Inuyashiki – 04

Inuyashiki’s fourth episode opens with a ruthless, towering yakuza boss ordering his men to dispose of the naked body of an overdosed woman on his bed, then making another yakuza perform oral sex on him as a form of submission. So…not a good guy.

Then things switch gears completely to the diminutive but lovely Fumino and her boyfriend Satoru, who love each other deeply and agree to get married and have kids. As nice as all that is, I immediately suspected this was either a flashback, and Fumino was that body, or she’s the yakuza boss’ next victim.

The latter turns out to be the case, as Fumino is suddenly abducted while walking home, and wakes up naked on the boss’ bed. He immediately gets on top of her, telling her he’ll “make her his”, but Fumino fights back, getting away and even managing to slash the brute’s wrist with his own katana. While his men tend to his wound she slips out.

She manages to get all the way back to Satoru’s worried-sick arms, but it’s not long before the boss, named Samejima, and his henchmen break into their apartment. Satoru begs for his and Fumino’s lives, promising to pay any price, no matter what it takes, but his pleas fall on deaf ears, and Samejima picks him up by the throat and starts to choke him out.

Enter the Hero, Ichirou, who no doubt heard what has been transpiring and will not have it. After sending the henchmen flying, he puts Samejima in a bear hug, but “shuts down” when a clip is emptied in his head. When he wakes up, it’s just him and a nearly-dead Satoru.

When his magic body won’t heal him, Ichirou uses CPR to revive him, and then uses Satoru’s phone to locate Samejima, who is enjoying a meeting with other yakuza bosses at a luxurious inn.

While his initial encounter with Samejima was not fruitful, Ichirou has clearly gotten the hang of flying and forcing his way through crowds. When Samejima takes him aside, Ichirou does what he should have done the first time: sock the guy in the face.

The other yakuza respond by emptying clip after clip into Ichirou with automatic weapons, but it only stuns him. He activates his flight mode, targets everyone in the inn, and takes out all of their eyes with a fusillade of particle beams.

It’s wholesale justice; Ichirou laying down the law, and before leaving, Ichirou makes sure he properly verbalizes what he’s done: deprived all of them of the means to walk, eat, see their children’s and grandchildren’s faces, touch them ever again…or even take their own lives.

Rather than execute them, he hopes they’ll live long lives, in such a state that he hopes they one day feel remorse for the horrible things they’ve done. I for one am not that optimistic, but at least they’ll won’t hurt anyone—including his family—ever again. The cycle of dead bodies on beds has been stopped; at least with this clan. Obviously, there are many others.

After contacting those watching her with Samejima’s phone, Ichirou locates Fumino, apparently heals her of the harm done by the drugs, and flies her back to her love, Satoru.

I’ll point out that Satoru is nothing special in the looks or money department—indeed, he’s very much a young Ichirou—but love, like that yakuza scum, is blind. Satoru and Fumino have good and gentle souls, and I was bowled over with relief and joy to see them reunite.

Ichirou slinks off into the night, claiming he’s “nobody special”, but in reality, he was this couple’s savior. It’s good to see him getting better at this hero thing, especially not getting overwhelmed by the sheer amount of evil in the world and the impossibility of stamping it all out. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do as much as you can, and he will.

And so, Inuyashiki continues its M.O. of putting its audience through hell before showing them a glimpse of heaven. Whether it was the intro of Ichirou as a feeble sadsack or the stunningly awful but thankfully temporary twist in Fumino’s fate, the show has no qualms about putting characters and viewers alike through the ringer, but rewards us for sticking around by delivering breathtakingly righteous justice to evildoers.

Only Shishigami Hiro has escaped retribution…so far. But the strongest yakuza boss in the world is a cakewalk compared to Hiro. If Ichirou can’t defeat him and he can’t defeat Ichirou, they’ll have to figure…something else out.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 14

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3GL gets back on track by bringing Rei and Shimada’s match to an end, and I realize the match was supposed to start out boring at the beginning last week, to reflect how little of it Rei thought. Shimada was only a hurdle to leap over on the way to teaching Gotou a lesson.

