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…

Wave, Listen to Me! – 02 – Elephant = Car

After being duped into not one but two separate radio broadcasts, Minare considers legal counsel, until Matou produces her business card with a drunkenly-scrawled note declaring that she wouldn’t complain no matter how many people he shared their conversation with. Even if it’s not a binding document, with the hole Minare has dug with her boss Takarada, she may not be able to turn down a new job at the radio.

Takarada can’t really afford to drop an experienced waiter like Minare on the eve of the summer festival, so he claims her life for that duration. Her co-worker Nakahara, who has a thing for her, would rather she stay put and fulfill the things she promised to do for him…probably while drunk, because she doesn’t remember any of those things. In any case, while updating the restaurant blog, Minare learns that much of the customers are so attuned to her voice that they immediately recognized it on the radio.

Radio host Chisato Madoka casually asks Matou if he’s looking to replace her, but that’s not his intent with Minare at all. Mostly, he wants to bring up a voice talent from the ground up, and there’s never been an amateur who is so clear and presice with her words while delivering a tone that’s harsh and overbearing yet somehow also not unpleasant—pretty much the opposite of Chisato’s. So he and other members of the crew visit Minare at her workplace to offer her a more permanent job.

Some time passes, but eventually Minare is picked up in a car by the fit mixer Koumoto, whom Minare immediately considers asking out before reconsidering due to her uncertain economic future. Matou has her sit in to deliver a 5-minute promotion for the festival. Minare warns him she might not paint it in the best light since she’s not a fan of Urasando, but does a fine job anyway, and like before, doesn’t mess up once.

You can hear Minare on the radio while she tends the food stall, and a discussion with Nakahara emerges about the nature of the food they’re selling at the stall under the name “Gagarin.” Turns out it’s the predecessor restaurant to “Voyager” run by Takarada’s culinary master, and they’re selling what’s left of Gagarin’s food at festivals to phase it out.

Honestly I wasn’t so sure what the point of all that talk was about the two restaurants, except as an opportunity for Minare to introduce a more dramatic scenario than the mundane truth…only for it to be the truth? As for Minare’s weird neighbor who remembers a date and starts seeing blood? What’s up with that?! Could that be fodder for a future Minare broadcast? Finally, her ex Mitsuo heard her, and seemed amused. That can’t be good!

Carole & Tuesday – 03 – ASCENSION!

After a rough first impression (I believe accusations of cyberstalking are leveled), Gus Goldman introduces himself to Carole & Tuesday, dropping names left and right. Unfortunately, the pair is #notimpressed because they don’t remember Bruno, Justin, or Brian Epstein—being from a much younger generation.

Brass tacks: Gus knows talent when he hearts it, and if they want to do what they do for more than just fun, he wants to be there to help them. His enthusiasm and earnestness make up for his underwhelming Wikipedia page. But since nobody’s become a commercial hit quite yet Gus has to insist his talent pay for their own Margherita.

Meanwhile, Tuesday’s mother leaves getting her back to her son—lest police involement sully her campaign—then (presumably) retires to the boudoir with her toyboy. How I hope Tuesday’s bro doesn’t try to drag her back to this horrid gilded cage.

As Angela is asked 37 questions on some kind of vlog of her life (and introduces her extremely annoying AI pet rabbit Aladdin), C&T are at the laundromat waiting for their clothes to be done.

Tuesday likens the still, then suddenly-spinning clothes as mirroring the two of them, and Carole starts stomping and clapping out a beat, with Tuesday joining in and the two starting to sing an impromptu song (albeit one that is not clandestinely recorded).

Just messin’ around in the laundromat is a kernal that germinates as the two refine the music and lyrics, and their song is the soundtrack for a montage of their day in the life in Alba City, all gorgeously rendered and adding to the lush textures of both the sprawling city and their digs.

As for Gus, he vows to lay off the sauce now that he has a new client. Whatever his reasons for copying Motörhead in the past, he seems genuinely determined to put a human musical duo on the map—no small feat in a Martian cultural continuum in which AI has taken over so much of the creating.

What was billed as a trip to a voice coach friend of Gus’ turns out to be…something else entirely: a SPACE YOGA session so bizarre to Tuesday’s sheltered psyche she fears she’ll have nightmares about the experience.

Angela’s experienced at Artience is no less nightmarish. When she can’t hit a high note, Tao activates her restraints and deploys all manner of nasty-looking torture instruments, all an elaborate artifice in order to goad Angela into screaming…and hitting that high note she thought impossible.

