Shoumetsu Toshi

September 22, 2019

Why do I have this tingling sense that yet another sci-fi anime series is going to bomb? But yet I am interested to catch what it is all about? Shoumetsu Toshi somehow brings to mind that failure in RErideD: Tokigoe No Derrida. But at least this one doesn’t involve time travelling. So the intriguing thing that had me wanting to find out more was thanks to the synopsis that didn’t reveal much. An unfortunate incident that caused a big chunk of Tokyo to disappear and life to be extinguished, a young girl was the only survivor. Many years later, her father who was thought to have perished in that phenomenon, a message was somewhat received for him. A guy is tasked to deliver her into that black hole to decipher the truth. And of course, there is always that hidden conspiracy behind it that makes moving one step closer to the truth hard and life difficult for everybody.

Episode 1
While the popular idol group, SPR5 is performing, a sudden phenomenon of the place being engulfed in some black hole occurs. Fast forward many years later, Yuki seems to be an experiment subject in a facility run by the Agency but Takuya easily takes out those personnel and kidnaps her. Takuya claims he was hired to deliver her and the contract ends once he does that. Riding fast on his Vespa, WTF strange spiritual monk starts standing on his hands to stop him from steering his bike?! More WTF as I don’t know what Yuki did to release some spirit balls to knock him away. With others in hot pursuit, they are then picked up into a truck. Hopped in, rather. Unbelievable manoeuvrability. And with that the pursuers lost them?! Fail! Scientists Eiji and Kikyou examine Yuki and she seems stabilized. They want to know what the Agency has been doing to her. They also narrate about that black hole incident 3 years ago called Lost. Rumours say it was manmade as many victims lost their lives. Yuki is a lone survivor of Lost. Something about those spirits being called Tamashi. Huh? Anyway, Eiji wants Takuya to do another job and that is to head to Lost. The place is quarantined by the government, no progress whatsoever ever since and all forms of communications within the area are blocked. Oh, did he mention that nobody alive has ever returned from entering there? So why hire him?! It seems they received an encrypted code that is from Yuki’s father saying that he is waiting at Lost. Hence Eiji wants Takuya to take Yuki to Lost to ascertain if her father is still alive. Better pay him good.

Takuya seeks the help of his geeky friend, the aptly named Geek to fix his bike. Yeah, he is a big SPR5 fan. Geek thinks it is dangerous to go to Lost but Takuya’s policy is to finish his job. Because he sees Yuki as a package instead of a human, I guess Yuki felt hurt and left on her own. How the f*ck can these guys lose a girl like that?! Did she wander that far?! As Takuya goes to find her, he also calls Yumiko to help find the quickest route to Lost. Eventually Takuya finds Yuki. She doesn’t have to believe in him. Believe in your father! Yeah. Enough for her to get on the ride with him. Unbelievable manoeuvrability as Takuya dodges debris and even that damn monk! This guy is taking all the damage but his bike is still functioning?! Yuki feels bad and wants to give up (flashback of her happy family moments – because dad and brother are now victims of Lost). After Takuya lectures her about not giving up again, WTF moment for Yuki as she somehow manages to summon her former bodyguard, Akira! WTF?! Gun slinging Akira shoots down the monk! With submachine guns!!! Although Takuya and Yuki are safe, the people from Agency crash them. It seems they know where they are because Yumiko betrayed him. She works for the Agency too. She wants to do the honours to kill Takuya.

Episode 2
Yumiko shoots the agent instead. Betraying the Agency, huh? She and Kouta decide to help them. With the area now under intense lockdown, they hide in Yumiko’s secret place. If Yumiko is going to help him, he also needs her to work with Geek as he knows how to fix his bike. So the easiest way to bait him is to use SPR5 on the chatrooms? It worked. Later as Takuya talks to Yuki, he learns about Akira who was her father’s bodyguard but died during Lost while trying to protect her. She isn’t sure if that Tamashi she summoned was actually him. The gang take the subway as the fastest way to get into Lost. Of course the Agency guys led by Suzuna are waiting for them. Conveniently a door to another room. Yumiko lets the rest proceed while she deals with Suzuna. I think Suzuna is just toying with Yumiko. She could have really shoot and killed her but yet they talk about their different ideals on freedom. On Kouta’s side, they manage to dispatch the stupid Agency henchmen. Until Kouta gets a knife stabbed in a back by this Tamashi knife dude! Takuya takes and forces Yuki to escape instead of mourning over Kouta. Oh no. Don’t lose heart again. No time for that as knife dude is hot on their tail. Convenient so convenient because here comes Geek in his truck to bring them away. Oh man, knife dude is fly and chasing them. Takuya sounds like he wants to sacrifice himself to stop this bastard but Yuki comes along with him. Hey, don’t lecture her about decisions. She decides this one by herself. I’m amazed his bike can make such great moves without any damage. So what Takuya figured out this knife dude’s trick that he can pop up to where he throws his knife? Because at the end of the day, Yuki just needs to summon Akira and blow him away! Yeah, should have used the submachine gun instead of your pea shooter in the first place. In the aftermath, Takuya and Yuki agree to help each other. But first they need to pick up Yumiko and Kouta. I wonder if Suzuna has done the job. And poor Kouta looks like he bite the dust…

Episode 3
Yeah well, Yumiko is amazingly alive albeit bleeding all over. The place where Kouta died, looks like his body is missing… Geek and Takuya realize something amiss. They have been going around in circles. Even weird, they witness SPR5 arguing outside the concert hall they are supposed to be performing shortly? Something about group leader, Yua unhappy that she heard SPR5 will be disbanded. Geek realizes they have gone back to a certain point in time. As they try to move along, they come back to the same place and see the same argument taking place again. I guess this makes Geek he needs to take action to prevent SPR5 to perform in that doomed concert. He finds Yua and talks to her. Not that she believes him. As a big fan, he can tell her character and some hit close to heart. This concert that Yua is supposed to perform in, she didn’t actually perform and was stated as sick although many fans believed she wasn’t and there was a conspiracy behind it. Just when she starts to believe him, she disappears. Takuya and Yuki try to get out but again end up in the same place. Same SPR5 argument. This has Yuki believe Yua is responsible for this space pocket and wonder if those Tamashi are controlled by others. This time Yuki goes to find Yua, talk to her about the need to do something or nothing happens. Otherwise she’ll end up like her. Damn that worked. Meanwhile Takuya tries to find SPR5’s manager, Seiji but to no avail. Yua makes up with the rest of SPR5 and they go on to perform together. With that, Takuya and co manage to get out of this time loop. But when Geek checks for change in history, it is still the same. Yua did not perform at that concert and SPR5 was still a victim of Lost. With fatty feeling down, Yuki thinks she understands about Tamashi. With so many people getting caught in Lost then, they have regrets and unfulfilled wishes. Hence Tamashi is a person’s will taking shape. Yua’s regret was strong that she created that time loop world. Even though they couldn’t change the past, she doesn’t think their efforts were futile. Oh look another Tamashi crashing their bike. Oh sh*t, is that Souma? Yuki’s brother? Well, Yuki doesn’t seem all too surprise to know he is alive. Because he is trying to kill Takuya and claims Yuki should come back with him. They’re family and need to support each other. Yuki won’t accept this. Because of that, did she try summoning so hard that it becomes a huge explosion? Crater size explosion!

Episode 4
Takuya is wheeled into ICU and Geek blames Eiji for putting him up to this. It’s partly Yuki’s fault too, right? Eiji offers everyone his home as a place to hide for now. When they leave, they are confronted by police officers, Ryouko Negishi and Shunpei Aoyama try to press Yuki for answers since a CCTV caught Yuki and Takuya within the restricted area. Luckily Eiji has got his answers prepared so they can’t prod further. Wow. Eiji’s place is a mansion?! I guess when he meant it was a good place to hide, it meant luxurious. Yumiko stays by Takuya’s side. She is shocked when Suzuna is here. Don’t worry, she won’t kill him but to offer her info. Ryouko goes to see freelance detective, Keigo Hidaka to find out more info on Takuya since she has a hunch he used to be in this same profession as him. Takuya wakes up and is updated by Yumiko. He asks about Seiji but is told he just died in an accident. Ryouko tries her luck and talks to Yuki again. She talks about her own father who was an officer whom she looked up to. But when he became a victim of Lost, she became frustrated rather than sad. That’s why she became an officer and still believes he is still alive. This reignites hope in Yuki for hers. A little PR goes a long way because now Yuki opens up on what the Agency had done to her. Ryouko tries to investigate a lab belonging to Lacuna. She should know better she can’t search around without a warrant and is of course turned away. Ryouko gets scolded by her superior for snooping where her nose doesn’t belong but if her instincts tell her, it is only because she is getting close to the truth. Keigo has found an old picture of Takuya. Ryouko looks at some old real estate files and finds a contract of Lacuna trying to buy a certain factory for their second research facility. Although they won the bid, they retracted soon after. As the date shows the day before Lost, it only confirms they knew Lost was going to happen. Suddenly Shunpei stabs her! Yup, this guy is from the Agency. So he doesn’t make sure she’s dead?! Yumiko talks to Yuki about Suzuna’s info. Souma is still alive. As long as she heads toward Lost, he will appear again. Is she is not resolved to do not, please don’t involve Takuya. Yuki’s answer? She wants to save Souma. I guess we’re going.

Episode 5
Yuuji reports to Keigo that Aoyama’s body is found floating at the port. Ryouko’s division has been shut and the chief transferred out. Though they are frustrated with this, it seems Keigo has another plan. A plan that involves the famous magician, Yoshiaki. He goes to see Takuya and knows about Phantom Thief Brigade X that Takuya and Yumiko once tried to catch but failed. The team’s leader, Tsubasa is Yoshiaki’s older brother whom he hasn’t seen in 10 years. He hopes to make a deal so he can see him again. Yuki notices an Artefact known as Tsuki’s Tears is on display at a museum. Because Souma had something similar. Eiji explains research showed it had mystic powers and it is believed to give wielders powers. Now, Yoshiaki believes Hoshi’s Tears that Brigade is holding is its pair and hence they will target Tsuki’s Tears. Takuya and Yumiko are suspicious. Because Hoshi’s Tears is in the Agency’s hands. Could it be Brigade and Agency are connected? If so, this could be a trap. Takuya’s side are heading towards the museum but they are intercepted by Brigade. So putting out Eiji’s van is enough? Flashback shows Tsubasa tried to ambush when Taiyou the boss of the Agency was trying to make some deal. However his secretary, Tsuki protected him and received a huge slash on her back. It left a hideous scar. Was Tsubasa in despair that he got killed? When Brigade prepares to steal Tsuki’s Tears, they are shocked to see Souma and in possession of the real Hoshi’s Tears. Flashback shows they tried to prove to Tsubasa they can also steal something without him but unfortunately the Hoshi’s Tears they stole was fake. Souma wastes no time to pulverize them. Meanwhile Takuya’s side realizes Hoshi’s Tears is not in its display. I believe they aren’t so dumb to leave it unguarded, right? Besides, where’s security in this place?! Then they go join in the fight. Takuya and Brigade’s side accuse the other of working with Souma. But Souma is not happy to see Takuya alive and tries to kill him. Oh just in time for Akira to pop up to protect him! Apparently Souma also has bad blood with Akira. When mom died, Souma blamed him for not protecting her despite being their bodyguard.

Episode 6
I guess who shoots better projection wins and looks like Souma is having the upper hand. It took a while for Akira to use his submachine guns but that’s still not good enough. Yoshiaki tries to be a hero and intervene but fails. However this distraction allows Akira to shoot and destroy Hoshi’s Tears. Don’t be happy yet. Souma has another trick up his sleeve. Yup, he has Tsuki’s Tears. He summons Tsubasa from it and has him blast Akira with his magic icicles. Cue for short flashback showing how his subordinates followed him because he’s a nice chap? I guess Akira holding out this long means Yuki’s determination is strong, right? Well, she can’t hold out longer. It’s really killing her. After Akira is destroyed, Souma orders Tsubasa to kill Yoshiaki. We can see Tsubasa reluctant and purposely missing his icicles. I guess we never learn because with Souma being mad and distracted, the Brigade guys manage to make him drop Tsuki’s Tears from his hand. Yoshiaki picks it up and feels some connection to Tsubasa. He uses his power to make it disappear. Now Souma is the one panicking as he loses power. Yoshiaki now access Tsubasa’s memories. The memories he never knew. As they were part of an orphanage for disabled kids, it seems the kids also underwent experiments. Tsubasa made a fuss with his ability to make things disappear. This was so that the attention can now be brought upon him. With the focus on him, he vowed to destroy all Artefacts before Yoshiaki’s power awakens. Only then he can be truly free. Tsubasa formed his little Brigade and subsequently got caught up during Lost because he received a distress call from Yoshiaki, thinking Taiyou did something to him. The brothers say their last goodbyes before Tsubasa is gone forever. Now that the Brigade wants to cut up Souma, Yuki won’t let them yet. She tries to save Souma but he accuses her of always thinking she is always right. I guess he can’t jump to his death because big sister’s hug saves the day. Tsuki blames Suzuna for this failed plan because now Souma is in the enemy’s hands. She should have seen this coming. Even so, Suzuna notes this is what Taiyou wanted. Souma is unconscious and ‘safe’ at Eiji’s place. They need to do something before Agency comes for him. Takuya and Yoshiaki meet Keigo who wants them to head to the orphanage.

Episode 7
The moment they step into the orphanage, they are transported back in time. Looks like some Tamashi still has regrets. And Takuya believes it is Hinako, one of the caretakers of the orphanage. It all began when Takuya tried to save Geek when he raked up debts in some bar. Of course the punks can’t ‘joke’ so before they deal with him, Kaibara stepped in to warn them and they back off. Takuya was then invited to join Kaibara’s detective agency and introduced to Yumiko. Takuya continued training and before you know it, he became their ace. So to show appreciation, Kaibara gave him his scooter? Gee, thanks. One day, Kaibara wanted Takuya to investigate the orphanage as they are being suspected of child abuse. Hence Takuya went undercover as a caretaker. He noticed there is a certain line of thought that runs through the orphanage and free thinking like Takuya isn’t welcomed. It is obvious that the more Hinako interacts with Takuya, the more she wavers in her beliefs. Takuya’s regret was never pressing her about the children who were chosen that were taken away from the orphanage. The reason given was they were to meet prospective parents but we know the real reason was that they were sent to the lab. However Takuya had a hunch what was going on but before he could do anything, Kaibara pulls him out of the investigation and drops the case. Takuya even saw Kaibara talking to the orphanage’s principal and should’ve continued investigating after being taken off the case. On the day Hinako invited him to go watch the circus with the kids, he declined with reason he tendered his resignation. Yes, that day was Lost. The current Takuya regretted not stopping her and now tries to do so. Hinako tells him her wish is to tell the kids the truth when they get back and thanks Takuya for changing their line of thought. With the regrets taken care of, Takuya and co return to normal time. Shortly after that incident, Takuya quit the detective agency but kept the scooter as he wanted to continue believing in Kaibara. Keigo thought he wasted time looking through the documents in the safe but it’s all trash. But Takuya knows where Hinako kept the documents. In the birdhouse, there is a ledger of financial records that links the orphanage to Lacuna. With this damning evidence, Yoshiaki is willing to risk everything to testify as live witness. When they return, Yuki sees the orphanage’s group photo and recognizes the principal as she has seen him many times in the facility. Takuya and Yumiko are surprised because they thought the Agency disposed of him.

Episode 8
Yoshiaki puts up the greatest magician show. Making it look like he is going to randomly make a building disappear, that building is Lacuna! With that, people and reporters flock outside Lacuna hoping to glimpse this magic. I hope he isn’t pulling off a Lost style disappearance. With this commotion, Takuya, Yuki and Geek manage to get in via their fake IDs and Geek streams the inside live. They confront the principal who has been promoted to some director but he calls the Agents to beat them up. We didn’t see how but Takuya manages to beat the sh*t out of them! These guys need more training! The principal somewhat confesses he did it all for the money to run the orphanage. So in a way, he’s still thinking about the kids, right?! Meanwhile Yoshiaki turns this magic show into some big revelation as he reveals he was an experiment subject at Lacuna. With the public now hounding for answers, the police take action to take Taiyou and Tsuki in for questioning. Taiyou surprisingly agrees. After Takuya and co leave Lacuna, they are being told Souma is starting to act strange. Damn, this kid is shooting light beams now?! Taiyou’s interrogation won’t last long as the commissioner is his lapdog and apologizes for all this and sets him free. It seems all this is part of Taiyou’s plan to test Souma. He considers him a failure as he can’t control himself without an Artefact. As he didn’t go berserk after losing Tsuki’s Tears, that is because Yuki was nearby and served as his Artefact. Now she’s away… Yup, he is displaying symptoms of Lost. It’s like an excuse that he has to die for Lost to be triggered because this allows the city to be evacuated. Of course Yuki won’t let this go. Once again, Takuya delivers her as far as he can but when his scooter can go no more, damn is Yuki flying????!!! Oh, it’s Akira. I wonder how his machine guns can fight against the light beams. Nope. Lost. But he did bring Yuki closer to Souma who is now a big ugly blob. She hears him hate everything, fear everything, don’t come close, don’t want to die. Then she hugs him. He explodes but not Lost v2. Yuki sad her brother’s gone. Taiyou disappointed Lost didn’t happen.

Episode 9
Daichi along with Taiyou and Tsuki were researchers at Lacuna. One day, Ryouko’s dad came to investigate Daichi because a person who died 50 years ago somehow had the same dental records as him. So what? Murder for stolen identity? In time, the trio quickly rise up to the top thanks to Taiyou and Tsuki systematically disposing the higher ups. With them in control of the lab, it is revealed that they are from another universe. There were many other volunteers too but it is not known what happened to them and the 3 of them are left. That’s why Taiyou wants Daichi to concentrate in creating a portal to save millions in their own decaying universe. This is called Project Noah. So theoretically to open that portal, an immense amount of info is needed and it will open a big hole in Tokyo, hence the more people, the better. While Daichi was working on the portal, Taiyou and Tsuki were handling the bioengineering. They were testing kids with abilities and trying to filter out those who aren’t affected by the surge particle because people must move freely through the portal without losing their memories. However Daichi soon gets romantically involved (an awkward one, that is) with the nice cafeteria lady, Mifuyu. He sympathizes that some people hate her because her bus driver dad killed many. The real story goes when she was sick, he worked extra hours to cover the medical expenses but that backfired. She liked his idea and theory of a parallel world because she wished there was one where she never existed and her dad could do his job happily. With Daichi’s work affected, Taiyou warns him not to prioritize a single life over millions. But you know, they both fell in love and had their first child named Yuki. That was when Taiyou blew his top because he thought a being that is not fully from either universe has been born. Daichi believed she has both and her existence is not a contradictory. Daichi warns if they touch his family, he will kill them. Though Daichi claims the portal will soon be ready, Taiyou warns back to run tests and no more slowdowns are allowed. Or else. Many years later as he has completed some safety device and is going to run tests to ensure it won’t be used for evil (yeah, they always think that), somehow WTF how in the world did those agents hack and disable the safety features?! That is when Lost happened. Daichi realizes he has failed to protect the ones he loves but believes there is still a chance. Whatever encryption he left behind was picked up by Eiji, his researcher partner.

Episode 10
Surprise! Kouta is still alive! Apparently Kaibara saved him. Takuya is in disbelief because he thinks that guy is now on the Agency’s side but Kouta claims he is the one who is misunderstanding Kaibara. While Takuya’s scooter is being fixed, we see Kikyou talking to depressed Yuki, Eiji trying to lay off Takuya from his delivery job as well as Taiyou explaining to Tsuki and Suzuna. Just to let us know that now everybody knows the truth. It seems the Lost created by Souma isn’t over yet and is slowly expanding. Albeit it will take decades. The reason being could be Daichi doing something to suppress its expansion. Because Taiyou tried to send messages there but none was received, only that single message from Daichi was received. It could be the reason why Yuki is heading there. Hence Taiyou thought let Yuki run free or Souma go berserk. But the answer is simpler: Eliminate Daichi. He is going to do so by entering Lost. What about the surge particle thingy? That’s what the experiments are for. Of course so far all have failed as the test subjects at the minimum limit turn into vegetative state or in worst case, die. So we see the gang hang out and kill some time. Yeah, Takuya’s scooter must be the most important factor. For some reason, Yumiko called Kouta to ask Takuya to get some tomatoes. This leads him to a farm whereby he sees Kaibara being a happy tomato farmer! A few words of advice. Including his life is how he sees fit to live it. I guess that’s enough to make Takuya’s day. Taiyou’s experiments continue to fail. He then starts thinking maybe they themselves can’t be affected since they’re from the other universe. Tsuki can’t take any more of this so she offers to be the test subject. Everything goes well and she still remembers her memories. Then Taiyou decides to up everything to the max! Oh sh*t! Looking scared now, huh?! But it did confirm Taiyou’s hypothesis… Meanwhile, a weird conversation between Takuya and Yuki. They’re talking about the kind of normal life and house they want to live in. Is this a sign they want to date after all this? Once Takuya’s scooter is ready, it’s time to ride to hell. Hold on to your seatbelts. In Yuki’s case, hold on tight to him.

Episode 11
Takuya and Yuki continue their journey. They see Taiyou’s team and realize he is already making his move to Lost. Better hurry. Yoshiaki and Brigade hand them a transmitter so they can stay connected with the rest while in Lost. Wait. Nobody knows anything in Lost so how do they even know this technology can work?! Meanwhile, the rest are trying to hack and storm into Lacuna facilities. I see that’s why they need to hack the antenna so they can constantly stay connected to Takuya and Yuki. Don’t worry. It’ll be easy. Those agents are dumb. But Geek is having a hard time trying to hack and decrypt the password security. Until a member of Brigade (hacker loli, rather) helps by hooking him up to some super computer so everything is okay. Taiyou is at the fringes of Lost as he relieves Suzuna of her duties. Suzuna then points her gun at him. It seems her real intention is to get revenge on him for all the people he sacrificed for his test. By the time Takuya and Yuki arrive, Suzuna is close to death. Shot by her former employer. She tells them Taiyou has gone into Lost by himself and apologizes to Yuki for making her go through a lot. Too late, but I guess it’s better than never. Takuya and Yuki dive into Lost. Do they even need to ride the scooter? Whatever. They experience weird flashbacks. Is this some sort of pseudo summary of important things that have happened to them? Anyway, those flashbacks also feel like regrets that they could have done something. As the duo are like living zombie since Lost is taking a toll on them, Taiyou is still cool and sinking deeper. He finally enters an area where Daichi is. The latter only existing in digital format. We return to the memories of the duo. This time, Takuya is losing his recognition of Yuki. Who this girl? And somehow the moment they touch, they get their memories back and resume their ride deeper into Lost. I suppose that is why others keep telling us in that hopeless situation when they lost contact of the duo in Lost (pun not intended), only their strong bonds allow their memories to stay intact as long as they continue supporting each other. How convenient. Breaking through, they see Taiyou trying to kill digital Daichi. How do strangle something made out of 1’s and 0’s? Yuki is distraught and summons Akira for his submachine gun overkill! Sure she won’t hit her father like that?!

Episode 12
At least Akira did something good by blocking Taiyou’s super blast. Taiyou thinks the reason Daichi is trying to prevent Lost is Yuki. He wants to eliminate her but he starts to feel the effects. The medicine effects wearing off? Daichi then tells him it is because he is alone. One’s existence is maintained from continual mutual confirmation. With Tsuki being the last one who believes in him, I guess Taiyou can’t be God anymore. Daichi reveals the reason he brought Yuki here is because she can choose worlds. As an observer, she has the ability to do everything over. We are shown scenes of Yuki living a happy and normal family life. Taiyou and Tsuki are sentenced to prison over their exploitation of the orphanage’s kids. Ryouko’s dad has been credited in bringing them down although Takuya’s infiltration was also a large part to play in that. Yoshiaki and Tsubasa continue to remain together. SPR5 continues to perform. This is what the future should have been and Daichi wants Yuki to choose. However she won’t. WHAT?! Despite the tragedy of Lost, everyone lived on so desperately. Choosing one means to deny the existence of the other. Also, this is to show that they are not as weak as he thinks. WTF?! SINCE WHEN YOU A MASOCHIST, YUKI?! Oh, father must be so heartbroken that he did this all for her only to be wasted. Because Taiyou returns to crush this dude! Yuki, see what you’ve done?! However Taiyou (not looking a lot like some last boss demon monster) starts to grow weak. It seems there is some shard embedded in his heart. He remembers when Suzuna shot him, part of her bullet managed to get stuck there. Suzuna’s ability is to predict the future. All paths ended in failure except for this outcome that technically didn’t spell success outright, but it wasn’t a failure. Good thing Akira left his gun because now Takuya can guide Yuki to shot one in Taiyou. Daichi then holds Taiyou back and tells the duo to get out on the scooter. Vroom! But it seems Brigade only finds Yuki lying unconscious. In the aftermath, we see Yoshiaki still a small time magician, Keigo still a small time detective, Kouta is Kaibara’s tomato farmer assistant, Eiji, Kikyou and Geek forming a new Lost committee to recruit talents to help solve this Lost problem and Yuki living a pretty normal high school life. Unfortunately she has no memories of Takuya. You mean only him? Despite no news of Takuya’s whereabouts, either they’re doing a bad job or just straight out lying to protect him (for whatever reasons). Because we see him riding his trademark yellow scooter (can’t miss it)… STALKING YUKI?! I guess he didn’t want to call out to her so he leaves her familiar ribbon on the post. Recall something?

Still Lost And Never Found Ever After
WTF?! What the heck is this weak and unsatisfying ending?! Yuki not remembering Takuya anymore feels like a sad ending. But since it isn’t confirmed that ribbon would spark her memories back, I guess it is up to us to interpret if we want to or not. But it doesn’t matter. Because unlike Yuki, we don’t have the ability to choose worlds! WTF?! I still can’t believe Yuki chose the status quo path which has everyone continuing their suffering. I guess she lost too much (pun intended) that she has gone crazy so there is no difference at all with the outcome staying the same. It could have been utopia and paradise but nope. She didn’t want that. No siree. She’s so kind so as not to deny the other existence whom we’d all probably won’t give a f*ck nor remember had she chosen that. Uh huh. Screw the other people from the other universe. Oh Yuki, your actions have killed the future of millions! You’ve also wasted daddy’s efforts because if this is what Yuki chose, is there any reason for him to delay Lost? Besides, the final episode also feel so rushed and had a few things shoehorned in especially Taiyou conveniently being defeated. I guess he didn’t see things that far ahead, huh? Suzuna’s character being written just for this convenient role and some other stuffs that prevents Taiyou from being Almighty, oh well, that’s the path we’ve chosen. Also, it’s not clear whether Taiyou perished along with Daichi or they remained trapped in that hell hole for eternity. But whatever. And how was only Yuki found unconscious after escaping Lost? My guts tell me Takuya rode out and left her there. That’s why you don’t see him around. Hey, mission accomplished. Delivered her to and back. Not like he’s getting extra paid.

I believe the story has been a train wreck from the start. Rather, a scooter that has taken on so much damage and continue to limp its way to the finish line. Feels a lot like that. I think they want to keep up with the intrigue and the mysteries surrounding Lost and hence they added in all those elements to ramp up the captivation level but it got messy and beating around the bush that I felt it was just an ultimate fail. Thus the only ‘interesting’ episode was the flashback on Taiyou and Daichi, their true goals and intentions. The mystery behind Lost somewhat solved. But it still didn’t take away the bad pacing and storytelling of the rest of the other episodes like how they deviate and meander with that SPR5 time looping déjà vu crap and Yoshiaki and Tsubasa’s past. It’s not that we understand anything much about this Tamashi thingy. Just an excuse that serves as Yuki’s ‘weapon’ because Takuya’s scooter can only do so much. We also have Takuya’s flashback doing his infiltration cover at the kindergarten job and something about Ryouko’s dad and while all those and more seem like they add something to connect it all to the bigger picture, ultimately Lost is just one big incomplete portal trying to be connected to the other universe. And the whole roundabout thingy of having sacrificial test subjects was because they fear of losing their memories while going through the portal. Yeah, it’s that simple. And the simplest way to counter that is to have f*cking strong bonds! Bonds, people! Bonds!!!

It made me wonder if Takuya and Yuki are that close. Sure, they seem to have gotten to know each other since Takuya took on this job and they’ve spent most of the subsequent moments together. I mean, it’s not like I could see them becoming an item. Could they? Not likely. At least, not from what I can see. He was just a delivery boy. She was just a test subject to be delivered. That is all. Excuses to deliver or postpone this mission only serve to drag out the plot convenience and make it seem like as though they have some sort of bond. Not that I can see that they are THAT close. No wonder that cheesy moment of them together talking about the normal life and what kind of house decorations they would like! Sheesh. Because they didn’t mention how many kids they would like, I guess that is why we aren’t confirmed they were an item or not. Even if they did, we’d be pointing fingers of this cheap and forced romance drama part. Heh. No way out of this checkmate. If that is the level of bond needed to prevent memory loss while traversing through Lost, I guess it’s pretty easy. All those high technology and researching were just a waste of time. But I suppose as a researcher you need some concrete proof of science rather than relying on guts and emotions.

I don’t feel like making a long commentary on the characters because they’re just as bad as the plot. Takuya and Yuki as the main characters, you know the drill. Then you have the other supporting characters whom you aren’t likely to remember, just because. You know they play some part in providing support to our main duo but whatever. The plot has got to move forward, right? Like the aptly named Geek who is a computer whizz, an idol crazed nerd as well as the only mechanic in town who can fix Takuya’s bike. I guess Takuya doesn’t trust those other shady overcharging mechanics to fix and juice up his precious two wheeler. Then you have Yumiko, Takuya’s former colleague whom, oh I don’t know what her role is. Eiji and Kikyou trying to get to the bottom of this Lost message. They don’t really seem prominent or of significant. Except maybe for that brief period Eiji providing his luxurious mansion as respite. How the f*ck does a workaholic scientist manage to afford such a big house and land?! Was it inheritance? Keigo, some small time detective doing whatever ground work that needs to be done. Nothing that I would remember. And is Yuuji is dog helper or something? Yoshiaki, victim of the orphanage. Another really insignificant role. Now he has Tsubasa’s groupies. Like that would change anything. Kouta, why the f*ck do they have to bring this guy back and not let him stay dead like Ryouko? It’s not like an extra pair of arms can do anything, right? And Kaibara… Probably the ‘best’ character because he is happily being a tomato farmer not giving a f*ck not to get involved with the rest. You do you. By the way, I don’t like tomatoes…

I always wondered why Suzuna always have that poker face and I suppose it is to hide her real intentions. No wonder when she had so many chances to finish off the good guys, instead she dawdles and gives excuses. So she’s like a double agent, being close to Taiyou, waiting for the right moment to kill him? Why now? Why not earlier and prevent him from doing all this madness? So, the more people sacrificed, the more hatred she will build up in her heart, the more then it will justify she should kill him? Too late. She got what she deserved. Now we can’t totally think badly of her because she tried to do the good thing. Oh right, I almost forgot that soothsaying ability. How convenient. I guess lots still have to die just to reach this outcome. Mission accomplished. Now she can die happy. Same thing for Souma. Little jerk brother of Yuki has some sort of issues to pick on her big sister. Tries to come off as a strong antagonist of the series but sputters out because deep down he is still her little brother. Oh well, it was good while it lasted. And Taiyou being the baddest of the baddest, yeah, probably the producers write him that way. Killing off his subordinates with no mercy just to show us how heartless he is so that when he gets his just desserts, we won’t feel a thing for him. Don’t worry. I didn’t feel anything for the other characters too!

I probably want to say that the hidden star of this series goes to Takuya’s bike! Uh huh. I think this scooter is no doubt the highlight and poster child of this series. Maybe that is one of the reasons that intrigued me to watch. Not that I am a bike crazy fan or anything but seeing the poster of Takuya and Yuki on this bike, well, why do I have a feeling that this bike is also the star? And you can see why because as early as in the first episode, it did a lot of bat sh*t crazy stunts and survived! This bike withstood all the energy projection attacks from Tamashi and is still able to continue moving! Is this freaking awesome or not?! Just a little tweaking and maintenance and this bike is as good as always. Damn, I wonder what it is made of anyway. And they gave that cheesy flashback that Kaibara gave it to him so as to convince us why Takuya is so attached to this bike rather than getting a new one. After how it did the impossible, I can see why he won’t sell or trade this for a better one. And even in the final push, Takuya brings his scooter into Lost itself! I bet his bond with his bike is stronger! Haha! Hey, it got them out of Lost, didn’t it?! In the event if they lose their memories, maybe the bike won’t. What if the bike is Takuya’s Tamashi?! Holy sh*t!!!

This is supposed to be an action sci-fi, right? Fail too! Firstly, those stupid mindless agent clones from the Agency are comparable to all other useless goons you see in other shows and genres. Their numbers might look threatening but it is easy to take them out. I can understand if they are lifeless clones but I don’t think so because if they are normal humans like you and me, it would be a great shame and should be sent back to training. As bad as these cheesy action to fight off easy agents, the battles with Tamashi is over the top absurd! First we got a heavy monk and then some knife throwing hoodie. Whatever happened to them? I guess we don’t care. Even more absurd is Yuki’s ability to summon Akira for his firing power overkill. I think that was the one that broke my camel’s back. Because I can’t contain my laughter anymore and started cracking up. So are they saying that Yuki’s bond to Akira is a lot stronger than Souma or her father? Otherwise, why can’t she summon her dad as he might bombard his enemies with his digital projection! 0101 data coming your way! It all seems like a loose and poor execution to why this Akira character even exist. Like I said about those Agency’s goons, they’re incompetent so Daichi just needs to hire one gun totting bodyguard in case Taiyou decides to move on his family.

The animation is also poor that it makes you wonder if this is the same Madhouse staff that produced other animes like One Punch Man, No Game No Life, Highschool Of The Dead, Overlord, Black Lagoon and even Death Note. If I should say, the animation and even the characters look and feel sloppy. With the Lost area being cordoned off and abandoned for a long time, they want to give off this dystopian feel but with such bad quality, it feels like this anime is the one that is being affected by Lost! And the oddest character design goes to Yuki. No, not how she looks but rather the way she dresses. Even when everyone else is somewhat casually dressed, it is mind boggling for Yuki to wear a sleeveless white dress wherever she goes. Yeah, you might want to cover up a little considering the harsh environment she is getting into. Especially when she rides with Takuya? And doesn’t her white dress get dirty? Damn, she stands out like a sore thumb because her dress is like so bright compared to the rest! Even Kouta dressing sharply in his suit and Tsubasa’s Brigade dressing like cosplay weirdoes aren’t so bad.

This series has got a few famous seiyuus voicing its main characters. Particularly, Tomokazu Sugita as Takuya and Kana Hanazawa as Yuki and Mifuyu. All I can say is that their talents are wasted on this poorly written story and characters they play. It’s not their fault they can’t bring the best of their characters out, it’s because of this poor limitation that they are unable to fully release their potential. The other recognizable seiyuus having their wasted talents here include Ayane Sakura as Suzuna, Kenjiro Tsuda as Daichi, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka as Yoshiaki, Yuuichi Nakamura as Akira and Mamoru Miyano as Seiji. The rest of the other casts are Hidenoari Takahashi as Taiyou (Waka in Amnesia), Taisuke Nishimura as Geek, Ayaka Asai as Souma (Hazuki in Hibike! Euphonium), Tarusuke Shingaki as Eiji (Kariya in Fate/Zero), Mitsuki Nakae as Yumiko (Tsubaki in Hagane Orchestra), Masaki Terasoma as Keigo (Kiroranke in Golden Kamuy), Asami Imai as Tsuki (Ikaruga in Senran Kagura), Nobunaga Shimazaki as Tsubasa (Itsuka in Date A Live), Aimi Terakawa as Kikyou (Kasumi in BanG Dream), Makoto Takahashi as Kouta (Kouta in Majimoji Rurumo), Tomoyo Kurosawa as Ryouko (Kumiko in Hibike! Euphonium).

Something that doesn’t suck: The opening theme, Kotae by Mao Abe. This energetic hard rock outfit would have been really awesome had the series itself at least being decent. Now I feel that this song is a waste to be put into such mediocre series because this song isn’t that bad. It’s edgy as well as it’s badass to say the least. And then from hero to zero. Because the ending theme is like so out of place and WTF. With Your Breath by SPR5 is such a lively typical idol music that doesn’t fit the setting of this series. You know how mostly gloom and despair the episodes are. Suddenly they have this happy fanfare blasting at the start of the ending song which really makes you go “Huh?! WTF?!”. Really. I suppose this is the only way SPR5 can get its fair share of limelight. What a way to make your debut. Yeah, they got zapped by Lost and killed off! I prefer the special ending theme, Hello Again ~Mukashi Kara Aru Basho~ by Kana Hanazawa (I almost mistake its name to be some alternate cover on Adele’s Hello). Though a generic pop music and still lively, but at least I get to hear Kana Hanazawa’s cute voice while singing it. There are also some other BGM which are dramatic electronic music but they aren’t that memorable.

Overall, this is one big disaster that it seems Lost did not only affect the people and the plot of this anime but it also bombed for all of us who were unfortunate enough to have watched it. Yeah, you could say they really lost the plot and we all lost it with this crap! Haha! Pun intended! Poor storyline pacing and execution as well as uninteresting characters did not help in improving the intrigue of this series especially when some of the action scenes are just downright mediocre or ridiculous. Sometimes we feel we want to walk through the Lost portal and lose our memories of this series but that won’t do because it would mean we might repeat the same mistake and go watch it again. Maybe better to summon a Rambo Tamashi and shoot this series to bits! Haha! Oops. Hopefully, the mobile game that it was adapted on would fare better but since as usual I didn’t play it (nor have I heard of it until I watched this anime), I wouldn’t know. I suppose that is why they also call this series as Afterlost. Because it’s supposed to stay lost after that. Where I End and You Begin? It ended even before it began to lift off! This is also where I end trash talking this series and begin watching another one. I’m such a lost sheep of sci-fi animes after all…

Kakegurui XX

July 20, 2019

It wasn’t me. I had no money to bet there would be another reason and was just silently praying to God for it and boom! Here it was! Kakegurui XX was unexpected and I supposed somebody made a bet and won over the producers for another season. Or maybe God really worked his miracle. Thank you. God or whoever you are anonymous gambler for giving another season for this great psychological gambling game that had too many interesting potentials and developments that would be a shame had it not get another sequel. Now I can enjoy the second season without betting or risking anything XD. Or do I?

Episode 1
Yumeko, Ikishima and Erimi Mushibami are in a high stakes gambling. In this game, each will take turns to cut a string. One of the strings is connected to the guillotine that will definitely chop off their finger. Of course the first to pull out loses in this extreme game of chicken. The game is supervised by Inaho Yamato of the election committee whose duty is to be the neutral judge. Erimi is not afraid of the outcome. She knows there is a safety plate that would stop the blade from going down all the way. She is relishing to see the chance of her opponents squirm and panic in fear. However as the game passes and they cut fake strings, Erimi is puzzled that they are getting more and more excited. They’re basically orgasming and hope that the next string they cut is the real deal! She tries to play psychology to see how long they will last as she explains her family is in the business of torture and that’s why she has this mini guillotine. But when Yumeko checks with Inaho if she had checked and removed it and Inaho confirms it, Erimi starts to panic. Wait a minute. You mean there is no safety plate?! Prior to the game, for fairness, all the participants waited out of the room as Inaho checked the guillotine and shuffled the strings. Oh dear. Now it’s Inaho to get scared. She’s sweating a lot. Must be the heavy gothic dress, huh? NOT! And Ikishima and Yumeko are only getting crazier as the strings reduced. Yeah, the chances of the guillotine dropping could be any time soon… And there are only 3 strings left… Oh sh*t! And then Erimi starts crying inconsolably… WTF… What the f*ck?! WHAT THE F*CK???!!! Yumeko not looking happy. B*tch, did you just kill my vibe?! Flashback to when Kirari announced after a string of defeats the student council suffered at the hands of Yumeko, she is dissolving the student council and hold an election. Some are opposed to this because it will mean Kirari relinquishing her power. Kirari explains Hyakkaou is a garden she created beautifully based on the law of the survival of the fittest. But someone came to disrupt that beauty. If left alone, the distortion will grow. Hence she wants to stir things up even more. Kirari ushers in and introduces a new bunch of weirdoes. Terano and Yumi Totobami, Sumika Warakubami, Miroslava Honebami, Nozomi Komabami, Rin and Ibara Obami, Miri Yobami, Miyo Inbami and Erimi. All these are the relatives and branches of the Momobami clan. They have recently transferred here to represent their families as candidates for the presidential election. There is also Rei Batsubami but she isn’t gambling and serves as their butler.

Episode 2
Thanks to Kirari’s sudden announcement, the adults panic and sent their kids here since the winner will also become the head of the Momobami clan. Terano accuses Kirari of loving to see all the families panic over this. She hates her for easily taken what she wants and then relinquishes it with ease. While some of the existing student council protest this, Kirari notes that if they want to maintain status quo, all they have to do is win. Everyone has a fair chance with this election. This means the other students too. Everyone will be given a chip that represents their vote. You gamble and win votes of others. The person with the most votes after 30 days wins. Yumeko was happy with this but rued since Manyuda transferred all his money to her, looks like she can’t use it as bets in this election. Mary is wary of this election and wants to stay out (no Yumeko-Mary lesbian combo, I guess). She suspects they could be distant relatives of Yumeko since they all have that Bami name. Meanwhile Terano is the unofficial leader of the branches. She has everyone remember their pact to topple Kirari and until then they will not face each other. As for Yumeko, she must be a fringe family of the clan and they are free to fight or ignore her. Hence Erimi gets this idea to take her out. Rei then goes to get Yumeko who is delighted that somebody has issued a challenge to her. She wasn’t thrilled that Ikishima also got the invitation but soon gets excited after Erimi introduces her game. And that is where we all now. Erimi is struck by her own fear and terror but with those crazy b*tches egging her to go all the way, I guess Erimi has also lost it and just picks up the scissors to cut. A miss! Damn, the tension is running high! Ikishima is so f*cking excited that she cuts both strings at once! Here comes the guillotine!!!!!! Eh? The safety plate is still intact? Because Erimi pulled out first, she loses. Because Ikishima cut 2 strings, she is disqualified. Hence Yumeko is the winner. But Yumeko is very mad at Ikishima for killing the tension. Never show your face before me again! As for why the safety plate is still there, actually when Yumeko hinted to Inaho, it was because she noticed the table the guillotine sits on was unstable. Hence she removed the pads from the table’s feet to add stability. Yumeko praises Erimi for her pride and conviction of staying true till the end. Wow. Erimi really got psyched on this one. Meanwhile Kirari and Terano talk about the latter bringing in Rei here. Her house was expelled from the clan and he won’t do good as insurance. Terano insists she is just a joker whose actions will be unpredictable.

Episode 3
Nishinotouin loses to Miyo and Miri. Yumeko is now delighted to play against them. While Miri is cold and distant, Miyo tries to put up a polite and friendly façade for Yumeko. Runa supervises this nim zero game that Suzui wants to enter too. He thinks he can help Yumeko? Okay. This game has cards labelled from 0 to 3. Each will be given 4 cards and the goal is not to exceed the total 9. The one who surpasses that loses. They will play this for 3 rounds. Because Suzui only has 1 chip, he is offered a service chip. Each chip means 24 hours of service to the student council. Is he willing to take that risk? You bet! In the first round, Yumeko ups the ante by raising 30 chips! The rest follow. Yeah, Suzui follows to and that means 700 over hours of service if he loses… The round completes with Miyo busting her hand. Suzui is puzzled because she had a bad hand so why did she risk this? Suddenly Yumeko collapses. Meanwhile Mary is confronted by Ririka and is forced to play a simple gamble with her. Guess which hand has a chip and all these chips will be hers. If Mary wins, she will follow her around. If Ririka wins, Mary will team up with her to fight. However Mary takes off her mask, reducing her self-confidence drastically. Mary will not be cowed into this and refuses to play. Then she gets a call from Suzui. Help! Yumeko is poisoned and he is told to bring someone with lots of chips. Mary understands where this is going so she picks the correct hand of Ririka. Rushing to Yumeko’s side, she hears Suzui accusing Miyo and Miri of poisoning Yumeko. Their families might be in the pharmaceutical business but he has no proof. Even more so, Runa is perfectly sure there was no foul play during the game. This means it could happened before the game starts, outside Runa’s jurisdiction. Yup, the time Miyo hugged Yumeko during their introduction. With Mary replacing Yumeko, Miyo adds the serum as the wager. She also adds one cannot fold or else you have to press your finger against this nail coated with the same poison. Deep down inside Miyo, she relishes seeing these friends crumble in their noble bid to save Yumeko. The next round begins and Mary wants Suzui to show his hand! Well, that’s not against the rules. Suzui remembers Yumeko’s words to do all that Mary says. Hence he is going to believe in her. That is his bet! After seeing the weak cards he has, she is sure she can win this and raises the ante to 100 chips.

Episode 4
Miyo and Miri have developed some sort of telepathic way to communicate with themselves. Actually they ‘speak’ with their eyes. Whatever. Miyo wants Suzui not to listen to Mary. She will give the antidote to Yumeko and they should join forces to take her down as Mary is only trying to sacrifice him. Suzui rejects her deal because this is not what Yumeko would’ve wanted. The round ends with Miri losing. For the last round, the same thing as Mary has Suzui shows his cards. When Miyo raises the ante to 300 chips, Mary raises it to 10,000 chips! Miyo thinks she is trying to make them fold and is bluffing. They call on her and the game begins. Miyo and Miri realizes despite having good hands, they are the ones under threat. Yeah, Mary is smiling and enjoying the game. Miyo then notices that this could be Runa’s fault. It seems Mary has also noticed Runa’s Gilbreath shuffling style. From what I understand, no matter how you shuffle and cut the deck, every 4 cards will contain 1 from each suit (in this case, numbers) despite being random. So with 16 cards among them and each containing precisely 4 suits, that is why Mary had Suzui show his cards. This means she can tell what the cards Miyo and Miri have. With the limited choices they could make, it makes them easier to predict. Miyo accuses Runa of not adhering to neutrality. However Runa fires back that she has always been shuffling this way. It’s her fault not to take notice. Even so, as a dealer she sets the rules. It is her principle to make sure everyone has a fair shot at winning even if you are dead! The poison takes effect on Miri. Miyo then tells Miri to lose for her. She claims herself as superior. Miri does that and collapses. Miyo takes her away and vows to kill Mary next time. Yumeko is recuperating with Rei’s help administering the serum. Suzui thanks Mary and even Rei. He is glad that Rei is a kind person despite coming from a scary clan. But this makes Rei feel sad. As the gambling rages on, Kirari feels bored with her easy wins. Like as though nobody is serious in taking her out. Rin and Sumika join in and Kirari finally thinks she could at least have some fun. Mary whispers a secret only to Yumeko. Not sure if she can hear but Mary says she is going to be the next student council president.

Episode 5
The total votes so far after a week. The top 10 from lowest to highest: Yumeko, Miroslava, Miyo, Sumika, Sumeragi, Rin, Mary, Yumemi, Terano and of course in a runaway lead, Kirari. After Ikishima criticizes Yumemi as a talentless idol, this makes her go into a rage. Yumemi’s goal isn’t to become the student council president but if she has to influence on the next president, she must convince others she was the one putting them in power. As she has taken all the votes from her fans, the only way to get more votes is to get more fans. Rin thinks back about his match with Kirari. Because she bet all in, Rin folded. He realized it was her way to get them to go into some sudden death match and that has nothing to do with poker skills. Hence Rin and Sumika decided not to continue. The disappointment on Kirari’s face was priceless. Yumemi begs Yumeko to team up as an idol and garner more votes. Then everyone is abuzz with the world’s famous Hollywood actress here, Natari Kawaru. Yumeko is a big fan of hers. What is she doing here? To take part in the election. Eh? Natari’s real name is Sumika! She ignores Yumemi and wants to gamble with Yumeko. However Yumeko won’t be ignored and also challenges her. Natari agrees the dream girls team up against her in a singing performance. Of course Yumemi doesn’t care about winning or losing. It is her dream to perform with an actress she admires very much. However it would be much better if she beats that b*tch. Meanwhile Mary chides Ririka for following her around like a stalker. She claims that promise thingy but Mary will not acknowledge her as her partner unless she gambles and proves her worth. We see Yumeko and Yumemi belting out a typical kawaii idol song. When it is Natari’s turn, she stuns the crowd with her amazing voice while singing Amazing Grace! Holy sh*t! So beautiful that it blew everyone away?! Yumemi starting to look scared. And at the same time so awed that she also cried. Yumemi is not worried because she bribed her fans to vote for her. So here is the result of the first round. Natari thumping the duo 92-8 votes!!! Yumemi starting to look REALLY scared now.

Episode 6
Yumemi realizes the only way Natari could have won was that she too bribed others. But this was how she did it. She gave it to Rei to tell people to vote however they want. In the next match, they must eat 3 macarons. One of them is super spicy. The winner is one who can guess which macaron their opponent ate is the spicy one. Yumemi might look like she hit it with the first one but good acting. Because Natari points out it was the second one. She knows because Yumemi broke her finger just to hide the grimace. Yumeko could correctly guess Natari’s by counting the times she chewed! She took longer for the first one because she was delaying it, fascinated by Yumemi’s acting. But it was just pure gambling and guessing with the remaining ones. When Yumemi realizes she can never beat Natari no matter what, Yumeko becomes mad. B*tch, you just killed my vibe. She only helped because she was going to win but now that she has moved the goalpost, she hates her. In this last game, players pick up a card and set it face down. They can declare its actual value or lie. However they cannot exceed the value of 63. One may pass but this makes you out of the game. When 1 player is left, if the actual total value is below 63, she wins. Over, she loses. With Yumeko being lifeless and not cooperating with Yumemi, the idol thinks hard about her predicament. Indeed she wanted to lose but then she hears her fan scream not to give up. She remembers all those times being an idol and wants Yumeko to pass with her. Yumeko is surprised that she was acting all the time. She gets her groove back again but Yumemi dismisses it and that she wanted to lose and be praised by Natari for trying despite being talentless. Yumemi never wanted to be an idol but an actress. But being an idol made her realize this role is fun and she has been to places she could never have imagined. She doesn’t know if there is any meaning in beating her but she will find that meaning if she continues to look for it. With the dream girls pulling out, Runa counts the cards and it goes over. The dream girls win and Natari hopes to battle with Yumemi the next time. In Hollywood.

Episode 7
Yumeko sees Terano and wants to gamble. Finally Manyuda wakes up but he doesn’t care about his own life anymore. Even when Sumeragi tears up his Life Programme, he still doesn’t mind becoming her slave. Reverse psychology backfired. Here comes Yumeko to talk to them for a favour. Ibara and Miroslava are summoned by Terano. It seems she is in agreement with Yumeko’s plan. As Kirari is running away with the votes, soon none will have enough to challenge her and hence this plan is to pool their votes together to the winner. However Terano will not be joining in due to her promise not to fight her brethren. Rumia Uru oversees this game. Each will be given 5 coins to put in either a personal deposit box or a tax box. Coins in the personal box will be counted to their overall total. But coins deposited in the tax box will be doubled and distributed equally to all players including those who didn’t contribute. This will last for 5 rounds and the winner will get the votes which are from Terano’s. However if they fail to get 40 coins, they will give their votes to her. Before each round, they have time to discuss strategy and can eliminate a player if 3 of them agree. As Sumeragi heads to deposit first, Manyuda asks Yumeko about her passion for gambling. But does she feel remorse for those lives she ruined? None. However this makes Rei very mad and only backed down when Terano instructed her. When the first round ends, it seems they are a few coins short and this means there is a traitor among them who didn’t deposit in the tax box. With accusations flying, Yumeko comes up with an idea by having everyone pick randomly a paper with a number to indicate how much they must deposit in the tax box. While the traitor may get away with 1 or 2 coins, at least this avoids a big betrayal. But by the end of the second round, even lesser coins were deposit so much so that there is at least 2 traitors in the midst for this to happen. Ibara gets mad believing Yumeko is the traitor since she expected this outcome too. With Sumeragi accusing Ibara and Miroslava as in cohorts, Manyuda surprisingly gives his evaluation on who the traitor is. Judging from the circumstances, he points to Yumeko.

Episode 8
Manyuda explains about Yumeko and Terano conspiring together to assure they could profit from this. This makes Sumeragi sad that he has gone senile. In the next round, it’s the same as the last. Yumeko then orgasms that they they’re going to lose. WTF she seducing Manyuda and that activates his desire to bring everybody down now?! So both of them declare they won’t pay any taxes and hence making everyone to do the same. However everyone paid them in full. Manyuda now reveals the true traitors are Miroslava and Sumeragi. You see, it isn’t against the rules to leave your coins for others. Hence Sumeragi left hers for Miroslava whose turn is after her. Even if Miroslava had no reason to trust her, what if the note says to bank in her coins into her own deposit box? Not bad seeing there are no risks and all she need to do is get rid of the evidence. Manyuda calculates the coins received from this and Miroslava is in a massive lead. Hence the majority agrees to remove her from the final round. Miroslava realizes she has been played by Sumeragi but doesn’t hold a grudge against her since they were both allies in betrayal. But she does note she likes Manyuda because she set this up in a way for him to win. After the final round, Sumeragi wins the game. Although the votes are redistributed and Sumeragi is to receive 100 votes, however Rei announces a third party betting. Prior to this, Sumeragi and Terano made a bet if Manyuda would win or lost and achieve 40 coins. Sumeragi betted he couldn’t and must now pay her 150 votes. Manyuda is mad she did this but for Sumeragi, either way it is a win for her. Had Manyuda lost, Sumeragi would win a huge amount of votes. Had Manyuda won, she loses her votes but knew he didn’t go senile and still had it in him. She is happy with either way. Hence this game wasn’t about him interested in finding out what other people think but what is in his own heart. Sumeragi doesn’t see this as saving him. He is her accomplice and now her gamble is now left in her hands. With that, Sumeragi is no longer in the running for the student council president. Sayaka is getting worried that Terano is obtaining more votes and will do anything like threats and expulsion just to protect Kirari. However Kirari will not have any of that. She wants Yumeko to stir things up further. Oh Sayaka. You looking so sad. Is she going to get a heart attack?

Episode 9
Update on the rankings of the election. The top 10 from lowest to highest: Suzui (surprise!), Nozomi, Miyo, Ibara, Yumeko, Rin, Mary, Yumemi, Terano and Kirari. When Yumeko declares to challenge Kirari right now, this is when b*tch Sayaka steps in to berate her and even wants Kirari to throw her out right now. Of course no can do. This has Sayaka wondering if Kirari will look at her more favourably if she beats Yumeko at gambling. Well, if she can. This has Sayaka challenging Yumeko to a gamble. But it will be separate from the election and not votes. They will bet their lives. As shocking this may sound, Yumeko declines. Because that would be too boring. In order for Sayaka to really bet everything, she must risk her relationship and memories with Kirari. That is her ultimate bet. If Yumeko loses, she will never gamble again. With Kirari looking forward to this and wants to be their dealer, it’s do or die for Sayaka. In this tower game, the aim is to move from the fifth floor down to the first floor to pick a flower and then back up to the fifth floor again. The fastest to do so wins. However there are doors and hatches that brings you up or down different levels. Only the central staircase brings you directly to the bottom and top floor. Each will have 5 minutes as they take turns to choose a door to open but each door has a puzzle they must solve. However a word of caution, even if they get the answer correct, it may not be the solution. With Sayaka still thinking about her important ties with Kirari, Kirari ups the ante for her. Let the loser jump off the highest floor and die. So if Sayaka losers, she will die an utter stranger to her. The game begins, Yumeko goes first. I don’t really get the puzzles to the doors that keep changing but it has something to do with hexadecimal and decimal values. Although Yumeko got it right, behind the door is a wall. Sayaka’s turn, she chooses her hatch and her answer allows her to go down to another floor. But reaching the 4th floor, she realizes the other hatch goes down a few more floors. She thought of praying to God for Yumeko not to choose that hatch but screw that. She is going to believe in her decisions and Kirari! Yumeko’s turn, she chooses a door. Not sure if she is making out with the door because she considers this tower as her opponent and wants to get to know more about it. Every inch, nook and corner. Because rather than living in ignorance, better to know everything and die!

Episode 10
Flashback shows Sayaka as a meek girl who met Kirari and wanted to be a secretary. She was enthralled with her gambling style and wanted to be close to her to learn more. Sayaka feared she said too much but surprisingly, Kirari took a liking for her rationality and accepted. As she makes her way to the first floor, she is shocked that Yumeko hasn’t arrived. She cannot have left since her flower is still here. She starts to think what might have happened and on her next turn, tries the central staircase. Brick wall. It is then Yumeko shows up. Sayaka starts laughing and is now confident to beat her. She climbs her way back up, certain that she will win but wait… Yumeko has arrived! Sayaka in shock! Face it. She lost. Yumeko explains about her choice. The puzzles displayed are actually angles. When she opened the door, she just wanted to look at the moon. However there was nothing. It then dawned to her that this entire tower itself is rotating. That is why they sometimes hit the brick wall. So using this calculation, Yumeko was able to use the central staircase and head right back up. Sayaka is still in disbelief. Why would Kirari design a tower that doesn’t not fully utilize gambling? That’s the thing. That’s part of the gamble. Dead fish Sayaka realizes she lost because of logic. Saddened by her fate she couldn’t understand the person she loves, she prepares to jump to her death. After doing so, she is shocked to see Sayaka jumping after her! It isn’t the flower fields that broke their fall. Yeah, safety mats. Kirari explains this is her tower so she wanted to also be the first person to jump off. However Sayaka chose the correct door because other doors would have led to her death. Hence despite not thinking, her mind is still seeking logic. After all this time, she still finds her fascinating. Now that they are strangers, she offers her to become her secretary. She might not understand her but that’s okay. Can we say today is the day Sayaka died and reborn again?

Episode 11
A few received an invitation for the 100 vote auction. But not all those who were invited came. Those who turn up are Yumeko, Suzui, Mary, Ririka, Nishinotouin and Ikishima (totally ignored by Yumeko). The auctioneer is Rei and Inaho invigilates this gamble. Rei cannot disclose the sponsor for the 100 votes up for grabs and explains the rules. They will be using their votes to bid and whoever places the highest bid will win the 100 vote lot. The catch is that they will not know who bids. Also, if you don’t win the lot, you lose everything you bid. I’m not very clear about the rest because if they are limited by the number of votes they have, will that limit their play? Anyway, Mary is confident she can win this as she warns the others this is just a ploy to compete among themselves as the one who actually wins is the sponsor. But with others bidding, Mary is forced to bid higher and wins the first round. In the next round, Mary says the same thing but this time Nishinotouin wins the bid. Before the next round, Mary announces she will bid 99 to prevent anyone from bidding hire (because if they bid 100, they will trade it with the 100 votes they win). But she lied and bid 10. Then somebody raises it to 20. This only confirms her suspicions that Rei is also playing this game to deliberately raise the price. This will go on until the sponsor made a profit. Rei admits she is playing but vows not to participate further. Mary thought the next round would be smooth sailing but somebody is still trying to outbid her. This is when Yumeko realizes that there is another participant somewhere and that they can see them. True enough the other Bami members are watching from a different room and the one who just bid was Ibara. With Yumeko turned on, she points out that Rei is the sponsor and organizer of this gamble. She then brings in 3 billion yen (from her win from Manyuda) and wants to use this to win this round’s 100 votes (apparently she talked to Inaho about some rule amending thingy and it was approved with all those present consented). She wants to gamble with the real Rei, bid this 3 billion and win everything that belongs to her. With Rei admitting that, she throws away her ‘mask’ and reveals her true ‘face’.

Episode 12
We delve into Rei’s past as one of those Bami members who was raised as a livestock ever since. Her role was to only serve others until one day Yumeko’s sister told her the mark on her hands doesn’t mean it is engraved in her heart forever. Her heart is hers alone. This made Rei happy. She continued her role but every time Yumeko’s sister visited, she would be happy. But each time she looks even more and more weak. Until one day she too got devoured and lost in a gamble among the clan’s conflict. Ever since, Rei vowed revenge and take back what is hers. Hence Rei announces she will win this election and become the next clan head as revenge. With the auction continuing, the other Bami members realized this wasn’t an act by Terano that they assumed. They’ve been had. As for how Rei amassed her votes, there was a large gamble recently where one would vote whether Rei could win this. All the girls who were swept off their feet gave their votes to her and hence she has enough votes to compete. The Bami members want to quit but they realize they will lose more if they quit as there is the risk of Rei getting all the votes so they are forced to stay in. The auction continues in the same fashion. Like as though Rei is going to win anyhow. Suddenly Yumeko quickly posts a few 101 starting bids. And then a few subsequent delayed ones. The Bami realizes this delay is that she is looking for an answer so when the next bid starts, the Bami side quickly cast their 101 bid.

But after that, Yumeko then bids 1. As Mary notes she can’t just profit them all, Yumeko suggests they should join in. Hence everyone takes turns in bidding 1 and win the 100 lot to finally ruin Rei. Rei accuses them of collusion which is forbidden by the rules. However Yumeko explains it isn’t so. It is that they clearly understand each other! Hence they manage to understand the need to profit by not competing with each other (the 101 useless bids were just trolls for this understanding). With Rei having no votes left, she thinks she is done for but Yumeko points out that she still has something to wager: Her 3 billion yen. This is her everything. Don’t gamble for the sake of revenge or others. Gamble for yourself! It is your own heart! Rei accepts this final big gamble in which Yumeko wagers her own name. If she loses, she will take on Rei’s forsaken surname. It all boils down to a single coin toss… In the aftermath, it seems Rei has been freed by her imaginary chains and is encouraged by Kirari to write her new Bami surname. So this means Yumeko won the coin toss and is now gambling it all away! Oh dear. Easy come, easy go? Sumeragi stops her before she bankrupts herself out of this election. Then a smoking hot never seen before babe passes by. Oh gosh! Rei is so feminine and beautiful! Yumeko is happy because today is the first day of her very own life. Terano thinks that the joker wasn’t Rei all along but Yumeko.

Luck Not Needed, Only Madness…
Oh God… I think I’m addicted to it… I think this needs another season… Another season real bad… I mean, it can’t just end here like this, can it?! I need more! I need more right now! How to go on without any more money???!!! I guess I’m broke. This means all that is left is to complain and b*tch about this unsatisfying ending. So I guess the real character in focus this season is Rei. With her being finally liberated from her imaginary chains, is this considered a happy ending? Perhaps for Rei. Because certainly Yumeko would also be happy because there would be another one of her kind who would gamble for their own sake and reach that kind of level of insanity. The kind of orgasmic thrills that such extreme gambler could feel when they are on the edge. But that’s another story.

This season is still as interesting and tense as its first. Although there are some points like the mechanisms and the workings of the gamble in play that I don’t really understand no matter how many times I go back and listen to the rules. That still didn’t diminish my overall enjoyment of the series although it could have been a lot more enjoyable had I really understood how the gamble works. For instance the final gamble of this season, the 100 votes auction felt like anybody could just bid any number. Because I thought they are limited to the number of votes they have and this puts those with low number of votes at a disadvantage. Maybe I am missing something here but trying to follow through the scheming but not understanding the system of how it works feels somewhat frustrating.

The psychological tensions are still interesting to watch as we get to see how such precarious situations bring out the best and the worst in all of us. Of course those who are already as crazy as Yumeko, there is nothing more to say. But those who stand to lose a lot and fear in losing all that power, money, fame, status, etc, have a higher chance of showing their true colours and make a blunder. Good example as in Erimi’s case. She wanted to show off but underestimated her opponents and in the end found herself in a position that should have been experienced by her enemies.

Many of the games are simple but with just a slight twist to the rules. Some are elaborate like Kirari’s tower that aren’t anything much ado but are for aesthetics. While they are interesting in their own right, I feel that because of the drama, sly manoeuvrings, deceptions, delusions and psychological tensions being played during the games, this somewhat lengthens and stretches out the games by 2 or 3 episodes. The game would have seriously end very quickly had they not do all this stuffs. But then again, where would all the fun be had it been cut out? Viewers won’t get a satisfied explanation on what is going on and like myself as I have said don’t really understand some of the rules to begin with, will get even more confused if the game ended too fast. Like Yumeko always said, one must truly enjoy a good gamble.

With Kirari being unpredictable and forcing this student election gamble, hence the introduction of a few characters from the other Bami families in a bid to overthrow her. It feels unfortunate that with only a single cour in this season, it doesn’t do any much justice to the existing and new characters. While Yumeko is still the central main character and involved in almost every gamble we see here, in some instances she doesn’t feel like the main character. How should I put it? For instance the Yumemi and Natari’s battle, the focus is mainly on them and while Yumeko maintains her presence, she feels more like a sideshow. After all, Yumeko’s ultimate goal is to enjoy high stakes gamble and not be some typical cliché main character.

Characters from Yumeko’s camp also don’t fare any better. Feels like they have their turn and moments but those were short. Like Suzui seems really forgettable here and he is mostly an observer in many of the gambles. Except for that card game with the Chinese duo in which he participated but it feels like he is more of a puppet than anything else. Mary also feels very much like a side character. The card game to substitute Yumeko felt like some sort of ploy to give her some screen time and remind us that she is still sly in her own right. Then after Ririka weirdly becomes some sort of her ally and accomplice, she doesn’t stand out too much. Even that final auction game even though shows like as though she is trying to take control but I just don’t really feel the impact. What it feels like a last chance for Sumeragi to be relevant and go out with style and respect, is that the reason why they also brought back Manyuda? I don’t think it will be the last I see of them but after making amends and realizing the important stuffs, does the student council election matter anymore to them? Some weird romance they played out here…

I thought this season Sayaka was going to be side-lined since many of the other student council members too were somewhat thrown off the limelight. Nishinotouin and Ikishima going out early (poor Ikishima being treated as non-existent by Yumeko and anybody who talks to her before Yumeko’s presence gets chastised of who the f*cks are you talking to?!), Manyuda in coma (until that revival for that tax game) and Ririka turning into Mary’s subordinate, where would that make Kirari’s right hand woman? It’s a good thing we don’t have to see her getting jealous and b*tch about her precious Kirari but I suppose that gamble with Yumeko once and for all settles this. So let’s hope that with their renewed bond, Sayaka would be a more respectable character than before. Not like it matters anymore considering the direction of the plot. Kirari as the big boss seems like she is just biding her time until somebody crazy and worthy enough pops up to challenge her. I bet it would be worth the wait for her. So aside her, the only other successful original student council member is Yumemi. Even if she can’t become the student council president (she might be one of the top running candidates but I’m not betting on her to win it… Unless…), she still has something bigger to aim and strive for.

The Bami family members are equally as quirky and even as cruel due to each of their families specializing in some sort of specialty (like the Chinese duo in poison and Erimi in torturing). It would have been very cliché and linear if the story would be Yumeko going on to defeat all the Bami family one by one until the final boss but that would have been absolutely boring. After all, if Yumeko’s real goal was that, she would have challenged them all to one huge gamble. Small bets aren’t her style. It is unfortunate that the single cour has limited the fleshing out of these extremely interesting characters and while some have their limelight, others do not (like Nozomi – because I want to know how relevant her dog is). It looks like Terano is the unofficial leader leading the other Bami families to overthrow Kirari but considering this backstabbing family where power is absolute, there might be plot twists to more than meets the eye. After all when in a game of high stakes, you don’t really trust anybody. And it might seem this unofficial alliance is only intact because of Terano but who knows, anything can happen when so much is on the line. Heck, all this might just be a show and for all you know, Terano is actually conspiring with Kirari all along. At the end of the day, I suppose the last one standing definitely has the right to be called the biggest snake. Isn’t that what uwabami is?

I suppose the hidden and ‘star’ of this season is the character Rei. Serving as the butler to the entire academy as well as the Bami family, many things that she does gives off this suspicious aura. That kind of submissive and servitude feels like she is putting on some kind of mask to hide her true feelings. Not to mention that she has some sort of charisma and all the girls start swooning whenever she passes by. All that somewhat paid off with all of them willingly giving their votes to let Rei run for presidency, huh? Rei’s gender is never explicitly mentioned although she acts and dresses like a man but I know better… With Rei finally showing her true colours, it certainly looks to rattle the entire Bami clan but it went out with a sputter after that simple but gigantic loss to Yumeko. But then again, Rei didn’t particularly ‘lose’. She just ‘lost’ her past and gained her new freedom. You could say she won the lottery of this sense.

The other reason why I said she is the ‘star’ of this show is because that is why the second season is somewhat named after her, no? You see, ‘X’ in Japan is pronounced as ‘batsu’, which is Rei’s surname. Hence double X, double whammy? Uh huh. Thanks to that, I have a slightly hard time trying to find more legitimate info about this series. Because it leads me to those damn porn sites!!! I think there’s a reason why they didn’t call this season Kakegurui XXX… Yeah… A whole new gamble here…

Art and animation remain constant with last season. The trademark of this show is those devilish eyes. When the characters get serious or fall into their delirium, you will see a zoom in and close up of their eye. Yumeko is the main offender as her eyes will glow red like as though she is the devil reincarnate. Even Terminator would run towards his mummy. Heh. And oddly, I know Yumeko gets her thrills from gambling, but sometimes thinking about where the gamble is going also makes her orgasmic. Hence your weird fanservice of Yumeko doing sexy orgasmic poses that looks more like WTF than anything stimulating. Sorry folks, no Yumeko-Mary yuri fanservice this season. On a trivial note, why do I have this feeling that Natari’s character is modelled after Audrey Hepburn? She is considered by many to be one of the best actresses in Hollywood history.

This season’s opening theme doesn’t have that playful and naughty bubbly madness as it did in last season. Kono Yubi Tomare by Junna feels just pretty generic although a bit dramatic. Even its visuals in the opening credits aren’t as crazy. The same can be said for the ending theme, Alegria by D-selections. Last season we were treated to some crazy psychedelic delusions of Yumeko. This season we have Yumeko hinting some yuri action with Kirari in the forest. WTF?! You mean the natural forest?! Ah, the rules of the jungle and natural selection. The survival of the strongest and fittest. And yeah, it ends with some weird psychedelic lights thingy too, indicating that Yumeko might be high on some sort drugs. Whatever.

For the voice acting segment, recognizable joining the line-up include Romi Paku as Rei, Ayana Taketatsu as Erimi and Akira Ishida as Rin. Of course Mamiko Noto making her cameo as Yumeko’s sister! Hmm… Once I considered them as clones due to the similarity of their voice and now they are sisters here… How strange. The other new casts are Megumi Han as Terano (Akko in Little Witch Academia), Mitsuki Saiga as Miroslava (Phantom in MAR), Yoshimasa Hosoya as Ibara (Reiner in Shingeki No Kyojin), Ayahi Takagaki as Natari/Sumika (Chris in Senki Zesshou Symphogear), Yumi Uchiyama as Miyo (Hameline in Radiant), Rumi Okubo as Miri (Hibachi in Mushibugyou), Sayaka Kitahara as Nozomi (Mary in Busou Shoujo Machiavellism), Haruno Inoue as Yumi (Kaoru in Nobunagun) and Nanami Yamashita as Inaho (Nanami in Wake Up Girls).

Overall, absolutely interesting and intriguing second season only to be cut short because it is just a single cour. Not enough time to flesh out properly all the other characters, old and new. Some of the games are a bit hard to comprehend for a simpleton like me but that doesn’t greatly impact and diminish the overall enjoyment I had. So back to praying to God that this gets another season. And soon. Don’t want to wait 5 years or 10 years for it to get another season (like a few third season anime series lately like To Aru No Majutsu Index, Date A Live and Chihayafuru being aired after a long hiatus from their second season) so here is leaving to luck and chance! I’m betting that I have a better chance of getting a third season than winning the lottery :’(.

Banana Fish

May 5, 2019

Oh no. With a name like that, Banana Fish really sounds very fishy and the kind of anime that I think I would clearly stay away from. Because the promotional poster and its synopsis seem to hint of some possible gay yaoi BL thingy. Banana Fish. BF. Boyfriend. Uh huh. Handsome American boy meets handsome Japanese boy in America. Uh oh. I can see where this is going. And even more so when I read that the main character is a sex toy to some old powerful guy. Yikes. However my guts were ringing like hell and telling me it wasn’t going to fall into that bias stereotypic of mine. It was going to be different. A lot different. Homosexuality, child trafficking, child pornography, paedophilia, drugs, street gangs. Wow. Welcome to America, people.

Episode 1
Nearing the end of the Iraq war, a group of Americans are resting and hoping they will go home when one of them, Griffin Callenreese fires and kills many of his own men. He is taken down but still alive. The only thing that comes out of his mouth is “Banana Fish”. In current time, Ash Lynx meets a dying man who hands him some pill and address. Noticing a few punks chasing this dead guy, Ash learns they were sent by Dino Golzine. He goes to see him and is upset about not keeping his promise not to kill anyone. Dino says he was a rat and it was necessary to take him out. Ash returns to his home as Skip informs him that a couple of Japanese guys are coming to interview him for their article on street gangs. Meanwhile the scientist informs the worst to Dino that something precious has gone missing. Want to bet it’s that pill? We see Griffin in Ash’s care. Although he is a vegetable and can say nothing but Banana Fish. This intrigues Ash because that dead guy also said the same thing. Ash sees Dr Meredith to analyse the contents of the powder in this pill. Dino of course suspects Ash has gotten something that belongs to him and summons him for questioning. Ash plays dumb but Dino isn’t convinced. So when Ash returns home, he knew Dino has sent his men to search his place. With the men finding nothing, Dino believes Ash is being careful and assigns Marvin to take care of it all. Hence Marvin makes a deal with Ash’s rival, Frederick Arthur. The Japanese photographers, Shunichi Ibe and Eiji Okumura meet the NYPD guys, Antonio Jenkins and Charlie Dickenson. Meredith can’t make head or tail of this drug. As for Banana Fish, it is from a short story of JD Salinger. In the story, if you see a Banana Fish at sea, you feel like dying. Ibe and Eiji set foot in Ash’s turf. I guess young Japanese guy isn’t sure of the American custom and still trying to be the polite Japanese, he asks Ash for permission to look at his gun! Surprisingly Ash does so. Skip believes Ash takes a liking for him since he never lets anyone touch his gun. Ash receives a distress call from Shorter Wong to get out of here now because Arthur has rounded up some guys to get him. Yeah, he should have called earlier because they’re now busting the place. However Ash soon realizes he isn’t the target and that they’re after Skip. They also kidnap Eiji too since he is with the boy. Ash borrows Shorter’s bike to give chase.

Episode 2
Ash confronts Arthur and Marvin. He is forced to throw down his gun to save the duo but Arthur now punches him as payback (for damaging his fingers). They are then imprisoned but because Marvin is such a gay pig, he wants to f*ck Ash in exchange of putting a good word to Dino. Ash pretends to allow him but once the fatty lets his guard down, Ash beats him up and they all escape. Too bad they hit a dead end. Eiji isn’t breaking the steel pipe to fight back. In fact, he is going to use it to jump over the barbwire brick wall! Yeah, he was once a pole vaulter. Eiji is successful and Ash is amazed of this beautiful ‘flight’. Of course Eiji lands hard. Wooden crates break his fall? Thank goodness it didn’t pierce him. Bleeding Eiji manages to call NYPD before losing conscious. Eiji might feel bad he left Ash and Skip behind but with the details, Charlie can move in and act now. Before Marvin could take Ash away, Shorter and his gang arrive for some gang fight. Marvin points his gun at Ash but then shoots Skip. Charlie arrives too late. Ash is mad as he chases Marvin. By the time he arrives at his place, he sees Marvin’s dead body. A gun on the floor. Oh no. Too late. The police are here. You’ve been setup. Evanstine interrogates Ash and this bad cop tries to provoke Ash into talking by taking out all the child porn material that they found in Marvin’s room. You see, Ash was one of his porn child actors. Evanstine plays a cruel video of that porn scene of Marvin doing in a young Ash. Hence there is motive for Ash to kill this bastard. Luckily Ash holds in his rage but is taken away. Evanstine is on Dino’s payroll as he reports to the big boss who in turn makes a call to a judge under his payroll too. Charlie tries to talk to Ash but Ash already knows what kind of fate is in store for him. Especially Dino owning a team of big shot lawyers. Charlie hopes Eiji could talk to Ash seeing he trusts him but Eiji being a lousy liar, Ash somewhat envies Eiji for being able to ‘fly’. Eiji is so touched that he comes out crying?! Yeah, he can’t force this guy to talk. More bad news as the judge has sentenced Ash to state prison. Their only hope is Max Lobo who is imprisoned there. Ash is ushered in and all the prisoners are making wolf calls at this pretty boy. Ash the target? More like his ass would be the first target!

Episode 3
Charlie makes a plea to Max to protect Ash. Luckily they are cellmates as Max tries to be friendly with him but Ash knows the pitiful columns he writes for a certain newspaper. As Max shows him around, Garvey tries to make a move on him. Ash loses his temper and beats the sh*t out of this guy. He is thrown into solitary confinement but that didn’t rough him up or make him repent the slightest. Ash remembers ever since Dino took him in when he was young, he has been waiting for a chance to be free. But to do that he must go up against him. Knowing the drug is the cause and key to it all, he needs to get word to Meredith and Griffin to stay away from it. But how? He is being closely watched. The phones tapped and the letters will be scrutinized. It looks odd that Ash allows Garvey to f*ck him up in the library. In the infirmary, he requests for a pill for his headache. Ash learns that Max also knows about Banana Fish. Somewhat. He believes Banana Fish is a person. There was some guy who wrote an article on the Iraq war. It is unclear if Banana Fish is an individual or an organization but it is connected to drug trafficking. Oddly, the rumours died out after 2007. Max supposedly knows this guy but Ash points out he is already dead. Max is also after Banana Fish as he had a friend who was seriously messed up by a bad drug. When Ash learns his friend is Griffin, he knows Max is the one who shot Griffin, his brother and put him in this vegetative state. Ash isn’t his real name but Aslan Callenreese. Ash blames him for leaving Griffin there to die although Max has done everything in his power to help him. Griffin can’t even recognize his own brother, will he even recognize Max? When Ash gets out, he will kill him. When Eiji comes to visit Ash, it seems Ash flirts with him and before they go, kisses him!!! This gay moment is only because Ash slipped a pill into Eiji’s mouth. Eiji knows something is up as he takes a look at the message inside the pill. He wants him to go to a shop in Chinatown and meet Shorter. Just say Ash sent him and tell him what he gave to Meredith to hide it somewhere. Max is affected so much that he sees Griffin in Ash and almost tries to kill him! Eiji enters the shop but is told that person is not around. Eiji isn’t careful as he isn’t aware Dino has sent spies to tail him. And since he said the doctor’s name… Before he knows it, he is confronted by Arthur.

Episode 4
Arthur threatens to kill the doctor if Eiji doesn’t talk. He spills everything and yet Arthur is going to kill. He is going to make Ash pay by taking away everything precious to him. Luckily Shorter is here before anyone dies. After getting the drug, Griffin miraculously got up. But Abraham Dawson panics to see him alive and shoots him. In the commotion, Arthur and his men escape. Meredith treats Griffin personally and can’t bring him to the hospital or the mafia will track him. Max changes cell? Yeah, some bull guy is now Ash’s cellmate and he wants to get gay with this guy. Ash isn’t a pushover and beats him up and would have killed him had not worried Max returned to stop the fight. When Eiji is finally reunited with worried Ibe, he mentions about Griffin saying Banana Fish when he saw Abraham. Meredith kept some of the substance and believes it is something like LSD but it symptoms last longer. Even way past 24 hours. The lab rats went aggressive and killed each other. It might have something to do with the recent strange suicide cases. Ibe wants Eiji to return to Japan now as it is getting dangerous. Eiji will not do it despite Ibe is only concern for his safety. What will Ibe say to his parents if he really gets killed? Worst scenario happens as Griffin dies. It is suggested they don’t tell Ash for now so he won’t do anything stupid like breaking out of prison. Charlie then calls Max to tell him this. Meanwhile Ash is being beaten up by Garvey as per Dino’s orders. Of course he fights back and when Max comes to break them up, accidentally mentions about Griffin. I’m sure Garvey won’t bother Ash for a while after sticking a fork in his crotch! Ouch! Ash pesters Max about Griffin and uses that betrayal psychology to talk. Max says Griffin is dead. Ash is in shock and beats up Max if he tries to get near him. Max has had it playing Mr Nice Guy and fights back. I guess this got nowhere so the duo go back to their cell to talk (Max transferred back?). Max tells how Griffin was his buddy. But the Iraq war totally did him in. Friend or foe were alike and he couldn’t take it and relied on drugs to get through. Ash in turn tells him all he knows when he was first handed the pill and address. Ash was fortunate to be brought up by Griffin and without him, would have starved to death. After the war, he was so weak he couldn’t even take a piss himself. But that is all over now. Griffin isn’t around anymore.

Episode 5
With Jenkins pulling strings, Ash is able to get out on bail. So as Charlie picks him up, Ash puts up an act of wanting to see Griffin so Charlie tells him the truth. More crocodile tears to let Charlie’s guard down. Then Ash steals his gun and kicks him out of the car. Charlie and Ibe struggle to contain him but Eiji decides to side with Ash and drives the car away. Meanwhile Arthur bugs Dino about this Banana Fish. Dino says that it is not a human but a drug. A drug that will change the world. Ash reunites with Shorter who wants to help Eiji with his fight against Dino. Ash was reluctant at first but since Shorter has a reason to go up against Dino and Ash can’t do it alone, Ash allows it. Even Eiji too. He was forced to retire from pole vaulting due to injury. Ibe saw him depressed and decided to bring him to America. Because he feels responsible for all this, he wants to see this one till the end. Ash gives Eiji a gun and teaches him how to sue it because when the fight starts, he won’t be able to protect him. Then Ash goes to see some Chinese corporate guy, Lee Wang Lung who seems to be on bad terms with Dino. He will help those who goes up against Dino and is more than willing to lend Ash a truck as per his request. Ash then explains about Club Cod. It’s not a seafood restaurant. It serves humans. In this secret club, Dino is the head and runs the operations of selling young boys to other prominent figures. That way, he makes a profit and has control over them. The club catches young runaway boys and sell them. They are drugged so they can’t run and only have a few years to live. Dino is always here in the middle of every month. Max just got out of prison and he goes to see Ibe and knows Ash will be at Club Cod. When Dino arrives at Club Cod, Ash begins his move. Shorter drives the truck to ram into the area. WTF Ash standing atop the truck and shooting?! Yeah, he got Dino’s shoulder. If not for Arthur’s men sniping Ash (on his shoulder), it could’ve been bad. A gunfight ensues in the chaos. Max and Ibe arrive and tell their friends to escape via jumping into the sea. Even after escaping, Ash still wants to continue picking a fight so Max punches him out and they all take refuge at his place. Dino orders his men to capture Ash alive. He doesn’t care what they do as long as they bring him back to him because Ash is his.

Episode 6
Ash and co return to his father’s home in Boston. Although stepmom Jennifer is happy to see him, Jim isn’t. Ash only wants the keys to the house Griffin used to stay and they’ll leave once the truck is fixed. Jim continues to dislike his son and considers his friends as manwhores. Ash relates that he and Griffin were born to different mothers. In the house, they find an old album. There is a photo that has Abraham’s picture in it. It must have been Griffin’s old platoon. Locating this dude, they find out his address similar to the one Ash was given. He lives in LA. As Jim continues to have bad blood with Ash, Eiji gets mad. I guess it’s time for dad to reveal how things turned out. When Ash was young, there was a military veteran who lived up the hills. The kids loved him and he coached a baseball team that Ash was in. One day, Ash came home messed up and he knew what happened. He was taken to the police but since everyone loved that army dude, they blamed Ash for seducing him. Hence Jim had no choice but to tell Ash that if anybody tried to same thing on him, just allow it but make him pay for it. A year later, Ash shot that guy with Jim’s gun. When cops searched his house, they found bones of children in his basement. Although Ash wasn’t found guilty of anything, Jim sent him to his sister’s place but subsequently he ran away. That night, a couple of guys enter the store just when Jim and Jennifer are about to close. Turns out they are Dino’s men and they take them hostage to lure Ash out. Ash has no choice but to give in. Lucky the fast thinking of his friends distract them for a while. Ash is able to fight back but unfortunately Jennifer was shot and killed. Jim was shot too but only in his shoulder. After killing Dino’s men, Jim tells his son to leave now as he has a friend to call the ambulance and cops over. Jim puts his fingerprints over the murder weapons so as to clear their name. After learning Ash is up against a big mafiaso who killed Griffin, Jim gives his blessings. No time for father-son reconciliation as they have to get running. Meanwhile Dino sees Wang Lung and informs how his Banana Fish will have no impact on his business. In fact, he is willing to relinquish some European territories to him next year. All he needs is his cooperation to catch Ash. He wants that kid because he has 2 journalists with him and will stop at nothing to stop to leak. Since they are heading to LA which is under Wang Lung’s territory, Wang Lung will send his men Yut Lung for the job. A week later, Ash and co arrive at the city of angels.

Episode 7
The gang stops by at Max’s home. Max is happy to greet his son, Michael but his ex-wife, Jessica is still mad at him. Because she is acquaintance with Ibe, she lets all of them in. So apparently this short detour is because Max wanted to leave a birthday present for Michael. After doing so, they head to the address but see Yau Si assaulted by some thugs. They manage to chase them off as they learn Yau Si is Abraham’s nephew. Of course, Yau Si himself is adopted. You didn’t think Caucasian parents could suddenly give birth to an Asian kid, do you? Currently, his father is missing. They check his room and find it messy. Ash hacks the computer to find more info about Banana Fish and they all realized it is a drug. Meanwhile Shorter who was sent to find out more on Yau Si because Ash finds him suspicious is now in a conflict. He was told by Lee Hua Lung (Lee’s younger brother) to be the traitor and report Ash and his buddies or his sister, Nadia dies. When he returns, he gets rough with Yau Si and demands to know the truth. Then he sees his dragon tattoo, a seal of the Lee clan and realizes that he is Yut Lung. Yut Lung drops his soft spoken demeanour and reminds Shorter that he will now take orders from him. Ibe remembers their visa has expired so Ash plays the bad guy to go tell Eiji he needs to go home because from now on it’ll get dangerous and he’ll just be in the way. Eiji accepts his fate but can’t help feel sad about it. Max knows Ash is going back to New York, the reason why he also wanted Eiji to leave. It might be Dino’s turf but it is also his home. Yut Lung orders Shorter to kidnap Eiji as bait to lure Ash. Shorter is so mad he wants to kill him. But he can’t. He still feels grateful for the Lee clan for helping his family survive in a foreign land. But not anymore. They are the same like Dino. Meanwhile thugs barge into Jessica’s home.

Episode 8
The thugs call Max to bring Ash over if he knows what’s good for his wife and son. Ash has Shorter stay behind to guard the Japanese as he feels something is off because if they wanted to lure them out, they would move the hostages and set a trap. When Ash and Max arrive, the police are already here. Jessica and Michael are fine. The cops came because earlier on Jessica was on the phone with a friend and he alerted the police. Yut Lung begins his move as he poisons Ibe and uses his acupuncture needles to knock out Eiji. While Eiji is out cold, Ibe can still see and hear. Yut Lung wants Ibe to witness all this so he could tell Ash what happened. By the time Ash realizes Yut Lung is the traitor and rushes back, they’re already gone. Another stranger pops in. But he is Alexis and this is supposed to be his home. Meanwhile Shorter regrets his actions but vows to protect Eiji. While waiting for the transit to New York, Arthur shows up to bring them back. Shorter threatens to take Eiji’s life and then himself if he does funny stuffs. Dino sees Senator William Kippard and Colonel Thomas Holstock to assure them about the perfection of the drug for their next experiment. After Alexis injects a serum to cure Ibe’s poison, he shows them a secret science room. The PC was dummy and he was staying in some condo after noticing strange men were tailing him. He came back because the sensor went off after being hacked. When the brothers were still in college, they thought of making drugs to make money. They accidentally created this drug. It wasn’t just some hallucination drug but induced all your emotions and nightmares to a maximum point. Russians once made a hypnosis drug but it was unreliable. Banana Fish makes it 100% reliable. So if you tell a person to kill immigrants, he’ll start doing it. Alexis got scared of its potential as a friend they tested on died but Abraham continued testing it out on soldiers serving in Iraq. So now that he has joined up with Dino and make a deal with the US government, Dino will become to top dog in the underworld. Alexis as a scientist couldn’t bring himself to destroy the drug. I guess the price to pay for that is everybody punching him. As Yut Lung reports to Wang Lung but failed to obtain the drug’s data, Wang Lung is displeased he didn’t do so as he thinks this makes him inferior to Ash. Yut Lung is all dolled up to become Dino’s plaything but Yut Lung as an ulterior agenda. He will never forgive his brothers for killing his mom and now it’s time to destroy them. Thugs enter Alexis’ home and apprehend the guys before burning down the entire place.

Episode 9
Yut Lung is dressed up as a woman and given to Dino as a token of friendship from Chinatown. He wakes up Eiji and the latter couldn’t believe Shorter had betrayed them. Shorter is then turned into a lab rat and injected Banana Fish. He is brainwashed by Abraham to fear Eiji and the only way out from this nightmare is to kill him. But Dino will save this show for Ash. Not sure if Dino had his fun with Yut Lung and Eiji because Ash has arrived. First they have a wonderful dinner as Dino praises the wonderful merchandise Ash was when he was under him. Meanwhile, Sing Soo Ling is now the leader of Chinatown after the elders banished Shorter. He and his gang are trying to make a deal with Ash’s gang led by Alex to fight against Dino. Once dinner is over, all the guests are taken to the execution room where the show is about to begin. Dino watches it from above with Kippard and Holstock. Shorter and Eiji are brought in. With Arthur’s command, Shorter soon picks up a knife to kill Eiji. No amount of yelling could snap him out. He must kill Eiji to get out from this nightmare. After that he will kill himself or live forever being haunted. Eiji is reduced to running and just when you think Ash’s screaming got through to Shorter for once, could it be coincidence? In this short lapse of Shorter getting his conscious back, he pleads to Ash to end it all because he can’t bear the suffering anymore. Shorter returns to his killing machine mode. But just before he is going to kill Eiji, Arthur releases Ash’s chains to hand him a gun. To save Eiji, Ash quickly shoots Shorter in the heart. Abraham is glad the brain is still intact as he could analyse the effects on the brain cells. Ash and co feel awful and only Arthur is laughing like a madman seeing Ash suffering.

Episode 10
Dino and Arthur leave that night for an important event. Yut Lung then relays an important info to Hua Lung. After that he goes to talk to Ash who isn’t in any mood. He leaves a key as a chance for him to escape. He accepts his fate if the next time they meet, Ash will kill him. Sing and Alex attack Dino’s residence. With that racket, Ash makes his move to escape. At the armoury, he tells Max and Ibe to escape while he goes to rescue Eiji. Yeah, Ash is going to gun down those henchmen mercilessly. It seems the next presidential candidate got killed by his secretary before taking her own life. So this is the event that Dino and the rest of the American bigwigs are waiting for? But when Dino hears Ash has escaped, looks like this has become the bigger issue. Sing interrogates a guy about Shorter and can’t believe Ash killed Shorter. In that case he will pay. Yut Lung confronts Abraham and paralyzes him, telling him that Ash is going to come for him like the devil. Ash finds Eiji and busts him out. He promises to protect him. After gunning more men, Ash stumbles into his gang. He gives the orders to destroy all the cars and take Eiji with him. Ash is going to retrieve Shorter’s body. For once Eiji listens and wants him to come back safely. Ash enters the lab and sees Shorter’s body being experimented. Horrified, he becomes mad and pumps all the lead into Abraham until there are no more. Ash then burns the lab and the body. Sing comes in and has the wrong idea. Ash is still in a bad mood and tells him to get out. Stubborn Sing fights him and loses but is let off by Ash. Sing returns to his men. Yut Lung picks them up and will let him off the hook by telling his brothers that he saved him. Sing hates to admit that Ash is much better than him but when they fought, he didn’t even see him as the enemy. He is still trying to know why Ash killed Shorter but Yut Lung will tell the reason one day.