How wrong Rei was: Shimada wasn’t an opponent to toss aside with half-assed preparation. Rei totally misjudged his level and got totally destroyed. Finding out how early in the match he was toast (far earlier than he realized when playing) only pours gas on the fire.

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He runs off like someone rejected by their crush, thinking he’s lost everything. He loads up on sleep, gets depressed and dehydrated, and even starts to think of other ways to make his way in the world besides shogi (which is tough when one is only seventeen). Rei had taken on the trappings of adulthood without having the experiences necessary to become one.

But as Shimada and Smith say, this happens to everyone, in one way or another. You’re young, you feel invincible, then you’re struck down and never saw it coming, and think It’s All Over. Heck, it sounds a lot like one’s first rejection or breakup.

But such defeats are necessary and vital to growth, which is probably why Nikaidou asked Shimada to “crack [Rei’s] head in two.” Rei needed a jolt like this, because more defeats will come in life and he needs to learn how to deal with them.

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Rei tries to find some solace at school, but it’s just as unapproachable and incompatible to him as ever. Again, the only one he talks with is Hayashida-sensei, making him one of the least social high school anime characters (who isn’t just a shut-in) in recent memory.

Hayashida also wants to impress upon Rei the fact that if he’s “over-capacity”, and it certainly looks like he is, there’s no shame in stepping back from those adult trappings, moving back home, and having at least some of the things currently overloading his life be taken care of.

Additionally, Hayashida suggests Rei join Shimada’s workshop (of which Nikaido is also a member), as learning from someone who beat you (especially so badly) is a great opportunity.

Rei has to get past his anger with Shimada for getting beaten, his uneasiness with being back home, and of course, his own obsessive insistence on not running. Doing these things isn’t running, it’s learning and growing.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 13

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Well, that was surprising. After 12 episodes with nothing lower than an 8, 3GL lays an egg in its thirteenth. Was it because Friday the 13th was yesterday? Maybe, but there were a lot of other reasons this episode…just didn’t work for me.

First, it almost seems at times like the episode is marking time, in no particular hurry to show or tell us anything new. The cold open is literally the last few minutes of the last episode.

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The show also repeated the scene between Gotou and Rei where the latter has to be held back by Misumi. Considering there was a recap just a couple weeks ago, it seemed like needless padding.

Once it got into new material, we get an interminable, clunkily-animated scene of Misumi of all people eating various things while vigorously preparing for his shogi match with Gotou, which he then goes on lose anyway.

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It’s all well and good to build up Gotou into a kind of Goliath Rei must slay, and it lays on the pressure even more when Rei gets off his game against Shimada and ends up in real trouble, but Misumi just hasn’t been that integral a character in the show, and that was a lot of time spent on him. Rei is supposed to face off against Gotou, but that was delayed here, and with little to show for it.

Even though this show typically splits episodes into two or more episodic pieces, the flow was far worse than usual, and lacked urgency. The bits of recap padding, the editing, and the animation, something was just off with this episode, and it kept me at arm’s length.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 12

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I watched this episode in a similar environment to the one Rei keeps finding himself in after recovering from his illness; a place very hard to leave once you’re there, like a kotatsu. It’s currently 20 degrees F and snowing outside, but I’m nice and toasty in my apartment with a hot mug of cocoa, and because it’s Saturday and I don’t have a possibly career-defining tournament to participate in, I’m more than content to stay right there!

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Now that he’s better, Rei has some serious things to consider. Chief among them is ‘not losing anymore this year’, including the huge highly-publicized Lion King Tournament. He just barely defeats one opponent (who has a bizarre way with words), and may well have to go up against Gotou, the guy who calls Kyoko a “stalker girl” and who once beat him up. If it wasn’t for Smith, he’d have gotten beaten up again.

