Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Jigoku Shoujo Ep. 17

Episode title: 硝子ノ風景 (Garasu no Fuukei: The Window Scene)

Tsugumi and Nina
Creepy eyes
"Touch my hair," Nina says
Enma Ai watches close by... is she concerned?
Ai's helpers wonder what's up

Hajime and Tsugumi head toward another Jigoku Shoujo case. Tsugumi has had a vision of a girl saying, "help me." The road is foggy, however, and Tsugumi has misgivings... she hates the fog because she's afraid of what's hidden. They hear music box tones (Bach's "Air") and see a shadowy figure on the road and Hajime brakes. Tsugumi goes into an Ai trance and says, "Don't go... return..." The place they have stopped though, is a sanatorium, but it looks like no one's there. Tsugumi's creeped out and wishes to leave. But they go to the room where Tsugumi's had a vision, but she said it's a little different. They are about to return, but they see a girl with long blond hair and bright blue eyes. She's called Nina. Tsugumi introduces herself and Hajime. "He's my father," she says (funny, cause she always calls him "Hajime-chan."). "How nice," says Nina, "to have a father..."

At a table in the garden, she explains that she's the only patient there, that her father left her. Hajime says he's seen no staff or doctors, but she says they exist, and points to a walkway and sure enough, they see a nurse. Hajime says he'll go and greet them and runs off, but he can't find the nurse he'd just seen. He goes to a room and sees the back of what looks like a doctor. He's horrified to see that the doctor seems to be extracting blood from a vial that also contains a catapillar.

While Hajime was off chasing phantoms, Nina and Tsugumi continue to talk. Tsugumi comments how beautiful Nina's eyes are and how beautiful her hair his. "You can touch it," she says. She reluctantly does so. Suddenly Nina grabs Tsugumi's arm. "How warm," she says. "How can she be so cold!" thinks Tsugumi. Hajime returns and says that he couldn't find anyone. Nina says the director often leaves on business. Nina invites them to sleep over, as there are many beds. Hajime says that they have reservations at a nearby hotel and say they'll leave, but Nina says they can't leave with the thick fog. Suddenly, the fog gets heavier and encroaches in. They have no choice but to stay.

Later, Hajime and Tsugumi are having tea by themselves. Hajime speculates about Nina (among the things he said was that Nina's got to be the one trying to make a contract with the Jigoku Shoujo, but that there were no PCs in sight in the Sanatorium), but Tsugumi doesn't want to hear any more. She's feeling stressed and scared and wants to leave.

Meanwhile, both Ai and her helpers had been watching the trio. Her helpers comment how Hajime and Tsugumi had shown up once again and that he must have gotten tipped off. They conclude that it must be from Ai herself, albeit subconsciously, and they wonder why. "I don't understand her, lately," says Hone Onna.

We see Ai facing Nina. "Jigoku Shoujo....you're late. I got tired of waiting," says Nina. "I can't accept your request," says Ai. "What do you mean? You're supposed to grant vengence. That's your job, right?" replies Nina angrily. "I can't clear your hatred," says Ai and fades into a wall. "Wait! Jigoku Shoujo!" says Nina. Hajime and Tsugumi had been approaching the room and hearing that, run into her room. "Liar..." says Nina. "By 'Jigoku Shoujo' do you mean..." starts Hajime. "Forget it," says Nina, "I don't care anymore. Because now... I have.." and she looks at Tsugumi and smiles evily. Tsugumi reels back in fright. "I'm hungry," says Nina, "Let's go eat something." She leads them to the dining hall and Hajime and Tsugumi are surprised to see food laid out on a table.

Imaginably, Hajime and Tsugumi are feeling weirded out, but Nina lightheartedly entreats them to eat and laughs musically. Tsugumi lets out a half hearted laugh and Hajime says he'll get the tea. "Your father's so nice," says Nina, "Unlike mine. My father left me here and died." "And your mother," says Tsugumi. "My mother? I don't know anything about my mother." Hajime brings the tea and asks her if she's accessed the Jigoku Tsushin. Nina replies that she has and that her target was her father because ever since he abandoned here, she's had hatred for him and wanted him sent to hell. "But now, it's okay... because now Tsugumi's here... and now I have a new father." Hajime is taken aback. "You'll stay with me forever right? You won't make me feel lonely, right?" "What are you saying, Nina-chan," says Tsugumi. "Nina-chan, we've just come here to say hello to the director, that's all," adds Hajime. "There's no director," says Nina, "I'm the only one here. The three of us will live here as a family, right?" She touches Tsugumi's arm and she jerks away and runs to Hajime's side. "What's wrong," says Nina. "Stay away!" says Tsugumi. "The same, says Nina... you're the same as my father..."