Episode 11
Dino’s mansion is razed to the ground and he now has reporters tailing him. You bet he isn’t in the mood and even more so his favourite pet has escaped. Ash returns to his gang’s base. He orders them to find more info about the gangs who have aligned with Arthur. Eiji observes how Ash’s words are their law and they obey without question. But this isn’t the side of Ash he knows. Making it weirder as he spends more time with him, he learns Ash is afraid pumpkins due to a Halloween prank gone wrong. Is there some sort of bromance brewing between them? They laugh, chat and tease each other like nobody’s business. Oh right. We should expect this. More bromance drama when Ash wakes up at night after a nightmare. He relates he killed for the first time when he was 8 when a man tried to rape him. It still haunts him. With so many blood on his hands, he is still scared especially with Shorter’s death. Eiji comforts him and promises he will always stay by your side. Ash breaks down and cries on his lap. Next day, Ash meets Max. His first plan is to buy an expensive condo. He needs Max help to sign the contract as he is a minor. Where does Ash get all that money? It seems he has used Dino’s accounts to sell stocks and plummet its value. He also knows his secret fake accounts overseas and has wired it to somewhere else. Dino just got all this news and is looking real shocked how someone could hack all his details and use it in his name. Well, when he was f*cking Ash, Ash had a different idea. He planted a spyware in his computer and got all the access and passwords. Now that this has caused a huge damage to the foundation, Dino will have to answer to the dons and won’t be on Ash’s tail for a while. Ash wants Max to find out more about the secretary who used Banana Fish to kill the presidential candidate. Ash buys a condo right next to a building that is owned by Dino. Although Eiji will be cooped up inside this condo for his own good, Max believes Eiji will be his Achilles heel. Dino prepares to leave the country as he gives Arthur his last chance to capture Ash alive. When he comes back, he will strangle him with his own hands.

Episode 12
Arthur is mad. Looks like Ash’s men has been going around killing his. Ash then dares confront Dino at the airport just before his flight to declare war. He thought getting rid of him was the answer but now he will stop whatever he intends to do. Later Ash goes to see another gang head, Bloody Cain. He wants him to stay out of the war between him and Arthur. Cain isn’t obligated to do as he says but as long as he doesn’t hurt his men, they’re cool. Ash and co continue to mercilessly kill rival street gangs even if they surrender. So much so the news’ headlines are hogged with the increased number of gang killings. This has Eiji worried about him because it is not the Ash he knew. Ash insists that power is everything. This tension causes a rift between them but it won’t last long because you know, Japanese are quick to apologize, right? Besides, their bromance is blooming so it can’t break just because of this minor tiff. Cain sees Ash and tells him Arthur met with him to make a deal to become an observer between them. Ash accepts it even though it is a trap because eventually he has to settle things with Arthur. Ash lets Max see a few photos of the bigshots coming in and out of Dino’s building. In addition to Kippard, there is Arthur Smiles who is the White House’s chief of staff. With Holstock, Ash deduces America’s plan to turn Arab into their puppet state. Because America’s official stance is against terrorism there, they will use local terrorists to plot a coup detat. The new government will then ask America for military support. This sounds ridiculous but with Banana Fish, it will be easy. The mafia comes in with the money by investing in heroine distribution in Kafghanistan (WTF type error on purpose?!) that is responsible for 90% of the world’s distribution. Dino will control the underworld with this. When Ash returns to Eiji, he has set up a Halloween party! Pumpkin theme! After the party, you wonder why the guys are asking each other if they have a girlfriend. Does it really matter? Eiji doesn’t but Ash admits there was a girl he liked when he was 14. Too bad she died as someone got jealous thinking she was Ash’s boyfriend. Boy, that escalated quickly. The world won’t let him mingle with normal people anymore.

Episode 13
Flashback shows Ash and Arthur clashed over territorial disputes. Although Ash won, Arthur played dirty and tried to shoot him. Luckily he was such a bad shot that Ash could quickly severed his fingers. Ash and Arthur meet at an abandoned railway line to settle. Cain is joined by Sing as observers. As the fight start, Ash hears the sound of a train coming. He realizes this is a trap as Arthur’s men have hijacked the train and try to gun everyone down mafia style! With Sing throwing Ash’s gun to him, he makes every headshot count. Arthur has his men retreat but Ash manages to sneak on board. Does Arthur have unlimited goons at his disposal? Seems Ash is killing a train load of them. Does Ash have unlimited bullets? He doesn’t seem to need to reload. Meanwhile Eiji wakes up and realizes Ash is gone. Ash’s men are here to take him to the airport and Eiji knows Ash is up to something but decides to obey. Too bad the men can’t keep this a secret and tell him what’s going on. Yeah, now Eiji wants to go to Ash’s side. What’s this about thinking back when Ash told him about death? The times Eiji heard Ash cried numerous times in his sleep calling for his mama? Was it something to do with his tormented childhood and the killing of Shorter? Was his tough leadership a way to cover up his fragile soul? Wow. So many questions. Don’t think they’ll be answered by the time he reaches there. Anyway, Ash just gunned everyone down! Only Arthur is left. He didn’t kill him because he wants to give him a chance to fight? Okay. So on the railway lines, it is a free show of 2 men trying to kill each other with a knife. When Eiji arrives, he calls out to Ash. That distraction gave Arthur a chance to slash across his guts. See what you do, Eiji boy???!!! But Ash is strong and fights back enough to slit his throat. And to finish and make his death permanent, Arthur falls down to the asphalt below. Ash rules! I guess everyone so engrossed with the fight that they didn’t even hear the police coming. Looks like everyone’s getting arrested.

Episode 14
Ibe has doubts if he should separate Eiji from Ash. He brought him here to escape the stiffness of Japan. He thought separating them would protect Eiji but now he feels it would do them more harm. Looks like Ibe will miss his flight too when he sees the gang fight on the news. Ash undergoes surgery and miraculously survives despite the doctor only put the rate of success at 50%. Sing and Eiji are bailed out thanks to Yut Lung. He updates Eiji about Ash’s surgery but the bad news is that Dino is coming back soon. Must have heard the news. Yut Lung tries to tell Eiji off that Ash needs no friends and people like him are just in his way. Eiji admits it and this surprises Yut Lung feel like he wants to crush him. But for now Eiji will be his prisoner. Man, Ash has got 4 hot nurses wanting to look after him and he hates it?! WTF?! Oh, right… Anyway, Ash is soon tasked to take some psychiatric test but he shows us why his IQ is 180 by stumping the psychiatrist with some advanced maths formula. Kippard views Ash a threat and wants him taken out. That night a nurse comes into his room and Ash can tell she is not one of the usual nurses. He can ‘smell’ she is not a real nurse due to the lack of antiseptic smell from her. True enough, she tries to kill him but he fights back. He threatens for answers but she kills herself. Kippard won’t give up but will leave Ash in the hands of Dr Mannerheim who runs a mental health institution. This means having the CIA taking over this case from Jenkins and Charlie. Max visits Ash to tell him he plans to expose the story of Ash stealing from Dino’s accounts upon his return. He has the connections to do so. Ash is soon taken by the CIA and blindfolded. But he can tell where they are headed from the direction the vehicle turns as well as the surrounding noises. Next day, the shocking report all over the news that Ash has died after being transported to the mental health institute.

Episode 15
Yut Lung goes to see Eiji if he is okay but Eiji is smart enough to hide and then hold him as hostage to gain his freedom. Outside, they believe that Ash isn’t dead and if so, Yut Lung will continue to be Ash’s enemy. This means coming after Eiji. With Dino returning and hounded by the media, Max masquerades as one of them and tells him he was the one who leaked the story. Dino hides his surprise when hears news of Ash’s death and orders his men to check. Max and Ibe see the live autopsy of Ash. Looks like the real deal but Max knows better. It is just a kid that looks very much like Ash. True enough, he is being tested by Mannerheim. He is then introduced to a docile patient named Adam. Friendly, right? He actually raped and killed 3 nuns! Thanks to Banana Fish, he is now docile. Mannerheim brings Ash to his lab where there are lots of brain and spine samples for testing. But Ash gets riled up upon learning one of them belongs to Shorter! I thought he burnt it clean? Did he not? Mannerheim concludes by showing him a retarded Alexis. The goal is to control scientist but maintain their intelligence. That is why Ash is heaven sent for this experiment. Ash is then drugged out. Meanwhile Eiji almost gets attacked by a couple of guys (do these people like kawaii Japanese boys?!) but is luckily saved by Sing. He is taken to his place as Eiji explains the truth of Shorter’s death. Before Mannerheim could begin his operation, Dino barges in and wants this to stop. However the CIA guys tell him his place that Kippard is in charge now. Dino has fallen from power as the Corsican Foundation that funds this institute has taken him off the list and put Baron Zakharev as the new person in charge. Though, Zakharev as a newbie still has Dino assist him. Dino then waits for Ash to wake up. He is disappointed he has become this weak so it’s no point killing him. He wants Ash to get back to his usual strength. That is when he will hunt him down and corner and kill him. Max finds out about Kippard as a big investor in Corsican Foundation. Good timing for him, the institute gives a monthly tour and that is like tomorrow. Meanwhile Ash acts like a horny flirty gay boy in front of the camera. Are the guards gay because they are watching in shock. Until Ash throws the sheets over the camera. Obviously the guard who went down to check is gay. He came alone and left the door open to check on him! No surprise Ash gets the better of this dumb guard and steals his stuffs.

Episode 16
Dino lets Zakharev take charge to see how he handles this. And so Ash manages to evade the dumb guards and even knocking out those who come close enough. This is even when the ward is being locked down. He manages to make his way to even take Alexis with him. With the tour cancelled, Max and Ibe take this chance to snoop around. Even they too can bested a few guards before being captured and they play dumb about getting lost. It’s amazing Ash could carry a heavy luggage (Alexis) especially this unbelievable scene whereby they were hanging on the edge of the elevator’s exterior. Ash manages to pull Alexis and himself up! Super genius, super handsome, super strong! So much for this hi-tech security facility because they escaped via garbage chute. The only non-secured place. Heh. Ash is about to make his escape when he sees Max and Ibe being escorted. Now he has to go back and save those old geezers! Why do old geezers have to slow him down?! Anyway, Ash manages to knock out the dumb guard to save them. And they have the cheek to say they came here to rescue him. The trio disguise themselves as a doctor (Max), nurse (Ash) and corpse (Ibe). A horny doctor tries to flirt with Ash and gets punched! Damn Ash looks so hot even as a woman! They steal an ambulance and make their final escape. Zakharev is frustrated Ash has escaped. He is not amused when Dino admonishes him for never being ready to handle this. When Zakharev threatens to make him pay, Dino shoots him. Dino built this project and nobody is going to take Ash but him. Ash learns that Eiji is missing. Looks like now he has to go find and save him even though he is worn out. Otherwise he cannot stop worrying.

Episode 17
Ash returns to his gang. Glad to see him alive. But once Ash finds out what Eiji told Sing, he gets mean with this Chinese dude to keep Shorter’s murder a secret. Eiji had to make him stop. A little bit of tension before the guys made up. Bromance hug? Sorry girls. No kissing. Dino is called by Yut Lung. He sees Hua Lung drugged like a zombie. Yut Lung has done his research on Dino’s Banana Fish project. It seems Yut Lung has carefully planned and killed one of the board members of the foundation. He can kill the rest of them so Dino gets back control of it. In return, he wants Dino to kill the rest of the Lee clan including their wives and children to stop their bloodline. Yut Lung further shows him a garden. He can tell Banana Fish is made out of some mutation of a plant’s alkaloid rather than being 100% pure chemical. Ash won’t even tell Eiji to go home because he knows he won’t listen. Plus, even if he does, he gets worried. So there’s your reason to begin a bromance? They hang out together and Ash does research on drugs and stuffs at the library to even come up with the deduction that Banana Fish isn’t purely all chemical synthesis. All the while, Ash could sense someone is watching him but cannot tell. Is his guts playing a prank on him? True enough, there is someone stealthier than a ninja observing him. He is Blanca, Dino’s retired (now coming out of retirement?) subordinate. Apparently he is here to decline Dino’s request but when he tested and saw how Ash’s Spider-senses was tingling, he is now curious to see how formidable he is. Blanca accepts the job. Ash shows his findings to Max and his colleague, Robert. They report Abraham’s condition. His brain’s neural pathways have been damaged but the doctors cannot determine if drugs did it. If only they could find a causal relationship. Hence Ash goes to prostitute himself by becoming Kippard’s f*ck boy. Damn this fatso is also into young kids! Was he so aroused that he couldn’t even recognize Ash? Too late when Ash reveals himself. The cops aren’t looking for him since he is officially dead. Ash wants Banana Fish but Kippard is willing to die than sell out his country. So much for patriotism when Ash shows him a scandalous photo of Kippard having sex. Probably it’s from Dino. Before Kippard could say anything, Kippard gets sniped between the eyes! Nice handy work from Blanca. Ash immediately hides and knows the sniper is a very professional one to take this shot from afar.

Episode 18
Ash is puzzled that Kippard’s death is not reported in the newspapers. His suspicions confirmed when he sees the news that Holstock just died in a car accident. This is no more than just a coincidence. Then he realizes the only person who could pull this off is Blanca (a book he left behind as clue). In fact, Blanca is staking out opposite the apartment and even showing Dino and Yut Lung Ash’s ‘hideout’. Ash tries to test waters as he stands in front of the window. When Eiji comes in, Blanca snipes at him but only gives flesh wound. Then a personal call from Blanca to confirm it is him as well as Yut Lung to confirm he hired Blanca for this job. Ash is to come for a negotiation. Otherwise Eiji dies. Hence we get one last bromance of Ash and Eiji as the latter invites him to Japan once this is over. And yeah, Ash’s protection of Eiji grows even more solid. When Ash arrives at the negotiation point, Yut Lung gives him a gun to shoot himself. Immediately Ash takes and does so! Everyone is shocked but of course the gun is empty. Even more shocking as Ash asks for a loaded gun! On to serious matters, Ash is to hand over all their data on Banana Fish as well as Abraham. Then he is to go back to Dino’s side. Do all this and Eiji will be safe. Damn, Ash agrees! Yut Lung is in shock he is willing to throw everything away for a boy. Hey, you say it, he do it. What’s the problem? But Ash has only a request and that is to fight Blanca. Can this guy go up against the man who trained him how to fight? Nah. We see Blanca moving like a butterfly and Ash like a baby! Blanca privately talks to Ash and thought he had gotten over his past. He wants Ash to give up Eiji and return to Dino where he will have everything (I thought Dino said he will make him suffer like a prostitute?!). When Dino had Blanca taught Ash how to fight, he was reluctant to do so but realized it gave him a place in the world. He doesn’t want to lose him and ruin himself. Ash will not go back to everything that is fake. Better to be alone than with fakes. At least he is happy with 1 guy who cares about him. Ash’s plea is for Blanca not to hurt Eiji. No can do. He will do the job he is entrusted. So Ash returns to take Abraham, leaves some cryptic message to Ibe like it’s his last goodbye. Then he holds up Max and Meredith to get the data before giving it all to Yut Lung. Yeah, Ash looks so dead now…

Episode 19
Yut Lung wants Blanca to work for him now that his contract with Dino is over. Blanca refuses citing he is retired. Yut Lung won’t give up yet because he is obsessed in killing Eiji. Eiji sees Sing so he could take him to Yut Lung whom he believes knows where Ash is. Yut Lung tells everything and blames him for all this. So please kill yourself. But Eiji is done blaming himself and if he is going to kill to protect Ash, he’ll do it. We see Ash in some ruthless high level talks to use Banana Fish in Kafghanistan and the Maliban (?!) just to show the world America’s might even if it means abandoning their troops. Ash might sound deadly but behind the scenes he dreads doing this. This isn’t the prostitution thingy he signed up for. Well, he isn’t selling his body but his soul. So in some sort of protest, he refuses to eat and this takes a toll on his body. Sing tells his gang that Dino is going to hold a party to celebrate the recent victory of the courts dropping his tax evasion charges. They are going to use this opportunity to sneak in and save Ash. Yut Lung interrupts Blanca’s flirting with the maid. He mentions Blanca’s real name and his shady past as some elite force in Kazakhstan as well as his dead wife. Dino tells Ash about the big announcement at the party that he will make Ash his successor and son. However Ash cannot stop laughing and mocks people like him only sees him as some sex toy and dirty toilet. Is this what the American dream is? Dino beats him up only to be stopped by the doctors. He is going to teach Ash everything and make him his chaste wife. When Blanca and Sing visit Yut Lung, they apprehended an assassin who failed to kill Yut Lung. He poisoned himself. Luckily Yut Lung got a flesh wound. It seems Blanca is here to agree to his deal to be his bodyguard although the only condition is to protect him. Blanca then reports to Dino that he has made a contract with Yut Lung because he knows his past. Eiji and Sing begin planning their party ambush. The more the better because Cain’s side joins in.

Episode 20
At the party, Ash is temporarily blinded so he can’t see well. Sing’s side crashes in to cause panic. Eiji then points his gun at Dino. Ash recognizes his voice and is stunned he is doing something this reckless. Dino takes Ash hostage to see if he dares shoot. Well, Eiji shoots but only gets Dino’s shoulder. He missed at this range?! At least enough for them to take Ash and run. I can’t believe Ash can still be a sharpshooter at this point. It’s fine if he can even shoot with his eyes close but with all those noises? While the men keep looking for them above ground, they are actually hiding in an abandoned underground station. But when Ash realizes that everyone has gathered here, he orders all to get out because the sewers are like a maze. True enough, their pursuers come chasing them and trying to corner them like a rat. Eiji tries to be the bait to get Ash out. Cain knocks Ash out to bring him back to his base but Ash won’t be grounded. Hence Ash is spotted trying to take refuge in the museum. Yeah, museum has bad security. Heck, none at all. Yut Lung decides to catch him without Dino’s help. He gets to see how formidable Ash is when he snipes at his men. Unheeding Blanca’s advice to stay put and play the waiting game (because Yut Lung wants to catch him first), he sends some of his men inside and they got panicked by the darkness as Ash slaughters them all. Blanca knows this is Ash’s plan to draw himself attention as this means Eiji is still underground. Too bad he has just been caught. With Cain and his men driving by to do some chaos, Ash takes this chance to take Yut Lung hostage. Bad timing as Eiji and co are also brought here. Ash wants him to bring the hostages in if he is ready for negotiations. Eiji and all his men for Yut Lung. Blanca agrees to his terms and when both sides are exchanged, Ash and Blanca take pot shots at each other. In the aftermath, Yut Lung is shaken and Dino heard about what happened. It’s his turn to take charge of hunting down Ash.

Episode 21
Sing limps back in and he is very worried about his men being taken hostage by Yut Lung. He wants to go rescue them or they’ll be killed. It’s time for Ash to work his magic again. Once they find where they are being held, they bust in. Everything ended so easily that Ash feels something is off. Why were they held in an obvious place? If they were important hostages, why were there so few guards? This is all part of Dino’s plan as he shows Edward L. Fox the fruits of his labour of raising his ‘son’. Ash and Max reunite for the first time since the former’s ‘death’. Max needs his help to infiltrate a gay club run by Frank Zareb AKA Frog. He used to round up boys for Dino. While Dino doesn’t use pictures to blackmail his clients and only serves as insurance, Frog does otherwise. Ash is forced to rekindled unwanted memories of Frog and his men taking dirty pictures of him as a kid. Ash is tempted to kill him but with Max stopping him, they only get the pictures of victims. Ash wants Max to use his photos only since he is dead but Max just burns everything. Frog is later killed by Fox. When Cain’s men start getting killed, they thought it was Dino’s men. But Ash felt something strange about the way they attack and weapons they used. Some research and info digging reveal they are former elite soldiers who served in many missions and are officially dead. Their regiment leader is Fox. People like them love war because it allows you to legally kill. With Max and Robert targeted, Ash advises to put some guard for their family. Better still, Jessica joins in! So it’s safer to leave their son with some other relative? When Eiji asks Ash of putting himself in the enemy’s shoes, Ash starts to realize their viewpoint. The killings are to stir up the chain of command and see how the leaders act. True enough, they spot the soldiers taking formation outside their hideout. Ash has everyone divided into several groups and plan their several diversions and exits. They are to meet at the pier in 48 hours. The battle begins. Ash does what he does best at surviving. However that may be cut short because Fox has got Max and his side captured. They use them to lure Ash out in which Ash shows himself.

Episode 22
While Max and the captured are taken elsewhere, Fox interrogates Ash. It seems Fox wants Ash to join him and they can rule the world via the foundation. Of course Ash laughs at this and vows never to submit. So Fox’s idea is to rape him?! Why are all the old men so gay here???!!! Saved by the call from Dino. Because as Fox goes to answer it, his men continue to abuse Ash. Fox’s carelessly threw his unextinguished cigarette butt means Ash used it to burn the ropes and kill those men! With Eiji and co charging in, Fox and his men escape. Ash is shaken from all this but a hug from Eiji calms him down. Lao Yen Tai, Sing’s right hand man argues with him about being submissive to Ash. He will not accept this. Also, he is secretly working with Yut Lung and although he wants out, he is forced to continue because this is the only way he could protect Sing who is also his half-brother. Max and his men interrogate Max for the important data but he remains stubborn knowing he will at least be kept alive as bait to lure Ash. Ash and Jessica manage to get that data Max stored safely in the vault. Jessica goes through it and sees the incredible data that would turn the White House upside down. Some of Lao’s men want to kill Ash and Yut Lung gives them the green light although he knows they can’t but at least they may kill Eiji. Blanca against Yut Lung’s orders goes out to find Eiji because that Japanese boy must not be allowed to die. Another moment of bromance between Ash and Eiji. Yeah, they’re talking how they would love to experience the other’s lives. I guess we got some free time that Eiji teaches him some basic Japanese. Was the bromance too good that they didn’t notice Lao’s men entering to shoot?! If not for Eiji’s quick reflex, Ash would have been gone. But Eiji gets some lead in his guts. This turns Ash into a monster as he guns them down mercilessly and continues to do so even when they’re dead! Eiji is glad Ash is safe before losing consciousness. There, you wanted to trade places. Now you got it. Having fun?

Episode 23
Eiji is taken to hospital and a frantic Ash wants to go with him, only to be stopped by Blanca. Ash is still stubborn but is told that by doing so, they will only link Eiji’s relationship to him and make him a criminal. Frustrated Ash calms down but he has no time to rest. He summons everyone for a rescue mission. Before that, Sing apologizes for his men’s betrayal and will take responsibility. This means a one on one fight with Ash after this is settled. Lao cannot accept this and runs his mouth. Sing punches him and that’s it for Lao. He calls it quits. Ash agrees to Sing’s demands seeing he had that determined death in his eyes. But inside Ash is breaking as he keeps worrying about Eiji. Since when is he religious and praying to God to take him instead of Eiji? Blanca returns to Yut Lung and is forced to listen to his tragic story. His father was the most powerful man for overseas Chinese. His mom, a poor street vendor became his mistress when she was just 10. He was 65 then. When Yut Lung was 6, father suddenly died. Yut Lung is forced to watch his brothers rape and kill his mother. Thus Yut Lung believes he has the right to hate. And so like Ash, they are just demons underneath a beautiful face. He wants to tell him that he cannot be saved. Not by something so fragile.

Blanca resigns from Yut Lung’s employment. Now it’s his turn to tell his story. During his time in his elite force, he lacked emotions until he met his wife, Natasha. The government opposed their marriage but it was the first time he defied them. When he was away on a Crimean mission, she was killed. A terrorist group claimed their doing but who knows it could be the government. That is why Blanca opposes Yut Lung from taking Eiji from Ash. He learnt to hate but not to love. One cannot be loved unless you love. At least Ash knows this. I guess resignation accepted. Just go to your freaking Ash. And so Blanca did and have him hire him as his ‘driver’. But before they head to the mental institution, Blanca takes him to the hospital to see Eiji one last time. Because cops come to check on him every midnight, he must make it quick. Ash sneaks in and is sad to see Eiji sleeping. He says goodbye but Eiji could recognize that voice and musters enough strength to wake and tell Eiji to go. What a teary goodbye. Outside the mental institution, Ash tells Blanca his plan. He collaborated with Jessica to leak data on Banana Fish to the media (because either way, he knows the hostages will be killed). Because of that, Dino is now forced to suspend activities as he goes into damage control mode. Dino orders Fox to guard the place and kill all the hostages and send it back to Ash. As Dino and his entourage leave, they are ambushed by Ash’s men. Dino is taken hostage by Ash. Fox sees this and tells Mannerheim to give all the research data and drug samples to him. Ash takes Dino back to the institute as a bargaining chip for the hostages’ release. But Fox confronts him and gives his answer: He shoots Dino!

Episode 24
Fox orders his men to plant bombs all over the facility before they make their getaway. However Ash manages to escape despite being anaesthetized. Fox orders the lockdown of the facility but looks like somebody overwrite it. Dino?! Oh Fox, you failed in your mercenary teaching to always make sure somebody is dead. Jenkins and Charlie see Eiji in hospital. They say that thanks to Max’s evidence, an official investigation on Club Cod will begin. Ash will not be charged as he is the victim and they’re here to hear his side of his story. Too bad Eiji doesn’t know where he is. Cain’s men are in a gunfight with the elites to rescue their comrades. But it is Jessica who is badass, diving in and making her shots count. Like wow WTF?! Only in American where divorced couples can find romance in danger and want to remarry again. Good for you, Max. Sing neutralizes a few guards escorting Mannerheim. The doctor runs off by himself and is unfortunate to become Ash’s hostage. However he is shot and killed by Fox. I thought this guy wanted to tame Ash because he sends a helicopter unit to fire like hell! Is he that confident Ash won’t die from this?! Thanks to Blanca being a great sniper, Ash can have his one on one fight with Fox. Fox stabs his shoulder but Ash conveniently grabs a power tool and drills into him. Because one of the dying elites set of the bombs early, this blows Sing off. Ash has to rush to save him and tells him to just drop the Banana Fish samples. Hollywood cliché but Ash making this mistake of not making sure his enemy is dead? Yeah, Fox tells him to drop the kid or else. It’s Ash’s lucky day as Dino shoots Fox in the head. I guess Dino knows everything is over for him. So he just falls into the sea of fire. Sing doesn’t understand why Ash saved him. Had they kill each other, somebody else would have profited from it. Let’s just end everything right here.

Next day, the White House issues an official apology in light of government officials buying young boys as sex toys. Sing confronts Yut Lung and pulls a gun on him. Yut Lung accepts his fate but Sing won’t kill him despite ranting how he trusted him not to betray their Chinese brothers by teaming up with Dino. He was just jealous of Ash being able to open up to Eiji. It’s time to move on. Things in Chinatown have gone so out of control that it isn’t safe anymore. He hopes they can bring order back. Ash sees Blanca who will leave for the Caribbean tomorrow. Ash is okay in not seeing Eiji off. He always knew he was always trouble to him but couldn’t accept it. He describes Eiji as a warm person, a kind and honest person who completes him. He considers him his friend and if they never meet again, at least he could think about him. When Sing visits Eiji, he realizes Ash hasn’t visited him. Eiji gives him a letter for Ash. But where to find him? He is sure he is at the library. Sing is mad that Ash didn’t see Eiji one last time. Ash doesn’t want to get him involved again. Sing is willing to be his messenger but no words from Ash. The usual gang see off Ibe and Eiji. The latter finds it sad that Ash didn’t come but at least his gang members are here. Sing lies to put Eiji at ease by telling Ash wishes him well. Ash reads the letter. It writes of the different worlds they live in. But he is glad to have come to America because he met him. He never felt scared of him the first time but rather he felt he was hurt. He has always thought of wanting to protect Ash from that loneliness he is drifting towards to. At this point I guess it made Ash want to rush to the airport but Lao stabs him! Instant karma as Ash shoots him dead. Ash returns to the library and ‘sleeps’. Finally he can ‘sleep’ with a smile. The last lines of the letter reads Eiji’s will always be with him and although he says goodbye to America, he won’t say goodbye to him yet. He believes they will meet again. The greatest friend he ever has. :’(.

Gangstas Of New York
Damn, that ending sure hit hard and it was a very bitter pill to swallow. Despite so, it was really a bittersweet ending. Ash and Eiji didn’t get their final bromance together and although I was really sad that Ash died in the end, it was the only way left for him. After all, he has already achieved what needed to be done and unless he wanted to go back to his thug life, I think in a way that would make Eiji sad. Therefore Ash’s fate has finally come full circle. You live by the sword, you die by the sword. The irony of Ash surviving so many near fatal wounds and this is how he goes out? It is sometimes the most least expected thing that kills you. And for Ash, that is when he let his guard down thinking about Eiji. It’s also sad to think that Eiji left with a wrong impression of Ash’s fate but it’s better for him to return to Japan with a positive thinking. Not much good will be done if Eiji goes back home crying and broken hearted. Maybe he’ll learn about that much later when the news reaches him. Hopefully he will be ready. And even if the tragic fate that the greatest bromance brothers friends can never see each other again, it is good to know that they will always be each other’s best friends, heart and soul.

The plot and pacing of the story are surprisingly interesting. Overall, I could say that there was never a dull moment while watching this. Sure, there are moments when it is slow and the showcasing of the bromance between Ash and Eiji that serves more for building the bond between them rather than some cheap yaoi stuff everyone else thought it was going to happen. From the discovery to the hallucinatory drug of Banana Fish to Ash fighting against Dino and his organization, the ultimate path of this story is Ash trying to find salvation and freedom in his tragic and fragile life. Seeing him going through that journey was an amazing ride thanks to good execution of the story.

At first it keeps us intrigues as to what Banana Fish is in the first place. But once it is revealed what it truly is, the story didn’t lose its momentum as it shifts to the struggles of Ash and Eiji and what they must do next. Hence the title of this series may ironically be prominent in the first half of the series and become some sort of an extra thrown into the back burner of our minds in the second half, but with other developments and potentials keeping our minds preoccupied, this super drug would be the least of our problems when so many other factors come into play.

Ash as the central character is one whom viewers will mainly root for. His character is given ample and a lot of screen time to develop and flesh out properly. At first Ash might look like an overpowered character (but without any super powers) because of his sharpshooting and very keen observation. Besides his good looks, he is also very intelligent and knowledgeable in just about everything. Not forgetting his personality that can range from being suave and charming to tough and determined gang leader. Everything about him is almost oh so perfect save for his tainted past. When you discover the atrocities that Ash had to go through since young and the need to survive, it makes all his ‘overpowered moves’ to seem more justifiable. That is why in a way Ash is a lot relatable to us than other fictional characters with superhuman powers. The struggles of an exploited young soul and the decisions he is forced to take to survive in this dog eat dog world all rings too familiar in this sad reality of ours. Too bad a lot of us aren’t as hot as him :)… :’(.

Ash always looks strong on the outside but inside he is fragile and breaking down and this shows the human side of him because those who don’t know him would have automatically labelled him as a monster. Many of us could relate this kind of character to somebody we know. Like our mothers. Always being the scary drill sergeant but deep down just a caring delicate soul. This double face is perhaps the best way for Ash to survive. The only way he could be a leader to his men, a post he never wanted to have and stuck with forever.

Eiji is not as prominent as Ash but he is both the glue and hammer that holds him together while at the same time that frees him from his shackles. Ironically he is also Ash’s strength and weakness. Hence many of the situations that they are caught in danger with can be attributed to Eiji. It is that dilemma situation of because of Eiji was there, it happened. And also because Eiji was there, things got to work out the way it should. Hence Eiji is truly a catch-22 situation for Ash. But I believe that Eiji’s presence has brought a lot more good to Ash than bad. Ash wouldn’t have been able to fight against the oppressed had not Eiji come into his life. Yes, they faced many dangers along the way but that is only expected when one is defying the norm and fighting for your own freedom.

On the same tragic side with Ash but on the opposite end of the polar is Yut Lung. Unlike Ash who seeks salvation, Yut Lung takes the path of destruction. It might be his way to fight from the shadows because his specialty is poisons, he doesn’t go head to head with Ash. Hence it might seem cowardly that he tries to target Eiji to get to Ash. Unfortunately for Yut Lung, Ash always manages to step a few steps ahead of him. That is why Ash is more successful than him in terms of survival. Not to say that Yut Lung isn’t a survivalist but since he inherited his wealth from the Lee clan, he thinks money gives him the power to control. It is true that Yut Lung too has a tragic tale of his own but he isn’t the only one. Hence he has this shallow thinking of what demons like them should act and do. That is why many of Ash’s actions take him by surprise like the time Ash didn’t hesitate to shoot himself when Yut Lung told him to despite the gun is not loaded. Ash was prepared to do what it takes in what he believes in. Can Yut Lung match that determination? That’s why Ash could ‘progress’.

Dino as the main antagonist is also a formidable one instead of some old fart who has power, money and influence and a taste for young boys. Sometimes I thought it was silly when both Ash and Dino were so close to finish each other off, they decide to put it on hold because it is not their ideal way of killing the other. Back to waiting for that other perfect chance. It might sound silly but I looked at it from another perspective. Dino had poured in so much effort to raise his ‘best son’ and he surely had doubts of just killing him like that. Even if Ash is already hell bent on going against him, Dino had all the power and resources to just end Ash’s life like that. But he couldn’t. Because of all the effort put in, he needs to get that ‘satisfaction’ and squeezing him to the last drop before Ash kicks the bucket. And I believe it’s the same for Ash. Not that he has hopes for Dino turning over a new leaf.

Even if Ash ends this quickly by killing Dino, he would not have the chance to expose his secret heinous experiments and thus the vicious cycle goes on. Bringing Dino himself down might be just short term and wouldn’t do anything good. That is why Ash went to great lengths to bring down his organization so that a repeat of creating future monsters will not happen. Otherwise with Dino just gone, another monster would just step in to replace him. Thus the vicious cycle repeating once more. That might happen seeing Dino too met his fate. Glad it wasn’t the aptly named scheming Fox too. Imagine trained elite forces getting owned by street gangs. All that greed for money and power must have really brought their downfall, huh?

I have not much to comment on the other characters but they do play their minor role albeit not much. Like Sing who feels pretty much underused and looks the part because he was thrusted as the Chinese’s leader in a short notice after Shorter’s death. It is to an extent true what Lao said about him becoming Ash’s dog but remember, he was the only one who saw how fearsome Ash could be. You really don’t want to make enemies out of this guy. Literally, Ash could have been America’s representation for shooting at the Olympics. He never misses. Never. Ever. Then there is Blanca who also looks like another overpowered character. Because if Ash who already looks overpowered and cannot best his mentor, what does this say? But instead of being the ruthless mercenary he once was, Blanca plays the voice of reasoning especially to Ash when his head gets clouded each time Eiji is unwittingly involved. Hence somebody like Blanca prevents Ash from making an irreversible mistake that would have ended their bromance a little too sooner.

Max and Ibe feel almost irrelevant in the second half. Though Max did do a few things to help out Ash, Ibe overall feels more like an excess baggage. He is just a setting for a reason why Eiji came to America. Call him a poor guardian because he reluctantly lets Eiji run all over the place but if Eiji is being this stubborn determined to save Ash, what else can he do? It must be one of those longest trips to America for a Japanese. Until Eiji resolves this matter with Ash, looks like they’re looking for an extended stay in America. Remember to extend the visas again. I never had hope for Jenkins and Charlie to be useful cops. Being on Ash’s side doesn’t make their character any good because they look more like useless cops and totally absent in the second half of the series.

There are many social issues tackled by this series that rings so much closer to home and reality because it is still prevalent today. Especially child trafficking, child pornography and drugs. It feels like as long humans exist, these will never end and will carry on forever. Because as long as there are corrupt politicians and the widening gap between the rich and poor, you bet that the latter will definitely be exploited. Money makes the world go round. Everyone has their dark secrets. Too bad a lot of old ugly men here are portrayed as paedophiles. And politics of course. What a dirty word that is today. In the case of street gangs, I guess it is for the sake of this series’ plot that white boys, black guys and the Chinese all come together to fight against the common oppressor. Where are the Latinos, dude?! Internal gang struggles don’t seem to play a big issue with Ash being such a badass that he should’ve been a politician and change the whole political system upside down. Not that I think Ash cares about America as a whole either.

You can’t have gangs and organized crimes without some sort of action. So to say the least, they are entertaining and also satisfying to see Ash gunning down his enemies although sometimes it can get a bit unrealistic because he goes on and on, wave after wave like as though his invincibility AKA God mode and unlimited ammo cheat code have been activated. Although there are lots of blood and deaths here, it is not as gory compared to say, Shingeki No Kyojin. It’s pretty mild to say the least. But this series isn’t shy in killing a lot of characters off. As shockingly early and young as Skip to the typical cliché of villains like Dino and Fox eventually meeting their demise at the end. Some I never expected such as Shorter (not at least on a short notice) and some receiving their just desserts (somehow I just really wanted Abraham and Kippard to just f*cking die). Sorry, no double lovers’ suicide for you fujoshi fans out there.

The art and animation don’t feel like your typical conventional Japanese anime. It is more realistic compared to those sparkling wide eyed anime characters. Sometimes it feels like an American production doing a joint venture with the Japanese to produce this ‘cartoon’. I would also like to give points for the detail of the background since there are details being given attention to that makes you feel that the setting is really in America rather than a Japanese version of what they think of America is like. Of course it is not exactly a masterpiece since there are some scenes that are considered low quality. At least during scenes when they focus on the drama in front and not wanting our eyes to wander to the backdrop behind. To say the least, at least the animation is fluid during scenes that matter. This anime is done by MAPPA who did Shingeki No Bahamut series, Kakegurui, Zombie Land Saga and Yuri On Ice.

Voice acting I only recognized Jun Fukuyama as Yut Lung and a very meek Rie Kugimiya making her short-lived cameo as Jennifer. I thought Max sounded so familiar and it took me a while that this is the voice of Sanji of One Piece (Hiroaki Hirata). Initially I was mistaken to think that Tomokazu Sugita was behind Arthur’s voice but it turned out to be Yoshimasa Hosoya (Reiner in Shingeki No Kyojin). Same case of mistaken identity to think that Sho Hayami was behind Blanca’s voice although it did sound a little off. It was Toshiyuki Morikawa instead (Julius in Black Clover). My condolences to Unshou Ishizuka as Dino because he passed away in August 2018 from esophageal cancer. Since Banana Fish ran its cour in the second half of 2018, I wonder if he recorded all his lines before succumbing. I thought they would be replacing him with a new voice (like how it was done in Tada-kun Wa Koi Wo Shinai). I may be mistaken because I have this perception that seiyuus lend their talents a week before the episode airs or at least do a few episodes worth of lines to save time. Otherwise how do you think long running shows like One Piece can go on forever? But I suppose it is easier for shows with 1 or 2 cours seeing that the script has been laid out and fixed assuming there are no unforeseen surprises.

Kudos to Yuuma Uchida (Edogai in Golden Kamuy) in bringing out the life and various moods in Ash that it makes his character really sound convincing. I want to say the same for Kenji Nojima as Eiji (Yuuto in High School DxD) but he sounds very gay and weak most of the time. Really. The other casts are Shouyo Chiba as Sing (Koutarou in Tsuki Ga Kirei), Kenyu Horiuchi as Fox (Kinemon in Once Piece), Kenta Miyake as Blood (All Might in Boku No Hero Academia), Rica Fukami as Jessica (Sailor Venus in Sailormoon), Yasumichi Kushida as Kippard, Takashi Nagasako as Meredith (Gale in Soul Link), Makoto Furukawa as Shorter (Banri in Golden Time), Shinji Kawada as Ibe (Shino in Naruto), Souma Saitou as Lao (Utsumi in SSSS.Gridman), Yuu Hayashi as Abraham (Michizou Tachihara in Bungo Stray Dogs), Hidenari Ugaki as Alexis, Shuuhei Sakaguchi as Hua Lung (Kawachi in Yakitate! Japan) and Hisao Egawa as Wang Lung (Saigou in Gintama).

The opening and ending themes have this feel like they are songs from America bands. I know the world has integrated so much into a melting pot that it’s hard to tell but my first impression in hearing these songs is that they aren’t your typical Japanese anime pop or rock. The first opening theme, Found & Lost by Survive Said The Prophet is a total hard punk rock piece with all that typical insane screaming vocals. Hearing this song somewhat reminds me of Linkin Park. Or at least this is the kind of song that the American rock band would sing. The second opening theme, Freedom by Blue Encount is also a rock outfit but it feels a lot more toned down than the first one. The first ending theme, Prayer X by King Gnu has some hip hop elements in it although it is more of a slow one. It sounds fitting when you think about the state of Ash’s mind. Honestly, I prefer this one compared to the second ending theme, Red by Survive Said The Prophet. Though this slow rock is also fitting in terms of Ash’s state of mind, but hearing this piece sometimes make me feel I’m listening to some cult song because of that weird chorus vocals. And some of the lines sound weird too.

Overall, this is one of those animes that shouldn’t be judged by its promotional poster and synopsis. AKA the age old adage of don’t judge a book by its cover. It is surprisingly interesting and entertaining despite many of its unsavoury themes like drugs and child pornography. The bromance between the 2 main characters might look like clickbait for some yaoi moments but it is a good thing that those remain as delusions in our heads (except for that prison kiss that would most likely be the most yaoi you’ll ever see). It’s not a gay story (thank goodness) but a story of 2 guys rather. A story of revenge and redemption amidst the corruption and politics. If you like animes with an interesting story, tragedy and badass stuffs, don’t brush this one aside. After all, bananas and fish are good for you because they are filled with potassium and omega-3 acid respectively. Better this than drugs. And remember people, don’t do drugs.

Princess Principal Specials

December 14, 2018

A spy’s work is never done. Since I love the Princess Principal series, I had the opportunity to catch them a little more. Albeit they are just Princess Principal Specials. How long has it been since I have watched special shorts of a TV series that comes with the BDs? Even more so, picture dramas. They might not amount to much but at least something to remember these classy kickass female spies by.

Special 1
For the next infiltration, someone needs to dress up as a boy and infiltrate the boys’ school. Beatrice is the most likely of candidate because she can change her voice and well, she’s flat. Of course she protests and Dorothy would have been up for the job if not for her busty body. Ange seems eager to take the role but she is impersonating boys like as though they are delinquents from another era! When Princess wants to do it because she wants to try being a boy once, everybody else volunteers to take the part. Then Control calls and says the infiltration type will be a female teacher. I guess that solves the problem but everybody immediately picks Dorothy for the job. She has the body, right? But Dorothy is not pleased she has no say in it as she interprets that they pick her because she looks older!

Special 2
Ange calls Princess as she worries about Beatrice’s worth as a spy in the team. She doesn’t have proper training and can’t really fight. Princess believes she has a skill that the rest doesn’t have: Being timid. This means as a prudent girl, she observes all that is around her. She goes on to list her other specialities like loyalty and making the best tea in the world. Ange is satisfied and puts down the phone. But here is the twist. That Ange was actually Beatrice and the real Ange is with Princess! We shouldn’t forget about her impeccable impersonation skills too. Princess wonders what Ange is doing here since she is supposed to be on a stakeout. The date changed? Because today is the actual birthday of Princess who is the real Ange. She is the only one who can celebrate it with her. Princess corrects her as today is both their birthdays.

Special 3
Uhm, Beatrice is going to challenge this Indian exchange student girl, Chandony to a duel? All because she called Princess a plain girl? Well, that isn’t so far from the truth but you know how protective Beatrice is. Unfortunately Chandony is skilled in some Indian martial arts. Will Beatrice be alright? Chise offers to teach her swordsmanship but we don’t want to kill anybody, do we? Since Beatrice’s specialty is changing her voice, maybe shoot some ultrasonic wave? You’re kidding, right? How about making a scary sound? Hmm… This machine wheezing sound might do the trick. Princess then comes in and says she met Chandony. They became friends already so the duel is off. This has the rest thinking Princess might have heard them and approached Chandony to call it off. They think Princess is terrifying in this sense but Beatrice will not allow it and challenges Dorothy. It’s that machine wheezing sound! Scary!

Special 4
Chise talks to Dorothy that she doesn’t want to be in the next mission and won’t give a reason why. Dorothy explains their next mission is to leak battle plans for the Royal Army’s harbour and Port Arthur might be the target. If this port is attacked, Japan benefits and not interfering would be in her nation’s best interest. Chise refuse to say anything more and is adamant on sitting this one out. But both admit that they like each other but don’t trust the other’s handlers. Unfortunately they are their employers and cannot do anything much about it. Ange returns with info that Princess has received info that the harbour raid is at Africa, possibly Casablanca or Cape Town. Chise and Dorothy feel a sense of relief as they don’t have to fight each other now. After all, they are comrades in arms, a befitting term for them than friends or companions.

Special 5
The plot thickens… Because Chise believes the culprit is one of them! So each of them are accusing the other as the liar. Heh. I’d like to see a spy who isn’t a good liar. Chise notes that Princess is the best liar. Even her smile is fake. With Princess denying and everyone seems to be pushy for her to come clean, then Ange’s slip of a tongue of calling Princess a black hearted princess has Princess really want to hear what she really thinks of her. After she claims the irony of everyone here doesn’t lie (even though they’re spies), Chise then asks the question: Who was the culprit who ate her monaka snack?! Could it be someone outside this team? This room is laced with traps, you know. Then they hear squeaking rat sounds. I guess there’s your answer. Princess decides to treat everyone to macarons. But can Princess leave without making the guards suspicious? Well, just make Ange disguise as her and stay behind. So, this is revenge for calling her a black hearted princess? Better apologize now… You believe Princess wasn’t offended by that? Better safe than sorry.

Special 6
Ange shows Princess their very own private mansion at Casablanca. Looks pretty lovely. It is already usable since Ange wants it to be in working condition to moment they run away. Ange’s private moment with Princess is ruined when the other girls arrive. They’re a team, right? But Ange is distraught. This mansion is supposed to only be for Princess and her! This can’t be happening! Phew. Just a dream. Because Dorothy wakes her up from nodding off while on a stakeout mission. Ange confirms she didn’t sleep talk or anything so I guess it’s okay. Dorothy wants to go out and eat together once this mission is over but Ange doesn’t like the idea of spies fraternizing more than necessary. But Ange gives an excuse about that Black Lizard Planet anniversary this weekend and it is a must to eat mussels. You’re in luck. Dorothy knows a restaurant that serves great mussels.

Totally Spies!
Like I have said, even if the picture dramas do not amount to anything much, they are still very much enjoyable despite the specials only being confined to the quintet of Team White Pigeon. Even if the specials lack animation (that’s why they are called picture dramas, duh), the quality of the art style in them is top notch. Though, the girls do look slightly much cuter. There might be recycled scenes of using the same art in that same particular special but with the detail and quality put into each frame, I guess they are all worth it.

Among the quintet, I believe Princess is the one who still has the control over the rest. She is the one standing tall and staying ahead a few steps. It might not seem obvious but noticed that in many instances when there is some sort of conflict, Princess is the one who indirectly steps in or steps it up and somehow the conflict is resolved? And if you think you can outwit or outdo her, just make sure you don’t slip up yourself because you don’t know how nasty and black the depths of her heart is. That sweet smile is oh so deceiving. Wait. Did I just call her nasty and black hearted? I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to. The point is, you don’t really want to get on her bad side because you’ll never know what will hit you when she retaliates.

Not sure if these specials are desserts for the TV series or appetisers. Appetisers? Because there is a sequel coming out! Hooray! But wait. I read that the sequel are actually movies divided into 6 parts. Wait. WTF. 6 damn parts?! Do they actually mean 6 part OVA? No? It’s not?! Oh no. Why not make it another season? Trying out a different format? Are they trolling us? I guess it is an iron clad rule that spies must be good in deceiving everyone. Well, they can’t technically deceive me. Because they’ve already stole my heart in the first place!

Dorei-ku The Animation

November 3, 2018

Like it or not, slavery still exists even today. I suppose it is only human nature to enslave others as part of their darkest and twisted desire to display their supremacy and dominance. However there is a tool today that allows you to get anybody as your own slave without having to resort to outright violence or obvious oppression and without having society and lawmakers breathing down your neck or face the long arm of the law. At least in the anime Dorei-ku The Animation you can. All you need to do is get yourself a mouthpiece tool that looks like some imitation braces and challenge people to any game of your choice. Then when you win, voila! They’ll become your slave. It’s that simple. But beware should you lose. Then you become their slave.

Episode 1
Eia Arakawa listens out to her friend complaining how her heart broken friend being dumped by her boyfriend so he could enter into another relationship with a guy! Holy sh*t! Eia will help her get back at him and arranges a meet up. So Yuuga Oota is fine having this gay relationship with this hideous lion dude? Eia wants the guys to prove they love each other. He gives excuses about being in public but Eia immediately does it to her friend. Lesbians ok but gays no? Yuuga suggests playing a game by guessing the relationship of the couple next to their table. Eia could correctly guess at first go. They met on a dating site and the girl isn’t so keen in seeing her ugly blind date. Yuuga is impressed and since she is the only winner, he will talk to her later. Her friend gets jealous thinking he is trying to hit on her. Later Yuuga explains that he isn’t into guys and did this gig to break up with her so she could laugh about it in the future. Yuuga hears Eia’s keen observation on how she got her guess right and is excited to introduce her to a game. Interested in getting slaves with this device known as SCM? Meanwhile, Rushie Suginami, the girl in that blind date regretted meeting that dude, Masakazu Meguro. At first they share the same paranormal interest but soon he raped her after that date. Hence she plots her revenge via SCM. She meets him at the pachinko parlour and suggests playing a game. From the way she entices him, he will not lose much so he thinks she is just a horny b*tch wanting to get f*cked. The one with the most pachinko balls wins. He thought he won but Rushie takes out trays of her balls she won the entire morning. Because he agreed to the rules prior and lost, the SCM he is wearing takes effect. He is now her slave and is forced to do everything under her command.

Yuuga explains to Eia about this SCM. They look like dentures and placed behind the teeth. They engage in a duel in which the loser will become the winner’s slave due to some technical BS on how the SCM amplifies the sense of the loser’s obligation. Of course there are a few other caveats like you cannot order your slave to take his/her own life. Yuuga wants Eia to join in him in his scheme as insurance. He will not make her his slave but a partner. You see, if Yuuga challenges others and loses, the only way to get out of this slave control is via another master to verbally release you. You can take out the SCM but the effects will have you put it back and if you fight it, you’ll go crazy. Hence he wants Eia to be his partner to release him from slavery should he lose. As for why he is doing this, he wants to test himself. Eia somewhat understands the excitement in this and agrees to be his partner. Rushie relishes tormenting that fatty as he really does what she says. Punching himself in the face but short of killing himself from it.

Episode 2
Host club guy, Seiya Shinjuku challenges Ayaka Toshima in an SCM game. He lost but that is when Ayaka reveals she also knows about SCM. Now that he is her slave, she makes him reveal the truth about his feelings for her. Seems he finds her a pain and only plays nice as she spends money on him. Like a disgusting human ATM. Ayaka is sad she worked hard and multiple jobs for his company. So she lets him eat her pussy (?!) to earn her praise. She will use SCM to keep her dream alive. Hence she moves into his apartment and has him throw out all the belongings of his girlfriend, Julia Katsushika. Yuuga shows Eia an app that displays the locations of masters and slaves in the vicinity. There is a pair nearby and he is going to challenge them. That pair is Seiya and Ayaka. When SCM users are close to each other, their SCM will vibrate. Yuuga and Eia challenge them to a game. Ayaka doesn’t want to do it but after hearing Seiya out how they can win this, she agrees. In this thumb game, the last one left is the loser. Seiya goes out first. Ayaka thought it was cool but then she realizes she is left to fend for herself and Seiya looks like he doesn’t give a f*ck to help her. Could it be he wants to lose to get a new master? Eventually Ayaka loses. Yuuga then reveals Eia isn’t wearing an SCM. Had Yuuga lost, he would have her free him (but how? Is she his master already?). Ayaka rants about taking Seiya away from him. Suddenly that guy punches her to shut her up! Yuuga orders them to stop and will have them return to their normal lives and not participate in other SCM duels. Seiya returns home. He remembers his life was trash. Left to be wasted, Julia saved him. They were the perfect couple until he made the mistake of dabbling with SCM. That forced break up with Julia was heart breaking. He might be free from Ayaka’s control but he still lost someone important. Suddenly Julia pops up. He vows not to let her hand go again. However she reveals she met someone else after they broke up. Nicknamed Ryuuou, she shows his mark on her skin that proves her ownership over her.

Episode 3
Looks like Julia is also wearing an SCM. Yup, she is Ryuuou’s slave. And now Seiya will temporarily be her slave before she transfers this ownership to Ryuuou. Seiya lost because he let go of her hand. Uhm, I didn’t know that also constituted a duel. When Seiya returns to Yuuga’s group, they find lots of nude slavery pics of Julia online. Because he cannot answer Yuuga’s questions, this proves he is not his slave anymore. Plus, Julia took his SCM out (but will return it later) so Yuuga can’t challenge him for a duel. Thinking he could be a spy for Ryuuou, they leave him alone to discuss things. Shiori Adachi works as some cosplay hostess. A princess one. After work, she meets an eager fan, Taiju Nakano who manages to convince her to play this SCM game as she is interested in this slave and master thingy. Thinking it is just a toy and having nothing better to do, she agrees. But what will the play for? A couple of guys try to hit on them. Uhm, isn’t that lion head dude? So the challenge is who could get the guy to spend more on them. Man, the guys must have deep pockets to splash the cash. Near the end of their date, they meet and feed a dog. It isn’t a stray as it has a tag name, Zushioumaru. Unknown to them, it is also wearing an SCM. When they go to the guys’ house, suddenly Shiori is knocked out after drinking her drink. Realizing this is a date rape, suddenly Nakano turns the tables over! Resting at the park, Nakano reveals he is actually a guy! Shiori felt she lost to her as a woman. This activates her SCM. Suddenly this ruffian dude, Zenichi Bunkyou approaches them and wants to know who the master is. From Shiori’s words, he thinks she is the one and grabs her. He challenges her to a punching game and he punches her face until she gives up!!! After beating up Nakano and thinking this cross-dresser is also his slave, but Nakano darts for it. Hiding in an alley while regretting putting Shiori in danger, Julia offers to help but with a condition he becomes their ally. Julia brings him to meet colleague, Ataru Chuo who wants him to duel Julia as prove he is on their side. As they reach the park, they see Zenichi trying to fend off Zushioumaru. Doggie bites his balls and big bully is forced to admit his loss!

Episode 4
Flashback shows Zenichi being confronted by a few bodyguards because he refused to pay for Ayaka’s service. As he doesn’t like being bossed around, he beats them up! Muon Nerima saw this and thinks he is suitable to be his successor. He is the ringleader of the red light district. Zenichi loved the idea of women and money but is made to prove himself by wearing this SCM. For every slave he gets, he gets a million bucks. The rest is history. After beating Shiori, Zushioumaru came to the rescue. Chuo offers him to be their ally but Zenichi would rather die than be bossed around. Chuo wants to duel him but Nakano takes responsibility to avenge Shiori. The game is punch out and Nakano is holding a brick! As they clean up, they see Zushioumaru returning to its owner: Eia. Chuo wants the dog since it is wearing SCM but Yuuga tries to extract more info about Ryuuou. He is not saying anything. Yuuga offers to duel to free him from his slavery but Chuo remains cool and thinks that is a lie. Later Yuuga and Eia discuss how the dog end up wearing an SCM as well as the possibility that Ryuuou has a lot of slaves. Zero Shinagawa is a lonely guy whose life is just one big mundane routine. One day a kid wants him to help him avenge his father who lost an SCM duel and went crazy because the winner ran away and without the SCM, his brain suffered some damage. He would have duelled himself but nobody would take him seriously as a kid. Zero doesn’t want to get involved but when the kid says nobody ever believes him, this triggers Zero’s childhood trauma that nobody believed him and threw baseless accusations at him. Zero agrees to help so they meet the person to duel: Chuo. The game will be a quiz. First to get 3 correct wins. But it seems the kid is answering on Zero’s behalf. Eventually Zero answers one correctly himself and Chuo messes up on one. Does this mean Zero has won? On the contrary Chuo isn’t the one battling but the kid. He reveals his SCM. Zero loses and is now his slave. That story about his dad was made up and Zero was an easy target as nobody would care if he vanishes since he lives alone. A juicy revelation as the kid reveals himself as Ryuuou!

Episode 5
Somehow Zero could defy Ryuuou’s orders! He runs away but is soon knocked out. Although he is still Ryuuou’s slave, Zero explains that he heard a voice in his head to run. I’m sure that wasn’t the voice of God. Julia returns to report that Zenichi has disappeared from hospital and is left with a note. Written in blood by a crazy person, it is definitely a challenge between SCM users. Ryuuou agrees to the challenge to punish that person. Shiori finds out that Chuo is actually Julia’s slave. He started seeing her in the club she works. One day he saw her looking troubled so he thought of agreeing to play a game with her to cheer her up. Before he knew it, he became her slave. Yeah, he guessed the wrong colour of her pantsu. She wasn’t wearing any… Yuuga also receives the same letter and wants to take up the challenge. However Eia refuses as she believes the game has gotten more dangerous. Yuuga is disappointed. He thought she shared the same feelings and all. That was then. Now not so. She doesn’t want innocent people dragged in to become slaves forever. Yuuga even hits her! Eia still won’t cooperate and get him more slaves. Back home, Eia receives a message that Yuuga has lost to that crazy person. Don’t know why she is obligated to go save him. Turns how he set up himself. That’s not the end of it. He has ordered Ayaka to soak in an ice bath. Hmm… I thought masters cannot put slaves’ live in danger? Of course she cannot get out until he says so. Yuuga rants about his boring school and work life. Yeah, this gives him the thrills. His plan is to make Zushioumaru his slave. He doesn’t want Ayaka to wear the SCM or she won’t be his insurance anymore. That way, she will always stay by his side. No choice, Ayaka and Zushioumaru enter the next duel, an eating contest. No food on the plate? You eat the utensils! It’s painful seeing Ayaka trying to break the fork into pieces to swallow! Zushioumaru would do the same too but his mouth and teeth aren’t compatible. Eia agrees to do whatever he says but Yuuga lets the duel go on until Ayaka wins. Hope she doesn’t get indigestion. Yuuga then transfers Zushioumaru’s slave status from Ayaka to himself. Also, he reveals he isn’t that crazy person and just used that for this. Things are going to be crazier now that crazy people are going to play this game.

Episode 6
Wow. Now we hear the thoughts of Zushioumaru. Originally Eia’s pet, one day he saw a cute bitch (the female dog, mind you) and chased after it. Too bad he got lost and injured. A kind professor, Sumida took him in and cared for it. As he is a scientist researching about the brain, Zushioumaru didn’t mind becoming his test subject. He developed a mild prototype called Slave Control Method otherwise known as SCM. One night, his greedy colleague, Tsubaki Setagaya stole all that data to modify it for his own use and fled. Sumida felt responsible for this and resigned. With only a prototype in hand, Zushioumaru had this idea of wearing it because SCM vibrates when another wearer is nearby, to find Setagaya. Doggie must be real confident Setagaya is wearing it all the time. Too bad he didn’t find him. When Zushioumaru returned, Sumida had hanged himself. Zushioumaru vowed to find Setagaya at all cost. That’s when he stumbled into Shiori and then his SCM vibrated for the first time when Zenichi was around. The rest is history. Zushioumaru is happily reunited with Eia but wonders why she is with Yuuga whom he can sniff is a liar.

Yuuga is on the crowded train when a woman comes up to him and whispers she is that crazy person. She has him agree to a duel but before was drugged out and brought back to her base. Fujiko Taito introduces the slaves she has now that include Rushie, Masakazu, Zenichi and even Ayaka. Fujiko wants to know if he knows a man with a lion hairstyle. In fact he does. Shinnosuke Tachikawa was his friend and business partner. They wanted to sell SCMs but Yuuga had other ideas of using it so it ended there for them. Apparently Fujiko is looking for him because love at first sight. He saved her in a weird cliché manner from thugs. However he soon left and left behind and SCM. Her goal is to use it to find him so he can be hers. Not so fun now that you’re the slave, huh? With Yuuga as her slave, he is ordered to capture Eia and Zushioumaru. But Yuuga falls into another duel and loses. This person is Eia. She saved him so as to free him? This means wearing the SCM. At least she kept her promise even though he is a jerk. Better thank your lucky stars. Eia who was against using SCMs seems all for it now. They find another SCM user, Sachi Shibuya as Eia battle and win over her. Yuuga is afraid of how Eia is using it so aggressively. It seems Eia’s goal is to free all slaves from SCM. Although it can be as easy as the master’s orders, what about other slaves out there they don’t know? Hence she is going to enslave everyone wearing an SCM and them let them all go free. She’ll then rid the world of SCM. Wow. That’s like trying to destroy humanity to save it. I guess you have to be this crazy if you want it to work.

Episode 7
Julia narrates she loves holding hands of her parents. When they could not, other men tried to do the same via money or violence but they weren’t serious. Until she met Seiya. He was always there for her until that sudden breakup. Depressed, her tranny friend suggested a place of a friend to clear her head. But that home belonged to Ryuuou but he is always home alone as his mom is always out working. Thinking of being his friend, Julia agreed to play a game using SCM. She lost and is ordered to strip. This was the first time Ryuuou used the SCM and is amazed it worked. The next step is to go rescue his mom who is working in a red light district run by Nerima. However he couldn’t save her as Nerima says mom owes a lot of money and if he could secure 100 million yen, he might consider releasing his mom. Julia pitied him and agreed to his order to bait and catch more people to become his slave. She doesn’t mind doing this as it is their secret and hence their bond they share. Meeting up with Fujiko’s side, both agree to a duel of capture the flag in this warehouse. Aside from capturing the opponent’s flag to win, a slave goes out if any body part other than their feet touches the ground. Slaves can also hurt one another. The loser will all become the winner’s slave. We see Fujiko’s side taking the lead as she seems like outsmarting Ryuuou’s slaves. But when near Ryuuou’s flag, Julia electrocutes herself with a pool around the pool as warning. It seems one of the core rules as a slave is that they can disobey an order if they think it will kill them. Ryuuou on the other hand has quietly dismantled all the traps laid by Fujiko as he claims her flag. Fujiko admits her loss. In the aftermath, Fujiko is surprised that Julia actually electrocuted herself despite knowing the dangers even though it is Ryuuou’s order. She wonders why she would go that far for her master.

Episode 8
Ryuuou wants information on an SCM user that has a star mark. As it appeared inside a school, he wants Julia to infiltrate as a student. Fujiko also volunteers but since she is a nurse, she has the credentials to become a school nurse. They didn’t find any leads until Fujiko is confronted with Setagaya. At the same time Julia is confronted by Minami Kita who knows Julia is an SCM user and wants to duel her. Julia runs but is cut off by Setagaya and Fujiko who is now his slave. Julia is kidnapped as she learns he is the star SCM. Setagaya wants her cooperation as he wants to make this world a better place via SCM. As he tries to put in his star SCM into her, she struggles and loses her own. Setagaya is interested to see how long she can resist without an SCM. Eia schemes a plan to duel Nerima as Sachi is forced to ignore a call from her mad boyfriend, Takio Minato. Minami narrates how she wanted a better life. She mixed with the wrong company but eventually everyone around her disappeared. Until she met Setagaya who introduced her to SCM and assured she could win her freedom. She used it to enslave Nerima but notes nothing has changed. Eia comes in to duel Nerima. The challenge is to earn the most money in 2 hours. Money in the bank doesn’t count and you can’t use the phone or computer. This duel seems to favour Nerima as he has multiple businesses. Whatever. Challenge accepted. Nerima calls his men to bring in the money from his establishments. Meanwhile Minami follows Eia to a park where she sings and the people throws some lose changes to fill up a boot. But Sachi comes by and dumps hundreds and thousands of yen! Minami knows she is one of her slaves and part of her tactic. Meanwhile Yuuga disguises as a loan shark interested to loan Nerima money. 10 million. But it seems Nerima knows the catch and signs Eia’s name on it. There is a clause that says he must return all the money in 30 minutes. Crazy. Yuuga is caught and tied up. When Eia returns, it looks like she is going to lose but wait. The 10 million goes up in flames! There is a timer to set fire on it? With time is up, Eia’s 1 million beats Nerima’s 900 thousand. Eia explains the million she got was from Sachi asking donations from her friends. Phew. Otherwise the real 10 million they burn would have been for nothing. Literally all gone up in smoke. Eia reveals her plan to free everyone from slavery and destroy SCM. Nerima applauds her goal and believes she can stand up to a certain someone.

Episode 9
Gekkou Itabashi is an obsessed fan of a sadistic online counsellor, Maria Chiyoda. Yeah, he’s probably a masochist. He is ordered to spy on Ryuuou’s underlings believed to have popped up at his school. He spies on Setagaya and Fujiko’s confrontation. Setagaya made Fujiko wear a special SCM in exchange for info she is looking for. When Setagaya puts on his SCM, Fujiko immediately becomes his slave. It seems Setagaya’s SCM is also a special SCM and is able to pass down judgment and hence turning her into his slave. Gekkou got scared and ran away. Seeking forgiveness before Maria, she has another mission for him. Put on this SCM and rendezvous with her comrade, Kiyo Koto. Maria is reluctant to use him but since he can hear sounds of SCM, might as well use his talents to save her senior, Kiyo. Just have to put up with his annoyance. Ryuuou and Zero are at the school at night to investigate the disappearance of Julia and Fujiko. But before them is dumb Gekkou trying to stop them. Easily destroyed by Zero. But Gekkou thinks Zero is Kiyo. A switch is flipped inside Zero as he makes Gekkou enter a duel. Gekkou lost. Ryuuou puts on his SCM to transfer Zero’s slave to his however it doesn’t work. Zero is against Ryuuou? It seems this is not Zero but Kiyo! Chuo and Nakano arrive to help but Maria picks them up and escapes. Flashback shows Zero turning up at Maria’s place. Claiming he is Kiyo, Maria doesn’t believe him because Kiyo is a woman and died a while ago. Kiyo claims Zero is her son and her conscious somehow transferred to her. She wants her to help Zero. Going back further into the flashback, Maria once met Kiyo in prison after a minor scuffle. They became good friends when they got out but unfortunately Kiyo died in an accident. Next time when Maria visits Zero, Zero doesn’t have memories when he was out nor his mom. Soon Zero becomes Kiyo as she explains about Zero not knowing her because she died when he was young and the trauma made him lose his memories. Kiyo somehow reawakened when Zero put on the SCM. Their plan is to duel Ryuuou, defeat him and free Zero.

Episode 10
Ryuuou reminisces his normal and happy life with his mom. Until she started working more frequently and was rarely at home. Then Julia came into his life and he got to know about SCM. With Julia always by his side since, he noticed she has been starting to do a lot of things for him despite not being ordered around. Was it because of SCM? As Ryuuou is reading at a bookstore, surprisingly Eia comes to talk to him and give him her doughnut. Ryuuou wonders if she is unaware of who he is. He just had that look he wanted to eat a doughnut and thought it would be nice to share. Ryuuou initiates his plan to get Julia back. As Masakazu also went missing after Julia and Fujiko, Ryuuou’s slaves have caught him and trying to extract info. They find a message of a place to meet. They lie in wait to ambush as they see Setagaya and Fujiko appearing. When they have them cornered and as soon Setagaya learns Ryuuou is not among them, he uses his SCM to turn them all into his slaves. He then makes a courtesy call to Ryuuou that all his slaves are his now. But Ryuuou is only concerned about Julia and gets worked up after hearing how dutiful she is. To add insult, he sends a picture of Julia licking his feet! Setagaya reveals to his slaves that this was all part of his plan to bait and get them in one fell swoop. They have become perfect specimens to collect SCM data. Meanwhile Maria believes she has lost her trump card to defeat Ryuuou since he now knows about Kiyo. She thinks of putting on SCM to make Zero her slave to save Kiyo. Thinking Gekkou is at the door, however it is some crazy sniper gas mask dude as he attacks her and is going to turn her into his slave.

Episode 11
Nerima explains to Yuuga and Eia about the star SCM. After Minami enslaved him, Setagaya popped up and with his star SCM, he became his slave. He was ordered to pretend to be Minami’s slave. Setagaya made a deal with him that for every slave he gets, he will be paid. It is a win-win for them as Nerima would get the money and Setagaya the data he wants. The plan is to approach Setagaya without becoming his slave but soon they realize Sachi isn’t around. Just in time, they get a message from Setagaya that Sachi has been captured and to come to the warehouse. So when they make their move, Setagaya’s slaves corner them. However it is a trap as these are Nerima’s men in disguise. The real ones make their way in to find Sachi only to fall into a pit trap. Setagaya is impressed with his big catch but notices Eia not among the group. Yuuga pushed her away before they fell in. Now she is on the run. Setagaya is now talking to Fujiko as he explains how SCM works something like Pavlov’s Bell. As I understand, it is when you realize you have lost that you become a slave. As his star SCM gives off that similar sound, it brings back memories of your loss and thus the reason you lose before any duel is made. However this only works on people who have lost. This is why he wants to improve on it from the samples he collected. However he starts to bleed as it is taking a toll on his body. Suddenly he is attacked by people in a gas mask. Their master is Takio and he wants to duel Setagaya. In this lying game, Takio explains Fujiko is his slave and hence he knew all about the star SCM. Setagaya thought it is a lie but it’s not and loses. Flashback shows Takio hates people looking down on him but ever since he got the SCM, he hasn’t had any duels and became frustrated. His friend invited him to a cabaret in which Julia and Sachi became their companions. Takio targeted Julia but it was Sachi who lost to him. But as his first slave, he ordered her to have sex with her and realized the true potential of SCM. After a while, Sachi started to ignore him and he became even more frustrated. He bumped into Shinnosuke for a while and soon took things into his own hands. He observed the SCM map and those wearing it and targeted Maria to become his slave as he views her as an easy target. Extracting info from Zero, he found out about Shinnosuke and used it on Fujiko to become her next slave. Now Takio relishes he is the master of the most slaves in town.

Episode 12
Takio is using his slaves as target practice. Eia notices a number Yuuga left her. Calling it leads to Shinnosuke. After telling him what happened, Shinnosuke explains how he and Yuuga met (some brawl he was saved from). Yuuga became interested to form a partnership to do business with him but he changed when he learnt about SCM. Instead of selling it for profit, he became interested in them. He then took their money and run. So Shinnosuke is going to help her as he wants to settle things with Yuuga. But will the duo be enough to take on Takio and his slaves? This is where Ryuuou joins in. It seems Eia knows where Takio is thanks to a reliable source (Kiyo who is pretending to be under Takio’s control). Takio has Setagaya explain how many SCMs are out there. 23. Takio has the ultimate slave master as 18 slaves. Only Eia, Ryuuou and Gekkou are not his slaves. But as he counts them, there is 1 more missing. It is believed that Shinnosuke has it but sold it to someone else. Before Takio could start his next round of fun with his slaves, Eia pops up and challenges him to a duel. Whoever begs for their lives first loses. However his slaves capture her. Meanwhile Shinnosuke is putting homemade bombs all over the place while Ryuuou is on the lookout. Takio beats up Eia in hopes of making her lose. Soon, explosions occur all over. Takio panics and orders his slaves to come but they will not put themselves in danger through the fire, hence ignoring his orders.

Meanwhile Yuuga spots Shinnosuke. Both have a weird judo bout and it ends with both of them ‘declaring their love for each other’. I believe it is more of bros love than gay love. Takio mocks Eia’s plan to free all slaves. Suddenly Kiyo walks in and frees Eia. Takio tries to escape but Shinnosuke stands in his way. With fire everywhere, they have no way out. Shinnosuke has no choice but to carry them all and jump through the window! This scary ride has Takio scared sh*t as he pleads for his life. You lose. Don’t worry. They survive. Thanks to that flimsy zinc roof… Yeah… Meanwhile Ryuuou heads underground to try and free Julia. Other guys come in to help break down the door. In the aftermath, Gekkou arrives to help! It’s over, dude. But it’s not over yet as Eia and Ryuuou are both undefeated masters. The final duel is a coin toss. As the plot would have it, Eia wins. She frees everyone and bans the use of SCM or enslaving everyone. Ryuuou and Julia emotionally reunite. Nerima repays his dues to free Ryuuou’s mom from her debt. Nerima uses his influence to set up this fire thingy as some movie shoot but that’s not going to fool the authorities. Now he needs to think of what to do with Takio. But too bad Setagaya has escaped. He has his men search for him as he wants to repay his kindness. With everyone free, Eia throws away her SCM and returns home with Zushioumaru.

12 Episodes A Slave
So, uhm, that’s it? No plot twist at the end in which Eia suddenly changes her mind and reveals her true colours because and won’t free the slaves and instead goes on to dominate and enslave the world? Okay. I guess we will have to make do with this boring happy ending. What a bummer. But with Setagaya still free out there, even though SCM seems to be ‘disabled’ by Eia, as long as this guy is free, he can still make new prototypes and continue his game thereafter. Nerima better catch this guy quick if we don’t want to see history repeating itself again. Also they trolled us with that 1 missing SCM but we’ll never get to find out how because even if they teased us that some random stranger is in possession of it (for some reason his enslaving sadism kicked in late), perhaps another round of possible slavery and a possible teaser for next season! But hold on. How can that person with the only SCM left go around enslaving others? Well, the other used SCMs (assuming they have been thrown away) may be picked up by others. Hey, Eia freed those affected by SCM but this doesn’t mean the SCM itself would have stopped working, right? If Eia had foresight, she would have collected and destroyed them all! Oh boy. Didn’t think that through enough, did you?

Sometimes I feel that the irony that the term slavery is used in a very loose fashion because from what I can see, it is more of BDSM than anything. Or maybe it is just me having this old fashioned mindset that a slave has to be in very pitiful conditions and in chains. So having the people here as slaves feel like just being very obedient people as far as I would explain. Lackeys, if there was another word for it. Although the duels and games played here in challenges are nothing special and are just really simple, it also shows how terrifying that something this simple could actually end one up in a lot of mess. This is why the world is full of sh*t as long as there are greedy and evil people around.

While the concept of slaving people this easily using SCM looks like an interesting idea, however the pacing and development didn’t really play out nicely out here. There are so many mind boggling questions about the SCM that seemed to contradict itself that I got confused on how it actually works. Yes, on the outside it is that simple of both players putting it on and duel, winner becomes master and loser becomes slave. Then when you try to think a little more on the technical stuffs, it just gets a little confusing. For example, if a slave doesn’t wear his/her SCM, he/she cannot enter duels and risk become slave to others but if that is the case, can he/she obey their master without wearing SCM? If they are free from master’s control for this short period without wearing SCM, wouldn’t they have run far away? At least far enough never to see their master again? I was also wondering how Yuuga was going to make Eia his insurance if she was not initially going to wear the SCM. I thought only other masters can free slaves? If a normal people can do so, don’t you think this defeats the purpose of SCM? Another boggling thing is that if your master has become the slave of another master, then why didn’t Gekkou become Takio’s slave when Maria became his slave? Probably they kept this character for stupid comic relief that is pretty pointless but if you ponder this, doesn’t this break its own rules then? Who is Gekkou’s master then?

Another point of contention is how it works on animals. Even if Zushioumaru is a very intelligent dog and can understand some human commands, I feel Zushioumaru is a bit unrealistic because it feels like a human trapped in a dog’s body. It is to a point that little doggy could perfectly understand everything that has been said. This brings me to the next question if both SCM users are from different countries and speak different languages. Will it take effect? And how does the device actually detect when the game starts? Sure, it looks like when the users say the word itself but how does the device recognizes this?

As pointed out by Setagaya, a caveat of the SCM is that you really lose when your mind thinks you have lost. This means it is all in the mind. So if a person is particularly a very sore loser, even if he/she has actually lost and not think have actually lost yet, then the SCM will not work, right? You won’t become the master’s slave, right? So I guess that everyone we have seen so far in this anime are not really sore losers since they accept their defeat so easily and become their master’s slave in no time. Just like that saying, you don’t really lose a fight because you fall, you lose the fight because you refuse to get up. And hence SCMs are somewhat perfect for stubborn and sore losers who will never ever give in. Because it is all in the state of your mind. Hence the battle will never end! Makenai zo!!! Yeah, the not having a loser mentality is ever so important here. Heck, as proven in Zero’s case, if you have multiple personalities, you are practically ‘safe’ from being a slave. The more the better. Just don’t let that personality out. Ever again. Truly it is all in the mind.

If one of the rules for a slave is that the master cannot order a slave to die or at least put his/her life in danger, so what if a master orders the slave not to eat? It is not an immediate threat but if left alone, the slave will eventually die of starvation. But if the slave will take steps to break this and start eating, then think about this. If a slave deems something to threaten his/her life, he/she will not do as command. So if the slave is a wuss and a big pussy in life who views everything so negatively and cowardly, then theoretically the slave will not do anything the master commands, right? Example: Master: Slave, go buy me a beer. Slave: Sorry master, I’m too afraid to cross the street due to my past trauma of being knocked down by a speeding lorry and survived. Can’t do that. So again, it is all in the mind, no?

One of the biggest downfalls of this series is having too many characters. You see, this series has a total of 23 characters (or is it 24 because the official title says 23 slaves and me)! All of which are supposed to be an integral process and development of the overall series. Although there is some good points having this much characters, this means that some of the characters are nothing more than superficial and there to make up the numbers. This is particularly true for characters that appear early on in the series and are not really main or supporting character material such as Rushie, Masakazu, Seiya, Ayaka, Shiori, Nakano and Zenichi. Those like Minami who popped up late also felt like nothing and just to add up for the numbers. Even if they have like half an episode focused on their story, once that is over, they become just a number in the slave pack and forgotten. It makes you wonder if their story is really important. Yes, it is important as we get to see how their story connects to others and hence the overall big picture. However with too many characters and such little screen time, such characters have been reduced to become less important as the series reaches its closing stages.

Even if these characters had more screen time and if this series was expanded to 2 cours, I believe it will not fare any better and would lead to even more confusion. Because for one character, how much of a drama is there to be dragged out? Everybody has their own reasons and goals when they put on the SCM and many are as cliché as wanting money, power and dominance. Therefore if these characters were to have more limelight, it will be frustrating and the plot will further be at a loss. Because there are simply too many characters already so adding more screen time will not do justice to anything. That is why I suppose those aforementioned characters having their screen time and then forgotten is probably the best for them and for the overall story not to suffer. Although it is still that bad just to a lesser degree.

As for some of the main characters especially those who are supposed to be the big main players of this series, they don’t really impress too. Like Eia and Yuuga who started off giving us the impression that they are the main characters but as other characters are introduced, they slowly feel light they have been slightly relegated to the side. Eia seems like the main character only because of the need of a character to defeat the ‘bad guy’. Even Ryuuou somewhat loses his charm after being introduced. At first there was this enigma and mystery to the person who might be the biggest slave collector in town but after we get some important details about his past and other plot twists, he doesn’t seem so interesting after that. He is after all just a kid who longs for a real mother figure.

The only thing that surprised me was having Takio as the final boss. I was always thinking that Setagaya would be that role but I guess I was being confused and bored and didn’t pay attention for this plot twist. I mean, I sometimes keep wondering about this character as he pops up from time to time (in fact, he is one of the first characters to pop up when the series started) but never give much thought about it. Could it be just a red herring even if they show a little prominence of this character? So it’s like the ‘final boss’ keep changing hands. At least in my mind. From Ryuuou to Setagaya to Takio. It just shows that it is a dog eat dog world out there and if you’re not on your guard, somebody is always there waiting to knock you off your high throne and take over your spot.

The wild card and joker among all the characters is Shinnosuke. He could perhaps be the biggest link to all those involved in SCM despite his character being shown as some hippie or something. However his real final episode appearance wasn’t really mind blowing or exciting. Just because he isn’t an SCM user, he is that wild card and convenience needed to get the plot through the final episode. With their initial money up in smokes, I suppose Yuuga is going to have a hard time paying him back now. Hope he learnt his lesson from this little thrill he got. It’s been fun for a while. Now back to his boring mundane life.

Heck, Eia’s goal to free everyone and the world of SCMs must be so easy because it is revealed there are only like 23 of them. You mean Setagaya didn’t mass produce them?! Holy sh*t. I was under the impression that there are at least thousands of them free flowing around since Eia made that bold statement of wanting to rid of SCM slavery.  This means Eia could actually not go on an international personal crusade of every nook and corner of the world to find and destroy every single SCM. Phew. Only 23 of them. No sweat to track them all. And conveniently they are all in the same town. What a catch! Of course this is assuming Eia doesn’t know how many are there are first but in the end we see her freeing everyone like as though she knows that these are all the SCMs users ever. What an easy job. Now where did that 1 remaining SCM go to…

Artwork and animation feel like a mixed bag because I noticed the quality sometimes fluctuates between passable and mediocre. It’s not like it is heavy on the action side either. Some of the hot female characters like Julia and Fujiko, it feels like they lap up their sexiness like as though they come from another anime if you think too much about it. But I want to point out that the first time I looked at Setagaya, I was shocked to see what the f*ck is this evil version of John Lennon doing here???!!! This series is co-produced by TNK (High School DxD, School Days, UFO Princess Valkyrie) and Zero-G (Tsugumomo, One Room, Nil Admirari No Tenbin). Prior to the anime adaptation, there was a live action movie adaptation of this series back in 2014, Tokyo Slaves.

The opening theme is Kara Kara Na Kokoro by Shougo Sakamoto. He sounds a bit sleepy although I thought he had some cold when he recorded singing this song because it sounds like he is singing through his nasal. Not kidding. It’s one of those generic kind of songs that tries to give you a generic feel of the series. Like the ending theme for Kamisama No Memo-chou. I don’t know, hearing this piece somehow reminds me of Asunaro even though they are different as night and day. The ending theme is BJ by Pile. The hard rock piece feels more suitable to be the opener. The ending credits animation here feels weird because it shows the mug shots, actually the leg shots or body shots without the face shown of all the concerned characters. Like as though they are lining up for their mug shots to be taken at the police station.

Overall, this series had an interesting concept but failed to articulate and express such ideas into an appealing and fascinating series. Too many characters all trying to be linked together contributed to the messy plot of who could accumulate the most slaves. It is not a very bad anime but it is just unfortunate that it is haphazard and hence limiting the understanding and overall enjoyment. You try to keep track of the characters and the story but soon realize it is better to just forget the whole thing and watch this mindlessly like a slave if you want to get to the end. Take it from me who have been a ‘slave’ to watching anime for umpteen years now. You just stop questioning your master’s orders (in case this, the logic of the anime) and just go with the flow and accept everything as it is. It’s so much easier that way. After all, slaves don’t think and don’t defy their masters and continue to serve them no matter how crappy they are. Yup, it’s the reason why I will continue to watch mediocre animes for years to come. And I don’t even need to be subjugated by an SCM for that. I guess slavery won’t be ending anytime soon.

Fate/Extra Last Encore

September 22, 2018

Another season, another Fate series adaptation. After the rather okay Fate/Apocrypha (I was satisfied with it although the general public or rather the hardcore fans were not too happy about it), I was wondering if they wanted to give the red Saber its due debut. The one in Apocrypha didn’t really count, okay. Fate/Extra Last Encore is another one of those alternate universes like Apocrypha that isn’t directly related to the original works so I thought there would be something new instead of reusing the same 7 Masters with their 7 Servants fighting each other to win the ultimate Holy Grail and get their wish, that tired storyline that probably has been done to death in the Fate universe. Probably. I’m not a fan of the Fate series and have only known and see them in their anime format. But this series involving the moon and digital format thingy? Oh no. Smells like a heap of confusion ahead. Hold my breath and take the plunge…

Episode 1
Wow. Starting off with Saber fighting Buddha? In space? And lost! We now go to the current scene. Hakuno Kishinami is a student of a school, the teacher talking about summoning of Heroes and other mumbo jumbo I can’t understand. After class, he hangs out with his friends, Shinji and his girlfriend, Misao Amari (this loser has a girlfriend?!). They talk about limbo and existence. Not that I understand again. They go watch a chess match that is won by Leonardo “Leo” Bistario Harwey. Popular enough to have his own legion of fan girls. The mind boggling thing is that the loser in chess got killed off! Even more so his body just left there after the crowd disperses! Hakuno examines it and is met by Rin. They take it to the infirmary as the school nurse has him ‘take out the trash’ at the incinerator as she has no authority. After dumping the corpse-like thingy into the abyss, some scientist dude tells him about the different layers of this world something about illusion and paradise thingy and the days repeating itself. WTF. Angelica Cage. Sea of the Seven Heavens. Don’t get it. Before Hakuno could ask for what it all means, he is told time is up and didn’t make it. Kirei announces 100 participants have qualified and because 28 spots remain, the remaining participants have to kill each other to qualify before the final purge. Hakuno meets up with Shinji as they run and hide. But Shinji betrays and stabs him to death, believing Hakuno has no desire to win this game like him so he should die for him. Yup, best friends alright. After the last spots are taken up, the purge begins. All those who failed to qualify are being killed by Terminator robots. Apparently Hakuno is still alive. He makes his way to the incinerator as some Archer clone tries to kill him. Apparently Archer clone is bad in dealing the lethal blow so Hakuno falls down. Deep enough until he reaches some area with a red sword in the middle. He slowly walks to pick it up. The enemy slowly walks to kill him. Eventually Hakuno picks it up and he summons Red Saber. To show how awesome she is, she destroys the clone with devastating strikes. At the end, she asks him if he is her Master. Kirei narrates about the Holy Grail War abandoned long time ago and hence the activities conducted in this paradise were a mere echo of the past. Things repeated and the results were the same. But with Hakuno as the 129th Master, a miracle has happened, his existence is his final task.

Episode 2
Hakuno and Saber ride the Moon Mile Ladder, a capsule that heads to the moon. Inside is a luxurious facility for them to recuperate as well as explain to us the things we need to know. All participants are to fight each other until one is left in Moon Cell (moon’s version of Holy Grail) and the winner gets to fulfil their wish. More mumbo jumbo about this is all just artificial spiriton world created by the moon’s mainframe. During the preliminary stages, participants’ memories are suppressed but will only regain them once they become a Master in the main tournament. Even so, Hakuno has not had his returned yet. Not that he cares. Participants are supposed to fight their way from the lower stratum to the higher one but it seems Saber is amazed with this festival-like atmosphere of this first stratum. Of course they go around not only to have fun but to find opponents. In this bar, Saber thinks the bar master is a Master but is told many Masters who reached here have sold their Servants to Central Tower because life here is too good so there is no need to fight in any Holy Grail War. Saber leaves disappointed but Hakuno is given a tip that there are some Masters in this stratum who haven’t sold their Servants yet. A bevy of hot policewomen take the duo to Central Tower as they talk about besides Masters, everyone else is NPCs and not humans. The mayor of this stratum is Shinji?! He explains this might be the lowest stratum of SE.RA.PH but it is liberated and has its own laws and government. Shinji buys the Servants to turn them into efficient resources to help provide comfortable lives for all Masters. Shinji wants Hakuno to sell his but after hearing this, his decision is easy: He will not sell Saber. Shinji takes his next action to eliminate them. He separates them and has Saber fight 3 Berserker Servants. Meanwhile Hakuno gets stabbed by the police babes. This is the second time he gets stabbed… But don’t worry. Looks like his intense hatred and again has him pull out their swords. Oh sh*t! Is his true form or memories some sort of monster he is? Dead Face?

Episode 3
Just in time, Rin. Her hacking saves the duo from whatever troubles. Rin is a Master without a Servant and is fighting as a resistance. As they recuperate, Rin explains about the situation. Masters who fear fighting and death all are stuck in this stratum. It is all due to the creation of that wheel in the sky, Chakravartin, the rules of the Holy Grail War has been broken. Each stratum became independent and Masters no longer have to kill. But there was one who won his first round but for some reason could ascend to the next stratum. So Chakravartin changed how SE.RA.PH works and as the only one left on this stratum, he became Floor Master. He used all this resources to create this city. Even those from higher stratum descend here to this city to live in peace. Angelica Cage is acting weird and the only way to find out is ascend to the highest stratum. You can only do that by defeating another fellow Master. Speaking of which, there is only one here who is no other than Shinji and he is the Floor Master. Hakuno gets his resolved to kill him. Payback time? Rin hacks her way and becomes the bait so the duo can ride up to the next floor to face Shinji. Flashback shows he killed another Master to win. Realizing he is the only one left, he feared killing again and will die with nothing to show for. To prove he is alive, he will create a city to house Masters who have given up on the Holy Grail War. If he can gather hundreds of spiriton hackers, he could accomplish something. Now Shinji gives Hakuno the right to fight him. The city is flooded as he summons his Servant, Rider whose real identity is the pirate, Francis Drake. Saber met her before as that bar master. Shinji activates her Noble Phantasm. Not sure if Saber can’t swim and is drowning so Hakuno swims down to kiss her. It’s his way of transferring mana to her. Yeah, she likes it. Because of that, Saber rejuvenates and with a great stroke of luck cuts down Rider. Shinji will not dissolve his contract with her and risk disappearing along for he doesn’t believe she has lost. Saber’s win was just fluke. Shinji regrets of being unable to do anything for a long time that he started going mad. He had nothing and stayed here because the thought of humanity would be judged as worthless if they disappeared here. Hakuno stops him, probably doesn’t want to hear his sorry story. At least he won’t hate him anymore. So are they friends? Shinji’s sarcasm says no. Hakuno and Saber take the Moon Mile Ladder up to the next stratum and Rin just manage to join them in time.

Episode 4
Hakuno ponders about Rider’s last words of why he wants to ascend. He has no memories and only hatred of wanting to ascend. Saber doesn’t care as it is human nature to be greedy. Just go for it! In the next level, Dan Blackmore’s wait has finally end with the arrival of Hakuno and Saber. He will defeat them and ascend to the next stratum. First he snipes at them but Saber being quick to deflect his bullets before they jump into the forest for cover. Dan sends Archer to eliminate them. Archer uses his invisibility to mask himself and his arrows and his poison mist in order to slow them down. Saber uses her body to protect Hakuno from an arrow when he fell into a trap. But before everything could be over for Saber, some miracle burns away Archer’s arrows and causes him to be visible. Archer retreats. It is hinted that Hakuno may have used a Command Spell to get out of this situation and their saviour is Rani VIII. She too is a Master without a Servant like Rin and is fighting the resistance on this level. She explains about Dan who became Floor Master and started hunting Masters who came here. Rani didn’t descend as she saw the stars that a Master who strives to ascend will appear. That was 50 years ago. More about Moon Cell constructing this place as an ideal environment for humanity’s soul to go. It could have been humanity’s utopia had SE.RA.PH been used correctly but is now facing destruction. Hakuno dreams of that scientist telling him about his Holy Grail War was just a means for Moon Cell to gather data on humans but people misinterpreted it and started helping themselves rather than its roots. He will choose one who is fit for the Holy Grail. Hakuno is more confused since he was killed by him and if he was kicked out from Angelica Cage. Later Hakuno sees Rani attending to the graves of the fallen Masters. He asked about that 50 years thing so she is disappointed he failed to notice it himself. The year is now 3020, about a thousand years since SE.RA.PH broke down. Earth’s population has dwindled far below 10,000 and reaching unsustainable levels. If you consider civilization to be the core tenant of humanity, those in SE.RA.PH are the last remaining humans. If SE.RA.PH is destroyed, so will humanity.