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Instead, he heads to the Kawamotos with bags bursting with freshly-caught fish from the association president, and Akari couldn’t be happier, as it means they can save on food expenses for a while. As usual, the home is warm, fuzzy, full of love and hard to leave…but Rei has to leave. He can’t be the best shogi player he can be if he doesn’t go home and study. So he tells Momo as earnestly as he can, and she and Hina tell him to do his best.

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Perhaps like no previous episode, this one really strongly marked the contrast between the Kawamoto Kotatsu and the world outside, using every visual method at its disposal. As bright and warm and colorful as it is in the sisters’ house, it’s dark and cold and bleak, even threatening outside.

But Rei is determined to become someone who can live in both worlds, and neither be trapped in one or unable to endure the other. Joy and pain are both inescapable parts of life he must learn to balance. And the beast inside relishes the potential opportunity to deliver a blow or two to Gotou, not with his fists, but on the shogi board.

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Nisekoi 2 – 12 (Fin)

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Not unpredictably, Nisekoi: decides to wrap things up with “Best Girl” Kirisaki Chitoge. The story of the first half  is simple: she loses and then eventually finds her beloved red ribbon. But because the ribbon carries so much sentimental power for her—due to its connection to both her beloved mother and her beloved Raku—that the time she’s separated from it and worried it could be in some dumpster somewhere is a palpable yawning chasm of near-Mr. Despair-like despair. Even Marika is thrown off by how meek and out of sorts her rival is.

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No one is more worried/concerned about Chitoge than Raku, however. While her predicament makes it easier for him to see her feminine side (though physically she’s still a beast) and he entertains the notion that things might be better if she just stayed like this, at the end of the day he’s a fan of the status quo, which means a cheerful—if sometimes unreasonable and violent—Chitoge.

So he buys a new ribbon for her. She immediately sniffs it out as a brand-new impostor, but because she’s so distraught, her guard is down and she expresses genuine gratitude for Raku’s kindness.

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Then Raku spots the real ribbon atop an electric pole, and the super-athletic Chitoge springs into gear…only to watch in horror as her ribbon catches on the train cable and gets shredded by a train. But at some point in her pursuit, she stopped following the real one and pursued the fake, which is the one that got destroyed. Raku produces the real one, unharmed…or is it?

When she puts it back on she returns mostly to her normal best self, but when she’s back home, we see she’s painstakingly repairing the destroyed ribbon Raku said was the fake new one, but there’s a chance the messed-up one was the real one, and Raku again switched them up to make her feel better. But at this point, she’s happy she has two ribbons, both of which her love Raku gave her at different times in her life.

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The second part is one of the best kinds of Nisekoi segments: those spent primarily in Chitoge’s head as she struggles with precisely what kind of feelings she has for Raku and if, when, and how to express them to him. It’s clear her heart wants her to confess, but her head overanalyzes and sweats over every detail and eventuality and potential effect of her words or actions, all coalescing into a paralyzing effect; no matter what goes on in her head, Raku can’t see or hear anything but the slightest hints; all to easily misinterpreted or simply not noticed.

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Chitoge seeks advice from her dad, who tells her the outrageous tale of how he met Hana. Back then she was a student juggling 17 jobs to pay her tuition, one of which was pizza delivery girl. She delivered a pizza while Chitoge’s future dad was it the middle of a shootout with a rival organization (well, he wasn’t doing the shooting, but directing from a pool lounger). Seeing Hana so confidently stride into the middle of a warzone…it was love at first sight for pops.

But he goes on to say that wasn’t the case for Hana: he had to suffer multiple embarrassments, rejections, and yes, broken bones before Hana finally fell for him. Chitoge may be right that her parents’ tale of coming together is atypical, but she’s wrong that it doesn’t resemble her own romance with Raku in some fashion. The difference is, Raku still keeps their relationship at an arm’s length due to it’s official “fakeness.”