She still voices her complaints to her mother, a former child star herself. But her mom insists she keep at it, lest she become as forgotten as she now is due to people moving on and her career not moving on with it. This looks like a classic vicarious parent situation. I hope Angela actually wants to continue as Tao’s guinea pig for her own sake, not just Mom’s.

Thanks to Roddy, C&T score a meet with the famous celebrity DJ Ertegun, whose sold-out megashows are the toast of the town. When they arrive at his waterfront mansion, Gus is prepared to make the pitch, but he’s held back by Ertegun’s security, leaving C&T on their own among the tacky pop art, including Banksy’s self-destructing painting!

Ertegun makes them wait as he talks on the phone by the woman-filled pool, but when he finally comes in, he initially scares the shit out of them by seemingly stripping in front of them; mercifully, he’s got boxer briefs on, and merely shed the robe so he could do some push-ups while he raps with them.

Either Roddy didn’t explain why C&T wanted to meet with Ertegun, or Ertegun didn’t listen to him (probably the latter), because Ertegun doesn’t know why C&T are there: he assumes they want autographs, selfies, or…him (Gus warned earlier them not to give him a leg massage).

When he learns it’s a pitch, he immediately shuts them down, rejecting them without so much as listening to a single bar. Why is he so confident they’re boring generic trash? Well, for one thing, “he’s DJ Ertegun,” which is apparently sufficient explanation. But for another? Because they’re not AI. Like Tao, Ertegun doesn’t trust humans to make good music, except through technology.

Tuesday wigs out and burns their lyrics with the DJ’s cigar lighter, setting off the sprinklers before running away. Ertegun doesn’t seem particularly miffed that all his goofy art is getting doused, but I imagine T&C left an stronger impression on him!

Dororo – 09 – Not Letting The War Win

Dororo has never not known war, and it has taken everything from him but his life. But even that is threatened when he suddenly collapses with an apparent fever. Hyakkimaru has to carry him to find help, and eventually comes upon a kind priestess who takes them into the temple for Dororo to recover.

After a couple of lighthearted episodes—one in which the ghoul-of-the-week turns out to be not so bad, and one in which a boy and his big sis survive—the “party is over” this week, as we’re told the heart-wrenching tale of how Dororo became an orphan, and why he clings so close to Hyakkimaru and fears being left behind.

On two occasions, Dororo spots red spider lilies, which he hates, because they remind him of when his mama died in a field of them.

Dororo’s father Hibukuro was a big, strong leader of a band of brigands who unusually only targeted samurai, seeking retribution on those who destroyed their village. His mother Ojiya was his strong, kind wife. But it doesn’t take long to see that an age as cruel as the one in which they live wouldn’t allow such an arrangement to last for long.

Hibukuro is good at killing and good at bringing men to his side, but when his band gets strong enough, his right-hand man Itachi suggests they make a deal with a lord. It’s the smart, pragmatic move; one that has the best chance of ensuring the survival of his family. But neither of Dororo’s parents are willing to turn to the lords ever again…and young Dororo follows their lead.

Predictably, Itachi betrays them by making a deal with the samurai, who end up filling Hibukuro’s legs with arrows. Itachi takes the band for himself, leaving the wounded Hibukuro and his family to scavenge fields of the dead for scraps of food. Itachi and his treahery represented a natural element to this world, and Hibukuro and Ojiya simply lacked the pragmatism that would have enabled them to survive.

If he hadn’t betrayed them, Hibukuro’s stubbornness would have doomed him again anyway…and it does, when they happen upon another village the samurai are preparing to burn. One of them recognizes Hibukuro’s signature pole sword and seeks revenge for his fallen friends.

Hibukuro has an epic death by bear-hugging and impaling the man who impaled him, but the end result is that Ojiya and Dororo are now all on their own. You can see the moment Ojiya knows they’re somehow even more screwed than they were a minute ago, and their margin of survival henceforth is that much smaller.

It’s something of a miracle the samurai let Ojiya and Dororo go free, and we know from Dororo telling Mio that Ojiya never sold her body for money or food. But when she hears that samurai are handing out free soup, she gets in line, something she and her husband might not have done before things got so dire.

She’s even willing to cut in line, hold out her hands, and have the scalding soup poured in her hands (she has no bowl) so that Dororo can eat. And Itachi is there, in his fancy clothes, comfy with the lord, basically telling her “I told you so.” Dororo throws a rock at him—perhaps for the first time—but Itachi catches it easily.

