Adachi & Shimamura – 07 – Friendship Chocolate

Just before midnight, Adachi texts Shimamura and they exchange New Years greetings. Shimamura is lying in her kotatsu and is reminded of Adachi’s thighs, the mention of which make Adachi blush. Adachi continues her push-and-pull between contentment and longing.

Part of her is happy with what she has with Shimamura, and part of her desires…er, more. Shimamura can sense Adachi wants to take their friendship to “higher place”, but is worried she may not have the “wings” with which to follow.

Before long, it’s already February, and Shimamura has observed that Adachi is being shyer and more distant than usual, until one day when she works up the courage to ask Shimamura to hang out after school to buy some sweet snacks. With Valentines Day approaching fast, Adachi wants to make sure she and Shimamura can hang out on that day.

While Nagafuji gets the urge to “lift up” a Hawaii-tanned Hino as they relax together, Shimamura asks Adachi for advice on how she should proceed with her darkening hair. Dye it again? Let it grow out? Adachi is not sure, bu is happy to be asked. Her responses, sometimes interrupted by hiccups, continue to perplex Shimamura: what exactly does this girl want from this? From “us”?

For now, baby steps suffice, as Adachi gets Shimamura to agree to spend Valentines Day together. She also wants them to exchange chocolate like Nagafuji and Hino do, but it’s clear she wants it to be more than obligatory “friendship” chocolate. Shimamura comes to admire Adachi’s resolve to get her words out and express her wants, no matter how much she stumbles along the way.

Little by little, she’s adding color to Shimamura’s grey, empty world. I think that’s a good thing! But then there’s suddenly a new source of color and light in the form of Shimamura’s childhood friend Tarumi, as they encounter one another at Nagafuji’s family shop. Tarumi is quick to note Shimamura has grown into a beauty, and quick ask for number so they can catch up later.

Any way you slice it, this is probably bad news for Adachi. Even if Tarumi doesn’t turn out to be a romantic rival, she’s still competition for “best friend” status, with built-in history helping her case. I can just imagine how Adachi will feel after learning about Tarumi—jealous, lonely, defeated…IN DESPAIR! Hopefully she can shake those things off and fight the good fight.

Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina – 07 – Walls Were Meant to Fall

Elaina fondly remembers a story from the Travels of Niké about a country separated into two halves by a wall. She shows the chiefs on both sides how to market themselves as the superior side: by having tourists and visitors etch their praise into the wall with blades.

Seeing Niké in this flashback resembles Elaina, I’m inclined to consider it further evidence her mom and Niké were one and the same, especially as her mom encourages Elaina to visit the country to find out who won the contest.

The thing is, over a decade later it’s Saya who makes it to this split country before Elaina. By then the outer coating of the wall has been weathered away by tourist praise, but the chiefs want to shake things up. Saya ends up etching her undying love for Elaina into the wall, and suggests that the townsfolk on both sides should do the same…it’s their wall, after all!

A little later, Elaina finally arrives, eager to see the wall and the results of the ongoing contest of the two sides…only to find a giant heap of rubble where the wall was. Turns out all that etching and erasing of messages by the townsfolk on both sides eventually causes the two sides to break through and meet each other.

By then no one remembered the source of enmity, and so decided to finish demolishing the wall.. This is great, right? Witches of two different generations (Niké and Saya) ended up being the catalyst for reunifying the country. The wall may be in ruins, but everyone looks happy. The sole exception is Elaina, who is disappointed she never got to see the wall, and also that the final score was an exact tie.

In a way, you could say Saya ruined Elaina’s childhood dreams. And in a final mark that the two are fated to reunite someday, the piece of rubble Elaina claims as a souvenir just happens to be a piece Saya etched “ELAINA” into!

A community separated by enmity is the basis of the second story, though instead of tracing history back to Niké, Elaina’s story is being told by a village chief who met her to his young son, while his wife stomps grapes in the background. Back when Elaina visited, the village was split into two: This and That. A bit on the nose, but fine!

Now of legal age, Elaina visited to sample the area’s famously delicious wine, but learns that That has begun dominating sales with a new label featuring Rosemary, a beautiful, buxom Grape-Stomping Maiden, and declaring the wine in the bottle to be made from grapes “lovingly stomped” by her.

Simply put, the villagers (or rather the male villagers) of This wish to recruit Elaina as a rival Grape-Stomping Maiden. Why don’t they just pick one of their own maidens? That’s never explained, though the women of the village are always in the background stewing ruefully (I imagine if they all agreed to withhold sex from their men, this childish nonsense would stop pretty quick!)

Elaina is given a charming red outfit to counter the green of Rosemary’s, but when she stops by the This side with a retinue of loyal That men carrying her on a litter, she most heartily laughs at Elaina’s “childish”, “thin” figure, deeming her unsuitable to lovingly stomp on grapes. That’s when Elaina’s confidence and competitive spirit kick into gear.

Technically, Rosemary is right: Elaina doesn’t lovingly stomp on the grapes…she hatefully stomps on them while screaming “DIE!”, as if she were stomping on Rosemary’s head. After a whole day of stomping, Elaina’s legs and feet are a wreck, but she only stomped enough grapes for maybe half a cask.

