Shoujo-tachi 11-finale, Dagashi 10-11, Phantom 12

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Shoujo-tachi wo kouya o Mezasu 11 begins by having Kuroda’s brother thanking the gang for making the game to help him pay off his debts, to which everyone, including Bunta, goes “Hahh?!” and walks out. Everyone mopes for a quarter of the episode, then, predictably, dully, they all come back because finishing the game has become important to them. Yuuki scolds Kuroda, and Andou slaps her–that’s all the punishment she got for lying to them. Anyway, it’s the usual crunch-time montage after that, though the nice use of background music enhanced the race to the train station and almost made burning a CD seem exciting. Next week they’ll have to defeat Typhoon, unless it’s a longer series.

Yay,
Yay,

Nope, it finished in twelve episodes, in uninspiring fashion. They win, because the competition was set for day one, for units sold, and it was cheaper. But a win’s a win. We learn this early in the episode so there’s plenty of time to waste with celebratory eating, and discussing what to do next. We even have two scenes with Kuroda’s brother when one would have sufficed. The only interesting bit was Kuroda believing that Taiga, the rival game, might have a longer shelf-life because it has more depth, perhaps believing the idiocy that dark works of art are more profound than lighter ones. Anyway, I’m glad it’s wrapped up neatly; now I can forget about it. Apart from a couple of good moments here and there, and attempts at making THIS dull work more profound with its “wasteland” metaphor (used to death this episode), there wasn’t much to watch. I’d rather play their game.

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Dagashi Kashi 10 must be an important episode because it doesn’t break into two or three stories but tells only one–actually, I suppose you could argue that this is an actual story arc now: Hotaru’s mouth ulcer from last week is worse! In fact, it looks terrible and I wonder why she hasn’t seen a doctor, apart from being out of her mind. I wonder if the show wants to send a message that too much dagashi can make you sick. If so, it’s a pretty good way to do it. Sadly, being sick isn’t very dramatic, and the ways they tried to add drama didn’t work until the end, when Hotaru REALLY goes crazy. She won’t tell why she refuses dagashi, and Kokonotsu doesn’t do his reputation any favors by trying to coax her with some.

Saya retells Hotaru's heroic backstory from ep1.
Saya retells Hotaru’s heroic backstory from ep1.

But it’s all over by episode 11. No sign of a mouth ulcer. Instead we learn more about why Hotaru’s headhunting You, though I ought to say that the way he eats into the profits I wonder if it’s a good idea. How DOES that shop stay open, anyway, or Candy Store’s in that other show? No one ever buys anything. But we do learn about cola gum and it has a lot of Saya. The second half is all about waiting for the train in the heat and sucking kombu. Oh, and a fascinating history lesson about how Perry managed to open Japan. But there’s no Saya so it gets docked a point. On the other hand, it was such a relief watching this episode after the Shoujo-tachi finale. It’s just fun all the way through, the way many shows don’t know how to be.

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Musaigen no Phantom World 12 starts by showing the team at work taking down a dual-phantom affair, showing their splendid teamwork (meaning they all take their turns and help), and thus setting us up for some downfall. Sure enough, there’s a new phantom in town who takes on a sexy vampiress look (though its victims don’t seem to remember this very important fact) and steals powers away with a kiss. Haruhiko et al almost capture it but it escapes, maybe, so everyone’s on edge. Then the show does a left turn.

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We figure early on that it’s not really Haruhiko’s mom, well, the moment Ruru gets suspicious. So we wait for the unraveling while Haruhiko gets used to having a parent around who likes to ask him which of the girls he likes–in front of the girls. When it comes it’s a bit of a letdown. Mai gets a phone call and that’s it. While we do have some issues for the finale, like will Haruhiko get his powers back, will he reconcile with his unpossessed mom, what the deal is with Enigma, and will Ruru wake up, once again if it wasn’t for KyoAni’s usual brilliant animation and direction this would be a pretty lifeless episode–again.

