Fruits Basket – 50 (Second Season Fin) – Feather Brain

Despite all of the chaos and craziness of These Times, leave it to the trusty Fruits Basket’s second season to end one year to the day after the first season ended in 2019. And it doesn’t end with a whimper, but a one-two punch that will leave your pulverized heart slowly stewing in your stomach, even as the brightest rays of hope yet shine upon Tooru’s mission.

The opening images herald what’s to come. As soon as I saw a young, bewildered Kureno surrounded by floating feathers and a positively terrified Akito cowering behind him, I knew the big secret Shigure has known, and would be dying to reveal were it not up to Kureno himself later: Kureno is not a Zodiac member. He hasn’t been for years. His bond with Akito was severed; the curse lifted…only to be immediately replaced by a new curse of his own making.

To the part about his curse being lifted, it’s the best news yet that Tooru’s dream of lifting it for all isn’t pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking, but a reality waiting to be realized. Of course, Tooru doesn’t know anything about this at first, and nor does Rin: but the fact that Rin will remain in a room and talk with Tooru (but leave the moment Yuki shows up) may well foreshadow future collaboration between the two. I certainly hope so, anyway!

For now, Tooru is happy for a new year with Yuki and Shigure and oh yeah, Kyou, who doesn’t appear in this episode, since the exploration of his and Tooru’s failure to confess to one another is best left to a future season for it to be done justice. Instead, most of the episode is given over to the truth about Kureno, and how he’s always seemed “off” to both Shigure and Hatori.

Kureno manages to steal away from a sleeping Akito’s side deep into the night, and plays the Cinderella-ish DVD given to him by Tooru c/o Momiji Both of them pray he’ll watch it, and he does. The scene with Tooru and Kyou was so powerful I almost forgot Arisa also bore her whole damn heart in the play.

First she castigated Prince Kyou for not acting on his feelings when there are “people out there (like her and Kureno) who can’t see the ones they wish to see.” When Arisa cries out “I want to see him!” Kureno can’t help but reach out. But his image of a smiling Arisa in her work apron is juxtaposed by a hysterical younger Akito begging him “Don’t abandon me!” and the dimensions of Kureno’s own personal prison come into clear focus.

The moment Tooru returns home to Shigure’s, he sends her out on an errand to buy envelopes, knowing full well she’ll do it immediately and with a smile (this is Tooru, after all). He also knows it will take her past a certain park where Kureno is waiting. Before noticing him, Tooru approaches a flock of sparrows, who naturally aren’t afraid of her what with her gentle soul and calming aura.

Then Kureno approaches her, and the birds scatter. This confuses Tooru to no end since she’s seen rabbits, rats and cats naturally gather around Momiji, Yuki, and Kyou, respectively. Then the absolute kicker: Kureno draws Tooru into a hug…and nothing happens. He tells her plainly: he’s different. His curse is broken. He isn’t a member of the Zodiac.

It would have been one thing if his burgeoning love for Arisa had broken the curse, but it happened long before they met, and to this day Kureno couldn’t tell you exactly why. All he knows his how he felt when it happened. At first he was sad upon realizing he’d never fly again. But he also felt a happiness and a freedom and a sense of humanity he’d never felt before.

Even so, he says, upon returning the DVD, Tooru’s present “was for nothing”, as he doesn’t intent to see Arisa again, and will instead remain by Akito’s side as he has done. It seems like a firm declaration, but as he tries desperately to rationalize two simple insignificant meetings with Arisa as easily forgotten with time…he just can’t do it.

There’s no supernatural or spiritual bond keeping him by Akito’s side. It is more pity than love, along with years of trying to make it something it hadn’t been since the curse broke. Upon realizing their bond was broken Akito lost it, taking Kureno aside and threatening to kill anyone else who approached. And then she sobbed and begged and pleaded for him not to leave her. And Kureno, being younger than Tooru is now and not knowing any better, gave in.

Things are even more different now than they were then. Kureno resolved neither to go too far into the outside world nor seek anything there, but he’s fallen in love for the first time since the curse broke, since he “became human”, as he puts it. And as much as he may want to stay by Akito’s side, just as back then, something has happened that cannot be undone.

