Re: Zero – 50 (S2 Fin) – Number One Knight

The only thing standing between Subaru & Co. and winning the day is one of the Three Great Mabeasts, the Great Rabbit, who surround the Graveyard just as Subaru returns from the mansion with a newly-revitalized Beatrice. What with the weakness of her contractor (Subie) and the length of time since her last real battle (400+ years), Beako deems she has just the right handicap to make the fight interesting.

With that, she unleashes El Minya—a shower of pink crystal shards that obliterate bunnies on contact. They keep coming, but her contractor, Subaru maintains hand contact and uses El Minya as well until the Rabbits, not being truly infinite, reach their maximum number. Subie then builds a crystal paddock to restrain them, which Emilia traces and reinforces with her ice magic, rising them off the ground.

Having been given sufficient time to prepare it, Beako finishes the Rabbit off with Al Shamac, transporting it in its entirety to an isolated space—like the forbidden library—from which it will never be able to return. A great psychological weight lifts from everyone—and myself!—when they realize that the battle is over, and they won.

Just when Beako is hoping for a little more enthusiastic celebration, she gets more than she bargained for when Subie lifts her up and spins her around in elation. Beako and Roswaal pay their respects to Echidna, their mother and teacher. Beako realizes for the first time that the Roswaal before her is the Roswaal she knew—the product of soul transcription, Echidna’s dream was realized.

Given some time to themselves outside the graveyard during a gorgeous sunrise, Emilia bashfully, adorably broaches the topic of “the baby in her belly!” It’s a phrase that nearly causes Subie to jump out of his shoes, but is only the result of some god-level trolling on Puck’s part, who convinced Lia that a mere kiss like the one she shared with Subie is enough to create life!

What follows is a “purification ritual” at the chapel, in which everyone in the main circle Roswaal wronged is given a much deserved slap or slug to the face. Ram, who is recovering quickly thanks to Beako, doesn’t stop them, as not even she can deny he’s made mistakes—one of them never being aware how much she loves him until now.

Emilia and Subaru knows they need Roswaal’s power for the Royal Selection and Battles to Come, but what’s stopping him from turning on them again? He removes his shirt to show just that: an oath sealed by a curse, which he received after losing to Subaru (on whose chest it would have appeared had he lost). Gar and Petra object anyway, but defer to everyone else, while Lia is sufficiently satisfied upon hearing a simple “I’m sorry” from the margrave.

A little time passes, but not much. With Roswaal’s mansion in ruins, the house of Annerose Miload, of a Mathers branch family, serves as the venue for the knighting of one Natsuki Subaru by one Emilia. Before the ceremony, Roswaal informs Subaru that he still intends to bring Echidna back, blood, breath, and soul.

Because he lacks the Tome of Wisdom, and the pain of losing what may be lost in his quest to revive teacher might surely cause him to Burn Everything Down, he instead vows to keep a close eye on Subaru and the path he walks. Like Roswaal, Subaru has lost so much, but every time he picks up the pieces, refusing to lose anything, bearing every wound those initial losses create.

After some flowery dialogue, the deed is done; Subaru officially becomes Sir Subaru. Subaru marks the occasion by telling Emilia how sexy and cute she looks in her be-knighting outfit, and in another sign of how much stronger she’s become, Lia laughs it off and sticks out her tongue rather than crumbling before praise. More importantly, Subaru now dons world-appropriate clothes that match Emilia’s white-and-purple theme.

As the well-earned party rages indoors, Subaru goes out onto the balcony for some quiet contemplation, and Emilia soon joins him, accurately accusing him of being drunk…on himself and the atmosphere, not booze. Emilia tells him there’s something she wants to talk to him about, and asks him to come to her room later to do so, employing a pinky swear to seal their agreement.

Subaru assures her no matter what she needs to say, he’ll never become “disenchanted” with her. After all, she just made him her Number One Knight! Emilia compliments Subaru’s sweet face, and remarks that the scene they’re beholding just might be her “ideal”, and she’ll never forget it. It was at this point I was convinced a shoe or two would drop, pulling the rug from everyone’s feet and plunging the celebratory mood into some fresh devilry as White Fox often does.

But it didn’t! The fact Rem never woke up aside, this was a totally happy ending, not leaving us with any cliffhanger we’d have to stew with for an unknown duration until a third season arrived to sate our hunger anew. And I’m very happy about that, and where everyone stands at this stopping point.

The gorgeous way the episode fades to white as Subaru and Emilia dance a waltz while surrounded by friends and allies—that’s pretty much my ideal too! Emilia finally got the character-building arc she deserved, and cemented her role as Best Girl. The Royal Selection, Rem’s reawakening, and dealing with the Sin Archbishops can wait. For now, Let’s party!

Re: Zero – 49 – Every Moment Matters

Episode 48 turned the action up to 11 and supplemented it with a fair amount of effective comedy to keep things grounded and hopeful despite everything being on the line. This week the action is turned down considerably and the comedy excised entirely in favor of a number of dramatic set pieces that complete the table-setting for the season two finale.

We begin with Emilia emerging from the Graveyard and encountering the snowstorm. Fortunately the villagers are safe thanks to a shield of ice Puck created around them, though he told them they had Lia to thank for it. She asks everyone to seek shelter in the Graveyard and stay safe and patient.

Emilia runs to the tree of ice from where much mana seems to be emanating, and it shatters and transforms into Puck’s familiar green spirit form, which leads her into the giant crystal room. There she finds a whole mess of Ryuzus, with Shima preparing to “fulfill her role”.

With a flash of white, the crystal containing the Ryuzus’ progenitor and that forms the core of the barrier vanishes. Emilia asks Birma where Roswaal and Ram are, and finds them freezing to death in a field. With his tome of wisdom destroyed, Roswaal is lost and feels that “nothing matters.” Even so, he is healing Ram, who lets out a breath, proving to Emilia she’s still alive.