Episode 5
Flashback 999 years ago when Dan was fighting as a Master and lost despite being far superior in ability and determination. Apparently he realized it is the quality of that will that gives one the strength to go forth that is important. He questioned his goal to win the Holy Grail to get back his dead wife. Normally that would be the end for him but due to some error in Angelica Cage, he is summoned back to this stratum with his Servant, restored. He took up the challenge to fight again. Rani discusses their battle plan. On Dan, we learn that he isn’t a real Master because he initially lost. That is why all the Masters he killed, Moon Mile Ladder will not appear. Hence he is fighting a futile struggle. Archer’s identity is Robin Hood but they must beware his Noble Phantasm that is triggered after you take a shot from his arrow. Poison will flow into your blood stream before finally exploding. To do that, he must reveal his name. The battle begins with Saber facing off with Archer while Rani takes Hakuno to the tower where Dan is supposedly based. But upon reaching the tower, Rani is sniped. She tells Hakuno not to save her. For Dan didn’t kill her outright so as to lure him back out to kill him. Hakuno is in a dilemma that his selfishness will kill and sacrifice her. Then he transforms into his Dead Face version to swiftly save her before Dan could even see anything. Archer thought he has Saber in his palms. His arrow has hit her and the poison spread throughout her body. All he needs is to use his bow and let her touch it to explode. However nothing happened and Archer is sliced. Apparently Saber drained her entire tainted bloodstream! Was there a character in history who could do that? With the explosion heard from the tower, it means Dan is also defeated. We see how Hakuno snuck in a sniped Dan. Uhm, that easy? Me no understand. Dan lies satisfied in his death as the sound of the bells reminds him of his happy days with his wife. With Moon Mile Ladder here, Hakuno wants to go back down to save Rani as the stratum is collapsing. But Saber reminds him that Rani hinted she never wanted to ascend with them. Her wish is to stay here with the dead and their dying wishes. So up they go. One question: If Dan isn’t a real Master and not qualified to ascend, how can Hakuno a real Master defeat an unreal one and ascend? Double standards? Rin who has been sorely missing since this stratum, pops up to hitch a ride with them again. Sneaky…

Episode 6
We start off by seeing Hakuno claiming victory over loli, Alice. I guess it’s not nice to see how a loli gets defeated. She doesn’t want to be left alone so he promises to come back after getting the Holy Grail before ascending to the next stratum. So okay, we get to see what happens. Arriving at this strange forest, the trio trek through as Rin explains about cyber ghosts. Yup, they can exist in this world. Hakuno thought he saw a loli. Indeed. Alice is happy to have found someone and has been alone for a long time. She admits she is a ghost. They play a few kiddie games together as she tells him once he leaves her, he will forget all about her. He wonders if this is a Servant’s ability. Alice explains her wish to be cured of her illness. After a war that killed everyone, she was alone in a hospital. The adults did things that hurt her. Eventually she died without being cured. She is happy to be in this level where her wishes could come true. Hakuno has had enough and leaves. When he reunites with his girls, he can’t remember meeting somebody although he could feel he did. As they trek further, Rin sees a vision of her confronting Amari on this level. Amari claimed to have cast away everything and came this far to win. She challenged Rin but was given a disappointing excuse why she would not. At the same time, Hakuno sees a vision of Amari and talks to her. Something about she hates her own name because it means unwanted. Her mom got knocked up by a bigwig and then abandoned. Amari was then also abandoned. Her wish is not to be laughed at so she abandoned everything in order to win. But the first few rounds was easy because in order to be stronger, she observed and used a weaker opponent to her advantage. At this stage, there were no weaker opponents. Alas, she had no choice and will still fight. Back to reality, the trio realizes this place is something off. Their sense of time is off and they have been seeing weird visions. After seeing the blood on the wall, Rin suddenly remembers why many Masters fled this stratum. There is a monster that cannot be killed. Don’t look now because it is here! Saber engages it but before they know it, they are back at starting point. Rin realizes the Servant has a Noble Phantasm that restarts the day when defeated. That way she can read all the stories she wants until she gets it right. The Servant’s true identity is Nursery Rhyme. Even a personification of children’s fairytales can become a Servant? Oh well, you don’t know how scary some fairytales can be. Although the motive of the Master is unclear, they continue to stay here and repeat this one day.

Episode 7
I’m confused of the timeline here. Anyway, we see Alice walking around in search for Hakuno but to no avail. She doesn’t care about the challenge Amari throws to Rin. In her bit to replenish her resources, she turns into that monster. So when all the other Masters see her, they attack her out of fear and she kills them all. She knows Hakuno will not recognize her like this but will keep waiting nevertheless. The trio re-enter the place, prepared defeat that monster whom they believe is the Floor Master’s Servant. We see another scene of Hakuno spending time with Alice. After that Amari confronts him to tell him off that he is doing nothing as Alice is his opponent. One must kill the other. Hakuno asks Saber if there is anyone who has ascended without fighting. Surprisingly she says yes. If the opponent resigns, the other wins by default. They are attacked by the monster. As Rin puts up her barrier, the monster is too strong and breaks through. It would have killed her but Hakuno uses a Command Spell to restart again. This is when Amari shows Hakuno the truth. The real Alice is not this cute loli. She is just the dream of the real Alice who is a creepy mummified sick child hooked up to all the IV drips in a hospital bed. This Alice cannot do anything and is being left all alone. After all, saving her makes no sense as she is already dead. The trio begin their trekking again. This time Hakuno talks about this place being a cyber ghost and attachment of the past just like him and his hatred. It is so piled up here that it smothers the present. Saber adds that even if one reaches Angelica Cage and defeat Twice Pieceman, there is no guarantee Moon Cell will even grant that wish. Everything is questionable and uncertain and yet with that people still chose to fight and ascend. We replay that opening scene of Hakuno defeating loli Alice and going to ascend. Because she is dead to begin with, Moon Cell can’t kill her. After picking up the book, they start to remember. No one is really left here. Now the trio fight against the monster and defeat it for good. The book disappears and only leaves behind a bookmark. Hakuno at least now wants to ascend with hope. Alice’s ghost doesn’t think this is such a sad fate and bids goodbye to Hakuno.

Episode 8
The fourth stratum was probably so easily that we see them ascending to the next level! Maybe we’re running out of episodes too? In this next stratum, Rin explains there is no Floor Master and there is a ladder to ascend to the next stratum. Easy. But of course there is a catch. There is a maniacal killer on the loose and his equally insanely powerful Berserker. That maniac is Julius Bistario Harwey, Leo’s brother who is said to be the best warrior. Saber and her previous Master once defeated him but luck played a great factor then. As Rin scouts the area, Saber and Hakuno talk about one being a talented genius. It doesn’t take long before both sides start fighting each other. Saber has a hard time fighting Berserker but with Rin now able to transform and use some spear weapon thingy, she leaves it to her while she goes find Hakuno who is fighting Julius. Hakuno transforms into his Dead Face to fight on par with him. Julius can also do the same. Hakuno remember memories of him and realizes he was killed in the Holy Grail War. So is he a ghost? Julius laughs like a maniac. He claims they are both lower than ghosts. Hence this flashback of Hakuno talking to the scientist to explain more incomprehensible mumbo jumbo. Sighs… Apparently there is a difference between ghosts and Dead Face. Taken prisoners by death, they are curses acting as members of the dead to spread death. Something about death of body and death of spirit is separated in SE.RA.PH. When Angelica Cage closed and Holy Grail War ended, SE.RA.PH became a digital hell with the regrets of the dead stopped being purified and left as they were. He wanted to reform humanity but failed due to naivety. Hence he decided to stop the growth of all humans and killed all victors. Some were worthy heroes but neither were enough to bring salvation. With the regret and hatred piling up, someone who was not anyone awoke to bear those burdens: Hakuno. Thus this Hakuno isn’t the real Hakuno but a repulsive homicidal maniac given form simply from hatred towards living. He is a mass of death. He ascends in order to kill. Normally Hakuno would have died from Julius attacks but you know, he is already dead. With Saber coming into the scene, Julius backs off. However Saber soon collapses as she used her body to stop Berserker’s attack on Hakuno. Because Berserker’s Noble Phantasm kills the enemy in a single blow. Julius and Berserker go off to deal with Rin attacking them while Hakuno is filled with regret for letting this happen to Saber. So we see him walking and wallowing in that regret as the voice of Saber tells him to be positive. He enters a room where a movie is about to start.

Episode 9
This video is supposed to help Hakuno remember the important thing to become a Master. Great. A motivational video? We see Saber’s ex-Master being berated by Julius for not being up to par. Even so Saber came to her defence. She was also shocked that she was an NPC but Saber lifted her up with her positivism. She took Saber as her Servant but misinterpreted she had a joyous life. Hence Saber told her true identity that she wouldn’t at first for fear of learning her bad repute. She was a Roman Emperor, Nero Claudius who loved everything. She too had her enemies and they plotted her downfall. When the Senate put her on trial, she thought the people would be by her side but none did. In the end, she killed herself never ever knowing what true love is. Despite all that, she continued her positivism. Hakuno may have called her out due to desperation but to her, that calling was irreplaceable. After a few last motivating words about himself from the ex-Master, Hakuno wakes up. Apparently Rani still lives and is treating him and Saber. Saber is glad they’re both okay and wants to go take on the enemies. But Hakuno is still filled with guilt and doesn’t deserve to be her Master. She slaps him and tells him off he got the order of things wrong. He fought because he didn’t want to die. He ascended because he didn’t know anything. He didn’t awaken to be another person. Even if things change, the foundation doesn’t. Hakuno is Hakuno. The person with the same feelings and heart. Saber’s ex-Master is also Hakuno. But now he exists with a different face and gender. With renewed motivation, they vow to stay by each other side and defeat their enemy. Saber lets him know her true name for she needs to unleash her Noble Phantasm. Saber does so in her fight with Berserker. She kills him in her grand Coliseum thingy. Now Hakuno faces off with Julius. The latter laments he is like a recurring nightmare that can’t be killed. Hakuno claims he isn’t the Hakuno he knows and won’t share his nostalgia trip. Eventually Hakuno defeats him and Julius warns the dead cannot change things. He will soon become just like him. Uhm, can Julius also die because I thought he was the same like Hakuno? With that, the duo ascend to the next stratum. It is revealed that Rin and Rani are in cohorts to lead the duo as proper Master and Servant before the next Floor Master. Their role is over but Rin still wants to stick around (claiming she is worried) and follows them. She parts ways with Rani.

Episode 10
Flashback shows Rin and Rani as the only 2 Masters left. They propose a truce and form a plan to get out of their predicament of finding another Master and drag them up here to the sixth stratum. Hakuno dreams of a conversation between Rin and Rani back on Earth. Rin worked as a wizard but from her position, she is considered a terrorist by the government. In her fight against the Harwey Conglomerate, she followed Leo to the moon. He might be heavily guarded on Earth but on the moon she has a chance to take him out. You see, with the dwindling resources on Earth, if the people from Harwey wins it, the conglomerate will control everything. The future will be screwed. Hakuno wakes up as Saber brags about how she defeated Berserker. Now that Hakuno is aware of what he is, he theorizes he is able to pull off battle experiences from dead Masters as well as their weapons. Arriving at the sixth stratum, it is a foggy land of nothingness. They are attacked by, uhm, Rin? Oh here comes giant Rani. But Rani kills Rin? But Rani killed by Rin clones? Who are then killed by Rani clones? Rinse and repeat. Hakuno and Saber run for it as they witness this never ending loop as well as the unlimited corpses of Rin and Rani. As they theorize about the situation, the real Rin pops up to refute it all. Although, she claims some of it is true. She admits she and Rani are the Floor Masters here but refuse to elaborate more. It is also true they were trying to kill them. Because their objective of having them reach here has been achieved, Rin doesn’t care if they live or die so she takes them to the safest place around: The dome. But right before they enter, Rin breaks up and disappears. I guess inside the dome they’ll find their answers.

The voice of Rin and Rani’s consciousness explain to the duo about this dome being the centre of this stratum. They fought as Masters on this floor but neither won. Neither winners nor losers, they cannot die nor ascend. At the same time, the Holy Grail was suspended and their original bodies became installed in the centre as supplementation devices. Their souls went into deep sleep and themselves refined. Hence each time they dream of fighting and killing each other to ascend to the next stratum but each time they regenerate new avatars. Thus their meaningless battles and the endless numbers of their corpses. So they thought of an idea if Moon Cell put down a verdict, this endless slaughter will end. Therefore their plan to find another Master to reach this stratum. They found one who didn’t give up on the Holy Grail. They hope he would defeat one of them in hopes that one would be freed. In the centre where their bodies lie, Hakuno has to make a choice who to save. Rin wakes up. So did he choose her? She sees Hakuno by Rani’s side. Her body on the verge of disappearing. It seems he wanted to save both of them. But Rani’s body was somewhat complicated and he failed. Rani doesn’t want him to regret and thanks him. At least she now has a proper chance of saying goodbye to him. Rin realizes that had Hakuno killed one of them, the results would have been still the same but it was a path that would at least let one of them rest in peace. Before ascending to the last stratum, they even have time to make a proper grave for Rani. Rin vows to support the duo as long as she lives.

Fake/Extra Bad, Last Straw
I would say that this is the worst Fate series that I have watched. One reason for me to attribute that is that there is no real ending. All the Fate TV series that I have watched have some sort of ending. And they were 2 cours. This one doesn’t even last a dozen! Oh, that Illya spinoff was somewhat ‘incomplete’ but it is ongoing. So we are left hanging and the final fight on the final stratum is not shown. Couldn’t they just have this season a dozen episodes instead of the same amount normal people have as fingers? You see, there was an extra episode released months after this season ended. However I saw that its running time is 2 hours!!!! FREAKING 2 HOURS!!!! Holy (Grail) sh*t!!!! That’s like watching a movie. Watching just 24 minutes of an episode in this one feels like an eternity and you expect me to sit down for that special for 2 hours? Forget it. I’d rather be disappointed and confused now than risk be confused even more. Yeah, if I was a Master taking part in the Holy Grail, I would have been the first to sell my Servant, give up and live the luxurious life in the first stratum.

Hence I will never know if the final extra long special (pun not intended) would really give a closure and a proper end to this series. Because while watching this series, it also felt like as though there are many other parts cut out or missing. For example, the fourth stratum. I mean, out couldn’t be that easy for our main characters to advance to the next level without any sort of fight, right? What about that Leo kid? It’s not proper to ‘introduce’ him and then for the rest of the season for him not to appear at all, right? But his brother got a shot? Plus, I saw the promotional poster for the special, Leo’s face is on it so I suppose he is going to appear there after all. Remember that big conglomerate Rin was trying to take down? Can’t turn that into a red herring, can we?

So I thought perhaps the special episode would like in this series, pepper throughout its duration some flashbacks as part of this series’ trademark to fill you in and piece the puzzle together. I’m not a very smart guy so trying to understand what the hell is going on is already confusing. Yup. Trying to comprehend this series is my hell and dystopia. I guess it wasn’t going to be as simple and cliché as Master and Servant pair fight together stratum by stratum until they reach the final level and defeat the final boss to get their wish fulfilled or whatever answers to their question. We learn about the opponents’ struggles, we learn more about the characters, add drama and tension, blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada, and voila, there you have it. An end to another mediocre Fate series.

One of the obvious things I noticed first when I set sights on this series is how the art style and animation is so Shaft-like. Yup, it definitely wasn’t Ufotable handling this Fate series. Hence all the Shaft trademarks from the bizarre angles and their trademark head tilt are ever present. It is so permeating that I won’t blame you that you would first see this as a Shaft series instead of a Fate one. Heck, when I watched the first episode, I was starting to think if I was actually watching a Monogatari series! Not joking. The art style and presentation are so similar that I was thinking they may even do a crossover. Even that episode involving that Alice monster, I thought it was taken inspiration from another anime series Shaft produced: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica. The monster especially reminding me of that Gertrude witch. You know… Scissors? Yeah… But other than the Shaft-like features, the art style just feels rather normal because when you talk about this segment for this series, you cannot help but compare it to the very superior quality of the Unlimited Blade Works TV remake and its prequel, Fate/Zero. This one is just okay.

On a side note, I just want to note that some of the female characters, Saber and Rin in particular, they look more cute than they are to mature. Just a few more modifications, they can be in their chibi format. Really. But looking at them sometimes had me thinking if they are dolls because they really looks as cute as one. Seriously. I also want to comment on Saber’s outfit. While even the original blue Saber’s battle outfit isn’t really practical for battle and more for aesthetic purposes, I find that this red Saber’s outfit to be a little of a wardrobe malfunction. Although her outfit is made out of a few separate layers, I can’t help if there was a design flaw or because some horny dude decided to design it so as you will notice there is an obvious hole at the back, just enough to see her butt! Yes, she wears some weird one piece swimsuit to cover her boobs down to her tummy and ass (but leaving her back wide open naked) but still it is an odd ‘fashion design’. And of course, Saber’s outfit is also to flaunt her delicious boobs. Yummy.

After watching this Saber for a while, it had occurred to me that she has a more bratty personality despite her sunny and positive disposition. In a way, she sounds more like Shinobu of Monogatari series than Saber! Another reason why I thought this might be Monogatari series. Yeah, I thought Saber’s true identity was that vampire girl! Haha! It would have been mind blowing had that really been true. Compared to the original Saber who has more of that arrogant pride, sure they both Sabers are different Heroic Spirits but this bratty Saber makes it feel like as though she is a kid and her reeking bubbliness sometimes makes it annoying. There is a limit to how positive one can get. Or maybe it is just me being a gloomy otaku loser :’(.

Hakuno himself is a big mystery. It is understandable at the start that he isn’t supposed what he is supposed to be but as the series progresses and bits of his identity is revealed, the more confused I get. By the time the series ended, I am still confused if he is the reincarnation of the female Hakuno or as stated, an accumulation of hatred from all the fallen Masters. Because with all that talk about being ghosts even in cyber space and everything, it just made it more baffling. I mean if you die in cyber space, can you really become a digital ghost? Heck, you already exist in digital format but then you ‘die’ so technically if you’re a ghost you’re still in digital form, right? Argh. My brain is so hurting now.

Hence Hakuno having no clear intention except for the fact he moves on based on the sole emotions of hatred and anger might sound like lazy writing at first because well, plot convenience. Then at every level you start noticing that some characters ask the same thing to him, why he is ascending. Ah, there must be a reason. They might have explained it but my mind was already going haywire so I probably didn’t understand well. So if Hakuno actually wins this Holy Grail War, will he himself get the wish or all the mass he is made up? Unlike Saber whom I thought felt like Shinobu, I don’t feel Hakuno is in anyway a counterpart to Monogatari’s Araragi. He lacks the sarcastic punch line the latter has. And he has got no harem. No, Rin and Rani don’t count.

Rin feels like a sneaky scheming little rat rather than someone prideful. Probably she had no Servant so this is what she is reduced to. But it confuses me as I am not sure if the entire event is repeated again, although it is likely it is so. Because Rin remembers something like that. Heck, everybody remembers something like that. It is said that this Holy Grail War repeated itself many times with the same results but only this time (this series that we are now watching), Hakuno somehow broke that cycle and is now part of the happening. Unprecedented? Hence Rin is like the mysterious guide to lead the duo to where she and Rani are in hopes to find an end. And Hakuno being the good guy despite the irony he is made out of mass hatred, tried to save them both.

I don’t really understand how the Holy Grail of the Moon Cell works but assuming it is all digital and there is a winner, wouldn’t any wish be very much feasible because you know, the internet is capable of creating anything! You want to live forever? Sure. In digital format. Forever. You want riches? Sure. Have unlimited amounts of Bitcoins. You want a harem? Of course. Dating simulation for all eternity! Whatever you want, the internet can provide! Hence the thought of people’s souls being trapped and locked down here and the only exit is if somebody wins the whole thing (plus if you die here, your real body also dies) feels like a rip-off from Sword Art Online. Too freaking similar… After all, this series came out a year later after Sword Art Online which debuted in 2009 – almost a decade ago!

The action stuffs are just okay. Just enough to satisfy your thoughts that since this is a Fate series and it involves the fight for the Holy Grail, therefore there must be some fights between Masters and Servants. So the usual Noble Phantasm that is used once because you know it’s not a good thing to always spam your trump card. I think it would have been a little more awesome if we get to see the format of all 128 participants fighting each other for the next stratum. You just need to kill 1 opponent for the next stage. Or at least a battle royale in the early stages. Like PUBG or Fortnite. I suppose with Hakuno as the 129th one, it screws up the perfect elimination format. Heck, it could just mean that somebody may get 2 kills or an unlucky participant gets left behind forever stuck on the first stratum. But instead for some plot twist, we have our main heroes fight a boss of the floor instead. Yeah, it feels like they’ve been put there waiting for this very sole reason.

Some of the old seiyuus of familiar characters were retained such as Kana Ueda as Rin, Hiroshi Kamiya as Shinji and Jouji Nakata as Kirei. New ones are Sakura Tange as Saber (Jack in Fate/Apocrypha – damn if she was voiced by Maaya Sakamoto, I would have continued to make my assumptions how Saber is indeed Shinobu reincarnated), Atsushi Abe as Hakuno (Touma in To Aru Majutsu No Index), Asami Sanada as Rani (Kurumi in Date A Live), Ayaka Imamura as Amari (Angie in Princess Principal), Urara Takano as Rider (Maria in Sakura Wars), Mugihito as Dan (Wombat in Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love), Kousuke Toriumi as Archer (Mercurius in Dies Irae), Ai Nonaka as Alice (Kyouko in Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica), Wataru Hatano as Julius (Gajeel in Fairy Tail) and Romi Paku as Leo (Edward in Fullmetal Alchemist).

The opening theme is Bright Burning Shout by Takanori Nishikawa. Hard rock music which feels suitable enough for the theme of this series even in its entirety it is not action all the way. If the ending theme, Tsuki To Hanabata sounds freaking similar to you, then you must have seen the anime series, Kuzu No Honkai. Yes, the same singer, Sayuri sings both songs and you can tell how freaking similar Tsuki To Hanabata is. Damn, I thought it was the same song! I suppose this must be her trademark singing style like how Ali Project is to mischievous gothic and that out-of-tune-voice is to Nano Ripe. Yeah… Fortunately because I like Heikousen, this piece also doesn’t sound too shabby.

Overall, not one of the best Fate adaptations and only hardcore fans can either appreciate or hate it to the core with disgust. Or both. But I have a feeling it is more of the latter. Ordinary viewers like me would just be so confused since it is very much assumed that you would have read the Fate novels and played its games to have some very basic knowledge. With Shaft handling this spinoff, it feels more like a Monogatari series than a Fate series from the way the complexity story is told and its visual angles. Having a Holy Grail War and a Fate series in a virtual world sounds like a bold and fresh attempt. But I figure there is a reason why this series has to be the original physical format of Masters versus Servants. At least magic by default looks and sounds more acceptable unlike digital hacking and cheating. You might get banned from the server but cheaters will still find a way to come back and continue cheating. Not even the Holy Grail can ever stop that from happening.

Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens

July 15, 2018

Judging from the name of this anime, I thought Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens would be an anime about ramen. Which feels pretty weird because in that same season, another ramen themed anime was aired (Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san). So why the heck do they need to show 2 different ramen anime in a single season? Is it ramen appreciation month? It doesn’t make sense and even more confusing when I saw the promotional poster that does not indicate any relation to ramen whatsoever. Even more baffling reading the synopsis that this series’ setting revolves around assassins, murderers, professional and hired killers. I don’t think that the ramen in Hakata are that good that it is worth dying for. Just saying…

Episode 1
A guy is in danger of being assassinated by this hot chick. Oh wait. It’s a cross-dresser! He tries to bribe him to spare his life but Lin Xianming is one who sees through his contract because he is a professional killer. But to his dismay his mission isn’t over yet as his employer gives him another target. With this, he hopes to free his little sister, Qiaomei. However upon arriving at the spot, the police already cordoned off the area and it is believed the target committed suicide. Oh well, job is done then. Meanwhile this nice and meek looking guy, Saitou joins a company that hires killers! Is he up for the job? Detective Shigematsu is talking to his freelance colleague, Zenji Banba that this isn’t suicide but one that is setup to make it look like one. He knows the man well so he knew something was off in his ‘suicide note’. There is a photo of a mayor candidate, Shoutarou Harada and his female bodyguard, Reiko Asakura. Speaking of which, they are in town campaigning. Banba pops a balloon to see the reaction of Reiko. If she shielded him, she is his bodyguard but however the stance she took was definitely a hitman’s reaction. Reiko returns to her colleagues. They will have their hands full again because the mayor’s idiotic son, Yuusuke has killed a woman he has a fling with and wants them to clean up. Banba sees his informant, Enokida to find out more about Reiko. She worked at Red Rum Inc until 5 years ago. Everyone in their line knows that this company is just a cover up for Murder Inc, a hitman organization. Her specialty is poison. Reiko tries to advice the idiot Yuusuke to be more careful and not cause his father more problems but he doesn’t care. Not that he likes his father anyway. More problems because dimwit college boy has footage of his friends beating up foreigners and he plans to upload it online. She quickly unplugs the power and wants the names of all his friends involved.

One of the foreigners takes out his complaints at Bar Babylon. This is no ordinary bar as it is one who accepts requests for vengeance. His friends got hold of one of the attacker’s name card, Jun Murase. Jirou accepts the avenger job. Saitou gets his own fake name card as a wine salesman and is warned of a hitman who kills hitman. But Saitou doesn’t need to be concerned with this opportunistic Niwaka Samurai as he only kills those worth their salt. Should he be insulted or relieved? Banba does more investigation and meets up with Yamato. He talks about a guy killed this morning because he cheated his host club millions. Lin is not amused he didn’t get the agreed amount so he calls Zhang his employer about it. In such a bad mood already, he punches passing Yamato for swiping his ass. Lin didn’t realize he stole his purse. Saitou is tasked to kill Murase so his great plan is to hide in his room. Oddly somebody else rings on the door. Being an amateur, he opens it but Jirou mistakes him for Murase and punches him out. Lin is face to face with Zhang and complaining. He is warned if he keeps this up, he’ll have the Samurai deal with him. If he wants cash, go kill this Banba guy as he is sticking his nose around his business too much. When Banba returns to his office, Lin is already waiting for him. However he is not here to kill him but to protect him.

Episode 2
It seems Lin rejected Zhang’s offer and will kill whoever he hired to kill Banba. Saitou wakes up and sees Jose “Maru” Martinez torturing and skinning a guy like how he did to his cat. Horror. Luckily Saitou is given a chance to speak as he clears his name he isn’t Murase. So where is the real one? Dead in an accident. Looks like DUI. Of course this is set up to make it look like one. Lin will not let Banba leave as part of his protection plan but Banba complains about spicy pollock roe he needs. If he can’t go get it, maybe he could on his behalf. Of course it’s a wild goose chase because there are so many varieties to choose from. Should have been more specific. With this distraction, Banba sees Enokida to find out more about Lin. Lin faces off with Maru but after the latter punches his face, he leaves. Claiming he is an avenger, they don’t do more to the target than was done to the client (Yamato in this case). When Banba returns, Lin just finished beating up a killer who was waiting to ambush him. Banba smoothly returns his purse and makes it look like he left it on his chair. Zhang sees Munakata and they make a transaction for a human trafficking girl. Munakata pays him the cash but Zhang wants something else instead. Kill a hitman who used to work for him. That poor girl becomes the latest plaything for that idiot Yuusuke.

Munakata’s team is on their way to kill Lin. He talks about the Samurai and nobody knows his real identity because those who do are all dead and killed by him. Saitou calls Jirou as he saw Murase’s death reported on the internet. Was he involved? Nope. They were together at the same time, remember? Saitou then sees his bank account. Looks like he got a windfall from killing Murase?! At first his conscience tells him to return the money he did not earn but after seeing those astronomical figures, it’s time to party! He hits every boob touching joint in town. Banba is surprised Lin likes to watch romance dramas. His reason is that in this line of work, he needs to know the lives of regular people. Can he tell fiction from reality? Banba further asks why he became a hitman. Was it out of debt? Sort of. It seems he needs 5 million to clear it. Banba suggests if he could pay off his debt right now, what would he do? There. Cold hard cash right in front of you. This has Lin answer more of his questions like the organization he works for (a bunch of yakuza who were exiled plus a few Chinese mafia) and it is mostly involved in human trafficking. Showing him a picture of a man, Lin recognizes him as Wang Longfang and the head of the organization. Banba now connects the dots as to why the mayor doesn’t want anyone seeing them together. Saitou must really be having a great f*cking spree. He wakes up naked with bed and next to him is a naked girl. Last night must be a blast, huh? Well, sh*t is going to hit the fan because this girl is dead!!! OMG!!! Lin leaves as he contacts Zhang. He is confident he can pay off his debts now. However Zhang tells him he didn’t see the news. Conveniently it is playing right before his eyes. A Chinese girl named Qiaoming is found dead in a hotel and they are finding a man who was sharing the room with her. Zhang further adds a good buyer showed up recently to buy her and had he been more cooperative, they could have reunited. I guess the money doesn’t mean a thing now. He is going to kill him and his sister’s murderer.

Episode 3
Saitou is actually framed by Munakata and Reiko who really make it look like he did it. Lin barges through and kills mercilessly Zhang’s men until he reaches him. But Zhang isn’t worried. He further reveals the money he sent back to China for his mom, he pocketed it all. Distracted, Lin is restrained by giant Ivanov. Zhang claims he is just a killer and not a professional, that’s why he cannot kill him. He leaves it to Ivanov to settle this. Lin pulls out a hidden knife to stab him but it doesn’t work. But a knife pistol did the trick. Banba then walks in. He had a tracer on Lin and will now put it on Ivanov. Saitou pours out his woes to Jirou. He didn’t really kill her. He explains he almost killed somebody while playing baseball. It was unintentional but that incident scarred him. But Red Rum seemed to accept that and hired him. Saitou requests to be avenged. Frame the person who framed him. Zhang is disappointed that Lin still lives. Munakata wants to take this responsibility so Zhang tells him to capture him alive so he can kill him. Munakata knows Ivanov wasn’t done in by the Samurai as he only uses swords. He remembers seeing the Samurai once but it was only from the shadows. He was to snipe his target but the Samurai got to him first. Paralyzed by his killing intent, the Samurai threw a dagger and blinded an eye of his. He quit his hitman job and got employed by the mayor as he thought it would be a less risky job. Banba agrees to help Lin find his sister’s killer but wants 5 years’ worth of spicy pollock roe. Zhang calls Genzou Gouda who supposedly knows the Samurai and wants him hired for a job.

Banba and Lin see Enokida who show hotel footage that Saitou came in to the room with a completely different girl (Reiko) and then a man (Ivanov) came in with a giant suitcase that could hide a corpse and put it in place. A recorded conversation from the tracer that Yuusuke brokered to buy a girl. Yuusuke has a bad record of dabbling in shady things but is of course covered up and never made public. Lin wants to kill this guy as he is the one who murdered Qiaomei but Banba as a different idea. Noting they want to buy another girl, Lin agrees to play that girl. He is perfect for the part, no? Banba talks to Genzou as he reveals he and Lin have been targeted. He has to follow through this job but doesn’t want to see him dead. He asks if he can introduce the Samurai to Kakyu Association. Banba gives him the green light. What about him being killed? Maybe he’ll play dead. Munakata and Reiko ambush Enokida to find their target’s location. Enokida is willing to sell them information for a price but just this time, he gives his info for free and tells them about Banba helping Lin to kill Yuusuke and that Qiaomei is Lin’s sister. But he doesn’t need to worry about finding them because they’ll come to him. Banba becomes Lin’s broker as they meet up with a henchman for an exchange (Lin is hiding inside the suitcase). When Lin is brought to the place and emerges from the suitcase, looks like Zhang has anticipated their ‘reunion’. We meet again.

Episode 4
We see in detail Enokida selling out to Munakata and Reiko. Zhang tells Lin that his informant sold him out and as proof, there is Banba’s decapitated head from the Samurai! But Lin notices something off. Does Banba have ear piercing holes? Before he has his head cut off, the Samurai then whispers about the 5 years’ worth of spicy pollock roe. He decapitates Zhang and swiftly avoids all bullets to take down all his henchman! But what if a bomb is thrown? Hit it back like baseball! Munakata knows if he escapes, he will regret this. So he faces him and gets sliced. In the aftermath, Lin seeks an explanation about the fake head. He went to see Dr Saeki to get a corpse and do a bit of cosmetic surgery. He also got the corpse to make its hair like him from Jirou since he was a hair stylist. As for his status and nickname as the Samurai, he once accepted a job to kill hitmen. A few kills here and there and suddenly he got that nickname. He is still a detective, though. They make their way to Yuusuke’s place. But first Banba calls Reiko. He tells her he killed her comrades and their target is Yuusuke. Reiko is smart enough to leave and will not sacrifice her life for this piece of sh*t. But at the door is Jirou and Saitou. Saitou identifies her as the one so Jirou punches her out. Banba and Lin go in to find Yuusuke. He is hiding in the closet. So why didn’t he shoot Lin on sight? Heck, Lin even taunts Yuusuke to shoot him since he is going to get killed by the Samurai. Yuusuke gives in to his taunts but before he could fire, Saitou couldn’t stand this violence and throws a curveball knocking Yuusuke out.

Yuusuke is tied up and made to confess all the girls he murdered. This recording is streamed live all over Japan! But streaming is stopped when Yuusuke tries to describe the Chinese girl and this riles up Lin as he beats the sh*t out of him for killing his sister. Then Maru takes over the rest of the torture. With that done, Banba talks to him about what will happen next. Like with Yuusuke’s confession, the mayor will be in ruin as his collusion with criminal organizations will come to like. Reiko will be framed that she killed Zhang of Kakyu Association and the abduction of Yuusuke. Lin plans on leaving tomorrow since he has no reason to stick around. Banba reminds him he is breaking his contract. That 5 years’ worth of spicy pollock roe. Looks like he is going to be around now. Lin now joins Banba’s baseball team called Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens (HTR). It includes Genzou, Enokida, Yamato, Maru, Jirou, Shigematsu, Saeki and loli Misaki as manager. Lin and Saitou have joined as newcomers. Lin isn’t impressed since he doesn’t know how to play baseball. But Saitou might relive his glory days. He looks a bit different since his original face is known to public as a serial killer so Saeki gave him a cosmetic surgery. HTR is up against Dazaifu Sanders.

Episode 5
An order is out to kill Saitou since he knows the company’s secrets. Meanwhile Shunsuke “Saru” Saruwatari is dissatisfied he only gets weak targets and threatens to live. They let him go seeing he isn’t popular and even warn he will regret it. Wait. Shouldn’t they kill him? So now he is wandering around and he meets his old right hand man, Naoya Nitta. He is a hitman consultant. Yeah, there’s such a thing. Hearing out Saru’s wish to have strong targets, he has the perfect place for him. How does going up with the Samurai sound? Enokida meets up with Gwen for information about Saitou since he is his target. Saru thinks Nitta is making fun of him since he is introducing ninja weapons. So a samurai and now a ninja? He gives a list of hitmen from some organization and to pick a few to kill. They’ll eventually pick up on somebody killing their men. Lin learns that Banba will temporarily stop working while he is away participating at the local Yamakasa festival. Since Genzou fired a couple of guys for killing the wrong target, Banba thinks Lin could cover for him but he won’t. Nitta is surprised Saru killed everyone on the list. Well, they’re all weaklings. Nitta reveals he is meeting with his client from Kakyu Association as they want the Samurai dead. This could be his big break. Enokida calls Saitou to tell him someone is waiting for him at his home to kill him. Bye. Yeah, what kind of dumb killer leaves the windows open and waits right in plain sight for his target to return? Naturally Saitou runs and calls Banba for help but since he is out drunk, Lin takes over and is willing to help. He has Saitou run and hide in a train. That’s the problem with killers talking instead of killing. Because this gives Lin enough time to fight him. But Gwen takes Saitou hostage. WTF?! Aren’t you supposed to kill him? For the first time, Lin uses Banba’s baseball advice to get the better of Gwen and kill him. Luckily nobody is on the train. I bet somebody is going to freak out when they see a bloodied corpse. Saru is given a chance to kill the Samurai. He will do it since he is strong.

Episode 6
Hey. Lin is impersonating Samurai as he faces off with Saru?! Regretting of taking on the job in Banba’s stead? Halfway through, a couple of punks (the ones fired by Genzou) kidnap Lin into their van. Thanks to Nitta paying a hefty amount to Enokida, he manages to track the van down. However Saru is not going to be happy when he learns from the guys that this Samurai is fake and is already dead. It seems they hired a torturer to beat him up to spill the beans that he isn’t the real deal but then the torture went overboard and now he’s dead. A picture of Lin is posted and for the real Samurai to show up. Genzou has to interrupt Banba in the middle of his festival and this dude is willing to ditch his festival to go rescue Lin. When Banba arrives, he meets Saru and is told about the circumstances. But before they fight, the Kakyu Association interrupts. Change of plans. Their boss, Wang wants to kill him instead. Saru is left fuming over Nitta’s betrayal but since that guy dares him to kill him if it makes him feel better, reverse psychology works. But Nitta also betrays his employers as he has placed a tracker on Kakyu Association. Lin wakes up alive back in Jirou’s place. When they saw Lin’s picture posted, they had to scramble for a plan. They had to find a similar dead body and doll it up to match his. Maru was called to torture and did the body switch. Lin apologizes for trying to be the Samurai so when he calls Genzou and he learns what happened to Banba, he rushes out. His turn to do the saving?

Saru kills the lowly guards to save Banba. He can’t kill him if he’s dead. Yeah, I figure that too. With the Kakyu Association guys hot on their tail, suddenly they get news that Wang is dead and stop their pursuit. Apparently had he not busy f*cking his mistress and went ahead to kill Banba, it wouldn’t have happened. Did he die during sex? Now Banba and Saru can fight to their heart’s content. But it has to be a draw since Saru almost fell off the building and Banba saved him to repay his debt. Another time, okay? Nitta talks to his colleague, Sayuri. There was an insane request to assassinate Wang but how did she manage to slip pass the guards because all women who sleep with him will be subjected to a thorough body check. Yeah, they didn’t check the poison in her nails. Lin gets his vengeance as Maru beats up the guys who torture him. Lin finally finds Banba when it is all over. They talk things out and he apologize for impersonating him. But Banba is most upset that the festival is over. This year is particularly special and he waited all year for this. Now it’s gone. Like Lin cares. Don’t worry. He’ll treat him to ramen with spicy pollock roe. HTR is against Ogura Fried Udons (OFU) in another baseball match. It seems Saru is on this team and Sayuri as their hot manager! It gets heated between Banba and Saru so they trade blows. Their headgear falls off and they realize who they are! It’s a small world after all.

Episode 7
Kazuo Matsuda gets a blackmail telling him to bank in millions or his secrets will be exposed. Yagi his butler knows someone who can deal with this. Saeki is baffled as he shows Banba and Lin a few photos of homeless guys being beaten to death. Also, Saitou has been arrested because for cybercrimes? Thankfully Enokida liaised with the police to get him released as Saitou explains how some remote virus hacked his PC and made it look like he did all those cybercrimes. Some guy sees Chegaru and wants this person named Macro Hard taken out because he has been snooping around politicians they have been supporting. Chegaru returns to his henchmen, Siva the hacker and Irasawa the washed up boxer to begin their operation. Yagi sees Banba and Lin to find a long lost person. Doesn’t that look like Enokida? Speaking of which, here he is! They know each other and immediately he runs. Yagi shows us he is no butler to be messed with as he jumps down the window to catch up with him! Siva hacked into Macro Hard’s PC and finds something interesting. Of all the people he has hacked and blackmailed in his folder, Matsuda’s name popped up. Siva knows he has a son who hacked into the Metropolitan Police site during the heat of an election but that case was covered up. He goes by the name Black Leg Nameko and lucky him he has found a footage that shows he is around town. Yeah, it’s Enokida.

Enokida still holds a grudge against his father who tried to kill him. Well, Yagi was ordered to kill him (for the hacking) but did not. He let him flee to Hakata where he has some friends should he stumble into trouble. Enokida doesn’t want to have anything to do with this but Yagi says he is here to hire him. If he is a professional, he shouldn’t let his personal matters disrupt business. Saeki calls Banba and Lin as he receives another dead body again. However this isn’t a homeless guy. This guy is Macro Hard. They check out his address nearby and Enokida is also here. It seems his PC is gone as they notice a hidden camera watching them. Watching it, they see several men coming in to beat him up and then take away his PC. Chegaru reports to his employer Macro Hard has been taken care of but warns of Black Leg. Considering him a threat, he wants him taken out too. Enokida receives a call from his friend in the police that M3 is targeting him. It is an organization of hitmen targeting hackers. In no time, a bounty is put on Enokida’s head on the shady website. Thank goodness Banba sees it because otherwise he wouldn’t have rushed to save Enokida’s ass being ambush at the alley. How the f*ck does he know where he is? He didn’t bring up that tracker thingy. Unless it’s given. As Enokida tries to take down the post, he realizes too late it is a trap to track his every move. How about going offline? That too is a trap and what they expect him to do because how useful can a hacker be without his computer? But Enokida gets an idea when they talk about bait. He parts ways with Banba and goes on his own.

Episode 8
Siva tracks Enokida’s movements from time to time. When Irasawa is sent to get him holed up in some public toilet, only his laptop is there. Siva realizes he used a remote virus to hack the laptop and then control it from his handphone. Enokida has hacked the site to remove his name but he put Saitou’s name as distraction. Poor guy now has mercenaries after his ass but thankfully Enokida sent Yagi to protect him. Siva uses the ol’ street cameras and manages to pinpoint Enokida’s whereabouts. As he is hanging out in a café, the cue is made for Irasawa to kidnap him when he temporarily cuts off electricity. Irasawa beats the crap out of Enokida in his personal boxing ring. Then it’s time to kill him. Chegaru is satisfied with the death of Enokida from the video he downloaded. Next day he waits for his employer to tell him about his done mission but is shocked to see the real Enokida coming to talk to him.

Enokida reveals his brilliant plan. The one Irasawa beat up was Lin in disguise. Yeah, he really took a beating before it was his cue to cut him up. Lin also had a different camera and this one was used and edited to make it look like Irasawa killed him. It all started when Enokida during his walkabout sent a coded message to Banba and Lin’s handphone. Banba was able to decipher it to send Yamato to swipe his wallet at a certain intersection at a certain time. Inside his wallet contains his following plans. While waiting at the café, Lin came in and sat a few tables away. After Enokida made a few distracting calls and entered the toilet, Lin then followed. Both exchanged clothes and places. The rest is history. Irasawa is tied up and tortured by Maru for the details of his colleagues. When Chegaru downloaded the video, it had a virus that would allow Enokida to steal all his information as well as those he is connected to. This means he got his employer’s detail as well. All that is left is for the police to arrest him. Siva is ruining people’s lives by editing fake photos of them. He is stopped dead in his tracks when Samurai knocks him out. Enokida sees off Yagi at the train station. He noticed on Macro Hard’s PC all the details pertaining to Matsuda’s case many years ago. Why did Yagi bought a plane ticket in his father’s name after faking his death? Yagi reveals it was part of his orders to fake his death and let him escape. Enokida always thought his father saw him as sick and incurable. Yagi lets him know the other half of what he said. The best way to cure it was to set him free. Dad’s birthday is coming up but Enokida won’t go back to that place. Rather, he sends a prank happy birthday message and his father knows it is him. He realizes he has been pranked and has Yagi search the entire room for bugs. Enokida has his sweet revenge while enjoying his BBQ with the rest.

Episode 9
Lin just finished a job that returns the favour to the culprits of betraying the ones they trusted. This seems not to sit well with Lin. Lin looks like he is getting the hang of HTR’s complicated baseball coded signs. But this teamwork action has him remember his gruesome past. Living the poor rural life, a broker tried to coax his sick mom to sell her children. Of course she refused. One day, Lin (real name, Maomei) and other boys were taken from the village. Lin was the only one left in the long journey and was sent to a facility that trains assassins. His partner is Fei Lan. Apparently his partner committed suicide so they brought a replacement. On many occasions, Fei Lan helped Lin out when the going gets tough. Lin reveals he sold himself and lied to mom he got a job. Fei Lan on the other hand says he was born to a prostitute and she thought she could use him for the trade but couldn’t. So ending up here was the best thing for him. Both agree to work together for 5 years and get out of this joint. They train hard, suffer hard until they are the best among the teams. On the day they are supposed to take their final exam, it is a fight to the death. No time limit. No holds barred. The winner is the one left standing. Or both die. Lin thought of a plan to pretend fighting each other to keep hitting and break the chains. However Fei Lan betrays and stabs him. He reveals his former partner’s suicide was a lie. He overheard how the finals were to be conducted and killed him thinking he would get out of here but then Lin came as a replacement. Lin becomes mad over this betrayal and slices his left eye before stabbing him. Lin ‘graduates’ with flying colours. Of course right now, Fei Lan is still alive and a professional killer in Beijing. He has info about Lin’s whereabouts and is going to see his old partner.

Episode 10
Banba and Saru coincidentally see each other at the batting centre. You bet sparks are going to fly. Sayuri comes to see Banba but only Lin is in. She tells him she was Banba’s girlfriend and is here to hand him a list of Kakyu Association’s executives. Yup, Banba plans on taking them out. Nitta sees Lau of Sheung Wan. He wants his organization’s presence here and since Kakyu Association is in disarray after Wang’s death, he plans to strike in this confusion. Nitta suggests Saru for the job but Lau wants to test him by taking out a few simple targets. Coincidentally, Banba and Lin as well as Saru select the same targets. Although assassinated at different times, when they get to their next target, they are shocked to see the target dead. Kakyu Association has the executives shipped to a save place and has Suzuki in charge of overseeing a hired killer who can take out these guys. That killer is of course Fei Lan. His condition to work for them is that he wants to know the whereabouts of Lin. Of course they want to test his worth too so Fei Lan easily kills a spy in a convenience store. Lin thought he spotted Fei Lan in the streets. So that’s why he now has those nightmares? Because of that, he plans on running away, fearing he has become complacent and almost falling into that trap. Get out before Banba betrays him? Unfortunately he bumps into Enokida who ‘threatens’ to tell everything if he doesn’t help do a favour to keep his mouth shut. Enokida needs him to take out a killer who killed one of their informants. Lin is shocked to see from the CCTV that guy is Fei Lan. With Suzuki providing details on Lin, Fei Lan agrees to do whatever he is told. But he goes overboard and kills all the Sheung Wan people in their hidden drug stash. Then Saru enters. You know what happens to people who kill his prey, right?

Episode 11
The fight is getting good until Suzuki misfires and sends Saru falling into the sea. Of course that won’t kill him but guess what? He can’t swim! Thank goodness for Banba passing by. A couple of abducted Sheung Wan guys are forced by Fei Lan to fight to the death so that the survivor could bring the head of the loser back to Lau. Inside his mouth is a ring in which Lau suddenly understands and changes his orders not to attack Kakyu Association. Lee who is now the boss of Kakyu Association calls Suzuki as Sheung Wan proposes a ceasefire. Both sides meet up and agree for Sheung Wan not to encroach into Kakyu Association’s territory who will in turn not prevent them from entering other areas. There is also another condition: Trade their hired killers. Lin realizes that Enokida has told everyone about his story with Fei Lan, that’s why they’re giving him lots of gifts. A call from Shigematsu for Lin. A couple of murders with guys of the same named, Hayashi (pronounced as Lin if kanji is read in Chinese). Both have nothing in common except their names. Because he describes the way the victims died, Lin knows this is Fei Lan’s doing and is a message. Lin asks Enokida a favour to find out the next Hayashi he will target. It seems the other thing in common is that those guys buy medicine from the same pharmacy in which the list is sold to Kakyu Association. Looks like there is another Hayashi on the list. Lee tries to poison Fei Lan but he can smell poison and quickly injects some virus into him. If he wants the cure, he must do as he said. Meanwhile Nitta puts sleeping potion in Saru’s drink. When he wakes up, he is mad at Nitta’s betrayal. But Lau is going to kill Saru instead of trading him. This isn’t part of Nitta’s deal, that’s why Lau will compensate him with money. After all, all assassins are tools, right? Nitta gladly accepts the money but then shoots all of them. After he frees Saru, he gets punched. Nitta explains he was just acting and saved him instead of betraying. Not sure if that’s a lie too but whatever. Sure, all assassins are tools but Nitta takes care of his tools, especially ones that are valuable. By the time Lin arrives at the next Hayashi’s house, he is already dead. Fei Lan is seen waiting. He explains Lin messed up in killing him. The one who picked up the corpse noticed he wasn’t dead and sold him to a sick man who loved torturing him. So is he here for revenge? He wants Lin to team up with him and go around the world killing and making a fortune. But Lin refuses and it’s not about the money. He loves this place and the people he has met. In that case, Fei Lan will destroy this city and his friends.

Episode 12
Lin doesn’t want to kill him so Fei Lan fights him to force him to remember his old self. Lin is smart not to tackle him in close quarters so he makes his escape albeit at the price of spraining his escape from that leap out the window. When he is about to call Banba for help, that guy is here. He heard from Enokida and of course there is a tracker on Lin. Sorry to cut this reunion short because Fei Lan shoots Banba in the gut. He has Suzuki and his men take them in. They wake up in a cell in Kakyu Association’s HQ. Banba’s doing fine. Who patched him up? Were the baddies kind enough to do that? Banba learns from Lin about his fear, that’s why he wanted to run away. Banba doesn’t consider his act as stupid. After all, he was also betrayed. But he wants to trust the people he wants to trust. Even if Lin fears of being betrayed again, he believes he will trust again. You can’t play baseball if you cut everyone out after making small errors. With Fei Lan here, we can see where this is going as he unlocks a cabinet full of weapons. They will kill each other and the survivor walks free. Lin won’t do it but Banba walks up and picks up a baseball bat. Lin knows he never kills with that weapon and knows the baseball signs he is sending to him. But when he picks up a knife, Fei Lan shoots it off his hands, knowing he would do something like that. He then threatens to kill Banba. Here is where he reminds us his awesome samurai skill again. When he shoots, he uses the bat to deflect and hit a henchman! WTF?! So damn precise to go through the bars?! Lin uses the knife pistol to pump a few bullets into Fei Lan. Then in precise timing, Banba pushes Lin into the cabinet before a big explosion occurs.

Flashback 30 minutes ago, Jirou at the front gates of the HQ wants the sole dumb baddie to let Misaki use the toilet. Of course he didn’t care but when the gay guy got mad, I guess he relented. Misaki then unleased a mini robo vehicle in which Saeki controls to go around the HQ with Enokida’s hacking. The gang could relay to Banba since he has a transmitter in his ear. That’s why the timing of the explosion was precise. Big holes in the wall and cage but no Fei Lan. Lin wants to settle this by himself and assures he could do it. Since Genzou was once a famous hitman, he comes out from retirement just for tonight and goes guns ablazing in his trench coat mafia style. Stupid goons just show up to be gunned down. Enokida does his hacking while Maru reliefs his boredom by being his bodyguard and beating up weaker goons. Saru is looking for Fei Lan but bumps into Banba. Banba offers to be his opponent and will not let him get to Fei Lan. Saru sees his wound and is in no condition to fight so he gives up. So he is done targeting Fei Lan? Meanwhile Lin follows Fei Lan’s blood trails. They meet again as Fei Lan gives him one last chance to join forces. Again Lin turns him down. He loves this city and people and wants to stay here for real. This time Lin is willing to kill him and is not his old self anymore. A short epic knife bout before it ends in an undramatic fashion with Lin slashing a big one across his body after some candy spitting distraction. At this range, Lin will not miss. Fei Lan’s last words are he was envious of everything Lin had that he didn’t. Was he talking about his freedom? Whatever. Dead body doesn’t need to know. In the aftermath, Lin returns to Banba’s groupies and nothing says peace like having a friendly baseball match. It’s HTR against OFU. Can Banba strike a homerun before Saru strikes him out? By the power of spicy pollock roe…

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger
Although this is a great anime, I don’t want to spoil it but I can’t help feel a little disappointed with the ending. Not to say it is bad but it isn’t satisfying either. Like as though it is a bit rushed. So does that mean I want a so called winding down episode that lasts an entire episode of its own? Well, the fact that Fei Lan can be considered as a thorn and blot in Lin’s past and for them to get it over quickly with this short reunion makes it look a bit rushed. I mean, Fei Lan got killed as quickly without any fanfare. Yeah, I was expecting the fight to last longer but I realized we’re out of time. Besides, dying a fast death without any distraction seems pretty legit. As a professional killer, you don’t want to drag out a fight that you are almost very sure of winning. Because you know in movies, bad guys always rant when victory is at hand only to give time to the hero to snatch it away and turn the tables. So maybe yeah, the ending might feel unsatisfying but at least it isn’t too cliche. And then we get to see this happy ending of the main characters playing baseball together. Because it’s like they all lived happily ever after playing baseball. Until the next hit job then.

This series is pretty interesting as it reeks familiar elements found in other anime series like Hamatora, Baccano and Durarara. I feel it reminds me a bit more of Hamatora because of that baseball thingy. Just take away the supernatural elements. The enigmatic and interesting characters, the intriguing setting as well as the undeniably lively jazzy background music, this series might not be the most original or fresh of plots but with all those creative elements and great pacing combined, it is surprisingly one of the better series of the season. It even has its own brand of humour especially the names of certain organizations like Red Rum which I assume they parody that iconic word in The Shining. Yup, you would have guessed it is murder spelled backwards. And then you have online websites ShadyJobs.com. Just hilarious.

Divided into several small mini arcs is one of the reason why this series is entertaining instead of dedicating the entire series with a dozen episodes to just a single storyline. Although the arcs can run independently of each other, they are built upon the last arc in the sense of the character dynamics and relationship. Although some of the twists and turns in the plot are itself interesting, sometimes I feel that the revelation of things might feel a bit hasty. Like as though it is for the plot convenience. You know, it’s time to reveal to the viewers what the heck is going on so here is an explanation to put things into perspective and the pieces of the puzzle together.

While the plot is interesting and not hard to follow, the biggest flaw that this series suffers from is the characters. There are a few comrades working together with Banba but this series mostly has its focus on Lin. Sure, he is one of the main characters and the star of this show, having the first and the last arc as him as the centre of attraction. Though we have a mini arc that focuses on Enokida and this is very much welcomed as we get to know more about this enigmatic hacker, this means the other characters are tossed aside and we do not get to know more about them. For example, it would be interesting to know more about Jirou’s background and how he came to adopt Misaki. Or it would be entertaining to know how Yamato became an expert pickpocket and Saeki entering this shady surgery field. What about Genzou who was lately revealed as a once famous hitman? In his line of profession in which he must have been such a pro, he must have stepped on many toes and hence many would like to kill him. So why is he retired so easily running his ramen stall? Unless he killed them all. Hence it makes them nothing more than just plot conveniences and shallow characters that we don’t want to care about. Ultimately, they’re just characters that exist so that baseball crazy Banba could complete his HTR baseball team. Play ball!

Even Banba who is supposed to be the other half making the supposedly dynamic duo, feels lacking. We know he is cool and has his own ways of solving problems. Personally, him being Niwaka Samurai caught me by surprise since I wasn’t putting my thinking cap. I was thinking this Samurai dude would later show up as a potential antagonist and face off with our main characters. So I’m not sure whether to feel disappointed when his identity is quickly revealed by the end of the first mini arc. Because after that, Banba being the Samurai feels less relevant. When it started, the mystery and enigma surrounding this Samurai dude was curious. Everybody was talking and warning about the rumours of this mysterious guy and after we viewers know his identity, it slowly fizzled out. Like the Samurai alter ego didn’t really matter so much anymore.

Lin obviously gets the most screen time and focus. Introduced to us as a quirky cross-dressing killer to save his sister and the only other one (other than Enokida) who has a full flashback of his past. So I guess this is what it means when the past catches up to you, huh? It is a pretty sad but motivating at the same time to learn about Lin’s past because he overcame all the obstacles to earn where he is now. Although his profession isn’t really a glamorous and commendable one. Learning his past makes us understand the choices he made and how he ended up where he is. I suppose his cruel destiny turned out to be a blessing in disguise because he has never met such nice people in Hakata that we would never expect this cross-dresser who at first was not interested in anything the groupies are interested in, to say out loud he loves this city and the people in it. Yes, he loves Hakata and his friends, not because of that spicy pollock roe contract thingy. Yeah, he is truly a fellow Hakata boy now. Fans hoping to see Banba-Lin yaoi relationship might be confused since Lin is predominantly in his female dress. Too bad nothing very gay between them too.

Saitou feels like the comical relief of the gang because of his slightly bungling behaviour. I can’t really think of any skill he is good at. Can you? So he is like the extra there to fill in the extra spot. Because HTR would be incomplete if not for that one member. On a side note, I wonder if the Red Rum Inc name reference was borrowed from The Shinning. Saru also feels like a comical character since he is impatient and he has this angst to want to kill somebody. Trying out his ninja persona and failing at his shuriken aiming feels like a running joke of the series. Sometimes it feels like Saru can never be part of Banba’s groupie because we all need that rival-cum-ally. It would have been an even more awesome team had he been part of it. Hence Saru’s clash always feel like they’re allies but on the wrong side of the coin. Even if Saru won’t kill Banba whenever they stumble upon each other, I’m glad they’re taking it out on the baseball field.

Something buts me about Hakata being the hotbed for killers alike. Assuming that killings, murders and assassinations take place every other day, how come the city is still filled with so many people? If killers kill killers and assassins assassinating assassins, shouldn’t Hakata be close to being a dead town now? Unless new people move in every time after somebody dies. It would be real weird because it’s like nobody senses something amiss with the reducing numbers of the Hakata residents. With all the crimes and body count every day and every night in the city, surely there is going to be a significant drop in population. Last a checked (fast Google, that is), the population of Hakata itself is about 230,000 people. Give or take a few thousands of other people moving in and out from neighbouring wards, if people from professional killers to ordinary citizens alike keep dying like flies, I wonder how Hakata replenishes itself. Even more so when the city is famed for professional killers in this anime. Where do they get their replacement? I guess there is no mass deaths like a plague or something so a few deaths every day is like negligible?

Oh, Fei Lan’s death in the end (assuming he really died but it is unlikely Lin would screw up) is like killing 2 birds with a stone because now Lee can’t have the antidote to the virus and so he’ll die too, putting Kakyu Association in disarray again. Yahoo. Like we cared. Damn, whoever is the head of this organization sure meets his death in weird ways. Imagine such shady organizations have a high turnover in their bosses, it’ll be so unstable. Well, you rise to the top fast, you also fall fast.

Another good point of this series are the action bits. They are quite entertaining although not to say that the fighting scenes are the best in the world. Entertaining enough to compliment the plot. Because if you have professional killers in your anime, it would be weird if there are no killings at all whatsoever. This means you are going to see a lot of blood spilled as our main characters slash, slice and dice the unimportant minor extra henchmen who only exist to be killed in that scene and satiate our blood craving lust in the name of entertainment. The most unbelievable one has got to be Banba in his Samurai form because he really could dodge bullets or hit them with his sword. Don’t say his practice with baseball did the trick!

Art and animation feel pretty good. Of course, since it is done by Satelight who did Fairy Tail, Log Horizon, Nanbaka, Mouretsu Pirates, Madan No Ou To Vanadis, Shugo Chara, AKB0048 and the Symphogear series. Not really sure about the Hakata city but with the details given to it, it sure looks gorgeous in its own way. Well, that is if you don’t take into account the murders and all the blood spill around in the dark alleys and corners. As for the character design, I just want to say that Banba reminds me of a discount version of Cowboy Bebop’s Spike. Is this where he ended up after retirement? And doesn’t Enokida look like Estonia from the Hetalia series? Just take away the glasses. Saeki and Nitta look close enough that sometimes I confuse between them. Better keep that white coat doctor wears, Saeki.

A few recognizable seiyuus include Daisuke Ono as Banba, Yuuki Kaji as Lin, Yuuichi Nakamura as Saru, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka as Yamato, Sayaka Ohara as Sayuri, Kenji Tsuda as Chegaru, Natsuki Hanae as Siva and Takehito Koyasu as Harada. The one that caught me by surprise is Aoi Yuuki as Misaki. I blame this loli having not enough lines (even so, they were mostly soft spoken) and I did not pay serious attention to what she has to say because I thought she was unimportant to the whatever plot. Shame on me. The other casts include Nobunaga Shimazaki as Fei Lan (Kaito in Ano Natsu De Matteru), Kensho Ono as Enokida (Slaine in Aldnoah.Zero), Daisuke Namikawa as Jirou (Rock in Black Lagoon), Tomoaki Maeno as Maru (Schubert in ClassicaLoid), Daisuke Hirakawa as Saeki (Muneakira in Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls), Kenji Hamada as Shigematsu (Jouji in Paradise Kiss), Yuusuke Kobayashi as Saitou (Itsuki in Imouto Sae Ireba Ii), Kousei Hirota as Genzou, Maasaya Matsukaze as Nitta (Ren in Jigoku Shoujo), Hiroki Touchi as Munakata (Pantherlily in Fairy Tail), Natsumi Fujiwara as Reiko (Chihiro in Shonen Maid), Atsushi Imaruoka as Irasawa (Dallas in Baccano) and Motomu Kiyokawa as Yagi (Tippy in Gochuumon Wa Usagi Desu Ka).

If you are very familiar with the rock style of Kishida Kyoudan & The Akeboshi Rockets, you will feel very much at home with this series’ opening theme, Stray. It fits the crazy and intriguing pace of the series well. But the one that takes the cake is the ending theme, Dirty Bullet by Tri4th. This is one of the very few pieces for anime themes in which it is instrumental. The very lively fanfare and jazzy nature of the song definitely feels like this is the theme of the series.

Overall, this is quite an enjoyable series but of course only for mature audiences since the body count and blood spills are recurring themes. It could have been longer and lasting another cour to flesh out other interesting characters and personally this is the only downside of the series. Otherwise, the interesting as well as not complex plot (it’s just about killing others and who to kill, right?) and jazzy music make the series alluring and dangerous at the same time. I bet your view of Hakata won’t be the same after watching this. You won’t be heading there to try ramen or watch a local baseball team. It’s a lively city where you shouldn’t be taking it for granted. Because for the most part, it is a city where lives are taken literally. Yeah, the irony of killers making a killing for a living.

Fate/Apocrypha

May 6, 2018

Not really sure if they want to animate all the stories and spin-offs in the Fate universe. Because after the awesome Fate/Stay Night remake (or rather the other routes that was animated), now we have Fate/Apocrypha. Not being a Fate fan, as I understand this Fate story takes place when somebody stole the Holy Grail during its third war and hence there was no conclusion. It re-emerges during the same time when the original fifth edition was supposed to happen at Fuyuki. This time the organization who stole it declares war on the Mage Association and a new and different Holy War format begins. It is not just ever Master and Servant for themselves but each faction possessing each Servant class against each other. Well, the more the merrier?

Episode 1
Kairi Shishigou makes his way to the office of Rocco Belfaban, the head of summoning. We are told of the Holy Grail War system but that system collapsed during the third edition when a master tricked the German army and stole the Holy Grail. Its whereabouts are unknown and hence the subsequent Holy Grail War never happened. However recently it has been found. The Yggdmillennia clan of Romania declared they have it. Darnic Prestone Yggdmillennia who fought in the third Holy Grail War as a Master is believed to have kept it hidden for 60 years. He looks like he didn’t age… With that, Yggdmillennia has announced they will be seceding from the Mage Association and forming their own. Though 50 of their elite mages were sent to retrieve it, they were all slaughtered. Only a Servant could have done this. Shishigou will not become a Master in this next Holy Grail War. He will be the Master of the Red Faction. In the previous system we know, 7 Masters and their 7 Servants fight each other in a battle royale. Now, it will be 7 on 7. 7 Masters and their 7 Servants of the Red Faction (representing the Mages Association) against the 7 Masters and their 7 Servants of the Black Faction (Yggdmillennia clan). Rocco hands him a rare artefact that would enable him to summon a hero from the English history. The Red Faction’s supervisor is a church priest going by the name of Shirou Kotomine. Darnic talks to Avicebron (Black Caster) who is the unparalleled master of the golem arts. He is using homunculi as his servants to create them to avoid draining his power. Avicebron’s dream is not the Holy Grail but the original giant of the legends of his people. Completing his Noble Phantasm is all that matters to him. Several of the Yggdmillennia clan Masters summon their Servants. Shishigou finishes summoning Mordred (Red Saber) who is the heir of King Arthur.

Episode 2
Flashback shows Jeanne D’Arc being burnt at the stake after being accused as a witch. All she could do is pray to her God. Astolfo (Black Rider) is a cheeky and lively one as he seeks to get to know everybody else. The rest of her summoned servant comrades are Chiron (Black Archer), Frankenstein (Black Berserker) and Siegfried (Black Saber). Their Masters are Celenike Icecolle, Fiore Forvedge, Caules Forvedge and Gordes Musik respectively. Under the command Vlad Tepes (Black Lancer), they officially begin their war. All that is left is for the Jack The Ripper (Black Assassin) to arrive from London. Looks like she is leaving a trail of bodies in her path… Mordred warns Shishigou not to pry further into her past. Legend has it she betrayed King Arthur and killed him. Her wish is to pull out the legendary sword. That is all. Gordes is mad when Siegfried doesn’t tell him his wish since he has none and has accepted his death which was necessary. Shishigou goes to see Shirou. The latter introduces his Servant, Semiramis (Red Assassin). Shirou hopes to share knowledge and mentions they have identified the fifteenth Servant also known as the Ruler class whose role is to ensure a balanced Holy Grail War. Shirou wants them to meet the other Masters but Shishigou believes he can do this on his own and will take their own path. After they left, William Shakespeare (Red Caster) enters in his poetic fashion to inform that Spartacus (Red Berserker) has gone on a rampage alone to the Black Faction’s fortress to fight. Shishigou and Mordred are in one of Yggdmillennia’s towns. They are immediately surrounded by golems and homunculi. Despite their victory, the Yggdmillennia clan is watching to test their aptitude. Karna (Red Lancer) is summoned by Shirou to eliminate Ruler (Jeanne) who is bound to get in their way.

Episode 3
A homunculus sees how his other failed kind gets wasted. That fear breaks him out of his containment as he weakly crawls out. Meanwhile Astolfo is bored being sexed up by sex-crazy Celenike and goes off on his own. He stumbles upon that homunculus who collapsed from exhaustion and brings him to Charon’s room (since Celenike might just barge in anytime). He doesn’t intend to tell Avicebron or his Master, Roche Frain because it’s more fun that way. Karna engages with Jeanne but Siegfried pops up in time to protect her. As the Red and Black side fight, Gordes hopes for Jeanne to join his side but she remains neutral and will not interfere. We see snippets of Siegfried as a dragon slayer. He was hated by his country who wanted him dead. He accepted that in hopes his death will put an end to the war. As the sun rises, it seems Karna is considerate enough to note Gordes will not last. So they agree to put their match on hold and withdraw for now. Gordes would love to show Jeanne their base but she too declines. When the homunculus wakes up, he is already given something to think about. Because of his limited life (he will die in 3 years), it is best he decides what to do with it. Caules tries to get to know more about Frankenstein. Legend has it her master feared her after creating her. She chased him down in hopes to create another one like her for company but he refused. In the end, she killed herself via self-immolation. Caules’ wish is for the Akashic Records but if any of his family members die in the battle, his priority is to revive them. On the other hand, Fiore talks to Chiron about his wish. It is to regain immortality after Hydra’s venom robbed him for it. Fiore also tells him her ‘selfish’ wish. As she is paraplegic, implanting new legs means losing her mage powers. She wants both. As Spartacus inches closer to the castle, ignoring all warning shots, Vlad will have Darnic come up with a strategy that will turn him into their pawn.

Episode 4
Spartacus happily destroys all the golems as Atalanta (Red Archer) and Achilles (Red Rider) watch from afar. They feel odd to have not seen their own Masters’ face and have been ordered into this battle. Vlad easily disposes of Spartacus and has Darnic try to force a new contract on him into their faction. Siegfried and Berserker are tasked to intercept Atalanta and Achilles. Gordes is not amused that Siegfried is fighting for enjoyment. So he forces a Command Spell to make him use his Noble Phantasm. However he is promptly stopped by Darnic who admonishes him for wasting his Command Spell. With Chiron providing excellent range backup, the Red Faction duo are forced to retreat. During all that commotion, Astolfo tries to sneak the homunculus to escape. But nothing escapes the eyes of Avicebron as he informs everyone to bring that precious specimen back. Gordes and Siegfried intercept them. Astolfo fights Siegfried so the homunculus could escape. Gordes corners him and the homunculus fees the desire to live and prepares to fight back. Gordes panics and uses his magic might to strike back, killing him. When Siegfried wants to help the homunculus, Gordes opposes and is knocked out by him. Jeanne enters the scene, confused with the in-fighting. Siegfried was swayed by Astolfo’s words to help others on their own will and instead of just doing orders as Servants. To atone for it, Siegfried sacrifices himself and gives his heart to the homunculus. His wish for Jeanne is to keep him free. Siegfried disappears but with no regrets. The homunculus returns to life, shocked that he is still living. Jeanne introduces herself and swears to protect him.

Episode 5
Jeanne checks the homunculus and hears Siegfried’s heart is working fine. The other Masters and Servants seeking an explanation and are shocked to learn Siegfried died in this fashion. Jeanne reminds them this homunculus will not join the fight as he is unwilling. However he is not totally unrelated as he has Siegfried’s heart. If everyone attacks Jeanne, they will definitely lose. So Vlad offers her to join them but she remains neutral. As long as they fight honourably, she will not intervene. Astolfo is punished by getting his hands cuffed? That’s like a slap on the wrist. His last advice to the homunculus is to live since he is now allowed to. So the first order is to name himself. He settles for Sieg in honour for the one who gave his heart. Then he teaches him about food. Shirou learns that despite they lost their Berserker, the enemy’s Saber is also gone. They’re confused to what might have transpired. Astolfo is lightly tortured by Celenike. Not in the mood for sex? But Vlad intends to release Astolfo soon as punishing one who won’t repent is useless. Besides, it looks like they can re-contract Spartacus on their side. Their next problem is Jack The Ripper because her Master is found dead. Looks like some crazy woman is in possession of her and they’re playing house as mother and daughter. Jeanne explains to Sieg she wasn’t summoned by anyone but the Holy Grail. However she couldn’t construct her own body and is currently possessing the body of a French girl, Leticia who answered her plea. Even in battle, her body will not be harmed. She notes her failed summoning shows something is wrong with this war. Could it be she is summoned here not as a judge but for some other purpose? Sieg is still unsure what to do with his freedom. She suggests going back to where he came from. What about his other homunculi comrades? Noting he just didn’t want to die and his comrades never had the will to leave, she tells him never to return there. Jeanne leaves Sieg in the hands of a kind farmer, Serge. This is where they part. She knows she lied to him as he tells him to live peacefully because she has saw visions of him dying in the battlefield. She intends to fight that fate even if it means throwing away her wish. Shirou sees the other Masters of his faction. He tells the Holy Grail War has ended and that they have won. As part of the agreement, they will give him their Command Spells.

Episode 6
Flashback shows Mordred killing everyone to force Arthur to relinquish to throne. Unfortunately she got done in as Arthur tells her it is not because she is the son of a witch that she did not do so but rather she lacks the qualities to become one. Shishigou and Mordred are on site to investigate the case of serial murders. As told by El-Melloi II, all those who were killed were actually mages. They also have their magic drained. It is safe to assume this is a work of a Servant. It couldn’t be from their faction since all Red Servants have been summoned. It would be odd for Yggdmillennia to let this happen in their own backyard so it must be some third party. Shishigou then goes to the morgue to check on the corpses. All of them have their hearts gouged out. Looks like the perpetrator is bulking up on magic by eating them. As mages are being targeted, they are the perfect bait to lure them out. So that night as they wander about town, a strange fog suddenly shrouds the place. They are forced to get out since it is poison gas. Once in the clear, Jack could have almost sliced off Shishigou’s head without him suspecting anything had not Mordred reacted fast enough. Mordred and loli Jack engage in combat but the latter uses her agility and speed to her advantage. An explosive arrow fired by Chiron breaks them up. Jack has sustained injuries and escapes but Mordred is now targeting Chiron. She intercepts him and he knows better if he wants to win this, he cannot do it without injuries. Shishigou on the other hand encounters Fiore who is walking around in her exoskeleton that makes her look like Dr Octopus. She warns him to leave this place and will overlook his trespassing violation. Guess not. Shishigou surprises her by being reckless like throwing a grenade and then ramming her with a car! Is she done for seeing that all that’s left is for his bullets to reach her.

Episode 7
As expected, Caules saves her. Archer knows he has been cornered and will lose so he informs Fiore to retreat. With that, the battle ends. Sieg asks Serge the meaning of freedom. I suppose gramps have lots of experience but no definite answer because it is up to Sieg to find out what it is. Jeanne enters Shirou’s church but finds no one. She needs to meet him. Speaking of the Red Faction, looks like what’s left of their Servants have all gathered. It is time for the final fight but Shakespeare says he will not fight since it is not his style. He just wants to watch this battle and record it. So how is the Red Faction going to fight? Semiramis uses her Noble Phantasm. This floating fortress is actually the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Cool. They have the walking undead skeletons for the grunts too. The fortress stations itself near the Yggdmillennia’s castle. Vlad leads the Black Faction’s Servants and gives them roles in their upcoming attack. Sieg has thought hard and looks like he has decided on what he wants. With that, Serge allows him to leave (not knowing what it is but then again, why should he) and do as he wishes. Oh, take this belt of his with you. Conveniently it can fit his sword.

Episode 8
Atalanta destroys the homunculi and golem horde to clear the path for Achilles to bulldoze through. Then she supports Karna in his fight against Vlad. Vlad has the power of his homeland and he is powerful because the locals see him as a hero but Karna is the Sun God and has very strong armour. Achilles is stopped in his tracks from the golems. Then he tries to trace Chiron and face him. Once he does, he gets the shock of his life. Flashback shows Chiron was Achilles’ master as he taught him the ways of combat. He was then told about his heels as his weakness. He might be an immortal hero but his heels are still mortal. Sieg returns to the battlefield and helps treat a fellow wounded homunculus. He plans to help as many as he can and hopes to free them. They return to the castle since most of the rest are out fighting in the battlefield. Semiramis is not thrilled that Shirou is itching to join the fray. If he dies, her plans will fall apart. Shirou explains he wants to know if God is testing him. If He doesn’t allow his way, he will die. If everything goes well, it means He approves of his will and thus his wish upon the Holy Grail to grant mankind mercy and comfort. Semiramis then gives him permission to fight. Semiramis now deals with Astolfo who has flown close to the fortress. Mordred is mad that she is late to the battle so this gives her an excuse to drive madly? Hold on tight! Avicebron barely manages to make Spartacus under his command and convinces him that the Mage Association are the oppressors. He sends him out to destroy them. Frankenstein is thumping the undead in her path. She then stumbles into Shirou who offers her to join his side in place of Spartacus.

Episode 9
Darnic narrates he went to Japan to steal the Holy Grail. He got the Germans’ cooperation and then betrayed them. Now that he has sufficient magic, he will be able to open the gate to the Roots, the means to fulfil wishes and become the victor. Frankenstein rejects Shirou’s offer and fights him. Shirou will welcome her if she changes her mind so he fights with a sword that Shakespeare has tempered with. Crazy Spartacus crashes into Karna’s fight. Karna needs to concentrate on Vlad so he has Atalanta take care of him. I don’t think a few arrows into him can work. After all, Spartacus has very quick regenerative abilities. Sieg frees all the homunculi in the lab. Astolfo approaches Babylon but is shot down by Semiramis. Not sure if Sieg has super zoom vision because he could see Astolfo falling down. He is in a dilemma to go save him because he has to see through his responsibility of saving his brethren. The other homunculi assure they can take it from here. The permission Sieg needs to go to Astolfo’s aid. Mordred’s reckless driving almost crashed into Astolfo. I’m surprised that car which has been trashed can still run. Shishigou lets Mordred fight Astolfo as he gets out of here. Jeanne is trying to meet Shirou but Semiramis is trying to prevent that. Jeanne knows the Red Faction are trying to kill her and feels something is wrong. It would have been understandable if they wanted her aid to join their side but to rid of her? As Semiramis cannot stop her, she reports to Shirou so he has to flee and return. Frankenstein surprisingly pursues him so Shirou leaves it o Shakespeare to buy some time. He casts a spell on her. She sees her tragic past whereby her creator hated her. All she wanted was to be loved but he kept rejecting her and calling her a monster. So it was confusing when she sees him extending his hand and wanting her to stop fighting. She goes berserk beating the crap out of him. Caules is forced to use a Command Spell to calm her down. The enemy has escaped. Mordred learns and mocks how Siegfried pathetically died. This riles up Astolfo and he won’t forgive her for making fun of him. Semiramis’ powerful magic is still unable to stop Jeanne. So Shirou relays to Atalanta to lure and send Spartacus to fight against Jeanne. Mordred is about to finish Astolfo. But look who showed up? Sieg is going to fight Mordred?

Episode 10
Astolfo is not amused. He didn’t save him so he could die saving him. So much about the freedom to choose, huh? Now that they are both liabilities, they could have been toasted had not Caules using another Command Spell on Frankenstein to attack Mordred. But after all that hammering, nothing happens. Frankenstein is incapacitated after Mordred counter attacks. Then she kills her off. Now Sieg is mad. Amazing his puny sword can put a dent in her armour. Too bad he too gets killed off. Right in the heart. Oh, now Astolfo is getting mad. Wanna have a go? Shishigou interrupts her to remind her if she had ascertain Frankenstein is dead. Oh, body missing. Frankenstein sneaks up on her and restrains her. Caules uses his final Command Spell so that Frankenstein could release all her limiters and do a suicidal Noble Phantasm move to take out Mordred. After all that power explosion, just a big crater. Mordred is still there. Frankenstein’s gone. Caules can only regret he should have expected the enemy too has Command Spells. During the blast, some of Frankenstein’s power went through Sieg. This means Sieg seeing visions of Siegfried who lived his entire life trying to grant others wishes till his death. So what is his wish? Siegfried asks that same question back to him. Then a sword stuck in the ground appears before Sieg. He is told to pick it up. He can’t. Siegfried asks his reason for fighting. He doesn’t know. He just wants the power to help others. With that, he pulls it out. Mordred and Astolfo are shocked to see Siegfried before them. Is he revived? More accurately explained by Shirou, he possessed Sieg’s body. A normal human would have died but being a homunculus makes it possible. Not sure if Shirou is being overconfident because he doesn’t intend to help Mordred as he thinks Siegfried will not last long. Shishigou suggests using a Command Spell to enhance her skills for this fight. Both Sabers clash. Time to power up. Is this some light sabre show now?

Episode 11
Atalanta leads Spartacus to attack Jeanne. His Noble Phantasm is to transfer any damage receive into power. This explains why he is now some ugly ballooned monster. Mordred is not pleased her Noble Phantasm didn’t wipe out Siegfried. But he has taken enough damage and is at his limit. This means he reverts back to Sieg. Shishigou tells Mordred to get out of there. Looks like Spartacus is going to explode from all that power. Jeanne’s barrier protects and saves a lot of lives and damages. The impaling and burning fight between Vlad and Karna comes to an abrupt halt when Shirou calls Karna to come back. Something happens back at the castle. It looks like Babylon is stealing the Holy Grail. Darnic did not expect this. He narrates about the prophesized downfall of the Yggdmillennia clan 80 years ago. His dream of becoming a first class mage vanished. He made many allies, betrayed them and feed on the souls of others to extend his own life so as to get the Holy Grail. He will not let anyone else have it. Vlad, Chiron and Avicebron infiltrate Babylon. They face off with Karna, Achilles and Atalanta. Vlad’s rematch with Karna seems a bit off. Vlad notices his power is not working well here. Indeed. This is not his territory. Flashback shows Vlad talking to Darnic about the ridiculous fantasies of people throughout the generations that tainted his legacy. His wish to win this war is to erase that disgrace. He warns Darnic never to use his Command Spell to force him to use his Noble Phantasm even if he is at the verge of defeat. Darnic agreed at first but looks like he has a change of heart. What he protects is Yggdmillennia and what he wants is the Akashic Records. For that he needs the Holy Grail. Sorry, Vlad. Gotta use the Command Spell.

Episode 12
Flashback shows Shirou knows Darnic and has waited 60 years of hardship to finally end all this. Oh, something about Iri being dead too. With Vlad not at optimum, Darnic reminds him about his Noble Phantasm. Of course Vlad is not pleased and sternly reminds him. However Darnic will not let his wish slip away and reminds Vlad of his place as a Servant. Then he uses a Command Spell to make him use his Noble Phantasm and turn him into the legendary Dracula! Vlad attacks him and tries to suck his blood but this is all part of Darnic’s plan. Using another Command Spell, he has their souls fused together. Now Darnic and Vlad are one as Dracula! Dracula then bites and infects other homunculi and turn them into similar familiars. The other Servants join forces to take him down but he is formidable. Jeanne arrives and understands the situation. She bestows the Servants power to take down Dracula in this temporary truce. The epic fight is formidable but when it seemed Karna is going to deal the finishing blow, suddenly the Red Faction’s Servants start to weaken. It looks like Shirou has extracted the Noble Phantasm from the other Masters. I thought this was already done? And of all times, now? Jeanne tries to chase down Dracula as he makes his way to where the Holy Grail is. This is where he encounters Shirou. He is shocked he is still alive because he should have been dead during the Fuyuki Holy Grail War. Uhm, surprise?! Shirou then uses his purification swords to purify and turn him into ashes. When Jeanne arrives, she is shocked to see Shirou. He is actually a Servant and also of the Ruler class. She asks why he is breaking the rules. Because he couldn’t help anyone if he was bound by them. Jeanne wants to know what is his plan, the plan of Amakusa Shirou Tokisada. To save all of mankind.

Episode 13
Astolfo has a bone to pick with Sieg. But in the end, she is glad he is alright. Too bad now Celenike has got a bone to pick with Astolfo for sullying her name. Shirou argues he has planned and waited for 60 years for this chance to happen so there is no way in hell he is going to turn back now. With the other Servants present, Achilles and Atalanta want to know what happened to their respective Masters. Shirou tells them about the Command Spell transfer agreement that makes him their Master. They don’t agree and attack. Semiramis and Karna protect Shirou and feel the need to make clear a few points. Shirou starts off by suggesting Chiron and Avicebron defect. Celenike uses her Command Spell to force Astolfo to kill Sieg and wants to see his tormented face. When Sieg opposes, she torments him. Celenike is about to use her Command Spell and detail how he should kill him slowly when she is suddenly decapitated by Mordred for being too noisy! And then she leaves. WTF? So she killed her but not Astolfo because technically she is noisy and not the enemy? Why was she nearby in the first place? With Celenike dead, Astolfo is going to disappear but Sieg wants him to make a contract with him. Somehow he has Command Spells on his hand and will be her Master. No regrets? Okay. Then it’s done. Avicebron agrees to join Shirou on a condition he doesn’t hurt his Master. Avicebron will put his dream above pride and morality so Chiron turns on him. Mordred joins the fray by attacking Shirou. She considers him the enemy the moment he tried to deceive her Master. The fight lasted long enough for the rest to escape. With that, Avicebron makes his contract with Shirou. The other Yggdmillennia family members are arguing with the homunculi defectors who want to live. Just in time for Sieg to join in and argue on their behalf that they don’t need salvation but the freedom to choose. Oh, also why does Astolfo introduce himself as his Servant sound like he is his boyfriend or something? Fiore gets word from Chiron about Avicebron’s detection. She needs to warn Roche but where is he? Happily giving Avicebron some component he asked for.

Episode 14
Shirou retreats now that he has the Holy Grail. Jeanne must be having a headache now that Sieg is Astolfo’s Master and he can turn into Siegfried too. She has no choice but to accept him as a participant in this battle. As though he is going to listen to her if she says no. Avicebron uses Roche as the core for his ultimate golem. Roche is very disappointed of this betrayal as he looked up to him as his teacher. Don’t say Avicebron didn’t warn you he was never interested in the Holy Grail in the first place. With Roche absorbed into the golem, Avicebron begins bringing paradise to this world by destroying it? So his Eden is turning the surrounding areas into some creepy forest? The other Servants attack the golem but it’s not use. It absorbs. Especially life. Touch it and it absorbs you. Although Chiron aims and kills Avicebron, the latter is not worried. His role was already over when he activated his golem. He puts his trust in it to bring forth paradise. Jeanne has an obligation to destroy it since the golem is beyond the scope of the Holy Grail War. However she lacks enough strength to take it down and time is running out because when the surrounding area is turned into Eden, the golem will become immortal. Fiore needs Chiron to use his Noble Phantasm when the time is right but he needs at least one more Servant to help out. Jeanne summons Mordred to assist. Chiron relays his plans how the Servants have their specific roles in taking down the golem and this includes Sieg temporarily turning into Siegfried. In short, the battle ends with all of them playing their part well and destroy the golem’s core before it could reach immortality. Jeanne is worried about Sieg but he looks fine. Later Fiore meets Shishigou. For now they team up.

Episode 15
Achilles and Atalanta are back in Shirou’s side but have questions. They are assured their Masters are safe as they all reveal their wish upon the Holy Grail. Shirou begins detailing his plan to save mankind. Meanwhile the Yggdmillennia clan is holding talks with Jeanne and Shishigou about Shirou who might know a way to make the Holy Grail grant his wish. This means if he has this twisted idea that salvation is killing everyone, the Holy Grail has the capability to do that. Later Chiron talks to Caules and asks if Fiore is fit to be the leader of Yggdmillennia. He is talking about if he could really kill someone. Caules tells him about some pet dog she used to have. It was forbidden in a mage’s house but she tended and loved it. Then when it died, she started crying. Chiron tells Caules he will be the only one left to support her after he is gone. Jeanne replenishes Command Spells for Shishigou and Sieg. She warns Sieg not to use the final Command Spell. Because his situation is a miracle, the last one would cause a problem. There is no such thing in this world as a free miracle. This prompts Shishigou to remember his own family shame as he tells it to Mordred. Something about his lineage became great necromancers but it was also a curse. Kids they adopted and try to pass their magic crest poisoned them instead. His wish is to have descendants. Shishigou and Mordred will again travel and act independently from the Yggdmillennia. Their plan is while they are busy fighting the Red Faction, they’ll sneak in and steal the Holy Grail. Achilles and Atalanta discover Shakespeare knew about Shirou’s plan all along. He is helping because it is interesting. Interesting because despite all the suffering and losses he has gone through, he is still going to save mankind and not abandon them.

Episode 16
There are black patches over Sieg’s body. Chiron examines him and it is believed he is slowly transforming into Siegfried. As he has transformed into him twice for a total of 5 minutes, the magic inside his heart is mixing and eating away his body. But they can’t tell him what to do. It’s his choice. We take a detour to tackle Jack’s case. She has been on a killing spree and last night alone she killed 8 mages and gouge out their hearts. Fiore has to seek Jeanne’s help since they lack the manpower and have to solve this in 3 days before they attack Babylon. The problem is, Chiron and Fiore cannot remember Jack’s face and think her Noble Phantasm that leaves no impression. Investigating the death site of one of the mages, Caules uses his trance to see the mage’s final moments. This means reliving the excruciating pain. Noting that he has been tortured before he died, Caules then realizes that Fiore is in danger. He calls her but cliché signal is out. It seems Jack was torturing some to find out codes to disable the castle’s security. You don’t say because Jack is already here and using her poison mist to kill those who inhale too much. Don’t look now Fiore because here’s Jack! Right timing from Sieg prevents Fiore from being Jack’s latest victim. With reinforcements coming, Jack retreats but vows to kill Sieg next time. At this point Fiore already cannot remember Jack’s face.

Episode 17
The plan is for Jeanne and Sieg to be decoys to lure out Jack before other Servants take her out. It is believed Reika Rikudo is currently her Master. She was supposed to be a sacrifice for the original Master but she turned into a serial killer instead. Jeanne and Sieg experience life in this little town. Jeanne learns Sieg volunteered for this mission to avenge his fellow homunculi. He has no regrets as Jeanne relates she threw everything away but was eventually burnt at the stake. Despite all, she still believes in the good of people. Meanwhile Achilles questions Shirou’s goal to save all mankind. He calls him a liar because he claims he got this goal after being betrayed and killed. Should he have hated mankind even more? He once hated everything but for the sake of mankind’s salvation, he had to throw away everything. Even his hatred for his killers. This means he will save all mankind, whether good or bad at all cost. Sieg poses a question for Jeanne that if Shirou knows a way to save mankind with the Holy Grail, shouldn’t Jeanne help him? She believes all of them as a Heroic Spirit aren’t supposed to lead mankind but merely guide them. Jeanne doesn’t hate those who burnt her at the stake. She can’t. That’s why she still protected Sieg despite being useless. Sieg feels grateful that he wants to repay her with his body? Wait. What?! Awkward talk gets interrupted by poisonous mist. Looks who is here. Sieg goes to save a woman who claims she lost her child. She turns out to be Reika as she shoots him in the heart. Somehow he doesn’t die so she runs away. Jack fights Jeanne but is shocked when her lethal strike doesn’t kill her. Something about resistance to curses is one of her abilities. Jack plays dirty by throwing in innocent civilians. However she is injured in the leg with Chiron’s arrow. She manages to get away as Reika carries her off. However Reika spots Atalanta and uses her body to protect Jack against her arrow. Right in the heart. Jack becomes distraught and pleads to her not to be left alone so Reika uses her remaining Command Spells to have her be fine without her. After that Atalanta fires a shot in Jack’s back. But Jack gets back up and explodes? Now they go back in time and place where Jack was living in hellish conditions.

Episode 18
Understandably Atalanta is freaked out with so many children surrounding her and wanting to be loved. Flashback on Atalanta’s past, she was tossed away by her father for simply being a girl but saved by Artemis. That is why she is kind to all and vows to love all children. Sieg is also haunted seeing this nightmare, especially the children of London being killed or rather consumed by River Thames. He becomes disillusioned with this world where nobody helps nobody. Jeanne too sees this but she is not scared. Although the children want her to save them, she will not and will destroy them. Atalanta cuts in and argues the children are not evil but victims. Jeanne agrees that she is not a saint as many view her as because she too has tainted her hands with blood. This world they are seeing now is just an illusion created by spiritual residue and by ‘saving’ them only means continuing their suffering. Atalanta still refuses to believe and is still murder. The children then confront Jeanne to confirm if she would really kill them. Yes. So you can move on. The children agree to be destroyed by her. Hmm… Feels like exorcism? Jeanne is disturbed by Jack’s last words that she finds her pitiful too. Atalanta is now broken, accusing Jeanne for abandoning the children. As she tries to fight her, other Servants enter the fray. Atalanta escapes and won’t forgive the evil that is Jeanne. Sieg is still confused. What he saw were normal humans, not mages. Jeanne explains the evil of humanity. If she was not burnt at the stake, she would have continued to kill others. She hopes he will not judge people and not give up thinking they cannot be changed. Hating is easy but loving is very hard. After all the despair and disillusionment, she still hasn’t given up. Sieg wonders why Atalanta calls her evil. Good and evil are complex and it depends on where you stand, your view will be different. Sieg had believed the world was always beautiful until that nightmare. While that will forever stay in him, he will not give up in finding the answer he seeks.

Episode 19
Yggdmillennia is planning to assault Babylon as soon as tomorrow but the best plan they can come up is an attack via plane? Easy target. Astolfo then mentions he has a Noble Phantasm that would nullify all magic. Just that he forgot its name. But he knows the condition to summon it and it is on a moonless or new moon night. However that will only happen in 3 days and by then Babylon would have left their airspace. Caules talks to Fiore who is indecisive. He notes this fight will make or break her as a mage. He is hinting she should just be a normal person as she cannot handle death. Remember that dog story? She sure does. Otherwise, where would it have to go? So that’s why. Is it an insult or compliment if he prefers her to stay as a useless girl? They do a process to transfer her magic circuits to him. Painful and why must it be that dog episode? Anyway it is successful and Caules is now the new head of Yggdmillennia. For those who have been wondering if Astolfo is a guy or girl, this confirms it. Jeanne had the misfortune of seeing him stepping out of bath. Shriek at the dick… Sieg and Astolfo bump into Mordred in town. Sieg asks her bluntly about humans. To her, they are not worth saving. Sieg loves humans until Jack’s episode. He is now unsure. Mordred chides him as there is now right or wrong answer. You do what you want, how you want it. Astolfo asks if she would like to be a good or bad king. Good of course. Later Astolfo tells this to Jeanne. He believes Sieg should continue to love people. This prompts Jeanne to ask if he fancies Sieg but is asked back the same question. Why is she blushing? With Sieg still hesitant, Jeanne has to remind him Sieg is Sieg. He is wonderful as he is and doesn’t have to be a Servant or Master. Later Jeanne continues to ponder and worry about Sieg. She can’t help wonder why she doesn’t want him to fight or die so badly. Can I guess this is the work of love? Mordred asks Shishigou for advice to be a good king. Well, he hasn’t served one but here goes. He believes he must face her father even if she hates and adores him. If she wants to surpass him, then analyse everything. This upcoming battle would most likely be the last. Once it’s over, he’ll get his pay and Mordred will get his wish to challenge the sword and be king.

