Finales: Maria, Yuri Kuma, Koufuku Graffiti

Maria the Virgin Witch finishes nicely, with me scratching my head.

Michael's got to go through Joseph AND Ezekiel, not that he can't.
Michael’s got to go through Joseph AND Ezekiel, not that he can’t.

The witches face off against Michael, in spite of Maria’s protests, and are easily beaten.  Then Michael gets to the important matter, what to do with Maria, who, by the way, hasn’t backed down an inch.  Neither has Joseph or Ezekiel.  Michael is confused by this loyalty, so he shows up on the ground and interviews everyone around who knows her.  Funny that the regular folk treat it like a normal thing while the monks freak out, Bernard so much so that he tries to strangle Michael … bad idea.  And it’s a shame, because he had become a crazy scholar, and the world needs more of them.  So, after Michael does what he should have done earlier, i.e., check out the scene on the ground, he decides to forgive Maria, even calling her part of the natural law on earth.  Off he goes, and everyone’s happy.

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I don’t know about the interviews.  Surely Michael ought to know how everyone feels already.  If not, it’s proof that the heavens are too distant from the world and have no business ruling it.  Of course, others, especially Viv, have said just that to him and it didn’t make a difference.  But there are other things that I can’t figure out, too.  If Maria is considered part of the natural law on earth, that means she wasn’t before.  Wouldn’t the heavens really hate having her and the other witches around?  Why didn’t they wipe then out a long time ago?  Maybe they can’t?  They’re not omnipotent?  Or maybe the main God is as distant from the angels as the angels are to us on earth.

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Frankly, I kind of wish the show had explored Bernard’s theories a bit farther; while I’m not a theological scholar or even close to one, I think I recognize Bernard’s line of thinking somewhere.  Too bad Micheal showing up kind of blew his theories out of the water.  No wonder he tried to strangle him.  And along more practical lines, is Maria going to marry Joseph, lose her virginity, and thus her powers?  I can’t imagine such a headstrong, flamboyant character settling down to being just a farmwife.  Well, I could go on forever with questions and speculations.  In that sense, the show was very successful.  I can’t speak for veracity, but it was interesting to take a Japanese take on western history, especially such a confusing time.  But the series also felt too busy, juggling too many theme and plot-balls in the air.  It was directed and paced well, but sometimes it felt like too much.  Still, not the usual anime series we see on TV, and I’m grateful for that.

 

Of course you do, Maria.
Of course you do, Maria.

Yuri Kuma Arashi‘s finale is so weird that I’m not going to bother with most of it.

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Basically, the reason Kureha was on trial by Judgemens was that she had wanted Ginko turned into a girl, so they couldn’t exclude her.  A sin of pride.  And by the end of the show she had seen the error of her ways, and instead wished to become a bear instead.  This takes some time to get to, as we have the current situation to sort of work out.  Ginko is facing a firing squad, saying she never loved Kureha, she just wanted to eat her, gao-gao, and Kureha seeing through her lies, while the girls with guns watch, aghast.  Not sure why, but her appeal breaks her handcuffs, and Kumalia herself floats down from the heavens.

Huh?  HUH?
Kumalia, finally we … Huh? HUH?

My brain broke a little there, but earlier Kureha had mentioned that Sumika had brought love back to her life.  Maybe that was the trigger.  Speaking of triggers, after the bears are reunited, the exclusion girls fire, and it’s a bit of a mystery after that.  Kureha and Ginko are presumably in some yuri-bear-la-la land, we see Lulu and that little prince alive, happily reading the storybook, and one of the exclusion girls walks out and befriends that bear whose name I forget.
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I suppose it’s a happy ending, but it feels like an ending that the afflicted tell each other to feel better about their situation.  “They’re together in heaven” and all that.   But the situation between humans and bears, or girls and girls, hasn’t changed one bit in that world.  Well, if the series was meant to be a statement about society’s attitudes to those “who stand out,” it carried other things with it, such as love, of course, and friendship and forgiveness.  Kunihiko Ikuhara likes to pack in as many images and themes as he can in his works, so to distill it to one theme feels wrong.  On the whole, this series felt like “Penguindrum-lite,” inevitable since it was only twelve episodes.  It feels slighter, fewer important characters and plotlines to follow, but with all the weird imagery you’d expect.  But, like Penguindrum, it tired me out by the end.  Twelve episodes is enough.