The first wave of demon bunnies approach, but Emilia freezes them solid with her magic. She then creates a clear and solid ice road above the deepening snows so the Ryuzus can take both Roswaal and Ram to safety. To Emilia, nothing doesn’t matter, so she’ll stand strong and keep fighting until she can’t anymore.

From the freezing sanctuary to the burning mansion, Beatrice laments her present situation and looks back on her past, when Echidna left her in charge of the Forbidden Library full of her knowledge, and asked her to wait for someone “suitable to inherit” that knowledge, which she simply called “that person.” Echidna used those particular words simply for the sake of getting the pertinent information to Beatrice.

However, she’s treated them like a rigid gospel, and they gradually turned into a curse. For 400 years, various Mathers descendants would visit the library but rarely speak to her, instead looking through the library’s books. By the time Emilia the “half-devil girl” showed up, she killed her emotions and stopped talking. Then Natsuki Subaru arrived, and for a time felt like he was “that person” for whom Echidna had entrusted her to wait.

But last week, as we saw, Subaru said flat out “there’s no way I could ever be whoever ‘that person’ is…”, and she threw him out with her telekinesis. Even if Subaru didn’t even understand what she meant by “that person” anymore than she did, because the two words Echidna used were so imprecise. Four centuries of time may have given them more weight and importance they didn’t deserve.

When Subaru first makes it back in the library, Beako is ready to toss him out without any further discussion, but he holds on to the door and manages to stay in the library. He tells her even if he isn’t that person, he wants to stay with her, to end her days of loneliness. His argument isn’t strong enough, and Beako de-reses the library, banishing him seemingly for good with a “farewell.”

Of course, that’s not enough for Subie to give up either; not as long as there’s still a door in the mansion left to open. He finds it in the secret underground passage, and even though smoke billows and flame lick at its seams and the knob burns his hand, he puts his faith in Beatrice that she won’t let him die when he opens it.

Since this is probably his last chance (there are no more doors), rather than say he’s come to take her away or save her, Subaru tries a different tack: he needs her to save him, by agreeing to stay with him. Otherwise, he’d be too sad to go on living. Beako’s refrain is that he’ll ultimately leave her by dint of his far shorter lifespan.

But even if Subaru’s life is only a moment in Beako’s, if she gives him a chance he promises to engrave that moment into her soul. Rather than fear their inevitable goodbye, he asks her to embrace a guaranteed Subaru’s lifetime’s worth of tomorrows, in which she’ll be too busy taking care of him to be bored or lonely. Unlike the other memories we saw, the moments with him will never fade to sepia.

Subaru’s speech finally does the trick, and just as the library is about to collapse into the flames, Beatrice takes Subaru—whom he calls by his name for the first time—and flies out of the burning ruins of the Mathers mansion in a gleaming purple-pink streak of light. That color, as brilliant as her sepia memories were dull, happens to be a combination of the blue of the freezing sanctuary and the red of the burning mansion.

The destination of that streak of light is the entrance to the Graveyard, where Emilia is fighting the good fight against the bunnies but starting to run out of steam. Subaru, with Beako’s hand in his, tells Emilia he needs to “make a revision” to his first battle, while Beako tells Subie not to blame her for “whatever may happen next.”

I don’t know what will happen next, but hopefully it involves the defeat of the Great Rabbit the ending of the snowstorm, and the final lifting of the barrier, resulting in a victory for Emilia and Subaru without the need for Return by Death. Then again, I’ll remain firmly on guard for the possibility of Re:Zero throwing a final wrench or two into the works—even unto the final moments of the second season finale. After all, every moment matters!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Re: Zero – 48 – Crunch Time

“Love Me Down to My Blood and Guts” almost feels like a finale. At the very least, it feels like the start of the climax of a epic blockbuster film. Every stop is pulled out and not a single moment of its 29+ minutes is wasted. You get a little bit of everything, starting with a well-balanced combination of badass action and lighthearted comedy.

Every wound Garfiel gives Elsa is instantly healed, but he doesn’t consider his fight futile, because he’s not necessarily fighting to beat her. He’s fighting to support his “Boss” Subaru, and no matter how many times Elsa heals and charges, he’ll keep meeting her steel with his.

That’s where we get a couple of impeccably-timed jokes, first with Garfiel boasting that the mabeasts will be no sweat for Boss, followed by the mabeasts being too much for Boss to handle. Subie also strikes out when he tries to demonstrate his real-world knowledge of dust fires, only to need to be bailed out by Otto and Petra igniting the beast with oil.

Those fires defeat the main mabeast but also beging to envelop the mansion. Subaru entrusts Rem and Petra to Otto while he runs into the flames to rescue Beako, whether she wants to go or not.

While the flames rage at the mansion, Emilia’s part of the episode serves as a calming, centering breath. Sure, she watched a number of unpleasant futures, but they come as a jumbled rush of voices and images, ultimately collectively blunting their individual discouraging effects.

There’s also the fact that they’re only “possible” futures, as Minerva tells her after the third trial ends. That means none of them are absolutely the real future, which means Emilia and those she loves will be able to avert disaster if and when it rears its ugly head.

Minerva appears to meet with Emilia in Bliss because Echidna was still “mad” at Lia for how the other two trials went, particularly the second. Perhaps Echidna really would have preferred to greedily feed off Emilia’s despair, but after reckoning with her past in the first trial, the witch’s prediction the other two would be a cakewalk turned out to be accurate.

Minerva is decidedly unwrathful in her interactions with Emilia. In fact, she treats her a lot like Mother Fortuna treated her, with tenderness and love, embracing her when Emilia turns back to see her. I suppose Minerva knew her mother, and maybe even knew Emilia as a baby, which is why she’s so aunt-like here?

In any case, Emilia has passed all three trials, and gains access to a tomb where the intricate barrier spell emanates from the deceased Echidna’s chest. With a cute little “Hi-yah!” Emilia deactivates the barrier and exits the graveyard, only to be welcomed by a raging winter storm.