Episode 20
Caules leads his team to go after Babylon. Gordes and other homunculi are left in charge of the castle. Sieg believes he will not return here regardless if they win or lose so he says goodbye to his fellow brethren. Caules goes over the plan to intercept Babylon. Before Shirou heads into the Holy Grail to begin his salvation, he uses a Command Spell to Shakespeare not to write a tragedy about him. After Shirou leaves, Semiramis questions Shakespeare if he wants to see Shirou succeed or fail. He throws that question back at her. She would like him to succeed. He chides her for a textbook answer. Hence she gives her true answer that she would like to see a holy man fall into despair. But more importantly she wants to see the sight he wishes to see so much. How far will he go? How much will he show her? Shakespeare recognizes this adoration as unintended love and would definitely be a hit play. She would have killed him if not the enemies have arrived. Uhm, an army of Boeing airplanes? I am guessing they are all on autopilot mode. Semiramis gives orders to the other Servants on their roles. However Atalanta rejects hers. She wants to take on Jeanne. Achilles assures Semiramis he will cover for her part. The battle begins with Achilles having his rematch with Chiron while Atalanta becomes obsessed in taking down Jeanne. If they’re taking down so many airplanes, I wonder if the people below would be scared thinking it is raining crashing airplanes. Chiron questions Achilles’ goal to follow Shirou’s mad plan. Achilles replies he has been shown it is a worthy bet. Shirou isn’t annihilating men nor selecting who to live. Chiron calls it foolish because it sounds impossible. If that is the case, shouldn’t the purpose of the Holy Grail make the impossible possible? Chiron immediately understands what Shirou is doing. Shirou is going through a field where dead souls are trying to corrupt him but since he has casted away his hatred, he waltzes through until he reaches Heaven’s Feel. A priestess pops up and asks if he would like to activate the Third Magic. Shirou wants to make all of mankind’s souls turn material.

Episode 21
Chiron and Achilles are at odds with each other’s ideals regarding Shirou’s method in using the Holy Grail. Somehow Astolfo remembers his Noble Phantasm’s name and is able to chant it and nullifies Semiramis’ Babylon lasers. Since Karna is hot on their tails, Sieg transforms into Siegfried to keep Karna busy and his wish to fight Black Saber again. Astolfo then goes on a laser destroying spree but not without taking huge damage. He crashes into the garden area and Semiramis would have killed him had not crazy Mordred crashes her jet onto the place! Achilles invokes his Noble Phantasm to turn the area into his advantage. Both men decide to fight each other as warriors. Literally a fist fight. That soon turns into a boxing match. In the end, Achilles is able to deal the finishing blow to Chiron. Before Chiron dies, he unleashes his Noble Phantasm. Something about his Sagittarius constellation which means his bows will always be drawn and doesn’t need to call it. A beam strikes Achilles and although it doesn’t kill him, it takes away his immortality. Now we go back to Atalanta who is still b*tching about killing Jeanne. In her desperate attempt, she uses an item to stab herself in the heart to activate her Noble Phantasm, turning into a beast.

Episode 22
Sieg runs out of fuel to keep Siegfried materialized. Karna then calls out Caules and needs him for a favour. He wants to rescue their original Masters. They might have dropped out of this war but they are still the ones who summoned them. Caules also has his demands that if he cannot defeat Siegfried, he must let them go since it will be unworthy of him to defeat low level foes. After Caules has secured the Masters, Karna tells Sieg of his original promise to fight Siegfried. And hence Sieg transforms once more for a powerfully epic battle finale. Back to more Atalanta b*tching, Jeanne will not deny her wish to save all the children and have them live in a happy world. But she cannot condone her resorting to evil methods to achieve that. The fight is interrupted with Achilles taking over. He has Jeanne move along while it is time for him to put a stop to Atalanta’s madness. Jeanne confronts Semiramis and believes her wish to rule the world after Shirou saves it is a lie. Because an empress is unneeded in a saved world. More Karna-Siegfried epic battle. The tables are turned when Astolfo uses Achilles shield to help Siegfried. Prior to this, Achilles after his victory over Chiron, gave his Noble Phantasm to her as promise made to Chiron. Not really sure what this whole world thingy Noble Phantasm this is but it made Karna one step too late as Siegfried stabs him. Karna is satisfied to have fought like a hero the entire time. We also end Atalanta-Achilles fight as both their attacks take each other out. Atalanta knew her ways were wrong and wouldn’t save the children but what else could she do? If abandoning those children was the right choice, this world isn’t worth living. Even so, Achilles wanted to stop her from falling. Another 2 Heroic Spirits bites the dust. Yeah, I guess time’s running out so it’s time to let 3 Red Faction Servants die now. Jeanne has no time to chat with Semiramis as she makes her way to Shirou. Semiramis warns her of meeting Shakespeare as it will be her undoing.

Episode 23
Mordred and Shishigou walk into Semiramis’ throne room. But it is a trap to assault them. Mordred throws out her Master as she fights Semiramis’ sorcery. But the poison in the air overwhelms Mordred. Semiramis wants her to abandon her Master and join her as her knight. This has Mordred reanalyse her wish. She realizes it wasn’t to become king but to end her father’s solitude. She thought by becoming king would allow that. Mordred’s goal now is to defeat Semiramis but needs Shishigou’s help even if it costs her life. He barges back in and injects her some kind of drug that turns her into wearing a sexier armour? Heck, it’s more powerful and much more with Shishigou using his last Command Spell to defeat the king. Mordred slices through the monster and into Semiramis. With the battle over, Shishigou knows his days are numbered after the wounds received from Semiramis’ shot. Master and Servant have one last talk (and smoke) together with Shishigou revealing his goal wasn’t to find an heir but a lost child. Likewise, Mordred tells him what she has realized. After Shishigou dies, Mordred disappears. Jeanne encounters Shakespeare who initiates his Noble Phantasm. Jeanne finds herself in several locations of her life like the village which she has to say goodbye to her mother and the bloodied battlefield in which she accepted she will never die in peace. Things start to change while being brought to her burning stake. It is Sieg at the stake instead. Jeanne claims this isn’t so but Shakespeare says he is only merely reading from her memories and hence the killing of Sieg is her wish. The final scene is the Castle of Tiffauges, the fort of Gilles de Rais. He is also here in the flesh and as a Servant. He shows her a severed head of Sieg. Don’t really understand about this equal love of humanity thingy here and if she really loved Sieg, she would have done anything to the point of cruel to stop him. Jeanne trembles in fear while her inner voice regrets not telling her clearly that her heart was right.

Episode 24
So Shirou’s salvation is for mankind to lose their selfishness? Okay. Whatever. Out from the Holy Grail, Shirou is now dressed like a shogun? Shirou and Gilles continue convincing Jeanne about their salvation of mankind. Till Gilles had to say Sieg’s death. Time to wake up. Speaking of Sieg, here he comes. She is sorry he had to come to see her even if it means ending in his death. Shirou offers her one last chance to join forces with him and save mankind. No more evil and people will stop suffering. Time for Sieg to give his 2 cents worth of opinion. Something about good can turn evil and making mistakes is not a sin but just sad. He might be weak but wants to strive to become someone others can be proud of. So touched that Jeanne cries. She rejects Shirou’s offer claiming his salvation doesn’t give strength to the struggle but only crushes it. Gilles is shocked this won’t bring him salvation after all the innocent kids he slew. She tells him there is no way to repent. Even if God forgives him, his victims will not. So just accept his punishment? Because if mankind becomes immortal, they lose faith in their own potential and life would be meaningless. They just merely exist in an unchanging world. I guess talk is over. Fight time. Gilles decides to fight by Jeanne’s side after she lets him hold her flag. Short thank you from Jeanne to Sieg about opening her eyes before she powers up. Gilles defend her till his death while she prays when Shirou attacks. Although the fire blast damages part of the Holy Grail, Jeanne has taken too much damage and ‘dies’. Now Sieg is mad. Revenge? Astolfo comes to his aid but Semiramis holds her down powerfully with Shirou’s Command Spell. Now for a sword fight. With magic. Sieg amazingly is able to keep up and fight like a madman. As though he is like a Servant but maintains his own character. Caules realizes Sieg is displaying abilities of Frankenstein. When she died in the blast, it seemed she transferred her powers to Sieg who was caught in it. She has been fighting with them all along. Shirou might have stabbed Sieg but he unleashes a similar suicidal Noble Phantasm like Frankenstein.

Episode 25
Shirou wakes up on Semiramis’ lap. He is still dying, though. He wonders if she is mad for losing. She forgives him as she has lost as well. She wants to know if he succeeded, how he would have gotten away with tricking her. Well, if apologizing won’t work, he would give his life to her. Semiramis kisses him as her gift. After he dies, Semiramis disappears and Babylon dramatically collapses. Sieg and Astolfo are inside the Holy Grail. The priestess confirms them as the final Master and Servant, hence wining the Holy Grail War. Sieg’s wish is to undo Shirou’s wish. Sorry, no can do. Shirou has used most of its resources for that. The result will soon spread to the whole world in which mankind becomes immortal but lose their curiosity and be bound to the land. So much for granting wishes. So what can it grant? Sieg notices his hand has turned into of a dragon after all his Command Spells are used. He has a wish that the Holy Grail has enough power to grant. Astolfo is against this since it is a fate worse than dying. This is not the reason why he saved him. But it’s his wish. As his last order, he wants him to live in his stead and help others in need. Astolfo rides furiously as he takes Caules and Leticia out. Shakespeare is madly and happily writing until the entire Babylon crumbles. He calls it a happy ending. A dragon carries the Holy Grail. It is Sieg who used the Holy Grail to transform himself into one. As the Holy Grail has created immortality, he will take it to where it is not needed on the other side of the world where people cannot reach. Only the evil dragon Fafnir can do that. In the aftermath, Caules joins the Mage Association. They would have banished him for carrying the Yggdmillennia bloodline but I guess it’s not the time to fight after what happened. Uh huh. This incident put a scar on their reputation. Astolfo parts with Leticia and then sets off to see the world. Epilogue shows Jeanne finally finds Sieg the dragon. Touching him turns him back to his human form. She won’t leave him anymore and they will begin a new journey together. Before they leave, she confesses she loves him.

Fake/Apostasy Appall-Crap-Haha
So many mind boggling questions for the last episode. First, how can the Holy Grail claim Sieg and Astolfo are the last Master and Servant left? Wasn’t Shakespeare still around? If you mean last Master AND Servant together, yeah okay, maybe. But still, that is like breaking the rules, right? You need to be the last one standing to earn the right to wish upon the Holy Grail, no? And if Shakespeare’s Master is Shirou, why is he taking him so long to disappear? Shouldn’t he vanish in about a few seconds after Shirou died? How can Astolfo who is a Servant remain in this world if his Master is gone? Okay, technically he is a dragon but that’s not really him, right? Right?! Even so, that Holy Grail War has ended so Astolfo should go back to his era too? Why does he have the right to stay here? Master’s orders? I didn’t know that overrules the rules of the Holy Grail War. And what’s with this lame ass dragon transforming to hide the Holy Grail somewhere? You mean in another world or dimension? And now that Jeanne touched him and he turned back into a homunculus, who the f*ck is going to watch over the Holy Grail? If you’re saying that nobody will ever reach this place so why the f*ck was he guarding it in the first place? Besides, doesn’t the dragon look like he is sleeping on the job? Could he have just left it there and flown off? Oh right. Then Jeanne wouldn’t find him and they would forever keep missing each other and we won’t have that cheesy ‘romantic’ ending. Somehow I feel that spoilt the general vibe of the series although I was expecting it somewhere but not like this.

Generally if you look at the whole story, it is basically almost the same as in all Fate stories. At least the ones that I know (the adapted animes that I have seen, that is). The Holy Grail is the only device that could make your dreams come true the fastest way and in exchange for that, everyone coveting that cup must fight a battle royale until one is left standing. This spin-off is no different although the presentation and the storyline that goes about it is presented in a different way.

It starts off with the anticipated and usual Red Faction versus Black Faction. Pretty standard. But knowing this series has more than 2 dozen episodes, you will definitely know that something is up. There will be twists along the way. I mean, you really want to drag out the fight between both factions right till the end? Hey, this isn’t Dragonball series!!! Halfway through we see the breakdown of the Factions and both sides have their reservations that blurs the lines. While that is a good change in direction, somehow I feel that the mini arc of Black Assassin before the final showdown feels a bit of a diversion. I felt it could have been done without it because had Jack been a normally summoned Servant and part of the Yggdmillennia family, it would have been boring. With Jack being the wildcard, she is like the unknown variable that could spring some surprise. But personally I don’t find it surprising and like I said, a distraction. Unless it was to give Atalanta a reason to be mad (because you need a reason to take down a Servant instead of a mindless death in battle) as well as opening Sieg’s eyes about the cruelty of the world. I know he was just born a few days ago but could he have guessed if he is fighting this war? Sure, no innocent civilians were harmed so I guess that was the turning point.

Curiously I tried to find out why this alternate storyline is called Apocrypha. Thanks to my lazy Google ability and lack of interest in the series, I just search the meaning of the word and formed my own theory-cum-conclusion. Apocrypha means writings that have unknown or doubtful origins and is used to refer to Biblical texts. As this Fate spin-off isn’t from the actual timeline, hence this alternate setting could be one of those unrecorded and unidentified stories. You can say it is like a standalone. Thus there could be many other unrecorded stories and spin-offs of the Fate series that we are unaware of if you go by this theory. Uh huh. If the authors and creators decided to milk more money and don’t have anything fresh and new, they can just turn a what-if scenario and make it into a spin-off. It is after all might not be canon. And then it can also give hardcore paranoid fans to list down more conspiracy theories and how it all links. Not that I care anyway. On a side note to ponder, since the Apocrypha word popped up big and obvious in the final scene of the last episode, could it be that of everything that happened in the series, only Jeanne’s confession for Sieg is apocryphal?

From the promotional posters to the opening and ending credits, it is quickly established that the main stars for this series would be Jeanne and Sieg. I find it odd that despite this is an alternative setting, war still needs some sort of a ‘referee’. I mean, come on. This is a war so what the hell is the need to ensure there is balance on both sides? Because if both sides have the same power and tactic, it would end in a stalemate. A war is one by a side because of superior power, numbers or tactic so why again do you need a Ruler class here? Sure, this isn’t exactly a cruel war and one big tournament if you want to go so far as to look at it that way but still, having somebody to balance the fight just seems odd. I mean, this isn’t like a boxing match if your opponent tries to hit you below the belt, the referee steps in to stop. So Jeanne’s class here feels more like the referee in WWE… I guess since this is the Fate series, the main hero would always be someone who looks like Saber. That is why Jeanne is designed very closely to that. And since Sieg is technically living because of Siegfried the Saber class, there you have it, both technically Saber related main characters.

For Sieg, it is funny that a homunculus is trying to be more human than most humans themselves. And he is only a few days old. I suppose we were all once like Sieg when we were younger. We thought and wished for the world to be better place but as it turns out, it is still a sh*tty and hell place to live. That’s the meaning of life. So this brings to me the case of Shirou’s salvation. Time and time again when such good versus evil concept is brought up, the villain’s twisted answer to save mankind via such method is frowned upon despite it looks good theoretically. Maybe I’m an adult, that’s why I seem to connect more to what Shirou wants to save mankind than Jeanne and Sieg’s version. Sure, everyone might be some lifeless robot who is happy. No evil so technically no good as well. But if you’re living in such bliss, what that all matter? I mean, ‘good guys’ tend to believe that the current state of the world because it is evil, there is hope, we can grow to overcome it, blah, blah, blah, sounds more like they want people to suffer because that makes human, human. That kind of logic does not resonate with me nowadays. To them, that is not living. So are they the big sadists? Is living much sweeter after overcoming your sufferings? Maybe for you and a few lucky people. But for the many others who are not so lucky (Jack and those innocent children), I think they would just tell the world to f*ck off. Can we all just be happy and not sad? Not this way according to the logic of heroes.

Oddly, there seems to be small hints of Jeanne and Sieg hitting off as a couple. Because we lack Shirou x Saber (or Rin or Sakura, depending on who you support), hence we need that kind of romance too in this alternate timeline. I know it would look weird if a Ruler and a homunculus would get together and just date. Sometimes when the series gets to such scenes, sometimes I just find it cheesy. Because you know, Jeanne’s stance over loving everyone equally as well as Sieg not really being a human so it’s not like he totally understands the concept of love. But then again, most of us humans don’t either. So was the final scene some sort of salvation in this sense? Like I said, it did ruined a little the enjoyment as the series comes to a close. I mean, almost everybody’s dead or gone, might as well reunite the lost lovers.

Shirou certainly looks cool and badass compared to the Shirou in the original Fate timeline. Who could forget that hilarious and dumb people-die-when-they-are-killed line that became such a meme and joke. But the Red Faction which is supposedly the ‘good guys’ look more like a bunch of baddies because of Shirou disabling other Masters who are so sad that they couldn’t even get 10 seconds worth of screen time unless they are unconscious. Like as though Shirou is the dictator and commands the rest of his Red Faction’s Servants. On the other hand, the Yggdmillennia clan is supposed to be the ‘bad guy’ as they stole the Holy Grail decades ago but they look more organized. It isn’t any surprise since they are a military clan. And then they got just desserts when they got the Holy Grail stolen from them. So he waited 60 years for this to save mankind and it is all for naught? Well, it shows that mankind cannot be saved. Sad… Now I know why Jesus never made his second coming.

Commenting on some of the Servants, let me start off with some of them not really displaying their abilities in the class that they are supposed to be summoned in. The obvious offender in this category is Semiramis. She is supposed to be the Assassin class but yet display so much more abilities as a Caster. Then there is also Achilles who is supposed to be Rider but he prefers fighting with his lancer. Doesn’t that make him a Lancer class? Karna doesn’t feel like Lancer class though although he does fight with his ‘lance’ but because as the Hindi Sun God, we often see him using his flames in battle.

Because Arthur was turned into a woman in the Fate series, I expect that some of the Servants would have a gender swap too. Like Frankenstein. Now we have a sexy version of that monster. It is the same case to for Astolfo but something was very off. My guts were tingling that Astolfo might not be a woman. The paladin of Charlemagne sounds so girly and acts like one so there is a high chance this character might be a girl. Heck, there was one time Astolfo was wearing casual clothes and it is for ladies. Even if the character is so flat chested, so much more other anime female characters are also like that. Don’t judge and anime gender by the size of the chest! So Astolfo had to be a woman, right? My guts still tingling. And then that shower scene confirms he isn’t otherwise. I guess all you Astolfo fans who fapped to him thinking he was a she and now this, you must be so disappointed. It could be that Astolfo is just a cross-dresser…

Mordred as the Saber class feels like a delinquent version of the Saber we know in the original Fate series. Because Saber classes are like the main heroes, I always had this thought that Mordred would also be something like this. But she turns out to be a wildcard of the Red Faction instead. I didn’t see it coming that she and Shishigou aren’t the last ones standing. It feels like they are extras and their non-compliance and being solo from Shirou’s groupie makes them feel so. Siegfried who is of Saber class strangely becomes the first Servant to die but so as not to make him a waste, hence he lives inside Sieg and is called out whenever the time needs him to be. Imagine a Saber class who is an all-rounder to go out first. While it is not impossible but it is certainly weird because this is supposed to be the most coveted class by all Mages and being just that just shows the Master’s incompetency. Isn’t that why fatso Gordes got him? I also thought Darnic and Vlad would be the final boss but they only made it halfway. They sounded so important but I guess when Shirou ramps up his badass and goal, he becomes the new antagonist.

As mentioned, Jack feels more like a distraction since she was not part of the Black Faction’s line-up and serves to add some sort of variety and spice to the story. It would be just boring if the Yggdmillennia had all their Servants summoned in nice fashion order. The most ‘useless’ Servant award goes to Shakespeare who just wants to watch and witness the play unfold before his eyes. Sure, he had a role in the final battle but even that he wasn’t really even fighting. But it would be just odd to see a playwright having fighting abilities. Shakespeare kicking ass or slashing with a sword? No way, man. The ‘saddest’ Servant goes to Spartacus because not only he went berserk (living up to his class’ name), I feel he has the shortest amount of screen time compared to other Servants. He came in, got mind controlled to the other side and then died. Like as though they needed some big bang and explosion of this series. Oh, speaking of this…

Talking about the action parts, it still does not disappoint. They are quite good to watch but I tend to notice that in order to make the battles so powerful and epic, there are lots of explosions. Big huge explosions that if your bass and subwoofer audio was set on to maximum, there would be aftershocks and you might even feel the vibration shaking the floor. Mine was set at a decent mid-level and I could already hear and feel its effects. Who knows if it was set to maximum would my house collapse? Would my neighbourhood think it is some earthquake? But yeah, lots of explosions as proof that the clash is so epic. This is what happens when powerful power crash into each other. Literally, crash boom bang.

Next I want to mention about the artwork and animation. Unlike the other Fate series remake, this one is not made by Ufotable but A-1 Pictures (Ao No Exorcist, Sword Art Online, Fairy Tail, Nanatsu No Taziai, Kuroshitsuji and OreImo). Although the artwork is still fine but it is not as grandeur as Ufotable. But I noticed this one has a drop in quality especially during fight scenes that are fast and furious. Like as though they were doing a rushed job and because this fighting scene is rapid and swift, they are counting on viewers not to notice it. And even if they do, they are hoping we will shrug it is off as because everything is so fast that it looks like lines but should be thankful that everything isn’t just simple lines. Well, I think that isn’t a good excuse, assuming that was the reason behind it.

Voice acting feels fine with some recognizable ones like Natsuki Hanae as Sieg, Miyuki Sawashiro as Mordred, Koji Yusa as Karna, Nobuyuki Hiyama as Darnic, Junichi Suwabe as Siegfried and Mai Nakahara as Reika. But the most surprising one to me was Saori Hayami as Atalanta. Never throughout the entire series did I realize it was her! She sounded totally different than how I usually knew her that I was having a hard time believing if it was her. Even trying to hear her dialogues again I wasn’t 100% sure. The other surprising one is Ai Nonaka as Frankenstein. It has been a long time I haven’t heard from her as I thought she has retired. Of course, Frankenstein didn’t have proper lines in the series and had only screams and groans that makes her sound like some retard until her final moments. I once thought Aki Toyosaki was behind Fiore but something was off. She wasn’t. Fiore is voiced by Chinatsu Akasaki (Yasuna in Kill Me Baby) and from my past experience, her voice resembles closely to Aki Toyosaki.

The other casts are Maaya Sakamoto as Jeanne/Leticia (Ciel in Kuroshitsuji), Kouki Uchiyama as Shirou (Ichika in Infinite Stratos), Rumi Okubo as Astolfo (Aguri in Gamers), Kei Shindou as Semiramis (Kuro in Kodomo No Jikan), Shunsuke Takeuchi as Chiron (Yamato in Nanbaka), Makoto Furukawa as Achilles (Banri in Golden Time), Kenji Nomura as Shishigou (Kugayama in Genshiken), Tetsu Inada as Shakespeare (Gamagori in Kill La Kill), Yuusuke Kobayashi as Caules (Subaru in Re: Zero Kara Hajimaru Isekai Seikatsu), Ryotaro Okiayu as Vlad (Byakuya in Bleach), Mitsuru Miyamoto as Avicebron (Steven in Kekkai Sensen), Emiri Katou as Roche (Aura in Overlord), Sakura Tange as Jack (titular character in Cardcaptor Sakura), Toru Ohkawa as Gordes (Roy in Fullmetal Alchemist), Shizuka Ishigami as Celenike (Mito in Shokugeki No Souma) and Satoshi Tsuruoka doubling as Spartacus and Gilles (Caster in Fate/Zero).

The first opening theme, Eiyuu Unmei No Uta by Egoist tries to sound epic and all but I just find it as weird. I don’t know, it sounds like the singer sounds a bit off key while singing. It doesn’t match with the choir voices in the background and in fact it clashes and makes it sound a bit like cacophony. Ash by Lisa as the first ending theme is my favourite among all the themes. The tune and pacing are to my liking and makes it quite fitting as an epic ending theme. Come the second opening theme, Desir by Garnidelia turns into an anime rock and it gets weirder for the second ending theme, Koe by Asca. Its beginning has short bursts of the violin play and the rest of the song feels like it is fitting for a drama filled anime instead.

Overall, this might not be the best Fate series I have ever seen but it is still quite a good watch and a different as well as refreshing if you are tired of the usual characters from Fate (the orphaned Shirou and the Arthur’s Saber, that is). If you are not into the convoluted Fate lore and stories, perhaps the action bits would be enough to satisfy you. When you compare this spin-off to the might original Fate series, considering the awesome Fate/Zero and the Unlimited Blade Works TV reproduction, this of course falls short of all expectations especially to hardcore fans of the series. So maybe that is why this was better left off as an apocryphal version. Dubious, unknown, not canon that would spoil the original fun. If fans were in this timeline of this series, they would have wished for the Holy Grail to save this series instead of mankind. Yeah, I think it’s better to have our people-die-when-they-are-killed Shirou version.

Kakegurui

March 18, 2018

If you think Kaiji was too dangerous in its gambling theme, you haven’t seen Kakegurui yet. Equally as dangerous because it is a high school setting where students are allowed to gamble and winners triumph over losers. Money rules. A gambler’s paradise or a gambler’s hell, depending on which end your fate throws you. So if you can’t stomach any form of risk, don’t even think of earning any quick cash if you can’t afford to bet a strand of hair on the table. Why bet something so small and insignificant when you can bet your entire life! Oh sh*t…

Episode 1
Ryouta Suzui is in a gambling game with Mary Saotome. He lost. He believes the rest of his life is doomed until Yumeko Jabami becomes the new transfer student in his class. As he shows her around Hyakkaou Private Academy, she notices his ‘dog tag’. He explains this school’s gambling tradition in which if you lose and is unable to repay your debts guys will be tagged as dogs and girls as cats. Basically, house pets AKA slaves. Yumeko seems excited to receive an invitation to gamble but wait no more because Mary throws her that invitation. In this version of rock-scissors-paper, classmates will draw one of the three before putting it in a box and each of them will draw 3 cards from that box. They will pick one those cards to play. If no clear winner after 3 cards, the game is a draw. As they place their bets, Yumeko starts small and wins. In the next round, she makes a daring jump to bet highly. She lost. Then she reverts to betting small and wins. Then high again. But this time 10 million in cash! You scared, Mary? Cocky Mary takes on her challenge because she knows the game is rigged. Many of the classmates are on her side. All she needs to know is what kind of cards most of them will draw and pick that one that will guarantee her win. To Mary’s shock, Yumeko suddenly accuses her that her classmates are collaborating with her. Mary thinks it is her way to nullify the match if she is found cheating. On the contrary, Yumeko relishes that the true gambling starts now. Confident that the match is hers, Mary puts forth her winning card… And loses! Not only Yumeko has reclaimed the amount she lost to Mary but now Mary owes her 8.8 million! Mary has no way out left as she pleads for some time to repay her.

Later Suzui asks how Yumeko saw through Mary’s trick. Yumeko knew Mary was manipulating the game but needed to know which card would be voted the most. However it would be hard if there was no one to orchestrate which card to draw. She was observing Mary and she did not give any visual or verbal hints. Then she notices everyone’s eyes not on her but on somebody else. The person who would decide which card to draw. And that person is Suzui who was standing behind her. How does Yumeko know that? A handy hand mirror. But as for how Yumeko drew that winning card, it was really down to her luck. Is it because she enjoys the thrill of the risk? Certainly having too much risk or too high advantage isn’t fun. Suzui plans to drop out of this school because of his debt. He tried to earn money to repay his debt via gambling but fell even further. To his shock, Yumeko pays him the amount needed to clear his debt. This is her way of thanking him for introducing him to this school’s gambling and was able to enjoy a great game. Even if he was Mary’s slave, Yumeko hates game she knows she will win or lose. Today’s experience was the kind of thrill she wanted in gambling and it’s all thanks to him. Suzui can tell from that smile of her she isn’t just a gambling addict but loses herself gambling.

Episode 2
Mary is now a cat. Yesterday she is one of the elites. Today she is a slave and everyone is mocking her. Truly a quick fall from grace. Suzui explains that is the norm in this school as many children of politicians and businessmen are sent here and gambling is a way to pick up negotiation skills so that they can perform under pressure and take advantage of others (?!). The student council monitors all gambling and a hierarchy system is updated frequently. Of the 3000 students, the bottom 100 become house pets. Previously the discrimination wasn’t strong until the current student council president, Kirari Momobami defeated the previous one and now the body consists of the school’s strongest gamblers. This didn’t scare Yumeko and this makes her want to gamble more. Speaking of which, she’ll have her chance with Itsuki Sumeragi, the daughter of Japan’s most famous toy maker. She is also part of the student council although she bought her way in. Never lost a card game? Even better for Yumeko… They’ll be playing this memory game. But using 2 packs of card, the numbers and suit must match, therefore only making only 1 possible pair. Both start off equally well. They have never missed a card that has already been opened. Sumeragi wins in the end and with Yumeko betting 20 million, can she repay it? Yumeko emotionally pleads for another game and this is when Sumeragi starts to get creepy. She shows her nail collections that she has collected from losers. It would have been easier to buy them but it’s much more fun to tear them out! Suzui doesn’t want Yumeko to accept this but if she doesn’t, how else will she repay her debts?

Of course we all know why Sumeragi is so confident is because the cards are rigged. There is a small portion that will reveal a mark at certain temperature. She only has a few seconds to remember all those marked cards before those marks fade. With no proof, she’ll never be caught. Or so she thinks. So when Yumeko mocks her for betting so small compared to the market value of her family’s corporation, Sumeragi starts panicking if she knows this secret. Because it will be bad for her company as this means they have been selling cards for cheating. Too bad Sumeragi will never have a chance because Yumeko pairs it all on her first go! She has noticed the markings and they are the same as the pack before. Had they been different, she would have lost. Thank goodness, right? Sumeragi realizes Yumeko may have memorized the cards during the first game and pretended to be desperate to let her guard down. Yumeko is addicted now to continue gambling. This time they can tear the loser’s fingernails and toenails. Come on, let’s play! Too bad Sumeragi is so afraid that she starts crying and can’t do it. She regrets it but this only further disappoints Yumeko. No fun. Apparently after school, gambling stations pop up everywhere so you can bet Yumeko is going to visit them to gamble more. This leads her to the traditional culture research society. They see Mary in a desperate gamble against the society’s president, Yuriko Nishinotouin who is also on the student council. Mary lost. Further spiralling into debt. Screaming will not erase your debts…

Episode 3
More explanation how house pets have the right to challenge official matches but only once. As long as the wager is reasonable, it cannot be refused. Therefore they usually go after the student council in hopes of erasing their debts quickly but often fail. You bet Yumeko wants to play Nishinotouin. She explains this special roulette game known as Life or Death. 10 swords are thrown in a cup so they will land on a board with 30 numbers and holes. They bet their chips in hopes of the sword would land on the number. However if the sword lands face up, you win 30 times the amount you bet but if the sword is face down, you lose 30 times that amount. They play until all their chips are gone and the loser must pay the difference. Yumeko starts betting small to test waters. Neither lost. Before their next game, Yumeko starts mocking Nishinotouin as a despicable woman. She is referring to Mary’s game in which she was given a glimmer of hope but people like her only drive them to despair. Then she continues to make fun of Nishinotouin’s name because it sounds like a combination of numbers and thought the swords would have landed on them. This angers Nishinotouin but she keeps her cool and proceeds with the game. Before the swords are revealed, Yumeko apologizes for offending her because she just was just saying what’s on her mind to bet all her chips on this number, 24 (a combination pun of Nishinotouin’s name). That’s because she is cheating. Yumeko notices that all the members in the society has some sort of metal piercings on their hand. She believes one of the swords is magnetic and it will take the dexterity of the dealer to control the sword and land it face down in a hole.

Nishinotouin argues that if she was cheating, she would have won all the time. But Yumeko knows the best part of this trick is that she doesn’t need to win all the time. The success rate is low considering the magnetic sword might not fall into a certain hole or there are other swords blocking the hole. All she needs is just a slight advantage. That is why Yumeko provoked her to ‘cheat’ on this game. So if the sword actually lands face up on that number, Nishinotouin could stand to lose almost 3 billion in this single game! Nishinotouin is really panicking. She is in deep trouble because if she loses she will be kicked out of the student council in addition to the debt she cannot repay. She will lose everything she has built up. Thinking of negotiating, suddenly Kirari barges in and wants to watch the rest of this interesting game. So please reveal the swords. It didn’t land on 24 but it did land face down on a number Nishinotouin bet. It is Yumeko’s loss and Nishinotouin’s small miracle win. In the aftermath, Yumeko explains to Suzui about the old trick where Japanese houses usually has spaces below and this is perfect for accomplices to cheat in gambling via a very small hole. Yumeko deduces the sword did land on 24 but Kirari somehow managed to magnetically pull it out from the space above. She is excited and wants to gamble with Kirari. Yumeko is now a house pet as her classmates ridicule her. However Yumeko finds cats cute and starts acting like one! Those mockers freak out and leave since Yumeko wants to gamble them and absolve her debts. No takers?

Episode 4
Suzui pays some money back to her to cover her debts but she declines since the student council has not asked her to repay them. Instead, like him, she has a booklet called Life Programme. Mary also has this so she confronts student council member, Runa Yomozuki about this. Seems her entirely life is planned out. From who she will marry to how many kids she will have. Have a problem with it? Then repay your debts… Yumeko is then called by Jun Kiwatari who wants her to strip. When she declines, he is going to rape her. But then Midari Ikishima of the student council wants in and settle this via gambling. She wants to play Russian roulette. Only 1 bullet in the chambers of 6. She will fire and if it is empty, he gets her way with her or else he dies. When he isn’t interested, she makes it more interesting that he should pull the trigger on her instead. However he refuses and leaves. Ikishima is disappointed since the odds were not stacked against him. So she tries it on herself. And lives! She enjoys this thrill and starts masturbating herself. She will make good on Yumeko’s gratitude. An event is held. Student council secretary, Sayaka Igarashi relays the rules for this Debt Exchange programme. They will be divided into groups in which the group winner will take on the lowest debt in the group. But what if the one with the lowest debt wins? Full exemption of the debts. Mary is wary of Yumeko and hopes not to be grouped with her. Too bad fate screws with her and ends up in her group. In that case, there is no choice but to collude with her.

The game is Indian poker. Players are allowed to see their first card but their second card is placed over the forehead. The strongest is a pair followed by same suits. Different coloured chips are provided for each player because the value of the chips are 1/10 of the player’s debt. Also, the student council who will referee the game will turn a blind eye even if there is cheating unless it is brought to their attention. In Yumeko and Mary’s group are Kiwatari and Nanami Tsubomi. Kiwatari is not a house pet but he does owe a small amount to a friend so he is eligible to participate. He is just playing for some pocket money. The game starts off with Kiwatari being confident. Mary folds but Yumeko goes ahead and loses. Next round, Kiwatari also wins after everyone folds. Next round, Yumeko calls a raise and Kiwatari follows suit. Yumeko wins. Mary realizes that if she wants to win, she needs to move in. Her Life Programme is indeed a cushy life. An ultimate life that every woman dreams of. But she doesn’t want it as she doesn’t want others to tell her what to do with her life. When she calls for a raise, Kiwatari is still confident. A single loss to Yumeko will not deter him. After all, he knows they are working together. Because why so confidently bet high when they cannot determine the other card? Unless. He folds but Mary unveils her cards and has a dud.

Episode 5
For the next few rounds, when Kiwatari calls, they fold and if he folds, they have duds. Yumeko and Mary know Tsubomi is obedient to Kiwatari and by the way she places her cards, it signals to him what suit she has. Yumeko even tells Tsubomi a fool proof trick to use hand signals beneath the table. With Kiwatari panicking and telling Tsubomi how to play her hand, it only lets the duo know what kind of cards he has. On the penultimate round, Kiwatari wins and jumps into first place. On the final round, Kiwatari just needs to fold to win it. However Yumeko and Mary get into an argument to bet more chips. At this rate, they will overtake him. When he tries to force Tsubomi to fold, Yumeko talks to Tsubomi if she is okay being used like this. This is her chance to break free from her house pet status. Unless of course she is scared of rebelling and wants to stay one her entire life. This has Tsubomi remember the traumatic time she became a house pet. Kiwatari cut her long beautiful silky hair and she has been ‘dead’ ever since. All her pent up anger and frustration released, Tsubomi rebels and bets a chip instead. Kiwatari is mad but he wonders why Yumeko would do this unless she is sure she would win. The round ends with Tsubomi winning. The total balance is summed up and winning this game is Mary followed by Tsubomi, Yumeko and lastly Kiwatari. Kiwatari is not happy since he has 5 Yumeko chips and this should be worth almost 60 million each. Yumeko and Mary start laughing at him and it seems the duo swapped their debts. It was stated in the rules that you play with whatever debts you reported. The difference Mary handed a cheque to Suzui. Kiwatari is now resorting to violence but Igarashi tasers him out. Now that Kiwatari has incurred the highest debt in the group, he will become a house pet if he cannot repay it. Although Tsubomi is still a house pet and still has her debts, she is no longer angry and thankful to Yumeko for giving her a chance. Mary retrieves her cheque back from Suzui. He isn’t going to cash it in, right? Yumeko is quite happy with their splendid act and gets all touchy with Mary. She wants to be her friend! Does she have a reason to say no?

Episode 6
Now that Mary has cleared her debts and no longer a house pet, those b*tches are being friendly with her again. Mary talks to Suzui about Yumeko. She actually has more than enough money to clear her debts but yet she chose not to and remained a house pet. She believes Yumeko wants to officially challenge the student council. Igarashi has done some research on Yumeko. It seems she has a very vast fortune. Her parents are deceased and her only living relative is an older sister who is in a hospital for treatment. The kind of treatment that needs enormous amounts of money. Yeah, we see her making paper cranes with money! Thinking that Yumeko’s intention is to gamble with Kirari, Ikishima panics and needs to find her first before Kirari ruins her. Hence she quickly ‘arrests’ Yumeko and Suzui for a gamble. In this ESP game, the players and the dealer will be placed in separate soundproof rooms. Only a surveillance monitor connects the rooms. The dealer will deal the cards face down. The players will do the same. Once done, all will reveal their cards. Whoever has more matching cards with the dealer wins. The difference the winner gain as points. But it seems Igarashi will not wager money. She wants to use guns. The winner gets to pull the trigger for every point they have! Both of them will fill up a gun’s chambers with any amount of bullets they want. Be it none or all 6. They put it inside a chute as they will later randomly pick it up. The first player to get shot loses. Don’t worry about getting killed. The president will usually do something to cover it up. Suzui doesn’t want to play this game and leave so this makes Ikishima mad that he is trying to ruin their fun. Kirari won’t play with her so her only chance left is Yumeko. If he insists, she will shoot him! Of course Yumeko intends to play this game as Suzui is horrified how both perverts are on the same psychotic level.

Meanwhile Mary is summoned by Kirari. It seems she wants her to join the student council since she was able to do a rare feat of clearing her debts. Mary tries to decline but Kirari intimidates her by wondering why she would refuse such an offer. Being on the student council has lots of perks. She allows Mary to defer her answer and likes people like her whom she can’t understand. Yumeko sets her conditions to play. They will play for only 3 rounds, Suzui is the dealer and the loser will lose a billion yen. Ikishima is okay with it since she doesn’t care about money. In that case Ikishima adds a condition that she cannot miss if she has the right to shoot. Suzui panics as all he could see is Yumeko’s death. Besides she did tell him that all they need to do is collaborate and win. Just do a sign. What sign???!!! He believes Yumeko wants Ikishima to think they can win with a signal and hence she won’t be so reckless if she knows if she is going to lose. He does some hand signal. Whatever that means. After Suzui places his cards, the girls load up their gun. Ikishima goes for the maximum 6! The big reveals sees Ikishima matches 3 cards while Yumeko only matches 2 cards. Ikishima quickly pulls out a gun and is going to fire at her but Yumeko warns her not to pull that trigger on that gun.

Episode 7
It seems she loaded it with her lipsticks and it might misfire. Ikishima doesn’t care so Yumeko admits she lied. It isn’t loaded. Before they begin the next round, Yumeko asks why she invited her to play this game. The thrill of life and death. She doesn’t care if she wins or lose. Then she shows her missing left eye. Flashback shows gambling didn’t make her happy. So when she lost to Kirari, the latter notes Ikishima is the kind who would rather pay with their lives. She suggests paying back her debt with her left eye because she is curious to see how the back of it looks like. Oh, she’s too lazy to read up on it too. She will prepare for tomorrow’s surgery but Ikishima quickly stabs her own eye! Now that Kirari has seen it, she lost interest. The thrill of pain has Ikishima wanting to gamble with her again. She’ll bet her other eye. She is then invited to join the student council. At first she wasn’t interested but after Kirari says she will kill her someday, she agreed. Suzui is racking his brains on how to line up his cards and decides to go with Yumeko’s first order. Thanks to that, Yumeko got all correct and Ikishima only 3. Ikishima relishes being shot at. She even orgasms before Yumeko pulls the trigger. However Yumeko knows it is her own gun and all the chambers are empty. Well, because Ikishima loaded hers full, she can tell the difference of the gun’s weight. Before Suzui could start the final round, he notices Ikishima is cheating. He is forced to deal his cards now or she will shoot Yumeko right away. With no time, he just deals them. After that, Yumeko pulls her loaded gun on Ikishima and is disappointed in her. Ikishima likes it and believes she is the kind who gets her kicks exploiting others rather than bearing risks. She matches Yumeko by loading only 2 chambers.

When the cards are revealed, Ikishima gets all wrong. Yumeko then reveals she knows Suzui is right handed and previous footage shows him dealing with his left. Also, one of the card patterns is reversed and this means the video is horizontally mirrored. Only the final round he played with his right. This also means Suzui’s feed also shows the girls in mirrored positions (the cheating Suzui claimed). Hence Yumeko accounted for this and he played his cards like she expected. From the first round, Yumeko can tell Ikishima doesn’t care of her own wellbeing and her conditions for victory is being killed. Yumeko reveals her cards. She got them all wrong too. Yumeko couldn’t have loaded none and got it all correct but by doing so and loading only 2 bullets, if someone won by 5 points, it would certain fire. Ikishima thought it would be impossible to tie if she played all her cards wrong. But if she decided to play 1 or 2 correctly, there was a chance Yumeko might be shot. She views this as an insult to gambling. Gambling is interesting because both parties suffer. Ikishima is only interested in suffering herself. She is not gambling and just wants to die. She hates this kind of people the most. Ikishima is turned on by her craziness and wants to be her slave! Please shoot her! Politely declined. Kirari is still waiting for Mary’s answer so the latter asks about the house pet system. She talks about the strongest of the fittest in her aquarium but if you put all the strongest together, they can only be one who is the strongest. Sometimes the weak steal from the strong too. She is interested to see what happens if it is applied to humans. Mary refuses to join and is not obliged to give an answer. Mary is upset inside that Kirari tried to make a fool out of her. She doesn’t view house pets as humans and only objects below her. Her view of justice is warped. She is going to make her pay for that. Yumeko asks Suzui why he continued to play the same cards despite knowing the trick. He didn’t have time to think and hoped she didn’t realize he didn’t know what to do. He was just praying for the best. His answer makes her feel better.

Episode 8
Yumemi Yumemite is the school’s top idol. She is on course to be the world’s best idol. She has a crazy fan club and it is expensive to be a member. When Kirari decided to take leave from school, Igarashi didn’t hear anything about it and begged her to stay. She told her to f*ck off. It has been a week since and Igarashi is growing worried that without her presence, things may fall apart. Especially the treasurer, Kaede Manyuda who is craving for power. Why is Igarashi so scared of him? Yumemi plans to take care of Yumeko and Manyuda agrees to support her and do the necessary preparations. Sumeragi is trying to be friends with Yumeko. It seems her dad has warned her that it is her job to be part of the student council (too bad she got fired) and make political connections. If she cannot do that, she will get disowned! As Yumeko’s rounds of defeating student council members become more prominent, this has given hope to many house pets who believe she is aiming for the president’s seat. In that case, Sumeragi is planning to support her all the way. Yumeko isn’t interested in the seat but as long as she can gamble that is good enough. Besides, she already considers Sumeragi her friend. Only, if she didn’t have to rub her fingernails… Remember your place…

Yumeko soon receives an invitation to meet Yumemi. She is thoroughly checked by her manager, Saori before entering. Yumemi shows some variety show they will be appearing after her next concert. This show is to help select the next new member. The wager is 50 million and enough to clear Yumeko’s house pet status. But if she fails, she will form an idol unit with her. From the way Yumemi describes the glamorous idol life, Yumeko then shoots her mouth. She hates her fans, right? It seems Yumeko has collected and pasted back ripped fan letters for her. Yumemi admits she hates them but Yumeko wants to know her goal otherwise she cannot find a reason to gamble with her. Yumemi wants an Academy Award. She dreamt of getting one since young but the rate she is progressing, she will never ever get it. So what better way to rise up fast in this school and be an idol. Becoming a world class idol would be easy with this school’s power. This is why she is able to put up with the fans and continue her job. She continues to badmouth them like shaking hands with her with their sweaty palms. Yumeko is amazed of her dream and can carry on despite hating her fans. But it won’t be fun if they do not bet their livelihoods on the game. Yumeko has recorded their conversation and will make it part of their wager. Of course she will not make a copy of it. See you on the day of the concert. But it seems Yumeko didn’t intentionally have those ripped letters and recorder. Somebody sent it to her. Yumemi also believes that only someone with a master key could have got into her room where she shredded her letters. The concert is here and after it, Yumemi introduces Yumeko to start their idol championship.

Episode 9
They will play a series of games in which the winner gets a mark they will put on a tic-tac-toe board. You know how to win this, right? It starts off with singing. Yumemi sings an idol song and scores high. Yumeko sings a boring school anthem and she almost scores perfect?! As the game drags on, we hear Yumemi saying winning and losing is all part of the plan otherwise it will be too easy. But don’t bet that Yumeko doesn’t even know. In a game that has them guess a random fan’s birth month, Yumemi thought she would win this and everything since she knows every damn fans’ birthday. And that lucky random fan called is… Mary! Who the f*ck is she?! Yumemi panics. She watches Yumeko’s writing and can tell what month she is writing. But wait. Could this be a trap to lead her on? In the end, both got wrong but since Yumeko’s is closest, she wins. Too bad, Yumemi. You were just overthinking. Yumeko didn’t lose this on purpose. She really didn’t know Mary’s birthday! As Yumemi has lost, it is time for her to pay up. Suddenly Saori slams the money wager on the table. She is willing to give more so as to have Yumeko keep quiet about the recording. However Yumemi says to play it. If she needs to be an idol, she has to have luck. Losing here means she isn’t meant to be one.

The recording of badmouthing the fans is played. The fans are confused. Yumemi confirms it is her. Just as she resigns to her fate, her fans suddenly declare their love and support for her. They have loved her from the start and even more now that she has come clean with her feelings. Renewed hope for Yumemi. You think everything is nicely over now that the dream girls are singing a duet on stage. Not for Yumeko. The torn letter was also the wager as she reveals somebody anonymously sent it to her. With the fans angry and wanting the culprit to show up, Yumemi thinks that because everything was resolved nicely, this would be meaningless. But this is a matter of their pride so she too calls out for the culprit to own up as she calls out to Manyuda. After all, he is the only one with power who can change this event to fans-only and assured them of winning. Manyuda coolly takes to the stage and brushes off all allegations. He has done nothing of that sort and swears on his position and ambition to take over Kirari’s seat. There is lack of evidence so there is nothing Yumeko can do with her accusations. Well, they are not in court so she doesn’t care. In fact she wants to gamble him. He quickly shoots her down that there is no merit in doing so and reminds her of her position as house pet. Speaking of which, she invokes that special right to play an official match.

Episode 10
Manyuda agrees to gamble her. She is a compulsive gambler and doesn’t care about winning or losing. He’ll just have to factor that in. Igarashi is in a bind. If Yumeko wins, 2 of their student council members would have lost in the same day. If Manyuda wins, he will be a step closer in taking Kirari’s seat. The student council vice president becomes the dealer of this choice poker game as she explains the rules. In this version, one cannot fold or call but only raise a bet. After changing their required cards, they are to bet. The one with the higher bet wins the right to choose if the round is won via strongest order or weakest order. There is no bet limit but must play to their fund limit. This of course puts Yumeko at a disadvantage as she has limited funds. The first round goes as Manyuda calculates the reasons and chances of Yumeko doing so and the cards she most likely have. Yumeko wins the bet and calls for the weaker order. She wins. Manyuda is now confident after witnessing her actions as well as hers from previous student council battles, he knows her character well. In the next round, Yumeko not only throws away her pairs but bets all her chips! Of course Manyuda matches hers and raises by a chip. The results: Yumeko has nothing. Manyuda wins. Sumeragi is f*cked because this means all her dreams and hopes she put on her are dashed. Yumeko then calls out to Sumeragi. Could she borrow some money? I mean, they’re friends, right? Friends should help each other out at times like this.

Sumeragi is definitely in a bind since Manyuda notes that she has joined Yumeko’s side after being kicked out of the student council. He badmouths her as having no skill and no right to walk the path of rulers. Yumeko disagrees because who is he to decide Sumeragi has no value. Only she herself can determine that. In order to obtain something, something else must be sacrificed. So either she choose peace as an incompetent or risk her own destruction to reach the top. Sumeragi thinks hard. Manyuda’s path seems to be the safest and she can get what is needed of her. Yumeko is riskier but she gets everything she wants or lose it all. Flashback shows Sumeragi talking to Itsuki and wanting to join the student council. She thought of putting in more money if that is what is needed but he tells her to give up. Being part of the student council also means shouldering a great responsibility. Graduates of their school make up the backbone of Japan and they all have their eyes on it. If their trust is betrayed, it is the end of them. Does she have what it takes to be part of it? She declares she wants to be the student council president. This gets his attention as they both share the same ambition. He will personally recommend her to join and they will both take the throne together. Sumeragi was happy when she was accepted and that she had a secret partner in crime. She realized too late that he was only using her as a pawn. She was despised. Now she is going to pay him back as she personally places 100 chips for Yumeko. She’ll take the throne herself.

Episode 11
Yumeko changes her pair of queens! Manyuda thinks she is going for the same trick again. So when they start betting and raise each other, of course Manyuda is going to win. But Sumeragi decides to help sponsor Yumeko and uses her funds to help raise for Yumeko. Even so, Manyuda is the treasurer and he has billions in his account. When Sumeragi is at her limit, Yumeko suggests they bet everything. Yumeko can bet her Life Programme and Sumeragi who stands to inherit everything from her father’s empire, can bet her life too! The astronomical amount has Sumeragi shivering in fear. However with Yumeko reminding if this is as far her resolve will go, Sumeragi decides not to run anymore and bites off her nails to show her resolve! She’s betting her life! Manyuda rubbishes all that because they are supposed to bet money and betting one’s life isn’t an accurate collateral. But Yumeko reminds him that whatever school rules, the one holding the power is the dealer. And so she allows it! Manyuda objects but she reveals her mask: Kirari! Look at the shock at his face! Didn’t see this coming. Manyuda is in a pinch as he thinks the combined bet of Yumeko and Sumeragi is at 12 billion. If he loses this, his influence and goal will be over. Flashback sees Manyuda’s dad telling him about money is king and the path he must achieve to get all that. What if he fails? Then he is worth nothing. Manyuda then decides to bet his life. Sumeragi panics. His net worth is definitely way higher than theirs. She thinks of having Mary and Suzui chip in their lives too but Kirari tells her they aren’t even worth millions. Ouch. With Manyuda winning the bet, he chooses the strongest and shows set of 8’s. Sumeragi starts to break down. Manyuda thought he has won it but Yumeko lecturing him about how he lost his path, it turns out Sumeragi was just acting all along. Yumeko shows her cards. 3 pairs too. But jacks rank higher, right? In short, his loss is because he underestimated Sumeragi. Manyuda becomes devastated his life is over that he collapses and his hair turn white!!! Truly his world has come to a crashing halt. But looks like the big showdown is on the cards. Yumeko vs Kirari. Supernova explosion indeed.

Episode 12
Sumeragi puts down all the trick tools and equipment for Yumeko’s gamble. Of course she is not going to use all of that. Where’s the fun without the risk? They go meet Ririka and Runa will oversee their match. First they lay down what to wager. Because they consider this school as utmost important, the loser will forever leave Hyakkaou. Mary protests because there is nothing for the winner. Kirari disagrees because if you think about it, gambling bears no fruits and only leads to loss. Even so, people indulge in so because such risks are entertaining. The game they’ll play will use ta tarot cards. They will pick 3 cards from it. But if it is faced up, it is a positive score based on the card’s number and inverted a negative one. Yumeko will be positive while Kirari the negative. Whoever has the most score on their side win. All except for one card called The Fool. Its value is zero. If upright, Yumeko wins. Otherwise it is Kirari’s win when inverted. The duo will pick a card each and they select Suzui as the third picker. At first he sees this another big role too much to shoulder but thinking back, there is something he wants. Yumeko goes first and only gets a +1. Next is Kirari. First she talks about predetermined fate and then flips her card. A -21! Looks like the pressure is on Suzui. He laments his fate because what are the odds of pulling out The Fool? Yumeko assures him the loss is only hers to bear. However he disagrees. He reminds her he wants to watch her play and be with her more. Thus this is also a risk for him! Is that a confession? Suzui thinks hard which card to pick. He notices that there is a marked card. One that Kirari pulled out when she told them The Fool card was the joker. Could it be Kirari set it up so he would pick it? However he won’t flip that card because it is a huge risk. He will not leave that best part to someone else. Yumeko is so thrilled at his words and climaxes?! He leaves it to fate as he picks a card. +20! A draw! This means neither would have to leave! Wow. Everyone so relieved. Especially Igarashi. She can continue to be with her beloved. Sumeragi and Mary get into opposing arguments why Suzui didn’t pick that card. Had it been The Fool, why didn’t Kirari pick it? Perhaps it wasn’t because when Kirari showed that Fool card, she might have stacked another card behind it. But they’ll never know as Runa takes them away and runs. In the aftermath, Kirari does a shake up to the student council and Yumeko continues to gamble at her pleasure.

God Of Gamblers
Looks like fate has it that both Yumeko and Kirari will continue to stay on and meet again one day. This means another season, right? After all, Yumeko hasn’t fully taken down the entire student council and there might be new additions to the body, right? Yumeko hasn’t exactly gambled everyone and dominate the entire school, right? Oh man. I’m getting too excited that there should be more! Am I getting addicted to this series? Sure, it is good and amazing. Having a dozen episodes isn’t merely enough! Need more! But for now, looks like I have to be contented with this season. What to do? No more money, can’t play.

Even if the gambling games are not as creative as I expected, they are still interesting in its own right. In fact, the more interesting aspects are the psychological mind games the players are engaged in. Like the first rock-scissors-paper with a slight twist and variation isn’t much but an interesting concept and variation if you would like to think of it. Sumeragi’s memory game isn’t anything special or out of the ordinary that the focus isn’t on the game itself. Even the poker match between Yumeko and Manyuda is just a freaking normal poker match. Just with an added variation of either you want the strongest or weakest combination to win. Even if you have not heard of Nishinotouin’s roulette game before, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t lose much. You can learn on the fly and it isn’t not as complicated as it should be. After all, the idea is to gamble and not to make complicated rules for, uhm, pure fun and entertainment?

Hence like I’ve said, what makes this a good series is how they execute the psychological mind games among the players. We delve into their mind to see how they think. Usually, many who challenged Yumeko would mostly underestimate her. Even if they don’t, they still are. The problem is they don’t really know much about her. And it really bites them back when she counters it all like they’ve never seen it coming. It really hits them hard. It is those parts perhaps we love to see, the panic look on their faces when Yumeko turns the tables on them for being too overconfident and cocksure that they have it in the bag. Well, always be prepared and expect the unexpected. For now, the plot doesn’t look like it is going to pull off something suspenseful or a mind blowing twist unless more is revealed about Yumeko or Kirari’s home issues. Let’s hope it doesn’t turn out to be something like Yumeko is Kirari’s long lost sister!!! No way!

Yumeko as the main character is as enigmatic as she is interesting. We don’t know much about her except that she is filthy rich and has this love/habit/addiction for gambling. Gambling is like sex to her. What makes her a frightening character is how sharp and observant she is. And she plays it cool enough that you won’t even think she has noticed it. To rub further insult, she acts like a ditzy dumb fool at times. You know what they say about being clever to hide your cleverness. Sometimes I think Yumeko is like the devil reincarnated. She might seem going around to defeat the evil student council body and mostly does so. Even if she losses, she has other ulterior motives. Her sharp observation may awe you and sometimes dumbfound you. Because like I’ve said, it’s like as though she is the devil reincarnated and can read the minds of her opponent. Like as though she has the series’ script and has read it beforehand! Yumeko is even ‘superior’ than God in the sense that she doesn’t need to pray to Him like most other low level desperate gamblers do when they need luck. Heck, many of the characters here do not need to even do so. They all depend on their luck and skill and only have themselves to blame if they fail. I mean, it is you who is gambling, not God, right?

So think thrice if you think you can beat her in any form of gambling because I’m sure if you really want to cheat, you would have automatically have lost. So to have a chance of winning, you’ll have to leave that chance to gambling. That is, play fair and by the rules. But in this school where the high stakes are everything, you’d think everybody would be such a goody boy and goody girl and play fair? One must think if Yumeko is such a talent to see through her opponents or she must have gone through a lot of hell and practice to attain such skill. I think it is plausible to believe the latter. After all, Yumeko is no angel or God (that’s why I call her the devil) because it might seem she is going around and helping those who are in dire need like Suzui but in actual fact she hasn’t done anything for them and is just happy to just gamble. Nothing more. Nothing less. It is more fun to gamble and beat those with bad intentions rather than those who are struggling just to purely stay out of debt, right? Where’s the fun in taking down those who are cornered?

Not surprisingly when you have a school that allows such rapid gambling, there are certainly many other weird characters too. Especially the student council body. They’re all a bunch of freaks, right? You’ve got the cruel Kirari to the lollipop sucking carefree loli Runa to the extreme masochist Ikishima who should be locked up in a mental asylum to the manipulative Manyuda (still out in coma, poor guy), the all-that-glitters-is-not-what-you-see idol Yumemi and the Japanese ghost clone Nishinotouin. I’ll say that the ‘worst’ one is Igarashi because she looks like Kirari’s lapdog. Always concerned about her, the moment she is seemingly away, she starts to descend into some panicky state. Like as though her head will roll if the student council loses its reputation. Maybe. We don’t know what Kirari is capable of. But to see her in that jumpy shape in contrast to when she first appeared and coolly refereed the Debt Exchange programme, it really feels she just went downhill. With Yumeko going around defeating them one by one, I’m not sure if there is a pattern for those she has defeated because some become her ally after that. I guess those people who have lost to her know better which better ship to jump. I wouldn’t say that Mary and Sumeragi are her allies but they have the same common enemy. The enemy of my enemy is also my friend.

Having said all that, the most normal of all is Suzui. He considers Yumeko his saviour and follows her around as a friend. And hence my theory is that so he plays the role to ramp up the dramatization effect. In a game of high stakes where no normal people would have placed such high bets, they would often go into that shocked and flabbergasted expression. Despite believing in Yumeko, he can’t help fall back to being pessimistic at times. After all, the odds are usually stacked against Yumeko. It is not like Yumeko has a 100% record of winning. Therefore Suzui as a spectator must be having a roller coaster ride of emotions and his heart must be real strong to see Yumeko make bold decisions. But usually the outcome turns out in her favour. He gets more prominence in the final episode because the fate of both heavyweights now fall on his shoulder. For once he wasn’t a wuss or a follower but a man of his own. Did he finally get a taste of the thrill of gambling after following Yumeko long enough? But still a long way off if you think there is going to be Suzui x Yumeko romance. I wonder if being in that kind of relationship is riskier than gambling.

In true human spirit, we see how one can actually fall from grace the moment you are in an undesirable position. Mary’s case is a great case study as you could see she was one of the top elites and had control over almost everyone in her class. Then it took a humiliating loss for her to drop right at the other end of the table. Typically we can see how others turn on her and treated her the same way as she treated them. Tit for tat. Just desserts. Karma. I guess this served as a good lesson for her because now that Mary has experienced herself what it is like to be a slave, looks like her eyes are opened and she is going to do something about the school’s system. She can’t do it alone. Wild cards like Yumeko are always a good start.

The setting of this anime is particularly interesting and disturbing in the sense that when you think how the entire backbone of Japan’s government and large corporations are run by such manipulative people. I guess in this dog eat dog world where survival of the fittest counts, you have to start them young and ‘train’ them to be ruthless and manipulative-cum-calculative people. I mean, if you can’t succeed here, how are you going to succeed in an even more cutthroat environment? Therefore to think that Japan in this world is built on such foundation, it is quite troubling indeed. Like as though all the good people are dead or they only helm low level jobs. Why can I only see Suzui as a normal salaryman? Japan being a ruthless nation built upon such people may be a cruel thought because who would ever think of Japan as so? Wait till you see the other crueller atrocities in other countries…

One thing to note are the dramatization of certain visuals. The characters may look normal in every other normal scenes, but during gambling or other scenes that require some sort of ‘baring of the teeth’ to the opponents, this is where the dramatization goes several notches up. For instance, you’ll start seeing the characters having this very evil appearance and expression. Like as though this is the true colour of their soul. Could be my imagination because when you’re on the losing streak and the other person is dominating, it would seem the other party is like the devil, eh? Like when Yumeko teamed up with Mary or Sumeragi, when they expose that they have been in cohorts, you see them in their devilish lesbian mode. Seductive or eerie? Not too sure if this can be considered as horror because Yumeko looks like some sort of ghost when she goes into her gambling ecstasy and orgasm. Ghosts might even be afraid of seeing her!

The other visuals to note are the eyes. The zoom in on the pupils also ups the dramatization effect because look how real they are. So even if Yumeko has those dead fish eyes, when she is in crazy gambling mode, her eyes change to this surreal. Also, sometimes their eyes glow in red like as though they are Terminator or something. I thought they would just burst out of their seats and start gunning everything down with their machine guns like a robot but that is just me fantasizing too much.

Saori Hayami did a very excellent job in portraying the gambling crazy Yumeko. At times she is in delirium, lost in her gambling addiction. That sometimes make her sound as scary as she is interesting. Long ago I once considered Saori Hayami as Mamiko Noto’s clone. With her voicing Yumeko, it is like as though this is her horror character to Mamiko Noto’s Jigoku Shoujo’s Enma Ai. The other crazy one is Mariya Ise as Ikishima. I don’t really recognize her voice till this day but to think she was the voice of Fairy Tail’s Levi and The Reflection’s Eleanor, I didn’t think she would sound this crazy. Kudos. But this isn’t really her first time being casted as an unconventional character. There was that time she did Medaka Box Abormal’s Unzen and can you consider Stocking from Panty And Stocking With Garterbelt to be one too? Other recognizable casts are Miyuki Sawashiro as Kirari, Tomokazu Sugita in full serious mode as Manyuda and Yuka Iguchi surprisingly as Tsubomi. The others are Tatsuya Tokutake as Suzui, Minami Tanaka as Mary (Minami in Wake Up, Girls!), Yuuki Wakai as Sumeragi (Miton in Mahou Shoujo Nante Mou Ii Desu Kara), Ayaka Fukuhara as Igarashi (Lugh in Trinity Seven), Yuu Serizawa s Yumemi (Tenma in Mushibugyou), Karin Nanami as Nishinotouin (Kojirou in Duel Masters VS) and Mayu Udono as Runa (Elza in Nyanko Days).

Adding to all the craziness is the opening theme, the aptly named Deal With The Devil by Tia. The song catches you with its very playful tune and the way she sings it. It might sound a bit out of place because with all the jazzy music and fanfare like as though this was a song for Broadway in the 30’s or 40’s. Weird but unique. Even more so its animation is like one big weird dream. Fish, fruits, feasts, dancing… Lesbianism? The ending theme, LAYon-theLINE by D-Selections is just okay, heavy on the bass beats. But the animation feels like as though it is going through Yumeko’s mind. We see her walking through the rain and strange flashes of lights while petals flutter all around. Looks like she is enjoying the feel of it all. Is this what she feels when she orgasms from gambling?

Overall, this is quite an interesting anime. On par with Kaiji but better than other gambling themed anime series out there. Looking at you, Rio: Rainbow Gate. If I could even consider that anime to be of the gambling genre. Heck, those are the only gambling themed series I have watched and I have ever known. But those who aren’t into the psychological mind play and drama might find it a turn off because this is where all the ‘action’ is. I believe this show isn’t meant to encourage one to go into gambling. Too bad and my condolences if you are. Yumeko’s character should be a big warning never to go into gambling unless you are willing to risk your entire existence for the sake of this thrill. I would love to bet for this series to have another season but since I am not willing to go so far to stake my life, I guess I’ll just be silently hoping. Praying to God then…

Ousama Game

March 3, 2018

I want to play a game. But not many would dare play the Ouija board because of its supernatural context whether you believe it or not. So we go play a safer game. Something like Truth or Dare. Something like King’s game AKA Ousama Game. Ah, what a harmless game to play, right? All you have to do is obey what the ‘king’ says otherwise the penalty for non-obedience is some little punishment. No harm done. Boring, you say? How about we make death as the penalty non-obedience. You don’t obey, you die! Hahaha! Don’t believe me? Just wait and see till your friends die in a horrific fashion in 3, 2, 1… BLOODY DEATH!!! Now you believe?! Feeling scared now, are we? You can’t quit this game no matter what and there can only be one survivor. Are you ready? Ready or not, first order is here…

Episode 1
Nobuaki Kanazawa is a new transfer student. Natsuko Honda quickly befriends him but he is always sad and distant. When others try to make friends with him, he tells them to leave him alone. Then for the sports festival, Natsuko invites him to run a relay race since she is the fastest anchor. At first he was sceptical but after hearing about Natsuko’s parents’ tragic death, he accepts. They won the race and Nobuaki thinks life will resume to be normal for him. That is, until he gets a text from the King. When he comes to class, everyone also has this message and thinks it is a prank (Nobuaki is to kiss Natsuko). When he tries to tell them the dangers of this game, they find him disgusting and stop being friendly. Nobuaki could only lament this is exactly the same reaction like the last time. Later Aimi Murazumi wants to help Nobuaki to hook up with Natsuko but he dismisses her effort and makes her upset. Nobuaki has resigned to himself that he is going to die and might as well be the first one to do so. But does he have the right to bring down Natsuko with him? It will be soon 24 hours before the punishment is exacted (the task must be carried out by then) when Natsuko surprisingly pops up before him. First she asks if he likes someone. There was a girl. He tries to push her away but she is adamant to see this through. She admits she likes him the first time she saw him and kisses him. Nobuaki feels strange (not because of the kiss) because the punishment hasn’t come. He realizes he screwed up as he thought the text from Aimi was the punishment text. Scrolling past all the texts, he finally sees the text from the King. It seems if anyone sleeps, they will die via hanging. Nobuaki frantically tries to get Natsuko to call all their other classmates while he heads to the nearest home of one of the classmates. Too late, he is already dead. With a few deaths already, all the frightened classmates who are gathered at the park seek answers. Nobuaki reveals he knows all about this because he played it before and is the only survivor. This prompts Aimi to chide him if he knew the risk and didn’t want to kiss Natsuko, it means he wanted her dead, right? Right. Everybody gets mad and some of the guys beat the crap out of him. They even think he is in cohorts with the serial killer whatsoever. Then another text comes in. One of those guys will bleed to death for disobeying the King’s orders. He starts bleeding and his innards explode!!!

Episode 2
Seeing is believing. So does this mean Natsuko will die if she doesn’t have sex with Teruaki Nagata? Time for some flashback of how gruesome the game is. When it first started, everyone thought it was some sexual harassment prank because some guy needed to grope a girl’s boobs. With the girls being disgusted, it was eventually not followed through. The next day, everyone is shocked both of them died via hanging just as mentioned in the text. It leaves everyone in shock and confused. Some in anger especially Shouta Yahiro because his girlfriend, Misaki Nakajima is to have sex with Daisuke Tasaki. In fear of the game, they eventually did it and this has Shouta beat him to a pulp. Because Shouta is currently the King, he orders Daisuke to die via hanging. It leaves him traumatized so Nobuaki talks to him to brush this off. They talk about their dreams as Nobuaki learns Daisuke wants to be a musician instead of following his father as a doctor. Daisuke then brings him to his big rich mansion where they jam and rock till midnight. See, nothing happened. Hooray! Nobuaki then gets a call from his girlfriend, Chiemi Honda worried about Daisuke. No worries. He is alright. Till a text comes in confirming Daisuke’s obedience. He hanged himself. And so Nobuaki tells everyone the need to cooperate if they are to survive this. Natsuko is terrified and doesn’t want to have sex other than the person she loves but terrified Teruaki makes it look like she is going to rape her. Suddenly Natsuko changes. She is through pretending and strips herself. She’s going to do it right here in front of everyone. She swears to survive this game. Oddly, Nobuaki who told her to decide about having sex is stopping her from doing so? No wonder she’s pissed off calling him a hypocrite. Since he is still annoying, she takes him somewhere to talk. She berates his idea of wanting to save everyone when it is human nature to just want to save themselves. She believes he backstabbed his friends to survive. Natsuko then cries rape. Easy. Nobody believes Nobuaki and he gets beaten up again. Because Mizuki Yukimura is the current King, Natsuko wants her to order Nobuaki to die. Don’t worry, it’s not like she is killing him. She’s just sending a text. While everyone is scared at Natsuko’s sudden change in character, nobody is giving a f*ck at Nobuaki pleading for help. Till Kenta Akamatsu calls out looking for him.

Episode 3
Nobody dares mess with Kenta as he seeks an explanation who beat Nobuaki up. Natsuko then wants Mizuki to also send a text to kill Kenta. Mizuki is distraught in what to do when Nobuaki agrees she puts his name but also the other name should be Natsuko. Even more distraught now, she won’t even do it. Kenta will bring Nobuaki for treatment. Mizuki tags along but when Natsuko also wants to, Kenta slaps her! It seems Kenta has got a message from the King too that he must give an order to his class that must be followed. He promises he will send himself an order to protect Mizuki and save her life. To further elaborate how scary this game, Nobuaki continues his past. After Daisuke’s death, everyone is in shock. Another message from the King telling the class to hold a popularity contest between Kana Ueda and Naoya Hashimoto. The least popular one will be punished. Everyone is torn on who to vote because the loser will die. So it becomes an intense fishing for votes as Nobuaki pleads to the class to save his best friend’s life. Because Kana’s friends aren’t too sure about voting her too, she decides to whore herself to get some of the votes. Shouta regrets his actions but can’t help think their actions will be no different. Nobuaki tells him even if they kill someone, they would also save someone. After the votes are counted, Naoya beats Kana by a single vote. She becomes so enraged that she jumps out of the window! Though she survives and is in ICU, her punishment is to confess to the person she likes. Of course she dies before she could do that and shockingly Naoya has to obey an order in her stead. That is, to have sex with somebody. Quickly Nobuaki sets up his best friend and girlfriend to make out. This is so twisted. And time is running out. Naoya would rather die than betray both his friends so Nobuaki knocks him out so that Chiemi could do the necessary. Can a guy maintain erection when he is out? Obedience is complied. Nobuaki confirms himself as the worst man alive as Chiemi has him promise he won’t die before her. Kenta views Nobuaki as a good and the one to blame for all this is the King. He did what he could to save others and has lost a lot of important things in his life. So stop crying and save it for the joyful moments. Nobuaki seems to have dropped his handphone at the park and Natsuko picks it up. Uh oh…

Episode 4
Nobuaki believes there is a village where this game originated. He thinks of going there to find clues on how to stop it. Kenta and Mizuki agree to go with him next morning. They discuss on the King’s identity and Nobuaki knows it is not among the classmates. He thought it was so previously but was wrong. Flashback shows Nami Hirano got an order to do something for herself and she had herself touch the King. This is her plan to smoke out the culprit behind this as an obedience text is sent once it is confirmed. But what if the King is not among them? Don’t worry. Nami believes Nobuaki’s theory is right. So they start with the boys first. None. Then the girls. Ria Iwamura is the most suspicious as she is the most distant classmate. Before Nami touches her, she claims she is the King. But she tells Nobuaki that doing so won’t end the game. The only way is to kill the King. Can he do it? This puts some serious doubts in his head. When Nami touches Ria, nothing happens. The subsequent girls too are cleared. Nami becomes distraught and runs away. Nobuaki chases after her and accompanies her as she wishes till midnight. Nobuaki doesn’t want her to bear all the burden since it is his fault to begin with. When midnight strikes, Nami is punished as she becomes blind. Nobuaki receives a subsequent text that he must lose something important. But he doesn’t tell this to Nami. Oddly for a blind girl, how can Nobuaki lose sight of her?! Yeah, she is at the beach preparing to drown herself. She calls Nobuaki to confirm if she is important to him. Of course. He goes home to wreck everything. I guess material possessions aren’t that important, huh? Then he calls Chiemi and insults her so that she could break up with him. By this time, Nami can’t stand it all anymore. Bye. When Nobuaki reaches the beach, only Nami’s footprints into the sea. So Nami became one with the waves? Sorry, bad pun. Oddly, for a blind girl, how can she write her confession on the sand so perfectly?

Episode 5
Ria mocks the irony of Nami’s death. She wasn’t punished to die but yet killed herself. Nobuaki gets rough on her. She maintains she is the King and Nami didn’t exactly touched her. She made Nami touched her instead. Oh, technicalities? She dares him to kill her. He will. Only when he confirms she is really the King. That’s when she zaps him with a taser. She reveals she isn’t the real King because he would be dead by now. She was just testing his resolve if he was ready to fight the King. Guess not. Why is Ria doing this? To have fun. She is going to beat this game and defeat the King. Nobuaki believes there is another way to beat this game without more deaths. They’ll each do what they think it’s right. Just when Nobuaki has lost all hope, Yousuke Ueda calls him and has found a clue to this game. It seems all the dead victims receive an additional text but with just a character. This gives Nobuaki some hope as he asks about Ria. Yousuke isn’t too sure about her except that she was once a cheerful girl until she got raped by her dad. Shortly, a text from the King comes in. Don’t do anything unnecessary. Right after that a few people will die for disobedience. One of them is Shouta. Nobuaki tries calling him. He is suffocating to death and his last word is something about blocking. This has Nobuaki think you can’t block or cancel your subscription. So as he calls others to warn about this, instantly they get a punishment notice! They didn’t do anything and they’ll die?! Nobuaki realizes what unnecessary means is that you can’t cry! Damn, people are going to drop like flies. Amazingly Nobuaki who is always looking like he is going to cry from all the trauma manages to hold back his tears. He gets a call from Yousuke getting a major clue. He has found news clips where this game originated, Yonaki Village. He wants him to head there but Nobuaki has given up. But Yousuke can’t do it too. His time is up. Yup, he cried. He hopes Nobuaki will take care of his girlfriend, Kaori Maruoka. Yousuke manages to send important data to him before his body gets torn apart. Later, Nobuaki gets knocked out by someone. He wakes up in a storeroom and is confronted by Kaori who is mad as his lies. She tried to call Yousuke but he didn’t pick up. So when Nobuaki called her and assured everything was alright (technically at that point he wasn’t lying), she believes he is the King. Nobuaki argues how much Yousuke is doing to help this game and his feelings for her, blah, blah, blah. She frees him but soon collapses. Which girl wouldn’t get emotional after hearing words from her boyfriend even though it is from a third party?

Episode 6
Naoya is worried about Nobuaki when he gets a call from Toshiyuki Abe and Keita Yamashita about the next King’s order. It seems there are 10 of them left and one of them must roll the die. The number correspondences to how many of them will die. The name via the roller’s choice. Oh, the roller will also have to die. If nobody rolls or gets named, everyone dies. Ria then calls for everyone to meet. At this point, one of them is unable to come because she is in hospital after attempting to kill herself. It becomes a heated discussion between Toshiyuki and Chia Kawano because they hate each other and hope the other will be called. Toshiyuki then tries to convince Toshiyuki Fujioka to roll the die and save him because everyone will name him first. Nobuaki stops him in time and since this disappoints the bully and reveals his true colours, he takes Chiemi hostage. Everyone do as he says or he’ll kill her. He shows how crazy he is and stabs her thigh. He wants either Nobuaki or Naoya to give the order. Nobuaki is willing to do it but Naoya usurps him and rolls. Well, all be damned. A 6 is rolled. The maximum number! Naoya accidentally names Keita and his head decapitated! With pressure from Toshiyuki the bully, he names the other girls (including the one in the hospital). Toshiyuki then punches the bully and tells Naoya to name both of them. After that, Naoya’s limbs start to rip itself off! Cue for emotional farewell. Ria then moves to take down the King before midnight. As she was also researching the game, she was able to get closer by adding Yousuke’s data. Yonaki Village was the first that recorded mass deaths. A group of scientists deduced some sort of virus is responsible for this. Something about the effects of hypnosis and how powerful suggestions could cause reactions and deaths. Since it wasn’t eliminated, the virus went on the spread itself over the internet. Wait a minute. An organism virus became a digital virus? WTF?! Ria couldn’t complete the words left by the deceased so she created an anti-virus programme to eradicate it. Yeah, genius hacker makes it look so easy. Then it is too good to be true because a message comes in saying Ria has violated the game and will be burnt to death! OMG! She’s on fire! Human torch, literally. But why is she still working normally and not in pain? Ah, ‘credit’ goes to her father’s daily torture. But of course she can no longer go on as she tells Nobuaki and Chiemi (the only survivors left) that this game gave her a purpose and it made her not want to die. However it is not that she wants to keep living. She just wanted to win this game. She leaves it to the duo to defeat the King. Duh. Who else is there left? Bye.

Episode 7
Nobuaki and co finally reach Yonaki Village. With Mizuki’s looming order, Kenta wonders who should be the ones named. Without hesitating, Nobuaki says Natsuko and Haruka Momoki. The latter because there was an order for her boobs to be touched but that person is already dead so she is as good as dead too. Kenta disagrees because to him all life is precious. In this abandoned village, there is a house formerly occupied by the Honda family. Nobuaki goes in to investigate and sees a picture of Chiemi and her father. Could it be her dad was a participant in this game? More baffling, father left an apology letter to her. Then there is another picture of a younger father carrying 2 babies. He thinks father killed himself for dragging Chiemi into the game. Nobuaki sees behind the picture the names of Chiemi and Natsuko. It makes him wonder if Natsuko is a survivor of the game. When Mizuki goes missing, Kenta goes to find her. A text from the King is received that 7 people are now dead due to disobedience. Just like that. When Mizuki is found, she wants to name Natsuko and herself. Therefore this is goodbye and wants Kenta to tell her she is pretty. It makes him awkward and it makes her sad. But in the heat of things, he hugs and kisses her. Then it gets twisted. Mizuki wants them to die together and make their love eternal! Kenta remains level headed that it is over once you’re dead. There is only love when you’re alive. Not happy, she tries to run away but Kenta knocks her out. Kenta then uses her handphone to type in the names but uses her finger to send. Technically that counts as her sending, right? When Nobuaki finds them, he is disheartened to learn Kenta will die. Because of the promise he made to protect Mizuki, if she dies, he dies. Looks like Kenta and Mizuki will also die for disobeying orders. Kenta struggles as he tries to reach Mizuki who has just woke up. They both reach out to each other but drop dead. Sad Nobuaki lines up their dead body together, commending Kenta as an amazing guy for putting his life on the line to protect others. He gave him hope. Nobuaki gets a call from himself. It is actually b*tch Natsuko on the line and she is mocking if Kenta and Mizuki are still alive.

Episode 8
Natsuko claims she has been waiting for the text that says Mizuki is dead. The moment she got it, she quickly f*cked Teruaki as per her King’s order. Wow. It must be a real quickie then. So when her obedience confirmed text was sent, it was to confuse everyone especially Kenta who misunderstood it. So poor boy tried desperately to save her but all in vain. At least they died together. She is going to target Nobuaki next. Teruaki needs to warn the others about Natsuko’s insanity but gets his handphone confiscated and a threatening warning. This b*tch is crazy! Nobuaki reads a journal of a participant of the game in Yonaki Village. It states that the single letters sent to handphones after a person dies is some sort of mutation that not even the King predicted. It is the key to end this game. Huh? He gets a call from Riona Matsumoto to meet. Because she has some information, she thinks she can be bossy over him? Anyway, she was researching the game too and found and article of something similar in another school. Natsuko came from this school. She also stumbled across Ria’s name. She has Nobuaki explain who she is as well as the letters sent to the dead. Riona breathes some good news because it looks like all the letters from the previous games are the same. Their meeting is cut short when Natsuko is here to gather all of them at the park for the next King’s game. A game to kill him. Nobuaki confirms with her that she was a previous participant and that she killed everyone including those precious to her to stay alive. He mentions Chiemi’s name as well as his relationship to her. The sisters could have been separated since young. Natsuko is shocked although she brushes off his dumb talk thinking he thought he could get away just because she is related to his late girlfriend. With 11 survivors left, this game involves breaking any number of your own fingers. Right fingers are +1 while left fingers are -1. You can assign those points to others too. At the end, those with negative points will die! Of course there is an option to pass and nobody has to lose. Going in accordance to the seat numbers, after half of them have passed, it is Teruaki’s turn. But first he talks to Nobuaki and cuts his hair?! Why does it feel like a bad omen when he starts talking about his hair stylist dreams? After Nobuaki’s hair is trimmed and nice, Teruaki breaks a right finger! He has colluded with everyone to get back their handphones and of course Natsuko. He takes a rock to smash all his left fingers!

Episode 9
Unless Natsuko gives back their handphone, he will send all the negative points to her. But even after she does so, Teruaki sends 4 negative points to her, 1 negative point to Aimi and 1 positive point to Nobuaki. This means she and the rest after her have to break their fingers for her if she wants to be saved. Natsuko isn’t willing to break her own fingers and passes. The rest all pass and Aimi is the last one. Natsuko is begging desperately for her to break her own fingers to save her. Aimi looks hesitant so Natsuko breaks it for her! Why isn’t anybody stopping her?! Apparently this was pre-planned. Aimi told Teruaki to give a negative point to her to see if Natsuko would save her. And looks like she didn’t. Natsuko explains in her own twisted fashion how everyone is so pushed to the brink that their mental states are weakened and can’t think straight. Then there’s some flashback how Natsuko became friends with meek Aimi and ‘saved’ her. Aimi is then ‘convinced’ so she dedicates her broken fingers to Natsuko. I mean, at this rate she’ll die and their goal is to avoid anyone dying, right? Having said that, Natsuko breaks Aimi’s thumb so that she could send it to herself and avoid death. Nobuaki asks Aimi’s meaning of friendship. Bond. Yeah, that’s one twisted bond she has. After getting their hands patched up, all of them converge again. Many would like Nobuaki to be the leader and lead them out of this but Natsuko disagrees as only such will get in their way. She wants to challenge Nobuaki before the next order. But Nobuaki laments she hasn’t changed. She snaps back about his half assed ideals when everyone well knows there can only be 1 survivor. So why did she let Aimi live then? To pay back the favour. She needs her for her survival. Looks like Aimi is so trance by her she agrees. Best friends forever, I guess. When midnight strikes, it sees a message comes in that Teruaki will die for disobeying orders. Because he forgot to lock his handphone, Natsuko blocked the King, which is like quitting the game. Teruaki’s neck starts bleeding. A few emotional talk with Nobuaki before his head finally falls off! Natsuko’s theory is that Teruaki might be thinking of dying since his hair stylist dream is as good as dead. The one who can’t take Teruaki’s death is Ryou Sugisawa who still pretends he is alive. Nobuaki notices everyone is breaking down and can’t tell from wrong or right. Their attachment to life is going numb.

Episode 10
The next order is to run to Nuegakubi by foot without the help of any transport. Every 8 hours, the furthest away will be punished. As usual, Natsuko dashes off first. Nobuaki notices Aimi staying behind. So she wants to get killed? He persuades her to tell her piece of mind to Natsuko. It got her running. Meanwhile at the other running pack, while running up the pedestrian bridge, Takuya Sakamoto purposely pushes Masatoshi Ooi down. With him unconscious, Takuya breaks alliance with the rest and goes on his own. The rest are in a dilemma to save Masatoshi but are forced to leave him behind. Nobuaki and Aimi catches up with Riona but since she is still tired and needs to rest, they go ahead and catch up with the group. Nobuaki leaves Aimi with them and after learning what happened to Masatoshi, wait, he’s not going back to save him? But he goes back to get Riona? Luckily Masatoshi somewhat catches up albeit still injured. Nobuaki hears his inner demon (in the form of Natsuko?) telling him to leave the duo behind. He is reminded by Masatoshi he is always caring about others and it makes him hypocritical. No use wasting energy arguing. Just get running. As dawn breaks, Riona is too tired and Masatoshi’s bruises are getting to him. They rest by the cliff but Masatoshi loses consciousness and falls into the sea. Against Riona’s wish, Nobuaki dives in to save him. I don’t think underwater CPR is going to work. Eventually Masatoshi drowns himself. Nobuaki’s morale is at the lowest but the ghost of Kenta, Mizuki and Teruaki force him to not give up. He makes his way to shore where Riona hugs him to transfer her body warmth and also to cry about how worried she was for being left alone. As they make a final dash to Nuegakubi, looks like time is up. Who is the furthest? Is that why Nobuaki pretended his shoelace was untied so that Riona could be ahead of him?

Episode 11
The one who is furthest away from Nuegakubi: Masatoshi. Phew? Riona slaps Nobuaki for pulling that stunt. So, thanks? As they keep running, looks like the next selection is up. Nobuaki suggests doing rock-scissors-paper to decide. Riona at first was against it but choice do they have? She loses. But Nobuaki will run behind her? Apparently he won so he gets to choose. WTF?! She kicks him in his balls! Worse than death! Not sure why she is talking about his next girlfriend who must be better than her? Anyway Nobuaki runs backwards. For a guy to be kicked in the nut like that, he can sure run. However it is Aimi who got punished. It seems she has started running backwards after realizing she needs to repay her thanks to Nobuaki for all the encouragement. Bye. As Nobuaki and Riona race to the goal, he tells her the ending of the previous game. One of them has to kill the other. Nobuaki can’t do it so Chiemi kills herself instead. Guess what reward did the winner have? A choice to either continue the game or get punished! Holy cow! You can’t just win this thing. Natsuko has reached the summit first but she isn’t going to sit there idly. First she changes the sign on the forked path and lures Takuya into a trap she made. Then she breaks his legs and leaves him to die! Next to arrive is Rina Minami. Natsuko tells her to take this route but she doesn’t believe her and goes the opposite. Thing is, Natsuko was telling the truth! Nobuaki and Riona has caught up with Ryou and Aya Matsuoka and try to play catch up. Lost Rina stumbles into Takuya who is pleading for help but she ignores him and lets him die. This is what it feels like when he abandoned Masatoshi, right? Eat your own medicine! Rina then stumbles into lost Yuuna Kobayashi. The latter slips down a cliff and is barely hanging in there. She pleads for Rina’s help. At first she does but decides to change her mind. She’s not going down with her. Bye. When Rina reaches the summit, Natsuko plays psychology with her that she killed many to reach here. Because Natsuko killed her entire class the last time, can Rina do that? Now Rina sees hallucinations of her zombie pals trying to get her. She carelessly runs away and falls off a cliff. Time is almost up as Nobuaki’s side nears the top. But standing before them is Natsuko.

Episode 12
Nobuaki rams Natsuko like a bull! Everyone arrives at the top safely. It seems those who are punished are those Natsuko left for dead. Ryou suddenly knocks out Nobuaki with a rock! It seems the next order is here. They are to cut off each other’s limbs and torso to make a human doll! Basically a group effort but also looks like everybody is still going to die. Ryou has lost it. In his desire to be strong, he is going ahead with this order. Natsuko throws him a chainsaw (where the f*ck did she get it?) and Ryou uses it to cut off his leg!!! Natsuko helps out. Too bad Ryou dies after that. Aya tries to strangle Natsuko but apparently she got sliced in the gut. I’m sure Natsuko would have gone for Nobuaki had he not woke up. He learns what is going on and then all of a sudden, why Natsuko is like being friendly with them? In the sense that Riona and Nobuaki show her the single text messages they have received from the dead. Natsuko also shows them the texts she has collected. She noticed this pattern from the last game. So they pool their texts together and it reads something like the game will not end if one of them survives! Holy cow. So either all of them dies to save humanity or else one of them will be enough as the carrier to spread this virus to others and the game will go on forever. Natsuko is back to her mad b*tch mode. She claims Nobuaki will sacrifice himself to save mankind but she will not. She will do what it takes to survive. She strangles him while explaining how she has been playing the villain all the while because you too would lose your sanity if you see your friends and loved ones die before you. So the reason she ‘hates’ him is because he gave false hope to others by trying to play the saviour? Well, she does have a point there but still.

Perhaps she was so into strangling him that she didn’t hear Riona take the chainsaw and gut her back. Dead. Finally. So we have Nobuaki and Riona having their final cheesy romance because they are so deep into it that before Riona could confess to him, Natsuko got back up and took the chainsaw to slice his throat! I CAN’T BELIEVE NOBODY HEARD THAT UNTIL THE FINAL MOMENTS!!! It’s just ridiculous. Yeah, you deserve to die. Oh, what’s this, Natsuko? Better kill the one you love than have them being killed by others? She won’t let Riona kill him? Oh, so it’s about a boy in the end, eh? Oh Riona, screaming and ordering him not to die won’t make him live. And that’s the end of it. Nobuaki wakes up in what it seems to be heaven. He sees all his dead friends there happily waiting for him. Yeah, now they can go to paradise together. Even Natsuko is there. Heh. Even b*tches like her can go to heaven. Poor lonely Riona. All alone. She drags Nobuaki to the beach where they lie down there ‘romantically’. It’s hard to make out with a corpse. No amount of begging could bring him back to life. So I guess in the end, she takes his body with him and drowns together. Oh sh*t!!! I guess that’s for the best. Hooray! Mankind is saved! Not quite… Because somewhere in Japan, some kid receives the first message from the King that they are about to play this game. Oh sh*t…

Survivor: Outwit, Outlast, Outplay & Out You Go
WTF???!!! TO BE CONTINUES!!! OH NO!!! I DON’T WANT THIS GAME TO CONTINUE!!!! LET IT END, FOR GOD’S SAKES!!! Oh dear. This series that started out interestingly soon became such a mess. My only respite is that finally everybody playing the game is dead. The current one and those in Nobuaki and Natsuko’s previous class. Even if it had just suddenly end there with Riona killing herself, I wouldn’t complain. Even if that final episode felt a bit cheesy and rushed (especially the final killings but the chainsaw that didn’t make sense because do you know how much strength you need to exert just to hold up one?). I wouldn’t mind. Because all the annoying people are dead. But they had to put a teaser of another potential game in the works. Holy sh*t. This better not get another sequel. I hope that’s just that. Or I fear that I might have been infected by this virus and compelled to watch it.

