Hinamatsuri – 03 – Shaken AND Stirred

This week three of Hinamatsuri’s young women learn the value, rewards, and pitfalls of hard work from three very different vantage points, starting with Anzu. Anzu is unable to return to her mystery home, so she is homeless. She resorts to petty theft in Utako’s shopping district, but the constant chasing is getting exhausting, and one never knows when she might accidentally cut loose with her powers.

The hobo that once gave up her location to Sabu takes Anzu under his wing and shows her how to make honest money to pay for food. It’s a lot of work for a pittance, and even when she and Yassan show up to the hobo camp with sake to share, the mostly old men there treat her like crap…until she sings them an old nostalgic song that brings many of them to tears.

Anzu is rewarded with a canned drink and membership into the tribe, with all the benefits that entails. But the next day it’s back to the drudgery of searching for stray coins and collecting cans, during which time she runs into Nitta. Seeing her situation and seeing through her half-hearted explanations, Nitta assumes the worst and attempts to solve it with money.

The same stubborn pride that keeps Anzu on the streets also makes her angry at the handout, and she throws the 40,000 yen back in his face. However, when she remembers the hobos talking about how steel and aluminum price drops will cut deeply into their haul, she swallows her pride, chases Nitta’s car down, and accepts his gift.

When she’s immediately surrounded by Usako and the other proprietors she stole from, she loses more than 39,000 of it as repayment, and returns to camp dejected and ashamed. But Yassan assures her it’s for the best: she’s no longer wanted for theft; she has a fresh start as a “homeless girl.” If she keeps working hard as she can (and accepts gifts like Nitta’s when they come), she’ll be able to survive, as they have. Without using her powers.

Next we move on to Mishima Hitomi, who already knows the value of hard work and has applied it to studying, resulting in her position as top student in class, a position she takes great pride in. However, after her impromptu go at bartending last week, Utako wants her to keep working there, and is willing to blackmail her with an incriminating photo to make it happen.

Hitomi counters with a recording of Utako blackmailing her, and Utako takes a different tack, suggesting they both delete their data on each other…but Utako had already downloaded the photo to her PC, so it’s Game, Set, and Match Utako: Hitomi starts working at her bar for 1,500 yen an hour. She is a hit, not because she’s a middle schooler, but because she’s just too damn good at mixing drinks.

Just as at school, she works hard, takes no shortcuts, and comes to take great pride in her good work at the bar. But her two world collide when her homeroom teacher comes into the bar with the vice principal (who is already drunk), trying to nab the position of head teacher.

The teacher is not drunk, and quickly recognizes Hitomi, but decides its in both their best interests to keep the secret to himself. But he still doesn’t let Hitomi off the hook: as something of a mixology aficionado, he challenges Hitomi to make him a Million Dollar, and then a Bartender, to test her shaking and stirring skills. Hitomi passes with flying colors, and he’s duly impressed in her skills, as Usako and the other patrons knew he would be.

While a misunderstanding and her own passivity got her into the job to start, and she was blackmailed into continuing it, her natural talent for the job keeps her coming back…and the mad stacks she’s depositing into the bank account her parents don’t know about don’t hurt one bit! Not only that you watch Hitomi work behind the bar, you can tell she’s in her happy place.

Anzu expanded her world by transitioning from theft to a modest but honest living, while Hitomi expanded hers by adding paid labor to a repertoire that had once been unpaid study, though that will pay off when she needs to get in a good high school and college. And because she’s making so much bank, she needn’t worry about burdening her folks with tuition.

That brings us to the young woman at the top of the social ladder, simply by having her egg land in a rich yakuza’s apartment and that yakuza having a heart of gold…in other words, privilege and luck. Though she may have helped Nitta out off-camera, since the first episode she hasn’t really worked. Having seen Anzu surviving on the streets, Nitta wonders out loud why Hina couldn’t try to do the same thing (is he half-joking? quarter-joking?)

Hina gets the message, and after a frightening dream in which she’s filthy and destitute on the street while Nitta walks past with a glamorous Anzu on his arm, Hina adopts a more genial and eager-to-please attitude that understandably throws him off. When he goes off to work late, she attempts to work hard so he won’t throw her out.

But unlike Anzu and Hitomi, Hina’s hard work ends up working against her goals, not towards them, while her attempt to expand her skills through various household chores ends in one huge mess after another. Her comedy of errors, while predictable, is nonetheless cleverly depicted. I especially liked her attempt to air out a blanket, only for it to fly away into the Tokyo cityscape like a  magic carpet.

Worse, when things get messy, Hina simply gives up and moves on to the next chore, and when she finds a bowl of ikura in the fridge marked “rewards for Hina” she unilaterally decides she’s worked hard enough to give herself the reward.

Fittingly, as Nitta tells his associates, it’s been so long since Hina has done anything to earn a reward, the ikura in the fridge has gone bad, something Hina’s stomach suddenly realizes while she has every dish in the house levitating and dripping soapy water all over the hardwood floors. The dishes shatter, she goes down, and Nitta, who was impressed by how nice she was being before he left, is poised for a rude surprise.