That’s when she becomes Witch Detective Elaina, thinking it fishy that That’s wine sells in so much higher numbers. Even if Rosemary stomped all day, every day (and she clearly doesn’t, since she had time to stop by This and trash talk them) she wouldn’t be able to stomp enough grapes. Elaina and the This Chief discover she’s sitting back and relaxing while all the men stomp the grapes at factory scale.

With Rosemary’s verbal barbs still stinging in Elaina’s side, she has a little revenge by tying up Rosemary and exposing the scam. But as she samples That’s wine for the first time, she admits it is indeed delicious. Then has another glass…then another, and before long, she’s drunk.

By this point the villagers of This and That have begun a grape-tossing fight, and when she’s hit in the grapey crossfire, she responds by launching a magical counterattack. Surely there are regulations against witching-while-intoxicated, but thankfully Elaina’s “grape bullets” only knock everyone out; no one is killed!

The morning after the grape fight, Elaina is gone, but the villagers of This and That eventually reconcile. The chief of This and Rosemary fall in love and marry. In the present-day where he’s telling the story to a kid, Rosemary is still stomping grapes, as beautiful as ever, and the grape-tossing festival is a tradition.

While Saya ended up essentially tearing down walls with her intense and heavy love, Elaina does so by getting lit and escalating an epic food fight. The grape maiden fetishism aspect is pretty gross all round, but both tales are lightweight, fun, and the visuals, as always, were beautifully executed, earning the episode an extra half-star.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Crow’s Episode 7 review is here!

Adachi & Shimamura – 06 – Throwing a Boomerang in a Chinese Dress

What is Christmas? What’s a date? What is it, exactly, Adachi really wants from Shimamura? Adachi doesn’t know, aside from the basics, and this is an episode in which that basic understanding is reinforced. Also, Adachi and Shimamura go on a Christmas date!

After getting the day off work, Adachi asks Hino what Shimamura likes, and she vaguely remembers something about fragrant tea, so they go shopping together. It’s the first time she hangs out one-on-one with Hino, and to their surprise, they spot Shimamura hanging out with Nagafuji.

Both Hino and Adachi feel lonely and a little jealous that their respective Number Ones would be alone with someone else, but as Adachi tells herself that night, it’s nothing to get so upset about. Nevertheless, she can’t help but pump herself up for a Christmas to Remember, even if she suspects unforgettable memories won’t be made just because it’s Christmas.

Adachi makes the adorable choice of wearing her work dress to the date, since Shimamura thought she looked cute in it. She wants to hurry up and hold her hand, but surprises Shimamura and jams her thumb. Shimamura touches Adachi’s lips and tells her if she wants to hold hands, just ask! So they do.

Off to the arcade they go, trying out air hockey instead of their usual ping pong, and immediately Shimamura’s competitive streak and distaste for losing rears its head, almost going so far as to accuse Adachi of hustling her. They follow that up with some fast food, while talking about what the future holds.

They may end up in different classes next year, but Adachi declares they should just go to class and meet up to hang out after school, like they’re doing now. Shimamura agrees, impressed by what an “honor student” Adachi has become.

Then Adachi gives Shimamura her gift—which was the very tea she wanted to try; good call, Hino!—and Adachi is surprised to learn that not only has Shimamura gotten her a gift in return, but the reason she was with Nagafuji is that they were picking out a gift for her (under the guise of it being for Shimamura’s little sis).

Adachi doesn’t care that the gift is silly—a boomerang and googles—the fact Shimamura gave her a gift is the best gift of all. She tries it out a few times in the park, but can’t quite get the hang of it. It gets colder, and Shimamura suggests they head inside…but Adachi realizes This Is Her Chance—and she may not get a better one—to tell Shimamura How She Feels.

She gets close—oh so close—to saying she likes her, a lot, but instead settles for something more cowardl-err, more pragmatic: she doesn’t just want to be friends, she wants to be Best Friends. Shimamura doesn’t quite get it, but salutes Adachi’s “ambition”.

So nothing truly dramatic happens just because it’s Chrismas…but I highly doubt Adachi will soon forget her memories of her date with Shimamura. It just comes down to whether best-friendship is all she wants. It seems to be for now; we’ll see if that remains true further down the road.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina – 06 – Truth is the Sword, Lies the Scabbard

Elaina’s next destination is an island city-state whose name has recently been changed to “Land of Truth-Tellers”. Their king has initiated a barrier around the whole of his domain in which no one can lie, either verbally or by writing. Elaina is weary of entering such a place but deems it worth the risk if it makes for a good story.

This being our ever-confident Elaina, she first tests the truth-telling effect by trying to say “I am not beautiful,” and later tries to write “I have a twisted personality”. Instead she ends up saying she is beautiful and writes that she’s pure of heart—both of which are the unvarnished truth.

Despite the seeming benefits of a society without lies, she finds the town quiet and oddly tense. She’s also approached by an unwashed young woman who asks non-verbally via a notepad if she’s the witch dispatched the United Magic Association. Again Elaina tells her the truth: she isn’t.