Elsa and Garfiel are still going at it in the midst of the spreading flames when Maylie bursts through the outer wall with her giant hippo. Frederica isn’t far behind, turning the duel into a battle between sibling duos. After some trash talk the four get down to business, in a fury of bloody, kick-ass combat.

Frederica takes on all of Maylie’s other mabeasts, then Garfiel starts getting serious by transforming into his beast mode, ripping half of Elsa’s face off then not only going toe-to-toe with the hippo, but twisting and ripping it’s damn head off. Unlike the hippo, even Gar’s most vicious attacks fail to faze Elsa.

It’s at this point Garfiel realizes he’s dealing with a vampire. Elsa takes a few moments to tell the story of where she came from, and how she suffered to get to this kind of existence. When she was caught and stripped by an shop owner while stealing off starvation, Elsa reached for a shard of glass and opened the man’s belly.

Elsa, who’d previously only known the cold bleakness of her homeland, was both soothed and excited by the warmth of blood and innards, and never looked back. She tells Garfiel all of this because she finds him so precious and endearing. When he says there’s already a girl he likes, she clarifies that she only has business with his insides, and her love for him will begin after she kills him.

It’s a stirring final monologue for a baddie who has been around since Subaru first arrived, and distinguished by the utter inability to kill her. However, thanks to an assist by Frederica using Maylie to distract her, Gar gets in close and bites Elsa in the neck. Elsa bites him back, but he gives as good as he gets.

Before Elsa’s wound heals (or perhaps it won’t heal because of where he bit her), Gar lifts up the giant headless hippo and throws it on top of her. In her final moments, she recalls the very first thrill of disemboweling someone, then exclaims “What a thrill” in sheer ecstasy before being crushed with an ugly crunch. Hard cut to the title card and that oh-so fitting title, “Love Me Down to My Blood and Guts”.

At this point we’ve reached the 21-minute mark, which is when most other anime are rolling credits. Re:Zero keeps it going with an entire extra act, which is perhaps the most visually stunning and emotionally affecting in an episode that’s already full of those.

It deals with Ram and Puck fighting Roswaal, a battle that moves outside to protect Ryuzu Meyer’s crystal. Roswaal stirs shit by confessing to messing with Puck’s contract with Emilia when she was depressed after her fight with Subaru, essentially kicking her while she’s down in hopes Subie would scoop her up and do everything for her.

Roswaal admits to always looking back on the past, and with fondness, deeming all the wonderful things that ever happened to be in the past, and all that exists now is a phony standing atop a pile of corpses. Puck name-drops Beatrice, provoking him into launching fire attack.

Roswaal is disappointed in Ram’s weak outing thus far; as he wanted her to exact justice for her brethren and find happiness by defeating him. That’s when Ram drops a bombshell on him: he never properly realized her true intention: that she really was a demon, and not someone who was in love with Roswaal.

It’s a confession she delivers while both of her eyes exposed, a trademark of the demon maid sisters. When Roswaal asks her what of keeping her promise to her brethren, Ram simply says she’s prioritizing her own feelings over those of the dead. Puck, energized by Ram’s confession, grows to mammoth size (though maintaining his cute appearance) and seals Roswaal in a giant ring of ice, through which he can spot multiple Rams flitting back and forth.

Roswaal begins destroying the ice walls and the giant ice crystal attacks Puck rains down on him, but in the process he ends up with one of the crystals directly behind him. It shatters on its own and out comes the real Ram, snatching the gospel Echidna gave him, while suffering a horrific wound. Calling it “the root of all evil”, she drops the book in the fire, destroying it.

She wears a smile as she says “Now, at last…” before being hit by Roswaal’s retaliatory flames, which cause a huge explosion that consumes them both. Then the credits roll, and for me at least, the process of starting to breathe again commenced. As it has demonstrated many times in its previous forty-seven episodes, when Re:Zero decides to go big and epic, it does not disappoint.


RABUJOI
WORLD
HERITAGE
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Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina – 12 (Fin) – The Multitudes of Me

Elaina’s final trip takes her to the suspiciously foggy “Country That Makes Your Wishes Come True”. Elaina enters the country wishing to become rich, and is utterly mystified when she happens upon a landscape comprised of all of the places from her travels thus far.

Things get even stranger when she enters Mirarosé’s palace to find no less than fifteen alternate versions of herself. Some of them represent individual personality traits she possesses, while others are just random like the gel and ghoul versions.

Hondo Kaede has a blast voicing all these different one-note versions of Elaina, but I have to admit…it’s all a bit much. The intros were fun, but the gimmick wore quickly. This wasn’t one of those dreaded Recap finales, but it did borrow elements from the previous episodes, without adding much new or compelling, which gave it the sheen of a recap.

Deemed “Protagonist Me” by her intellectual version, Elaina sits down on the throne and orders the others to go out and investigate, but all of a sudden the “Violent Me” everyone else had been avoiding bursts into the palace.

Violent Me’s hair is still short from being cut by the ripper, as apparently she never emotionally recovered from the events at the town with the clock tower. All the other versions kind of hang around while the Protagonist and Violent Elainas fight to a draw (as expected).

Only when both are completely exhausted of magic and can no longer fight does Elaina try to calmly discuss things with her violent self. While we heard Elaina wish to become “rich” back in the beginning, it seems the country interpreted that as becoming rich with different “experiences”.

As such, all of the versions Elaina has now encountered represent different paths and possibilities available to her on her journeys. She also believes her other selves wished for the same thing, which brought them all together to pool their stories into a single book: Wandering Witch.

Elaina then wakes up in a meadow; the whole ordeal with her versions was just an elaborate dream. She hops back on her broom and continues her travels, cognizant of and excited for all of the possibilities and choices those travels will present.

