Summertime Render – 19 – Haine-ous Affair

No sooner does Shinpei wake up in what might be his final loop does Haine swoop down on him in the form of a mocking, gloating crow. She copies the little girl, seemingly just to mess with him, then raises a whole mess of shadow minions that surround him and the kids.

But just when it seems like it’s all over…she stops the attack, and withdraws. Shinpei, who had instictively reached into his pocket, pulls out the contents: a single seashell—presumably all that’s left of Ushio. But if there’s still a shell, can she still raise hell?

Haine apparently isn’t content to simply kill and/or eat Shinpei and his friends. She insists on messing with him, which seems like a bad idea, because it raises the chances of her enemies to mount a comeback from zero to less than zero. It’s as if the number of remaining episodes, rather than logic or common sense, are driving Haine’s actions.

Nevertheless, she uses the copy of Shinpei she had stowed in her back pocket to call all his friends while the real Shinpei has no bars. Mio and Sou go to Alan’s Garden where an all-too-suspicious Karikiri is waiting for them, while Hizuru, Nezu, Tokiko and Tetsu go to a remote island accessible on foot during low tide.

The real Shinpei comes home to find Mio pinned Shadow Mio out of fear Ushio’s hack died with her, but Shadow Mio is still on his side. With her offensive power, they definitely have a chance.

Hizuru, smelling a trap, heads to the island alone with a sledgehammer after saying her maybe-goodbyes to Nezu & Co. She meets Haine!Shinpei, doesn’t fall for her charade for a second, and is then confronted by Karikiri.

Ryuunosuke and Karikiri/Shide have a little game-recognize-game moment, and then have at it there on the beach, with Haine transmitting Ryuunosuke’s two-second foresight—which was, it turns out, a glitch that occurred shortly after she copied him way back when.

Ryuunosuke still manages to put up an impressive fight, but the bottom line is Shide has an infinitely regenerative armor of corpses, while he has…his sister’s regular human body, which he knows he’s slowly tearing apart by making her fight.

Hizuru takes over and reminds him that this is probably their last stand, and there’s no reason to hold back. In fact, if he doesn’t hold back for her sake, they’ll lose. But she assures them they can still win. How exactly they’ll do that is a matter for next week.

Summertime Render – 18 – Final Fantasy MDCCXXXII

Hizuru tells the story of a famine in 1732 that threatened to wipe out Hitogashima’s population, until a whale washed ashore. The whale was a shadow, and it copied the first human to come close to it: a little girl named Haine. Back in the present, Karikiri offers Shinpei some cold barley tea and conversation. While initially presented as a friendly or at worst neutral party, there’s a tension and building dread to the ensuing one-on-one chat.

The thing is, Shinpei already knows that Karakiri is really Hishigata Shidehiko, AKA Shide. He’s not a Shadow, but he’s not quite human either. In previous loops, Hizuru and Dr. Hishigata’s information paints the picture of how Haine birthed a child with Shidehiko, and the resulting child grew into a perfect clone of Shidehiko.

He then had Haine transfer all his collected memories into the clone, thus making him indistinguishable from himself and enabling him to live for over 300 years. Considering how crafty he must have grown in those years, it’s pretty impressive Shinpei and his pathetic band were able to get this far.

While in the loop flashbacks we see that Shinpei’s group gathered all the information they can and prepared the best they could for a confrontation, with Shinpei insisting that he wanted to know why Shide killed his parents before deciding whether to kill him. After all, if he’s human he can’t be reasoned with, right?

Wrong. Shin made a critical error in confronting Shide in human form, and especially in letting Ushio accompany him. Sure, he’d have easily fallen into Shide’s clutches without her protection, but when she’s had enough of Shide’s blathering and slices half his head off, Shide gets exactly what he needs, all because Ushio insists on doing the dirty work so Shin’s hands remain clean.

When Ushio is on the phone, a copy of Ushio casually plunges a spear into her shadow, and then slices upward, killing her. Shinpei empties his gun, but Shide puts up his Shadow Armor and catches the bullets, then throws the spear at Shinpei, impaling him and sending him flying out of the temple and into a tree.

Shin loops back to when he and Ushio saved the kids from the Shadow that took the form of their old teacher, only this time Ushio isn’t there. She’s gone, presumably for good. That’s a punch to the gut, but as Ushio said, she was happy for the “bonus time” after her human self was killed by Haine, and she and Shinpei got to reunite and kick some ass together.

The episode closes with Shin crying blood, wallowing in despair. But even if Ushio isn’t coming back in any form, the fact remains she’d want him and the others to finish the job and save the village. They can’t turn Shide, but they still have a Shadow Mio, two Shadow Babies, and guile. It’s not Game Over quite yet.

Summertime Render – 17 – Hands Not for Hurting

Since we’re now only 17 episodes into a 25-episode series, it was only a matter of time before the momentum slowed a bit and our intrepid band of shadow hunters took a bit of a rest. This week we get a calm-before-the-storm episode that allows for moments that deepen our understanding of these characters, as well as give them an opportunity to bond more, for better or worse.