It’s when Elaina witnesses two young men fighting in the streets while others do nothing and watch that the problems with a lie-free society become clear: if everyone always says the truth, it’s much easier to end up in fights, which is why most people simply stay quiet. If you don’t have anything nice to say, etc.

But one witch decides to break up the lads’ fight mid-punch—Saya “the Charcoal Witch”, who is the UMA witch dispatched to the town! She’s so elated to see her beloved Elaina that her time-freezing spell dissipates and the lads punch each other square in the jaws. Elaina tries to take Saya’s extremely heavy feelings in stride.

Another effect of the truth barrier is that Saya, who is naturally quite the chatty person, will and does say everything rattling around in her mind, including all the things she wants to do with Elaina. But duty calls: she meets with the notepad woman, Eihemia the Quicksand Witch, who gives them the full situation.

When the King (with whom Eihemia was secretly infatuated) demanded she make his kingdom free of lies, she went all out to do so, locating a sword (which he’d later truthfully declare “lame”) powerful enough to serve as a vessel for the truth barrier’s magic. Unfortunately, in doing so Eihemia loses all of her magic and even her voice.

That means even though she did exactly what the king wanted, she ended up losing all the things that made her a useful member of his court, and she was banished from the palace. Had the episode wanted to go darker it could have explored what Eihemia has been forced to do to survive on the streets in a town with no lies, but it does not go there, which is probably for the best!

Her solution is clear: destroy the sword, and her magic and voice will be returned—as will the ability of the kingdom’s people to lie. Elaina and Saya get around having to write the truth by cleverly piecing together separate sentences then putting them together to gain access to the palace.

Once inside, they soon end up fighting off magical attacks from the king and his sword, one of which hits Saya square in the back and hurts like a bitch. When the king’s guards arrive, Elaina has Saya take care of them in the background while she reasons with the king.

The crux of her argument for destroying the sword: good people sometimes lie, while bad people will always find ways to bend the truth through the various loopholes in the barrier magic. To keep people from the little white lies we tell each other to get along every day will eventually be the kingdom’s undoing.

If truth is a sword, Elaina puts succinctly, lies are the scabbard that keep us from swinging that sword recklessly. Of course, scabbard in Japanese is apparently Saya, so Saya momentarily thinks Elaina called her name. Elaina then uses her broom to disarm the king and conjures a hammer to smash the sword to bits, thus lifting the curse of unchecked truth from his kingdom.

Eihemia’s voice and magic are restored, and she and the king reconcile when he agrees that some degree of lying and being lied to is necessary in any society. She returns to the court, and the king apologizes to his people. All’s well that ends well, and Saya gets paid for her trouble!

That turns out to be a good thing, since she had recently spend all of her money on matching dolphin necklaces for her and Elaina for when they crossed paths. Before heading back to UMA HQ, Saya takes her time tenderly putting the necklace on Elaina. Then the two pinky-swear to meet again someday.

This week was Elaina very nearly at its best. I for one don’t mind the darker stories like the one with the princess and dragon, but this was also great stuff; a feel-good fable-like high concept adventure that’s balanced by solid comedy. And of course, it is improved immeasurably by the return of the delightful Saya, voiced by Kurosawa Tomoyo, who brings so much effervescent vim and vigor to her characters.

Adachi & Shimamura – 05 – Running Towards Sparkly Things

Throughout the episode Adachi is on edge until she achieves her objective: ask Shimamura to hang out with her for Christmas. Because she knows it will sound like asking her out on a date (’cause, well, that’s what she’d be doing) and thus change the complexion relationship forever, she struggles to find both the right time to ask and the words to use.

Her first opportunity comes when she asks if she can study at Shimamura’s place. This means Shimamura turns down an invite from Hino and Nagafuji, whom we learn have grown pretty darn close themselves, as Nagafuji for all the world looks like she’s about to kiss Hino on the lips before moving to her forehead.

Up in Shimamura’s dusty study room, she and Adachi get under the kotatsu, and Shimamura calls for a break while the room heats up. Rather than ask what she needs to ask, Adachi instead asks what kind of kid Shimamura was. Her answer is that she was pretty normal; her hair was shorter and undyed, and she wasn’t as inhibited.

She then nods off, and Adachi leans in to almost kiss her before withdrawing, only to have her lap commandeered by Shimamura once she wakes back up. Shimamura doesn’t explain why she’s so comfortable placing her head in Adachi’s lap, and Adachi is far too happy about it to ask why—or about Christmas. She just enjoys the moment for what it is: pure bliss.

The second half of the episode is from Shimamura’s perspective, and she lists all the weird things about Adachi lately. She’s constantly staring at her, always seems like she’s keeping herself from saying or asking something, and even got a higher grade on her English test. That last one is neither here nor there, but it’s proof that Shimamura has had a positive influence on Adachi’s academics.

Shimamura determines if Adachi can’t get the words out, she’ll have to help her do so, taking her by the hand to the roof for some deep breaths and to ask straight up what she wants to talk about. Adachi blushes and says she’ll tell her “after giving it some thought” even though she’s thought of nothing else for days.