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Dagashi 9, Shoujo-tachi 10, Phantom World 11, Teekyuu 80

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Dagashi Kashi 9 is one of the better ones. The first one, concerning wata-pachi, brings up the idea that foods that bring you pain can be enjoyable (Hotaru has a mouth ulcer). Actually, they bring up a different issue, that foods that you should not eat are tastier for that reason, but watching the pleasurable pain Hotaru experiences (livened up with a mini-drama) makes me think they were going for that point, too. Then it’s on to Lucky-choco droppings, and a very tasteful fantasy Hotaru and Saya conjure up to eat a candy that comes out of an animal’s ass.

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There follow two more dagashi, Sakura Daikon, which I can’t believe kids like, and prompts Kansai talk from Hotaru because, apparently, you can’t get it there, and boob, sorry, bomb ice cream, both sequences showing us once again that Hotaru is out of her mind. Really, she makes almost no sense at all during much of it. Her onlookers, Saya and Hotaru, are usually too stunned to do anything but play along; really, was Saya really that deterred by those toy frogs? No! She wanted to see what Hotaru would do next.

One of the more disgusting metaphors for creativity I've heard.
One of the weirder metaphors for creativity I’ve heard.

Shoujo tachi wa Kouya o Mezasu 10, not content to give us a new story arc, gives us two. One of them will distract our gang from the other. First, we meet Mitsuteru, and more importantly, Taiko, from Typhoon, a professional and highly-polished studio, who see Bunta’s demo and are impressed enough to try and lure him (and Yuki and Andou) away to join Typhoon and be miserable. They do this by posing as fellow amateur nerds and arrange a meetup. Why production-savvy Kuroda didn’t recognize the name or reputation before is not explained. So we now got a competition with consequences that would never make it in the real world. As annoying as all this is, the appearance of Kuroda’s brother, Iwao, and the discovery that their game is intended to pay off his debts, is even worse. How much money did they expect to make, anyway?

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After weeks of dull predictability and forced emotions, Musaigen no Phantom World 11 finally takes this formula and makes it work. Turning Haruhiku into a child wasn’t all that clever (though going to a grade school was a nice touch), turning him into something of a brat was a little better, but it took a nice little scene where he and Mai, his temporary mom, bonded a little over both being alone to lift the show above its normal level. For one thing, Mai got a chance to show her sweet, protective side. Also, need I say that the show looked even better than usual, not only the battle at the end, but the playing in the park scene.

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Teekyuu! 80 has Yuri out with a cold, so naturally the other girls go visit her and make trouble. And Kanae is the second show this post to work the Kansai-ben thing, though this episode is actually two weeks old. They’re still not at full steam, GPS of 3.14, but it’s not bad, and they actually worked in a beat gag this week. I didn’t think this show was capable of that. This show can do ANYTHING!

KonoSuba 8, Koyomimonogatari 8-9, Dagashi 8, Shoujo-tachi 9

Can't you see how evil she is?
Can’t you see how evil she is?

KonoSuba 8 … I don’t know what the hell happened. What were all those dolls? Why was Aqua behind the door? And you know, it didn’t matter much. Our heroes are sent to exorcise a bunch of spirits by Wiz, a nice but hapless servant of the demon king. There’s lots of running around in fear (those dolls WERE kind of scary) and jokes about peeing. It could have been dismal but once again the direction and voice-actor work kept it afloat. Also, I’m happy to see that Kazuma got another skill and they have a decent place to live now. Living in that cold barn all this time was depressing to watch.

Ougi's up to something again.
Ougi’s up to something again.

Koyomimonogatari 8 has Ougi and Araragi going up a mountain to visit a ruined shrine, and the big question this week is: how was it moved there? It used to be somewhere else, and its current presence has stuck things out of balance (mostly corrected by Shinobu, I believe), but that’s not really important. The answer, or punch line, as Araragi likes to say, comes from Sengoku, pre-snake form. I was going to ask “why her?” but it just occurred to me that Ougi and Araragi had talked about snakes before. But this scene happens before Sengoku’s troubles … Oh, well, call it foreshadowing.

This is an ancient and feared vampire, once worshipped as a god.
This is an ancient and feared vampire, once worshipped as a god.