Ushio worries she may go crazy like Haine did in the memory of Hizuru’s she saw, but Hizuru promises she’ll kill her if that happens. Shadow Mio, who knows all the little ways Mio Prime hates herself, urges her to tell Shin her feelings before it’s too late. Sou’s pops hid the truth from him because he knew his son’s heart was too good to bear the darkness. Tokiko suggests that Shin, who has developed pronounced bags under his eyes, to catch some shut-eye while he can.

That night Nezu tries to sneak out but Ushio catches him and insists on accompanying him. Turns out Nezu is putting the last of his affairs in order before shit starts going down. Ushio learns that he keeps the Shadow of his wife Kaoru pinned in his garage, having not had the heart to kill it until now.

Shadow Kaoru is beastly like so many of the Shadows, but Ushio urges Nezu to hold his fire, as her hacking might be able to restore her. Nezu’s not interested; Ushio may still be Ushio, but his wife is gone; this is his “wife’s enemy” who copied her body. So Ushio gives Nezu his privacy, and sheds tears for two more lives among the countless ruined by Haine’s appetites.

The next morning the group splits up to investigate various family homes in hopes of reducing the number of Shadows as much as possible before the festival. The two Mios are put in the same team, and Shadow tries to egg Mio on, but she clutches onto Sou as a sign she won’t let Shadow push her buttons.

Mio also has a thoughtful gift for Ushio: hairs from her original body that she found around the house. Ushio is able to use them to restore the length of her hair (adorably done with a Sailor Moon-like aesthetic) and, perhaps all too death-flaggy, tells Shin she has something to say to him when he and Ushio return.

Shinpei and Ushio end up having to kill the Shadow of their old teacher, nicknamed Bucchi, and Ushio remembers when she beat up a couple of bigger boys teasing her for her blonde hair. Bucchi, ever the gentle soul, told Ushio her hands weren’t for hurting people, but for holding hands, patting heads, and the like.

Unfortunately, Ushio doesnt’ really have a choice in her present scenario, though it’s arguable that the Shadow’s are “people” so much as unrelenting killing machines bent on wiping out the village. So she and Shin work together to save three kids from Shadow Bucchi and her two Shadow sons.

The little kids mock Ushio and Shinpei for looking like a classic couple, to which they respond in unison that it’s “not like that.” Isn’t it though?

In a creepy moment, Ushio seems to be taken over by…someone, neither Haine nor Shide, but maybe another deity observing what’s going on and briefly using her as a vessel. The two teams then regroup and report on their investigations. Turns out the Shadows don’t seem to be preparing a direct attack on them, but are primarily focused on the upcoming festival when the great slaughter and feast is to commence.

Naturally, if the festival can be cancelled, there won’t be a convenient huge group of people ripe for the picking. To that end, Shin heads to the shrine maintained by Karikiri—a place where he just happened to die the first time. Karikiri welcomes Shin warmly, but whether he’s a friend, foe, or neutral party in this struggle remains to be seen. I just hope that’s Ushio on Shin’s wrist, and he’s not really alone up there.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Spy x Family – 09 – Best Selves

When Loid moves in for that kiss to prove he and Yor are in love, both Yor and Yuri panic; Yor because she’s never been kissed, and Yuri because he always dreamed of marrying Yor and doesn’t want to see her kiss anyone else. Yor chugs the rest of the wine to build up the courage to kiss Loid.

The very moment she can’t go through with it is the same moment Yuri tries to stop her, resulting in Yor slapping the absolute shit out of Yuri. He flies right into his ridiculous bouquet, resulting in a cloud of rose petals that in any other situation would be romantic.

Yor helps Yuri up, Yuri helps Yor stay vertical, and Loid helps keep both of them vertical. He tells them what lovely siblings they are (even with Yuri bleeding profusely) and privately feels envy for their familial bond, as he’s never had that. Unaware that even 2D-chess eludes the Briars, he starts to suspect that Yor might’ve married him at Yuri’s behest to get closer to him.

Yuri is too goofy and his blind spot vis-a-vis Yor is too large for him to feel like any threat to the mission to me, but Twilight is a spy; it’s his job not to trust anyone, even Yor. At the same time, Yor’s inability to kiss Loid or cook has her worried she’s not acting like a proper wife should.

Anya, who slept through the excitement (and really wants to meet her secret police uncle) picks up on these bad vibes, but can’t reassure either parent as it might give away her ability. So as she boards the school bus, she simply tells them they “need to get along”. Loid chalks it up to how “curously observant” kids can be.

Then, he plants a damned bug on Yor in order to listen in on her day, and while she’s out on an errand for her boss, he and Franky stop her while disguised as Secret Police.

If it were anyone other than someone like Loid in the situation he’s in, I would call this obsessive behavior. But if his gut can’t 100% discount that Yor isn’t secretly working with her brother, this is all he can do to assuage his suspicions. Franky predictably buries himself in the part of bad cop, quickly accusing Yor of leaking state secrets.

Throughout her day to that point, Loid had listened in and gotten nothing, and even when Yor’s back is literally against the wall in front of two secret policemen, her “story” doesn’t change, because it isn’t a story: she’s a good citizen (other than the assassinations) who loves her family and country and would never engage in espionage.