Adachi somewhat reminds Shimamura of another friend she had in primary school, who always hid behind her like a trusty shield unless they came across “something sparkly”, then ran to that. That was, perhaps, the first time Shimamura started to question the value of getting close to anyone.

Adachi ends up appearing at Shimamura’s door early in the morning before school. She feels Adachi’s face and brings her in to warm up and, hopefully, finally ask her what she wanted to ask. And at long last, Adachi powers through her crippling hesitation to ask, in almost too roundabout a way, if Shimamura will hang out with her on the 25th of the month. That’s right—she can’t even say “Christmas”!

When Shimamura considers the question, its phrasing, the manner in which Adachi struggled to say it and the redness in her face, she almost asks “why”, but stops herself, knowing it could well irreparably harm their present relationship. She’s apparently so jaded about meaningful bonds that even if she did wreck them, she can’t see herself putting in the necessary effort to repair it.

It’s only when Adachi senses Shimamura pondering her question that she rephrases it in a way that simultaneously fails to get her true feelings across and makes it possible for Shimamura to accept. Adachi says she wants to hang out with “someone” for Christmas, which Shimamura takes to mean “not me specifically, but I’ll do since I’m really her only friend”. Of course, we know Adachi doesn’t want to hang out with anyone else, just like she doesn’t want to kiss or hold hands with or lie in the lap of anyone else.

That said, once Shimamura accepts, she can’t help but see how goshdarn giddy it makes Adachi, as if a huge weight had been lifted from her shoulders. Is that really the reaction of someone for whom “anyone will do”? In her haste to start preparing their day, Adachi marches out of Shimamura’s house and bikes off without her, leaving Shimamura on the floor with her hand out yelling “Wait for li’l ol’ me!” in an uncharacteristic, old-timey way.

So yeah, these two aren’t quite on the same page, and at the moment Shimamura simply isn’t strongly considering the possibility of a romantic entanglement with Adachi in the near future. That said, if anyone can change Shimamura’s way of thinking about the matter, it’s Adachi. While her words continue to fail her, perhaps she can get the job done with her actions.

Adachi & Shimamura – 04 – The Joy of Being Patted on the Head

Shimamura calls Adachi to ask if she can do a sit-up. It’s a weird and random conversation, but who cares? They’re enjoying talking on the phone together; the content doesn’t matter. Then Shimamura goes to the gym with her mom and encounters Adachi’s mom talking about her daughter.

Shimamura can’t stop herself from speaking up for her friend, questioning whether her mom really knows what she’s talking about. Mirroring her own mom’s tendency to act younger than she is, Shimamura ends up challenging Adachi to a sauna duel to determine who is right.

While Adachi’s mom is initially hostile, she admits she doesn’t know what’s going through her kid’s head. She just wishes she did. In this, the two are alike. When asked for suggestions on how to be a better mom, Shimamura says she should just be normal: have dinner with her once in a while.

Adachi’s mom ends up doing just that, which Shimamura learns as she’s resting her head in Adachi’s lap. Turns out this was odd enough behavior from her mom for Adachi to be too anxious to taste the food her mom made. Shimamura snuggles closer to Adachi, who is demure. Then they do sit-ups!

Shimamura reaches out to Adachi to hang out with her and her friends at karaoke. Shimamura’s mom raised her not to be a burden to others, but it’s Adachi who feels she’ll affect the “harmony” of Shimamura’s three-girl group. Shimamura insists that won’t be the case, and Adachi agrees to the date.

When Adachi arrives on her bike and spots Shimamura’s cute outfit, the two look like a perfect couple. Shimamura’s other two friends are warm and friendly to Adachi, but things still feel “off” to her. She senses that while Shimamura is better at social situations, she doesn’t like them anymore than Adachi.

The two sing a beautiful duet and then prepare to head home, but Adachi offers to give Shimamura a ride on her bike, and Shimamura accepts. Adachi is blushing the whole trip, completely on top of the world to have Shimamura behind her, her hands on her shoulders.

Shimamura suggests a detour to a nearby playground and buys them drinks. Earlier, while underwater in the pool, the vivid aqua color reminded Shimamura of Adachi’s favorite brand mineral water, but the machine closest to them didn’t sell it.

When Shimamura finally draws close and asks Adachi if she has something she wants to talk about, Adachi is initially silent. After all, there isn’t just something she wants to say; a great number of things have piled up inside her, but she’s held them all back for fear of making things “weird” between them. Even so, something comes out: “I want you to pat my head.”

Adachi thinks she’s totally blown it, but then Shimamura pats her head! She pats it slowly and gently, and Adachi has never been happier. Shimamura again notes that Adachi likes to be coddled, and while that’s true, her little request shouldn’t be taken to mean she wants a Big Sis. She wants to be someone special to Shimamura…even if it’s weird.