In an epilogue that seems to preview a second cour of Elaina I’m not sure it earned, Elaina (in plain clothes) bumps into someone with similarly ashen hair but green eyes. They’re both holding red books, and when they bump into each other, those books get switched. This person’s name is apparently “Amnesia.” Um…alright then!

It’s a curious yet also fitting way to end a show that was never quite sure what it wanted to be: episodic or serialized; lighthearted and comedic or dark and dramatic. It started strongly and had a couple of powerful episodes, but that lack of decisiveness and focus in the stories it wished to tell ultimately dulled its impact.

Read Crow’s episode 12 review here!

No Guns Life – 24 (Fin?) – The Size of the Monster

I’m a big sucker for weird neo-noir/cyberpunk series, so No Guns Life is a show I’ll miss despite its flaws. For one thing, it doesn’t look like any other show airing this season or back when its first season aired. It’s just so much grittier and grimier and greasier, while still maintaining a worn-in futuristic look.

And while Berühren is indisputably evil Big Bad, one of its agents in Pepper gets more of the gray-shading she needed to be more compelling. We go back to the time she first met Seven, and learn he wasn’t the first Seven. That was a seven-legged spider, the only thing in Pepper’s life that was hers. Of course, when she saw the spider with another “test subject”, she stomped it.

Upon first approaching Seven, Pepper receives the wound that leaves the scar she has today, but she approaches him again and delivers a big wet kiss to his face, marking him as hers. She was always deranged like this, but what do you expect? Anything and everything she might have had before meeting Seven was taken away by Berühren. She couldn’t beat them, so she joined them and being given worth by the company meant she could live on.

Now she’s laid up in a hospital room and Seven is gone. Juuzou is ready to interrogate her (with Olivier listening in) on what she knows about Berühren, but Pepper escapes her room, only to be confronted by a husband and father seeking revenge for losing his family to the dustup at Armed Park. Pepper is saved by Juuzou of all people, and when she rushes at him, she trips and he saves her again.

Before he was destroyed by the Berühren twin sisters, he asks Juuzou to take care of Pepper. She may have seen him as merely her property and a tool for her to use, but like Juuzou, he actually had his own will. Gun Slave Units are only vulnerable to control due to the loss of their pasts to the extension process. But once they’ve lived enough life and met enough people, their own wills reassert.

It happened to Juuzou and it happened to Seven, who stayed by Pepper’s side as long as he could. Thanks to Pepper’s info, Olivier has a better idea of the foe she’s dealing with, or as she says, the “size of the monster”. It’s infiltrated her superiors, but her sense of justice is such that she can’t and won’t stand by and do nothing. As for Pepper, she gets her red coat and lollies back and mourns her companion.

Pepper also told Juuzou where his Hands went, and he recalls how after his berserk attack his Hands came back for him, even knowing the consequences from the military that would follow. Before fleeing their wrath, he urged Juuzou to “do stupid things, struggle, and suffer like a normal person”, then make friends with whom they can laugh about such times.

Sure enough, Juuzou found those friends, be it Mary, Tetsuro, Chris, or Olivier. Shimazu survived her injuries and is laid up in his office, so there’s another potential friend, while Rosa is so smitten with him she mended his duster and added an adorable patch, as if to mark her man. Thanks to Pepper, Juuzou too knows the size of the monster he’ll face, but he’ll face it in full control of his body, mind, and heart.

This solid finale ends on a bit of an ellipsis, possibly foretelling a third season—there is apparently sufficient source material for one. That said, that’s not a sure thing, as it wasn’t announced after the end credits. There’s also the sense this anime is an acquired taste and may not be popular enough to keep going, but I for one would love to see more, if it happens.

Season Average: 7.81

No Guns Life – 23 – Pulling Your Own Trigger

Deep within Juuzou’s sub-brain and in contact with his subconscious, Tetsuro assures his friend that he’s not there to pull his trigger (a somewhat dirty-sounding string of words, but that’s an observation I’ll table for this review), but to get Juuzou to realize and accept that it’s his trigger to pull: his will, his choice, his wish. By hanging in there against Seven, Kronen buys the kid the time he needs, even though from the outside it looks like his sub-brain is toast.

With Seven/Pepper and Juuzou’s battle attracting the media and crowds of gawkers, Cunningham decides it’s time to sweep their operatives under the rug, and sends an elimination squad after Seven and Peppeer. I expected the pair to be betrayed by Berühren, just as I expected Seven to easily repel their would-be killers. However, Pepper’s hand is blown off and she starts to bleed out.

Rather than getting Pepper some medical help, Seven decides to obey the last order his Hands gave him: destroy everything. That includes the EMS officers and crowds gathered around the plaza. Kronen can’t stop him, but Juuzou does. Having successfully “pulled his own trigger” as Tetsuro suggested, Juuzou can draw on powers previously only available when he had a Hands, but without a Hands.

As a Gun Slave Unit in the military, Juuzou put all the decision-making on his Hands. As a resolver in the city, Juuzou worked to fulfill the wishes of his clients so he wouldn’t have to think about his own. But thanks to Tetsuro, he now knows he’s not beholden to anyone, even his past self. He can choose to move forward and fight for what he wants. So can Seven, but Seven won’t hear him out, and their destructive duel continues.

At Berühren HQ the board makes preparations to bring Tetsuro in, having been impressed with his recent progress and not wanting the only successful instance of Harmony on the loose. However, one board member, the woman, vetoes the decision. She wants to watch Tetsuro a little longer without interfering, so see what else he might show them. Berühren still considers Tetsuro a tool and their property. Hopefully he’ll prove otherwise in the next and final episode.

Oregairu 3 – 11 – The Best Time to Buy In

“There are infinite ways to express a single word,” says Shizuka-sensei, literally illustrating that by writing all the rather harsh negative words she can conjure to describe her relationship with Hikki, then scribbling them all over until the word “love” remains. She tells Hikki if he can’t find a single word, use all the words he needs (he’s no stranger to this practice). If words aren’t enough, pair them up with actions.