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But he still gets clobbered by Chitoge regularly, and as we saw from the last segment, when she suddenly stops being herself, he not only notices, but worries about her and wants to help. Turns out, the chemistry between her and Raku is so good, the question of how or when to confess to him is more or less resolved by Raku himself.

In talking about how they’ve been fake lovers for more than a year now, reminds Chitoge what she really wants, which is to spend more time with him. And as long as she can do that, there’s no rush to say the words…which is good, because she can barely say them to her stuffed Chitoge gorilla.

The way this episode ended didn’t promise a third season of Nisekoi, but I honestly wouldn’t be surprised. But would I watch it? While hardly any show beats around the bush as stylishly and confidently as Nisekoi, the lack of deal-closing was just as frustrating this season as it was in the first, and the show show no signs of fixing that.

Fortunately, it rarely has to, as its episodic nature lets us focus on and revel in the colorful variety of love interests Raku has to choose from, which makes us forget for just long enough that he’ll never choose any of them.

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Nisekoi 2 – 05

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Maybe it’s part and parcel of the whole harem milieu, but Nisekoi has a tendency to stop a girl’s arc on a dime and pick up another girl’s, whether we particularly want it to or not. Maybe Chitoge’s reconnection with her mother with Raku’s help was a good stopping place as any, but that doesn’t mean you have to kill all the momentum built up between Raku and Chitoge to that point.

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For better or worse, that’s what happens here, as this is a strictly Marika-centric episode. While Asumi Kana’s Marika is button-cute, affectionate, and charmingly crafty, the fact is Marika has a tough act to follow. Marika came in very late last season, and while we fell in love with her in her first appearance, since then she hasn’t brought much to the table besides her brand of kindergarten puppy love complete with gloming and somewhat childish schemes to get closer to Raku.

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In the first half, Marika ranks by far the worst out of the circle of friends (everyone else is 88th or higher, but she’s 185th), but she uses it as an excuse to ask Raku to tutor her for an upcoming math test. Of course, he obliges, and he’s glad to have Chitoge around as chaperone/third wheel. They end up pulling an all-nighter, during which Raku puts blankets on both dozing girls (though Marika only feigns being asleep) and in the morning whispers another confession to the dozing Raku.

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The day of the test, she knows she’s scored enough to not need to re-take it, but erases and changes a couple answers so she does have to, so she has another excuse to ask Raku to tutor her. Her bodyguard warns her that she can’t keep pulling all-nighters what with her inherent frailness, and Marika acknowledges this—which actually puts a darker, more melancholy spin on her schemes. Is Marika simply trying to make the most of her time with Raku while she can? It’s like she knows her shortcomings in the war for Raku’s heart, but keeps fighting anyway.

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Unfortunately, what could have segued into something more interesting turned into a glib farce involving Marika’s pet parrot “Raku-sama”, whom she trains to not only impersonate herself and Raku “up to no good”, but also how to break out of his cage so Raku has to shout out “I love you Marika!” in order to lure him back (while she records it from her limo).

While all the parrot-training explains why Marika’s grades have been suffering, and the bird’s voice is kinda cute, the gag grows tiresome, and Chitoge, Kosaki, and Tsugumi are criminally underutilized, and their reactions to the bird’s amorous vocab are predictable.

We even see Kosaki’s sis for the first time, but they do absolutely nothing with her. She’s so prominent in the OP I know she’s coming, but that was a weird intro. The more heartfelt parts of the first half keep this from descending into “fine” territory…but but only just.

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Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 11

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This week Kana has a Very Special Dream about being saved from a parasyte orgy/buffet by the gallant, dashing Ser Shinichi. It’s pretty over-the-top, but it gets the point across quickly: Kana is a girl enthralled, and she won’t go gentle into that good night; whether Shinichi already has a girl or not.