When Frankie tries to touch her, Yor restrains him with ease and warns both him and Loid that she doesn’t care who they are or who they work for; she’ll show them no mercy if they hurt her family. Loid takes another look at the letter Yor was mailing and says they made a mistake, and let her go.

Loid won’t admit it, but his relief is soured by guilt he felt going to such lengths to try to catch Yor in a lie. Ironically, she’s able to successfully preserve the actual secret she’s been keeping from Loid all along (that she’s a ruthless super-assassin).

When he meets up with Yor later, she apologizes for not being a proper wife, but Loid comforts her by saying she’s fine the way she is, always striving to be her best self. Everyone puts on acts to some degree, and it grows tiring and eventually intolerable. Better to not put on an act when one is neither desired or needed.

They buy cake to celebrate a year of marriage, and when Anya comes home (her “I HAVE RETURNED” is a great kid greeting), reads their minds, and finds the bad vibes have vanished, her face brightens—Mama and Papa are getting along.

While I’m not the biggest fan of Yuri, I’m glad his antics indirectly led to Loid and Yor clearing the air and growing a little closer. Next week, we return to Eden, and Anya’s solemn mission to befriend a little jerk.

Love of Kill – 07 – Overboard

Aside from an all-too-brief chase between Song and the kid on the deck of the Artemisia, this episode moves at a glacial pace, which almost had be hoping for an iceberg. Coming as a surprise to no one ever, the kid, not Song, is the one who stabbed Euri in the neck. That he’s not dead but taken back to land by medevac seems like backpedalling afer making a bold move…but at least it means there’s a minimum of Jim talking, since he accompanies the Ritzlands.

Song alerts Chateau to the fact something’s up when he speaks to her through Euri’s earpiece. Euri tells her Song isn’t the one who stabbed him, and she soon meets the kid who did: Won Jinon. Won is armed with nothing but a sound recorder of Chateau’s mom answering the door back home. Won offers Chateau a deal: she sells him Song, and her mom lives. This scene and the one where Chateau meets Song back in the stateroom are needlessly chopped up mixed together.

The overzealous editing doesn’t do much to change the fact that very few things actually happen this week—most of which are boring—and can’t mask just how streeeeetched for time everything feels. Before Chateau enters the room, Song is repairing his gun, and the camera takes a leisurely pan across the plain room for no particular reason.

Chateau, who is as much of a wreck as we’ve ever seen her, can barely hold her gun steady, and once the wheels have turned in her head, she decides maybe the best thing to avoid people getting threatened because of her is to off herself. This angers Song to the point he not only disarms her, but chokes her out. Honestly, I could have done without this excruciating choking scene, which seemed to go on forever.

Then bang, we’re back in another Song flashback. We learn that he was trained by one “Mr. Donny”, the same guy who sent Won Jinon, who has a brother named Mifa back at Donny’s mansion. Nothing like dipping into a flashback of someone you just watched choke a woman until she passed out, as if I cared anymore about him. Honestly…I think I’m done with this.

Love of Kill – 06 – Death On Denial

Chateau isn’t aboard the Artemisia long before she encounters Song, and immediately takes him aside to ask what he’s up to. He’s his usual coy self; his target may well be her client—who also happens to be her boss Euripides’ wife, the billionaire tycoon Hawk Ritzland…(these names). But he does offer Chateau this: he won’t do anything on this cruise as long as she keeps her eyes on him.

This results in the two being practically inseparable for the remainder of the voyage. After clearing it with Euripides and setting up surveillance cameras, she agrees to share a stateroom with Song. While she initially insists on sleeping on the couch, her inability to fall asleep results in him carrying her to the bed, where he promises he won’t try anything.

The next day Song takes Chateau to one of the many shops aboard the ship where she’s fitted for a proper evening gown, the better to blend in with the other passengers. She remarks how she feels weird having her shoulders exposed and would prefer something “more modest”, but Song assures her that it’s about as modest as evening gowns get.

I’m still not buying the “love” half of Love of Kill, owing to the complete and utter dearth of romantic chemistry between the two leads. While she’s learned to trust Song more, Chateau still merely tolerates his presence as a necessary condition of her mission.

Euripides reaches out to Song through Chateau’s phone, ostensibly to meet and talk about Chateau’s past as Chateau Noble. However, before they can meet Euri gets a butterfly knife to the throat. Song, who we last saw putting a gun in his tux, is clearly not the sneaker-wearing culprit, who is the boy assassin we met last week and didn’t see at all this week.

I can’t say I’ll really miss Euripides, who didn’t make much of an impression the last five weeks other than “long-suffering boss with a goofy name”. But even though his marriage to a billionaire* came out of nowhere, his death surely heightens the stakes aboard the Artemesia.

*It’s entirely possible Hawk Ritzland is worth ten billion yen, or $86 million US, though if the whole damn boat is hers, she might well be worth ten billion dollars. In any case, she’s down a husband.

The World’s Finest Assassin – 09 – First Job

Lugh may be busy planning his first official assassination job, but his mom Esri is thinking bigger-picture. For instance, she’s excited by the fact that he’s “growing up” as dutifully reported to her by Tarte, and also has some fine young noble ladies lined up, one of whom she hopes he’ll marry and giver her grandchildren before she’s too old.