When we see the mother and child walking slowly through a field of those damned red spider lilies (the show’s profound artistry on full display this week as usual), I knew that was going to be the end of Ojiya’s tether. She collapses from starvation, can’t get back up, and the life drains from her eyes as Dororo begs her not to, promising he won’t tell her he’s hungry anymore. It’s a brutal gut punch.

Time and time again, right until the moment of her death, Dororo’s mother told him not to let the war beat him, even though it claimed her and his father. When he recovers from his fever, we learn he had told the priestess this entire story. Thanks to her ministrations, he can keep going, keep fighting against the war that’s taken almost everything.

But as he continues his journey with Hyakkimaru, Dororo realizes when he smells his freshly-cleaned clothes that those clothes had to have been removed at some point. And the priestess told Hyakkimaru how difficult it must be to travel with “such a young girl.” That’s when I learned for the first time (I never watched the original show): Dororo is a girl.

The hints were there: her button-cute appearance, girlish eyelashes, and the fact she was voiced by a girl and not a boy. And surely it’s smart to dress as a guy and not a girl when you’re all alone in a cruel, merciless world like this. Now Hyakkimaru knows the truth, and I’m eager to see how that’ll change their dynamic as he continues to develop his voice.

Unfortunately, the days they still have to travel the lands together in search of ghouls and fortune may soon be interrupted by more huge developments: one of Daigo’s spies has informed him of a midwife who put a limbless infant in the river, and young warrior with prosthetic arms. Tahoumaru overhears as well. Soon, Hyakkimaru, the instrument of Daigo’s mounting misfortunes (due to the demons losing his parts one by one) will be the crosshairs of his father and younger brother.

And while Dororo is a capable fighter and thief, she’s far from invincible, as we’ve learned from the times Hyakkimaru has had to rescue her, including the first time he did. Like Hibukuro, the day may come when he’ll have to choose whether to fight those who have forsaken him, or focus on protecting Dororo. More limbs and senses, more problems…

Dororo – 08 – Black Skies Are Gonna Clear Up

There’s no shortage of accursed demons out there, and this week’s nasty customer happens to periodically terrorize a village by casting a giant black cloud of miasma and then threatening to eat everyone unless they provide it a “bride” in the form of a young woman…willing or not.

In this case, the young woman is willing to sacrifice herself for the rest of the village, but her “brother” (from another mother) Saru doesn’t agree. Dororo and Hyakkimaru agrees to help him deal with the monster, so they can free his sister, even though she’s already resolved to die.

When the demon, a giant centipede called Nokosaregumo, casts its black cloud, it presents a unique challenge to Hyakkimaru: the entire cloud reads to him as a demon, so he’s completely blind when he’s inside it. While he tries in vain to locate it, the monster goes after Saru, but his sister pushes him out of the way and gets swallowed up, defiant smile and all.

Saru is devastated; other than his deceased mother, no one other than his sister ever treated him with as much kindness. Dororo assures him he and Hyakkimaru will stick around, though due to the latter’s blindness in the cloud, the two boys will have to get the job done without the most skilled warrior.

Again Dororo demonstrates his ease at making friends, especially those around his age, though after hours of casting rocks at the same spot, Hyakkimaru checks on the lads and discovers that both of them are crying in their sleep.

The next day, Dororo poses as a bride, tricking the Nokosaregumo and drawing it into an area of flammable gas that Saru ignites with a lit arrow. However, the centipede’s carapace protects it. It’s up to Hyakkimaru to take care of the rest, using arrows and then the sound of his and Dororo’s voices to locate the proper direction to rush at the monster and take out its eyes with his arm-sword.

With one of the heads destroyed, the second head on the other end snaps Hyakkimaru up whole, but he simply slices the guy clean in half from within, completing yet another imaginative, unique battle that required overcoming his inability to properly see while using his still-new hearing.

As an added bonus to the demon being defeated, Hyakkimaru gets his sense of smell back—just in time to enjoy the harsh stink sulfur. Saru’s sister also survived—they killed the monster before it could digest her—and the two decide they’ll live together in the village from now on, after both being alone for so long.

Dororo and Hyakkimaru’s payment may be modest—a small nugget of gold, some grubs, and a flower from the woman—but the flower proves quite the treasure for Hyakkimaru, considering he’d never smelled anything like it before. He’s so excited, he actually says Dororo’s name when he passes it to him, bowling Dororo over. Here’s to Hyakkimaru finally adding to the conversation on their future wanderings.