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She tries greeting him in the popular style, by plucking a hair, but he stops her, telling her it’s dangeorus. It is dangerous, as the cold open showed: plucking the hair of a parasyte just means that parasyte now has a reason to kill you! Shinichi isn’t interested in Kana, and Migi seems repelled by her, but nor can Shinichi feel he can leave her totally alone, as her parasyte-sensing power could get her in serious trouble.

The High School Love Wars are fully on this week, as Satomi, after seeing Kana with Shinichi again, asks her if she thinks anything’s changed about him. Kana has only really known the ‘intermittently ferocious’ version, so she can’t say. What Kana does discern from Satomi is that there’s trouble in paradise, and she still has a chance with her valiant knight.

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Parallel to the land of young love, the parasytes aren’t standing still. In the wake of the school incident, a few of them have started ‘experimenting’, intentionally picking fights with big groups of armed tough guys (yakuza) and seeing how much damage they do before they’re all wiped out. This smiling fitness buff-parasyte never even transforms, such is the latent strength of his host — nor does he stop smiling, which is a change of pace from their usual vacant expressions.

I’d also point out while I didn’t really shed any tears for the gangsters, any more than I would if a parasyte ripped those cat-abusing kids a new one, it’s still disturbing to see they’ve moved on from using humans as mere food, but are employing them in their ‘exercise’ routines. Fighting the most aggressive humans will make them that much more effective against humans who would rather not resort to violence but have no choice.

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But Never mind that shitShinichi asks Satomi out on a date. A DATE! SQUEEEEEEE! XDDD

Seriously, these two are too adorable for words. It’s so good to see them doing normal things like going to the movies (not The Ring 2), having coffee, hanging out with dogs, or relaxing at the park and trying to ignore child abuse. That last thing sets something off in Shinichi, however, and only highlights to Satomi that something is still wrong; something he still won’t tell her.

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Kana happens to sense Shinichi and run to his side only to find him locking lips with Ms. Murano, but what neither she nor Shinichi do see is Satomi’s expression after they leave, or her tears. She weeps for the same reason I do: because just such a dreadful bummer that this pure, wonderful, natural, otherwise normal romance is so very very doomed in the midst of all this parasyte crap.

Satomi still doesn’t know much about it or Shinichi’s role, but a part of her she can’t ignore or dismiss fundamentally doubts Shinichi is really Shinichi, and that’s no way for a relationship to grow.

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Despite having just seen the happy couple on cloud nine, Kana doesn’t give up the fight, asking Shinichi to meet her in town for ‘one last favor’. That town just happens to be the site of a political rally…in which all of the politicians — including the mayoral candidate — are parasytes! Even worse, one of them spots Shinichi just as Kana is showing up.

Could an…ahem…less stylized version of Kana’s dream about to unfold in real life? Another question: how long will Kana survive her precarious position, being drawn to forces that could kill her? We’ll find out next week!

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Sabagebu! – 06

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Miou and the Student Council President Isurugi Yayoi clash, except Miou is too dense to notice this and Yayoi’s revenge plots are utterly ineffective against the various members of the Survival Club. Yayoi’s plans are so crap that, without fail, she must be rescued by Miou each time she gets in over her head with another club member.

By the end, the evidence of these ‘saves’ convinces the whole school that Miou and Yayoi are an item, which serves as a finishing blow and, for the first time in her life, Yayoi is forced to skip a day of school. (end of act 1)

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Act Two: Miou, Momoka, Kaya, Urara and Maya watch a B-rate Yakuza film. Momoka thinks it was stupid and shrugs off ‘the silly ending’ which involves everyone in the clan betraying each other and the winner being shot dead by a previously fallen, assumed to be dead ally.