Episode 9 is livelier thanks to no creepy Ougi but rather Shinobu. Twelve minutes, more or less, on donuts, with hints of trust and love thrown in. Very sweet, and it made me hungry for donuts. What’s more, we had a Dagashi Kashi-type lesson about donut holes, and I learned what a torus is. The answer (possibly, because Araragi ate the evidence) comes to us again from Hanekawa, who’s on a beach with a suitcase and her two-tone hair, so late in the chronology.

Saya steals the scene.
Saya steals the scene.

Dagashi Kashi 8 brings us three stories and more things I didn’t know about. The first, where Tou tells scary stories taken from Super Scary Story Gum and Kokonotsu pokes holes in their logic, is pleasant enough, especially with Saya’s scared faces. Also, I like typhoon stories even if it’s just people sitting around telling scary stories. The second one … Kendama isn’t a dagashi, but it’s arguably the most successful story of the three, because Saya shows up and is cool. I think I’m developing a thing for Saya … No Saya in part three, so it’s the weakest, besides, I didn’t get the fortune telling concept. But it had the episode’s best weird moment, when a fantasy Tou as girl meets a handsome Hotaru as boy, with those same crazy eyes of hers. That and the crab.

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Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya o Mezasu 9 gives Yuka another crisis, even though she had one earlier with the unrequited love business. Considering how confident and genki she is normally, I was happy that her crisis wasn’t that she fucked up all the time (just a little–rookie jitters in the audio booth) or outright sucked. No, she was good from the start, just not good enough by her standards, and everyone else has been trying so hard … After that it was just a matter of coaxing her back into the booth and set up the next crisis, either to do with Koruda’s brother, whoever he is, or Kai because being the organizer is not very interesting unless you get a show like Shirobako, which this isn’t.

Boku Dake, Phantom World, Shoujo-Tachi 8, Komugi-chan 7

Creepier than Kenya thinks ...
Creepier than Kenya thinks …

Boku Dake ga Inai Machi 8 starts with a bit of terror, and a conundrum. The killer enters the bus. Kayo is too terrified to escape, but all the killer does is kick a box, dumps a backpack full of incriminating things … and leaves without opening the curtain. The only thing I can think of is that he intended for the items to be found, a lure for Satoru, perhaps. It’s almost as if the killer knows about Satoru’s ability and past and is messing with him somehow. After that, the kids wisely decide to move Kayo elsewhere, and we’re reminded that only Satoru knows about the murders-to-be. The others simply think they’re helping out a classmate in trouble.

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So no terror this week, though the happiness that comes later feels like we’re being set up for it. Satoru decides on plan B, basically take Kayo to his mom. He knows she knows pretty much everything–even if he’s 29 he’s something of a guileless one, and now he’s in a 10 year-old body and it’s his mom we’re talking about. Anyway, he guesses right, and we get a sweet sequence of events where Kayo, maybe for the first time in her life, is, er, mothered. A hand is raised, Kayo expects a hit, and instead gets a pat on the head. A bath with tickling, a night light, a delicious breakfast. It was hard not to get emotional when it got too much for her. As for the terror, maybe next week, but first we have a confrontation to deal with.

The characters react in horror to another weak story.
The characters react in horror to another weak story.

Musaigen no Phantom World 8 … do I really have to? Not only do we get ridiculous fanservice, we get unexplained moments like why the hell Haruchiko was the one painting Mai’s butt, or what happened to the other students in what started as a school-wide event of taking down the monkey, and why sneaking up to it in a horse costume was ever considered to be a good idea. Even Cthulu was lame. And explaining it away as using Abramelin’s finger, as described in scene one is technically dramatically okay but a cheap way out. Well, the little monkeys were cute.

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Shoujo-Tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu 8 has Bunta in a dull writers-lockdown episode. The usual: he complains, tries to escape a couple times, buckles down and makes the deadline. Nothing in it works terribly well, and I’m trying to figure out why. Maybe it’s that we don’t know enough about the script, the problems with it, or even the deadline. It’s all vague. And if he does rush and finish it won’t the others have to proofread and complain about it and lock him down again? If we knew the exact starting and finishing times were, or how much he had to go, I would have felt more excited, and “You have to write 66 bytes a second” doesn’t help, it just makes things seem hopeless. Well, it’s done. Next week I guess it will be pressure on Yuuka for a change.