Dororo – 06 – Not Everyone Can Get It All Back

Anyone who thought things were going to work out with Mio and her group of orphans has not been paying attention: Dororo is about people losing more than they can bear and trying to press on, but not everyone gets to survive. Some, like Mio and the kids, become another loss for our protagonists, who are cursed with the luck of survival, and with bearing witness to those who aren’t so lucky.

Dororo may have stumbled upon what Mio is up to all night, but Take is still blissfully unaware, and Dororo keeps it that way. Take, like Mio, dreams of the day they have the money to plant a rice paddy that will be green in spring and golden in the autumn. It’s what keeps them going, and it no doubt prompts Dororo to wonder what keeps him going.

At Casa de Daigo, Tahomaru urges his father to let him fight in the army. His head is full of steam and dreams of making his parents proud, but both father and mother forbid his demand, because they know all too well how easy it is to lose your life, no matter how good at martial arts one may be.

Tahomaru takes out his frustrations on his mother, who he’s suspected for some time loves and cares about something more than him. He knows he was childish to guilt trip her, but he’s continually vexed by the mystery of who or what dominates his parents’ thoughts. If he and Hyakkimaru ever meet, it’s not going to be cordial.

Dororo and Mio have to watch Hyakkimaru like a hawk from going back to fight the antlion demon while his leg wound is healing. Mio is eager to hear the voice Hyakkimaru gained , but he only wants to hear her song, which she says she sings to forget the pain. She lives with the pain of both everything she’s lost and what she must deal with nightly.

She worries her soul looks “filthy” to Hyakkimaru, but we can see through his eyes and it’s not; she’s being far too harsh on herself. Dororo also admits after his initial reaction that Mio is only doing what she must to survive. He tells her his mother never did what she did, and she died for it.

But unlike Hyakkimaru and Dororo, Mio doesn’t get to survive anyway, despite going to such lengths. Daigo’s soldiers catch her working on both sides of the conflict, which was always a risk too great no matter the reward, and they punish her by killing her, slaughtering the orphans, and burning their temple shelter.

Worse still, Hyakkimaru’s need to finish his fight with the demon draws him away at the worst possible time. He successfully defeats the demon, and the leg it took from him last week is fully restored. But it wasn’t worth it. I will miss Mio terribly; Mizuki Nana really brought warmth and empathy to her role, but she was just too good for this world.

When Hyakkimaru takes out his hatred for the soldiers and anger at himself for not being there when it mattered, it is a terrifying sight to behold, and almost verbatim what Biwamaru had feared: that the beast that emerged from the cave would be a monster. He doesn’t just quickly, cleanly kill the murderous wretches, he evicerates them, ignoring their pleas for mercy.

Dororo manages to stop him from killing the last man, who escapes and will probably report Hyakkimaru to Daigo, officially ending his time in the shadows and putting him squarely in his father’s sights. That may end up being a very bad idea, but Dororo had to stop him from killing everyone, lest the darkness consume him. He shows Hyakkimaru the bag of rice seed Mio finally got for her services.

She was on the cusp of achieving her dreams and those of the orphans, but their idealized future was never going to be safe in this harsh brutal land of warring factions, whether Hyakkimaru stayed to protect them or not. He couldn’t be a hero to Mio and the kids. All he can do is accept his luck, keep surviving, keep fighting the demons both outside and within, with Dororo making sure to serve as a conscientious check when his aniki’s pain threatens to explode.

Sword Art Online: Alicization – 08 – Blooming in Foreign Soil

After a quick pep talk from Liena telling him not to remember that Volo’s power comes from his vaunted family line as well as the power of his imagination, and to keep his promise to her to show her everything he’s got, Kirito engages in his real-swords duel with the First Seat.

Volo also gives it everything he has, but Kirito remembers he has a family too; not just in Eugeo and Liena but in all his friends IRL. He also draws from the power of the Gigas Cedar his sword is made with, and successfully blocks Volo’s strike.

The faculty member ends the fight in a draw, but Volo is satisfied Kirito has been sufficiently chastened for staining his uniform. It’s good to see Volo has a good head on his shoulders and wasn’t going to take things too far. Liena is elated at Kirito’s feat, as are the rest of the assembled students.