Then Sakura rolls a fancy office chair into the club room (which she’s presumably earned by sleeping with the school principal) and everything goes sideways. Suddenly dressed as Yakuza, the girls launch into gunfight mode and everyone is gunned down predictably by Momoka. Momoka even manages to avoid the ‘last man standing gets shot at the end’ moment…

…Only to be killed when she sits in the office chair which suddenly falls over. (end of episode)

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Sabagebu! mixes up its formula this week with an extra long opening arc dedicated to a new character in Yayoi and the decadent crazy that is Ootori Miou. From the opening scene in a Student Council meeting, where Miou responds to the Prez’s call for questions with “Why do our teeth squeak when we eat Spinach?” we see how difficult it is to be a sane person in this show. You either turn your brain off like Miou’s followers among the other club presidents (who consider her antics “pure”) or you get made like the Yayoi and Momoka.

Unfortunately for Yayoi, her veins contain none of the ice-fire-blood violence fuel that propels our dear Momoka.

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“Remember viewers, there’s nothing a machosist hates more than a fake sadist.”

Starting with Urara, because beating on a masochist should be easy, Yayoi launches a string of plots to snipe away members of the Survival Club and ultimately ruin Miou’s happiness. Each plot is reasonably funny, though none match the final show down, where Yayoi discovers Miou’s weakness is the zen-like kindness of an elderly lunchlady and a hatred of cafeteria veggies.

Seriously! How could anything top a young woman’s decent into madness leading her to physically and mentally become an old woman obsessed with tea and kindness? Yayoi is so into her role that, by the end, she can’t even deliver a finishing blow and is only ‘saved’ by relentless gossip that she works in the cafeteria to be closer to Miou each day.

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The yakuza arc was smirk-worthy but predictable and, honestly, we’ve seen this set up before. Without the context for bad yakuza films, which I don’t have, there wasn’t much going for it.

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Over all, this was a great episode! It delivered tons of chuckles and character development (through the Prez’s dossiers on each girl) and Yayoi is a reasonable opponent to throw at the club. It even closes post credits with an unexpected zoom in on Yayoi taking a bath and being appalled that she’s being filmed!

Break that fourth wall baby! Break it good!

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Rokujouma no Shinryakusha!? – 04

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Satomi and the girls call a ceasefire and head to the beech. Sakuraba, who is rich and owns a ocean side summer home, is there too. While overly nice to all of the girls, Satomi only really has eyes for Sakuraba, which alienates everyone, especially the Aliens. Meanwhile, a mysterious group of ecchi Yakuza are up to something. Probably no good!

This week RnS throws down its gauntlet and challenges us to watch a beach episode—that also has a hot spring! Each girl gets to have her own ho-hum pre-beach adventure at the shopping mall, which results in typical (and not very exciting) alternate character designs for the episode’s second half. There’s really nothing remarkable here—the girls fan-service play in the water, Satomi gets in trouble for accidentally copping a feel, and Magic Girl even sports the group’s genre-appropriate gym class swim suit!

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While the reason is not explained this week, the beach trip appears to have been staged by two Yakuza Bros. I certainly appreciate that RnS is giving us a side plot that doesn’t entirely revolve around yet another girl for the harem, but it probably would have worked better if the Yakuza plot was given a little more context.

Sure, we know the Bros rigged the lottery so the girls would win, and that they ecchi spied on the girls at the beach, and refer to a nefarious plan, but it’s all so ambiguous, which is totally out of step with the rest of the show (unless you count the still unexplained and not revisited shrine maiden vignette from the premier…).

Maybe I found it more egregious because the episode ends with the Yakuza, still not explaining anything and makes it very clear the beach will be a two-parter! I guess that’s kinda ballsy for the genre?

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The episode also gave us a short but surprising amount of screen time for the captain of the Cosplay Society, who I’d written off as a complete side character but who knows? The unspoken lines between her and Satomi alone make me nervous that she, too, will join the Harem at some point. At least the other cosplayers don’t even have faces and are unlikely to emerge in the harem.

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In the end, the episode is about Satomi showing affection to each girl to some degree, each girl wanting that affection to some degree, and each girl coming to understand-if-not-respect her competitors’ motivations. Well, except Kasagi. I have no idea why she’s in this group at all since she has no motivation to like Satomi, care who wins the apartment, nor have anything on the line at all. But hey, Harem right?