This week, Hikki does just that. He finds his words—not the ideal words or the words easiest to understand—but the words that are at least imperfectly sufficient to get his point across, and he pairs them up with bold action. The next day after school Hikki shares an afternoon of nothing with Yui, and she tells him her wish is for Yukinon to be part of them.

With the end of the service club, that seems unlikely to be east or even possible for Hikki, who is so bad at expressing or responding to people’s feelings. The word he uses most is associated, as in he does not want to stop being associated with Yukino.

When Yui hears this, a heartbreaking display of emotions runs across her face, but to her surprise and pride, no tears come out. They do, however, come out once she comes home, and her mom is there to hug her. For all the words Yui and Hikki said, the ones that are meant are “Yui, it’s not you, I love…it’s Yukino”. What she knew all along.

On to Hikki’s action. With the prom over and the service club disbanded, he decides to take his fake decoy prom out of mothballs and make it an actual thing, lack of resources be damned. This provokes an emergency meeting with Yukino, Yukino’s mom, and Haruno, the latter of whom seems to finally be getting satisfaction from how Hikki is doing things.

In effect, Hikki is setting himself for abject failure…unless Yukino takes charge and “saves” him. As someone who ran the first prom so splendidly her mother acknowledged her, Yukino couldn’t save face if she turned this down, and the Yukinoshita family would suffer a blow to its vaunted reputation. So she accepts.

In return, Hikki says he’ll “take responsibility” for anything and everything that results from this supposedly ill-fated venture. Even though none of the words explicitly indicate it, the exchange sounds an awful lot like Hikki is asking Yukino’s mom for her daughter’s hand in marriage.

In the end, the PTO had no say in whether the fake prom became real, so Hikki wasn’t negotiating with Yukino’s mom or Haruno. It was all about creating a new opportunity to regularly associate with Yukino…and she took the bait. That night while walking home, Yukino is confused about what Hikki thinks he’s doing, when she told him to respect Yui’s wish.

Since Yui’s wish is for the three of them to remain together, Hikki tells Yukino he’s fulfilling Yui’s wish by doing this. This angers Yukino, who doesn’t like all the verbal gymnastics being used and wants to “get better at doing this”, but Hikki is more pessimistic: in the process of trying to get better, he believes they’ll drift further apart.

Hikki streamlines these sentiments with a pretty cool line: “If I let you go, I can’t grab hold of you again,” backing up the words by grabbing her hand as she power walks away. He then clarifies that saying he’ll “take responsibility” isn’t sufficient to express his true emotions about it. What he really wants is to have responsibility; for her to let him have it.

Initially Hikki hesitated in telling Yukino what he wanted, but Yui told him he had to tell Yukino anyway, even if it’s not the same thing she wants. So he does: he wants to remain involved with Yukino, not out of obligation, but desire. Putting it only the way Hikki can, he asks for the “privilege of distorting” Yukino’s life.

Yukino is a little put off by the innate harshness of such a word as “distortion”, but Hikki points out that distorting each other’s lives is not only unavoidable, but not a bad thing. And while he knows he doesn’t have a lot to offer her, he pledges anything and everything if he can be involved in her life.

A flustered Yukino tells him she’s troublesome and will cause nothing but problems and will eventually become more useless when she relies on him. He responds that he’ll just have to become more useless. After she play punches him and he tenderly takes her hand and holds it at his hear, she hugs him and asks her way: “Please allow me to have your life.”

“A bit stiff,” as Hikki says, but he’s hardly in a position to complain! And that, my friends, is how these two crazy kids confess to one another and ask to continue to be part of each other’s lives. I feel bad for Yui, but she’ll be okay. And that’s the point: no matter how much of a SNAFU their relationships have been or will be, they’re still young, and still learning what romance is and how love feels. They’re all going to be okay!

Re: Zero – 36 – That One Most Precious Thing

Hope you enjoyed last week’s respite from suffering and death, because we’re right back to it this week! Turns out the pages of Beatrice’s genuine gospel have been empty for many years. Since all she can do is literally go by the book, she’s been pretty much trapped, waiting for “that person” to arrive. However, even if Subaru is that person, she’s long since given up on everything to the point her one true wish is to simply disappear.

When Subaru rages and fumes about Beako being so unclear until now, she tells him his only recourse to save her is to make her the first, only and most important thing to him—something she knows he can’t do. In lieu of that, all he can do is kill her so she’ll be free of her 400-year-old contract. Before Subie can do anything, Elsa arrives, having opened every door in the mansion to gain access to the library.

Beako uses Shamac and she and Subaru flee. He decides to head to the village, meeting Elsa’s partner, the mabeast user Maylie, on the way. Maylie has already killed Frederica, Petra, and likely Rem, meaning this loop is already a loss for Subie. Then things just get worse!

Elsa catches up, and Beako seemingly turns her into a pile of stagnant time mana shards. She prepares to do the same thing to Maylie, but Subie holds her back, not wanting her to kill a “kid”. A reconstituted Elsa reappears and puts her blade through Beako, and Beako seems happy about it. Elsa then starts hacking at Subie, but Beako quickly kills him uses her power to transport him away.

Subaru Returns by Death* wakes up in the graveyard. His wounds remain, so despite the Return by Death sound, he didn’t die (yet), including his gouged-out eye, remain! Even stranger, the Emilia he finds there is nothing like the one he knows. She’s very close and clingy, and comes right out and says she loves him. For a second I though Satella had possessed her physical body!

Realizing in any case this can’t be his Emilia, Subie meets with Garf and Ryuzu outside, where it’s snowing. He theorizes that someone pushed Emilia to the very edge so she has no choice but to turn to him…and he has a pretty good idea who did this.