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After the theological riddles of Maria and the weird images of Yuri Kuma, it’s a relief to finish the season with its lightest yet most fattening show.  Koufuku Graffiti‘s finale is one of the livelier ones.  Ryou and Kirin right off the bat get accepted into the school they want, and that keeps things interesting for a few minutes.  Ryou’s memories of her grandma and the school she’s graduating from drag it down a bit, but Kirin shows up out of the blue and gets things moving again.  The main point to the story is that Kirin will be moving into Ryou’s home to go to high school, but nobody told Ryou.  It’s not a serious crisis; once she gets over the shock of it she’s happy with the idea.  As for the food, it’s yellowtail simmered in daikon radish, grandma’s specialty (granny’s picture keeps changing this episode), also more cutlet sandwiches (with shrimp), and when everyone comes to help Kirin move, we get Kirin’s mom’s famous veggie stir-fry, the only thing she can cook, and it’s as delicious as everything else, because they’re eating it together.  Lovely final moment.

You know the meal they're going to eat later is going to be delicious.
You know the meal they’re going to eat later is going to be delicious.

Nice series overall; it made me happy, which was the series’ only intent.  My only disappointment is that these two art-school girls aren’t moving to an apartment building across the street from the school, where they meet, well, you know.  Now that Hiro’s graduated, the other girls will need someone to cook for them.

One more of Kirin, in your face.
One more of Kirin, in your face.
And one more of Ryou, sort-of summing up the show for us.
And one more of Ryou, sort-of summing up the show for us.

KanColle finale, Yuri Kuma 11, Koufuku 10-11

Kantai Collection ends pretty much the way we expected.

You pretty much knew Fubuki would show up in the nick of time.
You pretty much knew Fubuki would show up in the nick of time.

Akagi is about to get sunk by some aerial monsters but Fubuki shows up just in time. She and her team kick some butt briefly, until another bad guy shows up, so more good guys show up, and more bad guys show up, and while we’re trying not to think about the incredible coinkidink it all is, all these girls showing up at just the right moment, spouting trademark lines, not to mention torpedoes and cannon shells, we actually get an answer. The whole thing was a sneaky trick, a ruse to fool either the bad guys or fate. Not sure which. And so it ends happily and it’s peacetime, and the girls get scuttled (not really).

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I wish they had gone on with this fate business in a little more detail. I don’t like the idea of fate determining outcomes in fiction, but I like very much when characters fight against it, especially when they win. What makes it more compelling is the WWII aspects which suffuse more of the series, especially the sea battles, because that gives the whole affair tragic, doomed overtones. But instead, the finale’s mind set was first “We must fight fate … We can’t fight our fate … Yay! We beat fate!” I suppose I shouldn’t have expected much more from a generally light show with cute girls, even if they are battleships and destroyers too.

... and fate lost!
… and fate lost!

Other than that the episode, and the series, was predictable but fun to watch. Friendships made, silly filler episodes between arcs, an early death to set people on edge, the growth of the protagonist, nothing really special there, but the battle scenes always looked great (though I wish they had done less chatting while the enemy is trying to kill them), shells exploding in the water, girls skating around and them, firing their own weapons, surrounded by planes and a purple-grey sky and sea … I enjoyed that very much. So when the second season comes along I’ll probably watch it.

One more of Kongou.
One more of Kongou.