Kureno might have been able to deceive the other Zodiac members for a while, but I doubt he ever deceived Akito. And yet despite knowing the curse was broken, his staying probably signaled to Akito that their power still held sway, which turned out to be true, only if psychologically and not supernaturally.

As Tooru tries to comfort the long-tormented Kureno, he tells her without self-pity, hatred, or regret, that he made his choice to live only for “the one who cried until sobs racked their body. Weaker than anyone…more fragile than anyone. For the one…so afraid…for a sorrowful girl.”

Akito wakes up before Kureno returns, and notes that it’s the first time he’s left without permission. After ordering their attendants to find him, Akito takes a bath, and when their robe slips off in the mirror, it is finally officially confirmed that Akito is a woman. This had already been heavily implied, both in design, choice of seiyu (Sakamoto Maaya), and in other subtle ways. But that doesn’t lesson the impact of learning the truth explicitly.

Immediately upon Tooru learning Akito is a girl, the second season ends, having answered so many questions and yet left us with so many more about what’s to come. Will Tooru (and Rin, and other allies) succeed in her quest to lift the curse for all? Will she even continue the quest, knowing how much pain it will cause Akito to take her remaining Zodiac members away? Will Tooru ever allow herself to love someone more than her mother? Will Kureno and Arisa meet again? Will Akito escalate her grudge against Tooru?

Lots to ponder, for sure. And that’s even before we get into how we’re supposed to feel about Akito, who regardless of gender has been a pretty consistently selfish, cruel, dispicable character from the start. It goes without saying she’d have a tragic past of her own to match her myriad psychological issues, and while I can empathize, goddamn is it hard to sympathize, when weighing the suffering she’s caused the others.

For all of that food for thought, and yearning for the next season, and the expert direction and framing and pitch-perfect music throughout, I found this one of the best episodes of Fruits Basket yet, which at this point is saying something, and it will be very very hard to wait for what’s next.

P.S. Additional food for thought: the reason Akito cherishes Kureno so much is because he is there by his own free will, and not due to any binding curse, something I hadn’t considered until we learned he’s no longer a Zodiac member. Ultimately this is the way all her companions should be: there by choice and not force. Of course, she’d have to be much nicer to them…

Want to read more? Read Crow’s thoughts here.

Fruits Basket – 49 – Wishing for Change

When Kakeru brings up ranger colors, Yuki surprises Machi by asking her what her favorite color is. No one has ever asked her that, and she doesn’t know anyway. She gets up to leave when Miki organizes a lunch meetup, but Yuki doesn’t let her slip away wordlessly, giving the cell phone-less Machi a written note of the time and place of the lunch.

Nobody ever paid any attention to Kuragi Machi. She passes through people and places as if she is invisible. She has no favorite color or preferred restaurant. She calls herself dull, a void, and a defective doll. Her apartment is a mess, because why bother keeping it clean if no one ever visits? She’s watched Yuki and how he’s changed, but can’t see if or how she can do the same.

Still, she took the simple maple leaf Yuki gave her and made it into a lovely bookmark, and possibly also a talisman; a reminder that change is not just possible, but necessary. Just as she’s wondering if her existence is necessary, Yuki answers that question by flagging her down; in her half-asleep stupor she happened to end up at the meeting spot for an even she had no intention of attending.

I’d been hoping for more Machi material, and this week we get lots. Despite her claims of dullness I find her a fascinating example of a non-Souma with Souma-like baggage, and thus an intriguing potential partner for Yuki, whom we’ve learned never had particularly romantic feelings for Tooru. Her problems are also an opportunity for Yuki to pay forward the progress he himself has made.

New Year’s is here, and there too are changes from last year. Yuki will be attending in addition to Shigure, so Tooru and Kyou will spend the holiday at Kazuma’s house, where Tooru is perhaps overly excited to learn that Isuzu is staying as well as she continues her recovery. Unfortunately Rin isn’t in the mood for Tooru’s exuberance.

Considering the line they independently drew between themselves, I’m not surprised Tooru and Kyou are fine with not spending New Years alone together—even though that delays the inevitable. That said, it’s still a hoot to watch them interact, with Tooru playfully hitting of Kyou with the pompom of her new scarf easily making the list of Top 10 Most Adorable Things Tooru Has Ever Done.