This is historically typical aristocratic mom stuff, but it’s also clear this isn’t just duty for Esri. There’s no one she loves more in this world than her son Lugh, and she only wants happiness for him. If that means not marrying a noblewoman and having a family with Tarte, so be it. She becomes a granny either way.

While Esri is looking forward to Lugh’s future as a Zaddy, Lugh and Tarte pay a visit to Pisear, the second-largest merchant town after Milteu and also the prime market for Count Azba Venkaur’s drugs. They both detect that the innocent girl selling gooseberry jam in a dark alley is actually being forced to sell the drug-laced jam to pay for drugs for her addicted mom.

Lugh and Tarte beat up the low-level thugs controlling the girl, and Lugh uses magic to lift the girl’s mom’s physical dependence, but he knows he can only do so much without dealing with the root cause of this drug problem: the Count bringing in the drugs to begin with.

While Lugh and Tarte took a street-level view of how bad things were, Maha used her not inconsiderable intelligence resources on Venkaur’s operation. Then she accompanies Lugh-as-Illig Balor as the directors of Orna, which just so happens to be the Count’s wife Bridgette’s favorite brand. On the wagon ride to the Venkaur estate, Maha asks Lugh if he’s made any “progress” with Tarte.

A month on her own has made Maha even more confident and direct, and she makes it clear to Lugh that she and Tarte don’t see Lugh as just a brother, friend, or young master any more, and it’s time for him to look at them in a different way. Maha, for one, is biding her time until she becomes utterly indispensable to Lugh, at which point she’ll be on equal footing to negotiate an arrangement. Call it the “To Big to Fail” strategy.

They arrive to find Countess Bridgette to be an exceedingly warm and lovely woman for someone of such high station, and Lugh gets to shake the hand of his target, Count Azba. As the evening rolls on and he charms his mostly female guests of the Orna-branded party, Lugh catches glimpses of both Azba and Bridgette. He really gets to know the people whose lives he’s going to ruin.

Azba is a bad guy who sells drugs that destroy people and families and the very social fabric atop which he stands. He doesn’t deserve the pure love of his wife Bridgette, but he has it anyway. Lugh doesn’t want to hurt Bridgette, who never hurt him and knows nothing of her husband’s dealings. But he has a job to do for the betterment of the kingdom.

Mind you, he doesn’t do it because it’s his job. He’s no longer the finely-honed but ultimately will-less tool he was in his past life. He chooses who to kill, and after seeing what his crimes do to people, he’s chosen Azba as his first target. Moments after taking the shot and ending his life from several hundred meters away, Lugh’s magnifying vision lingers on the balcony until he sees a heartbroken Bridgette run out, grab Azba’s lifeless body, staining her face (covered in Orba-brand cosmetics) and her fancy clothes with the blood of the man she loved most in the world.

And Lugh feels something, after having never felt anything after assassinating in his old life. A distinct and strong pang of pain. He hastens to clarify he won’t regret this first kill, but he won’t forget it either. When he one day looks deep into the eyes of his sons and daughters—whoever their mother may be—a part of him will always see the blood-stained face of the poor Countess Bridgette Venkaur.

Bokutachi no Remake – 10 – No Stopping the Train

As I mentioned last week, it’s a bit incredulous to say Kyouya hit “rock bottom”. He has a beautiful wife and daughter, a comfortable home, and a good job where he’s relied upon. At some point he’ll need to stop thinking about the past, and alternate future in which people important to him were more important in the world, and start thinking about the people important to him here and now; his family.

Thankfully, this episode addresses that disconnect between how bad things Kyouya perceives things have gone for the others and how good things actually are if he takes a step back. His old life of failure and loneliness is no match for this life; it’s just a matter of what had to happen to the others to make this world. For instance, Aki no longer draws, but now she’s good at cooking, and she takes pride in this.

Meanwhile, his steady hand at the helm has earned his Team B the reputation as a team that can get things done, though they are still dealing with a dearth of illustration work from Minori. When he and Morishita pay her a visit, she’s not expecting them, as she’s changed into black maid cosplay as  “change of pace” only for it not to work.

Minori isn’t slacking, she’s blocked, which is a harder thing to tackle. Kyouya’s suggestion for her to look at more of Shinoaki’s art doesn’t look like it will work, either. Worse, that’s the least of the problems for what is looking like a make-or-break game for Attraction Point, a social media game that is to be released in synch with the company going public.

As a result of the delays piling up due to unreasonable but unmovable deadlines, Team A is working on fumes without sleep; never a good formula for work devoid of errors. An uncharacteristically flailing Eiko is just barely keeping things together, but in a rare lunch with Kyouya admits both her team and the company is “making every possible mistake”.

When Kyouya says she isn’t the Eiko he remembers back at school, and that there’s always a way to figure things out, she tells him he’s the only one who thinks like that anymore. She seems resigned to some kind of failure on some front that will have huge fallout.

Attraction Point has talented teams working on games, but those in charge never gave those teams a fighter’s chance of succeeding, and are only compounding their original mistakes with new bad decisions. Eiko and Kyouya’s boss is constantly yelling at Eiko in front of the overworked and under-rested staff, creating a toxic environment.