That head-pat all but clinches it for Adachi: she must like her. Rather than let Shimamura toss her empty off-brand drink can, Adachi keeps it as a memento of that moment of clarity. If Shimamura ever ends up in that room, maybe she’ll see it, and understand. And maybe laugh, too…but good-naturedly!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Assault Lily: Bouquet – 04 – Assembling a Team

Concerned that Riri is letting their Schutzengel go to her head and slacking, and annoyed that Fumi blasted the contract in the paper (complete with their couple name “Yuri”), Yuyu tasks her pink-haired Schild with putting together a new legion. While she intends for Riri to form her own, Riri ends up recruiting for a legion that will include and be led by Yuyu.

While legions like Alfheim have been together since junior high, there are plenty of free agent Lilies for Riri and Fumi to choose from; it’s just that some, like Andou Tazusa, are hard to approach—though it helps if you have a kitty. Meanwhile, a bonded pair like Kuo Shenlin and Wang Yujia take Riri’s recruitment as an opportunity to clear the air.

The more Riri recruits, the more she learns how sought-after Kaede and Fumi are, and how lacking she seems by comparison. Riri’s problem is similar to Yujia’s—she’s got skills, but lacks confidence. Still, Kaede and Fumi don’t flaunt the fact other Legions want them; they’re right where they want to be: with Riri and Yuyu. Miriam von Gropius soon joins them, and the legion grows to five out of a required nine.

Shenlin and Yujia become the sixth and seventh, but only after the former puts the latter through her paces in an attempt to boost her confidence. She knows Riri will provide moral support as Yujia is ordered by Shenlin to target her with her sniper rifle, firing from a kilometer away.

When Shenlin reflects the tenth and final shot back, Yujia is able to parry, thus demonstrably ending the debate about her mettle when compared to her two sisters, who are still defending her homeland of Iceland.

Shenlin, who became the Lily she is due to strenuous hard work, simply wanted to remind a natural talent like Yujia to have faith in herself. That leaves just two slots remaining in Team Yuri—though it’s a good bet they’ll be filled by Andou Tazusa and Yoshimura Thi Mai.

Frankly, there’s not a whole lot to go on this week other than marveling at the sheer variety of Lilies, their hair colors and outfits, personality quirks, and abilities. In the characterization department, Assault Lily is concerned with quantity over quality, while its quality lies in the character, mechanical, combat, and environmental design, which is all top-notch. We’ll see how long those elements can carry the show.

Adachi & Shimamura – 03 – Chipping Away

Shimamura isn’t sure why Adachi suddenly ran away from her, but it looked to her like she had something to say but couldn’t say it. Unlike Adachi, who is increasingly obsessing over Shimamura in her inner thoughts, Shimamura is more introspective about herself, whether it’s the way she keeps “having regrets” or starting to “catch on to [her] lack of interest”.

Is Shimamura naturally just not interested in anything? Could Adachi be changing that part of her? When Adachi is absent for school and doesn’t answer her texts, Shimamura heads to her house. On the way, she meets the astronaut girl without the spacesuit, who thinks it’s “fate” that they keep meeting. Thankfully the spacegirl splits—I still honestly don’t know what her purpose is—and Shimamura’s unannounced visit is rewarded by seeing Adachi in her jammies.

Shimamura agrees to Adachi’s request to go out on Saturday—though Adachi’s original intent was to ask Shimamura to formally go out with her. Unfortunately the spacegirl is already with Shimamura when Adachi arrives, and proceeds to be a glittery blue-haired third wheel the whole time. Due to her little sister-ish size and demeanor, Shimamura can’t ignore the spacegirl’s attempts to grab her attention, which means Adachi gets less attention.

Moreover, the fact Shimamura so readily engages with the spacegirl makes it seem to Adachi that she’ll “take care” of anyone small and cute—including her—without thinking much of it. Adachi is thinking very much about Shimamura and Shimamura only, yet Shimamura is cognizant of everyone she spends time with.

That leads to a somewhat dark ending where she admits she allows “pieces” of herself to chip off in an attempt to keep herself “afloat”. These are the things she should be telling Adachi! I wish spacegirl would either explain her business with Shimamura or go away and give the main couple some space.

Assault Lily: Bouquet – 03 – Always Look Your Best

Riri is elated that Yuyu is officially her new Schutzengel, but Yuyu has no intention of going easy on her Schild, delivering no shortage of tough love in the training facility and continuing to be cold and aloof.

Riri also gets to watch the Alfheim legion work. The nine-lily team who work together to bring down a low-level Huge—basically the opposite of Yuyu’s go-it-alone strategy.

While bathing with Kaede an Fumi, Riri is approached by Alfheim members, who offer some explanation for why Yuyu is the way she is: in a battle two years ago her own Schutzengel was killed. She still haunts Yuyu, noting that she’s “scared” both for and of Riri, and thus quick to turn her away.

Eventually Riri manages to focus her Magie and parry her attack. Right afterward the pair are on duty, and Yuyu makes sure to fix Riri’s tussled hair and uniform: an Assault Lily must look her best on the battlefield.