 

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In Yuri Kuma Arashi 11 I thought we’d get an explanation as to why Kureha was facing trial at Judgemens, but they don’t get to that until the very end, and there’s still no explanation for it. Instead we get more flashbacks to when Kureha and Ginko were friends, adding more details about how they were separated and what Ginko did back in Bear-world. About the only forward action is Kureha’s being held captive to lure Ginko in, and Ginko’s internal battle with Mitsuko, her “desire.” Rather a disappointment, I thought. Oh, I liked the dramatic music and the overall heroic tone of Ginko’s rejection of desire and her refusal to back down on love (the anime phrase of the year, so far, unless you prefer “gao gao”), but all Mitsuko really got to do was whisper in Ginko’s ear. They could have taken that farther. Oh, and Lulu sneaks back and takes a bullet intended for Ginko, finally never getting anything for all the love she put out, but death. Now THAT’S not backing down on love.

Kirin is taken aback by Yuki's ... I forget.
Kirin is taken aback by Yuki’s … I forget.

Two episodes of Koufuku Graffiti and I can barely think of enough for one entry. Let’s see, in #10 “Chewy, Melty,” we meet the shy and withdrawn Yuki, who lives downstairs door. Through a series of misunderstandings they wind up eating pizza together, and naturally we learn that Yuki is another ero-faced food lover. You know, Ryou and Kirin have incredible luck with that, or maybe it’s that eating with them actually turns others into ero-faced food lovers. Interesting theory. Or maybe seeing them eat so erotically makes you feel erotic too.

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Episode 11 (Chop-chop, Slurp, and Crunchy, Shining) are all about basic study foods, which turn out to be ramen and cutlet sandwiches. Kudos to the show to demonstrate that mundane foods, even prepackaged ones, can make satisfying meals. It doesn’t hurt that Kirin, who seems to be getting better at cooking, adds her own touches to the ramen. I’m not crazy about cutlet sandwiches, so that part didn’t interest me that much, though the scene where they discover Shiina has already been accepted was more fun to watch than most of the other bits they put in to kill time before the eating begins.

Nines: Maria, Yuri Kuma, Koufuku

Maria the Virgin Witch 9 works on the expected path, and then gets absolutely batty.

Sad to see that cottage burn down ...
Sad to see that cottage burn down …

Good thing too. The first half of the episode was full of the bad stuff that I was hoping the show would avoid. Galfa drugs Maria with that smoke, then apparently rapes her, though the show is awfully vague on that for a while. If that wasn’t bad enough, her nice little cottage is burned down and she’s dragged off to be charged as a heretic. But during most of this the show raises little flags to suggest things aren’t quite that simple. Artemus and Priapus don’t vanish, as Joseph points out (and the two familiars really should have figured out already). I don’t know what the Catholic stance on rape or purity is, and Galfa confuses the issue further by claiming that he did not rape Maria, just stopped her from using her magic, but, in that case, how?

Meanwhile, Viv takes on an angel.
Meanwhile, Viv takes on an angel.

Meanwhile, the good guys try to regroup. Maria shows she still has some cunning (and humanity) by letting the reluctant old lady hit her with a rock. That was a good sign, one that she was not only thinking, but attempting to spare the village from more church hassle. Artemus gets Viv, who starts duking it out with Michel. It’s suggested it’s not going well for her, but we see her in the previews so it can’t be that bad. Priapus sneaks into the dungeon, and Ezekiel does something or other. But the real action is taking place in Maria’s cell, where Bernard asks why she signaled the old lady to stone her.

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A brief verbal sparring, Maria saying that a god that is only words is as good as nothing … and Bernard has a breakdown. Spouting christian philosophers, most of whom I’ve never heard of, something goes loose in his brain and he babbles on and on about God’s existence, our existence, and he does it for quite some time. It’s like badly-written code caught in a loop, or someone trying to discuss theology after too many bong hits. Bernard, trying to find a solution through what the church has taught him, winds up kissing Maria’s feet. I never expected such mindfuckery out of Bernard, and I appreciate it, but it sets Bernard in a whole new light. He’s no longer a cunning church official trying to seize power from the locals, he’s a christianity geek on a tear. I think the show would have done better than to keep the old Bernard, but let’s see what this new, slightly crazy one can do.