Basically, Hina could learn a lot from Anzu and Hitomi about the importance of being competent at the hard work you are attempting. She did it before with the forestry (and the raid of Nitta’s rivals); she can do it again. She just needs more practice! Ultimately, everyone, even Hina, wants to feel needed, and to strike a proper balance between taking and giving.

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Hinamatsuri – 02 – Savin’ the Nation, then Hittin’ the Clubs

When another telekinetic middle school-aged girl suddenly appears naked in the street at night, then promptly dispatches the entire bike gang whose path she barred, it occurred to me we could get a new super-powered egg brat every week. It also occurred to me that might be too many brats, but this episode would come to allay my fears.

This latest one, Anzu, is not only a problem because she didn’t materialize in the apartment of one a mild-mannered and reasonable yakuza, but because she is on a specific mission to find and eliminate Hina.

All Anzu says its that it’s “orders from the brass”, but the less we know about where Hina and Anzu come from, the better, I say. The whys and wherefores aren’t necessary; just the fact that they’re here, and Nitta has to deal with it in a responsible way.

Nitta first hears about a little girl taking out the bike gang from his subordinate Sabu, but it isn’t long before she’s at the same ramen shop trying to dine and dash. Nitta pays for her, again placing the responsibility for an extremely powerful and dangerous being on his admittedly broad shoulders.

Nitta realizes that by treating the arrival of Hina the way he has, he may well have saved the nation, a fact he casually remarks to Sabu (who can’t possibly know what he’s talking about). He doesn’t shrink from his duty to save it again, this time from a potentially cataclysmic battle between two unchecked adolescent espers.

Once he gets a tip about Anzu’s position from Sabu via the network of homeless they pay to keep their eyes and ears open, he brings Anzu and Hina together, but gets Anzu to agree to a game of “look-that-way” rock-paper-scissors, with the two using their powers to try to make the other look in a certain direction.

Not only does the execution of this plan eliminate the threat of cataclysm, it also results in some seriously hilarious faces from Hina and Anzu as they try to force-pull each others faces up, down, and to the side.

Ultimately, Hina defeats a frustrated Anzu with ease, but when Anzu realizes how much Hina has changed since they last met (she talks and everything!), she decides it’s enough to take a lock of her hair and tell the bosses that the deed is done.

Hina, in turn, invites Anzu to hang out a bit before she returns home (wherever that is; I don’t want to know). After some video games, dinner, and a load of laundry, Hina and Nitta send Anzu on her way…only for her red ball teleporter thingy to not function because it was in the wash, leaving Anzu stranded and homeless (again). Maybe this time gangs will keep a wider berth.

While this leaves open the possibility Hina and Anzu will cross paths again, and I wouldn’t mind such crossings, she doesn’t wear out her welcome here, and isn’t present in the episode’s second half, in which Nitta realizes that ever since he took in Hina, he’s been off his Game.

His bartender/occasional date Utako thinks he’s joking when he asks her out with Hina sitting nearby; his usual girls at the girly club have heard rumors he’s put his Don Juaning on hold in order to lavish time, love, attention and money on his “daughter.” Nitta is appalled. He’s got to get his game back.

He does so in a less-than-subtle way, essentially ripping the time-consuming Hina off like a band-aid, leaving her alone in the apartment with a cold can of mackerel while he hits the bar or club or goes out on dates. Hina finds the mackerel novel and tasty at first, but soon it gets old and tedious, and she doesn’t like the loneliness.

Hina decides to take matters into her own hands, first by insisting she get to go out with him (resulting in a hilarious chase in which she’s waiting for him on the subway at the end, and he lets the doors close without getting in) to enlisting the aid of her too-nice-for-her-own-good classmate Hitomi. Hina learned from TV it’s better to use more than one person to follow someone, but she promptly ditches Hitomi at Utako’s bar, which is closed.

There’s a distinct feeling of not belonging in such an adult place, yet when one of the regular lushes lumbers in to tie one on, he’s no so much confused as delighted that the new barkeep is so young. He doesn’t even mind she doesn’t know how to make a highball; he’ll teach her.

And thus Hitomi, who as I said is way too nice to turn down an old drunk man’s offer to teach her how to make cocktails for him, ends up tending bar all night. When Nitta finally shows up, she’s relieved, but when she calls him Hina’s “dad” he gets upset and becomes another customer (rather than rescuing her).

Meanwhile, Utako ends up crossing paths with Hina, and tells her Nitta won’t understand what she wants unless she tells him straight up. It’s a great little playground scene that’s made more “Hinamatsuri-ish” by the fact Hina levitates off the swing and does a few lazy flips in the air while Utako is dispensing advice.

By the time Utako and Hina get to the bar, Hitomi has, just, like, become a bartender. I didn’t think I’d ever come across an anime not only in which a middle schooler is ditched in a closed bar, but accidentally becomes a thoroughly competent bartender over the course of an evening, without even particularly wanting to! It is ludicrous and amazing.