Oh! Sakuraba isn’t in on the hot springs either, because she’s at her mansion or wasn’t invited or the animation team forgot she was even in the episode. No character development for you!

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What can be said? RnS is as cliche as ever but, not counting the totally bizarre reason Satomi accidentally grabbed boob (dreaming about climbing a tree to catch a giant beetle), this week was all harem and no humor. Seriously! RnS isn’t drawn well enough, nor is it smutty enough, to get away with that.

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DRAMAtical Murder – 04

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I said I might have to drop this show now that I’ve discovered AGK, but I haven’t done so yet. That could be because there isn’t another show this Summer that has me as much in the dark about as many things. I’m eager for some answers, but only get more questions. And yet, on I watch.

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The unfortunately named Platinum Jail; its developer, who ends up in the same limo as Grams earlier in the episode; the disappearance of Dry Juice, and the painting over of all their tags with Morphine tags; Trip and Virus’ involvement; Clear and Noiz’s obsessions with Aoba; it’s all just floating around in one big cloud of mystery.

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I hope something gives soon. I don’t mind lingering mysteries, as long as something comes of them, but the show could throw us a bone here or there. After a police patrol cuts Koujaku and Noiz’s fight (ostensibly over Aoba) short, Aoba comes home to find his Grams gone, replaced by a couple of unconscious Morphine members and Mink.

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Whether Mink is a friend or foe, and what if anything he has to say to Aoba that might shed some light on all of this stuff, we’ll have to wait another week. But with all these elements listed above in play yet presently isolated from one another, I imagine at some point some dots will be connected. Some point soon, hopefully!

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Nisekoi – 17

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Inexperienced as he is in matters of love, Raku seeks clarity and guidance in the form of a romantic relationship charm, a popular item at the summer festival, further reinforcing its perceived power. But the charm proves almost laughably unhelpful, taking him on a tour of the vertitable smör-girls-bord before him, one girl at a time.

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The festival and the charm’s “effects” on Raku and the girls also underlines the qualities they have going for them. Luck and circumstance are in Chitoge’s favor, as are looks (at least, she gets the most attention from random folk). Marika is the most romantically aggressive (and politically connected). Kosaki is a blend of intermittent bursts of aggression and/or good luck, typically followed by equal or greater portions of the exact opposite.

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Perhaps it’s the fact Kosaki is something of a complete package—a Kosaki of all Trades, master of none—that makes her the most compelling choice for Raku, and the reason she’s foremost on his mind most of the time, including when he’s going after the charm. But on several occasions this week, Kosaki’s rightful place in his mind was usurped by Chitoge being so darned earnest and sweet.

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Raku would probably fall for Chitoge completely if she was like that all the time, but he only gets glimmers of that side of her, just as Kosaki only has glimmers of righteous aggressiveness or luck. But with a Kosaki-exclusive episode leading into a stock-taking episode with a steady helping of Sweet Chitoge, Nisekoi seems to be reasserting these two as the main contenders for Raku’s heart.

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This is evidenced by there being less emphasis on Marika this week, and what emphasis there was being comedic in nature. At least here, her position looked much weaker than the original two, but of course that could change next week. A charm can show Raku which doors he has to choose from, and even open some of them a crack, but it can’t show him which one to walk through. Ahem…sorry for calling you doors, ladies.

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Nisekoi – 16

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Well, how about that: an entire episode devoted to Kosaki and Raku? I‘m on board. In fact, I’m just as giddy about it as the two of them were at the prospect of spending some time alone together, even if the other doesn’t know just how much the other likes them, because neither of them will ever get the point unless one of them tells the other directly, and possibly draws a diagram – which neither of them will ever do.

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But who cares about that? This week Nisekoi places Chitoge and Marika on the back burner and gives us All Kosaki, All The Time, showing that Kosaki may be down, but she’s not out, and she’s not ready to give up the fight. And one should never count a HanaKana character out. In addition to being almost sickeningly adorable and endearing throughout, the mere fact she asked Raku to come and work in her family’s shop is proof that she’s getting better at looking out for her own interests.