Yuri Kuma Arashi 9 leaves me wondering what there is left to be done.

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After Kureha shoots Ginko (so that DID happen), Ginko falls into the Abyss, which is a place in the lily garden behind the secret door, where she meets, of all people, Mitsuko. What kind of place the Abyss is and why Mitsuko is there and not any of the other girls who’ve been offed since the show started, is a mystery to me. It’s not a hell of any sort, though the battlefield covered in snow makes it appear unpleasant. Maybe you have to be a bear and actually guilty of something. As it turns out, both Mitsuko and Ginko share blame for Sumika’s death, so maybe there’s something to that. Anyway, Mitsuko is absorbed into Ginko (in a highly erotic scene–this episode is full of girls making out) and becomes desire, a step down from love, perhaps, but that’s what you get as an accomplice to bear-crimes.

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Meanwhile, Kureha has rightly deduced that Ginko’s involvement in Sumika’s death is more complicated than she knows, begins to worry, and is tricked into a rendezvous with Yurika (kuma-shock!). There’s something ironic in how she is rescued, and it leads to a romantic scene between Yurika and Kureha or Reia, didn’t quite catch that, and the statement that fate now belongs to Kureha, and Ginko, I suppose. And we learn where the rest of the picture book is. So again, what’s there left to do? Reconcile Ginko and Kureha? Not sure that’ll happen (the picture book suggests ill tidings but it’s the episode’s cliffhanger, so we’ll have to wait). Is Ginko worthy of Kureha’s love? And what about Sumika? And do I really care? With the show’s main antagonist gone I don’t know if we’ll get a traditional crisis/climax.

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A couple of complaints about Koufuku Graffiti 9. For the most part it’s the same happy-happy as usual, with Ryou and Kirin sharing a meal together, which is a good thing. On the other hand, I’m getting a little tired of it. Not the characters, but their eating together, exulting about the meal, and saying that food is more delicious when you share it, which actually stated outright this episode, Ryou to Karin. Yeah, we get that. They need to bring the side characters in more often. Shiina gets a cameo this week but goes off to celebrate New Years with her family, with overtones of weirdness and danger surrounding them. Akira shows up but only near the end, when it’s too late, and she doesn’t actually eat with them. If they don’t include these or other characters more often the show will get stale. My other complaint is that they’re doing a New Years episode in March. I don’t demand seasonal anime episodes to follow the season, but the happy winter scenes in the episode can’t make up for the snowy hangover of March that much of the world is having. Here, we’re having a snowstorm. Bad timing.

Durararax2 6, Aldnoah 18, Yuri Kuma 7, Koufuku 6

 

Well, she just arrived.
Well, she just arrived.

Durarara!! x2 6 has its usual lot of scenes, as usual, but very few plot points get covered, and nothing has reached a head yet. The episode mainly sets up the fact that everyone’s looking for that little girl, Akane, for various reasons. But we don’t know the important thing–why she got attached to Shizuo in the first place. We also learn that the blonde who attacked Celty is a hitgirl, part of a duo looking for Akane. Now, I can enjoy the irony of Celty hunting for a girl who’s actually at her place, but I really want to see the confrontation between her and the blonde, who has idea what Celty is, so I hope she doesn’t change her mind and go home quite yet. Meanwhile, that other gang has not yet acted on the Dollars, and all we know is that some people claiming to be Dollars have been messing with that other gang in Saitama. But that’s all last episode’s news. Meanwhile, One other thing I want to see if what’s going to happen between Anri and whoever’s just busted into her place. But again, nothing really happens. The whole episode is like this. And too many chatroom scenes.