It is very unfortunate that despite the interesting premise, the overall flow and pacing of the story is largely very disappointing. I knew something was wrong and it started to get boring once Nobuaki started his flashback story of the previous game. Sure, we got one King’s game instead of just one. But the problem is in the pacing and how the story is being told. I believe the producers want to put more focus on the drama and the story rather than on the deaths. That is why you tend to notice how the dramatized drama is so dragged out that it becomes annoying that you wish for everyone to just die and end it. Also, sometimes you get a few or none who die and at other times they just kill off a bunch of them just to save time. It makes it feel like as though those characters are not important enough so let’s make them die in a big group death. Yeah, suddenly one big chunk of students just died like that. And we don’t even know, remember or care about their names. The counter at the end of how many has died and how many is left is mostly useless. Because it’s not like we care about everyone suddenly dying at one go, right? It’s like a dramatic effect tool so that some of us may go, “Oh no. There is only xx number of them left. How many are going to survive?!”. Well, if you had known what happened in the last episode. Sorry to disappoint you hopefuls…

One of the biggest gripe and confusing thing about this series is how the King’s game works. Not so much of who or where the orders come from or what they must do but rather how one gets punished. You see, in the initial stages of the game, some orders or so ambiguous that it feels as though they want to do some mass killings to kill off a big group to save time. So if you’re the kind who understands things slowly, just too bad for you. Out you go. The most mind boggling one is Kenta and Mizuki’s death. I thought all those punished would die a horrific death. But how come they get to die so peacefully?! I don’t understand. I think they are the only ones who get to die with their whole body intact, notwithstanding some sort of injury to their bodies whatsoever.

The other big problem is the King’s game itself. You mean a virus is causing all of this to happen? If you say biological virus, then I would be more inclined to believe even though the plausibility is still low. But a digital virus? Come on. This is just crap. Is this some sort of hint to say that if you are addicted to your handphone 24/7, you can get infected by such viruses? Possibly. With everyone being such a zombie these days. It is as though they are trying to warn and scare us not to be addicted to our Smartphones. I think this series tried to emulate that hypnosis thingy from Danganronpa 3 when the people kill themselves. But then again, if an AI can do this to humans, is this another warning of how technology will grow smarter than us and make killer robots to wipe us out? Oh, who needs Terminator or Skynet when you can just annihilate mankind this way while enjoying and watching us like hapless rats fighting for survival. We are at the whim and mercy of artificial intelligence, so to speak. In the end, the King is just one big sadist because its true goal is not to have anyone survive in the end. The one who survives the longest is the biggest loser since he/she have to witness all the killings and deaths. If this game was created by an alien, this would be the most effective way to wipe out humans since naturally humans are just selfish creatures. It’s just going to take some time… But it’ll be fun watching them at that.

The other thing that doesn’t make sense is how the students are playing this game like as though they are the only humans in the country or world to play this game. I mean, what happened to the adults? Their parents where?! Do they not care about their kids and just let them do as they wish? Especially that final arc where some had to run all the way to Nuegakubi. Oh, where is my son or daughter? Not around? Okay. No problem. WTF. Sure those survivors would have told their parents and the parents of the dead would have done something. If this King’s game origination is a digital virus, where are the world’s famous hackers to stop this game?! I believe getting help from outside parties is not stated as one of the general rules (unless it is pertaining to playing the game) so why don’t they seek help from others? Oh Nobuaki, you keep thinking you can save everybody but you never thought of asking help from others to help save them. You trying to be the tragic hero?

At first I didn’t want to watch this series because I saw the horror tag in it. You know me. I’m still a chicken and horror averse person so I would prefer to stay away from horror anime titles (unless it is Jigoku Shoujo because of a certain seiyuu…) but changed my mind after thinking that this could be more of a survival type. Well, certainly nobody is technically wrong. However the horror stuffs are merely reduced to when the limbs suddenly get cut off or contorted till they rip apart and the head suddenly gets decapitated. That’s about all. Although it is scary but not that scary enough because of the poor animation quality. Yup. Sometimes I though they looked a bit funny… Plus, most of those decapitated parts are censored out by those ‘black hole’ censors so there isn’t much to see.

The next big problem comes from the characters themselves. I thought I wanted to call this series the Crying Shame Game. Because that is what many of the characters will do when somebody dies. The biggest offender is Nobuaki. He is the biggest cry-baby ever. Thanks to the series trying to ramp up the drama and the feels, you get many of such weird scenes of Nobuaki shedding his tears and screaming in agony he has failed to save another life. Again. Damn this guy is going to turn into some traumatic psychopath if he lives through this. I know there is only so much a person can take when he sees his friends die before his eyes again and again so frequently but it feels like routine. Somebody going to die. Nobuaki desperately tries to save them. Tears. Crying. Oops. Too late. Dying. Tears. Crying. Last words? Okay. Now die. Scream. Tears. Crying. There’s some anger in between too. There. The cycle of the melancholy of Nobuaki Kanazawa. So much so it gets so annoying that I started looking at this as a running joke.

The more interesting character is Natsuko. She is also the ultimate b*tch character whom you will love to hate. She is the physical antagonist of this series because we don’t really know nor can we see the mastermind behind the King’s game. Natsuko’s self-preservation and selfishness is a very good food for thought of what humans like her would do just to stay alive. I am not sure if I myself would resort to that kind of sneaky ways just to stay alive at the expense of others. Will I turn to my dark side and instincts for survival or will I stay a pussy and pay the price with my life? Not sure. Only in such a true test that my true self will reveal. I hope it will never come. Hence Natsuko is able to survive this long because of how she manipulates and steps over everyone else who is in this case either too dumb, weak or gullible. Too bad karma took a vacation and just desserts were sold out for Natsuko’s case until it is too late. The final episode did hint that she was just playing the villain in order to keep her sanity. Yeah, she played it for too damn long and at this point nobody would have thought of her as that. So it all boils down to one cheesy romance affair because she loves him, Riona loves him and now they can all be joined together in the afterlife. Wow. What a ‘happy ending’! What a cheesy romance, including the one with Kenta and Mizuki. Sheesh. Till death do them part, eh?

I don’t even understand why the connection was made between Chiemi and Natsuko. I mean, it could have been done without. It serves no more than a distraction and it becomes a red herring towards the end of the series. So what fi Chiemi and Natsuko are sisters and they come from the same village? You might think Natsuko is playing this game then to get her revenge on Nobuaki but then again it doesn’t make sense because she too didn’t know about her sister as they were separated. So this connection is one of those WTF things that would leave you scratching your head wondering why they put it in here in the first place.

As for the other characters, like I have said, they don’t really matter. Those who died so early in the game don’t even matter anymore and they’re just there for the body count. I guess for these early deaths, it is a blessing because they don’t have to put up with all the emotional torture. And for those side characters who somewhat do, it is usually a death flag and indication that their time is probably up so they do something final before they go. And more crying from Nobuaki. Sheesh… When they die, you don’t care for them anymore. Amazingly in the final stretch of the game, it was Natsuko trying to kill off everybody. Heck, she should have done that right after her true colours were revealed. Just go to the shop and buy a machine gun and gun them all down! Oh, can you get guns in Japan freely especially for an underage? Or just get a sword and cut everyone down! Natsuko is one who can do it. Perhaps it will be too risky if there are too many as in the beginning as everyone will team up and bring her down. Better to do it when the size is smaller and they are all separated. Plus at the end stage of the game, everyone is losing their sanity because of how close it gets to the theme of there can only be one. So you bet everyone is getting selfish and jittery.

I don’t want to go into too deep in the voice acting department because of all the dramatization of the characters screaming, crying and being angry. I suppose that is expected when you play a game of life and death. The list is a long one seeing in a class you have like over 30 people and since we also have Nobuaki’s previous class, that’s double the amount. But I’ll just note Mamoru Miyano as Nobuaki. It has been a while since I heard this guy (though in smaller cameo roles, this my first as him in a leading role) but his boyish voice makes it suitable and at the same time for Nobuaki whenever he starts wailing. Is it me or now I’m starting to think that his natural voice sounds like as though he is going to cry. The other one to note is Yui Horie as Natsuko. After a year’s hiatus and returning with a few small cameo roles in the previous season, looks like she is back helming a main character. She still hasn’t lost her touch and is versatile going from a sweet girl to a devilish crazy woman.

I have a dilemma wondering if the hard rock opening and ending themes sound suitable for this survival horror series. Feed The Fire by Coldrain and Lost Paradise by Pile may give you that adrenaline rush with their hard rock style of rocking but it would have been fitting had the series been of the action type. People being killed off via decapitation or amputation and the over-dramatization of the series don’t make it sound like it should have some hard rock music. I don’t know. Maybe it’s like the trauma of seeing these people die in such a manner that you might resort to take drugs and start hallucinating to fight off the horrific trauma. And what better way to complement all that with such hard rock music. Just kidding. But what if everyone as we have seen playing this game and getting killed is because they are all high on drugs?! No way!!!

Overall, this is a very disappointing series that fails in so many aspects that it is bad enough that it is good. And funny. At least I felt that way. The characters and the pacing of the story messed things up. After a while you won’t even want to care for the characters and even root for the King to just kill everyone off. Thank you very much even if the King didn’t actually directly kill everyone. Because everyone is just so annoying and weepy that a whole load of Kleenex won’t be enough to wipe away those tears. And you thought a tear jerking movie was bad enough with the tissues. Or porn for guys ;p. If you want to watch survival series, it is best to go for Danganronpa and even the old school Gantz. Compared to this mediocrity, even Mirai Nikki, Umineko No Naku Koro Ni and Btooom look better. If there was a King’s game among all such survivor series, this one would be end up in runners up or third place. Because there is nothing more frustrating than slogging all the way only to go out and lose one step before ultimate victory. Better to go out early if you’re not going to win, right? Ironically, a fate worse than death itself.

Princess Principal

December 10, 2017

Long ago, Germany was divided into two and separating them was a famously known wall because of a different ideology. Though that is very much gone, we still have the Korea peninsular divided not by a wall but by a DMZ that still stands today. Imagine if another country was also split into this fashion because of different ideologies. Imagine that country is the United Kingdom. One of the biggest colonial masters and rulers split in their homeland. Or at least in the fictitious steampunk world of Princess Principal, a country that resembles very much like Britain. Hence a perfect setting for spies from both sides undergoing stealth and backstabbing operations and missions to outwit, outplay and outdo each other. Sorry, no James Bond here. So you’ll have to put up with a small group of cute kawaii spy girls that kick ass.

Episode 1
As narrated, the Kingdom of Albion became a powerful air force since it monopolized Cavorite. However a revolution split the Kingdom with the London Wall separating the Kingdom from the Commonwealth. 10 years later, both sides are engaged in a secret war of spies. Just as we see Eric Anderson is trying to defect to the Commonwealth. He is being hunted down by the authorities but a group of young spy girls kickass to help him escape. They bring him back to their base and he is shocked to see it as a school. It is only right since they are all students. He meets their leader and is surprised Princess is a spy. Eric talks to Ange about lies and such. Because the truth won’t be interesting. He has a request if there is someone he could bring over the Wall with him. So the girls are wondering whether to take the extra risk to bring Amy over as well. Dorothy disagrees with it but since Ange is willing to gather more information and Princess feels it is a pity the siblings are separated, I guess they’ll do what they can since they have time left. So Ange disguises as a nurse to infiltrate the hospital where Amy is residing to determine whether or not she wants to defect. But Amy throws a tantrum and believes they are just trying to use her brother’s name to trick her into something. Ange sees her eyes and other deformed body parts due to Cavorite poisoning. Ange returns to Eric to ask if he is defecting to get money for Amy’s operation. 10 years’ worth of salary and of course he can’t afford. Then a mysterious man popped up and told him he would give him money if he defected to the Commonwealth with his research. All too convenient. He wonders if Amy wouldn’t have to suffer if he wasn’t a scientist. For Ange, spies aren’t the champion of justice. He starts to feel guilty when he hears Ange’s story of watching her family being murdered and then being taken in by the Intelligence Agency.

That night, Eric is surprised the plan has been changed and they are going to bring him over the Wall now. What about his sister? Don’t worry about it. So when the team splits up and Eric realizes they’re not going to save Amy, was he being tricked? Ange points out he also lied to them. They know he tried to send data to his employer with this pigeon and they caught it. The one whom he wanted help for Amy’s treatment was the Duke of Normandy. This defection was all an act to lure them out. Ange can tell from the first time she met Eric, the contents in his bag then and the feet of Amy is that of a ballet dancer. He wasn’t going to take Amy to defect. Meanwhile Dorothy and Chise are already ambushing the hideout of Public Security Minister Kimble who is the one behind this plan. They arrest him since their boss has some questions to ask. Ange takes Eric to an isolated place. She tells him to sign an insurance contract for those who are to be killed as part of their organization’s policy. Since he cannot defect or go back to his lab and the fact Amy will never be cured, he signs it. He asks if everything she has said to him was a lie. Yeah. It all was. So now is she going to kill him? No. Bang! Pumped a few bullets into him. Eric’s body is found a week later in the river. They make it so as not to be discovered immediately because the insurance company won’t pay up then. (It’s for Amy’s operation).

Episode 2
In this flashback episode, we see Ange being introduced as a new student at Mayfair Queen’s Academy. Because she is a bit clumsy, others find her cute and funny. Of course that was all an act so people would underestimate her. Also masquerading as a spy in this school is Dorothy and they are both on a mission to capture Princess. They observe her and note she doesn’t make unnecessary moves to be friendly with others. Hence she is always only with Beatrice, a lowly ranked noble. Ange suggests a ball and that is where they’ll launch a surprise attack. Control approves it and in no time the ladies are in beautiful dresses. As they attempt to approach Princess, suddenly Control changes their mission. To prevent a world war, they need to dispose some blueprints in the hands of Foreign Affairs Committee Morgan before he delivers them to the West. He holds a key to a vault and is scheduled to hand it over to Normandy in 30 minutes. So the duo have to change their plans. Dorothy thought of using the direct approach of seducing him but he has tight bodyguards all over. Ange has this great idea of killing 2 birds with a stone. She laces a drink with something before going up to Princess and request to be friends. When Princess agrees, Ange pretends to spill the drink all over her dress. Ange promises to get rid of it so Princess waits while she does so. Dorothy understands her plan now. Ange put some washable dye in the drink. Now she dresses up in that dress to pretend to be Princess. Wow. She looks exactly. Now incognito, she seeks Morgan to dance with her. She analyses the way he talks and acts and can tell his health condition. She whispers she can help his wife defect if he goes home with the key. But with Normandy’s men around, he cannot move. Give it to her and she will deliver it and his wife to him later. At first he is sceptical but she asks why he trusts Normandy. Given the same circumstances, would he better not trust a goddess?

After Ange returns the dress to Princess and they all head back to the ball, Princess wants Ange to stop pretending. She knows she is a spy. Her uncle is Normandy and directs all spies in the kingdom. Ange drops the act and asks her demands. Princess is the fourth in line to the throne and wants to become the queen. She is willing to sell out her own country for that. As the spies do not have authority, she wants them to ask their superiors. Or else she will expose them. Morgan tries to make excuse that he is unwell and wants to go home. Normandy just arrives and sees this. He quietly shoots him. He alerts the guards of an assassination and orders the entire to be cordoned off for a body check. Normandy can tell Morgan doesn’t have the key. He didn’t kill him and leaves him alive enough for interrogation. As everyone in the hall lines up, Dorothy tells Ange to throw away to keep and she can save herself. Fight another day. But Ange wants Princess to take the key knowing she will be exempted. In exchange, she will drag that yes answer from her superiors. Time is running short as Ange sends her coded messages back to Control. They too are scrambling for the best solution. Ange is confident as she assures Princess the church bell will chime as her superiors’ yes answer. Normandy meets Princess’ friends and as he is about to have them examined, everyone is confused to hear the church bell chimes. Princess leaves with the key. In the aftermath, Ange and Princess meet. Ange tells her Control was frantically trying to search a traitor within the organization and couldn’t figure out Princess knew them as spies. Oh, but Princess pointed out when she took her dress, she left a note. Another twist is that, Ange and Princess knew each other and it has been 10 years since they have seen each other. Princess welcomes Charlotte home.

Episode 3
Now that they are together, Ange wants Princess to run away with her. However Princess reminds her she still wants to become queen. Ange doesn’t like that and tells Morgan was killed on his way to hospital for the higher ups fear he would speak. This doesn’t deter Princess so Ange agrees to do it. She will lie to everybody, the world, Princess and eventually herself. Since the girls need a reason for them to be together, Dorothy introduces their ‘clubroom’. Now they need to figure out a club for what. Then they get straight down to business with their next mission. The orders are to board HMS Gloucester and steal back the stolen plates as Normandy plans to mass produce pound notes in the colonies to create financial instability. This is where Princess comes in. She needs to board it for an opening for them to stow away. You have been noticing that Beatrice had been opposing this and that. Princess no this, Princess no that. So much so her voice gives way. Actually she has a mechanical voice! Her sad story is that her father likes to tinker with machines to a point he experimented on his own daughter. You can say she became a bully victim. The only person to talk to her was Princess. That is why she is so protective of her only friend. As Princess visits the airship, Dorothy gets to work to allow Ange to be stowed away. Even at this point Beatrice is being a brat trying to stop Ange. Can an amateur like her do it? Well, I don’t know why Ange didn’t put her to sleep or anything and let her bark away with her childish threats like Ange is only here to replace Princess. Even almost putting them in jeopardy. Still b*tching about it, Ange warns her that if Beatrice gets caught, they might link Princess as a spy. Shut up and cooperate, that’s what she’s trying to say.

In the communication room, Ange hooks up all the switchboards and amazingly in the cacophony of voices, she can pick out which ones are talking about the plates. Because of that, she can determine where they are being held. It is at the other end of the airship. Well, take the route less travelled. Outside. As Ange uses the Cavorite power to help her march through, the lightning knocks her off. The bridge spots an unusual intruder and sounds the alarm. The guards start shooting but Ange gets back on her feet. The Cavorite power enables her to run fast with agility and protect her from those bullets. So you can’t say they’re such bad shots. Once she is in the correct room, she fights off all the guards and confronts one of Normandy’s men who has the plates. By the time Beatrice decides to stop being a coward or risk being caught if she stays behind, she drops in and sees everyone dead and Ange injured. Ange wants her to take the plates and parachute alone. Once she reaches ground, contact Dorothy. Beatrice is pissed off with this spy job thingy that puts their lives on the line. Ange shuts her up if she dies, she’ll die a spy. But if Beatrice gets caught, Princess will be suspected. Always b*tching about Princess and protecting her so put aside your pride and help do a greater good for her. When the guards threaten to blow the door open, Beatrice imitates a voice to assure them. When one of them doesn’t believe and asks a secret question, Beatrice is lost. However Ange has her follow what she says and that guard immediately believes and leaves. Ange knew because she heard his voice as one of the many from the switchboard! So they both parachute down and land safely. Just in time before the Cavorite device breaks. In the aftermath, Ange and Beatrice are like ‘friends’ as they ‘lie’ to each other. Is this how spies get along?

Episode 4
Dorothy sees her superior, L. The Cavorite scientists from the Kingdom has created a miniaturized Cavorite control unit. This could be detrimental to the Commonwealth and change history. Their mission is to steal its prototype. Dorothy thought a better team instead of an inexperienced one like them should be use. But L says they have Princess. Use her position to infiltrate the ceremony at the Cavorite mine. The rest are practising a stealth game and what better way than to do it in public. Eventually they try to think up of a name for their team when Dorothy returns. Then they head to the mines and with Princess having that royal authority, they get through easily. As the queen who is also Princess’ grandma is there, she has to go seek an audience with her. Ange leaves Chise with her as she is the most capable fighter. The rest then begin their infiltration as they seduce and sneak their way past through the guards. Chise’s master, Lord Horikawa speaks to her to ask if she has been suspected. He reminds that they are here to find out whether they can trust the Kingdom or Commonwealth. Normandy reminds the queen they need to talk about Princess’ marriage. She would prefer to wait after she graduates but Normandy believes the sooner they bind their countries through marriage, it will crush possibilities of a world war as well as strengthening their relationship with Moscow to stabilize all of Europe. Princess returns to Dorothy who remembers what L told only her. She was warned Princess might be a double agent and if so, action will be taken. They have not abandoned the possibility that she is their enemy.

When Ange finally hacks into the research facility, there is nothing. Did somebody leak info? She then remembers one of the guards talk about moving. So they moved the entire lab? Using the Cavorite power, it leads her to a secret pathway as she sees the lab being shipped to a dock. She quickly returns to the rest as they make haste to catch it before it leaves on a ship. Hold on to your horses because despite how bulky this car looks, it runs fast, handles corners pretty well and zips through alleys! Beatrice is screaming her head off but the good news is that you can turn off her voice! Meanwhile the Cavorite scientists are baffled about this sudden movement. Several agents have discovered spy equipment and are going to thoroughly check a mole among them. Ange and Dorothy will infiltrate the ship. Chise protests as she is made to guard Princess again despite she is a better fighter than Dorothy. Ange can’t put her in danger as she came to us under the grace of Horikawa. Now Princess decides to come too. Can’t because it’s too dangerous? Princess says she has always been in danger. If any of them fails, her secret is busted. So she has to put her life on the line to succeed. Dorothy believes if she is a double agent, she would not have risk her life. So she can’t be the mole. So everybody boards the ship and kicks ass to save their fellow spy from being busted as well as retrieve the prototype. In the aftermath, Dorothy reports to L that their mission was overwhelming successful since they also apprehended the scientists. She though Princess would be cleared of suspicions but L doesn’t think so yet. She is still grey. Keep watching her. Finally, the girls decide to call their team as Team White Pigeon. Pigeon because Noah send out a bird as a scout. That’s like a spy, right? Dorothy is okay with it since it isn’t grey.

Episode 5
Princess greets Horikawa and his entourage arriving from Japan. They are here to revise some treaty but have to beware of a fearsome rebel named Jubei Todo rumoured to show up and assassinate him. The westerners are stumped with the easterners’ culture of prostrating themselves to thank others. On board a train to London, Ange spots Chise riding on top and mistakes her for Jubei. They both fight and Chise shows her skills by deflecting her bullets with her sword! Eventually they are stopped when the Japanese side identify her as not the enemy. Horikawa can’t send Chise back alone so he will have her accompany him. A more so reason since she knows a lot more about Jubei. Ange protests since she doesn’t trust her so Princess has Ange be friends with her. If Chise is a threat, wouldn’t it make sense to put the person she trusts to watch her? So the duo awkwardly get to know each other. Ange is stumped about her country’s mystic and supernatural ways. Chise reveals her obsession in chasing down Jubei is because he killed his father. It is revealed that Normandy despite not having interest in the eastern nation, hired Jubei to get Princess involved in an assassination plot since nobody can be sure someone won’t move her up the rank in line to be queen. Dorothy catches a spy among the royal guards. But her attempts to stop him were too late as he blows up and separates the front carriage from the rest. Then another train pulls up parallel with them. It is Jubei and his rebels. They hook both trains together and if one slows down, it will derail. Oh, the tracks will soon merge ahead.

Ange and Chise cooperate to fight and take down the rebels. Jubei makes his move as he boards the train to assassinate Horikawa. Beatrice tries to protect princess but gets her throat slashed. Thankfully we all know something mechanical is in its place. As Chise has a fine swordplay showdown with Jubei, Ange and Princess try to stop the train. When they manage to do so, Chise defeats and kills Jubei. Jubei pats her head and notes she has gotten stronger. In the aftermath, Chise is praying to Jubei’s tombstone. Ange can tell Jubei is Chise’s father. But Chise disagrees. Her father was the one who taught her the sword and is dead. This man resting here is nothing more than a traitorous assassin. She doesn’t need sympathy. She is proud she has surpassed her father. With her vengeance done, she cannot stop crying. Back at the clubroom, it seems Chise has joined them as their new transfer student. Their respective superiors have struck a deal to help each other and Dorothy has introduced Horikawa to Control. When Chise is about to prostrate herself to thank Ange for making it possible for her to fight Jubei, Ange won’t let her and teaches her their western culture on how to thank people: A handshake.

Episode 6
Dorothy teaches Beatrice to pick a lock. Because Ange is too fast. Because Chise just cuts it. Bad teachers… Dorothy meets 7 who is part of Control. She has a mission for her to retrieve a cipher from a corpse at a morgue. Thing is, they don’t know the name or looks of that person. So is she expected to search every body? Don’t worry. There is an accomplice working there whom she knows. He is Danny MacBean. Her father. Dorothy and Beatrice start working at the morgue. Dorothy instantly recognizes her father. He has not changed. Loudmouth and a scum. Danny is glad to see his daughter (whom he addresses as Daisy) but the feeling isn’t mutual. Dorothy notices a group of debt collectors led by Franky harassing Danny for his debts. He keeps assuring he will pay them but needs more time. So when they see his beautiful daughter, this prompts Dorothy how she doesn’t want to end up like daddy the loser. The tears are real. He starts throwing a tantrum and abusing the furniture. Beatrice tries to stop him but he gets rough with her and messes with her voice box. Dorothy pushes him away and Danny feels bad. Now he starts crying about being lonely and all. I can see why Dorothy dislikes him. Dorothy tells Beatrice about her past. After dad lost his right hand in an accident, he changed. He blamed and envied everyone and everything. Dorothy became his object of constant abuse. Mom couldn’t take it and abandoned them. (By the way, mom’s name is Dorothy). After every beating, he would apologize. But there is only so much she could take so she ran away. The same day the revolution happened and she was glad it did since she didn’t have to see him again. The only thing she is grateful for is that dad never abandoned her like mom did.

Dorothy carries Danny home. This rotting place still brings back old memories. When he sobers up, he tells her they’ll get rich soon. They need to find a corpse with a cross on his palm in which there is a hidden note in his tooth. If she finds that body, tell him. Later the debt collectors come by to harass him again. This time offering him a chance to sell his daughter and all debts will be cleared. Beatrice finds that body so Dorothy extracts the tooth for the cipher. She plans to make a copy instead of taking it so as not to make Normandy suspect anything. Also, she wants to help dad. When Dorothy hands it to him, he is so happy and praises his daughter. He takes it and makes his way. Not before telling her to meet him at the pub. They’ll be celebrating. Danny meets Normandy’s secretary, Gazelle and wants to see the cash before he gives it. Dorothy and Beatrice make their way to the pub. It seems the debt collectors are there. They think Danny threw in Dorothy’s best friend as well. Dorothy is seething with anger realizing Danny has sold them out so she beats the crap out of them when they make a move on Beatrice. When the wimps had enough, they reveal they thought Danny agreed to give his daughter to repay the debts since she popped up alone. However back then, Danny kept pleading not to take his daughter. Despite all the beating, he kept repeating that. Meanwhile Danny is ranting about his bright future with his daughter. We’ve seen this coming from a mile. Gazelle kills him. So while Dorothy and Beatrice wait at the pub, feeling really grateful to Danny despite being a worthless father, little do they know Danny’s body is now in the morgue… :’(.

Episode 7
The girls are on a mission working incognito in a laundry mill. Ange is acting out of character as angsty delinquent. There is a serial killer going around killing those who supports the Commonwealth. Going by the nickname Poison Gas Jack, they discover the nerve gas he uses is banned under the convention and thus such chemicals could only be obtained from the military. It could be the culprit is from there. Also, before the convention, there was gas produced and lying unused in military storehouses inside the Wall. There are military barracks there and a good chance the culprit lives there. However disguising as soldiers would be dangerous as being female makes them stand out. It is suggested the laundry mill since all men’s uniform are sent there for washing. So as they get to work, Princess will pour certain chemicals on the uniform to sniff out the culprit. However the machines often break down and malfunction so the laundry mill head, Marilla has the girls take breaks. This puts a damper in trying to catch the killer fast. So when Chise refuses to take a break even being forced, one of the girls, Rita almost gets burnt by a short-circuited wire. Chise realizes the scars on their arms as Marilla explains they have to take breaks because they can’t work these machines hard or there’ll be injuries. This means time out and no money. Franky comes in to see the foreman. Looks like he owes some debts and if he can’t pay up, the place will shut down. And you know what it means for these women’s livelihood, right? Princess then waltzes in and says she will buy this laundry mill. They think she is joking but when they try to get rough with her, Ange beats them up with her angsty teen attitude. Later the girls discuss about Princess’s actions. She doesn’t have enough to cover the entire mill but just needs to hold out long enough till they find the culprit. Also, she intends to make this mill into a profit one.

The first step is to rearrange the haphazardly placed machineries and service them so they work efficiently. Yeah, even Chise has some ideas. Now we have ‘Japanese technology’! So when the rest come in to work the next day, they are surprised at the changes. Heck, so efficient that they actually finish their job! Dorothy then suggests they can make more money by getting from other sources. They go source from the men at the coal mines. I’m sure they can’t resist the pretty ladies. Oh, they’re stripping right now! Before we drift too far into this happy washing business, we see the culprit does live in the barracks. The reason he is not caught yet is because he does his own laundry. But one day his comrades took the liberty to send it in on his behalf. Oh no… Soon enough, chemical stains are discovered on his uniform. Princess seizes this evidence. At this time the culprit tries to sneak in but is caught by Chise. They both fight and Chise knocks him out before he could blow the entire place up. Marilla sees this and is in shock. Chise and the girls have not appeared for work for a few days. Then Princess calls for a meeting. She tells them she is resigning as foreman. They are shocked but Marilla reminds them they have seen many come and go and believes they have their reasons. Princess hands over the foreman position to Marilla. At first she isn’t confident but with other girls volunteering for it, Marilla decides to take it because if they’re in charge, they’re going to introduce more breaks and increase the wage. Yeah… With that, our spy girls can be assured that the laundry mill ladies are strong enough to stand on their own.

Episode 8
Lord O’Reilly has been meeting someone in secret in a certain location. The girls are tasked to find out who that person is and a stakeout is more suitable because if they tail, the other person would most likely be a spy and they will be discovered. Princess wants to help do the stakeout but Ange disagrees. Princess argues she is tired of all the formalities she needs to do and once in a while needs to take a step outside. Ange relents. Everyone takes turns staking out. Princess spies from a rented building across, Ange masquerades as a painter while Chise hangs upside down like a bat from a tree? Ange notices a girl, Julie trying to pickpocket but always fails. So she teaches her how to ‘survive’ by telling her to attack from the front instead from behind. Julie is successful and becomes friends with Ange. She often hangs out as long as the stakeout is still in operation. Julie loves hearing Ange’s stories especially those from Black Lizard Planet. Today she will be telling a story about a princess and a pickpocket. Once upon a time, there lived a princess who was fed up living behind the walls and wanted to go outside. Accidentally she stumbled upon a pickpocket who resembled closely to her. They become good friends having fun together, learning together and pulling pranks together on the palace staffs. One day the princess really wanted to go outside the walls and switched places. But to her horror saw how gloomy, filthy and poor everything is. Instantly she is attacked by a man who claims to be her employer, she is beaten up for being lazy and if she doesn’t work, no dinner tonight.

When O’Reilly finally meets the secretive person, the girls cannot ascertain her identity because of her veil. As she is leaving, Julie tries to accidentally bump into her to pick her pocket but she swiftly takes it back. During that accident, her veil lifted slightly and Ange was able to identify her as Gazelle. Then she goes to ‘eliminate the evidence’. Julie is going to be beaten up by her master for failing at her job. That’s where Ange comes in to beat the crap out of him. Though grateful, Julie fears he will be back for revenge. Ange gives her a recommendation letter to a certain orphanage. Seek help there. Why is she doing this for her? Because Julie did what Ange told her to go after that veiled woman despite her failure. Julie wants to know what happened to the pickpocket girl in the story. A revolution broke out that day so the princess rushed back and was reunited with the pickpocket. The princess asserts she will become queen to change this country. A cannon blast separates them. The guards find the pickpocket girl thinking she is the princess and that she must be too scared to admit her own identity. It would have looked like a happy ending for the pickpocket girl but she heard how bloodthirsty the adults were. What if the royal family found out about the switch? Her head will roll. Thus she slogged extremely hard under intense pressure to learn what a princess should do. And she exceled in them all today. From one who couldn’t read is now fluent in 9 languages. From one who didn’t know music to one who is the Kingdom’s leading pianist. Princess meets O’Reilly and hints of the woman he is seeing. She tells him she works for Normandy and her plans of defection are lies. He wonders if he should turn himself in. Not really. Princess could do him a favour of getting him across the Wall. Later Princess and Ange talk. Princess still believes she is empty despite her princess-like skills surpassing Ange’s a long time ago. Ange reminds her that she wanted to run away together when they recently reunited. Now it was her who wanted to change the country just like Ange once wished to. She is a real princess now. Princess is happy to hear it as it means a lot to her.

Episode 9
Chise writes a letter to her sister in Japan on the everyday life of a student-cum-spy in the western world. You bet there is going to be a lot of cultural confusion. Like Chise loves her ‘smelly’ Japanese food but finds the western ones to taste ‘horrible’. She also mistook fencing as some easy western sword fighting and the poor teacher got hit on the head when he tries to stop her. As Princess has always a bodyguard following her, toilets are the only place for secret meetings. Like Lily Gaveston who is the daughter of the Kingdom’s chief justice. She isn’t trained as a spy but you can tell she is a snobby b*tch. On missions, Chise is usually left out as she is often left on standby. She feels she wants to contribute more. One day while admiring a butterfly emerging from its cocoon in the nearby forest, a group of boys led by Cameron kicks it away since Chise was ‘in their path’. She becomes upset and challenges a duel. However the boys are not interested as she keeps insisting. Ange and co arrive to see the commotion as they tell her to back down with Ange whispering to her to choose he battles wisely because spies are not supposed to make themselves stand out. Later Princess visits Chise not with the intention to reprimand her but to tell her how to actually do a proper duel. Wow. In the name of fairness there are sure a lot of steps. This means Princess wasn’t opposed to the duel.

Soon a duel is called between Chise and Cameron. The way the boys mock her tells Chise they still have much to learn about Japan. Yeah, that’s China they’re referring to, right? They will stand some distance apart and take turns to shoot each other till one is injured. After all 6 shots, bygones will be bygones. Lily is made to be the fair witness. Of course the gun that Chise was given is old and rigged but that can’t be proven, right? So Chise uses a slingshot for the bullet instead and injures gravely Cameron’s arm. The boys don’t want to give up at first but after seeing Chise’s determined looks and how she can aim the next shot to be between his eyes, Cameron is forced to admit defeat and apologize. Chise makes her periodical reports to Horikawa. He needs her opinion on this operation since the Kingdom is pressuring him to sign the treaty quick and he would like to use any information available to help determine it. Later Chise is called for a ‘meeting’. To her surprise, the girls are putting up some lame sumo entrance ritual as celebration. Cultural appropriation? Yeah, looks like this is how much they know about Japan too. However they want to thank her particularly because of her who ‘stood out’ as an oriental, their mission went smoothly. During the duel, Dorothy and Beatrice managed to search Lily’s room and found she has a hidden direct telephone line that reports back to the Home Secretary. Of course they tinkered with it. They hear one of Lily’s comments describing the weird oriental Chise is but to Chise, all you westerners are weird! Straight up Japanese honesty. Chise gives her opinion to Horikawa about the operation. She doesn’t know if it is possible but she wants them to be victorious.

Episode 10
Deep in the woods a training facility known as the Farm was used to intensively train young girls to become spies. If they weren’t up to it, the next morning they are gone and hence no time for goodbyes. Control briefs Dorothy and Ange about their next mission whom they will meet up with an ex-classmate from the Farm on Christmas. With Beatrice, they drive to the estate of the First Lord of Admiralty where Eleanor works as the secretary to retrieve some top secret documents. They sneak in to meet up with Eleanor and she is as strict as ever from those days. It seems the trio are the only girls left from that class. As they work together perfectly to sneak past guards and obtain access, the final obstacle is in a cellar but guarded by dogs. Don’t worry. Beatrice uses her voice with high frequency to order them to lie low. The documents are retrieved and they celebrate their success with a drink. Eleanor excuses herself to the washroom. It seems she is shaking from some syndrome and needs to inject herself with a serum. She returns to the rest but only Dorothy is there. It is past the kids’ bedtime so time for the adults to drink more. They talk about that Christmas exam in which Eleanor thought they had failed for good. Dorothy brought her to the funfair but thanks to Ange doing all the work during that time while they had fun, they passed. Eleanor asks if Dorothy has someone she looks up to. Not really. Eleanor has. Somebody whom she wants to be like badly. Meanwhile Ange tells Beatrice their real mission is to determine if Eleanor is a double spy. She is not told anything as her acting of the knowledge might give them away. So they are in her room searching for evidence. Since they find none, they leave.

When Eleanor returns to her room, she checks for footprints underneath the carpet trap. She knows she is on to her and packs her bags and leaves. Dorothy and co are waiting outside. Noting that she is on the move, it is true then she is a double agent. Ange purposely left those footprints so as to make her act. Their plan now is to surround and apprehend her before she gets to the train station. However Ange tells her to surrender as Eleanor realizes she fell into their trap. She still has a trick up her sleeve. Her luggage shoots bullets that ricochet off the steam pipes. The steam gives her the perfect cover to run away. Eleanor notes Ange has changed. She now has a heart because the old Ange would have just shot her from the back. Dorothy chastises Ange for jumping the gun. Does she think she can beat Eleanor herself? Is she trying to proof she is the better spy than her? Dorothy manages to get onto the train and secure a room. However Dorothy manages to catch up and jumps aboard. With Ange on sniping position outside, who is handling the car? Oh, Beatrice crashed it. Dorothy ‘congratulates’ Eleanor for ‘beating’ Ange but Eleanor reveals Ange was not the one whom she looked up to. It was you, Dorothy. She never cared about grades. She just wanted to be a good student not to disappoint anyone. Then she got tired of it all, took a break, got careless and they got to her. She claims that funfair time was her first and it was so fun she still dreams about it. Dorothy wants to bring her back to introduce her to her team but that’s not going to happen. Eleanor slowly reaches into her pocket and pulls out a gun. However she points it at her own head. This is her Christmas present. Goodbye Dorothy. She pulls the trigger. On the way back, Dorothy realizes Ange jumping the gun was trying to make sure she didn’t have to shoot Dorothy. She replies it was only to increase their mission’s success. When they return to Control, L has been transferred and General now takes over as the new head. He is impressed with their previous mission that he wants them starting on the next one: Assassinate Princess.

Episode 11
Dorothy opines Princess is their ally and have yet to see any intent of betrayal. However General puts it that they don’t want to take risks and didn’t ask for her opinion. Ange agrees to do it. Later Dorothy and Ange clash over their opinions. Dorothy doesn’t want to kill Princess but Ange views them as spies and are to follow orders. Dorothy calls her a liar. Later when Ange tries to sneak in to meet Princess, the security is heavy. This sharp girl, Zelda spots her. She is Princess’ new bodyguard sent by Control. She also tells her that with the reshuffling, she is now in charge of this operation. Ange is worried because what does this mean of Dorothy? Well, she is no longer around. Ange realizes it is very hard to get close to Princess since there are many bodyguards from both sides, Normandy and the Commonwealth. She even tests by slipping in a blank paper and Zelda could even seize that and check it out. It is too risky to contact her. Later Ange secretly meets with 7 to ask what happened to L. A shakeup in the top is all she can say. Follow your orders if you want to stay alive. Soon, Chise is transferred out but rather she is recalled by Horikawa. Zelda tells Ange they will assassinate Princess tomorrow and Ange would like the honours to do it. Meanwhile Normandy is with an audience with the queen when Gazelle seeks his attention. She received info that part of the army has gathered at London and many are from overseas colonies. He tells her to call back the Home Office forces stationed in Rouen. As for the queen, he will decide to tell her or not.

Princess and Ange go out together in what it seems like a normal outing. But Ange can tell there are spies everywhere watching their move. Zelda is also watching and this is all to test Ange’s loyalty. Oh, there the pair goes running away. The spies start chasing them as they hide in a shop. After that they switch identities and run in different directions to give multiple targets to confuse them. Finally a smoke bomb obscures the area as both the girls meet up and manage to give their pursuers the slip. Ange takes Princess to an airship headed for Casablanca. There will be a house there for them. Princess at this point is perplexed Ange has been acting strange so she reveals she has been targeted for assassination. However Princess can’t run away. She has things she still needs to do for this country. Ange tries to persuade her but ultimately she blows her top that if she wanted to run away, she should just leave her out of this. Her life is not hers to play. If the operation means one of them has to disappear, then Ange can disappear without her. This is goodbye. Chise returns to Horikawa to learn rumours of a faction in the royal army unhappy with the Kingdom. It seems Princess is the centre of it all. Princess returns to Zelda and the other spies. Or is it Ange in disguise? She claims to have killed her. Zelda then introduces her to Major Yngwie and the rest of his men. They lament the state of the country and are prepared to assassinate the queen to make Princess the next ruler. They’re going to war.

Episode 12
The plan for this revolution is to let the cathedral ceiling fall on the queen! It sounds funny but no joke, they’re doing it! Of course Princess doesn’t want this revolution but Zelda points out it will most likely fail. Even so, Control seems to be backing this despite it knows it is going to fail. Zelda warns her not to try anything funny or she’ll kill her herself. She will turn this revolution into a revenge war. Meanwhile Ange is really on a flight to Casablanca thinking of the old times. But she can’t sit like this forever. Hence she starts a fire in the room so that others could let her out! It seems Princess knew she would do this and left a parachute in her name in the parachute area! First she needs to find out where Princess is. As luck would have it, she overhears a guy talking about the queen’s assassination. Nothing like a bit of rough tactics would get him to talk. The plan is to assassinate the queen and put Princess in the centre of it. She would have actually killed him had not Dorothy intervened. That guy was actually having a conversation with Beatrice on the other end and Ange ‘interrupted’. Dorothy reveals their true mission as they are to figure out Zelda’s plot. Hence Control was playing musical chairs with the military and they got stuck in the middle. Ange feels disappointed when Dorothy mentions rescuing her friend wasn’t part of her mission. But she was just trolling her. That’s what you get for always lying and not by yourself, right? So they ride all the way to the cathedral. Princess tries to get Yngwie to give her hold the key that activates the ceiling. Zelda knows what she is doing and breaks them up. So when Zelda tries to keep the key herself, Yngwie finds it missing. Zelda warns Princess but the latter tries to make a run for it (smashing the key on the window as a mark for you know who). Zelda tackles Princess and gets the key back.

Ange tries to disguise as Princess at the gates. But the guards are suspicious as they heard Princess had already gone through. What’s next? Just barge through! A weird chase ensues because the train carrying the soldiers can pull right up next to the car but none of the soldiers can shoot straight at them at this close distance! WTF?! I know they’re moving but they are this close in the narrow tunnel! Anyway the car turns turtle and the soldiers are ordered to kill them by Gazelle since she got approval by Normandy to kill the infiltrators. Corpses are much better to deal with, right? They could have been done for had not Chise helped them out and take them to escape (she is at the cathedral with Horikawa to celebrate with the queen but she sought permission to go off on a personal mission). Princess tries to change Yngwie’s mind that if he starts a revolution via bloodshed, others will retaliate the same way. Zelda doesn’t want him to listen to her lies but he is willing to give her a chance to talk. However Zelda shoots her leg but Princess continues. She is adamant she will become the last queen and knows her fate will end in a guillotine. All she wants is to fulfil the promise of her friend. She never understood why she wanted the Wall gone but now knows why. Many people like them have been torn apart by it. Yngwie wants Zelda to give them more time to contemplate the best way but she shoots him! Before she could kill her, here comes Ange and Chise barging in. Ange is forced to take Princess away as she has lost a lot of blood. Chise stays back to fight Zelda. At the same time, Dorothy and Beatrice cause a ruckus in the hall by dropping smoke bombs. Zelda makes her escape. Ange and Princess take this time to reconcile and Ange showing some real tears. If the girls had only been honest in asking for help in the first place instead of being this discreet. In the aftermath, Gazelle reports her failure to Normandy but he is not fazed since they have uncovered something important from all of this. General is frustrated his plan failed. However L has returned and since General’s plans are uncovered, he is taken away. L is back at his usual spot as he wants to know the whereabouts of his spy girls. Holidaying in Casablanca, sir. Right. Contact them. There is a job they need to do. So our girls need to quickly finish their job and finding out what this African general is doing and then get back to their vacation.

Spy Vs Spy: Live And Let (Others) Die
It’s over? Aww shucks. It was getting pretty exciting. Forgive me. It has been exciting ever since from the start. It’s totally a shame that this had only a dozen episodes. Because as we can see that there are lots of potential development and things can go in any direction. It isn’t just the Kingdom versus the Commonwealth but there could be more parties involved each with their own goals. Like Zelda who conveniently escaped means she will be back in the future to realize her goal. But for now, let’s give the girls the break they all much needed while they still can. They’re going to really need it. A spy’s work is never done. I mean, have you ever seen a spy handing in her request for vacation? The only time she can go on leave is a permanent one. And when she’s no longer breathing!

The plot might not be new and mainly revolves around a group of spy girls carrying out their mission. However the execution done for each mission is what makes it interesting. There are lots of intense thrillers and the likes as one would expect from a spy movie. You’ll watch in baited breath wondering if they could ever it off despite in your heart you know they can because, main characters. Hence each mission never feels old with all the drama, espionage and stealthy moves going on. There are one quip liners that will make you smirk and there will be heart moving moments especially when it touches on the tragic pasts of the characters.

The episodes might feel like standalones independent of each other and sometimes the chronological order is jumbled up in terms of viewing order. For example, this week episode shows a future mission before jumping back to a past mission. Fortunately it isn’t confusing as you’ll notice each episode title starts off with a case number. If you rearrange all those cases in sequential order, the story makes a lot more sense in chronological order. With so many case numbers in between missing, I can only ‘regret’ not being able to watch what kind of stealthy and exciting missions they have to pull off. I am very sure they were 100% successful because had they not, they would have either made their maker or Control would have dismissed them with some sort of punishment and penalty.

The characters are quite interesting especially the main spy female quartet. Each has their own personality and back story to tell although I feel that more could have been told had not the series being just a dozen episodes long. Not just because they are kawaii and cute but their team effort and set of skills slowly want to make you root for them. So when the team somewhat unfashionably breaks up (not by their own accord), it broke our hearts that they aren’t together.

Ange and Princess are the main focus among the quintet. The swapped prince-and-pauper story isn’t original but it is amazing to note that the duo despite coming originally from very different backgrounds managed to pull through and become what they are today. It really took them a lot of effort and sacrifice. Because otherwise they would have been dead in this so called adult world. So while they have a tragic past, they do have a goal to work towards to for the future. Oddly, the original princess wants to only be with her look-a-like and get away from it all but the non-royalty who took her place has taken upon herself to change her country and improve the livelihood of her people. When you have pretended to be in a particular role for so long, you practically morphed into and changed into an entirely different person.

I want to add that Ange is a bag full of lies. Not in an entirely bad sense seeing that her normal face is the usual poker face lacking any emotions whatsoever. Not sure if her Black Lizard Planet which she always claims she is form and hence she is not a human is some sort of lame joke or poor cover up. Not funny. Not convincing. After all, you can’t blame Ange for being so as lying is part of her profession. So I have to caution myself from time to time on what Ange says sometimes. Could she be lying? Many would love to blame the Wall for this because it might have torn many others apart but it has also caused many like Ange to build another wall around her own heart. So you see the irony of having a physical wall and an invisible one? Yeah, walls really do keep people and things apart, do they?

For the rest of the other team members, I supposed Beatrice is often portrayed as one of those characters who isn’t like the rest. For starters, I believe she panics and flusters more than the rest of the team especially when they’re doing high stakes chases and things that are adrenaline pumping and dangerous. It’s amazing and lucky she is still alive. Compared to the rest, she is the most ‘useless’ character seeing her only real ability is to mimic voices. I’m sure she has a few set of other skills but what she can do, the rest can do better. You don’t often see her spearheading a mission, right? Plus, before she was part of the team, she was some sort of loli servant to Princess and lapping up to her. Dorothy’s running joke is that she likes to drink and how she has to rebuke others about her real age. Her greatest assets are her greatest assets. Get what I mean? Who else is as well-endowed as her? Chise tries to adapt to the western culture but without forgetting or replacing her eastern roots.

Despite their profession, I won’t outright label them as bad or even if this spy and espionage mission is all part and parcel of their job. Of course it is but in many instances we see that they could have not cared for anything else and just did what it takes to complete the mission. Like that laundry mill case. They don’t have to literally give a damn sh*t about the other female workers. They claim it is all part to smoothen their mission and increase its chance of success but being the veteran and pros they are, I’m sure they could have pulled it off without resorting to ‘playing nice’. In the end, the girls left Marilla and co a future that they are able to sustain themselves and be independent. Spies with a conscious and heart? Maybe we should ask if this is the norm on Black Lizard Planet. There was also Amy’s case and although Ange ‘gifted’ her with insurance money to pay for her operation, it was in a way rightfully ‘funded’ by her brother. His circumstances would have been pretty much dead wherever he goes so this was the only ‘dignified’ way he could go out and let his sister live. All would not have been possible had not the girls being this thoughtful. Aww, how considerate.

Normandy is a very suspicious character and it looks like he has lots of ulterior motives. He might look like he is aligned to the queen and against Princess in ascending the throne but it could be more than meets the eye. Therefore this kind of men are often the dangerous types to look out for as he is politically powerful and gets to pull a lot of strings behind the shadow. I feel that his loyalty isn’t to the Commonwealth or the Kingdom but himself and his own interest. I won’t even discount the fact that he might be a spy for a foreign European country, say, Germany. He could be a Nazi in disguise and a double agent for all we know! So whether he is the antagonist or the most unlikely of allies in the most remote of cases, he is a man whom you want to throw caution around. After all, Normandy and the spy girls have not directly fought each other because of their different methods of fighting. While the girls are more directly physically involved on the battlefield, Normandy plays his hand pulling strings and playing politics in the background. So I don’t think there would be a chance they’ll be facing off directly unless there is a mission that calls for his assassination.

The spy action thriller scenes are also one of the highlights of the series. Many are exhilarating to watch especially for a casual viewer like me who doesn’t watch spy themed movies. One of the exciting fight scenes I like was the one Chise fought her own father on the train. That was really good. One thing I have been pondering is the use of Cavorite. I only see Ange monopolizing it. It gives some excuse for her to perform some superhuman moves. I know there is some sort of limit that prevents her from turning it on all the time. But I don’t see other team members often using it. There are but very rare. Are only certain chosen people allowed to wield them? I wished more of this would be explained otherwise it feels like some sort of excuse to justify impossible action. Not that it is entirely a bad thing either.

The art and visuals are gorgeous. The steampunk environment of alternate Britain really gives you the chills as of how depressing and gloomy the state is. It is hence the perfect environment for such espionage thriller with all the detailed details. The gothic fashion of our spy girls are also good although I can’t help feel that some of the characters look pretty familiar. Like I’ve seen them from other anime. For instance, when I first saw Dorothy, I was shocked that Rozen Maiden’s Sousei Seki had returned! Desu?! Her usual dark green garb is another reason why she quickly reminded me of that doll. Also, doesn’t Ange look like Nagato from the Suzumiya Haruhi No Yuutsu series? It’s like after she ‘disappeared’, maybe this was where she temporarily went. Is it me or does Beatrice look like Akari from YuruYuri? Or that Yuuki girl from Shokugeki No Souma? I find Chise also looking odd. Firstly, those eyebrows… Next, I thought there was something weird about her head and body proportion. Seeing her in her skimpy ninja outfit, she looks like she has a small body size and shoulders compared to her head. Maybe she is that skinny. And finally Normandy himself. I thought he had that uncanny resemblance to Michael Caine’s character in that Hollywood movie, Kingsmen: Secret Service. By a long shot, doesn’t Gazelle look like New Game’s Umiko?

Voice acting I only recognize Miyuki Sawashiro as 7 and Daisuki Ono as Yngwie. The rest of the casts are Ayaka Imamura as Ange (Yuriko in Sakurako-san No Ashimoto Ni Wa Shitai Ga Umatteiru), Akira Sekine as Princess (Miyabi Fujiwara in Aikatsu), You Taichi as Dorothy (Anzu in Prison School), Nozomi Furuki as Chise (Yukari in The Rolling Girls), Akari Kageyama as Beatrice (Ebina in Himouto! Umaru-chan), Takaya Hashi as Normandy (Inuarashi in One Piece), Mie Sonozaki as Zelda (Hazuki in Happy Lesson), Takayuki Sugo as L (Wanyuudou in Jigoku Shoujo), Yuko Iida as Gazelle (Mei in Witch Craft Works), Ayaka Ohashi as Eleanor (Momoka in Sabagebu) and Akari Kitou as Lily (Yonaga in Alice To Zoroku). On a trivial note, in addition to her original main seiyuu, Beatrice’s character has also been credited to numerous other seiyuus albeit only a few lines or so due to her voice imitating ability.

The opening theme is a very vocal powerful piece. The Other Side Of The Wall by Void_Chords featuring Maru is refreshing in a way because it does not sound like your typical anime song. Almost as though this song was from America seeing the entire lyrics are in English. That’s not all. With all the jazzy fanfare and the funky bassline, this is actually one exciting piece to listen to and it befits the nature and genre of this series very well. The ending theme on the other hand brings up a more nostalgic feel. A Page Of My Story is sung by the main quintet of the spy girls and another song totally in English (or rather, sounds like Engrish). This piece sounds so familiar to Spice And Wolf’s Ringo Biyori ending theme. Every time I hear this song, I am quickly reminded of the latter and I can’t get that song out of my head! It’s funny for this song to be here since it has this fun and relaxing feel to it but it isn’t all that bad. If the BGMs sound familiar, it is because they are written by the renowned Yuki Kajiura whose trademark sounds can be heard in Mai-HiME, Tsubasa Chronicle and Sword Art Online. But personally, these ones didn’t resonate with me.

Overall, this is a very exciting and enjoyable spy thriller. Maybe I didn’t have any expectations at first but it surely exceed all expectations (wait, weren’t there none?) and it shot right through the roof. And here I thought that the cute and kawaii girls would be the factor to appeal to the audiences but I was totally wrong. These girls could stand and kick ass highly on their own and for that reason you will respect and love them for who they are rather than how they look (on the outside, that is). I highly recommend people to watch this even if you’re not into the spy genre. It has likeable characters and the plots and actions are well planned out. Who knew a wall cutting in between a nation could create so much spying and espionage. We can only wonder what would happen had Trump actually built a wall between America and Mexico…

Wanted for magical girl raising project. Girls who are interested of becoming magical girls and do all the goody-goody stuffs of helping other people are very much encouraged to apply. Successful applicants will be directly contacted by our administrator. Thank you. Woah. If only making a magical girl was that easy to begin with. When was the last time you see a dark magical girl anime? I know there are a handful throughout the years and I still remember how grim Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica was. Well folks, looks like here is going to be another dark and bloody magical girl anime. It may all look nice and sweet about a programme to develop and nurture magical girls. But behind all that glitter and sparkle of Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku lies something much darker. Something more sinister. Something that makes everybody wished they have read the finer prints and between the lines of the contract. How do you feel when I summarize this series in one sentence: Magical girls killing each other in battle royale style! OMG! Indeed. Now do you have the guts to watch how the best magical girl is chosen?

Episode 1
Koyuki Himekawa seems interested as she is told by the game’s mascot, Fav about this Magical Girl Raising Project. Wow. Sounds cool. Use magic and fight the darkness. Oh… I remember Kyuubey… Don’t do it! It’s a trap! Next day, Koyuki is discussing with her friends about rumours that magical girls have been responsible in taking out triads and the mafia. They also talk about the game company of Magical Girl Raising Project and their ridiculous ads and it is obvious Koyuki seems hooked on it. Because it’s free to play. Flashback reveals Koyuki has always loved magical girls. Back home, she gets a message from Fav that he has been observing her and is deemed fit to become a magical girl. Koyuki, no!!! IT’S A TRAP!!!!! Too late… Instantly she transforms into a magical girl nicknamed Snow White. This is real. This makes her very happy as she goes around town helping those in need. Fav also tells her she is the 15th magical girl and her special ability is to hear the thoughts of others in trouble. Fav also believes it is time for her to meet other magical girls via this online forum. Currently online now are Nemurin, Sister Nana, Vess Winterprison, La Pucelle and Cranberry. La Pucelle offers to train up Snow White since her area is next to her. La Pucelle then explains how each magical girl is given their own territory and thus rarely bump into each other. She warns the rogue magical girl, Calamity Mary in the Jounan district and to stay away from her. The combo pair of Top Speed and Ripple are passing by so La Pucelle also explains how some magical form teams. This has La Pucelle offer to team up with her. Snow White is surprised she knows her real name. La Pucelle’s real name is Souta Kishibe, Koyuki’s elementary classmate. Wait a minute. Isn’t she a boy???!!! No wonder Koyuki can’t recognize him. Or her. So you’re completely female if you’re a magical girl. La Pucelle vows to protect Snow White who feels very safe to be by her. When Koyuki comes home, there is an important message from Fav that he plans to cut this region’s magical girls to eight.

Episode 2
Of course everyone else isn’t too happy about this announcement. Making it worse is that Fav has already planned to take in a 16th magical girl since she already made a contract. It seems Fav has miscalculated. As magical girls draw power from the region, having too many of them will drain the power very quickly. But the question now is how they are going to half that number. Wait. What? Collect the most Magical Candies? You mean they’re not going to kill each other? Shucks… We have a flashback of how Top Speed and Ripple met. When the latter was a new magical girl, Top Speed offered to train her. However Calamity Mary appeared and announced that it was supposed to be her turn. Although Top Speed apologized and wasn’t looking for trouble, it didn’t take long before Ripple and Calamity Mary start fighting. The latter backs down when Top Speed pleaded. She also lets Top Speed have Ripple whose ability is her shurikens never miss. Snow White and La Pucelle save an elderly couple from a house on fire. This earn them lots of Magical Candies as the people they rescued are safe otherwise they won’t receive this many. Koyuki can’t sleep and logs online. She sees Nemurin and talks to this nice girl. She learns her ability is to enter people’s dream. Then we see Nemurin fighting monsters and saving the world in dreams. Although this earns her a lot of Magical Candies, what happens in dreams stays in dreams. Fav advises her to get real ones in reality. Ruler is having her groupies announce how many Magical Candies they have got. She chides Tama for not getting any because she won’t let anyone in this group drop out. Soon, Fav announces the top Magical Candies collector is Snow White. At the bottom is Nemurin. This means she will be eliminated. Snow White is sad and after she is done talking to Nemurin, her account is immediately terminated. Because Fav tells Nemu Sanjou (Nemurin) that she has until midnight before she cannot transform into a magical girl, she takes this last chance to enter people’s dreams. When time is up, she is suddenly cut off. Later when her mother comes in to check on her, she is in utter shock that her daughter is dead! OMG!

Episode 3
Top Speed gets a call from Swim Swim for a favour. It seems she forgot about a meeting with Ruler for a leaf viewing event and will be late. She sends her there in time and as expected, Ruler is not pleased with this. After Top Speed leaves, Ruler has her groupies to bury illegally dumped garbage to score Magical Candies. Snow White and La Pucelle are called by Sister Nana and Winterprison. When they were trying to find past logs of Nemurin to remember her by, they stumble upon this conversation between Fav and Cranberry. He told her that when a magical gets terminated, she will also die in the physical world. Meanwhile those idiotic angel twins are jealous Snow White is at the top of the popularity rankings too. They have Tama give them ideas on what to do. A PV? They like the idea and their popularity shoots up to second place although they still hate how much Snow White is in first. When Ruler summons them for a special meeting, it seems that all the magical girls are now being told and confirmed by Fav about real death once you drop out as a magical girl. Panic is starting to sink in. Didn’t read the rules, eh? Oh man, this is like Kyuubey… So what if they want to quit being a magical girl then? They will also die! Sh*t hits the fan when they realize the online article of a girl dying from a heart attack in her room that closely resembles Nemurin. It is her! Snow White is depressed about it so La Pucelle swears her loyalty that she will still protect her no matter what may become of her. When there is a version update notice that allows them to transfer Magical Candies, Ruler knows what the deeper meaning is. No, it is not transferring excess ones to those with smaller amounts or work as a team to earn Magical Candies. Because this can also be done with one’s device is off, they are telling them to steal Magical Candies. And who has the most Magical Candies right now? That’s right. Ruler and her groupies are going to target Snow White and make her die tonight.

Episode 4
Sanae Mokuou (Ruler) was chastised by her boss for coming up with an effective and flexible scheme. She was transferred to another lowly division. Her hate for idiots only grew and when she became a magical girl, she was thrilled at her ability to make anyone obey her commands. Hey. Can a person this ‘old’ be a magical girl?! Well, they had a boy being one… The angel twins distract La Pucelle and fight her. Despite pit traps from Tama, she can still hold her ground as she pounds them. Meanwhile Ruler has Snow White frozen as commanded while Swim needs to transfer her Magical Candies. It is tough on Ruler since she has to maintain this position without moving and Snow White has got lots of Magical Candies! When La Pucelle realizes this is a trap, she rushes back. This only angers Ruler that those idiots aren’t even good enough to stall others. Swim is done when La Pucelle lands an attack that separates Ruler and her groupies. Ruler calls for a tactical retreat. Snow White is depressed and La Pucelle is adamant to go get back her stolen Magical Candies. Snow White doesn’t want her to do that. But when they see her device, they are in shock. Ruler and co try to divide the stolen Magical Candies. As they have stolen 2,088 of them, they can’t divide it equally among the 5 of them. However Ruler dictates she will get the lion share as she planned all this. Swim will get half of that and the remaining miniscule balance to be divided among the idiots. When the announcement is made, Ruler is in last place! Flashback reveals Ruler was attacked by Calamity Mary. Humiliated, she gathered people with weak will to follow her to be meat shields. Now that Ruler is dead, the angel twins are mocking over her dead body. No more mean woman to boss them around. It seems this was a plan hatched by Swim. After she got Snow White’s Magical Candies, she transferred 25,000 to Tama. In actual fact, Snow White’s total is 50,000! Stealing half was enough. Then Swim has Tama order Fav to divide this amount evenly to everyone except Ruler, Snow White and La Pucelle. This would make Ruler in dead last place. The angel twins are also in on this. Apparently Swim got this idea when Nemurin entered her dream and gave her the idea of being a princess. A princess is like a ruler, right? But she can’t be a ruler if there is currently a ruler… See where this is going? Top Speed is upset Ruler got last place but Ripple obviously knows a coup d’etat has happened. They are called by Sister Nana to meet.

Episode 5
Sister Nana is trying to seek their help to end the fighting among the magical girls. But with her crying and all that, Ripple finds it shameful and disagrees. Top Speed prevents them from fighting and will think about it. Ruler’s subordinates might be free but now they are at a lost on what to do. Calamity Mary is seen talking to Magicaloid 44 who gets a call from Sister Nana. It seems Magicaloid was her magical girl tutor. Oddly, Sister Nana always wanted to borrow her ‘devices from the future’ (Magicaloid’s ability) in whatever help she wants to do. And she pays good money for it! Of course Magicaloid plays along as a way to make money but one day she didn’t know one of her device helped Winterprison become a magical girl as Sister Nana wanted. Now Sister Nana wants to stop this fighting so Magicaloid claims she can go negotiate on the admins on her behalf. Of course for a fee. Sister Nana and Winterprison are called by Cranberry. As usual, Sister Nana wants Cranberry to help stop this fighting but is instead told to stop what she is doing. Suddenly Cranberry and Winterprison start fighting. Winterprison is barely holding out with her magical walls but with a little of Sister Nana’s help (her ability is to boost the power of the one she wants), they turn the tables and escape. Fav is not pleased that Cranberry let them go as she was supposed to eliminate Sister Nana. However Cranberry has no interest in the game and only wants to fight strong opponents. Since Sister Nana is Winterprison’s source of strength, she’ll keep them alive for now. Sister Nana decides to take upon herself to teach the new magical girl, Hardgore Alice. As usual, the preaching about stop fighting each other, blah, blah, blah. But when she mentions about Snow White being targeted, Alice becomes interested in her and rushes off to where she is. After La Pucelle sends home Snow White, she is confronted by Cranberry who wants to fight her. She is not after her Magical Candies but wants a powerful opponent.

Episode 6
Makoto Andou (Magicaloid) does whatever she wants. She hangs out with a homeless man and eats with him before bumming in her friend’s place. While grinding some game, that is when she became a magical girl. La Pucelle and Cranberry begin their fight. OMG. First blood! It’s getting bloodier by the second as Cranberry beats up La Pucelle. Cranberry expresses she doesn’t fight strong opponents to gain strength but to kill them. This makes La Pucelle scared although she does make a little comeback and make Cranberry spill some blood of her own. But that is all futile because amidst the flashback of Souta’s reluctance in turning into a magical girl… He got hit by a truck? Before we know it, Souta is dead and everyone attends his funeral! Gloomy days are here for Koyuki. It seems this accident is just a cover up. As conspired by Cranberry and Fav to make it look like an accident when he was actually killed in that fight. Fav then makes an announcement. The good news is that there is an introduction of 5 items. First come first serve. La Pucelle’s death is also ‘good news’ because this means nobody else has to die this week. Cranberry wonders if this item thingy is a good idea because it might make it hard for Fav to reach his goal as this could mean the weaker ones could be left standing in the end. If the strong ones die in the process, it means they were weak in the first place and part of the process to be slain by the true hero. Fav tries to persuade depressed Snow White to buy the items. Based on what he says, she could guess La Pucelle’s death was no accident. The number on the items doesn’t indicate monetary cost. They cost you years of your life! She is hesitant to take at first but when she finally does, all of them are sold out! A little too late. Her luck runs out because Alice has found her. A chunk of them are bought by Swim’s group. The angel twins bought some medicine costing 3 years. Tama bought a weapon that costs 5 years and Swim bought the most expensive invisibility cloak for 25 years! Then she switches with Tama and decides to call the weapon Ruler. Wicked. The other magical pouch that can hold anything is bought by Calamity Mary who spent 10 years. Magicaloid didn’t buy any as she wants to hold on to her life. Knowing that the magical girls will be killing themselves, it’s a reason why she teamed up with Calamity Mary. However Calamity Mary doesn’t trust her and thinks she will backstab her one day. So to win her trust, go kill somebody. Before Alice can do anything, Magicaloid decapitates her! She decides to kill Snow White to please Calamity Mary. Two kills is better than one. However Magicaloid gets stabbed by Alice’s decapitated body!!! Bloody. Horror. No wonder Snow White is freaking out.

Episode 7
Koyuki wakes up in her room all fine. Was it a nightmare? Apparently she has that last item, rabbit’s foot that gives her luck whenever she is in a pinch. But she didn’t buy it. It was Alice who bought it. Sister Nana calls her to meet up. When Calamity Mary cannot reach Magicaloid, she summons Fav to contact her. But when she learns she is ‘not around anymore’, Calamity Mary wants to know who killed her and takes this as a direct challenge at her. At first Fav won’t give out information so easy, claiming fairness, blah, blah, blah. But she knows what he wants and makes a deal for things to go his way if he tells what she wants. Calamity Mary snipes out Alice. That easy? But then Alice rises back from the dead! Time to freak out. No matter how many bullets she pumps into her, Alice keeps regenerating! OMG! An immortal! She experiments with various ways to put her down and when fire seems to be the trick, she puts her remains in a cement block inside a barrel and dumps it into the ocean. Wow. Overkill. Want to bet zombie girl will get out of there? When Fav announces only Magicaloid has been killed by a slasher and thus nobody drops out this week, Calamity Mary laughs like crazy. Zombie girl is still alive. Flashback reveals Kano Sazanami (Ripple) always was picked on by other kids. They teased her for having a mom as a slut and changing so many dads. What does she do? She punches them all to hell! Even when she goes boyfriend hopping, she punches those damn b*tches for trying to warn her! And mom has got a new boyfriend home. Not surprising. As expected, he is a lazy bum and pervert. When he tried to make a move on her, that is when she has had it. She moved out to live on her own. Sister Nana meets Snow White to calm her depress heart. But look. She also has called Alice here! Alice agrees to work with her, delighting Sister Nana who is now off to meet other magical girls to form alliances. Wait. That’s it? You leaving Snow White alone with zombie girl? Man, this is awkward. Snow White tries to leave but no matter how far she goes, Alice is always there! Spooky! She tries to return the rabbit’s foot but Alice says it is hers now and she felt like giving it to her. Top Speed and Ripple are talking about things when the latter gets a call from Calamity Mary to meet. It’s urgent. Ripple isn’t too happy.

Episode 8
Flashback shows Sister Nana tried to warn Calamity Mary about using her magic to commit crimes. She doesn’t give a damn and starts shooting her. Thanks to Winterprison’s walls, they make their escape. Now Sister Nana is happy to go see Swim’s group not knowing they have laid a trap. Before talk can start, Tama in her cloak abducts Sister Nana. When they emerge, there are 2 Sister Nanas! Which is real? When Sister Nana goes up to Winterprison for help, this is the fake one because she stabs her. The disguise is courtesy of the angel twins’ ability. Winterprison realizes this is a trap and flings a very stunned Sister Nana outside to safety. Winterprison then targets the angel twins and smashes the head of Yunael (the younger of the twins)! In this chaos, Swim uses her weapon to cut off Winterprison’s arm and let her bleed to death. Winterprison sees visions of her time spent with Nana Habutae (Sister Nana). Minael (the elder of the twins) is devastated. Tama is reeling from the bloody shock. 2 dead bodies. Swim wonders how Ruler would have handled this. Obviously Sister Nana is also in despair thinking about those times spent with Shizuku Ashuu (Winterprison). Yamamoto Naoko (Calamity Mary) is an abusive alcoholic housewife. After the family left her for good, that is when Fav brought her into this magical girl project with his sweet words she can be strong, beautiful, etc. As Ripple and Top Speed wait for Calamity Mary, suddenly they are sniped at. They know she is out to kill them in the first place and makes a run for it. Calamity Mary knows she cannot best Top Speed’s, uhm, top speed so what does she do to bring her back? She randomly shoots and kills innocent bystanders!!! OMFG!!! She’s staying true to her name by causing a great calamity! Snow White sees this and rushes to the scene. Alice follows her. Flashback shows Alice revealing her ability to regenerate from any injury and she wanted to meet her again. Swim has a better idea. Wait for all the magical girls to head to the calamity area to rescue and then they kill them all off! Minael agrees with that. Everybody should just die… Cranberry isn’t interested of going but knowing that Winterprison is dead, she wants to know who killed her.

Episode 9
Sister Nana is too depressed to give a f*ck. I don’t think all that drinking and pills are going to help… Ripple jumps back down to face off with Calamity Mary. But Ripple steps on her landmine and bombs are thrown at her. Top Speed luckily returns to swiftly save her from death. Ripple wants to go back and fight her. She knows she is being harassed and Calamity will not stop hunting her till she is dead. There’s talk about not being an ideal magical girl so Top Speed acknowledges those feelings and agrees to help out. But getting near Calamity Mary isn’t easy. They are even shot out from the sky! Then they go for broke with their next trick, which is to drop shards of glass all over her. But cleverly hidden among those shards are Ripple’s shurikens. One strikes right in Calamity Mary’s forehead. Game over. She’s dead. Ripple thought Top Speed is fooling around hugging her. But then she realizes she is bleeding! Oh no. Was she injured during the fight? Actually, Swim stabbed her! Ripple becomes mad as she tries to kill Swim. However Swim is able to turn her body into water so any objects that harm her pass right through. Swim cannot match her agility and escapes. Ripple is further devastated when she returns to the body of Tsubame Murota. She is 3 months pregnant! You going crazy now?! Snow White and Alice are helping the people when Minael drops in. She transforms into an axe and throws herself at Snow White. But Alice takes it right in her head! Don’t worry. She still lives. Now Alice is going to kill Minael like swatting a fly? Snow White could hear the voice of Tama in a dilemma to attack her. Despite Tama is wearing the cloak, Snow White can pinpoint her due to her ability. This makes Minael mad as she grabs the cloak from her and disappears. Tama escapes by digging a hole. Snow White and Alice continue helping others. Alice picks up her dropped bunny doll but it seems it is Minael in disguise… Her original doll was hidden by the cloak. Meanwhile, Nana hangs herself. Too sad to give a f*ck anymore. Fav announces more dropouts than usual. Yeah, 5 of them. So what now? There were supposed to be whittled to 8 and now there are only 7. Yeah, f*ck that. Let’s whittle it down to 4. Are you freaking kidding me???!!! Swim is analysing the skills of other magical girls. It won’t be easy for their group to take on the rest. But this leaves Cranberry who rarely shows herself so she doesn’t know her strength. She thinks of having Tama test the medicine when they face her. Minael comes back happy, certain there is one person they can definitely kill.

Episode 10
An emotionless Ako Hatoda (Alice) visits her father in prison who tells her not to come anymore. Worse, the school is giving her that look because news spread that her dad murdered her mom. Snow White and Alice find solace with each other. But when Snow White learns about the whittling to 4, she loses it. She doesn’t want to this sh*t anymore. Alice tries to calm her but she takes out her frustrations on her and leaves. Alice is devastated when she is told not to follow her anymore. Alone again, naturally? When Ako heads to school, she is shocked Swim attacks her. Apparently once your identity is known, you lose your qualities as a magical girl. Swim chases down injured Ako who is looking pretty scared now she can’t transform. She remembers joining this magical girl project with a dark design and wanted to meet Snow White because it would be a good colour contrast between them. Apparently Swim can also teleport out from puddles and that is where she makes the kill. Another strike to make sure. Snow White could hear Ako’s voice calling out to her as she races there. Ako’s last words are as long she is still alive, there is still a magical girl in the city. Ako is also particular of Snow White because Koyuki helped find her lost keys before. Then it’s goodbye forever. Swim didn’t know it was so easy to kill Alice. Minael rues they should have done this from the start as she remembers her times with her twin. Mina and Yuna Amasato (Minael and Yunael) are a bit of a rascal as they grow up, doing almost everything together. Heck, the funny part was a guy confessed to them and doesn’t care which. Just date him! Hell no! Minael remembers masquerading as the doll and being brought to Ako’s home. That’s how she know how she looks like. If they had done this earlier, Yunael would still be alive. Next on the target list is… Cranberry receives a call from Swim to meet. Funny, Cranberry is thinking how strong this girl is seeing she has killed 4 magical girls! Then there’s a talk with Fav about making a false report and hiding the truth from some committee in the magical world about this project. Swim’s group arrives at Cranberry’s cabin in the woods. Swim enters the cabin and takes a medicine. But Cranberry is already outside and she knows Minael and Tama are trying to trap her. While Tama escapes from an attack, Cranberry crushes Minael’s heart as she is disguising as a rock! Tama panics when she sees Minael’s corpse but Swim isn’t as she plans to pincer Cranberry. Cranberry assesses Swim’s calm judgments and the reason why she is the leader in slain magical girls. But she can’t beat her. Can she?

Episode 11
Lots of dead magical girls. It seems a demon summoned for some selection exam has gone berserk. Even the master is dead. Only Cranberry is left standing and somehow she killed it. That was when Fav decided to team up with her to do something more exciting instead of these boring exams. Swim directly attacks Cranberry. Although Cranberry’s attacks go through Swim’s body, something about she can see and hear her, it means light and sound are unable to pass through. Cranberry lets loose a light explosion that blows her away. As she checks her body, she is shocked to see Swim’s real self is of a child. In that distraction, Tama scratched her. It is a fatal scratch as her ability is to make holes in anything she touch. Cranberry’s top explodes! OMG! After Tama picks up Ayana Sakanagi (Swim), she transforms back and slits Tama’s throat! WTF???!!! Flashback of Tama Inubouzaki’s life as a loser. She never did well in exams and sports. Her younger siblings did better and are ashamed to be related to her. Her only solace was her grandma but she died suddenly. That is when Tama became a magical girl and under Ruler, she was even thought how to read and write words! She can only regret what she did wrong. The dead don’t even contemplate. Fav now considers Swim as his new master and she agrees to play along with his game. It seems Swim killed Tama not because she is a ruthless master wannabe. Ruler told her never to let anyone know her true identity. Ayana goes home to do her homework like all those violence never happened. She ponders if Ruler would have become master without letting everyone die. Ripple remembers how Top Speed was enraged when Nemurin was killed. Likewise, Snow White thinks back about La Pucelle, Sister Nana and Alice. Ripple calls Snow White to meet. If she has any information on Swim, let her know now. It’s about revenge. Snow White tries to tell her this only makes her a murderer but Ripple doesn’t care about being a magical girl she once wanted to be. That’s why she admires her. Fav then interjects to hint Swim’s weaknesses are light and sound. Go figure the rest. Seems this killing game is going to whittle down to 2. Oh heck, why not just make it one? Snow White can’t believe what Fav has done although he says he is just giving a little supportive push. Ripple makes her final peace with Top Speed. The latter’s spirit thanking her for bringing her body back at her home? Time for Ripple to have a showdown with Swim.

Episode 12
As Koyuki is crying in depression back in her home, she doesn’t want to become into a magical girl anymore. Fav tells her that is not how it works as he reveals he is from some scouting department in the magical world to recruit and train magical girls (man, this reminds me of that Kyuubey’s explanation…). He was in cohorts with Cranberry who was the master but she got killed. Fav would prefer Snow White to be his master because Swim is a talented killer but is not a good master. Ripple too has personality issues so Fav doesn’t want her. That is why Fav motivated Ripple to fight Swim and have them kill each other. All that is left is Snow White. As master, she gets to decide how the next magical girl get selected. As Cranberry was the previous master, she decided to use this social media game which is popular in the human world which made recruitment easier cover up their true goal under the guise of gathering Magical Candies. Normally failed candidates would just have their memories erased but this time they decided to kill Nemurin so things would be spiced up. Thus, collecting Magical Candies is just red herring to have them kill each other. Fav can’t understand why she looks so surprised. She should have seen this coming?! Koyuki can’t take this anymore and destroys her device as she transforms to go stop the fight. Too late. It’s already in progress. Swim is having a great advantage because it is raining and there are puddles everywhere. Ripple is blinded an eye and an arm cut off before the flash of lightning made her realize this is Swim’s weakness as she is unable to turn her body into water. She uses a flash grenade to stun her and take her down. Just to be safe, she stabs her body many times! Ripple is happy to get revenge and the collapses.

By the time Snow White arrives, she is disheartened to see their corpses. Fav congratulates Snow White for being the sole winner without soiling her hands. But Snow White can hear Fav’s worries that if this master terminal is destroyed, it would be troublesome. She tries to break it but Fav assures this master device is very sturdy. But when Fav is mocking other magical girls, Ripple suddenly gets up! Apparently thanks to Snow White’s rabbit foot. Ripple is mad Fav mocked Top Speed as Snow White could hear Fav’s thoughts that he is scared Swim’s weapon can destroy the terminal. Fav will say anything to get out of his predicament so Snow White tells Ripple not to listen. Ripple lunges the weapon and destroys the terminal. Bye Fav. In the aftermath, the site for this magical girl project is gone. Error 404. There are also a lot of news about terrorist organizations and bad guys being taken out mysteriously. It has also been 6 months since Koyuki had run away from home and her friends have never heard from her since. In actual fact, Snow White and Ripple have been going around doing these deeds. They have received messages from the magical world to stop acting on their own but they ignored and deleted them. Snow White and Ripple have a friendly battle with each other as Snow White narrates her love for magical girls. Even if people say they are for young children, she will never stop dreaming.

Mahou Shoujo Nante Mou Ii Desu Kara!
Ah well. What a bittersweet ending. At least the surviving duo go around in secret to do some good for the world. Even if their work goes uncredited, I believe this is what being a true unsung hero and a magical girl they believe in. After all, this might be their way of atoning for the unholy game they participated in despite it was no fault of theirs. Maybe in a way they too are to blame. While Ripple clearly had her hands tainted, Snow White didn’t do anything and that itself might be as good if she joined in the killing spree. Well, at least our heroines didn’t sacrifice themselves and be one with the world! So as you can see, this is what happens when Game of Thrones is a magical girl version. Haha! Too bad the small cast of characters would hardly make any deaths epic. But this isn’t the first anime to have its cast of characters kill each other. Old series like Basilisk and Gantz have already been doing this a long time ago.

Call me a sadist but somehow I was getting more and more engrossed in interested in watching the magical girls take out each other. Yes, this is the main reason why I gradually found this series to be interesting. You rarely have magical girls fight each other in battle royale style and in fact this could be the only show to do so as far as I know. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica may have its dark and grim moments but they don’t turn on each other although they too have one alternate timeline of killing each other.

Upping the dark and grimness of the series is of course the blood splattering and some body parts decapitated. Because you don’t normally see those in ‘normal’ magical girl shows that are laced with toxic magical goodness. So if you want to compare this series with other shows that are liberal and generous with the use of blood such as Shingeki No Kyojin and Drifters, this one makes it more brutal in comparison, don’t you think? So while watching the magical girls use their single unique ability in battle that may not amount to anything much, the sight of blood suddenly splattering and dripping might suddenly leave your jaw agape wide open. Yeah, at least it proves that even magical girls bleed. Get the note, Superman?

Despite many of the episode titles sounding like happy and bright game notices such as “Welcome to a world of dreams and magic!”, “Collect magical candies!”, “Add more friends!”, “New character!”, Up your friendship!”, “Get the super rare items!” and “Notice of new rules”, it feels like they are hardly the theme of the episode. Sure, that may only last for a few moments as the rest of the episode would be as grim and dark. Heck, the final 2 episodes’ titles is somewhat of a reminder of how dark this is going turn out to be, “Server down for maintenance” and “File not found”. Hell, they even added some horror-like suspense and interference to mess with our minds and scare our fragile hearts when these couple of titles popped up.

Another reason why this series is interesting is because of how it threw me off in which magical girl would go first. Yes, I was actually trying to predict who would die first and the last ones to stand. Of course with Snow White being the main protagonist, that is a given she will remain till the end. In short, my predictions were mostly wrong! I expected Ruler would be one of those last bosses because of her b*tch attitude but her early death signals the start of my failed predictions to come. I didn’t expect strong ones like La Pucelle and Winterprison to go out early or in the middle of the series. I didn’t expect Tama or Minael to last that long because they are somewhat the weakest and I saw them as numbers to be killed off. Who’d knew that they actually outlasted the stronger ones. This included Calamity Mary, whom I initially thought would be the last boss just like Ruler and because she is so badass but also went out in the middle. With more known about Cranberry and her unusual strength and power, I thought she would be the last boss then but I was proven wrong again when they picked her off!

Alice as the newcomer I thought she would be in the last 4 because her delayed appearance could mean she is hiding some sort of twist, right? Wrong! And here I was thinking how Sister Nana would be killed, she did the unthinkable and beat me to it by killing herself! I didn’t see that coming for sure! So you see how because all my predictions were off (because I’m so confident after watching a handful of shows about everybody killing everybody over the years) that is why I became engrossed instead of feeling frustrated. Oh heck, I should have guessed Snow White and Ripple would be the last ones standing because their bio-data in the mid-intermission are the first ones to appear. Big hint and sign, dude.

Which brings me to the characters of the series. I have mixed feelings about it. Because of a series that kills off its characters, is it necessary to know about their backgrounds? In some ways, yes. It is a good way to tell us about their back story and how they end up in this game, albeit they do not really impact the flow of the story in any way. It is just to give us some sort of understanding that these are girls, each with their own set of problems to deal with rather than something that would really affect the storyline in general. It gives them character and personality at best. But because there are 16 of them, the limited episodes and screen time means their stories are short and what you see is what you’ll know. That’s all. Therefore me wanting more than 16 characters and bloating it up to say, 50 so I can watch the gore fest might just dilute and make this part cheap. Thank goodness only 16, right? Also, the names of their character and magical girl nicknames reflect their behaviour so if you know your Japanese decent enough, you can guess their attribute and power based on their names.

So when you read the bio-data in the mid-intermission, it practically says everything and all you need to know about them. Every episode features 2 magical girls. It explains their unique ability as well as their general character in normal form. They are also shown their magical girl and normal form too although I wonder why a few do not have their normal form even though we don’t even get to see their real faces very much, at least we get to see in short instances. Like when they’re dead. Yeah, not pretty. My scepticism for Cranberry only increased because as the last bio-data, she is the only one without a real self and Fav is featured in this place. If you count your magical girls right, what happens when they run out of bio-data to show? They display ‘important’ quotes as said from the magical girls! Some are thought provoking like “If it’s talent they want, then they need only eliminate the weak and select the strong” while some are just WTF. “What did I do wrong?” and “Huh? I don’t know”. Huh? Why does Tama’s words like these get featured?!

Snow White being featured as the main protagonist doesn’t feel like one. Thanks to the other magical girls and the ‘fairness’ of giving them their due screen time. Because it is funny come to think of it that Snow White who didn’t even kill a single magical girl, she lasted till the end. It is as though she stayed dormant waiting for other rivals to take each other out before making her appearance. Heck, there are no more others left so who else is going to be in focus? Because for most the middle parts of the series, Snow White is relegated to the background while other magical girls duke it out like Calamity Mary and Ripple settling their score. All mostly can be done without Snow White ever coming into the picture. After La Pucelle’s death, I feel that part of Alice’s role is to help shield Snow White from everything else and part of the reason why Snow White is able to stay safe and alive till the end.

Swim is the most terrifying and deadliest of all characters. Even deadly as she shows no emotions. Heck, she may even be the youngest girl among all the participants and she is already so ruthless. Not sure if she is really this wicked or she is just trying to find her place and live out as what Ruler has told her. Sometimes I find Swim and Alice to be overlapping characters because they are both emotionless and they are both lolis. Heck, even their powers seem to overlap in the sense that it makes them immortal. I also want to comment on the angel twins. Despite looking the cutest of the lot, they give off this impression they are cutely dumb and all that because you see them rejoicing like idiots when things go their way. That itself makes them scary too. Especially when the other is gone, the other turned into a crazy killer. For Tama, I just want to say that the moment I laid eyes on her and get to know her character, she kinda reminds me of that Cartoon Network character, Courage the cowardly dog…

So we’ve got almost every other magical girl having some sort of their own problems like Calamity Mary’s alcoholic ways and the need to dominate others weaker than her, Ripple hating her own mom and Ruler wanting to prove that she is a capable leader. In view of this, I think the happiest magical girls are Top Speed and Sister Nana. This is shown in both their magical girl form and normal form. Ironically Top Speed was an ex-gangster but she is living a pretty happy family life and even expecting! It was just a sad ending for her. Likewise, Sister Nana and Winterprison are perhaps to most lovey-dovey couple. At first I was wondering if Winterprison is actually male because of her androgynous looks. She also tends to wear male-like clothes and play the male role for Sister Nana. So it could be her just being a tomboy and their relationship is still much lesbian? Well, if Winterprison is a guy, it would then overlap with La Pucelle’s character in a few ways. The thing that annoys me about Sister Nana is how she tries to preach to everybody. I’m cool with her being honestly goody-goody but I can somehow relate in real life her kind of character praising and glorifying whatever the speaker is trying to preach/sell/advocate. It’s that kind of annoyance.

Speaking of Fav, this little blob reminds me so much of Kyuubey and even though they have this similar vibe, they feel totally different. Despite when they talk using nice and cute tones but you can sense that there is something hidden beneath all that. Even when they tell you the truth, they tell it straight to you without changing their emotions and talk in the same cute manner they have always been talking to you. Having them as your moderator and contractor, you are really screwed big time. But can you blame them? It’s not like the girls did ask for hidden clauses and conditions at first. Everyone is so happy thinking about their own perceptions of the good it will be being a magical girl till sh*t hits the fan then it’ll be too late. One big difference is that Kyuubey exists physically while Fav feels like his is only digital.

What bothers and confuses me is this magical world thingy and the project Fav is supposed to undertake and report. I’m not sure why they are even doing this as it is not clearly explained and I’m confused if they are really that dumb not to see the magical girls killing themselves. It’s like handing them a project and not even giving a damn about it, so when asked about it periodically, they accept whatever answer and continue not to give a damn. Fabulous. It just shows this magical world isn’t as great as they’re supposed to be or they are just powerless. I mean, why the need of a magical project in the first place, right? Another thing that boggled me is how magical girls lose their attributes if they know about their true identity. Fair enough, if they are in normal form, they won’t have any magical girl powers. But seeing how some of them know each other (like Sister Nana and Winterprison), wouldn’t their power be ineffective? I feel like I’m missing something here… Also I find it redundant that the special magical items cost the purchaser’s lives in years. Because not that it mattered anyhow as they’ll be dead anyway! Get what I mean?! Of course it is to reflect the grimness of the game and to see the desperation of some but like I said, it didn’t matter because all of the purchasers ended up dead in the end.

This series is done by Lerche who has brought to you Ansatsu Kyoushitsu, Hamatora, Danganronpa, Carnival Phantasm, Gakkou Gurashi, Unbreakable Machine Doll and Saijaku Muhai No Bahamut. Thus you can see why the art and drawing style lean towards the moe side like in some of those aforementioned series. Although nothing that extraordinary, sometimes it feels pretty odd to see cute girls killing each other. I can’t say about the character designs because I think magical girls have come a long way since the days of Sailormoon and Cardcaptor Sakura. They aren’t your typical magical girl outfit anymore. Therefore at first it was weird to see a bunch of cosplaying girls running all over town. I mean when you have a witch, ninja, nun, knights, robot, gothic loli and even a cowgirl in the fray, it doesn’t really look like magical girl fest on this level anymore. But I guess this gives a variety of eye candy because if everybody is going to look like palette swap variants of Sailormoon, it would be just bloody boring and pain to look at. Is it me or does La Pucelle look a bit like Saber in some angles?

There are quiet a handful of recognizable seiyuus lending their voices here as I later find out because the shocking thing was how I couldn’t recognize most of them when I should have! Excuse: I was too engrossed in the story and killings for me to strain my ear and listen. So it was really a surprise for me when I discover that Nao Touyama was behind Snow White, Ayane Sakura as La Pucelle, Kikuko Inoue as Calamity Mary and Youko Hikasa as Ruler. They sound so different than their usual. Those that I had barely recognized and took me a while are Yuu Kobayashi as Winterprison and Megumi Ogata as Cranberry. Of course, those outright recognizable are Saori Hayami as Sister Nana and Satomi Arai as Magicaloid.

For the rest I didn’t recognize, they are Manami Numakura as Ripple (Retoree in Show By Rock), Inori Minase as Swim (Chamille in Nejimaki Seirei Senki: Tenkyou No Alderamin), Rina Hidaka as Alice (Anko in Tamako Love Story), Yumi Uchiyama as Top Speed (Momiji in Binbougami Ga), Risae Matsuda as Minael (Taki in Denpa Kyoushi), Satsumi Matsuda as Yunael (Nagaru in Denpa Kyoushi – hey, the angel twins are voiced by the same seiyuus who played delinquent twins in Denpa Kyoushi too?), Asuka Nishi as Tama (Shinobu in Kiniro Mosaic), Yumiri Hanamori as Nemurin (Hanako in Anne Happy), Kurumi Mamiya as Fav (titular character in Hamtaro – is this what evil hamsters sound like?).

I wonder if Sakebe by Manami Numakura as the opening is fitting for such a series. It is a lively rock outfit but personally even if it does fit action sequences, it doesn’t seem to bode well if you have a series about everybody killing everybody and deaths are for real. Personally the ending theme is more fitting despite it is also another rock piece. Dreamcatcher by Nano starts out all echo-y, making it feel close to Enya’s kind of music. Mixing a good amount of English and Japanese words into the song, it gives some sort of hope after all the grim killings we have seen.

Overall, if you are traumatized after watching cute magical girls kill each other, I recommend to you watching Mahou Shoujo Nante Mou Ii Desu Kara for therapy. Yes, that magical girl show about a magical girl doing no magical girl stuffs. Well, if you really get traumatized after watching this, then you’re not ready to face some of the other magical girl series that are dark in their own way. Better off sticking to old school retro Sailormoon and Cardcaptor Sakura, eh? This show is not for the faint hearted and in my books this is an interesting and remarkable series despite what others have to say about it. It shows us the dark side of humans (magical girls in this case) when life and death are at stake. Lots of moral questions are raised but more importantly do you stick with your principles and do what is right. A great reminder never to jump in the bandwagon when things seem too good to be true. Hmm… Better have a second thought and not click on that invitation and application on social media looking for masters to supervise a harem of beautiful obedient and submissive maids in a large luxurious mansion. Can’t… Resist… Clicking…

Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor

March 18, 2017

You know what they say about gamblers being creature of habit. I’m sure there are lots more sayings about gamblers, their addiction, their greed and their baseless confidence they can win big each time but I don’t want to bore you with all those stuffs. This isn’t what this blog is about. Not so long ago, I did mention that I was hit by the survival genre bug after my stint with Mirai Nikki and Umineko No Naku Koro Ni. Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor is one of those suggested titles on my waiting list and now the time has come to own up and pay its dues. What makes this a bit different is that this series involves gambling and not so much of fantasy elements. I know that I dislike gambling (and it is a good thing since I know I never have much luck to begin with) but I was curious to see how a gambler survives from one hell to another with his so called luck. Hey, maybe I can learn a few tips from here and test my luck at the casino… NO WAY!!! STAY OUT OF GAMBLING, ME ESPECIALLY!