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Nurse WItch Komugi-chan R 7 brings us very little. Kokona thinks she needs a gimmick to advance to advance as an idol and so tries a lot of stupid ones, only to be told by Tsukasa and Kokona (early in the episode) that the best trait for her would come from her natural strengths, and those are her dedication and work ethic, pretty dull traits for an idol, I would say. She should have stuck with the belly button. Or she could use her magical-girl sadism; that would work too. The show throws us just enough goofiness (see screenshot above) to keep it from being a total loss.

Mad catch-up: KonoSuba, Phantom World, Haruchika, Shoujo-Tachi

He pretty much deserved that.
He pretty much deserved that.

Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! 5 has a first part that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Aqua wants a dangerous quest, so they stick her in a cage and put her in a lake to purify it, never mind about the alligators. When the alligators show up the others just stand around and watch. Okay, she’s safe in the cage, maybe give her some support other than shouting encouragement. The second half is far better. We meet Kyouya, a guy who Aqua had sent to the land to be a hero, in her previous job. Trouble is, the guy takes himself seriously and because his magic sword does his fighting for him, overinflates his abilities, and means to rescue Aqua from the losers she actually chooses to hang out with. Nice contrast with Kazuma, who’s not a narcissistic romanticist but an experienced realist, who worked his way up.

The EPIC BATTLE rages.
The EPIC BATTLE rages.

With #6 we finish a major story arc in triumph. I didn’t even know we were IN a big story arc, but the series treats it as one anyway. Basically, the demon general, Verdian, comes back because Megumin’s still been exploding at his castle, and there is a great, epic battle where everyone, including Verdian, gets to show themselves at their bravest and goofiest, while at home I laughed a lot. Mostly what made me laugh were the replies and asides (usually Kazuma’s, but the girls have good moments too), not the battle. I figured early on what Kazuma would have to steal to weaken Verdian. And so it ends in triumph and some closure that we didn’t really expect, or need, but it was a nice moment.

Another EPIC BATTLE rages.
Another EPIC BATTLE rages.

In Musaigen no Phantom World 6 we visit another fantasy land, this on in Kurumi’s head, and it’s the usual fluffy-fluffy world you get with adult concepts on what goes on in little girls’ heads. And apart from the number of bears in it, it’s boring as hell, but cute. I did like the magic rake weapon she had–a nice connection to meeting the girls in the sandbox, but damn, I wish the stories in this show were more interesting.

Nyan.
Nyan.

And ep 7 is little better. Everyone starts turning into cats (and for the longest time, no one notices), and it’s traced to a phantom in an abandoned mansion that just happens to be near the school. I know I have a viewer’s mindset, but it seems to obvious that a place so close, formerly a haven for stray cats and cat lovers, would have something to do with this catness everyone was getting, especially since these people are supposed to be investigating phantoms. I hate this show’s simplemindedness sometimes, and I say this about an episode that was tossing around physics paradoxes and questions of human observation of phenomena. On the other hand, the weird images the kids all get when prowling around the mansion worked very well, subtle at first, then getting crazier and crazier. Stuff like that is what keeps me from dropping this show.

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Haruchika 6 goes off the show’s usual path, which is a good thing. There’s a stealth clarinet player hanging around, and it looks like another trouble-student-gets-their-problem-solve-and-joins-the-band type of story, and Naoko does have her problems. Her mother left, her father’s family are assholes. So she turned to music, but she’s really good and probably doesn’t want to join a batch of beginners. But it turns out she’s also possibly going deaf (how they deduce this fact is Haruto’s weekly pulling answers out of his ass event). So now we don’t know where the episode is going. They have a decent scene where Naoko honestly assesses the band’s chances at the contest, a nice quick bit about following the difficult road you choose, and then Naoko brings up ANOTHER troubled student before saying she can’t join herself. Nice of her, when they can’t solve her problem, to provide future plot fodder before she goes.