Meanwhile the banquet appears to be going off without a hitch. After Hatori performs a dance we sadly don’t get to see and Ayame entertains the others with his magnetic personality, Akito and Yuki seem on the cusp of a détente, with Akito deigning to forgive Yuki his past insolence now that he’s here.

But Yuki, as bold in front of Akito as we’ve ever seen him, deigns to forgive him as well, then goes on about how he’s done blaming others for his problems, and has resolved to be more aware of his flaws and areas in his life which he can improve. Yuki is essentially talking about change, which is anathema eternal Zodiac god like Akito.

Akito likes Yuki the way he is—or rather the way he thinks he is, which is in reality no longer the way he was. Yuki isn’t back because he was cowed or came to his senses or is admitting he was wrong; he’s back as a simple courtesy, which must feel patronizing to Akito. So Akito breaks a ceramic pot across Yuki’s face, and just like that, Yuki’s past and future absences from the banquet are handily justified.

It’s not a severe laceration—just a small cut on the scalp—but if anyone from Prince Yuki had seen their beloved Yuki’s beautiful face thus marred I’m not certain Akito would have made it out of the room in one piece! To Yuki, it was probably worth it to say something to Akito that in a perfect world all Zodiacs would be able to say to Akito: It is YOU who is a useless piece of shit who should just disappear. Mind you Yuki doesn’t actually say this; but it’s implied!

When Hatori cleans up the cut, Yuki also makes sure to apologize to him for blaming him for erasing the memories of his childhood friends. He now knows better, and that Hatori too was young and had to obey Akito. Hatori tells him, quite rightly, that there’s nothing to apologize for.

Tooru and Kyou actually end up alone together anyway, as Kazuma steps out and Rin has an early night. Hatsu stops by, but to be with Rin. Explaining Shisho’s mention of Kyou and Rin’s propensity to stare each other down as kids, Kyou tells Tooru that he felt like he stole Shisho from him, and so came to not like her.

As for Tooru’s New Year’s wish (which Kyou asks her for before he tells her his), while last year she wished for Kyou and Yuki to get along (and by their standards, they pretty much do now) this year her wish is arguably more ambitious: for the curse to be broken and happiness to come.

Against a Zodiac system that has endured for centuries without change, Tooru is wishing for change…for revolution. And by golly, if anyone can move the gods in the heavens to grant that wish, it’s Tooru. If they don’t, they can expect no quarter in the scarf pompom-thrashing to come!

Want to read more about episode 49? Check out Crow’s review here!

Oregairu 3 – 08 – The Person in Charge

It’s the much-belated appearance of Hayama Hayato, the only person who comes right out and tells Hikki that he shouldn’t be going about things this way. Hayato is already helping the StuCo, but frankly he partially blames himself for helping out in a previous scenario that didn’t turn out so well.

Hikki, while grateful for his friend’s candor, insists this isn’t about codependency, but personal pride and satisfaction. That pride extends into the purchase of a high-end camera and learning how to use it for a beach photo shoot that will be the hero(ine) image on the website.

Despite this, Ebina Hina still has to flip a couple of switches on the camera so it will take the most dramatic pictures, just as she, Yui, and Yumiko have to take off their shoes in the freezing cold water for it to seem “genuine”.

The final product speaks for itself and looks fantastic, and the Gaming Club nerds are again surprised by Hikki’s formality and gratitude for their and Zaimo’s assistance. Little did I know this would be all he’d call on them to do, since the “dummy prom” effort comes to an end this week!

With the site in place, Hikki needs his fake prom plans “leaked” to the PTO (AKA Yukino’s mom) and recruits Haruno for the job. Like Hayato, Haruno won’t stand in his or Yui’s way but doesn’t see how his argument for it not being codepenency is anything other than a battle of semantics.

She suggests they simply “watch over” Yukino as she works towards her goal alone, and Yui is the one to rebut that. Watching over someone, to her, isn’t any different from staying away from them, even abandoning them. That’s no way to “end things properly”, as all three of them desperately wants to do.

The next day (or so), thanks to Haruno, her mother has gotten word of the second prom proposal, and quickly outmaneuvers Hikki’s slipshod preparation for the meeting by declaring the gig is up, she knows his prom is a decoy, and as such isn’t going to move the needle on the PTO’s position.