And there, to a somewhat sloshed Nitta, Hina tells him straight-up what she wants: to go to a girly club with him. In’s an odd request, but Nitta gives in to the booze-lubricated mood of the room and agrees.

But rather than just Nitta and Hina, everyone comes along: Utako closes the bar and comes, the regular drunk comes, a comple random salarymen come…and Hitomi comes too. The increasingly drunk Nitta even lets Hina levitate a bottle of champagne over a tower of glasses (even though such a service has to be specially ordered).

Finally, Hitomi gets a call from her worried-sick mother, who doesn’t believe her for a second when she tells the truth about where she is so late at night. The question Hitomi wants answered is why is she there. I can think of two main reasons: Hina, and passivity.

In the morning Nitta wakes up on the couch, in his boxers, with a hangover, an invoice for 2.5 million yen ($23,000) and a Hina eager to go out that night and do it all over again. Nitta pumps the brakes; from that day until further notice it will be a frugal household. Break out the mackerel!

Hinamatsuri – 01 – Not Your Average Brat (First Impressions)

Nitta Yoshifumi is your typical low-to-mid-level yakuza, doing pretty well for himself without getting his hands bloody, preferring the art hustle to less civilized ventures. He has a fine condo with fine furniture, fine objets d’art, and fine wine.

Then quite suddenly (as these things tend to happen), a strange metal egg with a face falls from above. Nitta decides to pretend its not there and go to bed. But of course, it’s still there in the morning, and he presses the red button as the face instructs to reveal Hina, a blue-haired brat with telekinetic powers.

Nitta…goes with it. I mean, Hina doesn’t give him much choice, wordlessly threatening to destroy all the fine things he owns unless he acquiesces to her demands, which range from “clothes” of any kind to cover her up, to over eight thousand dollars worth of merch at the mall.

Hina isn’t the expressive sort, but lots of TV-watching gives her a vocabulary Nitta can immediately identify when she uses it. He finds himself feeling like a caregiver all of a sudden, rather than somebody only in this life for himself and his organization.

When Hina decides she’s going to school, Nitta gets her to promise not to use her powers, lest chaos ensue. As Hina makes a fine first impression by forgetting her assumed last name, then sleeps through every class, Nitta wrings his hands at a meeting with his fellow yakuza, worried about how she’s doing—and they misinterpret his intensity for being gung-ho about taking on a rival group.

Well, chaos ensues anyway, because she neglects to tell him that if she doesn’t use her powers for too long, the power builds up and explodes, trashing his whole place. I loved the suddenness with which this escalated.

Since she has to use her powers anyway, Nitta tries to find a practical use for them, and finds one in a forest-clearing job for a shady developer. Uprooting mature trees, cleanly stripping their branches, foliage, and bark, and filling the holes in the ground is child’s play to Hina, who privately wonders why this Nitta guy is being so nice and not ordering her to kill people.

Nitta makes a killing on the tree job, but gets no congratulations from the Chief, because in his absence the Boss got shot, requiring their group to respond in kind. Nitta doesn’t even think of taking Hina with him, but resolves to take care of it himself, despite lacking any credible bona fides in the violence department.

Hina tags along (and scares the shit out of Nitta in the car) of her own volition, asking him why he won’t give her orders to kill the men in the building. Nitta’s all-too-decent response is a revelation to Hina: “Why should you have to do that? This has nothing to do with you!” Touched that he cares for her, she smirks and decides to take care of business without orders.

Hina is as efficient at clearing out the rival groups’ hideout and serving up their boss as she was clearing the forest, and we listen along with Nitta to the screams and grunts of the building’s occupants as she goes floor-to-floor, tossing every peron and piece of furniture out into the street (though notably never hitting Nitta with anything).

Everybody wins: Nitta is promoted for his excellent work (he neglects to mention his “brat” did it all; not that he wants it known she has powers), and Hina gets to exercise her telekinetic valves. Nitta generously rewards her (another concept unfamiliar to Hina from her previous life) with the finest kind of her so-far favorite food (red caviar), and the two settle into a mutually beneficial situation.

Post-credits, Nitta accidentally locks himself in the metal egg Hina arrived in, and Hina exacts a bit of revenge by leaving him in there all night, only releasing him in the morning after he’d wet himself (the moment of his release is played exactly like Ahnold’s arrival in Terminator, only with a cloud of piss.)

Hinamatsuri is a ton of fun. It’s also an absolute hoot. I was snickering or laughing for virtually the entire run time, as Nitta’s reactions to Hina’s deadpan remarks were constantly entertaining, as was the physical comedy of the telekinetic hi-jinx. There were too many hilarious lines to list.

The show has a marvelous sense of comedic timing in both dialogue and editing, but the comedy never overshadows what is, at its heart, a warm and sincere story of a man who suddenly has someone to care about, and a former human weapon who suddenly has the freedom to be a normal girl, even if she occasionally has to literally blow off some steam. I’m on board!

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.

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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