After celebrating at Liena’s quarters, Kirito meets the two highborn bullies who didn’t like the result of Kirito’s fight with Volo, and come to deliver a message in the form of the snipped-off bud of the flowers Kirito had been growing in the garden. As I thought, the jerks just couldn’t lay off the garden…

Kirito had come to feel he had a lot in common with the flowers that don’t usually bloom in such a climate; he too is a stranger in a strange land, far from the family that knew, loved, and supported him. Sure, there’s Eugeo and Liena, but it’s not the same.

Then, suddenly, a voice comes out of the air, urging him to ask for the other flowers in the garden to aid him in restoring his plant. They answer the call and send some of their life energy to the ruined planter, resurrecting the buds.

Liena, having both learned from and been inspired by Kirito’s previous fight with Volo, manages to dig deep and defeat him to graduate as First Seat, and thanks to Kirito learning something new about the world he’s in, he has a bouquet of flowers from her homeland waiting for her.

Liena, Volo, and the other elites graduate, and Kirito and Eugeo become Elite Deciples themselves, complete with cute Novice Trainee pages in Tiese and Ronie. Eugeo may tell the latter that Kirito will be nothing but trouble, but the other side of the deal is she gets to be the first artificial fluctlight trained in his unique Aincrad Style.

Meanwhile, Kirito and Eugeo, after going at it like an old married couple, keep their eyes on the prize: Alice’s most likely whereabouts, the grand white tower in the center of the city. Swordcraft Academy may be fun, but it’s only a stepping stone.

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu 2 – 12 (Fin)

Its first season shows us the past, and most of its second season showed us the present. This week is all about the future, both of the Yakumo and Sukeroku names, the families connected to them, and of rakugo itself. In all cases, that future looks bright, thanks to the inspiration of those who came before.

First, we have a Shin in his late teens or early twenties, and he’s the spitting image of his grandfather Yakumo, even though they’re not related by blood…or are they? The resemblance is uncanny, Konatsu is committed to taking the truth to the grave, as is her prerogative.

In other news, Konatsu has become the first female rakugo performer in history, which is awesome, because it’s something we know she’s always wanted to do, and she’s also very very good at it (sadly though, we don’t get to see her perform).

Interestingly, it doesn’t seem her and Yotaro’s daughter (and Shin’s little sister) Koyuki is interested in following the path the rest of her family has walked, and is content to listen to them work their craft.

As far as Shin is concerned, Yotaro, now the Ninth Generation Yakumo, is his Dad—he helped raise him, after all. That is very clear in a quiet, private scene between the two. As it’s very possible he carries both the blood of Sukeroku and Yakumo, Shin seems to strike a nice balance between their two extreme styles. And the little boy Shin we’re accustomed to comes out when his dad encourages him before one of the biggest performances of his life.

That performance is part of the grand re-opening of the Uchikutei theater, which had burned down years ago but now has been completely rebuilt (only now, no doubt, is up to code). Seeing the new Yakumo IX on the stage with his wife and son (and Master Mangatsu) is a triumphant moment, and the full crowd suggests Yotaro has succeeded in restoring rakugo from the brink it was dangling from when Yakumo VIII died.

Now it’s a more inclusive, less stodgy, and more welcoming place, without sacrificing the things that made it unique. Even Konatsu realizes she was foolish in her earlier thinking that she’d upset some kind of “harmony” by entering the world of rakugo.

It must be that much more encouraging for Matsuda, the only character to inhabit all three timelines. He’s 95 and wheelchair-bound, but seems as warm and cheerful as ever.

After Shin opens with a very good performance that demonstrates why he will be an excellent Sukeroku and/or Yakumo one day, Yotaro performs “Shinigami”, a Yakumo VIII original, as a tribute. And what do you know, the old man visits him at the climax of his performance, leading me wondering momentarily if Yotaro had been taken to the far shore himself!

Thankfully, Yotaro is fine, and he and his family and friends celebrate after the show with a flower viewing by the riverside. Matsuda mentions how he saw his master to the far shore (apparently during a near-death experience of his own back then), and Higuchi waxes poetic on Yotaro’s contributions to helping prevent rakugo from dying with Yakumo.

Yotaro, however was never concerned that rakugo would go anywhere, with or without his help. It’s too good for that. And I tend to agree: various humans can argue over whether the art of rakugo is something that must be vigilantly protected from disappearing, like tending a delicate fire.

But fires can be rebuilt and reignited, and there will always be those who want to sit in an old theater (or a newly rebuilt theater) and hear someone tell a funny, raunchy, or moving story that will transport them somewhere else. Rakugo is eternal.