That said, Hiratsuka (who prior to the meeting asked Hikki out for ramen sometime) offers a solid assist to Hikki in stating that the current options on PTO’s table are to look over the adjusted proposal for Yukino’s prom and retain some influence on the event, or risk the rebellious elements of the student body hold the event outside school grounds and rules.

Yukino’s mom still doesn’t show her cards, but to add a game metaphor, Hikki considers her the queen in a game of chess, and as such someone he can turn into an ally if he uses a very specific underhanded tactic only he could use: his name, which she recognizes as the boy who got hit by her car.

This has the intended effect, thankfully for Hikki, since after that he’s probably out of moves. Yukino’s mom is impressed with his “remarkable intrepidity”, even unfolding her fan as if to concede his point. Responding to her question about his leg injury by telling her it’s stronger than ever and he’ll display it by dancing at the prom…chef’s kiss.

We backtrack a bit to Yui visiting Haruno again on her own to take exception to her use of the term “codependency”. Haruno proceeds to harunosplain it to Yui, but Yui doesn’t budge. When Haruno dismisses her dream to be together forever with the other two as “not genuine”, Yui doesn’t see how it can’t be, considering how much it hurts.

Let it be said Haruno practices what she preaches. She and Hayato were an item, but it wasn’t sufficiently genuine. And things she deems not genuine aren’t simply an annoyance, they are repellent, and she’ll say and do what she thinks she must to stamp them out.

Hikki visits Yukino in the Service Club room to tell her that her revised plan was safely approved by the PTO, making her the winner of their prom rivalry. She begs to differ: because she went along with his decision to make a competition at all, and trusted that he’d succeed in getting her prom approved, she feels that he is the one who won.

Yukino takes this trust in him as further evidence of her dependence on him, but Hikki still maintains that because her prom was approved, she won this particular rivalry. She takes it the next step to say that if he insists she won, then he has to do what she says, which is to grand Yui’s wish.

Yukino tearfully tells Hikki how much she’s cherished the time the three of them have spent in the Service Club, but the “seemingly fake” relationship that has resulted from their continued interaction is “wrong” and different from what Hikki “desired” for them.

Therefore it’s time to end that relationship right there. Hikki leaves without argument while Yukino hopes this is the “correct ending”. Later, Yukino meets with Yui and while she doesn’t explicitly say the relationship they had had is now over, Yui can see it in Yukino’s smile.

Still, by essentially placing the ball in Yui’s hands, there’s a chance that even if one relationship between the three is coming to an end, it doesn’t mean a new beginning isn’t in the cards. The question is what form that beginning takes. After all, it’s certainly not Yui’s wish that the three stop talking or seeing each other.

In this way, Yukino is doing the same thing with Yui’s wish she claims to have done with Hikki’s alternate prom plan: relying on it, knowing full well she will find a way just as he did. Haruno’s strict ideal of what is properly genuine—maybe these three are simply destined to keep relying on one another as they continue to stumble towards adulthood.

Gleipnir – 13 (Fin) – The Truth is Out There…Not Here

As Honoka/Aiko’s “Ghost” “erases” another classmate (perhaps involved in the bullying that caused Aiko’s suicide) in front of Elena, Shuuichi and Claire ask Sayaka’s gang to give them all the coins they collected so they can go back to living normal lives while the two of them “end the game” for good. It’s a neat strategy, but unfortunately we never get to see it realized in this frustratingly incomplete finale.

Claire finally gives Shuuichi an ultimatum: either they hang out at one of their houses or they’re through, having had only this one summer together before going their separate ways. It’s a bit out of left field, but the result is Shuuichi invites her to his house, which is filthy and no place for a makeout session. When Claire tries to get answers, a repressed memory of Elena in the same position surfaces, and in a panic, Shuuichi nearly assaults Claire before returning to his senses.

Ultimately, Sayaka’s gang decides they’ll give their coins to Elena and not Shuuichi. Chihiro makes the exchange, but is interrupted by the arrival of Shuuichi, whose memories continue to surface. He now knows that Elena used her ability to erase his memories so Honoka/Ghost Aiko wouldn’t go after him. In effect, she did the same thing to him that he and Claire want to do for Sayaka’s crew: shoulder all the burden.