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Meanwhile, in Aldnoah Zero 18, a couple of things do happen, and it’s not just another meaningless battle between the Earth Forces and another smug Vers Count, a scene that’s meaningless except to show Marito performing well in battle. We also get the duel between Slaine and Marylcian. No surprise that Slaine wins, but he had to use some guile to do it, and I’m happy not least because Marylcian’s idea of dueling is to fire off a bunch of little robots to do the fighting for him, but because now Slaine continues his rise by getting all of deceased Marylcian’s property. But after that the fake Asseylum announces she’s going to marry Slaine, so his slow rise to the top is now a quick one.

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The biggest thing, however, happens after that. It’s an excellent little scene. At first I thought for sure Lemrina was going to kill Asseylum and was trying to figure out what that would mean to the plot and after all the new episodes do we REALLY need her anymore but wait wouldn’t that throw most of the first season’s work on her character out into space like where Marylcian wound up oboy this is intense is she really going to push that button ..? And then she doesn’t. … And then … Once again Aldnoah Zero shows us how to keep a plot churning.

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Yuri Kuma Arashi is taking its sweet time moving the story forward, but maybe we’ve taken an important step in episode 7 in getting Kureha ro realize that Ginko was that childhood friend. Made especially hard because Kureha had forgotten she even had one. So it takes a series of clues, like her mother’s well-tempered love song, the book, the ginger honey milk Lulu prepares to signal one thought and then the next. I’m more curious about why she forgot in the first place. And there’s still the unanswered question about her mother’s death. One of these days Kureha will look at what Ginko sometimes wears around her neck and make a connection. But Kureha isn’t the quickest of humans, we’re learning.

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Elsewhere, Kaoru has rather a shock awaiting her in her lover’s bed (shock–get it?). There’s still apparently a bear on the loose that we haven’t accounted for. I suspect it’s the one who actually killed Kureha’s mother, because I can’t imagine Ginko doing it. Also, there’s that threatening note to Ginko, saying they know what she did. But Ginko is a criminal bear, remember, so there are a lot of things she probably has to account for. But maybe she DID kill Kureha’s mother. Finally, there are the flashbacks, the most memorable being the church that the young unloved ginko is dragged to, where they are told to defend the borders from those evil humans in the name of lady Kumalia, who, er, is human. And Kureha is the human form that Ginko … worships, which could be considered another type of love. So are Kureha and Ginko’s loves different? Elsewhere in the flashback we learn that bears can exclude, too, and we get a trippy battle scene.

When it comes to food, the girls don't mind breaking the fourth wall.
When it comes to food, the girls don’t mind breaking the fourth wall.

Koufuku Graffiti 5 gave us the traditional pleasures of summer, and episode 6 brings us the other side–the oppressive heat. And Ryou’s AC is broken. It’s a lot of scenes showing us the girls deal with the heat in various ways, mainly food of course. So we get eel over rice, ice cream, and azuki soup, since Ryou and Kirin are kind of perverse. It all works its usual happy magic, save for a bit with Ryou and the freezer which went on too long.

Maria 4-5, Yurikuma 5, Koufuku 5

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Maria the Virgin Witch 4-5 continues to stir morality around, not to mention the plot, though it looks like Maria hasn’t changed her mind one bit. Okay, not quite true, she now accepts that reasonable people might think she’s wrong. However, I still think she’s in the right. Everyone has tried to come up with counter-arguments for her stopping the fighting, each more inane than the next. Most often, they argue “What next? If you stop the war, the soldiers will just plunder innocent people.” Viv, the British witch, pops in to argue much the same before she gets on that “Let’s find Maria a hot guy!” bandwagon. That pagan god pops in again and says it more obscurely, but it’s the same message. Often it’s the familiars and Ezekiel who do the arguing on both sides. Maria, to her credit, gives a serious listen to each of these arguments before she rejects them. Meanwhile, Bernard and others make plans for more wars.