When the Huge arrives, it is a Restored, a Huge that survived previous attacks and returned to its base for repairs. Its shell is lined with the broken CHARMs of dead Lilies, and Yuyu decides that Riri will sit this one out. She says it’s because she’ll be in the way, but really it’s to avoid a repeat of what happened with her Schutzengel.

You see, Yuyu’s “Rare Skill” is Lunatic Trancer, so called because it transforms her into a white-haired berserk killing machine who will fight friend or foe until her Magie is spent. Seeing the CHARMs of fallen Lilies triggers the skill, and Yuyu goes on an unfocused rampage.

Due to the threat she poses, none of the other on-duty freelance Lilies can lend aid, but once Riri learns the rest of Yuyu’s story—that she was initially suspected of harming her own Schutzengel while in Trancer mode—she decides that she’ll be the one to break her out of it.

Riri rushes in to meet Yuyu, but when they cross CHARMs a first and then a a second time, Riri holds firm, and their Magie touches through the blades. Yuyu dismisses herself as a despicable monster consumed by hatred, but Riri tells her she doesn’t care, she’s still her sister, and gives her a hug that pulls her out of her trance.

Together they finish off the Restored, which will be restored no more. Afterward, Yuyu takes Riri to the cemetery where her Schutzengel Kawazoe Misuzu is buried. Later, in the dark of her dorm, Yuyu remembers clearly when she came out of a trance to find she’d run Misuzu through with her blade, but even then her big sister urged her to forgive herself and move forward.

Her roommate Matsuri Hata comes in, turns on the lights, mentions that she heard Yuyu sortied, and says “good work”, Yuyu thanks her, which is apparently enough of a rarity for Hata to note that she can’t recall the last time Yuyu was so nice. Clearly, the Schutzengel is working out swimmingly so far for both her and Riri.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Adachi & Shimamura – 02 – Casting Your Line, Awaiting a Bite

Adachi starts out by saying Shimamura will “always probably just be Shimamura” in her heart, as we watch her fantasy of the two of them in pure white slips, about to kiss. Back in the real world, she introduces Shimamura to Chikama Yashiro, the tiny astronaut who claims to have come to Earth to find their “compatriot”.

I’m really not sure where the show is going with this little astronaut, but she does offer sage advice to Shimamura when she needs to hear it. With life, as with fishing, sometimes you don’t get a bite, but all you can do keep casting your line and hope for a bright future. Back at school, Adachi relaxes in Shimamura’s lap, and agrees to attend at least some classes so they can both be second-years next year.

Adachi believes she met Shimamura will give her a brighter future. She loves the peaceful way she feels around her, and works up the courage not just to call her pretty, but find more ways to spend time with her. Rather than play more ping pong, they go to the mall, share donuts (and indirect kisses), and hold hands while on a walk. But their quasi-date is interrupted by Chikama seeking sweets.

Adachi has another dream of being with Shimamura all in white and kissing her before waking up and wondering why she’s having these dreams. “It isn’t like that”, she insists as she bikes to school, only to suddenly brake hard when she envisions them kissing again. And even though she’s coy about telling Shimamura where she works, Shimamura finds out anyway when she and her family go to the restaurant where she waits tables while wearing a lovely blue Chinese dress.

Adachi comes to see herself as relying on and even wanting to monopolize Shimamura for herself, or at least wants to be put first in her eyes. Shimamura in turn seems willing to coddle and spoil her, but Adachi notes that she doesn’t seem to seek anything in return.

Even so, Adachi can’t help but ask if she can come to Shimamura’s house, and of course she’s welcomed with open…legs?! Yes, seeing Shimamura reclining on a bean bag compels Adachi to ask for something she thinks will make her seem like a “complete weirdo”: to sit between her legs. But again, Shimamura gladly accommodates her; her little sister sits like that all the time, after all.

Adachi, who doesn’t want to be thought of as a little sister, would probably be content to stay in that position and stare into Shimamura’s eyes until sundown. Unsure whether she’s merely thinking of confessing to her or actually saying the words, Adachi’s lips draw closer to Shimamura’s, on the cusp of making her dream a reality…

Alas, Shimamura asks if Adachi is okay since she’s blushing and not breathing right. So no, Adachi didn’t say she likes her out loud, and they clearly weren’t quite on the same page. Back home she’s quite frustrated by that, but the fact she got as far as she did means she shouldn’t assume Shimamura doesn’t feel or want the same things. She should keep casting her line and hoping for the best. She may get it, or not…but at least she’ll have tried.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Adachi and Shimamura – 01 (First Impressions) – Let’s All Skip Class and Play Ping Pong

Adachi Sakura and Shimamura Hougetsu, are friends and partners in crime, skipping class to play ping pong together. The way the ball is volleyed back and forth, the subtle tapping sound it makes when it bounces, and the way it sometimes misses the table and rolls away, is all pleasantly indicative of their delicate, tentative friendship, which seems to both of them like it could easily become more, if they let it.