Shuuichi wants more answers, but Elena is elusive, and a fight ensues, that while technically impressive and exciting, doesn’t really amount to much. With his memories returning Honoka/Ghost Aiko appears and prepares to erase Shuuichi altogether. While he’s busy with “ghost clones” Elena slips behind him and uses her ability, locking the memories of her back away and saving his and Claire’s lives.

And that’s pretty much where we leave things: a stalemate with no time left; an ellipsis. Kaito and Ghost Aiko guard the landing site that Shuuichi and Claire are still determined to reach, reuniting with Sanbe for that purpose (Hey Sanbe). Sayaka and the others go back to their lives.

Mifune, perhaps the most ineffectual character of the entire series, is resigned to moving on from Shuuichi, who was never aware of her feelings. But the power couple is still in the game, and still determined to end it. It’s just unsatisfying that we probably won’t see that end in anime form. Thirteen episodes should’ve been enough to tell this story.

Gleipnir – 12 – Cram School Curse

For those like myself who were eager for answers, the penultimate Gleipnir delivered in a big way, taking us back to the halcyon days of the Yamada Cram School gang, which consisted of Kaito (the lion haired lad), Naoto, Aiko, Honoka, Elena…and Shuuichi. Things would not go well at all for these five friends as the years progressed, and the Alien and his coins only made things worse.

Fast-forward to a few months before the present day, and the friends meet up for a reunion. Only Honoka isn’t there. Only Kaito doesn’t know why: Honoka’s dad murdered someone, she ended up living with relatives, they didn’t get along, and she just…disappeared. Aiko things they should just let things be, since Honoka didn’t tell any of them and so probably doesn’t want to be searched for. Pretty cold stuff.

The thing is, Naoto has noticed Aiko (who is his girlfriend) acting a bit off lately, and when Kaito sees her twirling her hair the way Honoka used to, he follows her and meets the alien. Then Kaito gathers everyone else to explain what happened: Honoka used a coin to transform into Aiko. Kaito believes Honoka did it out of a desire to have “everything” Aiko had…including Naoto, whom she loved.

To Kaito’s frustration, no one wants to do anything about this, and insists that things “stay the way they are.” But that doesn’t sit well with him. He confronts Honoka!Aiko at the cram school, sitting before of the real Aiko’s grave. Believing Honoka killed the real Aiko and took her place, he takes a rope and strangles her to death. It’s a shockingly rash action from someone who had to that point been a normal high school teen, and timing for such rash action couldn’t have been worse.

Shortly after killing her, Kaito learns from Naoto that Aiko’s will was found and addressed to Honoka. Aiko, who had a strong sense of justice and defended other kids being bullied at school, became the bully’s new target, and eventually she succumbed to the despair and hung herself.

Honoka, filled with regret for being unable to save her best friend and was the only one to get a note from her, went to the alien with a coin and asked to become Aiko, believing no one would care if she disappeared, but would be sad if they learned the truth about Aiko.

What’s so heartbreaking is she was pretty much right—everyone was willing to go along with the “new” Aiko despite eventually learning what Honoka did. Only Kaito didn’t want Honoka to disappear, and wasn’t okay with everything the way it was. From this point forward, Kaito disowns Naoto, Elena and Shuuichi, and vows to make them disappear to see how they like it.

He goes to the alien with a coin to make that happen, and in the present we learn he’s the one who has collected 100 coins, no doubt enlisting the aid of the “glowing lady” with Honoka’s form. Elena and Naoto are part of the team attempting to defeat him, but they’re clearly at a disadvantage.

That brings us back to the day Shuuichi encounters and murders the last survivor of Madoka’s gang in the junkyard. We knew Claire called him and he assured her everything was taken care of, but now we learn Claire had gone to the abandoned cram school to investigate Shuuichi’s past on her own.

There, she finds the little stuffed dog that was the inspiration for Shuuichi’s form. It’s concrete proof not only that he was there, but that his memories have been messed with. Months before, Shuuichi assured Elena and Naoto that if Kaito was plotting something, he’d use a coin to respond.

