in her apartment, but her neighbor Mr. Oki’s. He’s been the one returning her blackout drunk self to her own bed and lining up her shoes. If he simply kicks her out of his place, she shows back up, or otherwise bangs on his door and sobs.

The revelation of not being an end-of-the-night neat and organized drunk hits Minare like a ton of bricks; indeed Oki likens her dramatic epiphany to that of Neo when he’s unplugged from the Matrix.

The sheer difference in scale between Minare’s plight and Neo’s, as well as the care with which the reference is visually presented, makes for a ludicrous moment that had be howling with laughter. There are other overt pop culture references, but this was one I got without the need for research.

With only about $2500 in savings and $2600 in incoming expenses, Minare finds herself at a crossroads. She can either go back to school, or see where this radio host thing takes her. It’s not a tough choice…especially when Matou agrees to let her crash at the radio station’s storage facility. She arrives with a full rucksack strapped to her back, as if she’s about to climb a mountain…and in a way, she is!

As one would expect of a more mature form of media, the path to success is a slow and gradual climb, if the climb happens at all. Katou doesn’t want Minare to be under any illusions of instant celebrity, but maintains that she Has What It Takes, just like his idol Sissel Komei, who be believes Minare resembles in both appearance and style.

As it turns out, Minare isn’t allowed to crash in storage; for one thing, there’s no heat there. For another, assistant director Nanba Mizuho is happy to let Minare crash on her floor for a while, and is actually excited to drink cheap Chablis hang out with her one-on-one.

At first Minare pretends to be drunk as a kind of social defense mechanism, but Mizuho sees through the ploy, and admits she was never much of a social butterfly. That said, even though she’s never even had a boyfriend, she felt deeply connected to Minare’s fiery words when she came in for her first live session.

Sometimes before I go to sleep I listen to the Shipping Forecast on BBC Radio 4. Especially on a cold or stormy night, there’s something comforting and relaxing about hearing a prim and proper voice flawlessly deliver the conditions around the British Isles, as well as thinking about all those ships at sea, out there, somewhere, in the middle of the night.

I’m far from the only person who thinks this way about it. The BBC once tried to get rid of the Shipping Forecast, and its loyal (and predominantly land-based) audience practically rioted until the Beeb caved and brought it back. Like the big fax machines at the station, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

As Mizuho switches on the radio at 3:30 to hear the beginning of Sound High Tide before nodding off, Minare stays awake, and starts to speak as if she were on the air, with the sounds merely a backdrop. If all goes well, her yet-to-be-produced new show will replace Sound High Tide in that 3:30 slot.

Will her very different, non-ambient, provocative style catch fire in that dark depths of the early morn, and sway the small but likely passionate legion of High Tide listeners? Only time will tell…