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Not that Maria’s a saint. Why didn’t she intervene when that village had the plague? The show hints that she was getting revenge for the way the church treated her. Or maybe she tried but was roughly pushed out? It’s unclear whether she was trying to save the village or her old friend. And she admits that she has plenty of doubts. She almost intervenes in the duel between Garfa and that knight, a petty, sordid business made deadly because of lust, jealous rage, and perverse views of honor. … Maybe there are some fights that aren’t worth interfering with. Everyone involved shared some of the blame. Story-wise, we see that Garfa is on his way up, and Joseph with him. Garfa should not be in charge of anything, and Joseph is a good man who is Maria’s friend and possible future magic-remover, if you know what I mean. Yeah, the show’s coming along nicely, but it feels a little busy with all these philosophical debates mixed in with the story.

In Yuri Kuma Arashi 6, Kaoru and her classmates spring their trap on poor Kureha, and Ginko does something heroic … and that’s it for plot, really, in terms of people doing something. Everything else is backstory.

... and more fairy tales.
… and fairy tales.

As for that backstory, it has more invisible storming, more not backing down on love, more talk of promise kisses (has anyone actually delivered one in this series yet?) more saying her love is true, and a shabba-da-do–the usual. The big surprise is Sumika conspiring with Kaoru to break up with Kureha, though she’s doing it for love. If they break up Kaoru can protect Kureha from the invisible storm. You might ask why Kaoru can’t just protect her without Kureha and Sumika breaking up, and it must be that their love is forbidden, or rather, Kureha won’t forget love, so she hasn’t become invisible, and therefore she must be declared Evil by the rest of the class. Yeah, I suppose, but that sounds too simple for Kunihiko Ikuhara, a man who seems to take pleasure in confounding his audience.

Meanie.
Meanie.

Besides, we have those red and black desk drawers to contend with, oh, AND that dark lily that opened just before the betrayal and got burned up. And many other bits of symbolism I’m sure I’ve forgotten, so let’s move on to the plot. Kureha is finally allied with Ginko and Lulu. Took them long enough. They’ve withstood the invisible storm together, and all that needs to happen now is to give the star pendant back to Kureha. Then what? Well, there’s the whole bear problem, with Kaoru and that mystery lover of hers (remember girls: keep it invisible!) to defeat. And, um, oh, Kureha’s refusal to accept other friends, something they’ll have to deal with right now, unless they just forget about it. None of that will take long. So, where is this show going?

Damn, why isn't this show an actual cooking anime?
Damn, why isn’t this show an actual cooking anime?

The last couple of days here have been cold and snowing, so I appreciate Koufuku Graffiti’s summery episode 5. I also appreciate how the show has such a simple, sentimental theme but Shaft manages to make it fresh every week. Kirin managed to do everything on her summer wish list, but it happens so matter-of-factly that I wasn’t even paying attention to that; I was too busy just watching the girls be happy in their own way. Things are livened up considerably by Shiina’s doting mom. I don’t know if the production asked Miyu Matsuki to toss in a little Yoshinoya in her portrayal or not, but it’s effective. Tsuyuko the maid is equally effective even though part of her shtick is silence because of her super-maid abilities. Another good, simple, happy episode.

Yuri Kuma 4-5, Durarara2 and Saekano 4

Yuri Kuma Arashi 4 is basically Lulu’s tale told as a fairy story. Naturally, the symbolism gets a little heavy.

Little brothers can be a pain sometimes.
Little brothers can be a pain sometimes.

But some things are explained. Basically Lulu was a young and popular princess in her bear kingdom before her younger brother the prince and heir is born. We watch for a while as she tries to kill him, with all the repetitions that fairy stories have, but they manage to keep it entertaining in spite of that. Besides, we have a clue. A promise kiss is a falling star that lands on earth (love turns into stars, by the way). We don’t know the significance of a promise kiss, except Mirun the prince keeps coming back with jars of honey. That would explain the honey the bear-girls are always licking off of Kureha in those weird (I mean, weirder than usual) scenes, but then the prince dies from a bee sting trying to get honey. And I get confused again. It might have to do with that bee that orbits Lulu during her princess scenes and scares away the judgemens, shabba-da-doo.