It’s starting to look like Elena didn’t force him into anything, but it will be up to the finale to present the actual moment he got transformed by the alien, and show why he broke from Elena and Naoto and lost his memories.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2 – 07 – Wandering Stars

Nishikata has big plans for teasing Takagi on the camping trip, no doubt hoping a change of scenery will restore some of his mojo. During the class photo, he plans to make a half-peace sign that will look like a creepy hand behind her back. Alas, no matter where the two are, Takagi is always a step ahead, flashing a face funny enough that not only does Nishikata miss his chance, but he’s in the midst of laugher camera shutter clicks.

The show pulls out of the photo, presumably into the future, to a grown-up, smiling Takagi. Something tells me that isn’t the smile of someone who didn’t end up getting her man when all was said and done and the teasing and games turned to straight-up love.

Takagi and Nishikata end up paired up again when Mano needs a rest and they both make sure Nakai stays with her. It starts to rain suddenly (they’re in the mountains, where weather actually is that fickle) and end up alone in a small shelter together, watching that rain (not, as Nishikata points out, for the first time).

He decides to challenge Takagi to another game, involving blind tasting of the snacks they’ve brought. Clearly he didn’t think this through, because Takagi all-too-easily exploits his opening to make him feed her, his hand to her mouth. Even when the rain stops, Takagi wants one more game…so she can feed him.

After that, it’s time for the old Japanese school camping trip standby of homemade curry. Yukari cuts her finger, so Mina and Sanae have to do all the cooking among them. Nishikata, meanwhile, is too preoccupied with how he can stem what is so far a complete rout of him by Takagi in the teasing department.

When she approaches him, correctly observing he’s thinking of a way to get back at her, she presents him with game that all too easy to win: all he has to do is hold her hand. Nishikata bristles at such a potentially embarrassing gesture, but then remembers that hand-holding between sexes is all too normal during the folk dance ’round the bonfire that night.

To make things a little more difficult for Nishikata, Takagi is arranged in such a way that it takes a good long time for them to come around to each other. As Nishikata sees Takagi holding hands with other boys and smiling, I couldn’t help but notice a tinge of jealousy in his face, along with the thought that Takagi actually wants to hold hands with him.

Both are shocked when the music stops just when they’re about to pair up; their hands remaining an inch apart as the other kids disperse. “That’s too bad, Nishikata” she says to him before joining the other girls for a bath. “Just a bit more and we would have fallen in love,” referring to the school legend.

The thing is, Takagi and Nishikata don’t need any help from bonfires or folk dances to enjoy spending time together. Fate seems to already paired them up; all Nishikata needs to do is grow up a bit more. After lights out, when Nishikata can’t sleep, he encounters her making a wishing on the stars. When the patrolling teacher approaches, they have to hide in a very small cave, huddled closely together.

When the teacher finally leaves, they stay put for a little while, ostensibly in case he comes back, but also because it’s just frikkin’ nice. As they gaze up at the stars together, Nishikata asks what she was wishing for earlier. She tells him she wished for exactly what she ended up getting: to go stargazing with him.

While he may consider that more teasing, one look at Takagi’s face makes it clear she was being completely honest. My wish is that Nishikata will realize that one day.

Bloom Into You – 10 – Holding Back

Koyomi’s script is complete, but she’s loath to hand it over to Yuu, since it’s her first. After taking possession, Yuu makes copies and gives one to Touko, who will play the main role of a woman with amnesia being told what kind of person she is by a friend, a family member, and a lover.

The only problem is they have three completely different ideas about who she is, creating a conundrum. After last week’s shed-anigans, Yuu breaks off from Touko to walk home with her friends, leading Touko to wonder if she’s being avoided because took things too far.

Touko also finds it pretty scary how Koyomi was able to craft a role that fits her so well: that of the “empty girl.” As for the other roles, Yuu plays her nurse, Maki her younger brother, and Doujima her friend. Sayaka plays her lover, which was designed to be a girl—another element of the play inadvertently drawn from life.

Touko also uses the student council meeting to announce a three-day, two-night study camp during the approaching summer break, at the school lodge designated for such things. While Touko is tutoring Yuu over donuts, she admits she’s considered “holding back” a little more, and not just due to the fact they’ll be sleeping in the same room in the lodge.