Limited Rock-Scissors-Paper
Kaiji Itou is a bum with no job. He drinks and gambles away. One day this creepy guy, Yuuji Endou comes into his place after he suspects him of vandalizing his luxury car. Kaiji panics and of course this led him to be taken away for a more serious discussion. It seems his friend, Takeshi Furuhata has gone missing and left behind a debt he has not even paid a single yen. As Kaiji is the guarantor, he must pay up and with compounding interests, it blows up to millions. However Endou gives him hope because there is a ship, Espoir that will give him a chance to free his entire debt and even walk away as a millionaire. Of course the game of high stakes will be gambling and he will be facing off with other debtors. Endou paints a picture of hope for him to pay off his debt all in one night instead of slogging for 20 years. Kaiji is hesitant at first but Endou receives a call that there are only a couple of places left. Kaiji then decides to take the plunge. Of course all this was just a ploy to get him to participate. Now he is on board along with the rest with similar fate. Hosted by Yukio Tonegawa, they are given their ‘war funds’ in which a million yen is the minimum. There is a catch that the interest is compounded 40% every 10 minutes. Of course everyone protests at this craziness but what choice do they have? What right do they have? While many opt for the minimum, there are some brave enough to take the maximum of 10 million. Kaiji also can’t be considerate about others and takes the maximum. They are explained the first game. Inside their envelopes contain cards of rock, scissors and paper. They have a limit of placing their hand depending on their cards’ availability. They are also given 3 stars each. Every hand they win, they take a star. At the end of the 4 hour time limit, they win if they can maintain 3 stars. But even if they have more stars but have not finished their cards, they are still considered as lost.

Kaiji meets this guy Jouji Funai who proposes to team up since they are the only ones who took the maximum funds. At first Kaiji is hesitant but Funai mentions he has been on board this ship several times and that you can buy stars with money. After Kaiji agrees to team up, they play each other and draw their hand 9 times. But on the 10th hand, Funai betrays him and wins his hand. He also wins the 11th hand. He leaves Kaiji with only a star left. Kaiji feels betrayed but it is useless to cry betrayal since he let his fate being decided by others. Besides, it’s not like Funai broke any rules. Kaiji then sees his friend Furuhata who is also shock to see him. He proposes to team up. Although they have money and cards, they lack stars and go to find someone who has stars and no cards. Mamoru Andou is their perfect guy as the trio pool their resources to get the necessary stars.

However Andou almost betrays them when he steals a card and plays it. And lost. Saying sorry won’t cut it but Kaiji won’t kick him out of the group even if he knows well Andou was going to betray them anyway because it won’t do them any good. So with only 4 cards left and all of them scissors, Kaiji deduces a dangerous strategy. He has them find a man with more than half cards left and many stars while Kaiji himself goes to buy more stars. However nobody is going to sell to him at this point. When his buddies find the match, Kaiji knows exactly how this man plays. Kaiji pretends to be desperate to get him to play since this guy likes to kill off those with only 1 star left. Kaiji is hinging dangerously on this balance theory. Normally you would discard your cards so you would have a balanced set at all times. Kaiji wins the first round knowing this guy would use paper (since he has more of it). In the second round, Kaiji loses. But this is all part of his plan to make him get confident and blinded by his own balance theory. In the third round, Kaiji wins and in the final round Kaiji also beats him since this guy cannot believe he has 4 scissors in a row.

Thinking of their next strategy, Kaiji realizes something about the balance of the remaining cards. He gets this idea to buy up the rock cards. When time runs out, it will give them a winning chance against the scissors cards. Using their funds to buy rock cards from gamblers with 3 stars, they wait and take turns to check to balance of cards left. However they realize that scissors cards are dropping at a faster rate. Kaiji then realizes somebody else is also buying up the paper cards and thus scissors cards are declining because they have been drawing. With panic setting in, Furuhata and Andou rush to play their hand to avoid their rock cards being useless. They lost. Back to square one. That is when they are approached by Kitami and his group. They are the ones who bought out the paper cards. He praises Kaiji for coming up with this strategy and sees them as worthy opponents. That’s why they have decided to play them as their last opponents. He offers to sell his stars but Kaiji refuses and instead wants to play him in a death match. They will play until one loses all his stars.

However Kitami refuses so Kaiji will settle for just one game. But Kaiji throws down all his money as his wager and bet 3 stars on this single game. Since Kitami has enough stars even if he loses, Kaiji will convince his pals to lend theirs. Kitami will not wait so Kaiji offers all his money if he cannot convince them in 5 minutes. With his friends being selfish, negative and pessimistic, Kaiji hits hard on the need to move forward. There is not much time left. Eventually they manage to agree but Kitami wants to chicken out. This is when Kaiji shoots back about him being a coward. After it has come to this, he wants to back out? So the match begins. Kitami has a bad feeling about this but at this point as per the rules, he cannot change his card or pull out. Kaiji explains from all his actions and words that he exactly knows what extra odd card he has and put out. I don’t really understand the technical aspects but whatever. It seems Kaiji still has a scissors card and wins against Kitami’s paper card. Luckily Kaiji bought this earlier on as insurance. The 30 rock cards were just for them to draw out later on.

Kitami’s group is now arguing among themselves. Kaiji proposes they buy 30 paper cards. His friends manage to get 20 paper cards. Kaiji now talks to Kitami and wants to be his saviour. He tells him his buddies have sold him out and sold their paper cards to them. But for Kitami’s case, he needs to give his money if he wants Kaiji to take his paper cards. Kitami does so and now Kaiji’s group has obtained the necessary cards. They have now 30 rocks, 5 scissors and 34 papers. Kaiji is then approached by Funai who wants to buy some cards. This guy has already more than enough stars and he wants to win more? He is willing to pay upfront his star for cards but Kaiji refuses when Funai tells him to betray his friends. When it’s time to move in, nobody wants to play with them. This is because of all the distrust and the scamming everyone at this point has seen. Their only choice is to wait till more cards are whittled. Then Funai voices out. At this rate everyone will lose because of the suspicions of knowing what card they have. He suggests to start anew and shuffle their cards among each other. This of course puts a damper in Kaiji’s buyout strategy. With more and more people joining Funai’s group, Kaiji’s group also has no choice but to join in.

Counting the cards and types, it seems it doesn’t tally. Somebody out there is holding 3 scissors cards. Anyway Funai reshuffles them and redistributes them. To buy time, he throws and scatters Kaiji’s 69 cards. After picking them up, Kaiji realizes he has all the paper cards. He sees Funai trying to make someone play with him. That guy is hesitating so when Kaiji offers to play, Funai reveals the buyout trick. Now everybody doesn’t want to play with Kaiji. Kaiji feels betrayed and wants to get physical. But when he realizes Funai was going to call his opponent his victim, he realizes that everything was a scam setup by Funai. He recalls the suspicious moves Funai made during the reshuffling. He counted the types of cards remaining instead of the whole is so he could mark them. Victims he targeted, he marked the card by marking a scar. Since he was the one who finally distributed the cards, the shuffling by everyone was a false sense of security. Even more so Funai distributed them randomly instead of in a pre-ordered manner. With that, nobody wants to play with Funai but this doesn’t make Kaiji and co’s situation better. Kaiji realizes a loophole and can win but it is dangerous. He goes to talk to the remaining guys to play him. Although Kaiji knows their cards, he will forfeit his choice in choosing which cards to play. This means he will lie face down 3 cards in which the opponent will pick for him to play. Kaiji wins against the first opponent but loses to the second and third one. However this didn’t matter because it is to lure Funai as the last person to play with him. They will settle everything and he will pay him back for all the betrayal.

However Funai will not play him and calls out to the guy who has the remaining 3 scissors cards. He will even give him enough stars to survive. However nobody responds. Kaiji then reminds him about an earlier incident when a guy was thrown out for trying to flush down his cards. Therefore there is no other players left on the field with cards except them. Funai tries to set the deal to play him but Kaiji will not accept less than 5 stars. Either way it will be the same for him. How? Because now they have 66 cards. Playing 1 with Funai means they have 65. If they draw, one will still be holding a card left and will go down. Kaiji will take the fall. So it is either Funai plays him or sinks with him. No choice, Funai plays and loses but this saves him. Kaiji’s group has a total of 10 stars now and even though they draw the remaining cards, Kaiji takes the fall with the single card left and is sent to the other room. Furuhata and Andou thank him and vow to save him. In the other room, he is stripped naked and put into a room with other losers behind a one-way mirror. He meets Okabayashi and Kouji Ishida who have been waiting for this moment. They have been sending out signals to their teammates for them to win. Because in the aftermath, those with 1 or 2 stars still have an option to buy stars. However they have 10 minutes to do so. Ishida realizes he has been betrayed because the person he teamed up with is now in the winner’s room. Kaiji is relieved that Furuhata and Andou get permission to save him. But when the bidding starts, all the desperate losers hound them to buy stars. Furuhata manages to sell and give one but are they going to do the same to the rest? They need the remaining 3 to save Kaiji. However after seeing the money, Andou decides not to sell the stars and doesn’t care about him.

Andou explains about the debt they’ll rake up if they save Kaiji. If they cut him off, they stand to pocket 10 million each if they leave this ship. While Kaiji is furious, there is nothing he can do as Furuhata even agrees to go with Andou. They start bidding to others to sell their excess stars. Okabayashi mocks Kaiji about friendship and money and everything about it. Because he has some money in hand, Okabayashi’s friends save him. As he is about to leave, Kaiji beats him up till the guards restrain him. Ishida wonders why he did that futile attempt but Kaiji has a plan. He notices Okabayashi does not have enough cash to pay for his freedom. This means he must have hid extra cash somewhere else. Only he knows the location or else his friends would have betrayed him. Because carrying so much cash will be dangerous at this point, he must have converted into some precious metal. Noticed the bandage on his back? It is where he hid his jewels! Once Okabayashi realizes it is missing, it is Kaiji’s turn to have the last laugh. He forces Okabayashi’s friends to save him if they want the jewels. They beat up Okabayashi and are forced to rescue Kaiji. Ishida can only lament by himself since he had already given up from the start. Once Kaiji is out, Andou and Furuhata are in shock. Save your explanation. He beats up Andou and slaps Furuhata. He takes back his stars and cash. He is sick of it all as he uses all his cash to buy the stars to free Ishida. Of course he is as poor as f*ck like them. Kaiji explains he is disgusted with everything that has happened on Espoir. The more they talk about money and fortune, the more they are being played into the hands of those who love watching them wallow in despair. He kicks a counter till it topples over? Well, it was a harrowing life and death experience he was hanging by a thread indeed.

Of the 103 participants, only 67 barely escaped. But only 29 managed to clear all debts. Although Kaiji has cleared his external debts of 3 million, he has new debts totalling to over 6 million from the ship. Kaiji is now working part time in a convenience store with an hourly pay of 900 Yen and his boss hates him. He finds it hard working in an environment with everyone being fake. One night before he leaves, the boss couldn’t find his envelope containing money. Of course he wants to search Kaiji’s bag but he wouldn’t. Calling him suspicious, Kaiji decides to gamble with him. If he checks and finds his money, Kaiji will pay a million. Otherwise Kaiji will get 100,000 Yen from him. The boss things he has hid the money somewhere that’s why he is confident of this gamble. This makes Kaiji mad and wants to kick his ass but his colleague, Makoto Sahara stops him. Later Sahara catches up with Kaiji to tell him that he too was suspected and searched. He quit on the spot. Kaiji knew he was the culprit. Because he must have stolen it and hid it somewhere and when the boss searched him and gave him the green light, quitting means he got a clean escape. Sahara admits to it and decides to treat Kaiji. After all, he hid the envelope in his bag! Kaiji is not impressed but Sahara is also observant. He can tell Kaiji is always suspicious when someone enters a door. Like as though somebody is after him. Sahara even plays a prank on him by leaving him a number supposedly from a man in black. So when Kaiji calls, it turns out to be Sahara’s handphone.

Human Derby
Kaiji is not impressed but on his way back, he sees Endou before him. Kaiji ignores him but Endou offers him another chance to clear off his debt in a single night. He is gathering participants for another party this weekend at a hotel. Kaiji will not accept but Sahara wants to participate. Kaiji tries to persuade Sahara this is a trap but Sahara thinks this is the only way a useless person like him can break out. Kaiji thinks he can repay back the debt with honest hard work but Endou calls him foolish and to open his eyes. With interests, his debts are already increased. At this rate he will only finish paying his debt in over 16 years. By that time he is already 40 years old. Can he wait around so long? Endou shows him 20 million and with more sweet talk for him to grab this chance. After some hard thinking, Kaiji takes up the offer. I mean, what has he got to lose, right? Right?!

Arriving at the basement of the hotel, he is not impressed to see Ishida here too. He suggests teaming up but Kaiji reminds him they are all enemies. Also here is Sahara. Kaiji sees some familiar faces from Espoir and those are the people he must be wary of. When the game begins, the 60 participants are told will be sent in groups of 12. They need volunteers for the first group. No other questions may be asked. At first everyone hesitates but after some volunteer and Kaiji realizes none are from Espoir, he too volunteers. Sahara and Ishida also volunteer to make up the first group. They are then put in a vertical coffin in which they can feel they are being carried and elevated. Once they reach the destination, they see the game. They are on a high elevation and must cross the steel beam. The first one wins it. There’s prize for second place too. However below are gamblers betting and cheering for them to run across. Everyone is shock in the first place but when the first one walks over and falls off, breaking all his bones, the betters laugh. Kaiji decides to take this opportunity to go but somebody in his lane jumps on him. With everyone finally moving, Kaiji realizes the beam is thinning. How can he overtake the guy in front? He has to push him off! That is what the crowd is cheering on. He better be fast because the guy behind him is catching up. Kaiji hesitates to push since he is feeling guilt. But soon after many others on other beams starts pushing.

Kaiji psychos himself about the dog eat dog world. Kill or be killed. So is he going to push after all that? Nah. He won’t push. But the guy behind him will. They struggle and although all 3 fall off, they manage to grab onto the beam. As per rules, touching it with your hands means disqualification. In the end, Sahara wins first place and Ishida takes second place. In the room where they wait, they can hear the next group participating. Even without watching, they can tell what happened. The later the groups, the lesser the survivors and the final group has only 1 man left standing. The winners are then given an envelope. However Sahara is mad that it isn’t cash but a ticket worth 20 million. Everyone is then ushered to the next stage. They are reminded that the ticket has an expiry date to cash in. That’s 2 hours from now.

Electric Current Steel Frame Crossing
They have to walk across another steel beam to reach a room opposite where they can cash it. Only catch is that this is 22 storeys high. Falling off means death. Since there is one spot for the second place open, the other survivors are welcome to join in. Although Sahara scorns at this sh*t, he is told off how normal people will slog their entire work life just to save this amount. You useless people participated in a game that didn’t even last 20 minutes and expect something great? If you want big money, you must risk your life for it. They are assured this one is real. If they reach it, they’ll get the cash. No strings attached. Kaiji accepts this challenge since this is not a competition and doesn’t have to push anyone off. He can take his time to cross. However there is just one slight change to the rule. The beam is also electrified. So if they touch it with their hands, their disqualification will also send them plunging to their deaths. With a few participants deciding to go for this death match, Sahara hesitates at first but decides to join in.

With 10 participants, those who do not participate are ushered away. Now all that is left is for them is to choose the order they are going. Kaiji motivates everyone up that they can do but Tonegawa knows it better. This false motivation is just hiding their fear. All will change when they cross halfway. Unknown to the participants, they are being filmed and watched by a group of powerful and wealthy people who control the world of money. These people have gotten over betting and gambling and are simply enjoying the despair of others. In other words, ultimate sadists. With 2 beams to cross, the participants get a move on. Halfway through, Kaiji suddenly starts hesitating. Fear catches up to him. It made him realize he wants to live. He doesn’t want to money and doesn’t care if he has debts up till 40. Things start to take a turn for the worse when a cold wind blows. Although it is for a short while, the first guy up ahead, Ota continues to feel the chills. Kaiji desperately tries to tell him it is all in his mind but Ota is already at his limits. He touches the beam, gets electrocuted and falls to his death. This leads to another guy can’t take this anymore. He tries to turn back but slips and falls. At this point with the others realizing they don’t want the damn prize and just wants to live, Kaiji tells Tonegawa to shut off the power because they don’t want to win anymore. However they’re not going to. They’ve been told the risks and dangers of the game and yet they want to back out when confronted with the situation. It shows they have never taken life seriously and never will. And then the inevitable happens.

One by one a chain reaction has the rest falling off. Only Kaiji, Sahara and Ishida are left. While Sahara screws it all and continues walking ahead, Ishida is too scared to move. It might seem over for him when he starts losing his balance but surprisingly he recovers. However he knows he cannot hold on much longer. He passes his ticket to Kaiji and hopes he can win it for him and pass it to his wife who is in debt because of him. Kaiji doesn’t care about all that and wants Ishida to do it himself. However Ishida realizes himself as a useless loser who baulks at the end. Kaiji is different. He is the kind who rises up to the occasion and can win. Kaiji tells Ishida he is the greatest human because in his last moment he could still think of somebody else other than himself. The next time Kaiji looks back, Ishida is already gone. Kaiji is distraught to realize Ishida fell silently so as not to agitate him. Kaiji and Sahara trudge on but the wind is starting to keep up. Their voices assure each other and keep the other ‘warm’. It might seem Sahara has lost it but he makes a mad dash and jumps. He manages to cling on to the ledge of the finish point. However Kaiji could see smiling people behind the window. He feels something amiss and warns Sahara not to open. Unfortunately when he opens the window, the difference in pressure causes a gust of wind and blows Sahara off!

Kaiji sees people standing behind the window on the floor above. Then he could see… Magical stairs? He is not seeing things. There seems to be a hidden flight of glass stairs. Could this be a secret path? He is suspicious at first it might be a trap but decides to take the plunge. Once his feet lands on the solid glass, he screams victory. Once he enters the building, the organizers congratulate him but Kaiji is not impressed and wants his money now. Unfortunately Tonegawa tells him he forfeited that right during the crossing. Remember he told him to cut the power and doesn’t want the money? Well, they did cut the power but there were some delays in doing so. So it was at that point Kaiji and co forfeited their right. Kaiji is mad and wants to kill him. However the big boss, Kazutaka Hyoudou wants to give Kaiji another chance seeing it was their fault they delayed the power cut. He views Kaiji as different and rare that the other trash. He wants to test his ability and agility of his soul via this game, E Card. Of course the risk is high and he stands to get back 100 million. He won’t be forced to participate but if he chooses not to, they can’t pay his compensation for crossing the bridge. Kaiji reluctantly agrees so as not to make the other deaths in vain.

He is shocked when he stumbles into the room filled with participants who broke their bones falling off the first bridge. Hyoudou seems to be enjoying hurting them. He explains he never helped anyone even when he is loaded with money. He trusts the truth of this principle that no matter how much he hurts them, he doesn’t feel their pain. It all boils down to his own happiness. He believes all these losers want him to torture them. For money. So for every pain they feel, he throws them money. He adds about kings and the poor in his explanation. The poor can overthrow the king if they don’t desire money. However kings will always rule over the poor as long as the poor keeps thinking about money. Money that they need just to become kings. A fruitless paradox they cannot escape. As long as the king provides sufficient comfort, uprisings will not happen no matter how hard kings drive them.

E Card
Tonegawa explains E Card. Each player will have 10 cards of 3 variants: 1 Emperor, 8 Citizens and 1 Slave. Emperor > Citizen > Slave > Emperor. You either take the Emperor or Citizen’s side. As Kaiji has wagered his life and there is no money to bet, Kaiji will now have to wager losing his sight or hearing. They will bet in millimetres and Kaiji as 30mm safety. The minimum bet is 1mm. If Kaiji wins, he gets 100,000 Yen but this is amplified if he bets more millimetres. That is only on the Emperor side. If he is on the Slave side, the reward is 5 times more. Since there is a maximum of 12 rounds, this is a relatively safe game for Kaiji since he can make the minimum bet and not lose his wager at all. But if he wants to clear his 20 million debt, he has to take the big risk. Kaiji scorns this benevolence of theirs since they showed no mercy when they let the other participants fall to their death. But still, Kaiji is going to win as he has already come this far. Kaiji choses the Emperor’s side first and wagers his hearing. He bets 10mm. Might as well go all the way. As the first round begins, the first card has them tie with Citizens. Kaiji puts up Emperor which beats Tonegawa’s Citizen. His first win earns him a million bucks. The second round, Kaiji follows the same pattern and also wins another million. Kaiji is getting pretty confident but Tonegawa’s wary smile throws caution to the wind. In the third round, Kaiji decides to change his pattern and put his Emperor on the third card. But it seems Tonegawa can read his mind and puts out his Slave. Kaiji loses and the drill inches 10mm closer. It’s deafening. Kaiji thinks Tonegawa’s mind reading is a bluff. Tonegawa claims he is only 50% right in his deduction. He has gambled so much that he can read people’s minds through experience. During the break, Kaiji checked the cards for any markings but none. Even Tonegawa knows about this and assures him they will not do such petty things. In fact they should be wary if Kaiji does any marking.

With the fourth round, Kaiji and Tonegawa switches card sides. Kaiji bets 2mm. First card has them both put Citizens. The second card Kaiji puts Slave but Tonegawa’s card is Citizen. For the fifth round, Kaiji thinks Tonegawa might put out his Emperor first but after all that thinking, thinks he won’t and true enough both put out Citizen. Kaiji is starting to feel the pressure of trying to guess what kind of card Tonegawa is going to put out and all his theories might not be relevant at this point. He thought of using fear as his trump card thinking that Tonegawa has more to fear if he loses to him. Although Kaiji cannot sense Tonegawa’s fear, he wants to try create it. He chooses Slave as his second card but Tonegawa puts Citizen. Kaiji is inching closer to breaking down so on the sixth round, Kaiji bets 10mm. He also uses his same tactic but surprisingly Tonegawa plays Emperor on his second card. Switching sides now, Kaiji is now starting to fear that he bets 1mm (seeing there are only 6 games left and 6 mm to his eardrum). Tonegawa explains why he knows what card Kaiji is putting. Kaiji might think this is a psychological game but it involves emotions too. Tonegawa has observed very well Kaiji’s habits, the character he puts forth when he puts out certain cards. It’s like reading him like a book. Fearful Kaiji puts out Emperor on his first card in the seventh round but Tonegawa has Slave! For the eighth round, Kaiji puts up his first 4 Citizen cards and Tonegawa matches them. This means knowing their last cards in hand, Tonegawa automatically wins. Kaiji is close to losing it. His hearing and his sanity.

For the ninth round on the second card, Kaiji wants to put out Emperor. But he hesitates greatly and ends up putting forth Citizen. He is regretting his decision when surprisingly Tonegawa’s card is Slave! This unexpected win for Kaiji makes Hyoudou mad as he beats up Tonegawa for losing a match he is supposed to win. On the tenth round, Kaiji loses again. Then he starts to think deeply certain words Tonegawa said as hints that would have put him at disadvantage. Factoring in Hyoudou’s actions, he thinks they are cheating. But how are they seeing his cards? There are no other cheats. The only ones who can see his cards is himself. He notices Tonegawa isn’t really looking at his cards but his own watch. It must have some sort of transmitter that sends Kaiji’s heartbeat to him. The ear device must be transmitting the data. Making Kaiji choose the device was just eliminating his suspicions and giving him a fake sense of security. Kaiji thinks he has a way to win. Learning that the device can drill up to 45mm and he is already at 27mm, Kaiji beats the remaining 18mm. Tonegawa is surprised and reminds him doing so might get killed but Hyoudou is more than happy to accept it since coincidentally if Kaiji wins the remaining 2 matches, he can clear all his debts. Kaiji needs time to think and washes himself in the toilet. A spectator talks to him and like the rest wants him to survive and they don’t want him to be reckless. Kaiji gets an idea and has this guy help him out. First he punches the mirror. Then he bangs his head like as though he wants to destroy the device. Tonegawa knows what he is doing as he can still read his body readings. Kaiji then takes a glass and cuts!

Kaiji returns for the 11th game and Tonegawa can still read Kaiji’s readings although he thinks some of them are off. Maybe it is the loss of blood. First card as usual, both Citizens. For the second card, Tonegawa tests him by showing a Citizen. Kaiji’s shock reaction but his readings don’t reflect it means he is bluffing. So Tonegawa puts out his Emperor, causing Kaiji to go into tears. The baddies are relishing to see his death when Kaiji opens his Slave card! That is when Tonegawa realizes too late. Kaiji cut his ear and the device is in the hands of one of the participants, that is why the readings were off. Hyoudou is so disappointed in Tonegawa and berates him as a man who can only take instructions but fail to rise up in emergencies. He is going to get demoted, blah, blah, blah. At this point, Kaiji thinks of taking advantage of Tonegawa letting his guard down but it is a risky trap. If he doesn’t take it now, when will he? Kaiji gives Tonegawa a chance to redeem his honour for the final game.

Hyoudou praises Kaiji for taking risks unlike others who want to stay in their comfort zone. Therefore if Kaiji wins, he will give him his money and make Tonegawa grovel in apology and more as per his request. Otherwise he dies. Another device is placed on his ear. For the first time Tonegawa is panicking because he has no instruments to read. So he is taking an awful long time to decide that Kaiji chides him for it. This riles up Tonegawa but he thinks this might be Kaiji’s tactic to catch him off guard. Tonegawa puts Citizen on the first card. Kaiji expects it. A draw. For the second card, Tonegawa notices blood stains on it. He remembers they are the cards played on the previous round so it could either be Citizen or Slave. Both put out Citizen. Tonegawa is confident his other stained card is Slave but then he has qualms if this is a trap. Maybe he wiped it clean. He opts of Citizen and Kaiji does the same. The final battle in the fourth card. Tonegawa sees Kaiji putting forth a blood stained card and is sure it is Slave. But then he hesitates. What if this is an elaborate trap? Kaiji may have purposely stained the cards and then switched them in a bid to make him think so. Therefore both stained cards are Citizens. He may look like he is in pain but he is a sneaky backstabbing snake underneath all that. That’s why he is a warrior. After all that contemplation, Tonegawa puts forth is Emperor. Kaiji then thanks him for being the snake. Tonegawa thought of reading other person’s thoughts but end up asking himself what to do in that situation. That makes him the snake. Kaiji unveils his card: Slave! Kaiji wins the impossible!

Tonegawa wants an explanation as he thought Kaiji switched his card. This strategy worked because Tonegawa suspected him. Kaiji did switch cards but not as he thought. He just switched them closer. Despite Hyoudou complained about him, Kaiji knew and respected Tonegawa as first rate. A guy like him would notice the blood stains and come up with all that analysis. Because Tonegawa views himself superior than all the other scums and trash of society as he has always won, setting him apart from the rest and cultivating his arrogance. With Kaiji winning, now he wants Tonegawa to kneel and apologize. However Hyoudou doesn’t think it is that simple. Tonegawa might kneel as much as he wants but the question is the sincerity of the heart. Hyoudou knows what it means because he was betrayed before. Borrowers apologized to borrow money but when it is time to repay, they disappear and the sincerity gone. Therefore to truly test one’s sincerity, Tonegawa will kneel on this burning iron platform! He will do so for at least 10 seconds. Failure to do so, he will repeat it as much as it takes. If he doesn’t want to do it, there is a contraption that will make him do it. Of course Tonegawa will do it himself. He begins the kneeling and it seems like eternity. It is just painful watching him get burnt and Kaiji even cries for him! Eventually Tonegawa lasted 12 seconds and passed out. Later in the toilet, Kaiji realizes he was mistaken. Tonegawa isn’t the real enemy. He was just a puppet like all of them. The real enemy is Hyoudou as he revelled in watching others in pain. He wants to fight him and avenge his fallen friends for real but the others persuade him he already has won the impossible, the money enough to clear his debts to start anew. He relents since he has no plan on how to take Hyoudou down. They help him do first aid and even bring back his cut ear, giving hope the hospital might reattach it. They thank Kaiji for fighting and winning for them too. But when Kaiji leaves with them, he gets inspiration on how to defeat the final boss.

Tissue Box Lottery
So this tissue box gives him inspiration? He notices that instead from the top, the side can be opened too. Based on the box’s design, he notices a small slip of paper can be inserted from the side and won’t fall out. It is well hidden and can be pulled out from the inside. Taking paper towels and a pen, he has set up the perfect final gamble: Lottery. It will be a game to see how can be the first to draw the winning paper. Of course he will hide that paper inside this secret side. He will hide this in all the boxes so that when a subordinate brings in any one of the boxes, Kaiji’s victory can be assured. But isn’t this cheating? Kaiji points out everyone has been cheating from the start. If he is going to it, he will be going all out to win. The rest argue about the shortfalls which include the chance of Hyoudou picking up the winning paper on his first try. I guess there is that small risk. What if after Kaiji picks the winning paper and they check the box only to find another winning card? So he’ll lie his way? What if they check the other tissue boxes? One will stay behind and after the subordinate picks it, he’ll flush the evidence down the toilet. There are other tissue boxes from other manufacturers which means not the same design. Hide that. Kaiji is ready and now talks to Hyoudou to convince him to gamble. However Hyoudou argues Kaiji must be feeling lucky now and must know when to stop. When Kaiji thinks he is chickening out and will be embarrassed by his defeat, Hyoudou doesn’t think so. Why should he feel embarrassed? He knows he cannot win all the time like how pros cannot always win against every amateur. Kaiji knows he is trying to give forced excuses. He is relentless on mistakes and losses of others but on himself he quickly worms his way out. It makes Tonegawa and his fallen comrades better people than him.

After all that bugging, Hyoudou agrees. But Kaiji won’t play E Card or any other game he suggests in fear there will be cheating. So as not to make it look suspicious, Kaiji acts and pretends to think of a game. Then he ‘gets an idea’ and starts ‘creating’ it. At first he draws many uneven circles to throw on the floor. This is to avoid suspicions when they check the box after the game, there will be many circles to hide it. When a subordinate brings in the tissue box, Kaiji checks it and then lets Hyoudou check it. Nothing. Pass. After emptying it, Hyoudou sounds like he doesn’t want to go through with it because for such a simple game he took a long time to prepare. But he’ll play along at Kaiji’s request although he has a few conditions. First, the winning paper cannot be crumpled or else he might be hiding a pre-prepared one and just take it out. Secondly, before reaching one’s hand in the box, they have to roll up their sleeves and show they’re not hiding anything. Hyoudou will also like to go first. Because if by chance Kaiji picks the winning paper on the first go, it’ll be a shame Hyoudou won’t even have a chance to play. Last, the wager. Hyoudou suggests betting 100 million each. Kaiji certainly doesn’t have that much money. That’s why he will wage his fingers! 20 million each! So he’ll lose 4 in total. Kaiji reconsiders if the risk is worth it. Losing outweighs than what he has now but since he has come this far, he can’t back down. He’ll bet his fingers. Hyoudou is revved up. To make it look like fair, they both insert the winning paper inside together. Hyoudou draws first. And then he trolls Kaiji like as though he pulled the winning paper! A blank. Gotcha! Yeah, Kaiji is scared the sh*t out of his pants. Now it is Kaiji’s turn. He inserts his hand and tries to grab it at the secret location. It’s not there. Try again. Not there. Really. Oh sh*t. OH SH*T!!!! Panic sets in as he wonders if it got loose and dropped somewhere. He prays to God harder than ever to win on his first try by chance. Did God listen to his prayer? No. Blank. This only gives fuel to Hyoudou to taunt him more because it’s like giving him a second chance, no?

Could Hyoudou be trolling again because he is saying crap like he is going to use his luck to win this time. He could have used it the first time but wanted to give Kaiji a chance. So as Kaiji is hoping is call is a bluff and praying a miracle would happen, he unthinkable happen. Hyoudou pulls out the winning paper! It’s true! Kaiji is in despair but instead of begging for his life, he accepts his loss and to lose with pride. Hyoudou respects him and gives him this winning paper as luck for next time. Kaiji loses his money and his fingers. In the aftermath when they check the box, they don’t see the winning paper they planted. But Kaiji noticed a paper crumpled up in the corner. It turns out to be their planted winning paper. Then Kaiji realizes how Hyoudou pulled off this miracle. This paper had a crease. It was folded. When they both put in the paper together, Hyoudou folded it to mark it. When he went first, he must have took the planted paper and crumpled it. But how did Hyoudou know of this plan? Because after witnessing Kaiji’s match with Tonegawa, he knows Kaiji is the kind of guy who would think instead of relying on luck in a game of high stakes. This means the moment he accepted the 100 million pay-out, Hyoudou knew Kaiji had setup something. But Kaiji knows he has himself to blame. He realizes he could have won because Hyoudou gave him 1 chance. But instead Kaiji did what he should not: Prayed to God. He should know better than to rely on something else other than himself. No use thinking in retrospect, right? Well, let’s hope he could get his revenge on Hyoudou the next time. If that ever happens.

Season 2

Hell
Kaiji is back to his old sloth ways and because he has raked up almost 10 million in debt, he is on the run from MIBs. His debt includes reattachment of his ear and fingers from underground clinics. He thought he found salvation when he meets Endou. Actually that guy has been demoted to collect debts. He is not pleased Kaiji is begging to him for another gamble and is sure to win. But Endou knocks him out and brings him to a place where he will be working for 15 years to clear his debts. It is an underground hard labour where the disappeared go. They even have their own currency, perica. It is the same routine every day so Kaiji plans to escape. He knows the tight security and taking hostage is futile. So he is going to work and save hard so he could buy a single day off in which he will go gamble and win big. Payday comes and Kaiji starts saving his money. However the foreman, Ootsuki tempts him with beer on the house. Kaiji drinks it and feels good. He couldn’t resist the temptation as he buys more beer and snacks to spoil himself as Ootsuki tells it to him. He thought he could resist the next time but succumbs to temptation again. Before he knows it, Kaiji has blown more money than he can save. Can he last till the end of the month? That is when Ootsuki moves in and can advance him some money. Of course there must be something in it for him too. So if Kaiji has no money, how can he earn more? Ootsuki suggests going back to his old ways of gambling. Kaiji agrees to participate after being convinced he can get double the amount and pay off his debts to Ootsuki tonight.

Underground Chinchiro
Ootsuki gets special permission to hold a gambling session. Since we have Kaiji and a young newbie, Tomohiro Miyoshi first time playing this triple dice game called chinchiro, we are explained some of the rules. It’s a bit confusing so I’m going to skip a little. What I understand is that you have 3 tries to roll the 3 dice. The goal is to get a pair and the odd one out is your number. The one with the highest number among the players wins. So if you don’t get any pairs and all are different numbers, you go bust. Of course there are special rules like those with double, triple or big pay outs like getting triplets or 4-5-6 roll. Then there are underground rules special only applied to this place like the dealer cannot win automatically on the first go and the dealer can pass. As the game begins, Kaiji makes small bets just to feel the flow. But as the game goes on, he cannot get the flow and despite his winnings, the amount is so small that it frustrates him. Then he decides to take a gamble with a big bet of 3,000. It is Miyoshi’s turn as dealer and he rolls the weakest play. The bowl is now at Kaiji’s hands as he begins his roll. For the first time he has bad luck. He rolls again and by the third roll, he hits the ultimate worst combination of 1-2-3. This means his loss is doubled. The angry gambler inside him hates losing and instead of backing down, he pushes his luck again in the next round betting again another 3,000. When he increases his bet to 5,000, lady luck shines on him and he wins big with 4-5-6.

So when it is his turn as dealer now, everyone else is scared and only places small amounts. This frustrates Kaiji but Ootsuki and his lackey, Isawa decide to ‘celebrate’ his big bet by placing the maximum 20,000. This means if Kaiji loses, he cannot afford to pay them back and will have to take another advance. This leads Kaiji to berate him as a worst human being. He lashes out that Ootsuki leeches off on the hard work and pay of others by offering the same food and drinks. He also knows everyone here has ganged up against him to break him. Kaiji rolls and he rolls a strong number. Everyone takes their turn to roll and fails to get any better. Kaiji wins big. He has enough to pay off his advances and still has some for himself. Kaiji is revelling in his victory but as dealer he must go another round. Kaiji rolls another strong number and becomes very confident (bordering arrogant) that he can win this. So when Ootsuki reminds him that everyone still has a chance to win no matter how small it is and the reliance of willpower, Kaiji laughs it off. When Isawa rolls, he gets 4-5-6. And when Ootsuki rolls, he gets triplets. Luck has abandoned Kaiji as he has to pay double and triple respectively. This means the money he has now cannot cover the pay out and he is back in debt hell of 20,000.

Kaiji along with Miyoshi received only half pay as the rest are taken by Ootsuki. These men are called 45s. Kaiji has given up to get his day off seeing it is impossible to save up that much and that vacation still depends on management’s approval. So he enjoys himself with whatever pay he has. But when a colleague gets sick and is thrown into the medic room where many others also face the same predicament, he becomes scared in learning men whose bodies have broken down will never return because you need money to cover medical expenses. Debt for life. This convinces Kaiji to save up but his weak resolve means he is tempted to blow it again. This is when Miyoshi stops him and thinks they can save for their day off. Kaiji thinks he is only positive because of his small win. Miyoshi shows the data record of the chinchiro. Kaiji notices Ootsuki seems to be winning on certain games. He spots a pattern. He knows he is cheating and is mad. He realizes there is a way to beat him but he needs numbers. So he talks to the 45s while Ootsuki holds another gambling session with others. He tells them about this and accurately predicts Ootsuki’s outcome on one turn. The rest are convinced that he is cheating and even more so when Kaiji explains how Ootsuki is keeping a stack of money for selling snacks and drinks to them. Kaiji suggests forming an alliance to take down Ootsuki and his subordinates in one big fell swoop. They have only one chance and nobody else must know about this. Kaiji has everyone pool their money and need to build up their funds more. They are going to win big enough for all of them to win a day off.

While Kaiji is on nursing duty, a guy named Hiromitsu Ishida recognizes him. He is the son of Ishida. Like father, like son? This guy seems to be blaming his father for failing to clear his debts. Kaiji cannot stand his trash talk and slaps him! He tells him off Ishida is clearly a different man from him and definitely better than this trash who depends on others. Ootsuki and his men notice the 45s trying to save up and clear their debt. So they trick them to go shower and when they come back, their food is gone (because it is meal time is over). This has Ootsuki tempting to share their food with him with no charge. However Kaiji splashes beer on his face. Ootsuki doesn’t lose his cool and instead ‘forgives’ him. Because the cameras are watching. Over the next many days, Kaiji and his group face daily harassment from doing dangerous work and almost getting killed. This is of course part of Kaiji’s plan. The more Ootsuki harasses him, the more the noose around his neck tightens. Hiromitsu only observes and cannot understand why Kaiji is enduring all this. During payday, Kaiji shows his distrust by counting his pay in front of Ootsuki. All this is being watched by Yoshihiro Kurosaki, the second in command after Hyoudou. He is here to check out Kaiji and notes he still hasn’t lose his fangs.

Gambling night is here. Ootsuki is on a winning streak and Kaiji notes the difficult timing. He needs to have Ootsuki invite him so that they could finish their business and true enough he does. Kaiji then warns he will add a rule that there will be no maximum bet. Ootsuki agrees. Kaiji notices Numakawa, Ootsuki’s other henchman won’t deal so this proves that this tactic only works on Ootsuki and Isawa in their current formation. Kaiji bets 20,000 and some are disappointed thinking he would have bet more. Isawa is the dealer and rolls 4-5-6. Kaiji losses big. In the next round, Kaiji only bets 1,000. He wins but only a small one. With everyone disappointed, this is actually part of Kaiji’s plan as he predicted of this big loss and small win whereby he will be marked as a loser. When Ootsuki tells him to get out, that is when Kaiji places all his money. That’s 52,000. He also signals to the 45s to come in. All of them bet their maximum and their total bet amounts to 507,000! Ootsuki is now sweating as he realizes too late they planned it all out. Could it be they want to become legends because win or lose big, the crowd is now cheering his name.

Ootsuki thinks Kaiji knows his magic dice trick. A year ago he got this special dice which only has 4, 5 and 6 numbers. This means they cannot throw a low hand. He conspires with Isawa and Numakawa on how to cheat the other players by changing some new rules. That is why Isawa and Ootsuki can roll big winners because they have the special dice. Once it comes to Numakawa’s turn, he switches them back to normal dice. Ootsuki is now forced to use ordinary dice. A close 4-5-6 but still a bust. He notices Kaiji and others not reacting. Do they not know this trick? Could he just be overthinking? Ootsuki throws a second time. Another near one but still a bust. Still no reaction from Kaiji and co. This makes Ootsuki thinks they don’t really know and the reason they put up a large bet is because to make him cautious and not cheat and just acting tough. This is when Ootsuki decides to use his magic dice on his final throw. Even if Kaiji is going to inspect the dice after it, he cannot snatch it fast enough as Numakawa will be faster. So how? Before the dice stops rolling, Kaiji snatches them! Ootsuki and his henchmen wrestle and try to get the dice from him as Kaiji reveals to everyone they were cheating. The former foreman, Odagiri will handle this and takes the dice from Kaiji’s hands. It is then revealed the magic dice that Ootsuki have been using.

Ootsuki is now interrogated as the crowd is mad for his cheating. Kaiji reveals his observations from Miyoshi’s notes that he always rolls a good hand on all his first moves. That’s when he planned a showdown. When Kaiji and 45s placed a huge bet, this is to make Ootsuki suspicious that they are on to him. Kaiji knows when he used the magic dice because normally when the dice is thrown, everyone will be focused on the bowl. But he noticed Ootsuki was looking at Kaiji to see if there is any reaction. Had he not looked at him like that, he would have grabbed the dice. Because Kaiji never told everyone about his trick, the reason their reaction was genuine. So when Ootsuki decided to use his magic dice, his focus was all on the bowl. With the crowd getting angrier, Ootsuki realizes his mistake and greed of walking right into Kaiji’s trap and agitation. He thinks he can turn this around by saying that he wasn’t cheating because that roll wasn’t finished and thus doesn’t count. But the crowd is not convinced. Surprisingly Kaiji agrees. He suggests continuing the game but they will use their own special dice. Ootsuki thinks Kaiji is a fool to give him a chance to redeem. The most he might lose is a million or two so it’s nothing. Ootsuki rolls the weakest hand of his magic dice. When it is Kaiji’s turn, he thinks they need to make Ootsuki pay more. So he takes out his special dice that only contain all 1! Snake eyes! Remember, Ootsuki agreed to everyone using their own special dice. So when Kaiji and co roll snake eyes in which the pay-out is 5 times more, they win over 2 million! Ootsuki is heart breaking having to pay this out from his special stash of almost 20 million. However Kaiji says it is not over yet. Ootsuki is the dealer and he has to roll again. The rules haven’t changed. All’s fair, right? Yeah, he’s f*cked. With Kaiji and 45s betting all their winnings amounting to 3 million, they set to win over 15 million!

With Kurosaki coming in and agreeing with Kaiji’s logic, he tells Ootsuki that he might be able to draw and save himself using normal dice and getting snake eyes. Though, the odds are 1/216. Pray real hard. Of course he failed and the total pay-out is 18 million. Kaiji decides to split evenly among the 45s. Although they argue Kaiji should get more because he did most of the work, he credits everyone for their trust. They believed in him and not question him despite Kaiji never explained how he was going to win. This trust is the reason why they won against Ootsuki. Kaiji then makes a deal with Kurosaki that there will be no other conditions for the day off. Kurosaki agrees believing it will encourage others to work harder for this.

Bog Pachinko
Kaiji is out and freedom has never tasted so good. But there is a timer on his wrist to indicate how much time he has left outside. It seems the other 45s decide to pool their resources and give Kaiji extra money and day offs. They figure it is better for him to bet and win big than each of them to bet and win the same amount. Yeah, make him do all the work again. But he’s got all the luck, right? They believe he is a nice guy and can be trusted because he trusted in them. So Kaiji has now 20 days and turn 800,000 Yen into 60 million to buy freedom for all. He knows normal casinos cannot make big killings and he needs to go underground. When a group of people is trying to rob Kaiji, he acts tough and shows his reattached fingers and scares the hell out of them. This impresses Koutarou Sakazaki who has been watching him and notes he is different. He has been trying to find guys like him for gambling and takes him to an unassuming building where there is a hidden casino with bets of high stakes. But the main draw is the pachinko because each ball costs 10 or 100 times more than the average. Then there is the mother of all pachnikos called Bog in which each ball is 1,000 times the normal bet. But if you succeed in getting a ball through 3 correct holes, you stand to win all the balls that other losers lost while playing this. This means a huge amount of 500 to 600 million Yen! Has anybody ever won it? Only 2 in history. Guess who? Hyoudou and Tonegawa! They won billions. This makes it even more suspicious because it could be an inside job. I mean, the house would lose big if somebody genuine had actually won it, right?

Kaiji crashes at Sakazaki’s place. He is shown a mini pachinko. Sakazaki knows somebody who works inside the place and paid millions for this and to keep quiet. With this, they can figure out how Bog works. However Sakazaki won’t tell Kaiji how to operate until the day they take action. Call it insurance. At first Sakazaki will give him only 5% of the cut and although enough to clear Kaiji’s debts, not enough to free 45s. Kaiji negotiates for 10% or else. Sakazaki agrees. Since they are going to do it 6 days from now. He shows Kaiji a maintenance schedule in which he also paid a lot to get. On that day, this is when the Bog has its monthly pin maintenance. This means the pins are looser compared to other days. A paper slips out from the schedule. Sakazaki panics and snatches it back. On the night before the attempt, Sakazaki is acting crazy like as though God has not abandoned him. Next day, he shows Kaiji their war funds of 50 million Yen. He is supposed to only have 20 so did he get this from the loan shark? On the contrary. Sakazaki works as a security in some firm. The paper is a safe combination from his boss. He took some of the money out. Because his boss is having his own issues, he won’t notice. They’ll win big and put it back. Of course this is illegal but they can’t be concerned of what is illegal or not. Win first! Kaiji is then told the plan and he can’t believe it is this simple.

After Sakazaki is body searched, he is allowed to play at the Bog. He takes the maximum bet of 10 million and begins his attempt. He has everyone cheer for him and assures everyone will get a share. Kaiji narrates the odds of winning is 1/5,400! Also, this is the trick they’re going to use to win. Sakazaki showed him that using a magnet can attract the balls. Because Sakazaki will be heavily searched, he needs an accomplice outside. They will hide it in a beer can and switch it with Kaiji during the tense moments. After all, the staffs do not check the onlookers. When Sakazaki wins, during the commotion, Kaiji will swap back the can and leave the building while Sakazaki is being checked again, removing all evidence of cheating. Everything goes as planned but when Sakazaki tries to use the magnet, it doesn’t seem to work. Kaiji then overhears the staff talking about using the block or something. He realizes they have been setup and tries to signal Sakazaki to stop and the need to strategize but he continues to be too focused on the Bog. In the end, he has already blown 20 million. In the toilet as Kaiji reveals they are on to them, he wants Sakazaki to give up now. But Sakazaki thinks they’ll still be alright because they don’t know about their magnet trick. Kaiji tells him to give up now because from this point on he will be gambling somebody else’s money. Leave now and he can stay a free man. But Sakazaki is furious. He has gambled everything and the only way out is to win back his losses. It will be fine as long as they don’t activate the block. Unheeding Kaiji’s advice, Sakazaki continues his gamble.

The staff sees the casino’s boss, Seiya Ichijou. He tells to just activate the block. He also knows about Kaiji. The block is activated and Kaiji knows it because the balls are now bouncing off. Sakazaki might have a little luck left since some that bounced off bounced back in from the side. However all is for naught one none really entered the hole he wanted. Sakazaki feels defeated and this is where Ichijou comes down. They think their trick has been exposed when Ichijou takes the can. He gives it back to Sakazaki and tells him to continue. Oh, he explains that today’s balls are made of brass to stem that magnetic trick. In the end, Sakazaki ends the game and has only 6 million left. Sakazaki back home thinks of gambling the ponies to make back their money and take another chance. Kaiji advises to take the remaining money and run away to another country but this only makes him crazier. When a pachinko ball accidentally drops out from his pocket, Kaiji gets an idea and returns to the casino to observe the Bog. He spends the entire day watching it till Ichijou and his men come down to do a little maintenance. Then Kaiji barges into the staff room to tell them to pay up for this single pachinko ball. Ichijou pays him but Kaiji hangs around in the room and observes certain spots. Ichijou remains cool and gives him his card that allows him to eat and drink free in this casino. Kaiji rips it apart. Ichijou continues to remain cool as he mocks Kaiji he will soon go back to the underground life. After Kaiji leaves, he goes in search of an empty room without electricity. He knows a way to defeat Bog.

When Kaiji returns to tell Sakazaki about it, his place is trashed and a letter from him saying he has gone to test his luck at the horse race. Kaiji continues observing the Bog and while resting at an ice cream shop, he hears rumours about a building under construction for a year. He confirms something and gets another idea. Then he goes to find Sakazaki at the horse race and stops him in time before he makes all his bet. Sakazaki is crazy believing his horse would win because of some bad pun. Well, what do you know? It ends up in last place. Kaiji then tells him his plan but they need more money and manpower. Kaiji has this person whom he can get involve. That guy is Endou and it seems he is being hit with hard times. Getting harassed by loan sharks? A taste of his own medicine? Kaiji talks to him about defeating Bog and he needs cash upfront as well as manpower, guys who are willing to dirty their hands. He agrees after hearing him out as he has got a bone to pick with his employer. Endou does his calculation on the interest of the money and manpower he will loan. Wow. It sure really adds up. Kaiji is upset despite the debt coming up to 130 million, he still wants a 50% cut on the Bog’s winnings. Endou claims he is sticking his neck out for him and if Kaiji fails, he will also fail. That is when Sakazaki pops up and can’t go through with this. Kaiji calms him down and then renegotiate with this deal. After signing the contract for their cut, Endou gives Kaiji 5 million upfront.

Sakazaki enters the illegal casino again but this time wearing a monk’s attire. For luck? While playing, Ichijou cannot sense his gambling lust. Like as though he is acting it all out. Sakazaki loses his entire 6 million. After that he goes crazy and tries to destroy the machine while claiming it cheats. While the staffs restrain him, Ichijou again feels strain. It’s like as though he is acting to distract them. Then it hit him. This is just a distraction. Ichijou and the staffs run back to the control room to catch Kaiji red handed snooping around. Ichijou then shows Kaiji the wall off money behind security laden features. He knows Kaiji barged into the staff room to look for a safe as an illegal casino must stack up on large amount of cash. If it is not there it must be in the control room. He thinks he hopes to find the safe and crack it another day. While Sakazaki is beaten up, they can’t ‘damage’ Kaiji too much because if he is unable to work after being sent back underground, they will replace him. Instead, Ichijou uses a device to tear out Kaiji’s fingernails! OH SH*T! All 10 fingers! A few days later, a new Bog is replaced and nobody played it. On the last day of Kaiji’s freedom, he is back to challenge the Bog again. He has the money. 50 million. This makes Ichijou sceptical. Did he not learn his lesson? They wonder if the Bog is rigged but with close guarding and maintenance it isn’t possible. With Kaiji mocking the unbeatable Bog, Ichijou accepts his challenge.

Ichijou gets a call from Kurosaki. He scolds him for letting Kaiji play because this means he has a plan. Ichijou is confident he will win. Kurosaki hopes so because if he loses, it is the end of him and will be made an example out of. Kaiji starts playing. It seems there are more balls entering the tray than usual. Ichijou then stops Kaiji from continuing and believes he has cheated. He claims Kaiji switched the balls with smaller ones and that is why more are coming through. He uses a tray for standard balls to prove it. But it matches. Kaiji is using valid balls. What if the tray is fake? Nope. It’s valid. Then he realizes it. Because nobody has been playing the Bog and they were the only ones maintaining it, they might have loosen the pins and make the path wider. Rushing back to the room, they realize their maintenance tools have been switched. Noticing concrete dust in it, they head up to the empty room above. They see a big hole on the floor. For the past few days, Kaiji must have used this vent to switch the tools. Ichijou panics and has his men activate the block. Everyone realizes something is wrong when the balls do not go in anymore. Even the balls that bounced off from the side don’t work anymore.

Kaiji finishes his million and shocks everyone by having another 10 million go. Ichijou gets a call from HQ to broadcast footage from the security cameras. Hyoudou will of course be watching this and he also has it broadcast to the underground labour camp. He wants to see how powerless they are as they are rooting for Kaiji to win. Because if Kaiji loses, the amount of debts he has racked will be cleared in over a century! Forever trapped in this hell hole! So he better win this. At this point he has already used up all his balls and puts in another 10 million. The crowd wonders why he is keeping up with this fruitless endeavour. Suddenly the flippers cannot close properly and letting the balls in! After all that hitting it seems the handles have crooked! Flashback has Kaiji explaining to Endou that in order to make this happen, the Bog needs to be destroyed so when the maintenance crew comes to fix it, they’ll swap the flippers with this one fitted with some sort of candy. The chemical reaction inside the flippers will cause the metal to bend but this will come into effect after an hour. Because Ichijou will be suspicious, they will use his cleverness against him to remove it all. Like Sakazaki smashing the Bog and Kaiji sneaking into the control room.

Ichijou stops the game when Kaiji wants to put in another 10 million to continue. He believes Kaiji is cheating and swapped the flippers during the maintenance. However Kaiji tells him back when he was cheating activating the block, he didn’t say anything. Because he had no proof. And now you want to accuse him of rigging the Bog? The crowd rallies behind Kaiji and they know the casino has been cheating and wants Ichijou to continue Kaiji playing. Ichijou then gets a call from Hyoudou himself. Oh sh*t. He berates Ichijou for his poor showing. He wants Ichijou to accept Kaiji’s game. Although Ichijou can stop the game if Kaiji is cheating, however that is if the casino didn’t cheat in the first place. As he has shamelessly activate the block, not only the casino but the company’s reputation will go down. He doesn’t want that to happen. They don’t have to play fair but they must look fair. It’s all about face and reputation. All he has to do is win and let Kaiji destroy himself. Easy, right? Otherwise, fail and he dies. Ichijou knows the trays are impregnable. Just to make sure, he ascertains with his staff that it was untouched during the replacement and they tested it out themselves to be 100% in working condition. He ups the difficulty level too just in case.

Flashback reveals Kaiji explaining to Sakazaki why the ball can never enter the third tray. Because the winning hole is located at the back, it is very hard for the naked eye to see. There is a slight bump which pushes it off the trajectory. Then why not enter from the other side? It is also not possible because the trays and the Bog are tilted! Kaiji noticed this when Ichijou picked up balls that rolled to his feet and not the stationary ones elsewhere around it. The balls will lose momentum by then. Ichijou starts panicking when no balls has gone into the third tray. Isn’t that good? When one does, he starts to freak out. His fears are confirmed when he notices a customer dropping his pachinko balls on the floor. He notices the balls rolling in the opposite direction! Did Kaiji sneak into the office and changed the remote for the tilting? He doesn’t know how but he knows Kaiji didn’t do anything to the remote but the building! How the f*ck did he tilt the building?! Back to that flashback of Kaiji explaining it all. When he learns about the construction building near the casino to re-tilt back, this means the earth around the area is soft. But if they are going to tilt the building with 20 tonnes of sandbags, wouldn’t they get caught? They’re going to use water. Pretending to be delivery guys, they deliver plastic containers to the empty rooms above. Then they fill it up enough in 8 hours to avoid being discovered (something about the daily level check on the roulette wheel).

Ichijou tilts maximum the trays the other way. Although this would prevent Kaiji from passing the first and second tray, it will be very dangerous if the balls ever make it to the third one. Thus he orders to find his staff to find that device they used years ago. That device activated something very obvious and because so, they put it away never to use it again. But desperate times calls for desperate measures. Ichijou can’t lose now. Flashback reveals he started working in this company 7 years ago and put up with all the crap that Hyoudou made him do. He did so because he knows that old guy is going to die and Kurosaki will take over. Ichijou is favoured under him. Once that happens, he will take over all his money. Ichijou also wants to get back at his old high school friends who mocked his loser casino job. Hyoudou once asks what defines being rich. It wasn’t money. Because if the politicians drop a nuclear bomb over his head, money is worthless. It must be something he can continue to live in luxuriously and be protected. That would be a shelter. That is why he is currently building an underground shelter filled with first class facilities and only those loyal to the company and handpicked by him will get to stay. Ichijou is also aiming for this to prove his old friends wrong.

It is a roller coaster ride for Ichijou and Kaiji. Will the balls go in or not? Kaiji has finished his 10 million and now is on to his last 10 million. The crowd notices something is wrong when the balls can’t even enter the third tray. The balls whittle down quickly. Ichijou is smiling luck is on his side while Kaiji is also praying he doesn’t need luck or miracle. He just need that one thing to go his way. Isn’t that luck or miracle? By the time Kaiji discovers a sure way win, he is out of balls. No money left. Ichijou relishes but Kaiji says he isn’t done yet. Taking a toilet break, he talks to Endou in the toilet and knows he has extra 10 million left. He knows the way he thinks because this money is to bail himself out if he fails. Endou will not trust Kaiji anymore seeing he has wasted his money. But after Kaiji tells him about the sh*t life he will live if he runs away now, Endou starts thinking (and crying). At least if they sink together, Kaiji will buy him 3 beers every month till he dies. After signing a new contract and with the extra funds, Kaiji returns to play, much to Ichijou’s dismay. Ichijou tries to stall his time, counting the money to see if it is valid. When one of his staffs noticed something, Ichijou is confident he can survive this and doesn’t need to resort to the device. He lets Kaiji play.

At first it might seem that nothing has changed. Ichijou believes the double tilting is now working in his favour. He is going to tell Kaiji why he is failing but Kaiji will show him a magic trick. He uses his money to cover the view of the trays. Nobody can see anything. After Ichijou rips it off, everyone is shocked to see multiple balls in both first and second trays! They are also moving in unusual motion. Everyone sees the loser holes clogged up! Ichijou realizes the fault of the double tilt. Because of the tilt, the discharge tube is now facing upwards and thus clogging the pipes. This means that multiple balls are now making way to the third tray. Ichijou desperately tries to tilt back but this will take a few minutes. But when all the balls keep missing the final winning hole, Kaiji realizes he has made a fatal mistake in his calculation. He thought tilting it back will roll the balls straight in but he realizes too late this machine is twisted.

Remember when Kaiji tilted the building with those water containers? Well, he realizes he didn’t put it evenly. Because the empty room with water is only at a certain corner of the building, the building didn’t tilt entirely in one direction but towards a corner. This is why the balls keep missing as the pathway is now bended. At this point the clogged balls are already starting to be unclogged. Although Kaiji has around 400 balls left, this final ball in the final tray is the final game. Then it misses. Game over. Endou already jumps the gun blaming Kaiji when another miracle happens. It seems the trays are still clogged! The balls inside the tube must still be stuck despite a few have already come out. Ichijou cannot take this anymore and is about to hit the machine but Endou tackles him and tells him to stay put. But it still won’t mean a thing if the ball doesn’t enter the correct final hole. Then another miracle happens. All the loser holes in the third tray also clog up. When the trays were clogged up, the third tray must have also built up in the clogging before the tilt back. With all the loser holes closed off, the only way is to wait for the ball(s) to fall into the winning hole. Just when it seems that 2 balls are heading straight for the winner, God (or the devil) f*cked over Kaiji again and repels them against each other!

Remember that device Ichijou was looking for? His staff has found and activated it. It seems around the winning hole there are small holes that shoots out air. Thus an invisible air barrier! No balls can go in now! Kaiji takes a closer look and realizes this cheat. There is nothing he can do. He gets his fighting spirit back with the crowd cheering his name and this little sign of hope happened. When a new ball entering the third tray clashes with another ball, it ‘jumps’. But it wasn’t high enough and got repelled by the air barrier. But that was the only time it jumped. It never happened again. When the crowd goes silent, Kaiji looks back and realizes the MIBs are already here, ready to take him back underground. Kaiji is in a pinch. He pleads to Ichijou to make a deal. Let’s call this a draw and he wants to cash out his approximately remaining 30 balls. This will be about 120 million enough to bail himself out and cover Endou’s debt. Ichijou won’t allow it and slaps it. Play and finish your balls! Then you’re going back to hell forever. Wow. I’ve never seen Kaiji so pathetic and desperate. And then he runs out of balls. And figuratively he also got no more balls left at the end.

Kaiji thought his few hundred yen could let him play some more but Ichijou won’t allow such small change. Kaiji is dragged away while pleading for someone to invest in him. Someone please give him money! Ichijou beats him up when Sakazaki returns throwing him 10 million! He returned to his workplace to steal his boss’ money since he is out of town. Sakazaki tells Kaiji to continue to fight and win. This is not just for themselves but all the players who were ‘killed’ by the Bog. Kaiji resumes play and this time Ichijou is the one begging to accept his draw. Too late mister. With the balls now jam packed in the third tray, it won’t be long before it will push through the air barrier. Ironically everyone hears the Bog’s ‘scream of death’. Then it happened. A few balls enter the final hole. Jackpot. The Bog lights up and overflows with balls. Everybody cries. For better or worse reasons. Of course the one most upset is Hyoudou. He can’t believe this happened and will send Ichijou to the underground. At the rate he lost, he’ll be there for over 1,000 years!

Ichijou is taken away and he knows his fate is sealed. Even at this point Kaiji is pitying him. He wants Ichijou to come back next time to challenge him again. Well, if he is still around in a thousand years. With almost 730 million, Kaiji gives some to the spectators who supported him and most important of all cleared his own debts. The remaining is split based on the agreement between Kaiji, Endou and Sakazaki. Endou treats them to a private party. Everything is okay when you have the money. Sakazaki claims he has the smallest share but Kaiji reveals his is. He has to pay off debts to rescue his friends underground. The remaining profit will be split evenly among them. Sakazaki is impressed with his principles and wants to give him his daughter! Say no quick!!! Although Endou praises Kaiji for being a rare man with principals, he is still naïve and this will eat him one day. Soon, Kaiji and Sakazaki pass out. Endou drugged their drink. When they wake up hours later, he is gone. Fearing he might have taken their money and run, it seems Sakazaki’s share is still intact. Only Kaiji’s share has been significantly reduced. A note from Endou claims that the contract for the extra 10 million he signed in the toilet has a 30% compound interest per 10 minutes! So by taking his right of the share, Kaiji with around 190 million is now reduced to 60 million. Kaiji is screwed in the end. Sakazaki fears he might beg for some money and quickly leaves, claiming he needs to put back his boss’ money.

All Kaiji can do is cry till he sleeps. He wakes up when the agents knock on his door. They are here to take off his timer. Kaiji is adamant he wants to save his underground friends because of the promise. Although he can easily renege on the promise and keep the remaining money to himself, he won’t. This means he will be left with only 600,000 Yen for himself. The next day, Kaiji hides as he sees his 45s friends get released. However he is waiting for one more person: Hiromitsu. Although unrelated, he promised his father to help him. However his release will be using the share of profit of them all so Kaiji doesn’t have a say in this. If one of them opposes, this deal is dropped. So when Kaiji sees Hiromitsu coming out too, he is very grateful to his friends. The agents wonder why Kaiji didn’t go out to meet them. He has no money. Wait. What? Why? He should have some left. He claims he lost it all in a pachinko! Since he will be meeting them up and go out for drinks, he can’t possible ask them to spend. So he thought of earning a little. Too bad luck wasn’t on his side. The agent got so mad at his twisted thinking that he gives him his own 30,000 for him. Free of charge. No interest. Just go meet up. I guess there are still kind people around. Kaiji meets up with his friends and they all cry manly tears. Time to party for their freedom.

Life’s A Gamble
At least for now it is a happy ending for Kaiji and his fellow friends. But of course as gamblers, we ordinary people would wonder how long that would last till the next temptation brings them down again. The ending may seemed a bit rushed but I suppose after that long exhausting drama, I think it is best that we don’t drag out an additional episode just to close and tie up things. After all, Kaiji has got his long outstanding debts cleared and kept his promise of saving his friends. What else could he asked for? Sure, he is left with no money but seeing the hell that he has gone through, it is better than to lose scraps of paper than compromising his principles.

I have to admit that despite the long drawn out drama of each of the gambling art, overall they feel interesting despite I still have mixed feelings at the end. As a person who does not know the finer rules of such gambling games, it is all an eye opener. That’s why I noticed I can’t help myself after watching each episode, I crave for more. It was really interesting and curious to see what kind of tricks Kaiji will pull out from his sleeve. On the other hand, like I have said, the very long drawn out drama especially the pachinko game really made it feel the whole arc was a tiring one. It just feels like One Piece or the Dragonball series whereby they can actually drag out a single subject for the entire episode. Let’s face it, the pachinko arc was more of a psychological game of high stakes that goes back and forth between Kaiji and Ichijou’s favour. Therefore while it is interesting to see how the tide of events can quickly turn from one’s favour to another, it is because they draw it out so long and thus why this arc eats up a big chunk of the second season. If they cut out all that drama, they could have ended it in half those episodes and perhaps feature more gambling games that Kaiji would participate in. Maybe it is another psychological drama for us viewers. After being tired out with all that psychological drama, once the end came, it was a big relief for us. The end of a long tiring journey. Hey, we can’t complain by that time, right?

It would be interesting to see Kaiji take on more types of gambling games like horse racing, roulette, slot machines and even poker. But since there has been no word of another season, I guess his game ends here. At least for where the anime is concerned. Because it would be a shame for Kaiji not to get his rematch with Hyoudou and bring down that old fart before fate naturally takes him away. Yeah well, he is like the last boss whom Kaiji should face in the end anyway.

This series is all about Kaiji so it is no doubt when you have a series named after him, a big chunk of the character focus will be on him. Although Kaiji is like your typical gambler, what makes him stand out from the rest in terms of his gambling fighting spirit is his keen observation. This guy has a knack of observing the smallest and oddest details that would allow him to sometimes form a quick strategy to overcome the wall. This is the same instincts that has kept him alive till this day. He would have been dead meat a long time ago if not for this quick thinking of his. It is a survival instinct that has greatly helped Kaiji get out of sticky and deadly situations. Albeit not always perfect but it has helped Kaiji defy death. And yes, because he is the main character. Because of Kaiji’s perseverance, you can’t help feel like rooting for him all the way like how many of the characters pin their only hopes for him. Yes, you don’t pray to God but to Kaiji!

But like any other fragile human, Kaiji also has his weaknesses. The obvious one is being a gambler that led him into this mess. It is hard for me to say if he will get out of his gambling addict because that is what all gamblers say. Before you know it, they’ll be back at square one. I know Kaiji is different because he has grown stronger in both seasons but remember, deep down he is still a gambler. Because at times you noticed that Kaiji also shows his weakness especially during the Bog where he begs for mercy from Ichijou when he has exhausted all his avenues and his naivety to save his friends and put his full trust in a shady person like Endou only to get the short end of the stick. In the end, he only has got himself to blame. But hey, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. After all, he survived getting his ear and fingers cut from Hyoudou’s game, right?! His naivety to save others is also a double edged sword that has him screwed over many times. But I suppose it is better for him this way than to lose his humanity.

The other characters aren’t as prominent as Kaiji and most of them just play a certain role for a certain arc. For example for those guys on Espoir like Furuhata, Andou, Kitami, Okabayashi and Funai, I thought they would come back later in future arcs but as far as the anime is concerned, I guess they didn’t. Once it’s over for them, it’s over. They don’t usually ‘cross over’ to another arc. Well, maybe Ishida was the exception but otherwise like those 45s who were more prominent in the chinchiro arc, they were reduced to just mere praying spectators for the pachinko game. If they didn’t appear, the arc would still carry on smoothly but they have to remind us from time to time why Kaiji is fighting so hard and to add to the nail biting drama. Everybody’s favourite and most used line is calling out Kaiji’s name. Yeah, this guy is definitely God to them.

Hyoudou might look like a senile old man but he is very influential and wields very great power. All because he has money. See the power of money? Nobody can go up against him. It looks like it will take some time before Kaiji ‘powers up’ before taking on him again. After all when you have so much many and so influential, you become twisted and warped in your own ways. Absolute power gives him absolute control of how he wants things done and by merely opening his mouth, he dictates whether you live or die. So don’t you dare upset him in the slightest way. I believe if there Kaiji is to bring down Hyoudou and his corporation, he has also got to take down some of his executives like Kurosaki whose appearance feels wasted here. It’s like an introduction that there are other subordinates rank and file beneath Hyoudou. But I’m not sure if Kaiji would want to take on them all too as he would rather aim to bring down the big fish himself. Why go through all that convoluted mini boss level when you can just take everything down by defeating the big boss. This isn’t some RPG game, you know.

I want to mention something about Endou. Something that bothered me during the tense Bog arc. Like any other typical person, he blames Kaiji if things don’t go his way but becomes happy and elated when it does. This is the thing that bugged me. Because I tend to notice how whenever he is happy, he keeps hugging Kaiji! Man, if that doesn’t look like happy gay, I don’t know what is. He does this hugging so frequently it made me wonder if this guy has got this habit of hugging others when it greatly goes his way. Certainly it feels odd from a shady man like him. And based on this, everybody else I can safely sum up that when it comes to someone winning, they cheer and support for you like as though they placed their future on you. But when the going is downhill, all that support suddenly gets deserted like as though they have nothing to do with you in the first place. Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone. Sure, we see the spectators cheering for Kaiji is because they already lost something. Thus they see him as their saviour and put their avenging fate on him. And for those spectators at the Bog, they’re cheering for him because he will pay them if he wins! No wonder they’re sticking around until the game ends. Otherwise, where is the motivation for them when the going gets tough? You think they are here to watch a good game?

Last but not least I also want to mention about the narrator who over the course of the series has somewhat become a little annoying. At first it was unique to hear some guy narrating what has happened and explaining the rules, terms, etc. But as the drama drags out, it becomes obvious that he starts narrating and telling us the obvious like as though he is a TV commentator of some sport because of his passionate speech delivery. Yeah, yeah. We get it that Kaiji is in a pinch and you don’t have to tell us that or what will become of him. Of course this is to enhance the dramatic effect of the episode and everything but it gets irritating after a while. He should just stick to explaining the rules, that’s all.

Another trademark of this series is the “Zawa, zawa” sound effect that you will hear throughout in every episode whenever Kaiji’s guts tell him that something bad is about to happen. Call it his guts instinct. Look at it as the Kaiji’s version of Spiderman’s tingling spider sense. In the first season, this didn’t sound very clear as I thought it was the leaves rustling but eventually they are actually a group of men whispering this line. Sometimes it feels creepy. Then in the second season, they put in a variety with female voices and this one sounds less creepy.

In the second season at the end of each episode, there is a segment called Kaiji Proverbs Returns. I suppose they are supposed to be inspiring lines said by Kaiji and other characters for the episode. True, they sound inspiring but I don’t think I will be applying them in my life. Because I don’t gamble. Sure, you can use them to as a battle cry for other stuffs but by the time I watched the next episode, I have already forgotten about it. Furthermore, to distract us and make us stay to listen to the proverbs, they have this pretty lady narrating it all. Each episode has her wearing different dress and at different scenes. I can’t help keep my hopes up that she would give us some sort of fanservice… Why do I keep thinking she is some kind of porn star… Oh sh*t. I just revealed one of my weakness for the flesh! Hey, at least it isn’t gambling :-/. Sometimes this segment is also used as a blatant advertisement to advertise the Kaiji movie or DVD releases. Why waste your money on gambling when you can have the full set of Kaiji DVDs!

One thing that obviously stands out is the design of the characters. Well, not its entirety. It is their nose that somewhat makes this series looks weird at first. If you think Kaiji’s pointed nose looks freaking odd, wait till you see the nose of some other characters. For instance, when I first saw Hyoudou, I was thinking what the f*ck does this guy have a peanut for a nose?! I KID YOU NOT! Really!!! I thought this guy really had a peanut for a nose! Then for Miyoshi, I thought he had a dick for a nose! OMG! Or at least a cartoonish hand as one. Closer to home, I thought his nose resembles closely to a local cartoonist, Lat’s nose trademark. Ootsuki? I thought he had a clown nose! And all those other characters who have broad flat nose like Furuhata, Andou, Ishida, Tonegawa, Sakazaki and Kurosaki, I thought they had noses like elephant seals. I’m not kidding. Therefore One Piece’s Usopp should really feel at home in this anime. Just saying…

This is such a manly show that it is really hard to find any females here. There are no female leads or even supporting characters. Mostly they are background characters and even that is mostly in the city. Because men are the ones taking part in dangerous gambling games. Men are the ones who are only working underground. Don’t see any women working to their bones there, do you? Although I remember one (Sahara’s female colleague at the convenience store) that looks decently pretty enough, with all the men around and lack of female characters, you would start to think that even the women might look this manly. This is somewhat reinforced after you see Sakazaki’s daughter! OMFG! So f*cking hideous!!! It makes the ugliest guy, say Hyoudou to look even better! I mean, really. This girl looks so ugly. Sorry if I offended you pussies but really, it’s like trying to tell us to go back to gambling instead of thinking of perverted thoughts. Sometimes it feels like a troll that for the sponsor credits scene, they show her nice body in a bikini and then they zoom up to her face… Damn… Yeah… That kind of face… Zawa, zawa… Masturbation challenge level… Extreme!!! Well, at least the live action movies had good looking characters. Don’t want to go scaring away your audiences, do you? It’s a good thing too that the Kaiji proverbs girl is such a cutie. All hail 3D women? Yeah, it’s ironic for me to say that this is one of the few instances where the 3D female is better than the 2D one. Thanks Mikako for ruining it. The only other hideous thing are Kaiji’s damaged fingernails. Yikes! I’ll have nightmares remembering this. This is worse than Kaiji having his ear cut off!

Other than that, the cell shaded drawing gives the series a little unique edge but otherwise, I thought some of the characters look pretty similar because at first I was confused if Sahara and Furuhata were the same person and just dyed his hair blond. This means some of the unimportant background characters look almost alike but you won’t pretty much notice this if you’re focusing on the game. I thought Kitami looked a lot like Kaiji and once thought he was his long lost brother or something. Not forgetting the exaggerated effects when the character is freaking out with their gaping mouths and manly tears. Man, there are going to be lots of those tears flowing. It proves even men do cry. This series is produced by a veteran studio, Madhouse that made lots of good anime series with varying art styles like Death Note, One Punch Man, No Game No Life, High School Of The Dead, Ore Monogatari, Black Lagoon, Monster, Paprika, Tenjou Tenge, Paradise Kiss, Sakura Wars and the Galaxy Angel series.

Many of the themes are rock based. It is only right and suitable for the kind of hellish games that Kaiji will play. If you think the first season’s opening theme, Mirai Wa Bokura No Te No Naka by Kaiji with Redbourn Cherries isn’t hard core enough, you should hear the second season’s opening theme, Chase The Light by Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas. Because its opener is already a wild mad scream!!! If you’re into this really punk rock style, I’m sure you can stomach some of the lyrics that has the singer literally screaming his lines! If you think the second season’s ending theme, C Kara Hajimaru ABC by Wasureranneyo sounds funny despite its rock theme, that isn’t the bad part. It is the ending credits animation that will freak you out. Because we see reluctant Kaiji on a date with Sakazaki’s ugly daughter! OMFG!!! No wonder Kaiji runs away in the end!!! This is definitely a gamble he cannot win!!! Run Kaiji, RUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Better to work underground for a million years than date 10 minutes of this piece of ugly crap. The only song that is not rock based but a slow grim country western-like is the first season’s ending theme, Makeinutachi No Requiem by Hakuryuu. A sad and befitting fate for all gamblers if I should say.

Overall, despite the over-dramatizing and the dragging out of the games, this series is overall and interesting watch as it lets you peek into the mind of a gambler and the strategies that one can come up with if you are desperate enough and your back against the wall. As long as there is money involved, you can bet that humans will try all sorts of ways to beat the system or make it unbeatable. The basic human greed has not changed since. You live by the dice, you die by the dice. It is a good thing this anime didn’t make me curious to go gamble. Then I would only have myself to blame for being weak minded. But I’m not making any bets that this series might get a third season any time soon even though I really hope there should be another. My guts are telling me that. Zawa, zawa…

Danganronpa 3 – Hope Arc

February 10, 2017

To bridge the twin simultaneous series of the Despair Arc and Future Arc, thus we have this special broadcast, Danganronpa 3 – Hope Arc to bring closure and end everything once and for all. Will the world finally be flooded with mindless hope because hope is still hope no matter how you put it. Unless that is like despair in disguise. Oh damn. I’m confused now…

Hope Floats
Hinata is seen by Yukizome’s body. He regrets the terrible things he has done with his power but because of it, he managed to bring everyone else back. Naegi is being cornered and pushed back by the elite force. But the luck of Komaeda has taken them out. It seems the Remnants are back and are now on the good side thanks to Hinata healing them back to normal. They are the ones who also helped dig out Togami’s side from the rubble. We see them display and use their talents fending off the elite force. Then they face Mitarai who is still bent on resetting everything even if it means everyone losing their emotions, etc. He claims he is not strong like them and blames himself that a lot of people died. Hinata doesn’t blame him for thinking that way but doing so means erasing history. Because it is as though they are acting Nanami never existed. Their role as survivors is to atone their sins and carry on living. Mitarai is unsure of what to do since he is always alone. Well, look no further. These guys will always be with him from now on. After a lot of contemplating, crying and breaking down, Mitarai finally finds the courage to stop the broadcast. Now you can let those tears run freely and have a big group hug. That’s a good boy. And everything is resolved without Naegi having to lift a single finger or say a single word.

Naegi returns to base where Togami shows a footage released from Future Foundation. Hinata and the Remnants are claiming responsibility on this since hope is boring and thus bringing to you this despair. Before you jump to conclusions that they are sheep in wolves’ clothing, take note that this is just an act to ‘deceive’ the world and make them think they are behind this so as not to tarnish the good name of Future Foundation. It’s like playing the villain. Nanami is heard talking to Hinata and narrating to us when Hinata entered the New World Programme. An AI was supposed to be created to monitor him which was supposed to be her. However there was no need for all that since there was someone all of them wanted to see again. Since Nanami is able to see all of them, she thinks miracle has won. The ex-Remnants leave the place via ship. Munakata warns Naegi that he is going to be a hero as the world needs one who fought despair. Can he shoulder it? If the ex-Remnants had the burden of carrying despair, then Naegi has the burden of carrying hope. Munakata also has his own burdens to carry then. Tsumiki shows an antidote that Seiko tried creating during the mutual killing game. It’s a medicine that would slow the spread of the wristband’s poison. So guessed who lived? That lucky person who was able to received Tsumiki’s treatment with this antidote is no other than Kirigiri. And this completes our full cycle of hope and not let it end in despair, right? A few months later, we see Naegi’s side rebuilding Hope Academy. Naegi is the headmaster and Kirigiri a teacher.

Hope To See You Again
Erm… Somehow I feel that there are a few parts missing here and there. Because you know, it just doesn’t explain how Hinata return back to his normal state from his super Kamukura form. Maybe there wasn’t much to it. Ushering back the ex-Remnants feel a bit rushed because they need to spend some time giving some drama to Mitarai and end it. So it ends like that? No wonder hope is so boring. And there’s this Nanami’s explanation that I didn’t get at all on how the virtual reality programme works but what the heck, as long as a good happy ending is in sight then everything else doesn’t matter. I was wondering the fate of some of the characters like Monaka because I suppose she is going to be stuck in space forever. What will be of Munakata? How will he pay his respects to Yukizome and Sakakura assuming he isn’t part of the new Hope Peak or whatever academy Naegi wants to call this new future school of his. And where are the ex-Remnants going now? They leave by ship but to where? Are they going to live on an island all by themselves seeing that they have become the bad guys in the eyes of the world? Most likely. Because you can’t blame anybody for trying to kill them seeing them walking in the streets after the despair they have caused.

And the most ‘outrageous’ of all is Kirigiri coming back to life. It feels unfair that only she is the dead one who has to return to life. She is the last person who died from the poison in the wristband but I am not sure how long it was since her death and the end of this entire drama. How long can a human body stay dead and then revive again without having any major damage to the body organs? Kirigiri looks fine to me. As though she woke up from a great sleep. And I believe it hasn’t even been a day since the mutual killings started so if Kirigiri can be resurrected, why not the rest who died from their forbidden actions? Unless you tell me Seiko only made a vial worth for one person. Too bad. But even if you think of it, if Kirigiri was administered the antidote right on time, the poison would have spread quickly throughout her body during that time interval and thus the antidote would be useless in slowing it down. I mean, if this was the case, the rest wouldn’t have died a fast death, right? So it makes no sense. Yeah, this story was written on hope, not logic.

Overall, I feel that this special episode felt a bit lukewarm in trying to end everything on a feel good note. Some bits I felt were not there but maybe they’ll show another special episode to bridge it. You know, like the big battle between Naegi and Enoshima that resulted in the latter’s death. I can only blame myself for expecting a lot after the tense and suspenseful arcs but then again, we’re all weak in our own ways. So from what I learn from what these guys said, we are supposed to accept our weakness and failures because it gives us hope? Well okay. I’m a loser otaku and have always been one for the longest time. Gee, that doesn’t make me feel better and instead just feeling more despair instead. Oh, right. I remember I’m not even a super high school level in anything. Despair seems to be so much more tempting…

If you love the original animated Danganronpa series, then we have good news for you. Make that double good news. Because not only Danganronpa 3 – Future Arc was released as a sequel, it was also aired alongside with another arc (Despair Arc) in the same season and both series run concurrently side by side with each other. Double the fun, double the despair. For this one, as its name suggests it takes place in the future after Naegi and the survivors leave Hope Peak but in the aftermath of fighting the biggest despair incident to have been brought down on mankind. However history seems to repeat itself again as this group of people find themselves in another deadly game of killing for survival. Can Naegi’s hope save the day, world and mankind once again? Can hope be unlimited like despair? Hope has never been much more powerful than prayers… If you find my opening paragraph somewhat similar to my previous blog on this series, well, you’re not seeing double. After all, I watched them simultaneously or rather together.

Episode 1
As narrated, the biggest and most atrocious despair inducing incident happened in human history. These Super High School Level Despairs fought wars that destroyed the world and humanity’s last hope was Future Foundation. They fought a bloody battle and it reached a turning point when Enoshima was killed. Humanity was victorious. However Remnants of Despair continued their activities and the war continued. At a Future Foundation branch, Kazuo Tengan is the chairman and former director of Hope Peak High School. He chairs a meeting with other executives to discuss about Naegi’s betrayal. However the rest end up arguing about the safety of this place since it isn’t on any map and how the Remnants have been increasing their attacks lately. Till Kyousuke Munakata the vice chairman tells them off and to get back on track. It seems Naegi has hid Remnants. Not just ordinary Remnants but million dollar class that served under Enoshima. Some believe Naegi put on a show to kill Enoshima to let their guard down and he was an ally of Despair all along. So when Naegi is ushered in, Juzo Sakakura immediately cuffs him and beats him up. Since he is in no position to be interrogated (thanks for those injuries, Sakakura), the meeting is suspended for the moment as Chisa Yukizome treats him. She also talks to him why he shielded those Remnants. Naegi isn’t sure but he thought at one point they had hope before falling into despair. She cautious that you can’t defeat the Remnants by being nice and that’s why they need Munakata’s decisiveness. After Kirigiri bumps into Ryouta Mitarai who is supposed to meet Tengan for the meeting, something rocks the building. They believe Remnants are attacking the place as all entries and exits are sealed off. Furthermore, all security guards are found dead in the bathroom. Once everyone gathers in the meeting room, a smoke bomb is dropped in and everyone immediately passes out. When they wake up, each of them has a wristband with a timer. A familiar laughter is heard. It is Monokuma on the monitor. Is he still alive? He ‘thanks’ everyone for Remnants’ losing streak and thus this is his way of ‘thanking’ them. They are going to play a game to kill each other. Of course nobody is going to play this game as they are all allies. It is then Munakata realizes Yukizome is missing. Then they realize her dead body stuck up in the chandelier! Monokuma adds that his killing game will determine the fate of humanity as well as the conclusion to the story of Naegi and Monokuma.

Episode 2
Monokuma explains the rules. Once the timer runs out, a sleep inducing drug will put them to sleep. However one will wake up and pick somebody to kill. So if everyone manages to find and kill the killer, the next time they sleep and wake up and nobody dies, they win the game. Also, everyone has an action they cannot perform on their wristband or else a lethal poison will be released. They also cannot take off or destroy it or else the same will be done. Good luck and Godspeed. Miaya Gekkogahara tries to hack into Monokuma but got her avatar in which she speaks through hacked instead. It seems the system is perfectly guarded from outside but somebody hacked it from inside. This further proves one among them is the traitor. Sakakura believes Naegi is the one and tries to force him to admit. Asahina defends him and he too gets violent but since Mitarai advises him not be violent on girls, he got beaten up instead. That is when Daisaku Bandai suddenly dies. His weakness is that he cannot witness violence. Of course the best course is to check everyone’s weakness but many are against of letting it be known for fear of being used against them. Munakata then has everyone pinpoint the killer. Majority votes for Naegi. Munakata tells Naegi that if he hates despair, kill himself. Since he won’t, Sakakura and Munakata are going to kill him but Great Gozu won’t let this injustice happen as he fends them off. Kirigiri releases a smoke bomb to let Asahina and Naegi escape. Asahina has to carry him and run since his weakness is that he cannot run. Gozu and Gekkogahara side with Naegi and Asahina as they fight off persistent Munakata and then lose him. It is nearly nap time as everyone scatters throughout the building. Naegi and Asahina are hiding and she is scared this killing is going to happen all over again like last time. Naegi gives her hope to trust his super luckiness. They overcame this before and know each other better this time. Nap time comes and goes. When Naegi wakes up, he finds his fist bloodied and Asahina dead.

Episode 3
Well guess what? Asahina’s blood is tomato sauce and the knife in her stomach is just a toy. Phew, right? So who got killed then? GOZU!!!!!! The plan now is to talk to everyone and Naegi can do so if he goes to the broadcast room in which Gekkogahara has regained some control over the hacking. Naegi notices Gekkogahara’s odd way of travelling in her wheelchair. He realizes her weakness is that she cannot turn right. Gekkogahara fears for her life but Naegi assures he will not disclose her secret and shows his. Asahina also shows them hers: She cannot get punched or kicked. Thinking somebody is nearby, Asahina and Gekkogahara become decoys so Naegi can carry on. He informs everyone of Gozu’s death and explains why he helped Remnants. Before they were driven to despair, they were ordinary students till they met Enoshima. Thus Naegi helped them by using a virtual rehabilitation programme, New World to restore their memories before Enoshima implanted despair in them. He talks about the need to trust each other. He is going to abandon this game. By telling everyone his weakness? Well, logically if he was the killer he wouldn’t do that, right? Of course Munakata despite calling it a fine speech finds it hollow because Naegi speaks of hope but doesn’t know true despair. We take a short detour to see Seiko Kimura having some bone to pick with the couple Ruruka Andou and Sounosuke Izayoi. Both sides accuse each other of being traitors as Seiko chases the couple down. Beast mode? As expected Munakata finds Naegi to kill him despite the latter pleading he doesn’t want to fight. As allies they should talk. Munakata chides him he doesn’t know what true despair is and he won the last time because it was a game based on Enoshima’s rules. Therefore Naegi is much more dangerous as behind his words are not hope but despair. Munakata believes in power. That is why he will make many victims as it takes to destroy despair even if it means his own death. If Naegi’s words have power, stop his sword then. Alas his shallow hope cannot stop his sword.

Episode 4
Sakakura attacks Kirigiri’s group since he believes all those associated with Naegi are traitors. However he is taken out by Tengan. Not bad for an old man. Asahina and Gekkogahara reunite with Kirigiri’s group. Mitarai feels useless and guilty as he partially injured Kirigiri during the fight. They tell him he need not be like Naegi. Just be himself. Munakata then announces he has captured Naegi and will execute him. Kirigiri knows this is a trap to lure the killer because he would have killed Naegi already. True enough, this is Munakata’s plan as he explains the rest to Naegi. He is very sure Naegi is not the killer. The worst outcome for this game is not everyone being wiped out by the killer. Because the killer would have killed everyone in one go if that was the case. Imagine if Munakata dies and nobody else is killed. Normally one would think Munakata is the killer. However there is no way of ascertaining that. This would mean the killer would easily infiltrate Future Foundation, pose as a top executive and spread despair in the name of hope. They will be controlling Future Foundation from the shadows while using Naegi as a tool to achieve their means. Tengan attacks Munakata and fights him so Asahina could rescue Naegi and take him to a safe place. Meanwhile Kirigiri and Mitarai are re-examining Yukizome’s corpse. The chase between Seiko and the couple is still ongoing. Both blame each other for their expulsion from Hope Peak. Munakata and Tengan’s fight ends in a bloody draw. Well, not actually. When they fall off the level, Tengan was pierced by a metal rod. Seeing Tengan’s resolve has made Munakata to admit he was wrong and changed his mind. He wants to know what he is thinking. Sakakura is hot on the heels of Naegi. Seeing neither Naegi nor Asahina can fight properly, Gekkogahara faces off with him. However he kicks her off her wheelchair. It seems Gekkogahara is just a robot and the real person is controlling her from somewhere.

Episode 5
Flashback reveals Seiko, Ruruka and Izayoi were friends when they were young. Ruruka was impressed by her medicine talent. However Seiko cannot eat any sweets or sugar as she has some medical condition that would kill her. This insulted Ruruka in a way since the only thing good she can do is make sweets. Over the years we see Seiko becoming Ruruka’s errand girl all in the name of friendship. Meanwhile Munakata once believed Tengan used to be stronger till he became a coward. He replies about Munakata’s naivety in thinking if he wipes out all Remnants, he can rid the world of despair. War alone cannot extinguish despair. That is why Kamakura Project was initiated. Munakata thinks Tengan is part of Remnants since this means he was the attacker. Ruruka has figured out Seiko’s weakness as she has Izayoi get some weapon (in which he discovers some secret entrance). From the way Seiko acts, she knows her weakness is for someone to step on her shadow. Ruruka can help Seiko if she eats her sweet. Of course Seiko refuses citing her condition. But Ruruka still refuses to believe that. In that case, kill Munakata. She thinks if he dies, this whole mess will end. Of course Seiko can’t do that too. When she was expelled from Hope Peak, he helped her. Seiko devours more pills to become a super ferocious beast as she takes out all the lights and then hunt down Ruruka. But their chase ended up getting caught in Sakakura’s fight with Asahina and Naegi. It gets messier when Gekkogahara returns to fire her missile. Kirigiri continues her corpse investigation to find the killer’s pattern. Tengan refutes he is a Remnant. Munakata takes his answer as that he knows the killer’s identity. For suspense, we don’t get to hear what the old man says and we see Munakata’s shock reaction. Tengan reveals his weakness: Answer questions with a lie. But Munakata won’t waver and cuts him down. Not before Tengan quickly blinds his right eye with the metal rod. As nap time is around the corner, Seiko laments how things with Ruruka turned out this way. All she wanted was a friend and did her bidding because she trusted her only to realize she was being used. Unfortunately she’ll never get to know because she became the killer’s next victim.