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It gets a little more coherent in the second half, because Lulu’s feelings of emptiness and possibly regret over throwing away her brother’s honey each time is more emotional, and when Ginko shows up with the lost honeypot we can understand why Lulu would want to follow her. Even if she’s lost all of her own kisses, she can help Ginko get HER kisses (I love how the judge points out the problems with that). So by the end we have Ginko going after Kureha to return love (I’m sure we’ll get that story soon enough), and Ginko coming along because of her own love, though no more kisses for her. And so they break in and make Kureha some honey porridge, a promise kiss delivered, perhaps, though it’s Lulu who makes the porridge. Oh, and at the end, there’s a star pendant that Ginko has and Kureha’s mother once had, but I’ve enough heavy symbolism for one night.

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Episode 5 has backstory too, but mostly we’re back to plot. The backstory concerns Kureha rescuing Ginko from a bear-strewn battlefield, which is a tad hard to believe, but since Lulu’s story was a fairy tale I’ll take it. So now we know why Ginko is out to return the love she got from Kureha. But I can’t figure out the love/eating business, since the bear-girls continue to eat girls who get in the way of Ginko(“they’re invisible. We can eat them”), yet still talk about eating Kureha. And they’ll say “delicious smells” in reference to Kureha and some sample meat at a supermarket.

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As for the plot, we meet Kaoru, the one without the vest, who tries to befriend Kureha and leads the rest of the class along, but actually it’s a sinister plan. They’re stringing Kureha along, because (as is decided in another cell phone vote montage) she’s EVIL, or they’ve decided she is. This might be the “invisible storm” they all talk about, since Kureha warns the bear-girls that they’ll get caught up in the storm if they get too close to her. But what’s the sinister plan about? Are they going to ostracize her? They already do that. Meanwhile, Kureha doesn’t want ANY friends now, refusing to let anyone take Sumika’s place, while, likewise, Ginko doesn’t want to share Kureha with anyone. It’s these headstrong thoughts about love are going to land both girls in more trouble, starting with the cliffhanger, with that bear trap whose chains wrap around to form a heart …

Typical end-of-arc scene, everyone sitting around a meal.
Typical end-of-arc scene, everyone sitting around a meal.

Durarara!! x2 4 finishes off what you might call the “Celty’s money” arc and begins to plan the next one. The planning is mostly talk fro m Aoba (apparently we should be afraid of him) and Izaya (we already know what he’s capable of), but it looks like their next target is each other, so I don’t know how the others will figure into it. Unlike Celty in this arc, with her friends appearing to help her out, no one will show up for Izaya, not even Namie. Maybe Aoba might string a few false friends together. And there’s the maybe not-mystery of Yodogiri, Ruri’s former agent, whom every shady person is looking for and who we are led to believe is one of Hollywood’s victims …

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All very interesting, but a let down after the episode’s first half, the show’s most exquisite nutty scene so far (and we’re only four episodes in!). My guess is that the show wanted to start with a relatively fun arc to re-introduce the characters and let us meet some new ones, and also to remind us of how much fun the series can be by giving us an incomprehensible fight under the bridge. I nearly lost it when Egor came out of that bag during the bridge.  And I had to backtrack to find out just why Ruri the headless knight showed up. Just like Yuri Kuma Arashi, Durarara!! demands your full attention when you view it.

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Speaking of being confused ...
Speaking of being confused …

In Saekano 4 Tomoya has all of golden week to finish his game scenario and finally win over the girls, but he procrastinates, and the girls pointedly tell him that maybe he just doesn’t have it in him, though Utaha seems to contradict this by saying that he’ll never get there without the support of a circle, which he’s trying to form by creating the scenario. Turns out they’ve all been helping him in secret, by transforming Megumi into the dream girlfriend he’s going for … And then they turn around and call the scenario crap anyway, though it sounds like it is. I’m not exactly sure what’s going on. I know the two girls are old friends and feel some obligation to Tomoya, but why don’t they just come out and help him instead of insulting him and working on his behalf when he isn’t looking? And Megumi doesn’t have any good comebacks this week …

Yuri Kuma and Absolute Duo 2-3 (yes, I’m behind)

Three episodes in, and as expected, Yuri Kuma Arashi moves on from its glorious WTF opener and settles down to routine and something of a plot line.