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In episode 7 it solves a mystery even though there really isn’t one. I mean, who cares who the geezers are on that radio show, or where they’re broadcasting from? As for Aso, the weird geology girl, discovering the location should change nothing. In fact, I’m trying to figure out what the people in the episode were trying to do. The SC pres wanted Aso to come in to discuss giving her club’s budget to the Brass Band club. No one has any objection to it, so why not just do it? So the story becomes tracking down Aso, ruined by her just showing up, so it becomes trying to get Kaiyu back at school, which he seems perfectly happy to do now. The whole affair seems pointless. Nonetheless, I think it’s one of the series’ best episodes. I especially liked the casual way everyone listened and occasionally talked back to the talk show. Also, there was no futile attempt at tearjerking. So even though little added up, I enjoyed it more than usual.

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First, for Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu 6, we get a self-proclaimed fanservice episode. This isn’t Saekano; I don’t know if this series needs to go all meta on itself, but they do it anyway, at least for this episode. So we get the usual beach scenes and Kuroda trying to recreate some of the famous tropes for “research,” even though the episode did them earlier. We also get Yuka blowing up (in her cute genki way) at Bunta for paying more attention to Kuroda than to her, officially laying foundations for the next story arc. You can’t blame her for getting frustrated I guess; she’s been given very little to do not only as a member of the production team but as a character in the series. There. I just helped the show get more meta.

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… Moving on to #7, and the next story arc was taken care of in about ten minutes. In order to both observe, and as a change of pace, Bunta and Yuka go on a date. Earlier in the episode the gang were trying out all sorts of elaborate confession scenarios, all of them a little twisted so fun to watch, Yuka actually does get to confess to Bunta, laughing it off as “not really,” a confession technique just as effective as the others, though it doesn’t do much in terms of the story. Nevertheless, it cheers up Yuka; she’s her usual happy-genki self at the end, and that’s that. Next it’s lockdown time for Bunta.

Fours and fives: Haruchika, Shoujo-tachi, Dagashi

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Haruchika can annoy me a lot, and one reason is know-it-all Haruta.  Happily, episode four introduced us to one of his terrifying older sisters, Minami who knocks him down a few pegs.  Unfortunately, we still have to witness his boy genius act, this time involving a so-called haunted apartment… which leads me to my next beef.  Haruta isn’t one to be frightened off by a ghost story, so why didn’t he just agree to take the apartment from the start?  Well, I guess it would have ruined the christmas miracle timing, but you could shift things about.  Second, who was putting the money in the slot?  The eccentric (I’d say perverse) uncle?  But he died.  I must have missed something, but if I did it’s because I was beyond caring in the first place.

You know, if you google elephant's breath you get a lot of hits.
You know, if you google elephant’s breath you get a lot of hits.

As for #5, Haruta continued to pull clues out of his ass to show that the old man wasn’t in San Francisco or Chicago in 1966, but had gone off to fight in Vietnam.  Well, maybe not out of his ass, but it’s rather like the other episodes–the clues and evidence are tenuous and could be seen in other ways.  I’m more interested in why the old man went to Vietnam in the first place.  Was he actually conscripted?  Did he volunteer?  I can’t see the former happening to a Japanese citizen (correct me if I’m wrong) no matter what kind of visa he had, and if the latter–Why?  That’s a far more interesting question to me than the silly talk about colors.

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Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu 4 flings a couple uninteresting minor crises at us.  Bunta can’t get any words out, get some inspiration by making the story less weird, writes a script that’s “pretty good,” (words of doom to him), gets another block, talks to a successful game writer who Kuroda just happens to know, who tells him to stick his butt in a chair and sweat it out–rule #1 for writing, and that’s that.  The other one, Yuuki-chan overworking herself, is less interesting.  I was more worried about the game’s schedule than her, sorry Yuki.  But it’s all good after she collapses.  And so the production moves on in a rather dull way, which is how it is in reality, I expect.

A scene that has nothing to do with anything.
A scene that has nothing to do with anything.