Episode 6
Munakata remembers his past. Just after he, Yukizome and Sakakura graduate, he tells them his plans to expand Hope Peak to overseas since there are many bad rumours about Hope Peak as an organization. When he comes back, he wants Sakakura to take over security and Yukizome to forge ties and contacts as a teacher. Making the world a better place is not his dream. It is his plan. And now Munakata might feel his plan might be a little dashed so he stabbed his sword into Yukizome’s chest? Trying to make sure she is really dead? I knew it would be too good to be true when Naegi is shocked that Kirigiri became the next victim. It was just a dream. I hope it isn’t a foreboding of something. Kouichi Kizakura follows Kirigiri and Mitarai in examining the bodies. Then they stumble upon Izayoi’s body. Making it puzzling is that Seiko’s body is also found. Is the killer breaking the rules? Ruruka is saddened her boyfriend is gone. She pleads them to take her into their group as she is a useless person. Okay. But Kirigiri will have her help them out with their investigation. Gekkogahara connects to the security cameras to find the next victim. Naegi breaks down when he sees Tengan’s body. This hopeful guy just fell into despair. He thought all he did was for nothing. Ironically Gekkogahara gives him hope that everything will be fine in the end. There is also an ‘encouraging’ note left behind by Tengan supposedly for Naegi entrusting the future to him.

When Asahina notes how she hates the game and the rules they have to stick with, it then hit Naegi they don’t have to play this game. But how can they get out if all exits are sealed? Have someone from the outside make one! Gekkogahara sets up her system trying to connect outside. It is Togami who picks up the line. Apparently he doesn’t know there is this killing game going on. There is no worldwide broadcast as claimed by Monokuma. After hearing Naegi’s story, he lets him know that a spy he sent reported that Future Foundation’s peacekeeping squad is headed towards Jabberwock Island. It means Munakata had intended to kill everyone on that island regardless of the meeting’s outcome. Since the squad only answers to Munakata, there might be a connection with what is happening at the branch and on the island. Togami has also sent his forces to the island and he will personally be on his way to Naegi. After the call ends, Togami’s subordinate wonders why he didn’t tell Naegi the truth. Because the real Gekkogahara is dead and the one with them is an imposter. Togami’s reason is that because she is close to Naegi, it might put him in danger if he were to expose her. The best thing now is to let her be and strike the one behind this. He believes the only Remnants who can do this is Monaka Towa who is hiding in Towa City. Fortunately for Togami, Fukawa and Naegi’s little sister, Komaru are there.

Episode 7
We see Monaka giving her eulogy at Enoshima’s funeral. She is blaming Naegi for this. Claiming there is still hope for despair (oh, the irony), Monaka will become Enoshima’s successor and drive Future Foundation and the world to despair. Komaru and Fukawa are pushing forward fighting an army of Monokuma troops. Komaru narrates she is neither hope nor despair but just an ordinary girl who got separated from her brother during that greatest incident. She has been waiting in this town like a video game and waiting for Naegi to end the war. The duo barge into Monaka’s tower and see Monaka on a monitor as she proclaims to bring despair to Naegi. As she sends her robots to surround them, suddenly and surprisingly she surrenders! She knows too well that somehow hope always wins. She’s done with this and detonates the place! At least half the building is still standing. Komaru and Fukawa then find the real Monaka bumming around in her filthy Monokuma trailer room. They are shocked that Monaka doesn’t want to play this despair thing anymore. It’s embarrassing. She reveals she is not the one behind the killing game at Future Foundation’s branch and although she did kill Gekkogahara, it was just to see Naegi up close and personal. She was the one that did the murder prank on Asahina. When Monaka heard Naegi talk about hope and despair a while ago, it made her realize she didn’t want to end up like him and is done with despair. Although she doesn’t know who the culprit is behind this game, what she does know is that because of Naegi, one of the survivors of Enoshima’s killing game will die. She will not say who. Monaka is bored with life on Earth and decides to head off and live in space. Blasting away into the sky! At first Fukawa wanted to follow her to squeeze more info out of her but Komaru wants them to go back. She cites Togami’s name as a good reason. You want Fukawa to do things? Always cite that guy’s name. While they think Monaka doing nothing is a form of despair, Komaru believes once she is bored staying in her room, she’ll come back. Komaru manages to hack into Gekkogahara’s system to inform Naegi about Monaka’s warning. Fukawa does the same to Togami.

Episode 8
Once the transmission ends, Gekkogahara acts like a robot. Naegi and Asahina try to leave but stumble into Munakata. If not for Gekkogahara combining with her wheelchair into some mech to fight him, the duo might not have a chance to escape. Kirigiri is still looking at every inch of the room for hints. Kizakura just dismantled all the traps set by Izayoi in the room. Because Ruruka is seemingly clumsy, Kizakura vaguely hints about her trying to form her own breakaway group in Future Foundation. Sakakura enters the room hell bent on killing Kirigiri. Kizakura fights him and manages to let him step on a trap and wound him. Kizakura’s sharp observation notes that this former boxer has been attacking using everything except his fists. Could it be his forbidden action restricts him from attacking with his bare hands? In exchange, Kizakura tells his own forbidden action: He cannot open his left hand. It must remain closed/clenched. When Kirigiri resumes he investigation, Ruruka lets off a bomb that would have sent her dropping down and to her death had not Kizakura used his hands to grab and pull her up. Oh. Did he just open his left hand? Damn. And another one bites the dust. Ruruka is going to kill all of them as she makes Sakakura eat her chocolates that will control his mind. However he fights and resists against it. Watching Ruruka’s actions, Kirigiri has deduced she was the one who killed Izayoi. He died of his own forbidden actions. It was made to look like he died via the killer’s knife. However all victims had an embedded stab in their hearts. There was none on Izayoi. It is believed Ruruka used the knife from Seiko for this deception. Kirigiri even went as far as to taste Izayoi’s saliva and tasted something sweet. Who else is a master of cooking and close enough to him? She reveals a secret door behind the shelves from the way the marks the furniture was dragged. It is believed to be an exit. Thus Ruruka’s forbidden action is for anyone who leaves the game. So when Izayoi found it, Ruruka must have panicked. Sakakura tries to open the door and leave as Ruruka desperately tries to stop him. Kirigiri and Mitarai didn’t join in helping to open the door but head out of the room. Togami has arrived outside the building. Hagakure must be happy to see him seeing we’ve seen him running around like a clown and his luck managed to still keep him alive from all the attacks. After setting the explosives, they blast away the rubble. A member carelessly activates a trap that sends the building sinking.

Episode 9
Sakakura opens the door but realizes he still can’t get out because they’re underwater! Kirigiri tells Mitarai that the secret exit was fake. This might be an identical space below and not the original room they were in above ground. When they were knocked out the first time, they were moved to the identical part below. Whoever did this must sure put in a hell lot of effort to move everyone. Kirigiri knows this because she observed some of the damage marks in earlier rooms were missing when the killing game started. She suspects Munakata as the main culprit because he was the one who designed this facility and she notices the game rules favour him the most. Kirigiri and Mitarai reunite with Naegi and Asahina. Naegi sounds like he is starting to lose faith so Kirigiri gives him the much needed motivation to continue being hope. After Munakata slashes Gekkogahara into half, he reunites with Sakakura. After a short talk about their ideals and past endeavours, Munakata then stabs him! Then he blames despair for killing him… WTF. Ruruka has witnessed Sakakura’s murder. Although scared, she thinks he deserved being betrayed. Flashback shows Izayoi after discovering the secret exit, went to seal it up and set lots of traps so no one can find it as he knew Ruruka’s forbidden action. He promised he would never betray her and assured he cares more about her than himself. Naturally Ruruka is still scared so how to you really ensure Izayoi won’t betray her? Betray him first! While they were passionately kissing, she slips a sweet into his mouth knowing his forbidden action is putting food in his mouth. Izayoi didn’t hate her and continued to love her till his last breath. It is sleeping time again. Naegi and co barricade themselves but Kirigiri thinks it won’t do them any good since the culprit has full control over the playing field. But whatever happens, she tells Naegi never to lose hope. Sleeping time is over. Ruruka has become the latest victim. So this means Naegi is alive. Yay! Mitarai is alive. Hooray! Asahina is alive. Yahoo! Kirigiri… Hey, she’s not getting up. OMFG! SHE’S DEAD!!! Death by her own forbidden action?! That is, passing the fourth time limit with Naegi alive. That doesn’t sound fair. Naegi is in despair when Munakata contacts him. He should have known of Kirigiri’s forbidden action by now. He mocks this is why his hope is useless. It is time to settle whose hope is right.

Episode 10
Although Naegi puts on a brave face, he understands Kirigiri never said anything about this for she knows he will panic and run around to help her out, losing sight of his goal. The only thing he can do now is to face off with Munakata and settle this once and for all. The cat and mouse game begins as Naegi seems to be luring him into a certain room. It looked like Naegi has taken a beating and is going to be cut by his sword but he stops short. Naegi knows his forbidden action. He has observed the times he has chased him and all. Munakata cannot open doors. So if he kills him here now, he will be trapped in this room. Naegi wants to talk and cooperate but Munakata is not convinced. He will wipe out all despair even if it means sacrificing. Naegi disagrees that is not hope. All he is ever looking at is despair. Even if he gets rid of despair, that itself won’t create hope. Munakata reveals Tengan told him the truth. There is more than one killer. Everybody in Future Foundation is a killer! It made Munakata realize that Yukizome was also tainted with despair. There was a photo of kids being massacred and she was in despair who did this. When in actual fact it was her who did it. When did she first get tainted with despair? That is why he will rid of despair even if it is only a memory. Naegi disagrees again and doesn’t want him to say that he’ll rid of others like Yukizome. He gives example had Kirigiri turned into despair and betrayed everyone and had Naegi had no choice but to kill her, no matter what he would still be glad to have met her. I guess those are the winning words because Munakata’s scream of despair could only mean that, right? As the guys sit and cool themselves down, Munakata can only lament when did they go wrong. Asahina then comes in to tell them to stop killing each other because she has found out who the killer is.

Episode 11
According to Kirigiri’s notes on her observations, she believes the victims killed themselves and it has something to do with the monitors. Naegi tests this out as he is tied up and placed next to a monitor before the next sleeping session comes into effect. Naegi then wakes up first and sees a pre-recorder video of Monokuma on the monitor. He watches some weird crap sh*t on the video and the next thing he knows, he is hallucinating and sees his dead pals from the first season. All blaming him and then tempting him to come over to their side. Naegi goes crazy as he picks up a knife dropped from the monitor and tries to kill himself. Luckily he is stopped and snapped out by Sakakura. Why is he still awake? He cut of his hand! Bloody! Naegi explains that the killer is actually the victim committing suicide. When everyone is asleep, the monitor detects the one closest via the wristband and wakes him/her up to watch a brainwashing video before committing suicide. Naegi wants his help to destroy all the monitors. Is he crazy? Does he know how many there are? Sakakura is not going to do it. He tells Naegi he hated him because he defeated Enoshima who once brainwashed him. He knew she was evil but never reported to him and this is the result. In the end, he believes Munakata abandoned him for that. When the rest wake up and learn of this, Munakata believes the only one who can set all this up is Tengan. Because he is the true Remnants. It is hard to believe that old guy is the culprit as Munakata continues that his team were once investigating Enoshima and all evidence pointed to her as the evil. But Munakata heard from Sakakura and Yukizome that she isn’t evil and he believed them despite he knew better otherwise. That is when Tengan took advantage of their weakness. Sakakura is at the breaker room and turns off the power, cutting electricity to the monitors and releasing the wristbands. OMG. That simple?! Why didn’t somebody think of this in the first place?! Naegi tells Munakata to go to Sakakura. Even though he abandoned him, Sakakura still believe in him to get him out of this game. By the time he arrives, too late to apologize to a dead body. In the aftermath, Naegi asks Mitarai about the videos because it seems as a super animator only he can make this. Mitarai is fraught with guilt but insists he didn’t do it but Enoshima stole his technology. Suddenly Mitarai gets a call from Tengan!

Episode 12
Many years before, Yukizome passed a USB containing the video that brainwashed the Remnants to Tengan. She lies she has never seen its contents. He took and kept it. Now, that call from Tengan is a pre-recorded video of him admitting he is the mastermind of this! Mitarai falls into despair as he explains how all this came to. It was his brainwashing video. He ran away then but now he won’t. Now he is going to put an end to this by showing the world another brainwashing video filled with hope. Fighting fire with fire? He can do it now since his forbidden action was the use of his talent. It seems Mitarai disagrees with Naegi’s way in overcoming despair as the former believes despair as long as it exists, humans will repeat this tragedy. He makes Asahina watch his brainwashing video and orders her to stop Naegi. Mitarai stumbles into the special forces, has them watch his video, spread it to others as well as a special order to eliminate those who gets in his way. Naegi could have been done for but Munakata saves him and hears him out. It is then Naegi realizes Tengan isn’t one of the Remnants. So he setup this elaborate mutual killing to force Mitarai into doing this? Also, the killings aren’t broadcast outside. Naegi remembers Mitarai wasn’t supposed to be in the meeting. That’s why Tengan was a bit surprised. Had Mitarai know there was going to be mutual killings, he would have used the video. Also, all the hopeful things Tengan said weren’t directed towards Naegi but Mitarai. They deduce Mitarai is going to eliminate all negative emotions with his broadcast. He is making his way to the annex where he can broadcast his video to the entire world in 30 minutes. Naegi and co rush there but are obstructed by the special forces. Now we take a detour to Enoshima and Yukizome commenting on everything. It’s like a cinema for dead people? So Enoshima explains about Tengan’s actions and the main cause of Tengan and Munakata’s hostility boiled down to their interpretations of despair. The source was Yukizome because she told Munakata to eliminate despair. There are clips of Naegi trying to ‘repair’ the Remnants in his secret location via brainwashing virtual reality but he was summoned to Future Foundation before he could learn the results. Even if Mitarai is successful, Future Foundation’s image is tarnished and nobody is going to follow it. So Enoshima thinks. She is glad despair did a good job. But Yukizome still believes even though their future is over, this is the beginning of hope. Not that Enoshima cares. They’re dead, right? Cornered Naegi is saved by bumbling Hagakure. He even suggests they surrender! Till Togami comes in and has his efficient MIBs take out the squad! Seeing Naegi in a pinch, he taunts if he is really that lucky.

Hopelessly Hopeful
Oh wait a minute. You mean it ended on a cliff-hanger? Just like that Despair arc too? Oh, I see. Looks like they are going to link up the finale with that hope arc. The final episode that converges and ends everything. I guess it is not that bad then but as far as this particular season and arc goes, I would say it is rather intriguing and fascinating overall.

Following the first season’s formula of mutual killings, this season still feels interesting since they bring in a new bunch of faces and mix old ones who survived the last killing game. The fun on my part was to guess who was going to go next while trying to also predict the culprit behind it all. Of course I know certain main characters would last longer or if not survive the ordeal. But I could never be too sure of myself either because I keep thinking that they might add and throw in some twist or revelation that the real killer is somebody else hiding outside the game (or somewhere inside the building’s super secret room) or it could be just straightforward fashion that the perpetrator could be among them.

A theory of mine for saying so is because when this arc is first introduced, there is a counter in the opening credits that always keeps track of how many players are left in the field. It started off with 16 survivors. However as I started to count and trace who those 16 players are, there seems to be one there is missing. I mean, as far as I can count and name, there are only 15 of them trapped in the building playing this deadly game. So could this extra unknown person be the real perpetrator? It’s not like we viewers would actually count who is left, right? Or do we? This is true even in the penultimate episode as it gets clearer with the reduced number of survivors. There seems to be 1 extra player but who is that person? It made me think if this was even a troll because maybe that additional person could be Hagakure who has been kept out of the building since the start of the series. Or could that other person be Monaka who is controlling Gekkogahara? Even if the android personality got destroyed, it only reduced the survivor count by one. My guess is Hagakure since his mug is alongside the other Future Foundation members in many promotion posters.

Some of the theories feel like impossible and do not make sense like Kirigiri deducing that the entire playfield is actually another very similar level below the actual building. Assuming that if Tengan was the perpetrator, how the heck can this old fart move everyone in record time without breaking his back? Well, everybody here is a super at something so it is not surprise maybe he can pull off such feat. Plus, we don’t really know how long time has passed since they passed out the first time. Then the forbidden actions on the wristbands, I wonder how it sophistically detects forbidden actions because like Bandai’s case he dies if he witnesses violence by the participants. How is violence defined? Can slapping be considered violence? Some I feel can be easily bypassed like if Munakata cannot open doors, can he just use his trusty sword to cut down the wall and make his own doors? Yeah, maybe the walls are so hard that he couldn’t. Otherwise he would have cut a hole outside and escape. Oh, they can’t. Underwater.

The most ridiculous of them all is cutting off the power to somewhat end the game. To be fair, nobody knew the monitors had anything to do with the wristbands at first but when you think about it, you can’t help feel it is just silly yet simple solution. I guess when everybody is busy killing each other, they don’t really think outside the box. Of course the mind boggling one was Tengan himself being the mastermind. So he orchestrated this mutual killing just to make Mitarai use his video? It’s such a simple thing. People had to die so that somebody would use his brainwashing talents to save the world? So this old fart is playing the role of the villain? He sure trolled us by making us think so and that he might be the final last boss till the twist in the twist surfaced. I guess it is the question of if you want to save many, a few must be sacrificed. So will Mitarai be the final last boss now? I suppose it is not good just to have all positive emotions. Because that itself is not being human.

I am not sure whether to call it spoilers or knowledge beforehand because since this arc is aired side by side with the Despair arc, many of the revelations and the character backgrounds are related. Therefore if you watch this series without watching the Despair arc at the same time, you might be confused to some of the characters’ background. For instance, the ‘complicated’ relationship between Ruruka, Seiko and Izayoi. Their story might feel like a filler and distraction to the main plot of this arc since you need to know all about the character they died. It’s like a death flag or something. But if you don’t watch the Despair arc, you won’t really understand why they hate each other.

Therefore many of the other characters’ back story and relationship greatly depend on the other concurrently running arc that tells of what happened in the past that led to the situation that is of now. It goes without saying that you need to have watched the first Danganronpa series to understand what is going on too otherwise you would be lost as the series progresses. But some like Monaka’s case feels like distraction. It was just an elaborate sidetrack to show us that there was somebody else behind Gekkogahara and to give Naegi’s little sister as well as Togami’s insane admirer some screen time.

The art and animation style remains consistent among the series. But for this one, I find the character designs to be less weird than the rest. You know, very odd looking characters that make them look cartoonish. By far, the oddest looking one was Bandai whom I thought looked creepy himself. Thank goodness he got killed off early? Gozu despite wearing a metal bull mask isn’t so bad. Oh, not to mention the pink coloured blood, one of the series’ trademark. Everything is so dark and gory so why the heck not liven it up with bright pink? And when I mean dark, some of the scenes are really dark since like the hallways and some ruined sections of the building.

Seiyuus from the previous season like Megumi Ogata as Naegi, Youko Hikasa as Kirigiri and Chiwa Saito as Asahina return to reprise their roles. Among the new casts, the weirdest one I find is Rie Kugimiya as Bandai. I know this farmer guy looks weird already but it is even weirder when he sounds all so squeaky! I don’t know if it is a good thing when he got killed off early because I don’t think I can get used to hearing him in his squeaky voice throughout the season. Recognizable seiyuus new to the line-up include Junichi Suwabe as Sakakura, Keiji Fujiwara as Kizakura and Mai Nakahara as Yukizome. Aya Hirano was behind Monaka? I guess I haven’t heard her in a long time (the most recent being Fairy Tail’s recent season) so I’m starting to forget…

The rest of the new line-up include Toshiyuki Morikawa as Munakata (Naraku in Inu Yasha), Hidekatsu Shiba as Tengan (Igneel in Fairy TailKanta), Hongou as Mitarai (Sakamoto in BTOOOM), Takako Sasuga as Gekkogahara (Hata-bou in Osomatsu-kun), Kenta Miyake as Gozu (Klaus in Hayate No Gotoku), Inori Minase as Ruruka (Nagisa in Jitsu Wa Watashi Wa), Takuya Eguchi as Izayoi (Hikigaya in Yahari Ore No Seishun Love Comedy Wa Machigatteiru), Saki Fujita as Seiko (Inami in Working) and Aya Uchida as Komaru (Kotori in Love Live). Both the opening and ending themes are rock based with Dead Or Lie by Maon Kurosaki featuring Trustrick as the opener and Recall The End by Trustrick as the ending theme.

Overall, this is a great and enjoyable series especially if you like survivor genres and a fan of the Danganronpa series. I read certain comments online (read: fan boys of the game) call the anime adaptation a disappointment because certain parts were rushed and how bad its execution was. Personally I didn’t play the game so I can’t compare. Therefore for me not knowing ‘everything’, this adaptation is still interesting in its own right and I am quite satisfied with the series generally (except maybe how it ended and you need to watch another arc to complete it). So look who’s fallen into despair? It makes you wonder if hope and despair are 2 sides of the same coin. The same glass is half full or half empty expression. Both need each other to exist, like light and darkness, yin and yang. So it might get a little confusing in this series when they talk about hope killing hope and despair killing despair. It’s like saying two wrongs make a right. I guess we can only hope the next instalment would be better and the greatest (if there would be any). Where is a super high school level game developer when you need one?

If you love the original animated Danganronpa series, then we have good news for you. Make that double good news. Because not only Danganronpa 3 – Despair Arc was released as a sequel, it was also aired alongside with another arc (Future Arc) in the same season and both series run concurrently side by side with each other. Double the fun, double the despair. For this one, as its name suggests it takes place as the prequel before Naegi’s class entered the deadly survival game and details the events that led to the biggest despair incident to have been brought down on mankind. If you have not watched the original Danganronpa series, be warned there will be some spoilers here since this is a prequel.

Episode 1
Chisa Yukizome is being hired by Hope Peak’s principal, Jin Kirigiri as a teacher. She starts her first day enthusiastic but finds there are only 5 students turned up: Hiyoko Saionji (super traditional dancer – bratty girl), Mahiru Koizumi (photographer – normal girl), Fuyuhiko Kuzuryu (gangster – wait, WTF?!), Sonia Nevermind (princess – wait, huh?) and Mikan Tsumiki (health committee – hentai potential). Seeing how the class don’t get along well, Yukizome as the former super housekeeper decides to bring them along as they go retrieve their other classmates. In the toilet Nekomaru Nidai (team manager – his sh*t is so powerful it blasts through the wall!), in the cafeteria Teruteru Hanamura (cook – also super masochist), in the field Akane Owari (gymnastics – also a glutton), in the garage Kazuichi Soda (mechanic – sorry, Sonia doesn’t love you), in the animal shed Tanaka the Forbidden One (animal raiser – chuunibyou), in the music room Ibuki Mioda (rocker – is she rocking her guitar or cooking?), in the dojo Peko Pekoyama (swordswoman – don’t mess with her) and at the vending machine Nagito Komaeda (lucky – or is that unlucky?). Seeing the class is dirty, Yukizome has them clean the class while she goes pick up a couple of more missing students. One of them is Ryouta Mitarai (animator – chubby) who is trying to run away thinking she is the editor trying to force the deadline on him. Last is Chiaki Nanami (gamer) who is somehow with Hajime Hinata who is a student of the Reverse Course that was newly established last year. This course is for ordinary students but the fees are high. Hinata laments he wished to have a talent but Nanami says it doesn’t make a difference whether you have it or not. In fact ordinary people like them have greater freedom than those with talent because like for her, all she has are her games. With her students assembled (and the class clean as hell too), Yukizome is revved up that she can retrieve them the same day tomorrow. Later Yukizome calls Kyousuke Munakata to tell him she got a teaching job at Hope Peak. She assures him she will be okay without him since Munakata is planning to expand Hope Peak to overseas and won’t be around. She is grateful to this school as it allowed her to meet him.

Episode 2
Yukizome thought she has everything under control till she gets a call her class is in trouble. Owari and Nidai are fighting each other and ripping the class apart! But since they say it is for realistic combat training, she lets them continue. Nanami leaves the class believing she doesn’t mix with them since her super gaming skills will set her for life. But Yukizome advises her to make friends as it will be more fun to play with everyone. Yukizome is also doing a secret investigation for Munakata on Reverse Course. As these students pay very high fees, these funds are channelled to the board of trustees that controls the school. The issue is how the money is being used. Munakata has her investigate more as he notes if the overseas expansion is successful, it will give him a better voice. Later Yukizome talks to Hinata about why he enrols in Reverse Course. However he has low self esteem so she tells him to believe in himself. Subsequently the school’s advisor, Kazuo Tengan talks to him if he has made his decision. Not yet. Tengan is against that project because hope comes from people acting like people. Hinata is concerned his family cannot pay the high fees so Tengan tells him he can always decline and return to his normal high school and live as himself. There is nothing wrong being normal. When Yukizome returns to class, she sees everyone playing video games. Everyone chipped in to make the necessary as Nanami brought her games. She is glad that Yukizome was right that she can make friends via games. With everyone having their go at Nintendo rip-offs, Hanamura then cooks for everyone. Can’t play for hours on an empty stomach, can you? However Saionji cheekily puts Hanamura’s sexy potion into the soup and this turns everyone horny! Steamy scenes, gay scenes, lesbian scenes and sexual subtexts! It gets out of hand when Hanamura is about to rape Saionji but Nanami saves her with her super uppercut. What has Taylor Swift got to do with this?! The girls praise Nanami recuperating in the infirmary as she happily relates her uppercut inspiration from Double Dragon. Next day, Yukizome makes Nanami as the class rep. Everyone unanimously agrees so she agrees to give it a try. It lifts her spirits that she goes to invite Hinata to play a game with her. Next day in Hinata’s class, Natsumi Kuzuryu is the new transfer student. She starts off as a b*tch as you can tell how she badmouths everyone as trash and thinks highly of herself.

Episode 3
Hinata narrates his dream of attending Hope Peak. In class, Natsumi teases him since he is constantly looking at the main building. She proclaims herself as the super little sister since her brother is the heir of the Kuzuryu Gang. But if she is here, does that mean she is talentless? She hasn’t given up yet and will do what it takes to get into the main course. Natsumi is then confronted by fellow classmate, Sato who hates her guts to the very end as she warns not to pull off some sneaky move on Koizumi (seems the trio were once in the same photography club). Natsumi is not cowed as she badmouths and even threatens her with death. Typical gangster move, right? Koizumi comes by to quell the tension but even so Natsumi gives out her threats and make it sound like Koizumi is here to mock talentless people. Fuyuhiko talks to Pekoyama about his sister’s problem. He doesn’t want to jump to conclusions yet and reminds her that they have nothing between them now since enrolling here. Pekoyama is Fuyuhiko’s bodyguard and hitman. Hinata sees Sato and Natsumi arguing again. Sato is about to hit her for yet another badmouth rant but Hinata stops her. Hinata talks to Natsumi about her intimidation as he tries to advise her using Nanami’s words about life is more to just talent. But Natsumi disagrees although Hinata knows how it feels for being left behind. Apparently being with her brother and making memories with him aren’t just enough. She wants to stand by his side and be with him. Later, Hinata sees a commotion around the building and the police have barricaded the place. It seems Natsumi has been murdered in the music room!

Hinata eavesdrop Koizumi talking to Sato if she has killed Natsumi. At first Sato really wanted to kill her because she believed Natsumi was going to do kill Koizumi. However she realizes she has no talent to even kill people. So that’s that. Koizumi believes her. Hinata then confronts Sato about it but she starts panicking cooking up theories like Natsumi might have killed herself for being talentless. Then she goes crazy and runs away. Sato never turned up to class for a few days. Then her body was found. Hinata tries to enter the main building to speak to Koizumi for answers but is stopped by the head security, Juzo Sakakura. He is given an answer what happened but it felt like the authorities is trying to sweep the problem under the rug. When Hinata becomes resistant, he is beaten up. Sakakura continues to badmouth talentless people like him by making it up with money and they should just live a normal life instead of thinking they have some sort of talent. Hinata disagrees with his train thought and before Sakakura could punch him, Yukizome gets in the way. After Hinata leaves, Sakakura reminds her about her mission and shouldn’t be too involved with such normal students. Even so, Yukizome believes that was just pure violence and she should stop him as a human. He shouldn’t beat up students who don’t know anything. Sakakura warns if he digs in too much, he will be the one dying. They fear Hope Peak might be going down the wrong path and if so, only Munakata can stop this. Meanwhile Jin tells Tengan that the project about artificial hope and artificial talent has been given the green light as the subject has decided to participate. Because Hinata has finally decided to join and become everyone’s hope.

Episode 4
Yukizome informs her class about the upcoming exams. However nobody is in good mood seeing the double murders. Komaeda later pleads to her to cancel it but since there is nothing she can do, he is going to do something himself. After giving a sexy idol poster to Hanamura, this allows him to get access and up close with Seiko Kimura. He is seeking laxatives for her but because she has to entertain Ruruka Andou and Sounosuke Izayoi who are bugging her for a performance enhancing drug, Komaeda has to go get it himself. He is unsure which drug to take and lets his luck set fate in motion. After much pressure and talk about ‘friendship’, Seiko gives in and agrees to make a drug for her. Next day, there is a threatening message on the board to cancel the exam or else there will be hell to pay. Of course the authorities do not take this seriously and carry on with the exam. Little do they know there are bombs hidden in the hall’s ceiling. Ruruka serves her cream puff to the judges. Super awesome as expected. But suddenly their stomach starts to ache. Trying to find what is happening, Ruruka starts thinking Seiko intended to sabotage her and gave her the wrong drug. Seiko looks into her bag for a cure but sees a remote control for the bombs! This is when Ruruka starts accusing Seiko on just about everything. I believe they have trust issues from the start. This makes Seiko snap as she too calls her a traitor.

Meanwhile Komaeda thinks he has got everything in order. When he accidentally spills a drink and a dog drinks it, it grows into a giant! Realizing the drug he put wasn’t the laxative, he opens the bag to find only medicine. He remembers bumping into Seiko this morning and their bags must have switched. The dog runs rampage in the hall. Seiko and Ruruka panic and accidentally press the button. Boom! Hall exploded. Komaeda notes he didn’t do anything but this was the result he intended. So is this super lucky? Later Komaeda is given the talk by Yukizome. He jokes about being a trash but she slaps him. She assures he is not trash and she is his teacher. Because of this incident, Ruruka, Seiko and Izayoi have been expelled immediately. Although some are calling for Komaeda’s expulsion, he wasn’t directly involved but yet got his desired results. That takes a lot of luck. Therefore as compromise he will be suspended indefinitely and Yukizome will be transferred to Reverse Course since she is taking responsibility as his teacher. Her students are hounding for answers and if they wonder if this is a mistake. Yukizome explains that Komaeda did this in their best interest so when he returns, please give him a warm welcome. As for her transfer, she sees it as a training stint and will be back. Well, at least she is able to investigate closer the shady dealings behind Reverse Course. Oops. I don’t think that was a joke.

Episode 5
Six months have passed. Yukizome speaks to Sakakura if he could get an ID of the board of trustees for her. She explains the Kamukura Project which has begun in secret. Something big is going on since Kamukura is the name of Hope Peak’s founder. In order to investigate more, she needs an ID. Sakakura will try but if caught, he could be fired. She adds about Hinata that he suddenly quit school around the time she heard about the project. Yukizome will soon be transferred back to the main course. Komaeda has not been heard ever since but they hope to lift his suspension. When she returns to class, her students are already waiting to pop the surprise welcome. They heard from a teacher about her return and prepared the necessary. Everyone credits Nanami for pulling this together. In addition, she is the one who organized activities and supported the class during Yukizome’s absence. Other notable differences are Saionji who has a growth spurt and busty lady (curse you puberty!) and Sonia taking after Tanaka’s chuunibyou. Meanwhile Mitarai returns to his room to see a skinnier version of himself pushing to create an anime that will save everyone?! On the other hand, Enoshima returns and waits at the airport for Ikusaba. They are putting forth in motion a plan that will lead to the most atrocious despair incident in human history by enrolling in Hope Peak. There is a short narration by skinny Mitarai that he was often bullied. Physically weak, he believes anime saved him. Because he is working so hard and disregarding his own health, fat Mitarai ‘kidnaps’ Tsumiki to nurse him. He explains the truth. Both guys were living next door to each other. Fatty has no name and is a super imposter. He lives his life in the guise of others although it doesn’t last long. Noting that skinny Mitarai only wants to make anime, he views their interest overlap and requests to take over his name. Skinny Mitarai can shut himself in and make anime all he wants while fat Mitarai will take over his place. Thankfully fatty trusts his classmates so Tsumiki doesn’t have to die or sell her body. Oh God, what was she thinking? Meanwhile Hinata is in some sort of experiment. Still in a daze, he believes he will become the protagonist of his own story and someone who can be proud around Nanami.

Episode 6
At the end of Hinata’s experiment… He grows longer hair?! He is also given the new name Izuru Kamukura, Hope Peak’s founder. He will be the world’s new hope. Sakakura manages to sneak an ID for Yukizome although it has a time limit. This is also the same ID of a trustee that has recently gone missing so be careful. Speaking of that trustee, he is kidnapped by Enoshima and tortured. Yukizome hacks into the trustee’s computer to shockingly read about the project. Despite the subject will become humanity’s hope and gain every known talent in the world, he will lose his emotions, personality and ideals. It is a small price to pay to save the world. The project has already moved on to testing phase. Yukizome reports to Munakata who fears the worst thing is not the public finding out but an unscrupulous person using this for his own gain. Hope will become despair that will threaten the world. Munakata will immediately return and until then she is not to say a word about this to anyone. Enoshima and Ikusaba use the trustee’s eye at the retinal scan to enter Kamukura’s room. At first she fawns over this dude but suddenly wants to kill him for being mankind’s hope. However Kamukura easily pins her down and not even Ikusaba can do anything. He asks if he has super analytical abilities that can calculate several steps ahead, why she even tried this. Because despair is an unknown. She is bored with the world with its pre-existing harmony. Only despair sets her heart racing. Despite being overwhelmed by him, she is having so much fun. Erm, isn’t that just being a masochist? Enoshima tries to coax him to join her side. Because hope doesn’t lead to the unknown. He won’t find salvation there. Only despair can save him. Enoshima is knocked out and the next thing she knows she is in the hospital bed. It seems Kamukura didn’t tell anybody about this. He told Ikusaba to leave Enoshima a message: He will be waiting. So he is taking up her offer? Enoshima is so happy that she waltzes out of hospital. That is where she bumps into skinny Mitarai just coming in. She doesn’t know why she feels so happy to see him and starts hugging him. She believes this must be yet another fateful encounter.

Episode 7
Enoshima badmouths anime so when Mitarai counters her, she dares him to show it. Of course she is absolutely moved and no other anime crap will do! He explains how he uses everything to make such a great anime but all Enoshima must have heard was how it brainwashes others. Hearing Mitarai wants to make a better world, you don’t say because Enoshima too had the same intentions… When fat Mitarai tells Tsumiki his skinny version is missing, she goes to check on him at his room but Ikusaba sees her and kidnaps her. Sakakura tells Yukizome that many trustee members have also gone missing. Security is now so tight that he can’t get an idea of what is happening. Enoshima is providing skinny Mitarai a comfortable room to create his anime (courtesy from the trustees, if you get what I mean). Ikusaba brings in Tsumiki and they make her watch Mitarai’s anime. Touched as hell. Enoshima super analyzes the situation and forms a plan. This involves bringing Kamukura to witness something extraordinary. In a classroom where Hope Peak’s student council members, Ikusaba announces all of them to kill each other. At first they refuse thinking it is a joke but when she demonstrates by killing one of them, she gives them 2 options: Kill each other or be killed by her. For motivation, there are videos containing their darkest secrets. So if you don’t want those out… All it took is just 1 crazy and disillusioned member to start the ball rolling. Next thing you know, we see everybody killing everybody and blood everywhere. Enoshima narrates to Kamukura the unpredictability of despair that will save him a boring future. The last standing member faces off with Kamukura. Of course he couldn’t best him. A fluke made him accidentally killed himself. Jin is upset that the plan is already in motion and being covered up by the authorities just to continue their existence. Enoshima deals the fatal blow by sending a message to all the students about this project being funded by the Reverse Course’s exorbitant fees. Making it worse is how all the student council members were found murdered by this Kamukura specimen and the school is trying to cover this up out of self preservation and hide their failed experimentation. It makes the Reverse Course students accomplices to murder. Naturally all of them are enraged after reading this as a mob gathers to demonstrate against this scam.

Episode 8
With the students trying to barge their way in, the higher ups are getting worried and need to act before the government steps in. Tsumiki has turned into an obsessed worshipper and slave for Enoshima. Mitarai is unsure of how she turned like that but when he clicks a preview video in a mysterious folder, he sees footage of the student council members killing each other. He becomes sick. He thinks Tsumiki saw this and went crazy. She tries to seduce him so he can help them out to realize Enoshima’s goal but Enoshima beats the crap out of her for being a slut. And she loves it! Mitarai is scared as Enoshima explains (with video) that she plans to turn the entire world into despair. However she lacks the brainwashing power that Mitarai has and wants him to make one which is way better than his last. Mitarai tries to run but is warned she might make his classmates kill each other next. Everyone is worried that Tsumiki has not showed up in class for a long time. Even if Komaeda returns, they are not in a mood to celebrate. He then tells them he saw Tsumiki at an area. This has everyone go look for her. Sakakura is having trouble fending off the invading students. He is surprised Munakata is back and is going to lend a hand. Sakakura tries to call Yukizome but she isn’t picking up because she is busy looking for her students. Komaeda and Nanami are at the founder’s statue. By luck, he opens a secret underground passageway that leads to skinny Mitarai’s room. That guy swamped with fear as he thinks he hasn’t done anything bad yet. Enoshima and Komaeda face off. He tells her Ikusaba can’t come to her aid because he talked to Pekoyama to keep her at bay. Komaeda pulls out a gun at Enoshima. He will do anything to protect hope. He views despair as a stepping stone to hope. So he wants to test if he could kill her, it means she wasn’t good enough as hope’s stepping stone. Suddenly he senses Kamukura behind him. Komaeda pulls the trigger but it is jammed. Kamukura whispers he too has good luck. He snatches the gun from him and shoots in his chest. Luckily luck didn’t abandon Komaeda because his handbook stopped the bullet. Nanami takes a closer look at Kamukura. He’s Hinata, right? Mitarai runs away fearing for his life. That’s when he bumps into Yukizome who assures it is her duty to protect her students. She has a bad feeling about this as she heads downstairs.

Episode 9
Enoshima just warmed up introducing herself to Nanami. Yukizome throws a fire extinguisher so that Nanami can take Komaeda and leave. Enoshima explains this will be the last day Yukizome and her students will be themselves as they will fall into despair as part of her plan. She knows Nanami will call her classmates to come and rescue her. True enough, Nanami explains what is happening and despite Komaeda’s not to go against them because their despair level is off the charts, they still want to go save their teacher. Fat Mitarai reveals his true identity to everyone and also wants to join in. Munakata has done his research and no matter what, all evidence points back to Enoshima as the culprit. Sakakura will go find her and bring her back for interrogation. Yukizome is forced to watch a brainwashed student hack himself to death and then strapped down to watch a video of the killings. She is resisting hard so Ikusaba sticks some needles into her head trying to adjust the frequency or something?! Creepy! Yukizome’s students encounter the angry Reverse Course students who think by ridding them they can get their seat. Nidai and Tanaka fight them to let the rest through. Skinny Mitarai is running away and being chased by the mob. Then he trips and is surrounded. Enoshima pops up and his here to thank and say goodbye to him. She is grateful his collaboration will help turn the world into despair although he argues his works is for the betterment of the world. In the end, he is forced to run because that is what Enoshima tells him to do. Running away is his despair. He falls into a flowing river. Sakakura has found Enoshima and is going to give her a good beat down. Yukizome’s students trek down the basement filled with hope. Since Nanami and Tsumiki are at the back of the pack, Tsumiki pushes Nanami down a secret shaft. When she wakes up, she finds Yukizome by her side as she claims Kamukura freed her.

Episode 10
What a surprise. Sakakura lost to Enoshima! She then begins to mock his one-sided love for Munakata. She threatens to show pictures of him fawning over Munakata’s pictures if he doesn’t report back that she is innocent. Very unfortunately, Sakakura complies. Blinded by love or despair? Nanami is shoved into a dark elevator by Yukizome. Enoshima appears on monitor revealing to Nanami about Yukizome being brainwashed by the despair video. However she feels that she is a step away from perfection. And Nanami will be that perfection. When all her classmates finally gather in a strange room, Enoshima is on the monitor again and is going to make them watch a video called Nanami’s Punishment. We see Nanami trying to dodge all sorts of dangerous traps in a dungeon. She has already taken some damage but still tries to maintain her positivism that she will not give up. Her classmates can only helplessly watch and cannot move because of the hypnotism effect. Just when Nanami reaches the goal door, all the spikes impale her. Game over. This drives all her classmates spiralling into despair and madness. Enoshima congratulates her new ‘colleagues’ as they will bring the world ultimate despair. Nanami in her final moments sees Kamukura standing before her. She realizes he has no memories being Hinata. Even in this state, she is trying to be positive. She doesn’t want to die and continue to be with her classmates but all is in vain as she struggles till her last breath. Kamukura picks up her hairpin and couldn’t understand why tears start flowing down his cheeks.

Episode 11
Munakata is told that the overseas expansion is cancelled. No reason is given. Then he asks Sakakura about his report in which he lies through his teeth that Enoshima is innocent. Munakata has his doubts at first so he confirms it with Yukizome who also says Enoshima is innocent. It is then Munakata believes he was wrong all along. Enoshima sets off the biggest chaotic despair with all the Reverse Course students getting violent and barging into the main building to slaughter everyone. While Yukizome gives her graduation speech to her class (everybody is under some sort of hypnotic despair too) and ends it by detonating a bomb! Enoshima wonders why Kamukura asked her to erase memories of him from the memories of others. As he will meet them in the future, he wants to know if hope or despair is the unpredictable factor. That is why he too will have his own memories erased. It will be more fun that way. After that they part ways. Jin and Tengan are trapped inside the school’s building. They see on the news the worldwide chaos. While Tengan wants to escape as they can’t do anything much here, Jin wants to stay behind to entrust hope to the survivors. Enoshima ends everything by having the Reverse Course students commit suicide when they’re done killing others. Ikusaba wonders why she didn’t have them join her ranks. They might have their brains rewired like hers but they are too low specs to be of any use. She warns Ikusaba to watch out because she’ll backstab her without hesitation. Then they go join Naegi’s class. We finally get the answer to why they were barricaded inside the building is because they themselves put up the barricades. Enoshima notes Naegi’s luck and wants to test it out. He is lucky he missed getting killed by her. Enoshima rethinks her decision to kill him because she doesn’t want him to derail her plans. Yukizome’s students are somehow outside. Munakata picks up Yukizome from the rubble. As narrated, her students go all over the world to spread despair. Everything fell apart as part of Enoshima’s plan. Sakakura deeply regrets not stopping Enoshima that it has led to this. Yukizome cries crocodile tears pleading to Munakata to stop this insanity so that she can make him despair more deeply than any of them.

Zetsubou Shita!
Well, it is with mixed feelings the way this arc ended. I knew it was going to be on the tragedy side but yet I feel so unsatisfied about it. I know everything hasn’t really ended yet and the only thing that has ended is hope. Especially that final scene about Hinata and Nanami nicely meeting each other at some island resort. What the heck was that? A dream? No way, man. Please don’t troll me any further when my sentiments are already this shaky. Gosh. Am I in despair???!!! Oh my God. Say it isn’t so. Phew. At least I didn’t take up a weapon and trash everything around me. Thankfully it isn’t 100% despair because there is still hope. Turns out there will be an episode to end and bridge this as announced at the end of the final episode but that will be for next time.

Unlike the first Danganronpa series and the Future Arc, this one breaks away from the mutual killing game of picking off each other one by one. Sure, there’s that student council version of it but that lasts only for minutes and serves as an appetizer. This arc heavily focuses on Enoshima’s grand foundation in building up her plans to bring ultimate despair to the world and the unfortunate souls who became victims of her mind controlling schemes. So if you are hoping and guessing from the promotional poster arc that these would be the ‘new’ characters to kill each other off in a survival game, you’d be very far off the mark. Of course this is assuming you didn’t play the game and like yours truly came to this assumption.

This means that the class under Yukizome’s care feel like they aren’t fleshed out properly. Each has their own interesting and quirky personality that makes them all so different in every way but because we don’t mostly see them do fun things together throughout the series (like Nanami’s video game session), it feels like their initial introduction in the first episode was like some sort of trolling and has been watered down as the series progresses and focused on other happenings. So if you want to have an idea of what Nanami’s class did together, the best bet is watch the ending credits animation where there is a montage of it. Well, I’m not saying that all characters in every Danganronpa series are fleshed out. This is the case for characters who are killed off very early. However for these special super talented students, they aren’t really killed off so it makes their roles for this arc feeling a bit much more to be desired. Like as though they’re just waiting around till the final moments of the plot to become somewhat relevant.

Hence among the students of this main course class that get the most screen time or at least playing more notable roles are Nanami and skinny Mitarai. Sadly, Nanami is the only main character to die. I know you’re going to remind me about Natsumi and Sato but they’re just minor characters whom you’ll forget once this arc reaches its end. What happened to Mitarai after he got washed away? I suppose he just kept running and running and running. Supposedly strong characters like Sakakura and Yukizome who are thought to be able to put up a decent fight against despair, ironically succumb to it. At least it shows they are human, right? They too have weaknesses and not perfect. Hey, being super high school level currently or formerly doesn’t mean that you are perfect like God. You just happen to be more successful than others normally. Finally, Hinata/Kamukura felt a bit of a waste. Of course from where the plot of this arc is going, there is nothing much he can do. But I thought it was a waste to have this all-so-powerful-God like as though he is very much the last boss to fight and lose but he is just observing and biding his time. That’s all.

In one of the biggest ironies, the higher ups trying to play God and create their own artificial super level of hope instead ushered in the biggest despair instead. Normal students pay big money in return to get some sort of future hope but what they got was a big let-down and ultimately despair. That’s what happened when a large sum of money is involved. Can you now say that in addition to money is the root of all evil, it is now the root of all despair? It is no longer just a sin to be poor but sad to be without money.

Another irony is Enoshima and her love for despair. It feels like a big contradiction. If she loves despair, shouldn’t she herself be wallowing in misery, desolation and hopelessness? Instead we see her revel and taking joy in seeing others suffer and this makes her more of a super level sadist than one who is gunning for ultimate despair. I mean, she did bring the world to its knees but she is happy in achieving that goal and seeing how it is brought upon others. In that sense, she is like a hypocrite to her own goal of despair. She should be called a super high school level evil maniacal mastermind sadist instead. If she really wants to go into despair, she should look at that Nozomu guy from Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei series. That guy is truly in despair.

I am not sure whether to call it spoilers or knowledge beforehand because since this arc is aired side by side with the Future arc, many of the revelations and the character backgrounds are related. Therefore if you watch this series without watching the Future arc at the same time, you might not be missing anything out since this took place before all the Danganronpa series chronologically. It stands alone by itself. But if you do watch the Future arc, you will find that there are quite a few incidents that will be related. So you can consider this arc as spoiler when you do so. Or if you’re being optimistic, it gives you better understanding when you watch the Future arc subsequently. For instance, the ‘complicated’ relationship between Ruruka, Seiko and Izayoi. While you might think their cameo appearance might be seen as one of the few driving points in the story and insignificant for this arc, you will find and understand better about their role in the Future arc which in a way makes sense. It also makes sense to learn why skinny Mitarai is the only ‘survivor’ among his class. You’ll see what I mean if you watched the Future arc. So spoilers or knowledge beforehand? Either way, both these series complement each other.

It goes without saying that despite this arc is chronologically the first, for those who have not watched the first season’s Danganronpa, you will be greatly spoiled because we all know who the main big villain is, right? Therefore watching this prequel arc hinges on pretty much on the assumption that you have watched the first season and you pretty much know what has happened. Doing so makes it easier to connect the dots and lines and gives you a better idea and understanding of what is generally happening.

The art and animation style remains consistent among the series. This means that some of the character design feels odd. Characters with odd looking parts that make them look more cartoonish than anything. For example Hanamura. This guy is already creepy as a little pervert and with his cartoon-like face like as though he popped out from some baking mascot cover, he looks even creepier if not funnier. Soda looks more like a rapper than a mechanic. Just saying… One thing I find odd is how the other non-important students of the Reverse Course are drawn as what I call ‘blue mannequins’. Every time I see them I feel like I wanna go “I’m blue da ba di da ba die”. No, seriously. With all the blue people around, it feels like they are clones or something. I understand that they paid through their noses to get enrolled here and when they found out the truth they get disappointed and hence the blues (okay, I’m just bullsh*tting) but it just looks odd to see them drawn this way. Well, we’ve seen the odd pink blood which is the trademark of this series.

A handful of recognizable seiyuus lend their talents to this series such as Kana Hanazawa as Nanami, Mai Nakahara as Yukizome, Junichi Suwabe as Sakakura, Akira Ishida as the imposter Mitarai, Jun Fukuyama as Hanamura, Tomokazu Sugita as Tanaka, Yu Kobayashi as Koizumi, Yoshimasa Hosoya as Soda, Hiroaki Yasumoto as Nidai, Ami Koshimizu as Mioda, Ai Shimizu as Sato and Rikiya Koyama as Jin. Oddly, Megumi Ogata who voiced Naegi in the other Danganronpa series plays Komaeda here. It gave me an impression that Komaeda might be his older brother or something related in this sense as they both have that similar feel. I mean, one is with super hope and the other is super luck. Talents which are somewhat intangible, right? At first I thought Aoi Yuuki was behind Saionji but I was greatly mistaken as it was Suzuko Mimori instead (Sherlock in Tantei Opera Milky Holmes).

For the rest of the new casts, they are Minami Tanaka as Hinata/Kamukura (Conan in Detective Conan), Kanata Hongou as Mitarai the animator (Sakamoto in BTOOOM), Ai Kayano as Tsumiki (Kanade in Chihayafuru), Daisuke Kishio as Fuyuhiko (Suginami in Da Capo series), Kotono Mitsushi as Pekoyama (Excel in Excel Saga), Romi Paku as Owari (Hitsugaya in Bleach), Miho Arakawa as Sonia (Hanabusa in Akuma No Riddle), Haruka Yamazaki as Natsumi (Tomoyo in Inou Battle Wa Nichijou-Kei No Naka De), Toshiyuki Morikawa as Munakata (Mard Geer in Fairy Tail), Hidekatsu Shibata as Tengan (Igneel in Fairy Tail), Saki Fujita as Seiko (Inami in Working), Inori Minase as Ruruka (Chino in Gochuumon Wa Usagi Desu Ka) and Takuya Eguchi as Izayoi (Kon in Ixion Saga DT).

The opening theme is Kami Iro Awase by Binaria. I’m not sure how to put it but It isn’t exactly a rock piece but it is in a way. I’m confused too. Maybe because the singer’s voice of singing the song in a calm way. Watching the opening credits at first made me think Shaft did this anime because of how similar its style is to the Monogatari series. Turns out to be Lerche who did Ansatsu Kyoushitsu, Hamatora, Unbreakable Machine Doll, Saijaku Muhai No Bahamut and Maji De Watashi Ni Koi Shinasai. The ending theme is Zettai Kibou Birthday by Megumi Ogata. At first I didn’t believe it was heard because from what I can hear it sounds like a man’s voice singing this rock outfit. I thought it might be some type error. I even looked at various sources and finally the ending credits itself and confirmed it is her singing this one. Straining my ears to closely hear, I finally realize it could be her. After all, she has this low voice and this makes her suitable to voice many anime roles for young boys.

Overall, the series is pretty interesting and sets the foundation and the ball rolling for the other Danganronpa series in a chronological sense. Despite the lack of mutual killings or the main characters being killed off (unless you consider falling into ultimate despair as a metaphor for the character being killed off) the plot and turn of events make it an interesting watch. At least it is good to take heart that the writer and producers of this series are so super high level because otherwise we would be brainwashed and fall into despair. Instead we leave with satisfaction and high hopes for the series. Naturally an ideal point if you want it to be a commercial success. Because what’s worse than the world falling into despair is for your series to be ultimately cancelled and then into oblivion forever. Then it would be truly zetsubou shita!

Mayoiga

November 6, 2016

Sick and tired of your life? Can’t seem to get it right? Societal norms and pressures of society aren’t doing anything good to you? Well, why not throw it all away and start life anew in a village far, far away that doesn’t exist on any map. That way, you can live your life the way you want without anybody telling you what to do. Live life the way you deem fit and to your liking. Wow. Sounds like a good deal. This seems to be the case for Mayoiga. A group of seemingly disgruntled young people with their own problems in life deciding to run away from it all by taking this once in a lifetime tour to redo their life from scratch. A society they can call their own cut off from the rest of the world. But will it be that simple and straightforward? You know how shady and small those small finer prints are especially if you’re staking it all from an unknown online source. Because it may look like paradise at first until something sinister seems to be lurking beneath it all. And you can’t call the police or your local ghostbusters to help you because nobody knows where you are. Heck, they don’t even know if you even exist anymore.

Episode 1
A group of 30 people believed to have discovered a secret website beneath all that coding are on a bus heading to Nanaki Village. Dahara is their tour guide and host as each of them introduce themselves and their goals. Basically, many of them are facing some sort of hardship and want a new start in life. This village is rumoured by online circles where people have gone vanished but in fact is believed to start a new life for themselves. After some discuss the few theories of its existence, they start singing a weird hippo song. Really. It’s weird. As the bus takes a break, Hayato talks to Mitsumune that he is sceptical of this tour because really, everyone else is a weirdo and that it is like some tour for overly self-conscious sickos to make friends. It is believed Mitsumune escaped from the cram school his parents sent him and wants to redo his life again. Mitsumune thought Masaki is having some sort of sickness. She talks about weird stuffs before her motion sickness catches up. He returns to the bus to get some pills. He notices Lion still at her seat and asks her why she joined this tour. She is not obliged to tell him but warns and hopes they don’t end up cannibalizing each other. The bus ride resumes. They play really weird bus games like how Mitsumune needs to read out his imaginary suicide note. That is when the bus driver tells them off young ones that they don’t know about life. Doing this is just irresponsible. Everyone has varying degrees of hardship but people his age tough it out. In his eyes, they’re like babies. Angry Valkana shuts him up to do his job because they pay him to drive and not lecture. After Mitsumune has some time bomb-cum-suicide nightmare, the driver loses his cool. He starts speeding in the rain and complains about his life. Economic downturn, no overtime pay, mother calls him for money, blah, blah, blah. So you guys want to start over? How about we start over and leave this world by dying happily together in an accident? Some of the guys beat up the driver but as Masaki tries to stop the fight, the driver steps on the brakes before they crash, causing her to vomit all over him. While cleaning up and resting, they hear a weird music coming out from a clock. Koharun explains it is Nanaki Village’s traditional nursery song and Dahara introduces her to everyone as the one who discovered the village’s location. Valkana shuts her up and tells her off that she is not in charge. The journey continues and soon they will be crossing a bridge directly into Nanaki Village.

Episode 2
The path becomes bumpy and dark. The bus slides off the slope. You mean they have to push it all the way back up?! This is when the group becomes divided into encouraging the driver to go ahead when he warned them it was dangerous. Mikage then tells everyone to give their money to him. Since they are going to start a new life, they are not going to use the currency anymore. He hopes the driver will be happy and not rat out on this village. Otherwise they will testify he stole their money and abandoned them. Nanaki Village is just walking distance away so everyone starts trekking. Mitsumune wants to help Masaki but Hayato warns about his habit of falling in love easily. Lion thinks the guys are dating since they are so close but Mitsumune clarifies that Hayato is his best friend and always saved him from being bullied. The group is scared when they see huge bear treks so they make haste till they arrive at the village. Everyone is happy to arrive but something feels odd. It feels like the entire place is abandoned and not a single soul around. They split up in groups to get more clues and ascertain this is the correct village. From the dust piling up and rusted things, it is probably abandoned for a year. They start theorizing if the villagers abandoned it or all died or being executed. Maimai seems to flirt with Mitsumune. But when he is relieved that he didn’t fall for her, she takes it as an insult. Too late to apologize. Everyone is shocked when the bus driver returns. He thinks he needs to watch the kids as an adult but they think he decides to abandon his lousy life and join them. Nanko and Mikage then question Koharun. If Nanaki Village is said to be a village that cannot be located, how did she find the place? Koharun claims she has been doing intensive research and even visited sites but all were duds. One day she got a mysterious email that detailed this location. Of course that email is in her laptop and she didn’t bring it since there is no signal and wouldn’t need it. Mikage finds that unbelievable. Suddenly Valkana and his group rush back. It seems Masaki and Yottsun have vanished.

Episode 3
Everyone goes to look for Yottsun but couldn’t find him. Puuko’s scream alerts everyone. There is a huge claw mark with blood on the tree. Time to freak out. They hear growling noises too. As they run, Mitsumune trips. That’s where he sees Masaki cowering in fear by a tree. She is interrogated as she recounts Yottsun wanted to bring her somewhere. Then he spotted something and left by himself. Since he didn’t return, she tried to look for him and slipped. She couldn’t remember the rest. Many do not believe her story but Mitsumune stands up for her. The group becomes divided if they should leave or stay but unless all of them want to get out of here, the driver won’t leave. Mad Valkana tells off everyone it is this moment they find out who their friends and traitors are. A few guys go help him continue look for Yottsun. Masaki isn’t grateful for Mitsumune sticking up to her. She tells him not to do so again or he will be cut off from the group. Hayato tells Mitsumune to stop sucking up to her. It’s that I-told-you-so talk again and all Mitsumune have to do is listen to what Hayato says to avoid getting bullied. After the rest assign sleeping quarters, they go get some food. There is a vegetation farm nearby and oddly it feels as though they’ve been tended to properly till yesterday. Hyouketsu blames Jack for his overlapping character and initiates a silly argument. This has Jack returning with a hoe and tries to kill him! Luckily he is restrained and tied up. It is then Maimai recognizes Jack as her old classmate. Rumour had it that he had an attitude problem and stabbed a classmate. He was sent away for juvenile detention. Some are calling him to be executed but Valkana shows them a secret underground prison cell which he found where they can put Jack for the time being. Koharun believes Valkana is taking this too responsibly although his reply is that he doesn’t want to be made a scapegoat. Valkana reveals he was a freelance engineer and was made a scapegoat by the company when his system failed. Koharun believes he doesn’t want to be alone. Otherwise he wouldn’t have joined this tour and ignore all interpersonal relationships. That night when Mitsumune can’t sleep and makes his way to Jack’s prison, he sees Maimai. Lovepon thinks they are going to execute Jack and she eagerly wants to help. She becomes crazy when they’re not as she talks about nipping the problem in the bud or tragedy will befall everyone. She then tries to kill Mitsumune by drowning him. He manages to escape but sees a corpse floating ahead.

Episode 4
Everyone returns to the river trying to find Yottsun’s body but could it be Mitsumune just imagined things? Because it is dark and the scary roar in the background, everyone returns to the village to discuss if there was a bear or a tiger or whatever lurking around. Mikage suggests leaving this place since it is too dangerous but Masaki disagrees that they are safer here than going back. She doesn’t know why but she feels so. In the end, Mikage and many decide to leave tomorrow. Only a handful remain. Hayato is not pleased Mitsumune wants to stay and the friends argue and part their ways. That night, Mikage talks to Valkana that Yottsun’s killer might be among them. Somebody trying to live out his/her dream of becoming a mass murderer. He suspects Koharun as she knew the place and wasn’t initially on the tour bus. She might be in cahoots with the previous villagers. He also feels Masaki knows something and won’t tell them. Mikage’s group try to push the bus out but it is still dark. They can’t go back to the village now as it will be dark and dangerous then. So they start trekking as far as they can before the sun sets. As they trek and map their progress, things seems to be going great for some time until they realize they are back to where they started. They followed the map accurately but something feels off. It gets scarier when the roar is louder and they get a jump scare when they see Jack in a distance (it was briefly shown his prison cell is empty). Hyouketsu fears he is here to kill him and runs but slips. Since the driver is acting suspicious, Valkana and Koharun tail him. They see him trying to call out to somebody but nab him. Mitsumune thought he could get closer to Masaki and tells his real name. It’s Mitsumune. Instead, she cried. Huh? Mikage’s group almost drop into the abyss but spots an old rail line. Following it leads to a tunnel. But then they see the scariest sh*t ever. What’s this about a large Mitsumune Maimai saw?! Koharun and Valkana interrogate the driver of who he was looking for. Misato. His daughter who died 10 years ago.

Episode 5
The driver adds he wants to take Misato home with him. Just then Mikage’s group makes it back to the village. After checking the cell and confirming Jack is gone, everyone starts discussing about Hyouketsu who fell off the cliff. They can’t even remember this dude’s name! Mikage starts making his accusations to everyone when everyone is being inconsistent with their stories of the roar. That is when Lion freaks out. She points out Mitsumune is a ghost! Wait. What?! She saw him vanished for a while! She says she has the ability to see dead people. The driver becomes desperate in wanting to confirm Misato. That is when Mikage and co get even more suspicious and want to know more about it. Lovepon insists on executing Mitsumune and Maimai as she accuses them of freeing Jack. But since everyone is tired, it is suggested everyone hits the sack. Mitsumune thanks Maimai for standing up for him but she insists she is doing it or else she will be suspected too. Mikage, Lovepon, Jigoku and Nyanta discuss the suspicious people and plan to capture one of them to interrogate. A few girls sweet talk Mitsumune into helping to guard their quarters while they sleep. Lovepon, Jigoku and Nyanta are waiting to take him down when Lion comes to talk to Mitsumune. He praises her supernatural power but she reveals it was a lie and took advantage of him. Because the situation was getting out of hand and people were being stupid arguing over stupid things. Mitsumune is impressed and allows her to use him in such cases but she is not impressed with his goody two shoes nature of accepting and playing along with everyone. What Lion didn’t say is that she can see people who are going to die. Once Mitsumune is alone, the trio nab him. In the cell, Lovepon can’t wait to torture him. But they smell fire and escape. Masaki returns to help cut Mitsumune loose. There is something she needs to talk to him about. Suddenly there is this giant monster appearing before Mitsumune whom he recognizes as Tokimune.

Episode 6
Lovepon runs off by herself. She sees a demon mask haunting her! Flashback reveals a depraved monk used to visit her mom. In return for money to clear her debts, she offered sex and alcohol (the brand is a demon mask). Lovepon didn’t like how she also abused her mom so one day she put the bottle on the stairs to make him trip and fall down. The monk then started beating her while she screams execution. When the rest look for Lovepon, now Nyanta sees her fears. Though the rest sees nothing, Nyanta runs away when a zombie hornet is on her tail! Her story tells she was bullied by her classmates. To get her little thrill of revenge, she bought an airsoft gun and sniped at them. It was all fun till she was caught. The bullies tie her up under a hornet’s nest and started shooting at it. Now it’s Jigoku’s turn. He is running away from a gel monster?! It was his dream to join the rangers and posted his solitary training online. Though, many panned how stupid he was. To make up for his required height, he put a breast gel on his head. He failed to get in. What about Mikage? He is telling all those laughter to stop. He was in charge of promoting some toy train. He was very confident about it although the executives were cautious and don’t want to end up embarrassed with a big failure. Mikage dared gamble it will be successful so they put their trust in him. On event day, the toy trains didn’t arrive because of a simple error he made in the delivery date. No doubt Mikage got chewed out and everyone laughed at him. So now a demon train is after his ass?! The rest heard gun sounds in the forest and go look for the missing ones. They manage to round up Lovepon, Nyanta and Jigoku but all give different accounts of their stories. It confuses everyone. Koharun starts singing the nursery song and analyzes how it is all related to this. She then shows them an article on Masaki. She went missing many years ago at Yanagase Village which is the village they passed before entering Nanaki Village. They fear she might be a ghost.

Episode 7
Mitsumune had another twin brother, Tokimune. Both are like day and night. Mitsumune was neat and nice while the other was messy and naughty. Tokimune was playing dangerously on a wall when he fell off. Mom was not able to accept his death and started going crazy. She sees Mitsumune as Tokimune and the entire family has no choice but to play along. This goes on long enough till he is in high school. She became very protective of him and before Mitsumune knows it, he became Tokimune. That is why he joined this tour to live as himself. So a reason Mitsumune liked Masaki was because she was the first person who really liked his real name. She brings him to the tunnel, a place that could leave Nanaki Village. However she warns him she must confront his inner enemy and she will be waiting at the other side. She notes his hand is the warmest among the rest. Mitsumune is paralyzed in fear as he sees the giant penguin toy he calls Tokimune. Masaki just ran right through it. Unfortunately Mitsumune is too chicken to face it. But he received a punch in the guy! So is the monster real?! He runs back to the village. Mikage chides everyone for not wanting to talk about the monsters because they always avoided the subject. Everyone concludes that Masaki is a ghost bringing monsters here to kill them. Many are afraid to deal with the monsters. Maimai explains she and her best friend fell in love with the same guy. He looked similar to Mitsumune (hence, that giant Mitsumune). When she started dating him, her best friend shunned her. Her other friends turned against her and eventually she was dumped. Therefore she is not going back to society. This gives everyone hope to kill the monsters so they can continue staying here. This means they must kill Masaki. When Mitsumune wanders back into the village, everyone plays nice with him to get more details. After he tells them what happened, he is quickly put to bed. The others are getting ready to exorcise the ghost. Stakes? Cross? Salt? You think these would work? As they wait for her at the tunnel, Masaki pops up. Lion and Nanko are the only ones against this witch hunt as they go warn Mitsumune. Masaki is tied at the stake and tortured. Lovepon is obsessed about killing her but this is where many draw the line. They can’t just stab her. Hayato then does the honours to stab her as he blames her for seducing and brainwashing Mitsumune. In his haste, he cuts her arm. It’s bleeding. Do ghosts bleed? Mitsumune is not happy to see this and punches Hayato. Hayato is still bent on killing her so Masaki can’t bear to see Mitsumune suffer anymore and will tell everything.

Episode 8
Masaki has been to this village before. She followed her cousin, Reiji to find this place. He was so happy to find it that he couldn’t stop taking pictures and couldn’t wait to report this to his friends. He could have continued snapping had not Masaki reminded him it is getting late. As they leave, Reiji saw some kind of monster and ran back. Masaki saw nothing. Masaki slipped and fell unconscious. The next thing she knew, she was lying on the road. Each time she tried to climb back up, there was no village. Therefore she came on this tour to save Reiji but couldn’t find him. Everyone is startled when she mentions that there might be other villages like this but she isn’t exactly sure. As for the tunnel, she tells everyone not to go there and has a bad feeling about it. Although she went through it, she turned back halfway. But everyone still don’t believe her because she is the only one who hasn’t seen any monsters and the inconsistency in her story that she never went back home but lived in a nearby village to work part time until she chanced upon this tour. They show her the article. Because if she lived there using her real name and the article came out nationwide, don’t you think it is inconsistent? While Mitsumune protects her again, the rest are back to lynching her. Suddenly the bus driver swoops by in his bus (how the heck did he manage to get it unstuck?) and kidnaps Masaki and Mitsumune. Hayato’s shirt gets stuck in its door. Everyone plans to stop the driver before he leaves the area. But Koharun and Nanko deduce something odd from Masaki’s story. She is different from the rest of them who has not seen monsters is it because she has no psychological scar? Is it why she could run away? The driver is desperate thinking Masaki is a ghost and wants her to call Misato. Of course she isn’t. Koharun observes Valkana joining in this witch hunt. Ever since Masaki become prime suspect, everyone forgot she was a suspect. He claims he doesn’t believe everyone and was fooled to thinking he could lead a new life here. But if he is going to live here forever, he needs to know this village better and Masaki knows this place the best. As they duo make their way, they are attacked by stone arrows. They know they’re not hallucinating as they both see the same thing. Guess who is attacking them? Hyouketsu?!

Episode 9
As Valkana pins him down, Hyouketsu is still terrified and claims he was rescued by that person and just doing as told. Valkana then chases after a shady figure in the distance. The driver thinks driving through the tunnel will let him see Misato again. Stepping on the accelerator, Mitsumune sees Tokimune chasing behind and Hayato sees a zombie hand on the window! When the driver sees Misato in the mirror, he steps on the brakes. The rest exit to bus for fresh air. By the time they return, the driver is gone. At the end of the tunnel, there seems to be another village but the entire place is covered in fog. There is also a stone written supposedly by Reiji leaving a message to Masaki if she wants to go any further, accept Nanaki. She doesn’t understand what it means but has a bad feeling if they stay. Hayato wants to continue looking around and says she can look for Reiji too. If anything turns for the worse, they can always go back. After Masaki excuses herself to go to the toilet, the guys try to get a bird’s eye view of the place but it is foggy. Hayato is not pleased Mitsumune again stands by Masaki’s side. He tells him off he is not the only one with problems. In fact, his overprotective mom is better than his. Hayato’s fear is his grandma in the attic. Since young, his parents tried to groom him into an ideal child since they were living in a posh area and wanted to keep a reputation among the community. The slightest mistake he made, he was beaten and worse, thrown into the attic where a creepy picture of grandma was. He believed she was a victim too, having thrown inside here before her passing to avoid rumours of a senile old granny wandering around to ruin their reputation. Hayato did try to fight back to no avail. He resigned to live his life as their puppet till he met Mitsumune. He got a taste of freedom. As long he is his puppet, everything will be alright. Mitsumune is shocked at this truth despite he is always grateful for listening to him. Hayato wants things to stay as it is but Mitsumune won’t be deceived anymore and leaves. As he looks for Masaki, he only finds her ribbon. Then he bumps into Valkana who also wandered here. They start seeing their monsters. Valkana’s a slime monster? Mitsumune slides down a slope. Now he hears his mother’s voice. Meanwhile Nanko and Lion want to use Maimai as guinea pig. To rid of the monsters, they must overcome their mental scars. So they try to take her into the tunnel to test this theory when they are attacked by Jack. Luckily somebody punches him out.

Episode 10
Mitsumune finds himself in hospital. His dad is also there and is glad he is alive. We can see dad went through a lot of stress ever since Tokimune’s death. He tried to erase Mitsumune’s name at one point but just couldn’t do it. He tells his son to live the way he wants. Meanwhile Mikage is furious that everyone has lost interest to find Masaki. They don’t even care about it anymore. Maybe they’re tired? Some are even having a change in character. They turn on Mikage since he is acting like their leader when he is not. Enraged, Mikage goes off by himself as the rest laugh at his destiny thingy. Lion, Nanko and Maimai are brought to Reiji’s place. He can’t go with them back to the village and when he sounds like he can’t reciprocate Masaki’s love, Maimai gets upset. As Reiji brings them along, Lion is surprised Nanko and Maimai believe her that she can see people who are about to die. It seems she is some sort of fortune teller or at least that was how it supposed to be. When an angry customer called her a fraud because she bought an expensive charm to save her husband but failed, Lion was confused but her mother didn’t really bother much with it because you know, it’s all part of business. A bird’s eye view of Nanaki Village, Reiji fears the place is changing shape again. Seems he can see someone else’s monster. Because of a past so complicated, it materializes in the form of a monster. He warns them to tell their friends to get out no matter what and when Nanaki attacks, you must endure its pain. They don’t think it will be easy since the rest are bent on staying.

Mitsumune goes up the hospital roof to find… Yottsun?! He recounts he saw Nanaki while he was going to have fun with Masaki. Before he knew it, he slipped from a cliff and plunged into the river. God saved him. God? This old professor named Kamiyama. Kami, get it? Yottsun is chirpy because Kamiyama told him everything and his eyes are opened. It seems Nanaki is a term used to describe the monster of your past. Kamiyama explains he has been to Nanaki Village before and has been doing research on it. Kamiyama specializes in psychology so when he discovered this village, he was excited. He did research and presented it but was soon ridiculed. His supporters eventually left him. Sad and upset, he went to Nanaki Village and at first was thrilled to be living all by himself. And then he stumbled upon the monster. It was he evidence he had always been looking. When he tried to take a picture, he suddenly returned back to civilization. Just that easy. Because he lost Nanaki. His Nanaki was the research ridiculed by everyone. So when he proved it right, it also disappeared, cutting him off from the monster. Mitsumune thinks it is a good ending for him but is made to look closer at a photo of Kamiyama’s younger self. That photo was only taken 3 years ago! As Nanaki contains the psychological scar of the past, it also contains your soul, emotions and ultimately yourself. Losing Nanaki means losing yourself and when Kamiyama lost his, his body started aging rapidly. The scariest part is when you cut yourself from those psychological wounds, you’ll eventually stop functioning as a proper human. Speaking of which, some of the group members are feeling lethargic. Jack and Hyouketsu return to base. The letter is scared for failing his mission. He pleads to boss not to abandon him. Their boss turns out to be Koharun.

Episode 11
The driver sees Misato and begs for forgiveness. Valkana returns to the village and is pissed everyone is lethargic. Even when Maimai’s group return and tell what Reiji told them, they’re still too lazy to move. Even more so, they don’t care when Jack and Hyouketsu start shooting fire arrows. The sane ones go to confront them but Maimai and Lion become their hostages. Hyouketsu’s blabbermouth has him revealing Koharun as the ringleader. It seems she is trying to make the monster stronger and these guys believe they could help her as she told them they were special. At first Koharun wanted to use Valkana she thinks he is just honest and a coward. Speaking of her, Koharun meets Hayato who is on the verge of going insane thinking Mitsumune has run away with Masaki. Koharun pours more fuel on the fire by mentioning Masaki’s name and how she torn their years of friendship apart. This makes him go crazy and a large hideous monster pops up. Koharun notes it is growing. Kamiyama drives Mitsumune and Yottsun back to the village but he tells there are certain conditions to be met to enter it. The reason Kamiyama stayed behind is to warn others not to enter but it seems when the tour bus came that night, he was asleep. Mitsumune wonders why Yottsun didn’t age like Kamiyama. Yottsun recalls when he was floating adrift and staring death in the face, all he could think was his musician parents. He didn’t want to become a pro in classical music like them but a rapper. And make it big too. But he realized he couldn’t. As he drowns, he hit an inspiration. The lyrics come to his mind. He realizes he always wanted to be a rapper even if he doesn’t make it big. In short, Yottsun accepted his Nanaki unlike Kamiyama left his behind. Although he doesn’t hate, sometimes he could feel regrets. Mitsumune cannot see Nanaki Village anymore and Kamiyama deduces he doesn’t have enough psychological scars.

The driver knows Misato is his Nanaki. He reconciles with her and despite feeling very hurt, he hugs her and believes she is the one who is most hurt as his carelessness was the source of her death. He will not deny he has lost her anymore. This is when Reiji pops up. He believes the driver has accepted his Nanaki and has a favour of him. Mitsumune laments he can’t get back into the village when the bus suddenly pops out from nowhere almost hitting them. They see Misato for real as the driver introduces her as his Nanaki. Misato claims she isn’t the only Nanaki that can talk (as others seen so far were monsters) but Reiji too. It is time to say goodbye so Misato is glad her dad came to terms with his daughter even if the one before him is fake. She might not be able to talk to him anymore but will always be in his heart. In a blink of an eye, Misato vanishes. When the driver says Reiji told him to help Mitsumune back into the village to save Masaki (Reiji even confirmed he is Masaki’s Nanaki), it makes Mitsumune sad to think how much Masaki cared for him and since she is so desperate to save him, she doesn’t realize he is her Nanaki. That Reiji doesn’t exist in reality. The driver will send him back as he drives straight into the darkness. When the bus reaches back into the village, he is missing so Mitsumune is forced to take the steering. Masaki is still finding Reiji and sad she hasn’t been successful. Suddenly Mikage and Lovepon catch her. They are going to kill her for real as they blame her for tearing them all apart. The bus appears out of nowhere, almost ramming into them. Mitsumune is back. But don’t look now, there is a huge monster ahead!

Episode 12
Since Hayato pops up, everyone could guess this grandma Nanaki is his. Even more shocking, Nanaki is under Hayato’s control. Hayato is brainwashed and mad as he continues blaming Masaki for taking away his only friend. Then Mitsumune’s fine speech makes Hayato even more confused. He wants to be his equal. He wants to be his friend who can be there when he is in pain. Unfortunately, the confusion rises because Koharun is trying to convince Hayato not to listen to them and insists he is being deceived. This time the Nanaki goes berserk and is going to kill them all. As Hayato injured his leg, Mitsumune carries him as they make a run. Koharun picks up the walkie-talkie Mitsumune dropped. Kamiyama is trying to contact Mitsumune. It is revealed Koharun is Kamiyama’s daughter and she is doing all this in hopes of reversing her dad’s aging by finding his Nanaki. He realizes she was the one who drugged him that night. Reiji overheard her and corrects her thinking that by provoking a Nanaki she could amplify a fading trauma and prevent a Nanaki from vanishing. She is wrong because Nanaki is inseparable from oneself. Kamiyama is fine with the way things are now but not Koharun. She has always looked up to him as a researcher. Inside the tunnel when Mitsumune can go no more further, Hayato now stands his ground. He always thought he was helping Mitsumune but realized he was the one being helped. As he faces his Nanaki, they both disappear. Reiji explains Hayato has accepted his Nanaki and has returned to the real world. Masaki is happy to see Reiji again but he tells her to take a good look at herself. Masaki was always lonely and wanted a friend. And so Reiji was created as her imaginary friend. He was always with her and gave her solace. Masaki cannot accept this and runs away. Reiji tells Mitsumune to go after her while he tells the truth to the rest. Long ago, Masaki always called Reiji’s name whenever she is in pain. But recently she has started to call a different name: Mitsumune.

When he finally catches up with her, they see a shy cute ribbon critter. WTF?! Is this Mitsumune’s new Nanaki? Masaki comes clean with him that because it would look weird in front of others to have an imaginary friend, she started pretending Reiji couldn’t be seen in front of others. Reiji was also in a way made to say things she wanted to hear. She thought by coming to Nanaki Village she could be with him together. Reiji is back at the village with the rest (Jack and Hyouketsu were easily defeated by Valkana and Nanko). Although he tells what is happening, some don’t really care. A Nanaki’s roar is heard in the background. Reiji reminds them that they should know by now that as long as they don’t leave the village, they’ll be safe. Because the Nanaki who is part of them feels scared of being left behind. Remember, all of them ran away to start a new life. This means rejecting their past selves. Thus Nanaki are being rejected by themselves and not by anyone else. Everyone start to realize that each has their own hardship and believed only themselves was having a hard time. They were all just the same and easier to believe everyone around is having a great time. When Masaki accepts Mitsumune, she feels Reiji back in her heart. This means Reiji suddenly vanished before everyone’s eyes. Masaki returns to the real world and Mitsumune promises he will soon follow suit. The group is still divided to stay or leave. While a big majority want to go back, some feel they want to remain here as there feel reality is no different. The small who group who chose to remain include Koharun, Valkana, Lion, Hyouketsu and Jack. Those who left find themselves back on the bus (including Hayato, Mitsumune and Masaki). The bus makes its way across the bridge.

Lost Souls, Lost Plot
Despite the less than stellar reviews and not so forgiving criticisms from many about this series, honestly I find this quite interesting and intriguing. At least for the initial episodes till I suspected what Nanaki actually was, it started to go a little downhill. And then with that kind of ‘ending’, I think the slope went a little steeper. I am not saying that this is actually a bad anime or do I agree with those who really want their drama mystery to be oh so perfect. But it could have been a little better. How? Don’t ask me, I’m not the script writer. Hah! Trying to pass the buck here. In a nutshell, this anime is pretty decent and slightly better than the average but as the series nears its end and once the mysterious Nanaki is known, things started to get a little lukewarm.

Now, with about 30 characters in the series, you can either say it is a hit or miss. It is both mixed feelings for me. But you have got to agree that while some get more prominent screen time and even a little peek at their tragic back story, the rest felt like as though they were there just to make up the numbers. Heck, I don’t even remember some of their names till the end. Sometimes I feel that these lesser characters can be done without and that it wouldn’t really add anything to the plot or advance the story. Like a certain fatty who only loves to eat – what was his name again? It’s just slipping my mind… Something along the lines of Doraemon… And there is a pair of love birds eloping together who would make single otakus into jealousy rage because of how lovey-dovey they are that it makes you have goosebumps… Oh, I remember there is a cutie idol trying to get away from a stalker and thus on this tour. No you don’t remember? Fine. Not that she mattered anyway.

So as I said they were there to make up for the numbers because you know, it gives you an impression that this would be some sort of horror survival series. I mean, logically that is how I would think. The only reason why there would be so many cast of characters in a small group and given the setting is a mysterious isolated village, you’d be inclined to start thinking that some sort of evil force is going to pick them off one by one. And here I was, trying to even make a guess on who is next to go missing and be presumed dead. And guess what? Nobody died!!! So when supposedly presumed dead characters come back to live, you would think that it is a cheap and lazy twist but then again if you go back, those characters weren’t confirmed dead in the first place. We just assumed. So at least when we have a reasonably large number of people, our odds of suspecting somebody would be less as the suspicion will be spread out. It would be easier to pinpoint a culprit in a group of 5 compared to 30 people, right?

As for the main characters like Mitsumune and Masaki, despite getting a lot of coverage and in fact more than the rest, somehow I couldn’t feel a little disappointed when the supposed big revelation about them especially Masaki is revealed. Although everyone is a worthy suspect, it is as though the producers were trying to make us think and pinpoint there is more than meets the eyes to Masaki. The way she acts is strange and she can’t really explain herself properly, which leads to her being suspected the most. There were a few mind boggling actions from her as well especially when she tells everyone not to go beyond the tunnel but refuses to say what it is. Does she know or does she not? So it makes her all more suspicious but in the end when her revelation came to light, you wonder what that all was for. Was she just trolling us just to find Reiji? I just don’t understand. Of course being the cutest girl in the group, she can’t be the baddie, can she? And Reiji felt like a convenient plot just to end the story. Why the heck didn’t he show up earlier and save them from this despair?

Then we have Mitsumune as one of those main characters who is of the weak type. I don’t know. Sometimes he just annoys me. Maybe it is the way he always protects and stands up for Masaki despite not knowing what is wrong. Sure, it is a good thing not to jump to conclusion or to have a herd mentality but it makes him seem like he has a crush on her and she must be right in some way and thus the need to save her from being turned on by the group. Well, it is a good thing that he was right in a way because had Masaki be the ‘antagonist’, it would truly be a big slap in the face and a moment of WTF. Really.

The rest of the so called main characters (my presumption they have more screen time and impact than the rest) are also a mixed baggage. Like this Valkana dude who is so full of angst like as though he could explode any minute and his fist will start flying faster than the words coming out from his mouth. Turns out he isn’t such a bad guy after all despite his angry outlook and loud outburst at times. Though he is most prominent in the initial episodes, he starts ‘fading’ when Mikage starts to become the unofficial leader in trying to lead the group to persecute Masaki. Again, this guy also has lots of anger but he doesn’t show it on the outside like Valkana. Lastly, Hayato or Speedstar as his alias is known by others in the group feels like the catalyst to end it all because of his insecurity that his best friend-cum-puppet won’t listen to him anymore. I wanted to insert some gay jokes between them but it just doesn’t seem to fit (that wasn’t a gay joke). And there you have it, with Hayato going crazy about Masaki and making Mitsumune into a straight guy, he sets off the final epic monster boss battle that has one defeating it by just accepting it all. That easy, huh? And Lovepon is a crazy yandere character whose favourite word seems to be screaming “Execution!”. I think this takes up half her dialogue lines.

I had my suspicions on Koharun too. Because she seems to be getting more screen time than Dahara as the tour guide and she was seen to be interacting more with Valkana as the series’ passes. Again, I don’t understand about her mission to create a Nanaki to save her father and thus she experimented with the group on it. Because of that, it helped contribute to my little disappointment as how the series ended and the supposed big revelation that was to be. Not too sure if in the future she will be bringing another set of unsuspecting people to the village since she isn’t giving up on her father yet. And it is like Hyouketsu and Jack’s existence in this series is to be her lackey. Jack could have been the most dangerous character seeing he is the silent type and nobody knows what is on his mind but look at how he turns out. Yeah, we just don’t care anymore.

Speaking of the revelation that was Nanaki, maybe this is one reason why many felt disappointed with the series. Even when it is confirmed what Nanaki may actually be, I too somewhat started to feel like that. I don’t know. Maybe I was hoping for some sort of legendary monster from another world? Who’d knew that Nanaki was the fear of your past that is coming to haunt you and preventing you from leaving the village. Just like Hotel California, you can check in anytime you like but you can’t check out or ever leave. I have already had a faint guess of what Nanaki was halfway through when the group started to give different accounts of what they saw and heard. Because logically if everyone sees and hears differently, it could only be that something personal that would only allow that particular person to experience. Thus when the truth of Nanaki was revealed, it wasn’t really shocking. I just felt a bit letdown.

The only other mind boggling thing was about Nanaki Village itself. What bugged me was, were there other similar people who lived here? For how long then? More importantly, what happened to them? Will they just disappear into thin air when they lose their personality? Because it is hinted that some places in the village had people living just like yesterday and up to a year, it just boggled me how are there people living there and then suddenly vanished without a trace. They couldn’t have left because their Nanaki would have kept them in. My only theory is that Nanaki Village is cut off from our current time flow. It exists in its own time and space. The last batch of people who were here may look like they visited the place years ago but Nanaki Village, it might have been just yesterday as far as the village is concerned. After all, who knows how many similar villages are there in the first place and could it also be that for all those who chose to remain live in the same area but just in a different time flow? What I mean is that the previous batch there might be those who stayed back and they are still around but we can’t see them because they are existing in a different dimension. Therefore I am intrigued about those who stayed back. What will happen to them? And for those who went back to reality, what will happen to them too after they experienced this? A short follow up would be welcoming but I highly doubt anybody would be interested since it won’t make a difference to the overall story whatsoever.

In the end, it isn’t whether it is right or wrong for those who stay or leave. They have made a decision to move on with their choice. I am assuming those who leave have accepted their Nanaki and thus the reason why they are able to get out. It means they are willing to face reality and society once more for better or worse. I am not sure for those who remained have vanquished their Nanaki because perhaps it doesn’t matter to them as long as they don’t get out, they won’t be in danger of facing their Nanaki. They too have decided a new life in this new direction as they believe they will not have any real chance whatsoever back in society anymore.

The interesting and subtle concept this series explored is the fact all of these youngsters wanted to restart their life again for the better. It just shows that today’s generation are so vulnerable that they could be hurt by mere words and offended by everything. Heh… But the point is that everyone has their own hardships. Nobody goes through life like a bed of roses. Well, maybe those super spoilt rich kids who get all their wealth from their dads. While some of the tragic back stories we see are truly heartbreaking, it makes you wonder if life was that hard to have them make this decision to abandon reality and society. At first we might call it stupid and silly but it is not funny when it happens to you. So in a subtle way, this series might be just telling us that with everyone having their own set of problems, the only person who can overcome and defeat it (and at most accept it) is only yourself. Because if you don’t, your past will always come back to haunt you. Forever. Only when you bury the past, you can only move forward.

The other interesting thing seen is the interaction of a group of people living together. This is like Survivor material where alliances are formed and as slippery as shifting sand. We quickly see who the leaders and who are the followers are, the sane ones and the crazy ones. There are all kinds of interesting and shady characters even for a small group like this. But sadly this series doesn’t delve more on this human behaviour and psychology aspect because it would be really interesting to see everyone’s clashing personalities and even a herd mentality and so called democratic majority just to save their own asses especially when they are dealing with the unknown and that is where all your stereotype beliefs make you think crazy things. Towards the end, it feels somewhat lazy as it feels like the producers got lazy and said, “Ah, f*ck all of it!” and then turn most of the characters into lethargic people who seem like they are high on drugs. Don’t fight and resist it. Come join us. It feels so good…

Art and drawing are pretty decent but I thought some of the older characters look like high school kids like Valkana and Mikage. Their past shows they are already working in the adult world and yet when I looked at them at first, I thought they were still in high school. Thus I thought the only real adult here is the driver since he is definitely the oldest of the lot. At first, the Nanaki scares me because of how creepy they look like. Especially those surreal eyes over them. But then when I get to know what Nanaki was and how each of them is tailored to the characters’ past, it wasn’t that creepy anymore. Other than that, the sceneries and backgrounds are rather okay but sometimes there are a few scenes where it gets too dark to see anything. Maybe it is for the jump scare effect but I don’t recall having being frightened out of it although I did maintain my alertness. Phew.

The opening theme is rock based, Gensou Drive by Ami Wajima while the ending theme is Ketsuro by Rina Katahira. After the suspense of the episode, I find it a bit odd that the ending theme is such a slow and lovely acoustic ballad. Maybe after all that mystery and drama, you need a relaxing song to calm your nerves down? I also find it a bit odd that the mugs of the characters grace the ending credits animation. I suppose everyone will have their fair share since 3 characters will be featured in one episode for this part. Yeah, guarantee that no 2 ending credits animation will be the same!

Overall, personally this is an interesting series as the mystery in the initial episodes keeps you glued and guessing what is behind it all. But with many weak characters and a weak ending to boot (everyone is divided to either stay or leave and nobody died!!!), maybe this will be your Nanaki of disappointment after what started out as something with promising only to end up in an unexciting manner. It would be just freaking scary to see anime characters haunting you whenever you feel like you have grown up and wanting to take more responsibilities, ditching the anime life only to have this sort of Nanaki trapping you back in and continuing your uneventful otaku life. Maybe that is why I have never managed to break out from my otaku lifestyle over more than a decade ago… I’m truly lost in a world of my own… Well, it’s not a bad thing so far :-).

Boku Dake Ga Inai Machi

August 14, 2016

If you were given a chance to revisit your past and change something tragic that happened, how would you go about it? Would you do everything in your power to assure a different outcome since you know what the future holds? This is an interesting premise from Boku Dake Ga Inai Machi. A man now living his boring and struggling adult life having a few regrets from his past that is associated with the death of his classmates. Deaths which he thinks could have been avoided had he done something. When he is suddenly accused of murder, a strange phenomenon that hurls him back to the past gives him a chance to right the wrong things in hopes of changing the future for the better.

Episode 1
Satoru Fujinuma is 29 years old and a struggling manga artist. He gets by with another part time job as a pizza delivery guy. What a boring life. While doing his delivery, he suddenly felt a strange shift in time. Like déjà vu, he went back a few minutes in time. He realizes something bad is going to happen and looks around for the source. He realizes the truck driver is asleep and is going to ram into a child crossing the road (why do kids not look when they want to cross?). Luckily he manages to grab the steering and swerve, missing the kid but collides into an oncoming car. 2 days later he wakes up in hospital. Don’t worry, he is fine. His colleague, Airi Katagiri is there to explain what happened. Satoru explains to us he has this ability he calls Revival. He goes back around 5 minutes in time and watches the same scene play out again. It is like some force is trying to make him prevent something bad from happening. Usually the outcome ends up neutral and sometimes negative for him in the sense like in this case, he got injured in the accident. He is discharged and returns home to find his mom, Sachiko cooking for him. Looks like she’ll be staying here for a while to take care of things. That night, she talks about that incident they all want to forget. Why bring it up when you want especially him to forget? Anyway, Satoru can’t remember much but he eventually remembers 2 of his school friends died. There was this adult whom he befriended when he was young. He called him Yuuki because of his penchant to talk about bravery and courage. 6 months after his friends died, Jun Shiratori the serial kidnapper-cum-murderer was arrested. He was Yuuki.

While helping mom doing errands, another Revival occurs. Satoru looks around but couldn’t find the source. He asks Sachiko to help and she remembers him saying and doing the same thing when younger. Sachiko spots a strange man walking away with a little girl. Their eyes met. The man drives off but the girl is left behind. That night she tells Satoru about the possible failed kidnapping attempt earlier in the day. Was it because he was spotted. He is surprised so she brushes it off as a joke. Satoru remembers one of his dead friends, Kayo Hinazuki. She was always standing alone at the park. Had he talked to her and walked her home that night, she wouldn’t have become a victim. That is probably what he wanted to forget the most. Sachiko does her own investigation because she thought that suspicious man looked familiar. It was like he knew who she was too. She thinks that Shiratori guy wasn’t the true culprit. She has stumbled upon something and needs to tell Satoru. But back home, she is being stabbed from the back. She tries to get her handphone to call Satoru but she couldn’t make it. She regrets not believing in Satoru when he screamed Yuuki wasn’t the killer. Even if the police doubted him, as a mother she shouldn’t have. Satoru goes home unknowingly passing by the killer on his way down. He then sees Sachiko’s bloodied body. Is this a joke? It gets worse when he touches it and the neighbour came over to check and misunderstood the situation. It was like everything is a setup because the police are here and want to take him to the police station. It gets worse when Satoru tries to run. Then another Revival. He finds himself in a familiar nostalgic place. It is his elementary school gates and he is a kid once more back in 1988!