It’s that Touko doesn’t want Yuu to come to hate her. Yuu tells her she doesn’t have to worry about, but is also happy she worried. She later calls Touko by her name (with a -senpai added on), but apparently too quietly for Touko to hear. Touko also eats the donut Yuu wanted, once more showing how she has all the initiative in their relationship.

Yuu seems to want to initiate something—anything—but just can’t; not due to lack of enthusiasm for spending time with Touko. It’s almost like she’s afraid to lose the excuse of always being led around by the nose or taken advantage of. Not to mention, what if she proposes something to Touko and it’s rejected? Or perhaps more frightening, what if it’s accepted?

Much to Yuu’s surprise, Touko makes good on her promise to take things down a notch, by not calling or even texting Yuu the first days of Summer break. Yuu instead keeps busy by playing video games, minding the store, and one day, hanging out with her middle school friend and former softball teammate Natsuki. That Yuu isn’t hanging out with Touko irks Yuu’s late-to-rise sister Rei, who finds such a situation to be “dull”, even if their mother is oblivious.

Yuu may think she hasn’t changed, but all it takes is a day with her for Natsuki to conclude otherwise. Specifically, she always admired and sometimes envied Yuu’s ability to tolerate any situation or hardship—i.e. not crying after a tough loss. But after hearing Yuu go on so much about her senpai in the student council, Natsuki can tell she’s finally become “invested” in something, or rather someone.

Natsuki considered asking Yuu to join her at her high school and join the softball team there…and knew Yuu would say yes, but decided against it. While she misses Yuu, she’s glad her “hands are full” with something. Of course, Yuu doesn’t necessarily take Natsuki’s insights to heart, but that doesn’t mean they’re not spot on!

Shift to Touko, having a quiet dinner with her family, talking about her impending study camp for the play. Her father, unbidden to anyone, tells her “she doesn’t have to do this,” referring to putting on a play like her sister did. Touko quickly excuses herself—she’s doing what she wants to do, not what she thinks she needs to.

One thing she needs after that exchange is to hear Yuu’s voice, so after starting and cancelling various texts and staring at her phone, she finally closes her eyes and hits “call”…and Yuu answers. They talk about their days, and as they do, Touko says she knows, deep down, Yuu “doesn’t really care” about what’s going on with her, which couldn’t be less true.

Yuu may sound “indifferent” over the phone, but her body language on her bed—alert, smiling, hugging a pillow, playfully peddling her feet—tells a different story. Touko may not know it, but Yuu isn’t just a nurse dispassionately looking out for her. She’s invested. Her happiness is starting to tie into Touko’s. She appreciates Touko holding back, but doesn’t want her to do so too much.

Which is what makes the post-credit sequence with Touko so goshdarn heartbreaking. Book-ending a cold open in which Touko mentioned she was having “dreams of the past”, in what Sayaka says is simply Touko “dreaming about herself in the midst of remembering something.”

In this case, Touko dreams of hanging out with her big sister on the couch. Their mother asks one of them to go out to buy more tea; they play rock-paper-scissors and her sister loses, so she goes out…and never comes back. Touko nods off while awaiting her return, but wakes up to the chilling sound of sirens.

Then she wakes up in real life, pulls out a photo of her family with her sister, and voices again, out loud, her resolve to become her sister. There’s no “like” in there—she’s talking complete transformation with nothing remaining of whoever Nanami Touko was before her sister’s death. Assuming it’s even possible (or appropriate) for someone to dissuade Touko from such a goal, Yuu certainly has her work cut out for her. Hell, it sure left me in tears…

Juuni Taisen – 12 (Fin)

 

In the finale, we spend virtually the entire time inside Nezumi’s head as he ponders which of the one hundred wishes he has will be the one he asks Duodecuple to grant as a reward for his winning the Juuni Taisen.

For all that inner monologue, we don’t learn anything about Nezumi’s past, only his very mundane present, in which he attends high school and stands out mostly due to how antisocial he is.

We see his ability in action on more than one occasion as he weighs his options, and early on these are mostly frivolous, such as wishing for everyone in his class to die, or for the skirt of only girl who talks to him to flip up in front of him.