#5 squanders one of the better sources of conflict, Andou vs. Kuroda.  Andou started making unauthorized changes to Bunta’s script and Yuuki’s art, she gets called out on it, has a brief confrontation with Kuroda, and walks out.  Naturally Bunta “reels” her back in after a bewildering sequence on her fishing boat which had nothing to do with anything.  Why did they make it so dramatic?  Was it to show how it affected Andou as a child?  Nah.  Was it to fill time with a silly adventure of the raging sea?  Yeah.  They talk a bit about it afterwards but we saw nothing that suggested a change of heart from her.  I guess, like most shows, they have to introduce each character using a crisis.  The loud girl will be next, after next week’s beach episode, another staple.
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Dagashi Kashi 4’s first half, in which we learn all about the joys of funashi (yet another treat I’ve probably seen in stores here hundreds of times and never thought to buy), including a blindfold test with some erotic overtones.  Once again, the show manages to entertain me with only one situation thanks to the voice actors’ talents and the education I’m getting, that and the erotic overtones.  The second half is less successful, but goofier.  Kokonatsu and Hotaru are so involved in this concept of # meters per Glico Caramel that when they run out it turns to a heroic death scene.  Unfortunately that bit was dull.  They should have dumped it and come up with another box.  Gonna look for those caramels tomorrow.

Hotaru's gambling addiction gets worse.
Hotaru’s gambling addiction gets worse.

And episode 5 brings us some unpleasant vices, the first being bottle ramune powder.  Hotaru and You have been sneaking it instead of selling it.  And like in every episode, we learn all the strange ways you can consume the stuff.  As for me, I never liked the powdered candy when I was a boy …  The best part were Hotaru’s declarations of an addict in denial: “It’s perfectly safe.  It’s not addictive at all!”  We also witness gambling and quick-cash schemes thanks to Yatta Men and Sour Grapes candy.  Trying to remember if we’ve had gambling in the show before.  We’ve had lots of challenges and contests …  Mixed in the middle is a predictable Youtube video story where we learn about Baby Star Ramen, rescued by Kokonatsu’s passion.

Shoujo Tachi 2-3, Boku Dake 3

Don't we all.
Don’t we all.

Shoujo-tachi wa kyouya wo Mezasu 2 gathers the other talents to create Kuroda’s game. Didn’t take the long. Bunta is told to go out and recruit, and after some failures (characters we won’t see again) he enlists his friends Yuuka (Who’s interested in voice acting) and Kai, who has no special talents so will be a gopher. Best moment of the episode. After going all puppy-dog and pathetic about his desire to help, Kai remembers a painful love-loss and goes nearly psycho. Surely Yuuka, who’s always with him, knew about this side of him, right? Apparently not. After that they gang up and frighten off a talented artist, but they get her back. Yuuki, the programmer, seems to have an unpleasant past with Kuroda, but they’re saving that story for later. Busy episode. I figured it’d be one new talent at a time …

I learned a new word.
I learned a new word.

In episode 3 they all go on a training camp of sorts, to do some of the typical bishoujo game (and anime) stuff, and we tag along until the show gets tired of that premise and creates a more interesting falling-out with Andou, who says what needs to be said: why the hell can’t this be fun to do? Kuroda’s answer, that too many cooks, etc, is a sensible one, but she’s been so pathetically single-minded about this project that I would have a hard time following her. She’s also the dullest character of the lot. Interesting that Buntarou seemed to be taking on more of the leadership role this week, maybe for that reason. But do you expect us to believe that Buntarou would leave the camp, take the train back to Akihabara, and fetch Andou back? How much time did they spend at the camp, anyway?

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What stand out for me in Boku Dake ga Inai Machi 3, apart from the thought that Yashiro might be in on this, is the thought that in a way, he already is. That mysterious chat he’s having with Kenya at the end could mean a lot of things (if this is a weaker show than I suspect, they both might be part of the conspiracy). If he’s just a concerned homeroom teacher, than the fact that he hasn’t been more proactive in helping Kayo makes him as bad as the rest. The show is unclear about Satoru’s thoughts about Yashiro during their conversation, the grown-up him takes it as routine; we’ll never know what Satoru the boy thinks. Then there’s the scene where he sees the battered Kayo in the shed, and her mother shows up. Satoru can only watch Kayo being led away (after lying, another touch-point in that theme). In both situations Satoru is powerless, still a boy, unable to find an adult that can actually help. He shows some rage there, but not with Yashiro … However, Kayo’s rescue in the lunch money scandal and the scene with the foxes were both nice. He says he was alone when the foxes appeared the first time, suggesting that while he’s powerless to change things abruptly, he can maybe do little things to alter this horrible timeline.