They first met in that disused second floor of the gym, and even though neither school nor ping pong matters that much to either of them (this is not a stealth sports anime!), when they’re alone together, being bad, nothing else matters. Where they differ is that Shimamura has two friends in Hina and Nagafuji, but the two of them are closer than Shimamura is to either, and in any case she considers relationships with others to be akin to free diving (though the ping pong metaphor was right there…)

Adachi, on the other hand, has no other friends. No doubt that’s part of what makes Shimamura feel their bond is special. They didn’t grow up together, they found one another. So when she asks Adachi if she’d rather go to class or go home together, she knows Adachi will pick the latter. Shimamura rides with Adachi on her bike, and her house is out of the way, but she doesn’t care. It was a weird, but fun day.

Their little hideout is violated when Shimamura’s friends discover them playing ping pong, and regard Adachi wearily as a class-skipping delinquent. The next day Adachi doesn’t come to school at all, and Shimamura isn’t happy. She doesn’t want to share Adachi, nor does she want to subject her to Hino and Nagafuji, who seem somehow so much more superficial.

There’s a profundity to Shimamura and Adachi’s respective inner monologues about themselves and each other that keeps bringing them together, such that when Shimamura is dejected when she considers never seeing Adachi again, she happens to appear behind her on her bike, with the lunch they would have shared that day.

Adachi is glad Shimamura was alone, which makes Shimamura elated enough to fly around like an airplane. That elation gave her wings, and the courage to act silly for a while. She may not know Adachi the best, but she knows she wants less diving and struggling to breathe, more flying.

So begins a calm, quiet, highly introspective story of two girls gradually growing closer together as they try to figure out the lives of which we’re witness to slices. In fact, A&S is such a serene, almost mousey show, it threatens to be drowned out by the bombast of louder, flashier series this Fall. It has more fanservice than it needs, and I can’t begin to comprehend what’s up with that tiny astronaut, but I for one am glad to have it.

Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina – 02 – You’ll Never Fly Alone

While flying along on her broom during her travels, Elaina makes it a point to declare that even the “sun’s eyes” squint at the beauty and majesty of the lovely Ashen Witch, i.e. her! I like how Elaina isn’t a perfect goody-two-shoes but has a healthy ego that could curdle into arrogance if she’s not careful, but hasn’t yet. That confidence is both to be expected of the youngest Apprentice and full Witch ever, at at times, justified!

Her destination this week is the gorgeous, whimsical City of Mages, so-called because the non-magical are unable to reach it, as if Diagon Alley were a whole city. Instead of flying cars, witches dart hither and thither in the sky, and Full Witches like Elaina are idolized. Unfortunately her first encounter with a resident involves a mid-air collision with a novice who lost control of her broom.

Elaina repairs the damaged roof and the cut on the face of the girl, who introduces herself as Saya. She thanks and apologizes profusely to Elaina, insisting that she be allowed to do something to make up for the trouble she’s caused, but Elaina is content to continue on her journey, and bits Saya farewell—for all she knows, for good.

Of course, Elaina and Saya are fated to meet again. This happens when Elaina is roughly turned away from every other hotel in the city—a far cry from the fawning and deference she expected due to her full Witch status. It’s a fun echo of when none of the witches in her hometown would give her the time of day. However, Saya happens to work at the one hotel that will let her stay there, and Elaina asks for and receives a “nice witch discount”.

Turns out Elaina was turned away from the other hotels because her Witche’s brooch fell off and is now lost. After a fruitless search, she takes a relaxing bath…and Saya waltzes right into her room! It’s the first sign that Saya wants quite a bit more than just to make up for bumping into Elaina. She prostrates herself and begs Elaina to help train her to pass the Apprentice exams.

Saya shows Elaina a photo of her and her little sister, who came with her to the city but passed the exam before her and returned home. Since Elaina’s ego was bruised by getting kicked out of so many fancy hotels, she wants a win, and a boost to that ego. Impressed with Saya’s prostrating skills (an odd but sincere gesture from her home back east), Elaina agrees: while searching for her lost brooch, she’ll train Saya for a week.

It turns out to be a wonderfully equitable arrangement for both parties. Saya proves a quick study in both broom-flying skills, and while she’s lacking in magical attack focus and accuracy (and mushroom tolerance), Elaina’s very close attention is both appreciated and effective.

In return, Elaina gets to experience what it’s like to be a teacher like Flan was for her, and finds nurturing her junior to be extremely appealing and rewarding. While there’s nothing as intense as Elaina and Flan’s duel, there’s still plenty of lovely eye candy to enjoy throughout their training.

While searching on the roof where she landed for her brooch, Elaina spots a lady whom she pays to tell her what she saw the day of the collision. That night, Elaina lets Saya sleep in her bed with her, and Saya indicates how happy she is that, at least until her brooch is found and she continues her journey, they’ll be “together forever.” That’s when Elaina says she knows Saya stole her brooch and has been concealing it.

This was never about learning how to fly properly—Saya wouldn’t have been able to come to the city from far to the East if she weren’t a solid flyer—instead, but how Saya can’t “pin someone down” with “misguided methods” so they’ll remain with her. Ever since her sister left Saya has experienced crippling loneliness, which she hoped would end upon meeting Elaina (with whom her collision was intentional).

