Spy x Family – 24 – Rebuilding the World

Annihilating Fiona in tennis proves not to be a cure-all for Yor’s replacement anxiety. It’s gotten to the point where Loid observes her walking into lampposts while muttering and the neighbors gossiping about adultery.

Taking her out for drinks only heightens Yor’s distress, as she assumes the bar to be the venue where he’ll officially declare he’ll be moving on with Fiona. That’s not what he’s planning to say, but before he can get a word in edgewise Yor champs her fancy cocktail and then chugs his scotch to soften a blow that will never come.

Once Yor’s lips have been sufficiently loosened by alcohol, her rants make Loid realize that this goes beyond her worrying about not being an adequate wife and mother, and passes into jealousy territory. Assuming Yor has developed romantic feelings for him, he turns on his practiced Twilight charm.

But while there’s definitely something to Yor feeling something for him, his advances are far to powerful, and her reduced inhibitions mean she has not problem kicking him in the chin and sending him flying. He manages to to a mid-air flip and land on his feet, but the kick landed, and Loid goes down.

He wakes up from a dream of his mother humming a lullaby to him to find his head in Yor’s lap as she sings the same tune (though with improvised lyrics). The mere fact her song reminded him of his mother, and of a time when he felt happy, safe and loved even in the midst of a terrible war, speaks to Yor’s latent skills.

When she says of course he’d want to move on from a “musclehead” like her, he recounts to her the story of his mother, and sees that same strength in her with Anya. While he, Nightfall, and the other spies have been working tirelessly to rebuild the world, Yor has already rebuilt it in their home: made a place where Anya feels safe, happy, and loved.

That’s why he’s honored to have Yor as a wife and mother, and has no intention of replacing her with Fiona. As for Yor, Yuri was once the only thing she cared about in the world, but now she can add her new family to that short list. It’s a home she and Loid built that she doesn’t want to leave anytime soon.

In the second half, Becky notices Anya watching Damian from afar and assumes she’s in love with the twerp. In reality, she’s trying to befriend him since eight Stella are out of the question. But Becky assumes she’s just being shy, and tells her the best way to get a man’s attention is by looking as good as possible.

To that end, Becky invites Anya on a shopping trip to a department store she rented out in its entirety. A shopping montage ensues, with Anya trying on increasingly avant-garde clothes and Becky cheering her on all the way even though she’s increasingly unsure what’s going on.

All this Fashion exhausts Anya, while Becky realizes that at the dorm party where they’ll be able to be out of uniform, she needs to come up with an ensemble to impress her darling Loid. Moving on from that, the girls keep shopping for shoes, glasses, accessories, and then have some tea and lunch at the store café.

When Anya appears colorless and says she’s near death, Becky asks her if she didn’t enjoy shopping with her. In response, Anya brightens up and assures Becky that she had tons of fun, as this was her first time shopping with a friend. Hearing Anya say “friend” really moves Becky.

As her maid and chaperone Martha drives the tuckered out girls home, we learn why that is: Becky had trouble making friends prior to enrolling at Eden. She came off as an arrogant bully and found socializing with commoners to be beneath her.

Considering her father runs one of the country’s largest conglomerates, it’s not surprising her to-the-manor-born upbringing caused this aloofness. Combine that with her precociousness, and Becky thought she had the entire world and everyone in it figured out before she turned eight.

It was Martha who told her the first step to being a true and proper adult is accepting that she didn’t know all there was to know about everything and everyone. Watching Becky interact with Anya, who may well be her first true friend just as she is Anya’s, Martha can see how far Becky has come since attending Eden and meeting Anya.

It warms her heart to see Becky with a real friend she can be herself with. That genuine happiness is more attractive than any couture outfit, as evidenced by Damian blushing when he sees Anya and Becky the next day, walking and laughing with their matching sheep keychains.

Spy x Family – 23 – The Flames of War

The Campbell siblings have no shortage of dirty tricks to try to stop the Phonys, from a net that moves up and down, a wind machine that affects trajectories, to a hidden sniper firing court-colored rubber bullets. But even they couldn’t have known they’d be up against a couple of elite spies.