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This is also one of the funnier episodes of Nisekoi, from the manic energy of Kosaki and Raku during their initial nervousness, to Raku imagining all of the things Kosaki does in her room, calling to mind the final act of 2001: A Space Odyssey, to Raku cursing the typhoon for not being able to “read a room.” We enjoyed the brief appearance by Kosaki’s mom, who is the opposite of Kosaki in that she’s forceful and speaks her mind, embarrassing both Kosaki and Raku, but not saying anything that isn’t true, either.

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Her mom doesn’t have to convince Raku to marry into the family; it’s something part of him already wants to do, and the more fun he and Kosaki have together, the stronger the feeling gets. The only things stopping him are an impending mob war and the ire of the police commissioner, and at least three partially broken hearts.

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The episode ends with Raku going home, both he and Kosaki proud of themselves for the progress they made, but at this point in the game, I still think they should have said a little bit more to each other. Raku at least gets Kosaki’s e-mail at last, and she comes SO FRIKKING CLOSE to texting him that she had a crush on him, but deletes the words, retreating again.

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The divine punishment Kosaki worried about after such a perfect day with Raku is already in effect from what we’ve seen: despite being the perfect couple in so many ways; despite knowing each other so well, and sticking out to each other in photos, neither is capable of believing the other likes them.

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Nisekoi – 15

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Last week I lauded the addition of Tachibana Marika to the cast, and my positive impressions were only reinforced this week. Among the hesitant, dilatory Kosaki and the tsunderes Seishirou and Chitoge, Marika is a breath of fresh air. She’s aggressive about her feelings for (and legal claim to) Raku in a way the others simply haven’t been, and it feels like her approach is already influencing Raku while simultaneously making his choice a lot more difficult.

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The memory of meeting and falling for Raku is still fresh in Marika’s mind, as she tells the story of how he visited and played with her while she was bedridden. Even back then, Raku was a kind, decent fellow. When she brought up the subject of what kind of girls he likes, Raku told her, and ever since then, she’s made herself into that ideal. She put the work in and kept the flame burning, something you can’t say of any of his other suitors.

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Raku also finally gets Kosaki, Chitoge and Marika together to brief them on the situation: there are three keys, but only one locket. Marika doesn’t remember anything about the other two any more than the other girls do, only the memories involving her and Raku, and the locket is still being repaired, so the moment of truth is postponed. But regardless of whose key opens the locket, Marika is working to make Raku hers, even as Raku clings to his certainty that Kosaki is the one he presently loves.

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As I said, she’s succeeding due to her uncompromising devotion and aggression. It doesn’t matter if he hasn’t accepted the engagement; as far as she’s concerned, they’re all but married already. As such, she invites Raku to her penthouse home to meet her father, who is frikkin’ HILARIOUS. In addition to being voiced with gusto by Tachiki Fumihiko, he’s scary as all get-out; far scarier than any yakuza Raku’s met. There’s abundant comedy just in watching Raku squirm, and it’s just as funny how Marika acts naturally through all of her father’s intense outbursts.

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When it comes down to it, though, Marika’s father gets the full truth out of Raku, and turns out to be a fair, perceptive man who obviously cares for his daughter. Whatever Raku has going on, be it another girlfriend or a girl he’s really in love with, he reiterates that at the end of the day he must keep his promise and make Marika happy. There’s no threat in this statement; it’s simply plain words from one man to another, both of whom have staked their honor on this arrangement.

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Perhaps the best part of this episode of all is when Marika asks Raku in the hallway how she could further transform herself to make herself more desirable to him. Taking a page out of her book, Raku is truthful and aggressive, heaping all the praise she deserves upon her, and telling her she’s cute, awesome, and sweet, regardless of her hairstyle or accent. I’m inclined to agree.

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