Kyouya tries to suggest that the only option is to delay the game, as the consequences of launching a lemon could be catastrophic for the company’s reputation. But the boss digs in: timing is everything, and the release date is set in stone. He believes it will be more harmful to miss that date than release a buggy mess.

And maybe that boss might’ve been right if a freak occurrence of a famous voice actor got a favorable “SSR”. I won’t pretend to fully grasp the technical intricacies of social media games, as I don’t play them, but suffice it to say people started to think the company was playing favorites, and the company bungled their response by blaming bad-faith users, making the PR situation worse.

Bad PR is one thing, but the game is bad too, thanks to the untested internal engine Eiko’s team was forced to use. Delays, apologies abound, while revenue and corporate reputation sinks. The boss and Eiko go at it in front of the teams desperately going at 110%, but the problems and errors keep outpacing them. Kyouya is about to step in and help Eiko, but then remembers what happened when he meddled with Tsurayuki, and stops himself from meddling again.

He got it in his head that “nothing can be done” about any of this, and if he tried, he’d only make things worse. But as fortune would have it, he just so happens to open up a brand-new video clip in which Kogure Nanako, AKA N@NA, announces that she’s not giving up on singing after all. She tells her online audience about someone at school who told her to sing, and credits him with setting her on this path to begin with.

She also faults him for being so supportive and involved that when it came time for her to stand alone, she slacked off, and her art suffered. Even so, she declares that she doesn’t want to be the one who “invalidates” everything he did for her, so she’s going to keep singing. Her memory of what Kyouya did for her was the trigger that puled her out of her creative rut.

Watching this “small salvation” in his “world of failures”, Kyouya too decides to rise up from his desk, slamming it hard for everyone’s attention and stopping the boss’s incessant chewing-out of Eiko, and decides that there actually is something to be done about this horrible broken game situation, and they’re going to figure it out together, damn it!

Again I must take slight issue with Kyouya’s so-called “world of failures” as, being husband to Aki and father to Maki are quite the opposite of failures! But I will grant that this world was seemingly grinding Kyouya’s natural tendency to Do What’s Right and Help His Friends Out When They Need it until his refrain became There’s Nothing that Can Be Done.

I’m glad he managed to pull himself out of that tailspin of apathy, but there’s still no guarantee his meddling will help Eiko; she and the company could be doomed either way. But for Kyouya, not trying to fix the mess they’re in would be even worse. Until all possible avenues have been exhausted, he’s going to keep searching for something to be done.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Bokutachi no Remake – 09 – The Price of Success

Kyouya has no idea why he’s now in 2018 any more than he knew why he jumped back from 2016 to 2006, but one thing’s certain: it’s not a dream. Aki is his loving wife, Maki is his darling daughter, and he has a job as a troubleshooter for a decent mid-tier game company. He may not want to admit it, but he was successful in remaking his life. He should be happy, and he would be…if only he never found out how he achieved his success.

Despite being suddenly thrust into a new life and job, the details of which he can only guess, Kyouya comports himself well, serving as a troubleshooter and talent whisperer on behalf of Eiko, who is also still in the business. The talent in question is Minori Ayaka, an illustrator with 200k followers, but who has seemed to lost her motivation and passion for drawing. When Kyouya praises a piece of her work that strongly resembles Shinoaki’s style, Ayaka seems to build a new head of steam for her work.

A good day at work, and the realization he’s fortunate to have such a cute wife and daughter, is soured when Kyouya brings up Comiket and asks if Aki will submit anything. The truth is, she hasn’t drawn in years…and the reason is the same as Ayaka: there was “nothing she wanted to draw anymore.” That’s now two members of the Platinum Generation from his original timeline who are now completely out of the creative world.

While having lunch with Eiko, Kyouya realizes she’s much the same, only even she seems to have suffered due to his success: she’s working at a smaller company in a lower-ranking position than his original timeline. He also learns that Nanako’s last song online has less than 2,000 views and she’s decided to retire from singing, stating she “doesn’t know what she’s singing for.” I half-expected Tsurayuki to show up as a doctor on Google, but all Kyouya finds is some blog entries.

Learning that by directing HaruSora with the Platinum Generaion, he inadvertently ruined their futures as creatives by sapping their creativity and passion for a greater commercial good, Kyouya is understandably beside himself. He gets completely boiled, lands in a literal pile of garbage, than stumbles home where his wife and young daughter have to console his tears. Knowing what lives Aki, Nanako, Tsurayuki, and Eiko would have lived without his interference, he can’t accept the lives they live now.

And yet, IMO, that’s exactly what he should do. BnR has not shed one single diode of light on the precise supernatural mechanism that shot Kyouya back ten years or forward eleven. Kyouya did what he thought was best, and while he did get a bit caught up in wanting to make something with the creatives who would end up celebrities in his present, he had absolutely no idea the damage he’d do.

Add on top of that the fact that everyone in this timeline has most likely moved on, and all he does by bringing it up is reopen old and long-healed wounds. While it’s sad that Nanako is quitting singing, she’ll be fine. Tsurayuki, who comes from money, will be fine. Aki, who has Kyouya and Maki, will be fine. In exchange, Kyouya got a second chance with his past, did something admirable with it, and now has a loving family and solid career. Maybe he needs to be fine too.