But the more he wracks his brain trying to think of a proper wish, the more rationales he comes up with to render those wishes undesirable—living forever; remaining young forever; making everyone happy; gaining the ability to survey a thousand possibilities instead of a hundred—they all have their cons that leads to their dismissal.

He considers the wishes of the other, now-slain warriors, which is interesting because throughout his ninety-nine failed attempts to win, he manages to interact peacefully with each and every one of his eleven adversaries. In a way, that’s rather apropos, since at one point or another everyone has to deal with rats.

In one of those deleted possibilities, Tora tells him how her wish is to fight beside (or possibly against) Ushii; it’s a wish that’s actually granted in the timeline Nezumi ultimately goes with. Tora turned out to be my favorite of the twelve warriors, so it’s gratifying to hear that despite losing the competition, her wish was fulfilled and she died without regrets.

If there’s one thing this final episode makes clear, it’s that Nezumi’s ability is a curse, since he remembers everything that could have happened but didn’t. So the wish he ultimately comes up with—to be able to forget everything that’s happened, or might’ve happened—seems like the best way to go. After all, his memories of all those countless deleted possibilities hampered his ability to choose any other wish.

By the time he’s counted up to 99, he’s an exhausted fellow seemingly on the verge of mental breakdown. Being allowed to forget it all is a tremendous relief even his classmates notice when he’s happily dozing at his desk.

With a RABUJOI Score well under 7.5 and a MAL Score of barely 7, Juuni Taisen was never in danger of winning any “Anime of the Year” awards. Of the shows we haven’t dropped this Fall, it’s the lowest-rated.

The reason I stuck with JT was its efficient and reliable structure: twelve episodes, twelve characters, eleven all-but guaranteed deaths, and one winner. Many of those characters and their backstories were serviceable, particularly those of Niwatori, Sharyu, and Tora. The CGI-assisted combat was also a strong suit (though IMO there wasn’t enough of it).

I wish Ushii and Usagi had gotten proper backstories. The wish-granting ability of Duodecuple was way too broad. Nothing really came of the silly oligarch gambling angle. But Juuni Taisen was still a fun, if flawed, ride.

 

Juuni Taisen – 11

After giving Tora a proper death to deny her corpse from becoming another one of Usagi’s slaves, Ushii ponders how best to deal with a necromantist so hell-bent on victory, he somehow managed to enslave himself before dying.

“Burning him to ash with fire” is as good a plan as any, but Usagi, or rather, the grotesque undead creature crudely reconstructed by Zombie Sharyu, catches up. When Ushii tries hacking Usagi to bits again, Sharyu jumps out from inside Usagi’s body to pin Ushii down.

It’s as devious a tactic as it is fucked up, and Ushii knows he’s hosed, and has been hosed since the moment Usagi turned Sharyu.

Ushii would prefer death to becoming a part of  Usagi’s menagerie, and Nezumi, appearing at precisely the perfect moment, grants him that preference, using Hitsujii’s bomb to blow up Usagi, Sharyu and Ushii to win the Juuni Taisen, just like that.

It turns out that “perfect moment” was no coincidence, but rather the only “route” Nezumi could have taken in order to win; the other 99 out of 100 ended with him getting killed and losing.

This week we learn that he possesses the skill “Hundred Paths of Nezumi-san”, but to the episode’s credit, we’re shown how it works before it’s explained, in a bizarre, Groundhog Day-style sequence in which Nezumi keeps refusing to submit to a post-victory interview with Duodecuple and ends up killed in various, often grisly ways, only to reset back in Duo’s office.

It’s apropos for a warrior of the rat—one of the ultimate survivors on earth—to not only have more than the “nine lives” of the cat, but be able to look at one hundred different routes in order to pick the one that will lead to his continued survival. Even weirder, he remembers all of the routes he “deleted” by “locking in” to the “winning” route.

After sitting down and talking with Duo about Sharyu’s role in creating a route for Nezumi to live (which he repaid by killing her as she requested down in the sewer), his alliances with Tiger and even Usagi in other deleted routes, and other matters, before the sun comes up and Nezumi is excused to rest and come up with a wish to be granted.

As is his style, Nezumi will come up with 100 wishes, then go through each one as Duo grants them to determine which one would be most beneficial. That should make for an intriguing finale.