Episode 2
Satoru is still in a daze about what is going on. Is this really 1988? It is like going back 19 years in time! I guess he ran home in the middle of school hours back home (passing by Kayo) to find his mom. Yes, she is still there. Looks like a pretty normal and happy family. He believes he is here due to Revival and not by chance so there must be some big anomaly he has to prevent. But does he have to go back this far to save mom? Or is it Kayo? In class, he notices a big bruise on her thigh. Then hanging out with his friends, Kazu (typical loudmouth), Osamu (typical bespectacled nerd), Hiromi Sugita (typical is-this-a-boy-or-girl) and Kenya Kobayashi (no, not a black or African but your typical silent, observant and considerate type who only speaks when necessary), they wonder if he likes Kayo since he has been staring at her all day. He did admit he has her on his mind and so his friends commend his bravery and are willing to set them up. If they could only keep it down and not let the entire class hear… And they really did set them up to meet. She’s not impressed he wants to be her friend, though. However she understands him because they are alike. Fake. Since he still insists of being friends (in hoping it could save her), she then asks him if he is willing to kill somebody for her.

Satoru’s friends are excited how things went with Kayo but Kenya tells them not to rush and ruin it for him. Later Kenya talks to Satoru about his weird interest in Kayo lately. He doesn’t understand what is going on but they will gladly help out when they can. He tells Satoru to read the student anthology. Back home, he reads Kayo’s essay that states how she wants to go far, far away to an island all by herself. No parents, no teachers, no friends, no anybody. Satoru realizes this is her cry for help. In his bid to get closer to Kayo to prevent that tragedy, he asks mom if he could hold a birthday party in their apartment. Since it is small, he will only invite 5 friends over. Sachiko is sharp and wonders if he has got a girlfriend! Mom knows… Satoru finds Kayo loitering alone at the park as usual. He apologizes he can’t murder anybody for her. Of course, she was just joking too. Really? She notes he is putting on act so he says doing so makes it easier for him to talk to everyone and make friends. Kayo too feels like playing a part. He gives her an invitation to his birthday party and hopes she can come. She is surprised she is the first person he asks. Then she touches his hands to warm it up. It makes Satoru blush despite he knows deep down inside he is an adult and should know these things by now. It just shows he never experienced such things lah. When she says he is easy to talk to recently, he replies he decided not to lie to her. After she leaves, he remembers this was the place she was last seen. Her body was only found after the snow melted.

Episode 3
Satoru tries to remember the murder case in which Hiromi was the other victim. Because of Kayo’s reported age when she was murdered, it means the murder took place before her birthday. Satoru is in an ice skating race with fellow classmate, Hamada who would eventually go on to be the school’s ice hockey champion. He is unsure whether to lose this race to him despite doing much better than him. Eventually that dilemma has Hamada zoom past him by an inch. Hamada didn’t like what he did and tells how much he hates guys like him. Satoru then remembers this was exactly how it went. History repeated itself. Satoru tries to ask Kayo for her birthday but she won’t say. In fact, she calls him a liar because he said he would try his best during the race but gave the win to Hamada. Not that it matters because they are both fakes. He then tries to peek into the records of his teacher, Gaku Yashiro but is caught red handed. But after hearing him out, he lets him have a look. She shares the same birthday as him, 2nd March. Now it is mid February and he has less than half a month to stop the murder. Satoru then hangs out with Yuuki. He is quite a nice guy to talk to. He remembers the police questioning him about his behaviour. Although Yuuki was sentenced to death, he maintained his innocence since the start. Satoru then visits Kayo’s house but nobody is in. When he sees her broken gloves on the ground and her backpack items scattered, he fears the worse. He opens the shed to find her lying there all bruised up. Before he could do anything, her mother comes to bring her in. He asks about the bruises so mom has Kayo tell him what they are. She fell and tripped. Satoru felt helpless he couldn’t say anything to counter to her sad lie.

Her mom continues to abuse her but it seems so that her wounds would heal before school. Can’t argue with an insane person, can you? Kayo arrives late for class and Satoru spots a bruise mark behind her neck. Later he talks to Yashiro about this. The reason Kayo is always late or absent on Mondays is because her mom abuses her on Saturdays. He too knows about it but why hasn’t he taken any action? Revealing Kayo’s case may isolate her further from her classmates than she is now. In fact, last May they have suspected her mother of being abusive. However her mom knows how to evade from child welfare people. When they visited, they were always not in or she knows how to hide it well. Yashiro has personally visited them and knows Kayo is being abused. Until they get confirmation from the child welfare department, they can’t do anything yet. Satoru thinks Yashiro is waiting for spring break to take action but it will be too late by then. During lunch, Satoru admits he lost the class’ lunch money. Misato accuses Kayo of stealing it since she is always poor and never contributed. The rest start suspecting her too. So as everybody spot checks each other’s bag, Kayo found the money in hers. Before Misato could further accuse her, Satoru puts his foot down that Kayo will never steal even if she is poor. Was his scolding that harsh that it made her cry? Besides, anybody could have taken it from Satoru’s bag and put it in hers. Yashiro quells everything saying Kayo was on class duty so it is not surprise the money is in her bag. Later Kayo thanks him for it and mentions how she hates her more. The feeling is mutual. But Misato did invite her once to her Christmas party just to show off her Christmas tree. This reminds Satoru to bring her go see a Christmas tree. He bought a new pair of gloves for her. Along the way, a couple of red foxes dance around them. Kayo must be disappointed the ‘Christmas tree’ is a huge withered tree. But she feels happy looking at it.

Episode 4
Satoru asks his mom for some allowance because he plans to bring his friends out to the science centre. But mom knows he is going out on a date and he inadvertently spills all the answers she wants to know. Mom always knows… He invites his friends but once they learn Kayo is coming along, they don’t want to interrupt and say they have something important to do. Satoru goes to convince Kayo’s mom, Akemi but of course she won’t allow it. Satoru accidentally hints this outing is to save her from the abuse. Mom asks Kayo’s opinion and when she hints she wants to go, she is about to slap her but Sachiko grabs her hand. This is peacefully resolved and kayo gets the green light to go. Satoru couldn’t be more grateful for Sachiko to intervene. Till he learns she came home early from work and decided to follow her son like a stalker. Whoops… The duo enjoy their time at the science centre. However when Kayo thanks him like as though he knew this was her favourite place and something how this place is like an inspiration for manga artists, this shocks Satoru because he somewhat remembered something like this happened before. He was at the science centre and bumped into her accidentally. Is he repeating history again? But when his friends eventually join them later, he thinks he has succeeded in changing history. Next day in class, Kayo looks much better. Satoru accidentally says aloud she looks prettier, causing an uproar in class. Today is supposedly the day she gets killed so he hangs out with her as much as he can. After sending her back, he purposely says aloud he will come to pick her tomorrow in hopes that somebody would notice he was here. Satoru is so worried that he couldn’t sleep. Before midnight, he ran over to Kayo’s house just to make sure. I know he is desperate but… Nothing happens. Phew. Since he can’t sleep, he waits outside her house early in the morning. She’s there. They are supposed to head to Satoru’s home after school for the birthday party but Yashiro has them do some tasks. After buying food for the party, they return home only to be greeted by a surprise by their friends. It seems they planned this surprise. That is why they had Yashiro cooperate with them to stall the duo. While Satoru gives Kayo a pair of gloves, Kayo shed tears of joy and also sadness as she didn’t have time to complete it since she was hanging out with him most of the time. The day passes like any other day. Satoru is so happy that he is freed from all the tension, he just slept soundly. Of course he is late the next day but to his dismay, Kayo is not present. In fact, she never came to school…

Episode 5
Satoru rushes to Kayo’s home. Nobody is home (but it looks like the guilty adults are hiding). He checks the shed. Not there. But he notices an adult male’s footprint coming out of it. Soon it is reported Kayo went missing on 3rd March but a media blackout was instated to prevent panic. Satoru becomes depressed he couldn’t do anything but Sachiko cheers him that he did the best he could. Yashiro tells his class that Kayo had to suddenly transfer to her grandma’s place and thus she didn’t have a chance to say goodbye. Of course this was just a lie so Yashiro hopes Satoru could play along. A police car is parked outside Kayo’s home every day. Akemi is also a suspect and was questioned. Just 6 days after Kayo’s disappearance, another girl, Aya Nakanishi from a nearby school also went missing. Of course her story is also she ran away to her grandpa’s place but Kenya knows better there is currently a serial kidnapping going on. When the investigation is made public, the news only shows this on certain channels and times. 10 days later, Satoru catches Akemi throwing out a trash bag. He sees those gloves inside and goes crazy. Before he knows it, Satoru is back in his current time right after he became a prime suspect in his mom’s murder. His strategy is to run away. But hiding under the bridge? Ah well… He gets a call from his manager who offers him to stay at his place. Such great hospitality. When Satoru sees on TV about his case, it dawned to him something is wrong. The police are outside and his manager is seen talking to them. That’s why. He sneaks out and bumps into Airi. Because of his handphone with GPS features, it is easily tracked. She helps him back to her place. Can he believe her? More importantly, why does she believe him after what has appeared on the news. Because she knows he is not the kind to kill his own mother. Satoru looks at a book of Japan’s gruesome murders that Airi bought. He realizes history has changed. Before, it was reported that Kayo was murdered when she was 10 years old. Now the book states she died on 3rd March at 11 years old.

The manager is seen talking to a shady person in his office. Airi takes her leave from her shift so the manager tells her to help look out for Satoru as he can’t imagine killing his mom. He will also offer his support so please call him if they meet. Oh no… Satoru does his research about another serial kidnapping 3 years ago and although the kidnapper was nabbed soon, he maintained his innocence. When Satoru returns home, the manager is seen spying nearby and trying to call the police. Airi catches him in the act and is very disappointed that she punches him and breaks his handphone. She really wanted to believe. He claims he is worried about her. If he is, then he will not call the cops to the home of the family who is taking care of her. Eventually Satoru is back hiding under the bridge. Airi apologizes for this but he agrees this is for the best they can’t return there. He asks about her home. Her real home is in the countryside and this house belongs to her mom’s brother. Instead of finding a boarding house, she was told to stay with them. As for why Airi continues to believe in him, she tells her story when she went shopping with her dad. He was allegedly accused of stealing a chocolate bar. The storeowner was a close friend and will forget this if he confessed to the stealing. But he maintained his innocence. The police was called, he got fired from his job and left the house after his wife divorced him as she believed he stole it. Airi always believed he was innocent because she was there the entire time. That is why she wants to believe him for her own sake. Satoru wants her to tell the police that he threatened her but she is not going to do that. Back home, Airi gets a message from Satoru from Sachiko’s handphone to stay where she is. She feels something amiss till she realizes this message is from the killer. Before she knows it, the house is on fire!

Episode 6
Satoru busts in to save Airi. He can’t do this alone and luckily the manager is here to help. Also, he gives Satoru a chance to run away but he’ll take all the credit for saving Airi. Satoru realizes Airi has slipped her handphone into his pocket. He is shocked to see the text’s contents and believes the killer intended to kill Airi and frame him. Satoru then calls Sawada, Sachiko’s ex-TV reporter colleague. They meet up and Sawada believes Satoru isn’t the murderer because Sachiko would never raise a son who would kill. After Satoru shows the text, Sawada reveals days before Sachiko’s death, she called him regarding Jun wasn’t the kidnapper-cum-murderer. She knows the real culprit. He regrets not asking for a name then. He explains what happened in Kayo’s case. She was believed that have been beaten up and tossed into the shed by the adults and froze to death. However there was a time she was missing from there. The police connected Jun as the kidnapper because his pair of boots matched the tracks in the snow. The official story goes that after kidnapping her, he took pictures of her, use some commercial freezer to speed up her death and wait till she is brain dead before putting her back in the shed. Jun was arrested and is now on death row although he has since pleaded not guilty. Before Aya and Hiromi were killed too, there was a similar case in a nearby town. Now this is happening to Satoru. It seems the killer is one who frames others for murders. By doing so, the investigation is delayed and the ‘freshness’ of the murder scene goes stale the more time passes and the more eyewitnesses dwindle. The case will then go cold. As for Airi’s case, the killer needed to frame Satoru for Sachiko’s murder by knowing what time he gets off from work. He must have visited the workplace and Airi must have seen him. Meanwhile Airi is in hospital and perhaps pretending to be in dire straits. She is disheartened to hear theories of Satoru being painted the bad guy and it even goes as far as saying Airi was his accomplice and he was trying to shut her up. She knows what everyone thinks is wrong but would they believe her?

Satoru is looking through the past investigation details of the related murders. Based on the suspect lists and how it is whittled down, he realizes the murderer killed Hiromi despite knowing his true gender just to be eliminated from the suspect pool. Kawada sneaks into the hospital to see Airi. But it is not her in the bed but her mother. Apparently Airi told her mom how nobody believed her. The police insisted she inhaled too much fumes and her memories are still in a daze. Her mother believed in her since she regretted not believing in her husband then. They swapped places. She calls Satoru to meet at the usual place. She thinks a man named Nishizono is most suspicious as he frequently visits the pizza place and the manager looks up to him. He could have been able to check the shift schedule. He might be trying to kill her as he knows her face and they talked before. However Satoru doesn’t remember that name on the suspect list. Could it be an alias? Can a city councillor use an alias? This frustration reminds him of his unfinished manga about a reaper who accidentally killed a child. But the more he tries to undo his mistake, the more it hurts others. Satoru is in that predicament now. But Airi doesn’t think so because she is not hurt and all the other stuffs are probably the reaper jumping to conclusions. Suddenly the police surround the place and take Satoru into custody. Airi pleads he is innocent but is fallen on deaf ears. Airi feels guilty that she probably led the cops here but Satoru says it is thanks to Airi believing in him, he was able to continue fighting. As he is being led away, he notices a suspicious man among the police. He could be that killer because of the same eyes.

Episode 7
With the feeling of unsettled business, Satoru prays hard for another Revival. He gets his wish when he realizes he has returned back in time when he is visiting the science centre with Kayo. This is his last chance to fix things. In school, Kenya talks to Satoru how he likes the person he has become now. But he throws him a question: Who is he actually? Kenya has noticed Satoru has been acting strangely ever since and it is like a different character is occupying his body. Kenya has also known Kayo’s bruises for a long time but never had the guts to take action. So when Satoru jumped in, it was like an insult to show him how it is done. So he wants to know who this Satoru is. A hero of justice wannabe. I guess with that answer, Kenya believes this is the Satoru he had always known. After Satoru explains how Kayo will die after getting abused, Kenya offers to help him. The day before their before, Satoru has his friends hang out with Kayo so that he could hang out in Yuuki’s house to give him alibi. Satoru asks him if he had met Kayo. Yuuki starts panicking but eventually brushes it off after learning she has been hanging out with Satoru’s group. The birthday party proceeded like normal.

But after the party with the excuse of forgetting something at school, Satoru actually goes to Yuuki’s house to deflate the tyres of their vehicle, write a threatening note and throw a rock through their window. This is to make it look like Yuuki is being targeted and not the killer. In his desperate attempt to protect Kayo, he is going to get rid of her mom by pushing her down the stairs?! Luckily Kenya has been watching him and stops him. He doesn’t want him to go so far and do something reckless. Satoru doesn’t care the consequences that will befall him because it is better than Kayo dying. Satoru requests Kenya’s help this time and he has no qualms in agreeing to it. Satoru walks Kayo home after the party but he tells her he is going to kidnap her now. Surprised at first, Kayo agrees to let him do that. He brings her to the school’s abandoned bus where Kenya has been making preparations to make it is their secret base. They let her stay here while they return home. But shortly after midnight when Sachiko is asleep, Satoru sneaks out to go accompany Kayo. March 2nd passed without incident and Satoru realizes they are now in uncharted territory. Satoru has also brought Hiromi to join them in their hideout. We know Akemi doesn’t care enough to call the cops over her missing daughter. Yet. Satoru plans to drop by her place to make her mother call the cops on this. He will take full responsibility on everything. But Kayo surprises them that if they say it was her idea and that they only helped her out, everyone will go scot free. Deep in the middle of the night when Kayo is sleeping alone, it seems the culprit enters the bus…

Episode 8
Kayo realizes this person isn’t Satoru. Seems he got a bit violent in messing with some of the stuffs before leaving. Kayo’s presence wasn’t found out. It has been 3 days since Kayo hasn’t attended school and there is no formal word from the school itself about this. Satoru then talks to Yashiro about taking action as he has been to Kayo’s house but nobody replied. He is hinting to call the police but Yashiro claims by doing so it would inconvenience a certain someone. Yashiro assures him he has already called the child welfare and he will be going with them to Kayo’s house tonight. That night, they knock on the door but nobody answers. Even strange that the lights are on. Yashiro enters and sees the things around the house like as though somebody was here a moment ago. It could mean that the adults must have fled when they heard their knocking. They decide to back off now and give time for them to settle down before trying again. Satoru had been spying on them so he returns to Kayo and updates her and his friends what happened. He believes tonight will end everything. This means the boys will have to part ways with Kayo. Kayo sounds bold in asking Satoru to stay with her tonight. She reveals someone came here yesterday. They check out the box he messed up and find tools for… Kidnapping? That is when Satoru realizes that they still haven’t broken free of the vicious circle yet because if you remember, Aya was the other victim. Going through the other boxes, Satoru finds more equipment for framing. This bus is the centre of the circle and they definitely cannot stay here anymore. So Satoru brings her back to his place and stay for the night. Would Sachiko allow it? She is in fact proud of her son for trying to help a friend. After the kids have dinner, Sachiko calls Yashiro that Kayo is safe at her place. Kayo experiences what a good family is like. Lots of laughter and smiles. Good bath, good sleep, good food. So good that she even cries! Oh my… Speaking of Akemi, she is trashing her daughter’s room to take out her frustrations. When Kayo is at the doorstep, she is about to lash out her abusive ways but stops short because Satoru and Sachiko are with her.

Episode 9
Akemi accuses them for this and when she thinks they are blaming her for not looking after Kayo, she gets violent with a shovel. If not for Kayo’s action, the shovel could have hit Sachiko’s face and luckily she just got a scratch on the forehead. Before she can’t get even violent, the welfare department is here. With Sachiko’s ‘help’, they were able to ‘schedule’ this meeting. They want to discuss about the way she treats Kayo (she didn’t even look for her when she went missing for 3 days) and has concluded she needs to be taken into custody. Akemi will go make a police report about everything but her mom is seen prostrating and apologizing she never supported her daughter when she needed most. Flashback of Akemi an abuse victim of her ex-husband. After they got divorced, she took it out on Kayo. Grandma puts the blame on herself and doesn’t the welfare people to treat her daughter badly. To prove Akemi is still human, she emotionally hugs her mother. Perhaps all she needs was someone to cry on. Yashiro drives Kayo away and Satoru believes the path to her future will be a bright one. Naturally with Kayo gone, Satoru falls into depression. He receives an update from Yashiro that Kayo will be living with her grandma and Akemi cannot be near Kayo for a few years.

However it is not over yet. Despite Kayo is safe, he still has to deal with Hiromi and Aya. Hiromi is easy since he is his classmate but how do you completely get to know a total stranger? He asks mom and she thinks he is going after someone else now that Kayo is gone! Mother knows… Satoru has to schedule his time to be with Hiromi as well as ‘stalk’ Aya to know her habits which is thankfully fairly straightforward. Seems she also hangs out with Yuuki. One night he thinks he can follow her to where she lives but Sachiko needs his help to carry the groceries. Luckily Yashiro drives them home. Satoru asks why Yashiro never married (bad experience?) and also how to make friends with strangers. Satoru opens the compartment and candies came rushing out. Yashiro reveals this is his addiction after he quit smoking 3 years ago. Kenya suspects something amiss because Satoru is now trying to be Hiromi’s guardian. They revisit the bus again and find a few stuffs missing. Satoru mentions that saving Kayo from her mother’s abuse was just part of the reason as he believes there is a child murderer-cum-kidnapper and this is where he keeps his tools. Despite his story sounding like something unbelievable, Kenya believes in him and wants to help him because Satoru believed in him to tell his side of the story. So it seems a little weird like shota gay because Satoru and Hiromi holding hands while walking home?! Oh sh*t… His friends’ trust gives Satoru hope that he can overcome this. He remembers how sad he was when he couldn’t save Kayo and he never wants to go through that again.

Episode 10
Satoru, Kenya and Hiromi try to talk to Aya. She remembers seeing them before because they often sneak into their secret base across the river. Why is Kenya getting mad when she calls the secret base as stupid? It is Satoru’s turn when she calls boys playing heroes as stupid. As she leaves, Kazu hops out from hiding and in front of her to tell her she is wrong. She should come visit their base. Next day, she did visit the base. The next thing you know, Kazu and Aya became an item! Gosh. That escalated quickly! She hangs out with the boys sometimes at their base. With Aya’s case settled, a new one seems to pop up. Hiromi informs Satoru that he notices Misato has been alone lately. Ever since that lunch money incident, everyone has been ostracizing her. This fact made it hard for Satoru to talk to her. He tails her one day to the ice hockey rink where Yashiro and some of the students are there to support their ice hockey team. Satoru observes she has been sitting alone. But shortly after, she leaves for the toilet. He waited for her to return but she never came back. You know how women take, right? As he is about to leave, he stumbles into Yashiro. Then he spots Yuuki’s truck passing by and he asks Yashiro for his help. Yashiro drives and tails the truck. Then there is some seemingly ominous talk in which Satoru thinks he needs his candy fix but Yashiro says he won’t find any. Because this is not his car… Oh f*ck! That evil look!

Don’t hold your breath now because Yashiro is the god damn killer!!! He has observed Satoru’s actions playing detective. He said he assumed there was a killer prowling in town but he is acting that he is convinced there was one around. He is very surprised that Satoru could predict his train of thought. To be very sure it was him, he told Misato to come to the hockey game and then tell Hiromi about it. If Satoru came, then his suspicion was true. He assures the one in the truck is only Yuuki’s father and waited for the right time to give Misato the laxatives. He further reveals on the day he gave him and his mom a ride home he was supposed to carry out his plans. It was the second time his plan was foiled. But now everything has been going according to his plan. He will kill Satoru and achieve the satisfaction that he has been denied of. Yashiro still admires Satoru for thwarting his plans. Like as though he could read his future. He drives to an isolated place. After getting out of the car, he pushes it into the frozen river. Satoru is stuck in his seat belt and struggling to get out. His life flashes before him as he reveals the culprit was right under his nose and he took it for granted. Yashiro’s name popped up along with the list of suspects and he didn’t want to accept it because he trusted him. Also, Sachiko’s name was on the list making him more reluctant to do so.

Episode 11
Yashiro narrates how it all began. When he was in kindergarten, a fellow classmate brought a few pet hamsters in which she had carelessly allowed to breed. Yashiro took them all home and drowned all of them in a bottle. But only one hamster survived and it did so by standing on top of its dead brethren. Ever since, he has been fascinated with this and calls this lone hamster survivor Spice. This reminds him of that Spider’s Thread story and so he began killing kids who have this spider’s thread he sees over their head. Satoru also had this but he didn’t die too. Above all, he foiled his plans. That is why he decided to call him Spice and observe him. We see scenes of Sachiko going about in her daily life. She starts crying when Satoru opens his eyes. He has been in coma for 15 years!!! OMG! A mother’s dedication showed that every single day she did all those exercise on his comatose body in hopes he would wake up one day. As he undergoes rehabilitation, his memories are still hazy what happened 15 years ago. He is glad to see his friends, Kenya now a lawyer and Hiromi a doctor. That girly guy is now chubby! But the one whom he instantly recognizes is Kayo! I believe we have never seen her adult version before and yet Satoru recognizes her. So much so he starts crying. She is now married and has a baby named Mirai. Oh, she is married to Hiromi. In a way she feels guilty for finding happiness and after all that Satoru has done for her, it is like she has abandoned him. But Satoru believes every action he took was his own and he has no regrets.

As Satoru improves steadily in rehabilitation, he meets a girl, Kumi who is supposed to undergo a bone marrow transplant but is too scared of the surgery. She becomes amazed with Satoru’s determination and courage. With Satoru’s improvement, the media and paparazzi are also trying to cover his ‘miraculous’ story. Perhaps even coming up with something scandalous that he might be an adult now but his heart is still of a young boy (his socializing with Kumi). They are stopped by Nishizono who threatens them about the laws they are breaking and enough to put them behind bars. Nishizono then confronts Satoru and identifies himself as Yashiro and his ex-teacher. Remember him? He explains he got married 5 years ago into his fiancee’s family and changed his surname. He even changed his first name to Manabu. As his father-in-law was a councillor, his sudden death 3 years ago made him venture into politics. So he has been a councillor for a year. He met Kumi at a charity event for leukaemia. Satoru’s determination has made Kumi want to go for the surgery. It will be the day after tomorrow and so this is the last day for visitors. Unfortunately she is sleeping so Satoru and Yashiro talk instead. To avoid those pesky paparazzi, they head to the rooftop. That is when Satoru reveals his memories of 15 years ago have returned.

Episode 12
Kenya and Hiromi updated Satoru about their other friends. Surprisingly Misato was the one who initiated the drive to fund Satoru’s hospital bill. Kenya knew Satoru had his memories back but didn’t say anything as he was still recovering. He was glad to have him back and that itself was enough. He doesn’t want him to fight alone anymore and if he still wants to, take them with him. Satoru remembers their strong bond and told them Yashiro is the killer. Now Yashiro wants to know how Satoru knows his every step then. He guesses that Satoru is having a handphone recording this device or letting Kenya hear this conversation. Too bad whatever crimes he did, its statute limitations have expired or never existed to begin with. That is why he will never be caught. Yashiro has also planned Kumi’s death. He will frame Satoru by granting her a merciful death for being worried about her surgery. Feeling guilty, Satoru will then commit suicide. Although Satoru will still die anyhow, he can still have a chance to save Kumi if he talks. There is of course no assurance that Kumi will live but the possibility exists as long as he talks. But Yashiro feels he is wasting time since back then it might just be Satoru’s luck. He has even crafted a nice suicide message for Sachiko to read. Yashiro spent 15 years for him to wake up because when he lost Satoru, he lost the drive that defined him. But Satoru tells him he is no longer alone. Despite Yashiro had the chance to kill him any time, he has not for the last 15 years. Flashback shows he even helped cared for comatose Satoru. No wonder he looks so well shaven. This proves that Satoru is important in his life. He is his purpose in life. He is his hope. He is the one who filled the gaping hole in his heart. Now he has lost.

While Yashiro denies all that, Satoru quickly jumps off the ledge. He didn’t fall because Yashiro grabs onto his wheelchair. This is further proves why he can’t kill him. 15 years may be a flash for Satoru but it felt like eternity to Yashiro. Satoru hints he has repeated his life several times and had several friends killed. Even so he bears no hatred towards him. Because there was only one person who knew the real him. Tears trickle down Yashiro’s cheek. He lets Satoru’s fall to his death as he mentions he can’t live without him anymore. He is about to jump off too but he sees Satoru landed on a big cushion well placed by his friends and mom. Game over. You lose. Yashiro is arrested for attempted murder. Satoru narrates he lost 15 years of his life but he lost his most prized possession: In a town in which his existence was erased and his friends lived through their precious moments for his sake. Satoru now lives as a manga artist and I can guess he is doing quite well since his manga is getting an anime adaptation. He has stopped experiencing Revival ever since. He also visits Yuuki who has a family of his own (Indian wife and son?) and regularly hangs out with his other friends. I believe that hot chick is Misato. By deduction it should be her, right? Satoru seems to have his own Hollywood walk of fame plaque on the ground near his school. Well, something that looks like it. As he hangs out underneath the bridge, it starts snowing. He is surprised and happy when Airi takes shelter there too. He is glad he never stopped believing.

Bokura Ga Ita, Kimi No Iru Machi
We were there, A Town Where You Live. Names of previous anime series and despite the different theme and setting, I can’t help how uncannily similar their names would fit right in this series as well. Because it shows that Satoru and the rest were there. They existed. Not erased as Satoru personally believes the time he was cut away from. They were here existing and living in this little town. Therefore despite Satoru was not there physically, he was there all along in their hearts and it is that presence that strove his friends to continue living their best.

I would never have expected this series to be this good. A reason why I didn’t put much high hopes despite reading the intriguing synopsis because I based my bias and prejudice of the mystery genre on my last anime in the same category. It was unfortunate that Sakurako-san No Ashimoto Ni Wa Shitai Ga Umatteiru fell short of expectations but it was careless and unfair of me to judge a totally different anime this way. It goes to show that every anime is on a case by case basis. It proved how wrong my judgment was and I am glad to have watched this series to dispel that. The plot twists are amazing as it kept me preoccupied and trying to guess what would happen. The execution is also good because there were nail biting scenes that might amount to nothing or something. It was something so simple but yet kept me on the edge of my seat.

The ending was good with all the loose ends tied up but yet bittersweet in a way because when you start thinking all the pain and suffering that everybody went through just to set things straight, it makes you question whether a 15 year justice is worth the wait. No doubt justice in the end but as mortals with very short lives on this planet, 15 years is a very long time to fathom. Everybody eventually had a happy ending thanks to the hard work of Satoru (and friends) in making it happen. He might have lost an important prime time of his childhood life but at least the good thing is that he is able to retain memories of his past lives so it isn’t all that bad. At least he doesn’t need to go to school again for his age. With no more Revivals, I guess the future is very much secure now, huh?

But the one little thing that bugged me at the end is how everybody never seemed to question how ‘advanced’ Satoru is. At least we are not shown how. But the way they interact with Satoru like as though he is an adult. Remember, despite Satoru retaining his memories and vocabularies of his other lives, in this time line to everybody Satoru is an 11 year old kid waking up in an adult’s body. So didn’t they find it strange that he could speak advanced words? Okay, maybe he did not spout a fancy and elaborate vocabulary. But shouldn’t they be suspicious that Satoru is acting like an adult instead of a child? I think everybody is just glad to have him back and couldn’t care less about this oddity. Besides, Satoru has been acting like a responsible adult in his bid to save Kayo and the rest so it makes no difference.

There is nothing much for me to comment on the characters since Satoru has been playing a pivotal role every time. It goes to show that if you want things done, you have to do it yourself. More importantly, things change not because of what you think, your opinion or regrets of what should have been done. Instead, things change because of the actions you take. Satoru is given that golden opportunity to right the wrongs but he is a lucky guy because he gets to do it twice. I think it was wise of him to not reveal about his multiple lives because logically and naturally nobody will believe him. Not even Yashiro. Some truths are meant to be kept by yourself. Speaking of telling the future, I think Sachiko is another one. She has this power because she is a mother. Uh huh. It is sometimes funny to think of the irony that she knows everything about her son like as though she read the script and thus able to tell his future and what is on his mind. So people, beware of your mother next time. They always know. ALWAYS! Otherwise Sachiko is a great mom whom every kid would love to have. She is understand, she is supportive and above all a dedicated mother who loves her son even when he is sleeping for 15 years with hope that he will wake up one day. That is what a real mother should be about. She should win the mother of the century award. Then again when you think about him, what kind of mother gives her 11 year old son so much liberty to do things himself and putting himself in danger of being kidnapped! Yikes! I retract that award thingy…

I feel a bit sad for Airi because when everything worked out in the end, it is only natural that she never existed in his time line. So perhaps I think they try to balance things out in the final scene when they meet again. I can speculate that maybe Satoru and Airi would become a couple after that since well, Kayo is already married. A fresh new beginning, right? But that itself is another story. Say, they are making a spin-off of this series after the manga ends… Kayo is also another sad case. As a child abuse victim, she had nowhere to go and no place to voice out her desperate plea for help. A tragedy waiting to happen. Her case of isolation reminds of this phrase that she didn’t build walls to keep others out but to see who cared enough to break them down. Sceptical of Satoru at first, she quickly puts her trust in him because anything is better than that hellhole under the guise of a home. Kenya turns out to be a potential genius friend of Satoru but ultimately I don’t really see him do anything much. What a waste…

I always had a hunch and suspected Yashiro as the culprit even from the early episodes because of the way he casts he glance and the seemingly suspicious actions he makes. Therefore when Yashiro was actually revealed as the big villain, I couldn’t help feel a mixed sense of happiness and disappointment. I was happy that I got it right which means I was paying attention and understood, right? But at the same time I was hoping that it was a different person. I was hoping to be proven wrong that it had to be somebody else and that I was just thinking too much. Because just like Satoru, I too was some sort in my own denial that I didn’t want this guy to be the perpetrator at the end. After all, had it been somebody different and a new character that we have never seen or appeared before, it would not have been fair to viewers because that ruins the romance of the mystery genre.

There were a few other conspiracy theories that formulated in my head over the series. But thankfully they were just me over-thinking. For example, I kept thinking that Kayo and Airi are actually the same person! Because I seemed to notice that they often use the line, “Are you an idiot?” on Satoru. Yeah, my conspiracy theory goes as far as that Kayo has survived the murder and another kid was mistaken to be her. She grew up, underwent plastic surgery, changed her name and went on to forget those hideous memories. Since they never see each other again, that is why they don’t recognize each other at work. But then again, there are a handful of other lines that a character says that rings a bell in Satoru’s mind that has been said by another character. Another wild conspiracy theory of mind is how the killer is Satoru himself from another timeline! I mean, he could go back in time and mostly for a short time. So what if all that Revival phenomenon has caused him to split another dimension where another version of Satoru materializes? I am saying this because when I first glimpsed at the killer’s eyes, I somehow seem to think how similar (which is not) to Satoru’s.

The art and drawing feels a bit simplistic. Sometimes I feel the characters have that one kind look. Not to say that it is a bad thing but I just can’t help that shake off that one kind look they have. After all, this is generally a drama and mystery genre so visuals aren’t going to be emphasized so much that it will strain the budget. And is it me or just that middle aged women like Sachiko and Akemi have puffed lips? Can’t… Avert… My eyes… Produced by A-1 Pictures who have produced ‘better looking’ animes like Sword Art Online, Saenai Heroine No Sodatekata, Uta No Prince-sama series, Kuroshitsuji, OreImo, Ao No Exorcist, Magi series and even Fairy Tail, they also have made ‘bad looking’ ones like Denpa Kyoushi.

In the voice acting department, I believe this is the first time in a long while that a main character is given 2 different seiyuus. The only other anime I can think of now that uses this is Ranma 1/2. This is necessary to differentiate the thoughts of which Satoru that he is narrating. Is it the one from the future or the one as a kid? It helps in separating and making it easier to viewers to listen as it would have been a bit heavy if they were just voiced by the same seiyuu. Sometimes I think there is a subtle joke about using this because Satoru has a tendency to accidentally speak aloud his thoughts. So maybe the different voices to differentiate which thought Satoru is speaking confused himself too? The adult Satoru is voiced by Shinnosuke Mitsushima. I am not sure if his husky voice is his natural voice but if he does sound like an amateur, it is because this is his debut and only voice acting role so far. But his voice does seem to fit the kind of uneventful life that Satoru lives as well as when he is thrown back into the past and thinking deeply on how to change the future. The child version of Satoru is of course voiced by a female, Tao Tsuchiya and this is her first time voicing an anime character. I checked she had minor roles in live action movies.

The only seiyuu I recognized is Aoi Yuuki as Kayo. Just take out all the lively enthusiasm from her other anime characters and put on a gloomy tone and voila! You get Kayo. The rest of the other casts are Minami Takayama as Sachiko (Conan in Detective Conan series), Mitsuru Miyamoto as Yashiro (Steven in Kekkai Sensen), You Tachi as Kenya (Anzu in Prison School), Akai Kitou as Hiromi (Mary in Cross Ange), Takahiro Miszushima as Yuuki/Jun (Takajou in Charlotte) and Akemi Okamura as Akemi (Nami in One Piece). There are a lot of relatively unknown seiyuus as well such as Yukitoshi Kikuchi as Kazu, Ayaka Nanase as Osamu, Ayaka Kaneko as Aya and Hina Kino as Misato.

Hearing the opening theme, Re:Re brings back familiar memories. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first but once I found out that it was sung by Asian Kung-Fu Generation, instantly all my memories came flooding back. I’m not saying I am a fan of them but the last time I heard these guys are from the opening themes of the anime Naruto (the original one and not Shippuden) and Fullmetal Alchemist (the original one too and not the remake Brotherhood). And those opening themes are from the last decade! The rock style and trademark singing voice are still the same and maybe that is why the nostalgic feelings return. The ending theme is Sore Wa Chiisana Hikari No You Na by Sayuri. A little bit dramatic but not really to my liking after hearing the awesome opening theme.

There is even a live action film of the same name released right after the TV anime ended its run. I wonder if it follows the same storyline as the anime because if it does, I think the thrill and suspense factor would be gone. At least for those who watched the anime. After all, since this series was adapted from a manga that shortly ended after its anime run. Spoilers? I read the anime ending is supposed to be of the original manga. Well, I couldn’t tell since I don’t read it. So if they wanted a twist and changed the ending, imagine the rage of the fans… Can you imagine Kayo staying single and waiting for Satoru to wake up and then they get hitched? Yeah… But as far as the movie is concerned, I just think that it is for adults. You know, anime is like cartoon so it is like kiddie stuff. But whatever the format this story is played or how the end turns out, it is definitely a good one that you should not miss.

That is why if we had a chance to do and change something, we should do it right away for we have no Revival to redo another try and undo the wrongs. A happy future might not be guaranteed but, to borrow and modify from Yashiro’s words, as long as you take action, that possibility remains. Because if I had Revival, I would have gone back and not watch disappointing animes. Now I’m stuck in a single timeline and my only way is to watch every darn anime just to know whether they suck or not. This one doesn’t. Thank goodness there is still hope. Never stop believing :-).

I thought Japan had come out with their own version of the American TV series, Bones. But who am I to compare since I never watched that show anyway. Sakurako-san No Ashimoto Ni Wa Shitai Ga Umatteiru might be a mouthful to pronounce and the title itself might be misleading because it literally means Corpses Buried Under Sakurako’s Feet. Saying this is a horror-cum-murder-mystery wouldn’t be exactly accurate either. Our titular character has always been fascinated with bones and an expert in analyzing it. She can tell and describe with intricate details of any bones you present to her. Yes, each bone tells their own story and you can safely guess that there will be murder mysteries that need to be solved based on her expertise in examining these bones. Interesting, no? If she isn’t weird enough for you, why the heck does she have an ordinary high school boy who isn’t exactly a bone freak following her around in her investigations?

Episode 1
Shoutarou Tatewaki sees people gathering before the school gates. A dead cat. He requests for newspaper and cardboard box and Yuriko Kougami brings it for him so he buries it under a sakura tree. As he narrates, the reason he doesn’t freak out as much as others is thanks to Sakurako Kujou. She is a princess who loves bones. She isn’t interested in human relationship (though it is sad she has a fiancé) and has dedicated her life and passion to bones, making a career even out of it. Her home is filled with assembled skeletons of animals. It is a scary place considering she lives alone with only a housekeeper, Ume Sawa. Shoutarou’s relationship with her isn’t clear but he follows her around to dig for bones. And so here they are at the lovely beach and he is made to dig for bones. To motivate him, she will treat him to Alaskan prawns if he finds a good specimen. After all the common animal bones dug up, they stumble onto a big one: A human skull! Sakurako waxes lyrical about the skull and from her touch and knowledge, she can tell the gender, age, race and even how this person was murdered! Yes, Shoutarou lets us know that each time they go bone hunting, they are very likely to find those belonging to humans. All the time. He calls the cops but Sakurako wants to keep this skull to herself and runs away! The policeman comes anyway to take their statements and all of that procedures, blah, blah, blah. Sakurako is confident they’ll never catch the killer. Because this skull is at least 100 years old! She can deduce from the molar cavity and such.

While giving a ride back to the police station, the policeman mentions about finding bodies recently because there is a double suicide washed up ashore just up ahead. This immediately piques Sakurako’s interest as she orders him to stop. I can’t believe that without any identification whatsoever, she barges into the scene and orders the forensics to show the body. Who is she to give orders? She can tell this isn’t a double suicide. It is a murder masked as a double suicide. It took Shoutarou to explain about her relation with her retired uncle who is a great forensics so the police agree to go for her advice to conduct autopsy. After giving her statements at the police station, Sakurako explains how she knows it was a murder to satisfy our curious brains. From the implausibility of tying the knot with a weaker hand and how the knot is facing the wrong way, there is also no obvious evidence that they died drowning and must have been murdered beforehand before being dumped. Shoutarou thought she was acting suspicious when she wants to use the public phone to call instead of borrowing his handphone. He discovers she is trying to smuggle out that skull as her reward! She is still adamant it is hers. Eventually she couldn’t keep it and Shoutarou couldn’t get his Alaskan prawn reward. But back home, Ume has prepared a lavish dinner (Sakurako’s call earlier). She mentions Shouko, Sakurako’s aunt who runs a rose garden visited while they were out. She also left a gift that would delight Shoutarou: Alaskan prawns!

Episode 2
When Shoutarou is at a convenience store late one night, he sees a little girl in the middle of the streets. Naturally he takes her to the police station so he could call her parents. But as a 3 year old, she can’t speak well. I guess police officer, Hiroki Utsumi lacks child diplomacy so she’s not showing him anything. Shoutarou fares better. Trading his candy to take a look at her backpack, they find a teddy bear with a bloodstained handprint. No, it’s not paint you dumb officer. Shoutarou has an idea. So he goes to bug Sakurako at an ungodly hour just to hear him out. After changing her clothes, Sakurako notices something wrong with her left arm. The girl won’t show it to her but after talking about that crap about regenerating bones, I don’t know if she understands it but she lets her see. Sakurako deduces there is some sort of fracture and possibly by force twisting. She could be a victim of child abuse. Although there is no pain and she could go on with her daily life, there will be swelling. This means there must be a time her mother must have brought her to a hospital to check so they can find out her name and where she lives from the hospital’s records. Although Utsumi did find the hospital, however the name and address are fake. It can be concluded the mother fears being reported for constituted abuse. While hanging out at the playground, Yuriko is surprised to see Shoutarou. Even more surprising is that she knows the little girl since she used to volunteer at a children’s centre and they used to play a lot. This means she knows where she lives and her real name: Yuuka Tominaga. At her house, Yuuka is happy to come home but upon opening the door, Shoutarou stops her from entering. He knows that foul stench. The stench of a corpse.

Time for Sakurako to work her magic and unveil the mystery. Checking the mom’s body, she feels there is something off. From the slash wounds, she deduces it must be a surprise attack and the killer must be someone she knows. The sound must have woken up Yuuka. Mother tried to save her daughter but the room is filled with garbage and the only way out was through this kitchen window. But why didn’t she escape herself. When Sakurako accidentally steps on a milk bottle, she believes there is another child. Turning over her body reveals a trapdoor and underneath it is a baby boy. Due to the heatstroke of being trapped, the baby is barely alive so Sakurako proceeds to do CPR. But the mad killer is back and stabs Utsumi. Now he confronts the duo. Sakurako cannot stop her process and Shoutarou is scared stiff. Wounded Utsumi returns to restrain the mad guy. Shoutarou turns into a brave lad to tackle this guy. Don’t worry, he has training in martial arts. But this brave act has Sakurako remember a traumatic event. She screams for Soutarou not to go. When it is over, she scolds him for doing something reckless and having a death wish. In the aftermath, Yuuka reunites with her baby brother, mad guy gets arrested and Utsumi is wheeled into the ambulance. He’ll recover in no time since the attack missed his vital organs. Sakurako deduces what happened although most of it would be speculation. The guy is a drug addict, returned for reasons unknown. He slashed the mother. She tried to get her kids to safety but only Yuuka managed to ‘jump’ to safety. Although she defended her children, it still doesn’t absolve the guilt of letting her child’s injury go untreated. Shoutarou is surprised she called him by his name. But he wonders if he misheard Soutarou then.

Episode 3
Shoutarou accompanies Sakurako on a hiking trail to find more animal bones. He is still irritated that he returned to calling him his unwanted nickname and doesn’t remember calling his real name for once. As he is about to ask who is Soutarou, they hear a woman’s scream. She has found a dead corpse with bones exposed. That sound is like music to Sakurako’s ears, no? And it’s time for Shoutarou to call to police too. As usual, she ignores all protocol to examine and deduce about the hiker of how he died, when he died and even the possible age based on the bone structure and fractures. I guess the detective wasn’t listening to her awesome theory and takes her away. Thus she has been sulking in her room ever since. Shoutarou brings cold watermelons to her room. He sees a photo of her and a young boy. She explains that is Soutarou, her dead younger brother. At the end of the school term, Yuriko wants to see Shoutarou. At the café, she starts getting a little upset. Uhm, is it about the chiffon cake he offered? But she thanks him for finding her grandma. Eh? The police was the one who told her. That dead hiker is her grandma. The police had classified her death as suicide but she kept believing it wasn’t so since the last time she left, everything in her place was left as it is.

Shoutarou brings Sakurako to Yuriko’s place as she explains about how grandma offered to take care of bedridden grandpa by herself. His dementia worsened over the years and the family continued to believe grandma’s words that she could do it herself. Yuriko feels guilty that maybe they just pretended not to know and pushed all the responsibility to her. After all, taking care of an aged person is very stressful and that must have driven her to suicide. As thanks for listening to her story, she gives them a piece of grandpa’s painting. But since she wants to know how grandma really died, Sakurako brings her to the site. She is very sure her grandma didn’t come here to die and thus did not commit suicide. It is true that she might have fallen off this cliff but it is not a height that would kill you. She just fell in a bad way but thankfully she didn’t have to suffer long before she succumbed. But as to why she was here, they head up the cliff. A very beautiful scenery of the mountains and town. This scene is in one of grandpa’s paintings. But the painting is not sunset but sunrise based on the direction he painted it. Therefore grandma got up in the wee hours to just catch the sunrise. Then there’s some scientific explanation about the sunrise rejuvenating your cells. Thus grandma came here to cheer herself and continue to live. Yuriko realizes she wanted to see the sunrise so she could continue living with grandpa.

Episode 4
With the things he has seen, I’m sure you can’t blame for Shoutarou to be worried about his mom and wants her to live a long life. After all, dad passed away when he was young. He gets a call from Utsumi needing a favour because his friend, Fujioka thinks he is going to die. Apparently all the men from his family die premature deaths so he thinks it is a curse and his turn is next. Did he mention Fujioka has got a family too? Of course Sakurako rubbishes this curse thing as mere coincidence. Utsumi wants a favour from Sakurako to tell him the curse is not real. Oh, there is one more thing. He has a cursed dog too. Apparently the dog that has passed through several owners, all of the owners died! The last owner was his uncle and he too died shortly after. The dog was supposed to be euthanized but Fujioka pitied it and took it in. Fujioka’s house is a large custom designed mansion. Must be his lucrative trading business. They meet him and his family. Their dog, Hector instantly jumps on Sakurako and takes a liking for her. They talk more about Hector. Utsumi thought Hector warms up to Fujioka but he says it feels like the dog is more of watching him like as though it has been staring at him for some time. Fujioka still believes in the curse and has already taken steps to assure his family lives comfortably without him. Since Sakurako calls all this crap, Fujioka shows a book containing the names of all the family members throughout the generations, their age of death and even their existing or pre-existing maladies.

Fujioka is even serious when he wants Utsumi to help his family when the time comes and protect them on his behalf. The argument gets too intense that Fujioka decides to cool off and go get his birthday cake. It’s his birthday today. The wife then continues about Hector. Maybe it likes dead animals because when uncle was found dead after a week later, it was seen next to his corpse. Sometimes during walks, it would run off and bring back dead animals in its mouth. She thinks it can smell death. Aside of finding Hector another owner, she also mentions a cursed painting he took in. Since this forest landscape picture was creepy, she has her husband kept it in the storage. They continue examining the various diseases the other men in the family died before they reach 50. Sakurako thinks it might be genetic and skin disease and respiratory illness might be the source. After all, Fujioka previously had asthma treatment. Hmm… Maybe he should just quit smoking? When Fujioka returns, Sakurako immediately wants him to show the cursed painting which she believes is close by here. Everyone is left shock at her actions but she knows the answer to solve his curse.

Episode 5
Fujioka brings them to the room where he kept the cursed painting. Immediately Sakurako has everyone put on mask and gloves because it is toxic. That smell that permeates the room is arsenic. The mould of the painting is the culprit since it is kept in poor conditions and with the humid weather, the mixture of chemicals from this painting that was painted hundreds of years ago out. The easiest way to solve this is just to open the window and let some fresh air in! Thus it can be explained that many of the premature deaths are from arsenic poisoning that could lead to respiratory and digestive system failures. Sakurako notices his nails and coughing as symptoms but assures them his daughter has not shown any signs but to be safe, take her to see a doctor. Sakurako also deduces why only men in his family die young. Something about stress levels releasing dangerous chemicals that constricts blood vessels and thus increasing cardiovascular risk. Women on the other hand have higher tolerance to stress. With the myth of the curse busted, everyone focuses on celebrating his birthday. He is going to continue to live, right? Relieved Fujioka wants to go wash his face and take his last smoke. But it seems he is contacting with some shady guy. The rest continue to talk about Fujioka. Utsumi and Fujioka’s wife knew him as a nice person but after they had their daughter, it’s like he started to change. It’s like he has accepted his curse and worked hard so he would leave enough for his family. When Hector couldn’t stop barking and Utsumi only recently met after having seen each other for a long time, Sakurako feels something is not right. Then it hit her that everyone has been deceived by Fujioka. He is the one who made that detailed family tree. Noticing Fujioka is taking too long, they head outside to see him bleeding to death. It might look like a mishap from the axe handling but Sakurako knows he is trying to kill himself from the way the wound is created and how the handle is broke.

Sakurako continues that Fujioka went to great lengths to adopt a cursed dog and cursed painting despite knowing and fearing the curse. His detailed research of his family and the trouble he went through to print it out so that he could conceal his suicide as accidental death by taking advantage of his family’s cursed history. Utsumi was used because a police officer’s words would have more credibility. Besides, isn’t it strange for him to suddenly trust Utsumi after not seeing each other for so long? Fujioka reveals after the birth of his daughter, he really wanted her to have a good life so he started investing heavily but a year ago the stock market crashed. Truth is, they don’t have enough to survive for next month. Sakurako is a little upset because he came up with this ridiculous plan not knowing how those left behind would feel. Hector was always watching him probably to stop this foolish act. He has fears like when his father died, the family suffered financially. His wife doesn’t care about the money because it’s her dream to grow old with him and they can sell the house to start over again. Although the ambulance siren is heard, they remember a car blocking the path so it will take time for the detour. Utsumi carries Fujioka and makes a mad dash for help. He owes him big time for this. In the aftermath, Hector is now adopted by Sakurako. Fujioka has got a job and doing fine. Sakurako is still puzzled about the appraiser of the painting who convinced Fujioka to keep it and even showing it to a baby. Sakurako believes curses exist but not in supernatural sense. By magnifying the anxiety, death can be easily triggered in some situations. The wind blowing in Shoutarou’s face surprised Sakurako a little as she saw shades of Soutarou.

Episode 6
Yuriko’s friends want her to invite Shoutarou in a group date for the festivals. I suppose she knows Shoutarou is into more of that woman so she didn’t invite him. It feels odd she turns up alone while her friends are with their dates. Yuriko thinks she sees a lady trying to jump off the bridge. A slight distraction and when Yuriko looks back, she is gone. But a letter is dropped where she last stood. Her homeroom teacher, Itsuki Isozaki happened to be here on patrol so she tells him what happened. As the letter has no name, he opens it. It sounds like an apology-cum-suicide letter. There is also a ring. Using a marker pen to determine the authenticity of this diamond ring, Isozaki can deduce it is a wedding ring and there is a date that goes back 3 years ago. Could it be the woman wants to follow her husband in death? Isozaki doesn’t want to search for her claiming it was her choice. Utsumi patrolling the area hears them out. Teacher and policeman get into an argument about saving this woman. I mean, how could they find a total stranger whom they don’t know how she looks like in this sea of crowd? Yuriko tries to reach Shoutarou to reach Sakurako but he isn’t picking up. The argument is escalating so she draws a hideous portrait of that woman so they could at least have an idea on how she looks like. The search remains futile and Utsumi has to go tend to a lost child. When Isozaki gives up, Yuriko chides him for not having someone close to him die. Before she could go look herself, he tells her he still believes he is right. However if Yuriko gets into trouble, it will be his responsibility. Therefore he will accompany with her to search for only an hour. Only an hour? He wants to watch the fireworks…

Yuriko happens to stumble upon Sakurako. And then the lost child announcement paging for her to return to the information centre! You can imagine Sakurako’s embarrassment as she chides Shoutarou for doing such a thing. I mean, she has no handphone, how is he going to contact her? Now Yuriko scolds him for not telling her he is here! His handphone? Forgot to bring. Unbelievable! Yup, looks like his worth is only his connection to Sakurako. Back to the case, Sakurako laughs at everything after reading the letter. This is not a suicide note and this ring is a mourning jewellery. It is practised in the west and often the hair of the deceased is used. However this ring is different because it is made of bones of the departed. Some high compression theory to explain why it became synthetic diamond. It is believed that woman has found a new partner in her life. Therefore she wanted to say ‘goodbye’ to her departed ex-partner and thus the letter. As the ring cannot be simply sold anywhere and she doesn’t want to keep it while with her new partner, the only way is to throw it in the river. There is a way to return this ring to her but to save all the hassle, Sakurako throws it into the river. She’s already starting a new journey in life and you don’t need this kind of things to bog her down. Case solved. Oh, and just in time for the fireworks.

Episode 7
Shoutarou is surprised Sakurako turned up for his school cultural festival. Didn’t she say she would? His class is running a maid-butler pancake store. His friend wonders who this pretty lady is and they couldn’t believe she is just somebody he knows. But they start to believe they may just be casual friends when she got up and left after she finished. Shoutarou goes to find her but it doesn’t take long because he knows she went to the science lab to check out the bones. This place is off limits so Isozaki catches them. However Sakurako isn’t happy how the bones are treated. They are placed like as though to collect dust. She makes a few adjustments and this impresses Isozaki. He then has a favour to ask of her. The prep room is believed to be haunted because of the bones assembled by a science teacher, Atsurou Sasaki long ago. He died on the job and the bones were left ever since. The principal has been bugging him to go through them but he remains sceptical. Since she is here, he thought of asking her to help go through them. She will in exchange for cakes. As a start, she looks through the list of all the items in the prep room. She is impressed with the large number of animal bone specimens. Shoutarou feels uneasy some are of pet category especially the skull in her hand is that of a cat. He then remembers Sakurako’s first pet was a cat and connects the dots that the cat specimen at her home is her cat. He gets upset to learn she only felt sad for a while. She even dissected and did autopsy on it to find the cause of death. I don’t know what’s his problem of getting so worked up. I know, nice memories with pets but doesn’t that differ with everyone? Shoutarou and Isozaki go through other boxes, one that seemingly contains the personal belongings of Sasaki. Then there is a huge chest in which Sakurako picks its lock. Inside are bones of a human. There is fire damage on it so it is believed instead of burying the bones after cremation, Sasaki took it back here. Soon, this is all over the news. The bones are confiscated by the police and even some of the animal specimens. It is learnt the bones belong to a woman named Natsuko Sone. She used to take care of Sasaki’s sister. Shoutarou remembers that name in one of the belongings. Shoutarou notices the cat bones missing. However it is also not on the list. He fears that Sakurako may have smuggled it out. When he goes to visit her at her home, nobody is in. Sakurako seems to be communicating with him via words on a monitor. This bed-ridden guy is supposedly her forensic uncle, Masamichi Shitara. She gets a book of unsolved cases he used to handle.

Episode 8
Isozaki is tasked to mail Sasaki’s belongings to the family since they find it troublesome to come and get the stuffs. But Shoutarou offers to go delivery it personally because he wants to know what kind of a man Sasaki is. So he goes to bug Sakurako and they drive over to the place of Sayuki Haruma, Sasaki’s older sister. Although wheelchair ridden, Sakurako notices her odd toe sizes. These Celtic toes run in the family. Sayuki confirms the bones were of Natsuko who was also her best friend. She asks if there are more bones found and of course they say there weren’t. It supposedly belonged to Natsuko’s baby. Sayuki narrates when Natsuko was first brought into the household to look after her after Natsuko’s mom who worked in the red light district passed away. The trio became close friends. When Sayuki was in her teens, Natsuko became pregnant. Although Sasaki was fond of her, he was not the father. The baby died because it was born premature. Natsuko knew of her position and had to dispose the baby. The family disowned Sasaki when he went into the teaching profession but even then, they did not get married. When Sayuki married, Natsuko immediately left and only a few years later they learnt she died alone. She feels bad and wants to give them a proper burial but it is sad the baby is not among Sasaki’s belongings. However Sakurako believes they are buried in a different place and by following the clues from the poem, they dig up an orgel buried underneath a tree. Inside contains a few bones. Sakurako deduces one of them to be a grown female so it may be possible Sasaki dug up her bones, placed them here and reburied them again. But she senses something amiss from the other bones. They confront Sayuki again and Sakurako believes the real mother of the baby bones is her because of the Celtic feet. She also found holes in her story that if Natsuko buried the child immediately after giving birth, wouldn’t that pose a threat to her life? And why did Natsuko gave birth in Sayuki’s room in the first place?

Sayuki explains the truth that she fell in love with an acquaintance of her dad. Natsuko would help write love letters on her behalf to him and such. They parted ways after they found he had a family but by then Sayuki was already pregnant and her dad was trying to arrange marriage for her. The rest was the truth. Natsuko protected her even it meant destroying any hopes of being with Sasaki. Shoutarou still doesn’t understand even if it was so, why didn’t Natsuko and Sasaki end up together. Sakurako says that Sasaki believed the baby belonged to Natsuko and that she might be his half sibling. Because Natsuko never knew her father and how could their dad bring in someone unknown into the household at that time? Later Shoutarou returns to Sayuki to hand back the poem. It isn’t about something grim but about goodbye. Shoutarou then investigates why Sakurako bothered to steal a cat’s bone when the creature is so common. Realizing her naming sense of why she named her cat after a bone part, he realizes there is a pair of cats. He explains his findings to her and knows she is an alumna of his school. Because she was able to find her way to the lab without getting lost and already knew Sasaki’s name. After all, his school was only opened to girls until 10 years ago. Sakurako claps his brilliant deduction and admits Sasaki was her teacher. A brilliant one that taught her the skills of the trade. In this box contains the bones of her other cat that she believes belong to her. Her cats were poisoned one day and Sasaki without saying a word understood what she wanted. Sasaki also viewed completion and peace in death so when Natsuko died, her bones were already with him and they were already together. He was happy indeed. Sakurako’s day is brightened up when Shoutarou says he already spoke to Isozaki to allow her to keep the cat bones and could just replace it with fox bones.

Episode 9
Sakurako and Shoutarou visit Yuriko. Today happens to be the monthly anniversary of her grandma’s death. There are a few belongings from grandma that was supposed to be for her but she can’t figure out which of them so she has Sakurako help out. Yuriko remembers grandma talking to her just before entering high school. It was something about a time when she will get married. Sifting through boxes of letters and poems, Sakurako shifts her attention to the paintings. One is a painting of lilies which is an obvious reference to Yuriko. The other is some island and despite its tragic grandma-grandchild story behind it, the painting represents a happy time for her. Sakurako tells the truth that she doesn’t know which painting supposed to be for Yuriko. Based on a letter she read, Yuriko received a doll for Christmas. She knows Yuriko doesn’t like that doll but her frustrations were never shown in any of the letters. The conclusion is simple. Grandma’s happiness is her happiness and Yuriko’s happiness is grandma’s happiness. In short, only Yuriko can solve this mystery herself.

When Shoutarou brings several puddings he bought at a local store for his next visit at Sakurako, he remembers he used to buy only this brand of pudding from that particular store when his grandma was dying of cancer and hospitalized. He kept wondering why and surprisingly Ume can solve this mystery. After asking Shoutarou a few questions that include the time and distance he cycles to the shop and hospital, the key issue here is time. His grandma was suffering from some bone cancer in which the cancer destroys her bones from inside out and it is a very painful illness. Each time Shoutarou visits, she will have the nurse inject pain killers as she doesn’t want him to see her in pain. But since the pain killers take time to be effective, the reason she sent him to buy those puddings to buy some time. Shoutarou realizes he had been a burden without knowing grandma’s suffering. But they tell him grandma know how he felt. Because you cannot take possessions to the afterlife, memories and times spent together are all that are left. The reason grandma chose pudding was because Shoutarou liked it and she wanted to see his smile. After Shoutarou leaves, Sakurako tells Ume that she will be taking her to see the doctor tomorrow morning as she knows her back hurts each time she stands up. However Ume has her pride and refuses till the day she dies. Sakurako notes it is time to put an end to this.

Episode 10
Before the snow covers the forest, Sakurako and Shoutarou walk through for the ‘final’ bone expedition. Isozaki also tails along but he is more interested in the plants. When Sakurako catches glimpse of a certain butterfly, they follow it and it leads them to a corpse. Thankfully, a hare’s carcass. Isozaki then gets a call from the parents of one of his ex-students. Because it sounded urgent he had to leave. Of course he had no car so the only way is for Sakurako to drive him back to change first. Isozaki explains the case about his ex-students. Hitoe Madoka, Futaba Nishizawa and Minami Tsutsumi were so close to each other that they were like sisters. In the second year of their high school, Futaba suddenly vanished. A note that sounded like suicide was found and the case was closed although her body was never found. Ever since, Hitoe and Minami grew distant so much so they were like strangers when they graduated. Now, 2 years later, that call was from Hitoe’s parents and she is also missing. They meet her parents but seeing they are like the rich noble kind, Sakurako isn’t kind enough to mince her words. Because why bother to call her ex-teacher instead of the police? Save face? Some family they are. Instead of talking to them to find any clues, Sakurako searches her room for better chance. The missing items are a large back and a handphone battery so it seems she must be going somewhere for a few days and without signal. None of Hitoe’s friends knew of her whereabouts and when asked if she had contacted Minami, the parents don’t think so because they believe their friendship is irreparable after so long. Shoutarou notices Hitoe was in the tennis club and suggests calling ex-members to find out. How? Conveniently Yuriko is part of the tennis club and agrees to help get in contact with some members. But all she could find are rumours about Hitoe might be dating a painter whom she became a model for.

They pay a visit to Minami’s household, which is a total opposite of Hitoe’s. Her parents don’t care and they look like a drunk or slut. As they search her room, mom mentions their fight stemmed from Hitoe sleeping with Minami’s boyfriend who was some painter. After Futaba went missing, Minami got a boyfriend but recently she found out Hitoe slept with him. Sakurako pulls out a painting from underneath Minami’s bed. Isozaki confirms the girl in it is Minami. This painting is also very similar with the one in Fujioka’s house so it is very possible that painter is connected in both cases. She also found receipts in the dustbin. This must be her favourite restaurant. They see her sleeping there and as they try to get more answers from her, she becomes more defensive. Sakurako even mentions Isozaki’s plant hobby was because of Futaba’s disappearance. Because he failed to save a student, this became his atonement. It’s like if he cares for them, they will respond and won’t leave. Still, she won’t help. Noticing Minami’s anaemic behaviour, she has Shoutarou call Ume to prepare dinner and a room for her to stay. Shoutarou wonders why she is being so nice suddenly. Sakurako observed her behaviour in such atmosphere, they won’t be getting any answers. Besides, if you want to lure a kid, always use food. It’s something she learnt from Shoutarou. And Minami sure tasted the best dinner and dessert ever. It brings back happy yet sad memories how Hitoe used to make such pies for her. At the end of the day as Shoutarou leaves, Sakurako invites him to join her for breakfast tomorrow. He is so happy about this food invitation (I guess kids do love to eat) that he couldn’t suspect Sakurako’s intention. Minami remembers meeting the painter, Hanabusa who was looking for butterflies. I guess she got taken in when he said he found her ‘butterfly’. She was so madly in love with him that she’d do anything. And that meant carving big butterfly tattoo on her back.

Episode 11
After Minami dreams of the good times with her friends, she wakes up the next morning ready to talk to Sakurako. She believes Hitoe is at the elm house. She brings them there and the cabin is quite messy with all the paint marks. Inside a room, oh, it’s those corpse butterflies again. Don’t worry. It is the carcass of a dog lying next to Hitoe. Seems she has taken sleep inducing drugs but the amount she took isn’t enough to be lethal. Eventually she wakes up and the friends make up. When Hector starts barking, Sakurako is happy that it means Hector has found a buried corpse near an elm tree. Digging the ground, everyone else becomes shock when Sakurako picks up a bone supposedly belonging to a young girl due to its size. Isozaki falls into shock and depression, trying to dig the rest out. With his bare hands. Sakurako wants to know which of the girls killed Futaba but they deny and say she committed suicide. Flashback reveals the trio found this place. Each has their own personal problems in reality and this secret base of theirs they could do whatever they want without a care of what others think. They were the happiest trio in the world. One day, Futaba suggests they commit suicide. Minami was against this but Hitoe agreed. When Minami saw how serious they were, she ran away. Being their friend, she can’t help worry and went back to check on them. Futaba has hung herself and Hitoe in a daze because she tried to stop her but failed. Minami then buried the body on her own. When Futaba’s skull and other parts are dug up, Sakurako easily concludes that Futaba did not hang herself but was killed via strangulation. Because of the force applied that broke certain parts, considering Futaba is light weight, such bones cannot be broken via hanging. Therefore the only reasonable reason is that Hitoe killed Futaba and faked her death. That was how Hitoe injured her hand by trying to fake the hanging. Hitoe continues to deny this but when Isozaki looks serious in wanting her to tell the truth, it is time to let the cat out of the bag.

Because there was only 1 rope, Futaba was going to kill Hitoe first and then hang herself. She was dead serious (mind the pun). No choice, Hitoe strangled her using the rope since she realized she doesn’t want to die. Then she faked her death and lied to Minami. Hitoe continues to blame Minami for abandoning them in the first place. Isozaki stops her from carrying on. Instead he apologizes for not realizing the pain they were all in and couldn’t do anything. Actually he was more afraid of hurting himself. You thought the emotional crying would end everything but Sakurako is further delighted when she realizes a skull part is missing. There has been a guy who has been stealing sphenoid (the butterfly shaped bone around the nose). There have been cases even during her uncle’s time and although Sakurako suggested it could be from the same person, it was shot down/ Because no trace of the killer is found, cases soon went cold. But now she is sure who is behind this: Hanabusa. Minami defends that painter to be her angel and has nothing to do with this. She believes he gave her a reason to live and took good care of her. Flashback shows how he ‘gave his love’ by carving those special butterfly wings on Minami’s back. Sakurako rubbishes all that and the girls were just his pawns. He would never love them. Unless they become bones. Minami becomes mad and is about to stab her. Unfortunately Shoutarou protects her and gets stab. Finally Sakurako shows some shock emotion. Don’t die Shoutarou! Thankfully he recuperates in hospital. She is there to explain the truth about Hanabusa who collects sphenoid as his prize. That is why this is goodbye. Shoutarou’s turn to fall into shock. As a cunning and dangerous man, he probably knows all about them by now. That is why she doesn’t want him to get involved further. She doesn’t want to see his bones. Shoutarou is mad that this is the reason why she never calls him by his name. He is right. I know he feels hurt but he doesn’t know how much it hurts her inside too. Because outside, she cries.

Episode 12
Shoutarou has not seen Sakurako ever since. He tried calling her but she never picked up. Oh, he had no balls to go visit her home too. So I guess it is time to fill us with a flashback of how they met 2 years ago. He used to come visit his grandma and at that time his senile elderly neighbour, Hatsue Yachi went missing. Prior to this, Shoutarou did see Sakurako before because he used to wander in the woods and reached her home. He always viewed her as an elegant lady till one day it came crashing down when he saw her took in some corpse. So when Yachi went missing, he suspected it was her. In fact he found Sakurako with her and thought she was the kidnapper. Actually Sakurako found her wandering in the streets and was trying to bring her home. But this shrine she was brought to, Yachi becomes depressed it isn’t the one. Although Yachi was sent to the nursing home shortly, she went missing again. This time Shoutarou had a hunch who might be behind. He confronted Sakurako at her house and she believed he was the one who called the cops earlier. Then she explains about her bone hobby and shows her entire collection. She puts on a surprised look when she learns his name. After Shoutarou told everything, Sakurako helped look for Yachi based on what she knows. They visited some shrine and the priestess said something about the older shrine was renovated and merged and some sort of god that the shrine was dedicated in praying to. This leads Sakurako to know where Yachi is and before you can guess what she meant by all that, they find her unconscious body next to a tree at the shrine’s old site.

Knowing that Yachi will go missing again, Sakurako feels the need to find what she is looking for. Shoutarou notes that she seems to be looking for something buried underneath a sakura tree. This piques Sakurako’s interest because the only thing buried there would be corpses. True enough, they found one. Sakurako shows off her expertise in telling all about this dead man, his job and even how he was killed! After Shoutarou calls the police and they take the bones away which is confirmed belonging to Yachi’s father, due to lack of evidence, the case is of course cold. Sakurako then sees Yachi and tells her about the bones. She then reveals it was Yachi who killed and buried the body. Yachi is shocked and admits she killed him. He was an abusive father. One day she couldn’t take it anymore and fought back. She didn’t realize she went too far and killed him. With her mother, they buried his body at the shrine seeing it is a place where young children are buried. Sakurako narrates how she closed her heart after that. She asks Shoutarou his opinion about this case and also knows about him being a stalker watching her. Then there are some words about time and being alive. Now Shoutarou will not want to regret anything, he runs over to Sakurako’s place. She is not happy to see him and wants him to go home. Using some of the words Sakurako said to him then, he still wants to be with her despite all the deaths they have seen. She blames Hanabusa as a dangerous factor but he claims because of her, many other lives were saved. He believes only she can take on Hanabusa. Because of that, he will stay close to her to be safe. The reverse psychology works as she agrees because she can’t forgive herself if anything happens to him. After all, he also knows she will be successful because she has a competent assistant. Is that a joke? He sure is looking quite highly of himself. Enough of the chatter, they head back in for some apple pie. Hanabusa is seen with a big painting of Sakurako.

Skeletons In Everyone’s Closet
Eh? So the season ends without our main characters even facing off with the supposedly greatest antagonist of the series? Is this some sort of teaser? If this is their way of ending with some sort of suspense and cliff-hanger for a mystery drama series, it is unique but drab at the same time. But otherwise, personally watching this kind of genre feels a bit refreshing for me seeing I am the type who don’t really favour this kind of category or put it high on my watch list. The mysteries in this series aren’t that complex to begin with that you will be left scratching your head in the end. At least they aren’t as bad as the kind that leaves you with more questions or opened answers left to your interpretation. So at least with answers for each mystery ‘served on a silver platter’ to dumb viewers like me, I guess in a way it is passable.

I am not sure how I should put this about the overall feel of the mystery and drama parts. Although they are interesting in their own right, something in me makes me feel that it lacks something to make it even more epic. I’m not saying the mysteries are generic or boring but it just feels it is missing something. I admit and agree that I am indeed glued to the screen and feeling quite interested in knowing the truth behind the mystery. Furthermore, many of the cases we see they end up solving are mainly revolving and related to the main characters like Yuriko’s grandma, Shoutarou’s own granny, Sakurako’s pet cats and Isozaki’s students. It feels more like a ‘family matter’ than solving some sort of big international case that would have gripped the entire nation or the world. But then, Sakurako would have become an international phenomenon and wouldn’t be able to do her favourite hobby quietly.

On the same topic of mystery and drama elements, a little part of me also felt that Sakurako is more like a local detective than an osteologist. Although it is a good thing they do not spam and over focus on the bone parts but the overall mystery of the case has other elements in it that it somewhat overshadows the bones factor. Bones still do play a part in the unravelling of the mystery (and thus why we need Sakurako to explain the big bulk of it), but in the end of it all, it just feels like a mystery that could be used in other series of the same genre. Like the case of the mysterious death circumstances of Yuriko’s grandma and Yuuka’s broken family story, bones are just the lesser factor in untangling the mystery, which is not really a big deal in the first place. And that I mean, stumbling upon bones of somebody big and important like a VIP that would lead to an international organized crime that would lead them sending henchmen out for their lives that would to our protagonists running for their lives while they uncover more truths (and bones)! Yeah. That.

Sakurako is the most interesting person in the series because her character itself doesn’t conform to the expectations of society. She lacks tact and is not afraid to speak her mind and sometimes she is so blunt in your face that it might hurt sharper than a knife. I’m not saying that her voice level rises but even at such a tender voice, the way she says it so straight that it feels there is sarcasm in almost every of her sentence. It is like if you ask a ‘stupid question’ (for the sake of revealing the answer so that we viewers can understand), you’ll be treated with such an answer that also has an air of authority in it. Sometimes you might feel that there is arrogance in the way she explains it (only because she is the best in her field) but at the same time you cannot help but respect and be awed as well as be all ears when she starts speaking.

You can say that I am a dumb person because sometimes when I hear Sakurako explain her facts with reasoning, sometimes I feel that she is just more than an osteologist because she knows a lot of things. And I mean a lot of everything. I suppose that even with her interest in bones, she has to have knowledge on other stuffs so that she could understand better the history of her bones. Like I said, each bone tells a tale so perhaps in her quest to know what happened to them, she did lots of research along the way and thus adding to her knowledge. I’m not saying Sakurako is so smart that she is a walking encyclopaedia but I find it somewhat convenient that for all the cases, she tends to have the know-how of it all. Conveniently she knows all those stuffs. And I am not saying that Sakurako is like an omniscient God or something but another factor why she could easily prove her facts with such confidence is because of her keen observation. To be fair, I believe the series have put clues for viewers to spot too. I am not sure because I’m not observant enough. So this is one of Sakurako’s better traits and why she relieve us dumb viewers of the mystery that we are dying to know of.

The other characters somewhat feel lacking. Those appearing for an arc would be understandable but for those recurring characters, it felt like their potential is somewhat wasted. That for instance, Shoutarou. Besides being her lackey following her around, Shoutarou’s other role seems to be retorting Sakurako. In the sense that whenever she becomes too blunt instead of being tact, he would scream out her name, as if a reminder for her to watch her words and be considerate of the feelings of others. Like she cares. All she cares are the bones before her. I wonder if Shoutarou has a crush on Sakurako especially that final episode when he declared to be by her side. Doesn’t that sound a bit like a proposal? Too bad for those hoping for Shoutarou x Yuriko romance. It never seemed to take off an inch in the first place. Shoutarou only has his eyes on Sakurako and Yuriko is only using him to get to her (not in the bad sense). Oh, here is another reason why Sakurako is the most brilliant character in the series. With Utsumi playing the dumb policeman, that’s why. He might not be a retard level dumb but his more casual ways certainly make it tempting to put this guy into the dumb cop category. After Hector has become Sakurako’s official pet, he does nothing special except being the series’ mascot. I mean, look at his smiling face which is so suitable to be used as a meme. Yeah…

Another reason why the characters feel weak and lack impact is because that there are other obvious questions surrounding them that we want to know but were never answered. Or perhaps it could be just red herring? Is this their way of really sticking it to the mystery genre? I don’t know but I don’t really like it. For example, Soutarou. All we know about him is Sakurako’s dead little brother. That is all. Nothing is said over how he died and how do we know she isn’t just making things up? I know Sakurako isn’t the kind to lie but I surmised that to her bones are the only truth. Shoutarou may resemble closely Sakurako of him but that itself isn’t enough to make us believe why she is pretty much ‘attached’ to this kid. To protect him? Even if he isn’t the real Soutarou? So why say goodbye in the penultimate episode? How the heck will she protect him if she never sees him again?

I have a theory about this. Because of how Hanabusa is connected to all the cases we have seen in this episode, it won’t come to me as a surprise that Hanabusa had a hand in Soutarou’s death. Otherwise why would Sakurako be so obsessed in chasing him since for who knows how long. Why does Hanabusa seem to take a big interest in her? Sometimes I also feel why all the cases are connected is because Hanabusa might be trying to bait and lead Sakurako to something. There is something going on between them that we don’t know as of now. Because of the level of the mystery of that Hanabusa guy is and how late he makes his appearance (despite making very ambiguous and very short appearances in prior episodes), he is another interesting character and sadly with the way things ended this season, it just kills the fun in thinking how much more interesting if these mortal enemies were to actually come face to face sooner than expected. Bone master versus butterfly collector. How epic can it get when you see both ‘mad people’ face off each other. It would be just bone chilling to think about it and how Shoutarou gets implicated in this mess.

Then there are others like Shouko who looks like Sakurako’s twin sister than an aunt. Was her single cameo appearance just some red herring? What about her bed-ridden uncle? Has this guy got his consciousness hooked up to a machine or what? Then there is the case of Ume and her bad back. It could be something big or it may just be trolling us since we are told nothing more about it. Because if it was never mentioned in the first place, I am very sure the story would have even gone by smoothly. It feels like it is foreboding something sinister in the future or a reason to make us worry and something to care about this housekeeper that would otherwise be a minor side character we will forget no matter how nice she is. After all, she is the only real family that Sakurako has got. This leads to the biggest question of them all: Who the heck is Sakurako’s fiancé?! For those who could even remember this, probably it is just something to get our hopes off in seeing any chemistry between Sakurako and Shoutarou. Besides, wouldn’t it be just odd to see a high school boy with an older woman? It is uncommon but it isn’t something you see every day. So this fiancé thingy might just be another lie to keep possible suitors off her back while she continues to happily indulge in digging up bones.

As much as I was hoping this series was produced by the anime studio Bones, not because I am a fan of that production house but rather so I can make a pun for this series (I know, it’s just distasteful), unfortunately this series is made by Troyca. It is a newly formed company and their only other anime it made as of today was Aldnoah.Zero. This aside, but I am impressed with some of the background and sceneries like the sakura petals floating and even the sunrays shining through. Although not perfectly a masterpiece, you can see its effect and it is quite mesmerizing and quite a welcome relief if watching a few bones will make you a little sick. Therefore sometimes Sakurako’s house that is filled with all her bone trophies might feel a bit like a horror house if you are not used to it. Talk about bone and spine chilling… Character designs might feel generic but hey, at least the ladies here look pretty. I mean, take a look at Sakurako. A beauty with brains. Who wouldn’t love a smart slender woman with long smooth black hair? Unless it’s a horror movie… I am not really a bone enthusiast so I am not sure if the bones are drawn to realism. But I don’t want to say bones look cool because I prefer not to look at them. Unless it is the chicken drumstick or lamb chop I just ate…

Voice acting is pretty okay considering this is a drama-like series. I only recognized Akira Ishida as Isozaki and Takehito Koyasu as Hanabusa. I couldn’t for Shizuka Itou as Sakurako but she did quite a splendid job in giving Sakurako the character as we know. The rest of the casts (recurring) are Junya Enoki as Shoutarou (Shion in Cardfight! Vanguard G), Ayaka Imamura as Yuriko (Miyabi in Absolute Duo), Hiroki Takahashi as Utsumi (Hisoka in Hunter x Hunter) and Masako Isobe as Ume (Amaterasu in Inari Kon Kon). The opening theme, Dear Answer by True sounds okay but nothing spectacular. But the ending theme, Uchiyoserareta Boukyaku No Zankyou Ni by Kiyoshioni MkII sounds a bit weird. Somewhat starting off like a slow piece that you’d hear singers sing in a lounge bar. Then it has those funny sounding synthesizer effects that make the song like a dreamy sequence. Probably to add to the mystery feel of the series but it just made me feel weirder.

Overall, the lack of mystery genre animes out there may be a factor for it to stand out among the crowded field of mindless action, mind numbing fanservice, ubiquitous high school romance, no-brainer slapstick comedy and other shonen, shoujo, yaoi, yuri series out there. But that itself doesn’t make this series all that great. Because if you are an avid mystery fan (I am not, by the way), you might be disappointed by some of the less than engaging mysteries that are no biggies in the first place. With some I read complaining about poorly written characters, a dozen episodes aren’t going to help do justice to the series. Especially when part and parcel of mystery series take time to build up strong cast of characters and the plot. I hope people won’t have a bone to pick with this series and make it a bone of contention ;p. And I certainly hope the only bones I will ever see are chicken bones, fish bones and livestock bones after a great meal. Yeah, some bones can taste real finger licking good ;p.

Thanks to my little stint in the survival genre especially the interesting and astonishing (albeit not perfect) Mirai Nikki, it was only a matter of time that I decided to dabble in another anime of the similar genre. After all, I already did mention in that blog of some of the anime titles of this genre that I would be interested to look at and it is no surprise that now I find myself drawn to watch Umineko No Naku Koro Ni. Without spoiling so much, it is about a family gathering that is more than just discussing about the distribution of the family’s head’s wealthy assets. The dying patriarch seems to be obsessed in reviving his dead lover believed to be a witch and the main ingredients of resurrecting a witch is, you guessed it, sacrifice. With the deadly storm entrapping the family on the island, they are forced to fend themselves in a battle that hovers between fantasy and reality.

Episode 1: Opening
Kinzou Ushiromiya has about 3 months to live. He seems to be desperate for Beatrice’s smile and would return everything just to have that again. The other Ushiromiya family members gather on their private island, Rokkenjima for their annual family gathering. We are introduced to several characters of the family from uncles and aunties (Krauss, Hideyoshi, Rudolf, Eva, Kyrie, Natsuhi, Rosa) to young relatives and cousins (Battler, Jessica, George, Maria) to the servants (Chiyo Kumasawa, Genji Ronoue, Kanon, Shannon, Toshiro Gouda). There is a big portrait that Battler notices. She is Beatrice the Witch. Their grandpa and family head Kinzou believes in the existence of witches. Family history reveals that the Ushiromiya was a prosperous family owning many mills till the great earthquake wiped everything out and killed many of the family members. Kinzou was tasked in rebuilding everything and he used his wealth and extreme luck to turn the tables around to make the family prosperous again. It is rumoured that he made a contract with Beatrice to sell his soul in exchange for 10 tonnes of gold which is equivalent to 20 billion Yen. Battler thinks it is a whole lot of bull but Maria really believes in it. Meanwhile the adults are beginning to talk about money and inheritance. Something about embezzlement of funds and it ends with Natsuhi being berated by Eva due to some family status thingy. The siblings try to gang up on Krauss and make him agree to their several conditions in exchange to let him handle the distribution of the assets. But Krauss knows a bit of their other shady dealings and shuts them up. Unfortunately he has no money to help them and suggests they solve Beatrice’s epitaph instead. Maria gives a scorpion pendant as protection against Beatrice. Then they try to find her marked rose lost in the garden. Because she is making a very irritating noise, her mom Rosa tells her to shut up and since she remains persistent, she slaps her! The rest can’t get involved in this personal family problem and furious Rosa just leaves Maria to do as she wishes. A big storm arrives and Kinzou believes Beatrice has come. Time to begin the miraculous banquet. When Maria has not returned, they go find her. Thankfully she is safe but where did she get the umbrella? Beatrice gave it to her.

Episode 2: First Move
Everyone wonders who gave Maria the umbrella if none of the servants did. Then Maria takes out a letter she says Beatrice gave to her to read aloud to everyone. The letter has Kinzou’s seal on it. Maria is somewhat possessed as she reads the letter. It states that the contract with Kinzou has ended and therefore her resignation as special advisor. Thus they must return all the gold she has given and she will also take the family’s wealth. However Kinzou left a special clause as a chance for them to retain their wealth and honour. If they can find the hidden gold, this condition will be revoked and Beatrice will forgo everything that is due to her. This game is open to everyone so not only family members have the right. Of course Kinzou’s children do not agree with this as they have not heard about this and try to reach the patriarch but he locks himself inside his room. Battler’s mom, Kyrie talks to her son about the possible 19th person on this island. If that person wanted to hide his/her anonymity, why go all the trouble to deliver it to Maria? Could it be that Beatrice is one of the 18 just to create an illusion that someone outside the 18 exists? Battler’s dad, Rudolf has something to tell his family but he thinks he will be killed tonight. Krauss shows his wife Natsuhi a gold bar in his possession that Kinzou was believed to have received from Beatrice. The servants are given midnight shifts to guard the guests. There have been romantic trysts between George and Shannon. He gives her an engagement ring and wants her to give a reply by tomorrow.

The next morning, Kanon notices Gouda is not as his station. There are also a few people missing. The phone lines are cut so Genji wakes up Natsuhi. The first shock she sees are blood handprints all over her door. She wants to go see Kinzou so Genji gives her the key to enter his study. Kinzou does not want to be disturbed although he asks her if she longs to be with her old family despite being married into the Ushiromiya for quite some time. She notes her family is the one and only Ushiromiya and will protect the family’s honour and glory. Kinzou replies despite she does not qualify to wear the One Winged Eagle, she has already engraved it in her heart and without a doubt a blood relative, one who will inherit the glory of the family. Genji reports something strange at the garden shed. They see a strange circle like the ones used to summon demons painted all over it. When Genji gets the family doctor, Terumasa Nanjou, the teens see them hurrying away and follow them to the shed. To everyone’s horror, there are 5 dead bodies (Krauss, Rudolf, Kyrie, Gouda and Shannon). Their faces have been ripped off. There is a sixth body at the back (Rosa). Jessica is horrified her dad Krauss is dead while George may be getting the same feeling after seeing a familiar engagement ring on a finger of one of the corpses.

Episode 3: Dubious Move
Hideyoshi asks George the last time he saw Shannon’s face. He remembers her tender smile. He wants him to remember it that way (because certainly he doesn’t want to remember this terrified look before death on her face). The dining hall is also filled with blood and messed up. When they question Maria about the circle. She becomes possessed as she explains about the seventh magic circle of the sun that bestows the power to escape from restraints and gain freedom. As the radio is out, they cannot do anything until the boat arrives tomorrow. This means they are still stuck with the killer on this island. But Maria notes the killer is not human. It is suggested to stick together as they look for Kinzou who is now missing. Battler confirms that there is only one key to the shed and no duplicates. If it was nicely put back to where it was, doesn’t this mean the killer is among one of them and a person who knows this mansion well? Eva then talks to Battler about the possibility the servants may be the culprits and the possibility of more than one. Battler doesn’t think so because why go all the trouble to commit this flashy gruesome murder and put on more suspicions on themselves? Eva is glad over Battler’s calm composure because this means he doesn’t suspect her family. She is the only sibling left and stands to gain the most out of it. But she notes if she was going to commit this crime, she would have done it better and wouldn’t make herself a suspect. Battler talks to the servants about Beatrice. They really believe she exists and has come. Asking about how she looks like, they say she has no form and the portrait is when she takes human form. Before Battler can go crazy, Maria intervenes. She says Battler does not have the same wavelength and that is why he cannot see Beatrice. He is only alive because the scorpion pendant protected him. However he turns the tables that he wasn’t holding it last night and lost it. He still doesn’t believe this witch crap thingy.

Battler then theorizes that the culprit may want to make it look like a witch did it. Although George did theorize that Beatrice might be taking their lives as part of the interest because Kinzou used the gold to build back the empire and thus their lives are connected to it. Battler believes the culprit might be holding Kinzou hostage somewhere and threatening to kill each of the family member unless he reveals the hidden gold. That is why the culprit wants them to find the gold to make it easier for the culprit to steal. When Eva asks who last saw Kinzou, Natsuhi admits and returns the key to Genji. Eva then reveals something. After Natsuhi left the study, she placed a paper between the doors. After they return from the murder scene to find Kinzou. The paper is still there. It means Kinzou has never left. He is missing because Natsuhi killed him and dumped his body outside the window and hide it later. Natsuhi threatens to shoot her for this accusation and Eva dares her. Battler deduces Eva’s theory as wrong. It could have been Kinzou was hiding while they return to look for him and then left the place. Eva disagrees of why Kinzou would do something so odd so Battler points out that Eva did the odd thing too by placing that paper. Jessica wants Eva to prove she didn’t kill everyone last night before doubting her mom. Eva and Hideyoshi retire to their room. Eva admits she always picked on Natsuhi because she hated Krauss since young. When Genji knocks on their door for dinner, there is no answer. Fearing the worst, he opens it with a spare key. A chain prevents the door from opening fully. Kanon returns with a cutter (by this time a pentacle is written on the door with blood). They see Eva dead on the bed and Hideyoshi dead in the bathtub. Both have been stabbed between the forehead.

Episode 4: Blunder
George is devastated his parents are killed. After locking the door, they smell something foul. Kanon goes to investigate the stench originating from the boiler. Battler and Jessica contemplate how the culprit killed Eva and Hideyoshi in this locked room mystery. Maria interjects to say Beatrice did it. This is to show proof that no humans can do it. Each time Maria laughs, Battler knocks her head! As for the pentacle, is supposed to open any unlocked door. Kanon is inside the boiler and calls out to Beatrice that he will be the one to stop her summoning. He gets stabbed in the chest. The rest arrive. Battler thinks the culprit escaped via the doors. He tries to follow but eventually gives up. The foul stench is a corpse in the furnace. It belongs to Kinzou. Genji knows it is him because he has 6 toes on each foot. Also, they notice his family ring is missing. Kanon is treated by Nanjou but looks like he didn’t make it. Jessica is sad because she likes him. At this point, they are assuming the culprit has the master key to all the rooms. Battler even thinks that the culprit may be one of the dead. Because their faces were ripped off, there was no telling if it was them and the corpse might be replaced with a similar one. Feeling they cannot be safe in any room, Genji thinks there is one: Kinzou’s study. Maria points out Beatrice cannot open this door because there is that scorpion symbol on it that blocks her magic. Learning that Natsuhi had one hung from her door, Maria says it is the reason why Beatrice couldn’t get to her. There is a letter from Kinzou that states to glorify his name.

Asking about this Beatrice person if she really exists, Genji reveals she is Kinzou’s lover who died so he might have dabbled in black magic to revive her. Genji also adds that they have no children. Jessica heard that Kinzou donated lots of amount to an establishment for orphans in which he used them as experiments for this ritual. Then it hit Battler about the sacrifice. They go take a look at the epitaph. Currently everything that is stated there has turned out true. At the end, all will die to bring back Beatrice. Could it be that this family gathering is just a big sacrifice? When Maria points a letter from Beatrice on the table, Natsuhi becomes defensive. While pointing her gun at Genji, Chiyo, Nanjou and Maria, she believes one of them is the culprit who placed the letter while the rest were looking at the epitaph. She has Battler read its contents. It states for them to give up any hope of leaving this place. Either she wins or they all win. Natsuhi wants the culprit to confess or she will assume all of them are in cohorts and have them leave the room. Battler then throws his charm to Maria. He lied that he had lost it just to contradict her. After that, Battler notices a drawing on the letter’s next page. Researching it, it shows that it is a sign to deceive and separate others. Looks like they have fallen into the enemy’s trap. Then the phone rings. Natsuhi picks up and hears a girl singing. They leave the room to look for the rest. In a room, the adults are dead and Maria is singing alone at a corner.

Episode 5: Fool’s Mate
I thought everyone would suspect Maria as the killer. But apparently they want to know who killed them. You mean lolis can’t be killers? Maria says it was Beatrice. This has Battler blow his top so George tries a gentler approach. Maria explains that Beatrice came in via her butterfly form and thus locked doors are no hindrance. As Maria was holding the charm, she won’t kill her and instead told her to face the wall and sing. That was all she did. It is then they realize Natsuhi is missing. She has run out and blocked the door. She is calling out to Beatrice and wants to face her. By the time the kids break down the door, Natsuhi is shot in the forehead. She couldn’t have killed herself, could she? Yeah, it’s Beatrice. Maria now praises the Beatrice portrait and now that all the conditions have been fulfilled, Beatrice will revi