TONIKAWA: Over the Moon For You – 13 – Love In the Time of LINE

It’s been over eight months since the last TONIKAWA but this extra OVA episode doesn’t skip a beat, delivering all of the notes that made the first twelve episodes so endearing and comforting, especially at the end of one of the worst years of many peoples’ lives. Things are going a bit better now, so it’s especially nice to check in on these two sweet young lovebirds in that context.

Tsukasa’s smartphone finally arrives, which means she’s finally arrived in the 21st century (though she still contemplates how much one could accomplish with a smartphone in the Sengoku era, one more hint that she’s either lived a very long time or carries the memories of past lives).

Something as simple as adding contacts is made much more profound as only one person in their address books can occupy the “spouse” category. But no sooner does she gain a smartphone (and LINE app) than she loses Nasa…if only for the day, as he’s summoned to his old work for a last-minute project.

Tsukasa goes in to work at the bathhouse, only to get bored and start wavering over whether to send Nasa a text or sticker. Aya doesn’t help matters by saying she’s sure he’ll message Tsukasa, since when he doesn’t do so all day, it only adds to her loneliness and anxiety.

While sitting out on the back patio after dark, she tries and fails to hold back tears despite knowing how ridiculous it is to be crying. But is it so ridiculous? Tsukasa and Nasa have been together—and close—for most of their married lives, and love each other dearly. So it’s no surprise that they both feel lonely.

That intensity of their love also makes it that much more satisfying and relieving when we finally hear that little alert sound and Nasa confirms he couldn’t use his phone while working. He misses her every bit as much as she misses him; smartphones or no, their hearts remain tightly connected.

When Nasa shambles home at four in the morning, he fully expects Tsukasa to be asleep, but she’s wide awake, having not been able to sleep “for some reason”. His futon is out, so they lie down together, and Tsukasa, still out of sorts from being without her darling for so long, takes the initiative for the first time by giving him a passionate goodnight kiss.

Nasa is wide awake at this point, contemplating how his wife suddenly seems more aggressive, only for Tsukasa to visit his futon and insist that he hold her tight. Now, I’m not saying they go on to make full-on love for the first time in that early morn, nor am I saying they don’t, but this is definitely the most hot and heavy we’ve seen them.

Even in the morning, with the couple’s faces beet red and smoking it’s not clear exactly how far the two went a few hours prior, but it is clear from Kaname that they “had fun” in the early morn. She’d love the details (as someone with a “sexy radish” as her LINE picture), but also knows these two well and how easily they’re embarrassed whenever they contemplate the prerogatives of their status as husband and wife.

Because this is a check-in OVA, we also check in on Chitose and her maids Aurora and Charlotte, the latter of whom was at the bathhouse and overheard about Tsukasa’s potentially fun night. Charlotte, despite being an adult, has no idea what that “fun” entailed.

After doing a coffee spit take Chitose tells her it’s “far more intense” than the horseplay she and Char get up to. Chitose demonstrates her growth from last season as she doesn’t immediately head to Tsukasa’s house to investigate/put a stop to it. After all, Tsukasa is married; it’s perfectly normal for things to get intense.

After a parting scene of Char teasing Aurora, who actualy would like to hold hands in bed, the standard credits roll. While a couple of decent romances like Horimiya showed up in Tonikawa’s wake, that series grew more scattered and disinterested in its main couple down the stretch. It was nice to be reminded how good, steady, and consistent Tonikawa always was, and how deftly it portrayed young love—or in Tsukasa’s case, very very old young love! XD

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Wonder Egg Priority – 11 – Deviled

Rika helps enough Egg Girls to free Chiaki, only for her to pass through her hands and vanish right after resurrecting. Rika then meets Dot, who like Hyphen is beholden to Frill. She brutally murders Mannen and destroys Rika’s weapon, causing her to cower in abject horror.

One night (or rather when the underground Wonder Egg compound is in night mode) Ai stops by Acca and Ura-Acca’s house. She finds an office filled with clippings of teenage suicides, as well as what looks like a family portrait: the two Accas in the human form, a woman…and a child whose face is concealed by black marker.

Ura-Acca, who had been waiting for Ai, proceeds to tell her a long and sorrowful tale of hubris and tragedy—to help her better understand her and the other girls’ true roles in their not-so-little game of Wonder Egg.

Some years ago when they had human form, Acca and Ura-Acca shared a living space and cloistered research facility. Constantly under surveillance, they decided to create something all their own together, “just for fun”. That something was an artificial girl of 14 who named herself Frill.

In addition to having the traits that “a father would want his daughter to have”, she also had character flaws built into her heuristic programming, as “being uncontrollable is the essence of femininity.”

The Accas and Frill became a happy family of three, and moments often happened when they forgot she was an AI. At a tech symposium, the Accas met Hoshina Azusa, whom both befriended and eventually developed feelings. Azusa ended up choosing Acca over Ura-Acca. They married and she became pregnant with a girl.