Throw adversity at a couple of lunatics like Twilight and Nightfall, and they’re going to keep finding a way around it. Once they’re both in rhythm making impossibly acrobatic yet precise moves, it’s game, set, and match. The Campbells poked a couple of bears, and simply got mauled.

Whether it was Cloverworks or Wit Studio that animated this episode (or both), the “tennis” action was never not fantastic looking, adding a sense of legitimacy to a thoroughly farcical game. When it comes time to claim the painting, Cavi suddenly says it’s the one piece he can’t part with.

But Loid and Fiona prepared for the possibility the secret police would get to Campbell before they got to the painting, so Loid simply disguises himself as Campbell’s valet and pulls the ol’ painting switcheroo, Thomas Crown Affair-style. The mission is a complete success, and the two spies high-five.

Fiona drops Loid off to find Yor in the park with Anya, and decides she needs to challenge and defeat Twilight’s Strix wife right then and there … in a game of tennis. Thanks to Anya, we can witness Fiona’s ridiculous thought about how it’ll go down, as well as Yor’s worry about Fiona replacing her.

Yor also plays the bumbling novice perfectly when she whiffs on what starts off as a badass assassin’s serve. But the thing is, she didn’t whiff; she simply hit the ball so hard it went through the strings of the racket like Play-Doh through an extruder (or human beings in Cube). The concassé’d ball is a little masterpiece of comic timing and trick animation.

Even when Yor holds back on her serve, she hits the ball so hard it goes faster than sound, creates a shock wave that digs into the ground, and lights up like a comet. Fiona tries her best to absorb the serve and volley it back, but her racket simply isn’t up to it, smashing to bits.

Fiona, defeated utterly, runs to her Trabant and races off, not letting Loid or Yor see her mask crack to reveal the seething, churning tempest of emotion within. Yor, who is simply relieved she fought Fiona off this time, very empatically tells Loid that she Won, leaving out the “for Us.”

The punchline of this two-parter is that while the code hidden in the painting indeed leads to finding Zacharis’ Dossier, but it turns out to be a diary filled with photos of pretty young actresses. These are the “dark secrets” that could “re-ignite a war”, not between East and West, but between Zacharis and his wife. I also loved the uncommented-upon sight of the gaudy rings Fiona took from Campbell on Handler’s hand.

But after the punchline comes a moment of realization for Loid when he sees that Zacharis managed to maintain a happy marriage and family after burying away his creepy dossier. Keeping a marriage and family happy isn’t easy, as evidenced by a clearly frustrated-looking Yor at the end.

I imagine she was underwhelmed by Loid’s reaction to her win over Fiona, and still worried about Fiona continuing to try to usurp her. Sure enough, the episode wraps up with Fiona in the mountains strengthening her serve with a racket made from a boulder as the wildlife watches in morbid curiosity.

Spy x Family – 22 – Love Means Nothing

A painting in the possession of the wealthy tycoon Cavi Campbell is believed to contain a code that, if unlocked, could reveal dark secrets about the East or West that could reignite a war. It’s up to Twilight and Nightfall to retrieve the painting. But Fiona doesn’t intend to steal it, she intends to win it.

Cavi runs an underground no-rules, anything-goes tennis tournament called Campbelldon. Fiona dons ojou ringlets and Loid a sporty headband as they pose as an amateur husband and wife team, the Phonys. Secretly, Fiona hopes to show Loid that she’s the only one worthy to be his fake wife.

The crowd bets heavily against them as their first opponents are former pros who went into the mountains to train and are here to seek tougher foes. They get their wish, as both Loid and Fiona mop the floor with them. Despite only “dabbling” in tennis, every one of Loid’s serves is a devastating ace.

Fiona goes above and beyond in trying to look as cool and amazing as possible, her resting stoic face belying the colorful imagery of Loid being so impressed he sweeps her off her feet and proposes they enter the “doubles game of life.”