Determined to get more answers out of him before resetting, Subaru meets with Roswaal, but their talk is interrupted by an argument between Ram and Garf. Only Roswaal counted on Ram coming between them so he could thrust his hand through the both of them, killing them so he and Subie could chat without further disruption.

Roswaal notes that Subie’s emotions include shock and indignation, but no grief, since he knows he can just reset and undo this. Rosy assumes from Subie’s reactions that he’s already met with Beako and she’s already had her dearest wish—to disappear—fulfilled. His partner in crime admits he is the one who has isolated Emilia, believing it is the way to fulfill his dearest wish—which he unhelpfully identify to Subie upfront.

As the Great Rabbit horde approaches the house the two wait for horrible death, Roswaal reminds Subaru that only he can start over; the next Roswaal will be a different person without the benefit of the things he learned from observing Subaru.

Before being overwhelmed by ravenous demon rabbits, Roswaal tells Subie the only way to become like him is to get rid of absolutely everything but the most precious thing in the world to him, and think of nothing but protecting that thing.

Subaru manages to return to the graveyard where an enthusiastic Emilia welcomes him to lie on her lap. But the grainy, out-of-focus direction indicates something is very off. In reality Subaru is only clinging to the thinnest thread of life after being half-eaten by the rabbits. This is the end of a most unpleasant loop.

It probably won’t be the last, either. Whether Subaru wants to become “like” Roswaal (likely not), the perfect or as-near-to-perfect-as-possible ending for which he’s always striven may not be possible without extensive losses. Subaru has always been a selfish “I want to save everyone” kinda guy, but if Roswaal is right, Emilia may be doomed unless she’s the only one Subaru saves. So much for last week’s stiff upper lip optimism!

*I mistakenly thought Subaru was killed by Beatrice and Returned by Death since I heard the trademark RbD sound.

Oregairu 3 – 10 – One Word Isn’t Enough

Prom Night is upon us, and everyone is markedly calm. Yui will be helping at the reception desk while Hikki will be up in the sound booth assisting Iroha. His conversation with Yukino is both natural and a little stiff at the same time; but still little more than cordial pleasantries.

In the booth, Iroha gets up quite close to Hikki after suggesting he, Yukino and Yui all simply join the student council so the four of them can continue helping each other help others. Hikki regards it as an enticing offer but is politely noncommittal.

As the prom unfolds, everything goes swimmingly, as expected from an organizing team at the top of their game. Hikki gets to share a dance with Yui as per her latest of many small wishes, but she assures him after this she’ll only have one more.

Up in the booth, Hikki chats with Yukino via headset, and from this greater physical distance they’re able to cleverly verbally spar like they always used to. She pretends to forget he’s up in the booth because she’s not used to looking up at him (rather than down on him). Yukino tells him she expects him to grant her wish—which is to grant Yui’s.

After the prom concludes, Yukino’s mom arrives with Haruno in tow to congratulate her daughter on a job well done. When Haruno mentions that Yukino is considering the position in the family company Haruno herself has been groomed to take, their mom can’t quite hide her pause before telling Yukino if she’s serious about it than she’ll support her.

Before Haruno leaves, she tells Yukino, Hikki and Yui that she won’t yield her position easily or nonchalantly, even if she doesn’t really care who’s ultimately in what position. She doesn’t believe the year Yukino has spent growing into a more complete person can compare to Haruno’s twenty years of grooming. Bottom line: she’s not satisfied with the outcome of the three as it stands.

That’s because Haruno has a keen nose for deception, being a skilled lifelong practitioner herself. After she leaves, Yukino declares this to be the time and place to end things. Ever the go-alonger to get-alonger, Yui concurs, though she’d also be fine with continuing. The two turn to Hikki for what they expect to be a consensus…and he wavers. He lets the fortuitous bell that is Iroha save him and leaves without answering, but Yukino follows him and grabs his sleeve.

She’s not there to get an answer out of him, but to thank him for his help tonight and throughout their time together. Whatever else she’s holding back, in this Yukino is completely earnest and genuine. She almost looks like she expects…something from Hikki in response (like a kiss, perhaps?) but Hikki only slowly, tenderly removes her grip, gives a curt goodbye and walks away. Yukino looks…dissatisfied.

He bumps into Haruno, who insists on him and the others properly satisfying her by giving her some kind of ending—one that isn’t coated in a thick layer of artifice and cordiality; something genuine for someone who believes there’s no such thing. She tells Hikki that Yukino’s wish was “an act of compensation” and not what she truly, genuinely desires.

And yet there were Yukino and Yui, ready to accept the “outrageous lie” that this is the best time and place and way to end things, when it is really none of those things. Haruno offers her advice as someone who feels like Hikki is going down the same road: don’t let it end that way…even if you can’t get “drunk”.

Thankfully, neither we nor Hikki are left only with Haruno’s skepticism and cynicism to chew on until next week. That’s because Shizuka offers to drive Hikki home, but only after a stop at the batting cages where she shows off her talent for dingers.

It’s the hopeful, optimistic Shizuka who tells Hikki what he really needs to hear from someone with authority: that he, Yukino, and Yui do not have a codependent relationship. They don’t have it because what they have, and how they feel, cannot be condensed down to that word, or any one word. From where she’s sitting, if there’s any end happening between them, it is only the end of a beginning.

Oregairu 3 – 09 – The Secret Ingredient

One morning over coffee Hikki is so honest and upfront with Komachi, she’s a little creeped out. It’s just not like him…only now, it kinda is. Bottom line: things happened. A lot of things. Komachi asks for details, and he promises to tell her everything “when it’s all over”. Until then, their celebration will be small and family-only, to avoid awkwardness.

Hikki’s awkwardness with Yui only lasts as long as she allows it, which is not long at all! She scolds Hikki for communicating through LINE messages rather than just talking. Her breaking the ice helps make Hikki more comfortable for when he takes her aside, by the swings, to ask her what her wish is.