If the Accas are Dr. Frankenstein, Frill soon became their “Monster”. She didn’t take Azusa’s interloping well, hinting that she hated her for basically stealing Acca away. She also wanted a friend, and wanted to make one herself; they ended up letting her make two: Dot and Hyphen. Then one night while Azusa was in the bath, Frill switched on a hair dryer and threw it into the tub, killing Azusa.

An unspeakably bereft Acca threw Frill down the steps beats, her, and locks her in a cellar. While she exhibited no remorse for the murder, she still pleaded not to be left in the dark. But while Azusa died, her infant daughter Himari survived, and ended up “saving” Acca and Ura-Acca from the utter depths of despair as a new family unit was forged.

One day, a now middle school-aged Himari has a strange conversation with “uncle” Ura-Acca, promising to marry him  when she was old enough; a consolation for her mother choosing Acca. That night, they found Himari dead in the tub. It looked like she’d slit her wrists, but there was no suicide note.

Remembering how she popped her lips the way Frill often did, Ura-Acca goes down to the cellar to find Frill is not only still active, but surrounded by surveillance technology and whatnot.

Ura-Acca accuses her of using Dot and Hyphen to kill Himari, Frill simply replies “I’m not a monster. I’m Frill,” and asks him if he wants to know how the girl who loved her “uncle” so much died. Enraged, Ura-Acca takes her away and seemingly destroys her by burning her in a fire.

Ura-Acca concludes by telling AI that the “temptation of death” will cause more girls to “die when they don’t have to” unless it’s stopped…all because of their “mistake.” Dot and Hyphen have apparently already closed Momoe’s heart with fear and caused Rika to build walls of hatred—they both appear on monitors in a set up not unlike Frill’s—but the Ura-Acca decided to at least tell Ai the truth about everything.

Nearly smashing a Wonder Egg on the ground in anger and frustration, Ai decides against it, but clearly isn’t happy with the information she’s received. Heck, we never even found out what, if anything, Sawaki-sensei told her about Koito’s death! That egg may contain the last girl Ai needs to protect to free Koito. But if Dot and Hyphen come for her, and murder her animal friend, what will Ai do then? What can she do?

This episode pulled back the curtain on the pair of mysterious mannequins who seemingly gave up their human bodies after enduring too much tragedy while within them. No one should have to suffer what they suffered. The thing is, everything happened was their fault—the brutal consequences of playing God and rejecting their creation—and involving Ai and the others only compounded their offense.

Between the hubris they exhibited in committing the monstrously irresponsible act of creating a life for fun—who became twisted by jealousy and slipped completely out of their control—and the fact that they then deceived and used four teenage girls as tools to try to fix their mistake, I still can’t summon much sympathy for them. I just hope there’s some way Ai, maybe with Neiru’s help, can save Momoe and Rika from their respective fresh hells.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Otherside Picnic – 02 – Beware the Slenderwoman

This week’s Picnic starts with a wall slam, but that’s misleading: Toriko isn’t seeking to ask Sorao out, but to suggest they visit a researcher acquaintance. Toriko seeks answers about her newly-transparent hand and Sorao’s newly-deep blue eye, both marks of the Otherside that remain with them even in the normal world.

The researcher, the somewhat unkempt Kozakura, pays Toriko for another mirror cube, and Toriko splits the cash with Sorao 50/50, is astonished the two women survived “close contact of the fourth kind” with beings from the Otherside, but when asked about their marks she simply tells them she’s no medical doctor.

However, Sorao learns more about what seems to be self-evident about the Otherside: people who enter there (a group that doesn’t include Kozakura) can potentially become irrevicably addicted to it and the strange entities therein, and never return. Such was the fate of Toriko’s friend and mentor Satsuki.

Toriko asks Sorao to accompany her back to the Otherside, and while Sorao initially balks at the idea of further visits, she still meets up with Toriko the next day. Sorao seems both pushed towards Toriko’s companionship and the wonders of the Otherside, but when Toriko remarks that Satsuki is “more important than anyone else” to her, Sorao sulks.

There’s a sense of jealousy, yes, but also annoyance that Sorao even came upon Toriko, as she tells herself things were just fine when she had the Otherside “all to herself”. Toriko picks up on the sulking and confronts Sorao about it, but before they can get into it a man pulls a machine gun on them.

Turns out he doesn’t wish to harm them, but warn them not to move so freely and recklessly. Turns out there are invisible “glitches” all over the landscape of the Otherside (which he calls the “Zone”) that serve as dimensional traps, scorching whatever touches them into ash. Like Toriko, he’s looking for someone seemingly spirited away into the Otherside: his wife.

Toriko agrees to accompany this Mr. Abarato to search for their missing people, while Sorao hangs back, even more annoyed that now a third person has invaded her once solitary space. Of course, it should be clear to her by now that the Otherside never was “all to herself”, she just hadn’t yet come across other visitors.

The three follow very inhuman footsteps into a large, creepy building surrounded by thick, eerie fog. Inside, Sorao sees an abnormally tall, skinny woman dressed in white—the urban legend Lady Hasshaku, but Toriko and Abarato see their missing persons. When Abarato approaches the lady, she shows her face, lashes out, and he suddenly blinks out of existence.