Loid had previously practiced a bit with Yor and Anya, and I kinda wish we could have seen more of that, especially considering Yor rarely knows how to hold back when it comes to physical exertion. Still, Yor is anxious about the possibility Loid is with Fiona. Anya offers her mom words of comfort … that don’t give away the fact she can read her mind.

Loid and Fiona’s next opponents are a pair of brothers who injected themselves with a new experimental doping cocktail (again, anything goes in Campbelldom). But they are undone by their insistence on trash-talking, which quickly gets under Fiona’s skin and leads her to literally beat them into submission with a flurry of smashes.

Before the final, the spies are taken to a waiting room, where they discuss strategy against their opponents: the son and daughter of Cavi Campbell himself. They’re sure to have more than a few tricks up their sleeve. As Fiona resolves to go even harder for the sake of impressing Loid, he takes her hand.

She initially mistakes him for making a move, unable to restrain himself from her magnificence. But he’s really looking at the cuts, sores, and blisters on Fiona’s hand, and tells her to stop pushing herself so hard, as spies who lose their cool don’t live long.

Fiona pulls her hand away and appears to stare daggers at Loid, but in reality, she’s elated beyond reason that Loid, who once treated other spies as disposable, is so concerned with her well-being. Swooning and slightly risqué sounds ensue.

But then both Fiona and Loid notice that a colorless, odorless gas is filling the locker room. They hold their breath, but some damage has already been done, just when they need all their strength, speed, and stamina.

In addition to not being 100%, Carrol and Kim Campbell have totally legal modified racquets: Carrol’s is jet-assisted, while Kim’s has an extending head that greatly extends her return radius. The Campbell kids ambitions may not extend further than wanting daddy to buy them another yacht, but they win the first set 6-3.

Loid and Fiona regroup and come up with a workable counter to their opponents superior equipment, but then another curveball is lobbed their way when bits of the very court beneath their feet start to shift, causing their shots to veer off-target.

This surely isn’t the last of the dirty tricks they’ll face, but Loid is determined to win that painting for the sake of world peace, and Fiona is just as determined to crush the Campbell kids by his side, and convince him to dump Yor and marry her, both for Strix and for real. To be continued…

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Spy x Family – 21 – Not My Mama

WISE agent Fiona Frost, AKA Nightfall (voiced by Sakura Ayane in her lower meter) could just as easily be named Snowfall, seeing as she’s outwardly as chilly as Yor is warm. When Handler tells her she’ll be working on a joint mission with Twilight, Fiona jumps at the chance.

She considers it an opportunity to speed up and improve Operation Strix by getting rid of his fake wife, a position she would have occupied had she not been busy on another mission when Strix began. Fiona is met at the door by guileless Yor, who apparently doesn’t feel any killing intent in Loid’s co-worker from the hospital, even as Fiona’s resting face is a piecing dagger stare

When she realizes that Yor considers being Anya’s mom to be fun, she changes her tack, ready to exploit Yor’s feelings of being a subpar wife, but Loid and Anya return home from walking Bond. No matter how good Fiona’s poker face is, Anya can read her mind, and she’s petrified to learn the extent of Fiona’s infatuation with her Papa. It’s way worse than Becky!

The contrast between the lovey-dovey Inner and frigid Outer Fionas makes for good laughs, as does the secret conversation-via-mouth-movements that she and Loid make while sounding like they’re exchanging mindless small talk. As Loid, Yor, and Anya interact, Fiona is constantly demanding that she and Yor switch in her head, and Anya can hear her.

Turns out Yor was paying attention to Fiona talking about Loid complaining at work, and even though Fiona didn’t get to actually specify anything, the mere mention of him complaining has Yor acrobatically leaping to the conclusion that Fiona is a potential replacement wife, no mind-reading necessary.

It’s when Anya semi-accidentally spills cocoa, and she hears Inner Fiona talking about how ruthlessly she’d whip Anya into an efficiently Stella-winning machine, that Anya runs tearfully to Yor’s side, asserting that she is the one, only, and best Mama she could have. This in turn spurs Yor to promising to Loid that she’ll do better, even though from his perspective she’s already been doing fine.