Before that though, Hikki simply revels in being able to pleasantly chat with Yui like this, saying “nothing of importance” and pretending everything is normal…but considers simply going on doing that to be betraying himself. So he asks her something important, and Yui takes advantage of the request to basically stall, asking for a number of little things while she thinks about the main thing.

We’re already well aware of what Yui wants: she wants it all—And frankly, she deserves it! She wants Hikki, romantically. She wants to remain best friends with Yukino. And she wants the three of them to continue to be together. All of those things at once aren’t possible, and yet one cannot separate one part of that wish from the others and still have it be her wish…any more than you can pull the sugar and flour out of a baked cake.

Throughout the episode, Touyama Nao’s voice acting is phenomenal in its bittersweetness, and Yui’s face game is truly god-level. The next morning, at the shoe lockers, Hikki is confronted by Yumiko, who is direct in her intentions: Yui is a friend mine, so don’t be half-assed about this” or I’ll be royally pissed. Hikki is heartened by the gesture; Yumiko really is a good person!

Hikki also runs into Yukino and Iroha while he’s walking with Yui (a fact Iroha is quick to point out), and some extremely cordial chit-chat about how they’re doing ensues. Yukino labors to find the words for their situation, which is neither peachy nor dire, but waves off any attempts for Hikki to help; later Iroha tells him he’s free to do so whenever he wants as far as she’s concerned.

After that almost painfully diplomatic exchange, Yui takes Hikki aside and invites him to her house on Saturday…to make a cake for Komachi, like they’d planned earlier. Yui informs him her mom will be joining them to offer pointers.

Hikki expects the ensuing visit to be awkward, and it kinda is, especially when Yui’s mom isn’t around when he first arrives, and he and Yui simply sit close together while she looks over recipes. Then Yui’s mom pops up like a shinobi, the trio is off to the grocery store and from there, Hikki is in Yuigahama Heaven.

For one lovely evening the awkwardness generally melts away and Hikki and Yui go about making cute little fruit tarts with and without chocolate, one of which he feeds him by having him say “ahh”. When her mom brings up the absolutely crucial “secret ingredient” and asks Hikki to guess what it is, instead of saying the obvious “love” he says “devotion”…which is very on point for Hikki.

As Yui walks Hikki home, they both agree that making things together was and is a lot of fun. Hikki gives Yui the gift of cookies to repay her for those she made him (another Hikki trait: never taking a gift without offering renumeration) He again wishes he could continue living his days granting all of Yui’s wishes one by one, but dismisses that as “impossible fantasy”.

Speaking of awkward, with all the Hikki-and-Yui quality time this week, the shift to the seniors’ farewell ceremony, including emotional speeches from Iroha and Meguri-senpai, felt a little out of place, as if it was tacked on to the end of the episode because there was extra time left.

That said, Iroha uses the opportunity to tell Hikki she has a little job for him to “throw his back into” with his usual vim and vigor. Her impending request and some scenes from the preview suggest that despite Yukino’s insistence on it not being necessary, Hikki will be lending a hand with the prom after all.

Fruits Basket – 41 – How You’ll Feel Tomorrow

Just because Tooru has taken it upon herself to lift the Souma curse doesn’t mean she’s going to start neglecting her two best friends. To that end, she learns Arisa’s longing for the man she met is so strong, she’s had to quit all her part-time jobs and get new ones so she wouldn’t keep expecting him to show up!

Then Tooru learns his name—Kureno—and from that point on becomes determined to find out if Souma Kureno is the man Arisa met. Mind you, Arisa doesn’t ask Tooru to check; she’s of the belief it couldn’t possibly be the same Kureno. But Tooru is driven by devotion to both Arisa and the Soumas and the fact she’s right means I want her to seek out Kureno, in case she could be the go-between Shigure was with Mayuko and Hattori.

This means Tooru has to sally forth to the Souma estate long before she has a final battle plan with Akito. I can’t imagine Akito’s rage should they find out Tooru was there, but fortunately she comes upon Momiji’s little sister Momo, in more ways than one. You see, Momo has been told all her life by their dad that Momiji isn’t really her big brother.

His Zodiac status is a threat to a happy normal life with the rest of his family, so Momiji has been cut out of it. He even had to stop violin lessons since he and Momo had the same teacher. The thing is, there’s only so much their dad can do to keep Momo away if she wants to see him and wants him to be her big brother—both of which are true.

When Tooru hears that Momiji is worried Momo will be hurt if she sees him, she tells him that not only does she want to see him and be his sister, but she’s been watching him this whole time from outside his window, especially when he practices.

Tooru cannot stand the fact that two people who are still alive and so close can’t see each other, even though that’s what they want most. It’s a clear parallel to Arisa and Kureno. Momiji tells her he is and will be fine, as long as he has people like her to cry for him.

Momiji can’t escort Tooru to Kureno since no other Zodiacs are supposed to see him, but he draws her a map. She ends up right outside his open window but is spooked by other people on the grounds and ends up filthy from all the running around and hiding. But just when a myterious woman with painted toes is about to spot her, Kureno whisks her away and asks her why she’s on private property.

His manner softens considerably when he learns Tooru is good friends with Arisa, and Tooru instantly knows he’s indeed the one for whom Arisa has such strong emotions. He voices his intention not to see her again, and not just because he has a Zodiac spirit—his other reasons are “none of her concern”. Still, Tooru offers Arisa’s contact info just in case he feels differently tomorrow…or next week…or in ten years.

Considering she can never see her mother again, the prospect of Arisa and Kureno never seeing each other again—despite the fact they both want to and have the means to do so—is utterly heartbreaking to her. Having returned safely from Souma Central without getting arrested (or scratched in the face) Tooru goes up on the roof to brood, a rare occasion but always a beautiful one due to the dramatic backdrop of city and open sky.