Seiyuu Kurosawa Tomoyo brings a beautiful vulnerability and comic expressiveness to Saya throughout the episode, and shows her equally solid dramatic chops in this scene as Saya breaks down. Hondo Kaede is just as effective as a consoling Elaina who, after delivering a needed forehead flick, tells Saya that being alone is an inevitable and necessary part of becoming a witch (like eating mushrooms).

Elaina felt lonely during her development, but she gradually gained the courage to fight alone, and so must Saya. Part of that means understanding that those she loves are always watching her, even if they’re not physically there. To that end, she gives Saya her spare hat, so that when the time comes that she’s lonely, she’ll remember Elaina’s words and her affection.

Six months later, Elaina is elsewhere in the world (looks like Venice…Hi Arte!) and reading this show’s equivalent of the Daily Prophet, an article in which reports that Saya finally passed the Apprentice exam, and announced that her next step is to go see “the traveler I love!” It’s an immensely sweet sentiment to end the episode, while almost assuring us that not only will Elaina and Saya meet again, but Saya could well become her apprentice.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t pick up on some of the yuri undertones to Saya’s interactions. While Elaina kept things platonic, it’s clear Saya is very much enamored of the Ashen Witch…and who can blame her? While Saya first tried to replace her little sister with Elaina, now that she’s advanced to the next stage of her magical life, Elaina is something else—a friend, mentor, and ideal for which to strive!

Our fellow anime lover Crow has also written on this episode; you read about it here!

Assault Lily: Bouquet – 02 – Yurigaoka Orientation

If last week was primarily a quick “hi” to the main players, a crash course in Huge combat, and the awakening of Riri’s CHARM, this week omits the Huge battle in favor of a more in-depth introduction to Riri’s classmates and Yurigaoka’s facilities, as well as the next small step in Riri and Yuyu’s Schutzengel pact.

As such this episode is heavy on exposition and slice-of-life, starting with Riri waking up. Her roommate Itou Shizu seems nice enough, though finds it weird that Riri sleeps while spooning her CHARM. When she’s hit on by Endou Araya in the bathroom, it’s not only clear that Riri is popular with the other girls, but in need of a measure of defense against unwanted advances.

Speaking of which, when Riri attempts to approach Yuyu to thank her for her help in both the recent and more distant past, her idol gives her the cold shoulder, not even deigning to speak to her. This is disheartening to Riri, though her other classmates insist Yuyu tends to be moody and “too sensitive” despite her hard exterior.

Riri finds comfort and friendship in Fumi and Kaede (who unlike Endou is looking for something more significant than a good time) as the three tour the academy and its grounds, including a tranquil foot bath with a gorgeous view of the sea. Yurigaoka isn’t just a place of learning and training, but a sanctuary as well as a means of the adults atoning for having to use young girls to fight the enemy.

It’s clear that like any university where youths are in close quarters, the academy is also a place where bonds are cultivated and people pair off. Since there’s no guys, that means same-sex relationships are the norm. Some are more overtly romantic than others, but they are all intimate, with the Schutzengel in particular being as much about senpai-kohai dynamics as sharing love.

Like “conventional” marriages and families, it’s about the future, but also about individual transformation. Riri is concerned that Yuyu has changed far too much since the first time they met, and wants to know why. Kaede is content to let take a swing at Yuyu, confident she’ll strike out and leave Riri running into her arms. But as CHARM-smith Mashima Moyu notes, learning more about Yuyu is all about talking to her personally, not asking others about her.

When Riri finally crosses paths with Yuyu again, it’s near the end of the day, in a dramatically-lit hallway. Flanked by Kaede and Fumi, Riri gets down to brass tacks: she wants to form a Schutzengel with Yuyu, and only Yuyu, who after all inspired her to become a Lily. Yuyu refuses, stating that such an agreement would reduce her tactical effectiveness.

This provokes Kaede into moving in to slap her, but Riri comes between them, again demonstrating her innate mobility and stealth, but also giving Yuyu an opening to slap Kaede first. Still, Kaede takes exception to Yuyu’s obsession with battle efficiency; a Schutzengel is about far more than that, and notes that a “pure girl” like Riri is actually the perfect match for a “fool” like her. To this, Yuyu surrenders, and calmly agrees to enter the pact to become Riri’s guardian angel.

After a bath, Riri returns to her dorm where Shizu is there to welcome and congratulate her on her first full day at Yurigaoka. Like Riri, we learned a lot about the Magie embued within CHARMS, as well as the spell runes within either forged metal or rifled gun barrels, and how both Lilies and Huge rely on Magie for their power, albeit in different ways.

The reason for Yuyu’s present troubled state remains a mystery to Riri that she’ll hope to understand the more they hang out and grow closer. That said, Yuyu gave in awfully easily, and while she warns Riri not to regret forming a Schutzengel  with her, she privately expects that Riri will regret it. She’s banking on it, in fact.

In her darkened dorm, her silver-haired senpai talks to her, but as we haven’t seen her interact with anyone, she could be a ghost. This would certainly explain Yuyu’s preference for fighting alone, especially if she blames herself for her guardian angel’s death.