When she sees Loid’s fake smile, Fiona is heartened, as it means that at the end of the day this is all an act. And yet, at the same time, she can see some of the truth leaking through that fake smile, and the genuine peace and happiness Loid is experiencing with Yor and Anya is just too much, and Fiona takes her leave.

Loid chases her down with an umbrella, which she declines, while thanking the heavy rain for hiding her face full of heartbreak and anguish. Inside, she maintains that she’s the only wife worthy of her beloved senpai, while outside she negs Loid, telling him the new “softer” Twilight better not impede their joint mission.

Fiona is a stylish and welcome addition to the cast; someone who is actively trying to steal Loid while having no idea how to do so, someone with contrasting inner-outer personalities off which Anya can bounce, and a hint of genuine pathos for someone whose fated role by Loid’s side was usurped due to bad timing.

The final fifth of the episode is a little vignette in which Bond is suddenly jealous of her stuffed Mr. Penguin, and assaults it in the night. Loid eventually mends the doll (after Yor utterly failed) and notes that his “scars” are badges of honor for a veteran penguin spy.

A contrite bond offers peace peanuts to Anya, who forgives him, apologizes for saying she hated him, and enacts a peace treaty between him and Mr. Penguin. It’s slight and sweet—almost to the point of cloying—but does make for a nice parallel for the East-West conflict (would that it could be solved so easily) and reminds us that even precognitive flooffers can get jealous.

Spy x Family – 16 – The Taste of Family

This episode opens with a dead-serious face, as Yor can barely hide her assassin’s glare from her family when she arrives home late. She definitely can’t hide all the cuts on her hands, which at first I thought might be from a particularly unpleasant client. Anya sees the future through Bond: her mama crying. Alone in her room Yor laments that she could lose her family if this doesn’t succeed. So what’s ‘this’?

I really should have known from all the hand cuts that the mission had nothing to do with assassination, but secret cooking lessons from Camilla, who grudingly agrees to coach Yor when her husband Dominic blurts out at work that she’s a great cook. The bloody bag Yor was carrying was just crushed tomatoes. It’s a great heavy buildup that made you breathe a sigh of relief whenever you figure out everything will be fine.

Dominic invites Yuri to help be the taste tester, but also possibly to preserve his own life. The “smoking, oozing purple/black poison food made by the terrible chef” is an anime cliché that’s been around longer than Truck-kun, and Spy x Family leans into the disgusto-factor of her eldritch creations. It also wisely shows that Yuri’s usual way of eating his sister’s food—while vomiting part of it up—and not keeling over shows that she’s had a poor judge of taste all this time.

Yuri should be commended for basically building up a tolerance and even a love of his sister’s cooking (though part of it is the last thing he wants is for her to be unhappy, or contribute to it in any way). When Camilla suggests they think back to what kind of food the Briar siblings’ mom made, they remember a red southern stew with a fried egg. Yor starts again under Camilla’s close watch, and hey-presto, she’s able to make her first edible, tasty dish!

When Yor returns home in a much better mood, Loid and Anya are understandably worried about her handling the dinner duties. But she sticks to the recipe for her mom’s stew, and after a tentative taste, they discover it’s a really good, soothing flavor. Yor is so happy her family is acknowledging her cooking, she cries tears of joy, not sorrow, into her hands—the very future Bond foresaw.

The final gag is that the dessert she improvise does send her family to the floor. But with about a third of the runtime left, the episode doesn’t let Yor’s cooking epiphany overstay its welcome, but shifts to … Franky’s love life? Ugh…fine, I guess. Turns out Franky is as bad with women as he is good with intelligence gathering. He asks Loid to help him determine the best way to talk to Monica, the pretty woman at the cigar shop.

After Franky demonstrates stalker tendencies with the wealth of intel on Monica and scoffing at Loid’s elaborate conversational flow charts, Loid dresses as Monica, a bit that doesn’t really get any play. Similarly, we don’t get to see Franky being shot down, only the aftermath and Loid buying him a commiseratory drink. It’s a very lightweight segment, but after the excitement of the Mister Dog Trilogy I understand the need for a downshift.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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

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