It’s not long before Kyou comes up to offer some company. When she first starts talking about not being able to be with the person you like, Kyou is confused and asks if she has a crush on anyone, flustering her. However, Kyou is sincere in his promise that he’ll be by her side to help if she’s ever in such a situation. This brings uncontrollable tears to Tooru, but he simply dries them with his sleeve.

While Tooru feels like her heart is “tearing apart” from the pain of knowing some wishes may never be fulfilled, the fact Kureno decides to hold on to Arisa’s contact info gives us a parting glimmer of hope that at least one of those wishes can still come true.

Read Crow’s review here!

Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun – 08 – Turning Nothing into Something

As Steve Zissou said: “That was a goddamn tearjerker.” I had no idea that would happen. The opening minutes of Mitsuba Sousuke were horribly grating, with the ghost spewing endless random insults as Kou intermittently shocked him with his exorcist’s staff. But then we learn a little more about Mitsuba…and a little more. And before I knew it, I cared about this girly, cocky, moody guy.

And you know what? So did Kou. It’s almost as if Kou was my emotional surrogate in this episode: initially super-irritated with this ghost, but then extremely empathetic of his plight. Even Kou wasn’t prepared to hear that Sousuke was in his class and had introduced himself. Alas, worried about being bullied for being too much of one thing or not enough of another, Sousuke became neither…and was forgotten altogether.

Kou gradually warming up to Sousuke and vice versa has some lovely yaoi undertones, and it’s a testament to the writing, voice acting, and direction that such a close and meaningful bond is formed in such a short period of time. All Sousuke wanted was a friend, so Kou offers to be his first, encouraging Sousuke to simply be himself. It starts to feel like there could be something to Kou’s less adversarial approach to the family business.

And then Hanako’s dark twin Tsukasa ruins everything, plunging his arm through Mitsuba’s chest, and everything turns to shit. Just as Hanako-kun grants wishes to the living, Tsukasa does the same to the dead, and in befriending Sousuke, Kou inadvertently provided Tsukasa with the answer he needed to grant Kou’s wish, something he was duty-bound to do. To quote the Oracle: “We’re all here to do what we’re all here to do.”

With an assist from Sakura on the school radio, a new rumor is formed before Kou’s eyes, of the broken-necked kid in the entrance who reaches out and tries to befriend people. Sousuke adopts a Picasso-esque grosteque, Picasso-esque form and can no longer talk, but sheds a tear as he is forced to attack Kou. He comes within an inch of killing him when Hanako-kun intervenes. (Throughout this sequence I was practically yelling “Where the fuck is Hanako-kun??”)

Unfortunately, all Hanako can do is stop Sousuke from killing Kou. Before disappearing, Tsukasa twists the knife by telling Hanako “it was great” to be killed by him. A visibly shaken Hanako then gravely informs Kou that there’s no bringing Sousuke back. Dead is dead, and the living shouldn’t be too kind, because there’s no future for the dead. “Nothing new begins.” Their only salvation is “annihilation”. Kou can’t believe it. He doesn’t want to. He’s sure there’s more he could have done…can do.

When Kou repeats all of his insults at Sousuke before telling him he’s his friend, I thought for a moment that the kid would actually come back; Kou has supernatural powers, after all. But he doesn’t. He’s gone, and all that’s left his his camera and the photos he took, including a candid one of his friend Kou.

Late into the night Kou stays up, remembering the friend everyone else forgot, grieving for that friend but not disheartened in his belief exorcists like him can do a little more than nothing about The Way Things Are regarding life and death.

Nene didn’t utter a single line and all we see of her is from behind for a couple seconds, but it doesn’t matter. This was the best, most affecting, most devastatingly beautiful episode of Hanako-kun to date.

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card – 14 – Forest of Illusion

CCS:CC is a show replete with beautiful pastels and idyllic scenes of Sakura’s lovely, happy life, but from its first moments this is an episode that throws a number of strange and even unsettling images into the mix, starting with Sakura waking up to find Meiling and Kero-chan right in her face, trying to compete to see who has the more intense face (it causes the first of ten Sakura “hoeees!” in the ep).

Sakura with her new ‘do and Meiling meet up with their friends at a shrine market, but Syaoran is running late because he’s doing some rather intense magical training, no doubt to be able to support Sakura when the going gets tough.

It’s a fun and pleasant day as usual, until Sakura and only Sakura starts seeing animal ears and tails on all of her friends. They even start “talking” like the animals they represent, until the very environment around them starts to blur and twist and Sakura finds herself in a great grassy valley with a planet in the purple sky.

This is one of the trippiest cards since the Escher-esque labyrinth, and Sakura doesn’t have a clue where she is and how to change her increasingly animal friends back. She can’t even catch up to them, as they scatter and run when she approaches, eventually settling down at the base of a massive baobab tree.

Sakura is scared, and things suddenly get scarier. A storm swoops in, and a lightning bolt splits the tree in pieces, causing it to burst into flames. As it begins to fall on her animalized friends, time suddenly stops, and Syaoran literally tears through the fabric of the environment to join Sakura.

The time magic he used has gassed him, and the magic won’t last long but he still manages to calm a panicking Sakura down with a big hug, urging her to control her breathing and think about the situation. Sakura realizes she wanted to go to the zoo, so the card turned her friends into animals. When she became scared, it made things scarier.

Once sufficiently calm, Sakura is able to break out of the illusion and secure the “Mirage” card that caused all of the trouble. Everyone ends up back at the shrine, none the worse for wear save Syaoran, who is still exhausted from his use of powerful magic.

Meiling acknowledges her cousin Syaoran doing his best for Sakura’s sake (and the fact he calls her “Sakura”), while expressing her aggravation that she has no magic with which to help out. Still, neither Meiling nor any of Sakura or Syaoran’s friends need magic to support them; their friendship is something worth becoming stronger to protect.

I imagine Sakura will have to grow stronger still in order to face whatever nefariousness Yuna D. Kaito is up to.