Plot.
Plot.

Not that it’s any more understandable. We learn that that Ginko and Lulu aren’t (Kuma Shock!) the only bears lurking at that delicious girls academy. First, there’s Mitsuko the SC president, also Konomi with her leafy head. And probably more. This series can’t get along without some exterior threat (bears) threatening either the lives or the loves of Kureha, and they keep getting shot. They can’t just have more characters out themselves as bears (Kuma Shock! … Heh, I love that bit. Every time they do it I watch it at least three times) and have Kureha or the two main bears shoot them. The show will probably soon dive into the next level.

Meet Eriko, posing dramatically, going to get eaten (probably).
Meet Eriko, posing dramatically, going to get eaten (probably).

And it could go anywhere. Right now we can only take what’s given and extrapolate. In ep3 we meet Eriko, the first character to say out loud that they should be invisible, and she tries to create an atmosphere of exclusion aimed at Kureha (for reasons unknown) … and is promptly eaten, or is about to be. We get some background on Kureha–her mother was eaten by bears, and the principal was just as heartbroken as she was. There’s also the question of what Mitsuko was talking about when she said she ate Sumika, when it was Ginko and Lulu … I think.

One of the things the show has yet to explain.
One of the things the show has yet to explain.

We also still wonder about this whole eating business. Sometimes the bears SEEM to mean it literally, but other times it’s obviously a sexual metaphor. Ginko and Lulu talk about eating Kureha, but instead we get courtroom scenes and some lilies growing out of navels. But Sumika is supposed to be actually dead, maybe. And there are the images and things they’ve shown but haven’t played with yet–Judemens and the invisible storm being two obvious examples, but there’s also the promise kiss, the lilies/birds design projected on the school walls, and the red and black drawers, and more that I can’t remember right now, or passed right by me, or that I don’t recognize as important because I was too busy marveling at it all.

absoluteduo2-1
During which she will kill you.

Absolute Duo 2 doesn’t do much more for me than episode one does, there’s nothing really new to it, but even for the type of show you think it is, it feels off. This time the students have to undergo training and chose their duo partner. Surprisingly, perhaps refreshingly, the former has no magic to it, it’s all physical exercise and martial arts, though there’s little training going on, mainly they’re just sparring. Maybe it’s a way to feel out potential duo partners. Or a way to ease up on the light shows. In between, we get bits showing Thor and Tora agreeing to duo up, and more “living with a member of the opposite sex” scenes. In fact, the moment the episode started, with Thor waking up, I KNEW he would gasp and find Julie lying next to him, wearing only a shirt. Guess what happened?

Man, I'm good.
Man, I’m good.

In the second half we discover that Julie’s expected duo partner was betrothed to someone else so to speak, so Thor decides to team up with her instead. Nice thing to do, but the scene where he asks her feels like a scene ten episodes in, where the two have already developed a bond. In reality, they’ve only been together a week. Well, they will; the pledge they have to recite sounds like they’re getting married. This school takes its duo-bonding seriously. So, yeah, odd episode. Very low key for a fantasy-adventure series that should be ramping up the action at this point.

absoluteduo3-1

And then I went off on a trip and caught the third episode on TV, and while I didn’t understand the words, the events spoke for themselves except for why Tsukimi wanted to kill these kids. But now that I’ve watched it with subtitles, I STILL don’t know, because the show didn’t bother to tell us. She’s just working on the side of evil, the same people we keep seeing in Thor’s recurring nightmares. But, you know, one of these days they ought to give us some specifics. I also wonder about Tora, er, show, remember him? He had his blaze destroyed? Is it gone for good? Will it grow back? C’mon, show, how about filling us in on a few things. You still have plenty of time to show off Julie wearing nothing but a white shirt.