When Sorao chases after Toriko to keep her from vanishing too, suddenly Toriko is grabbing her hand from behind; Lady Hasshaku used Sorao’s feelings against her to lure her in. Sorao figures out that while she can see the lady’s true form with her blue eye, their bullets won’t defeat her until Toriko’s translucent hand is in physical contact with that form.

It works, Hasshaku dissipates, and the pair are transported back to the real world through the same torii in the Chichibu mountains through which Abarato had first entered. The episode ends on a comic note, with the pair having insufficient funds for the bus home, but considering Abarato is seemingly gone forever, the tone seems a bit…flippant?

Now that Toriko and Sorao know about the glitches, I’m hoping they’ll exercise even more caution in future Otherside visits. It may well be that Toriko’s friend Satsuki suffered the same fate as Abarato, his wife, or the dead(?) guy we saw last week near the river.

This was decent if not overly inspiring “case-of-the-week” that introduces two new players (one on-screen, one missing), a concrete goal for Toriko (find Satsuki) which causes some discord with Sorao. While last week suggested she was glad to meet a friend, Sorao continues to oscillate between between wanting to be with Toriko (and only Toriko) and wanting to be left alone.

Golden Kamuy – 32 – Living Too Long

In which Yoichirou the Manslayer waits for death at the land’s end

We knew Hijitaka, Ushiyama, and Nagakura would get an episode at some point, so here we are, all the way back down in Kushiro, as they search for another tattooed Abashiri inmate, Doi Shinzo. A local Ainu identifies their only clue as the beak of a puffin, so the trio learn Doi can most likely be found in Nemuro, on Hokkaido’s Pacific coast.

Ushiyama wonders if he really needs to be careful with a Doi Shinzo who, by now, must be a spent old men, but Hijitaka warns that Doi once went by another name: Yoichirou the Manslayer, a prolific murderer in the Shogonate’s final days, and thus someone to indeed be careful about approaching.

When we transition to Nemuro, Yoichirou’s wild hair remains, but all of the color has gone, as if washed away by the sea’s salty air. He’s very slow, clumsy, doesn’t work much, and wears Ainu dress, angering some of the  younger fishery workers. Even so, when he tries to walk into the waves to drown, he’s saved by one of his more decent co-workers.

Hijitaka’s is far from the only group looking for Yoichirou; numerous teams of detectives and assassins representing the families of those he killed are hunting him, and converge at the fishery’s canteen. One such team beats Hijitaka there, and let’s just say they aren’t careful about approaching the old man.

The moment they threaten Yoichirou’s life with steel, his present scenery is replaced by that of the past, and his fighting spirit awakens with a vengeance, stealing the weapon and using it to chop into his attackers’ feet. “Get in line”, he says to his would-be assassins, his cloudy eyes wide open. Then Hijitaka marks his arrival by shooting one of those assassins, and declares he’s at the head of that line.

Ushiyama bum-rushes the other assassins, while Yoichirou, who in his dementia imagines himself young again and back in a past with a blood-red sky, runs off, cutting down anyone in his way. Hijitaka, whom Yoichirou recognizes as the “man in charge” back then, gives chase. Yoichirou bows before what he sees as his sensei who betrayed him, but it’s only a deer.

The chase ends at the edge of the sea, where Yoichirou stops running. Hijitak says his piece about still having work to do, securing independence for Hokkaido to stem the tide of Russian incursion. Yoichirou, however, curses having “lived too long”; so long he had to contemplate walking into the sea before his mind became too addled to do so.

The two have a one-slash duel, with Hijitaka cutting Yoichirou down. As he sits down, dying, Hijitaka returns the puffin beak to him, which was a gift from Yoichirou’s Ainu wife she he wouldn’t forget Nemuro. He didn’t, as he broke out of Abashiri to be with her during her last days. Her face is the last thing he sees before passing away.

“Ainu”, he was once told, “means ‘human’.” After living as a tool—a killing machine for the imperial loyalists—he came to Nemuro to live as a human again, and was able to do so. His past caught up with him, but too late for it to matter. But at least in Hijitaka’s view his death had meaning, as the tattoos on his skin can be used to find the gold that will fund their New Hokkaido.

Golden Kamuy delivers yet another one of the character studies it is so damn good at, whether they relate to a main character or a one-off inmate like Yoichirou. I genuinely teared up at his last moments, when he finally reunited with his love, and his statement on Ainu way of life as better than what he’d had before also resonated.

The episode closes the book rather abruptly on Hijitaka and Yoichirou’s confrontation to send us all the way back up to Ako, where Ogata shoots a white whale for dinner, and Asirpa whips out the last of Sugimoto’s “poop” miso. The stew is so good, even Ogata can’t help but mutter “hinna, hinna”, surprising Asirpa. Kiroranke confirms to Shiraishi that their operation won’t just be to break Sofia out, but to release all 250 inmates of the prison, creating enough chaos to ease Sofia’s escape.

They’ll do so with explosives stored in the newer lighthouse mentioned by the old couple last week. This could be wishful thinking on my part, but perhaps while Kiroranke & Co. are in the midst of liberating Ako Prison, Sugimoto’s team will finally catch up with them. All I know is, as good as this third season has been, if it doesn’t end with an Asirpa-Sugimoto reunion, I’ll be vexed.

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