(At this point, my girlfriend, who got bored from watching regular TV, changed to the tuner and switched channels to the Discovery Channel. In horror, I grabbed the remote from her and switched the channel back the Kids Station, which airs Jigoku Shoujo... so I missed about 10 seconds of action...)

Hajime and Tsugumi are running away, but notices that Tsugumi's face is made up by vines. The vines shoot out and wrap around Hajime, choking him. Suddenly, several knife-like magical shuriken strike the back of vine-Tsugumi and it screams and burns. Hone Onna and Wanyuudo are on the far side of the hall. "Even though it's Mistress Ai's orders, to think that I'm helping this man..." she complains. Meanwhile, Tsugumi is outside the building, running toward the trees. She sees a figure that looks like Hajime and runs to him, but sees that his face is made up of vines. She faints and the vine-Hajime and Nina bend down toward Tsugumi. "You'll come with me," says Nina. Suddenly, a figure swoops down, grabs Tsugumi and leaves away. It's Ichimoku Ren. Vine-Hajime stretches out his arm and vines shoot out, choking Ichimoku Ren. A large eye opens up on his head, flashes golden, then a tornado like wind appears around Ichimoku Ren and Tsugumi. They disappear.

Hajime finds Tsugumi unconscious on a bench, and takes her. Ichimoku's eye is watching from a wall and closes, satisfied. Hajime takes Tsugumi and they are trying to start their car, but it won't, in true Hollywood fashion. The engiine finally starts, but as he steps on the gas, vines grab ahold of the car and Nina approaches. Her fingers flow through the window, vines choke Hajime, and Nina chokes Tsugumi herself. Ai appears. "Stop it," she says. Hajime sees her and blacks out.

"You didn't clear away my hatred," says Nina, "I have no more business with you! Don't interfere!" "Don't involve others." "It's their fault!" says Nina, "They were going me leave me alone again... just like my father did." "You are not Nina," says Ai. "What are you talking about? I'm Nina!" she says. "Remember," says Ai, "your Master died." We see flashbacks of Nina dying on a hospital bed, and "Nina" remembers.

Hajime and Tsugumi awaken, and the sanatorium looks run down. They go to Nina's room and the music box plays. The room is in tatters. "This is it," says Tsugumi, "The scene that I had a vision of." They see a blond, blue-eyed doll on the chair. We see a flashback of Nina looking out the window, pleading out loud for her father to return. The doll had observed and absorbed the memories and deep feelings. Tsugumi understands and hugs the doll. It turns to dust and the eyes roll on the ground. The scene cuts to Ai sitting on her porch of her house, looking pensive. What's she thinking of, I wonder...

That was an awesome episode...

Some pics (click to enlarge):
Vine-Tsugumi attacks
Hajime's in trouble
Hone Onna makes a good ninja
Vine-Hajime attacks
Ai and Nina face off
An old photo of Nina and her doll
Tsugumi holds the doll
An eye rolls on the floor
Ai is pensive

Monday, January 30, 2006

R2 Orgy January

Got some manga, novels, and DVDs this month. Note to self: don't go to Yokohama Yodobashi Camera... their anime DVD and CD selections suck. Kawasaki Yodobashi Camera was better, but I also had to go to Shinseido for the Jigoku Shoujo DVD. Next time I better go to Akihabara....

Anyway, here are the goodies: (click on the images to enlarge)
The latest Bleach manga tank and Shakugan no Shana no Subete (Encyclopedia). The Shana Encyclopedia has character profiles, novel summaries, and a "database." A valuable resource for understanding and peeking ahead to the stories.
Here's a color fold out from the Shana Encyclopedia
Here's another foldout
I finally bought me a melon bread because Shana likes it so much... it's not that great, but it's not as bad as I had imagined it'd be.
Here are the latest goodies: Clockwise from top left: Mai Otome DVD vol. 1, Jigoku Shoujo DVD 1 (along with bonus transparency), Jigoku Shoujo Soundtrack CD, Shakugan no Shana novels vols. 5, 9, and 10, and Shakugan no Shana DVD vol. 1
The Jigoku Shoujo DVD, hard cover casing, and the transparency
Inside the Jigoku Shoujo DVD: the insert, disc, and Hanafuda cards
Inside the Shakugan no Shana DVD: Insert, disc, soft "pencilboard" and 2 month calendar (April and May; May is on the other side)
Collage of color images from the Shana novels
Another collage from the Shana novels
Foldout color image of the previous Enpatsu Shakugan no Uchite, Mathilde Saint-Omer and my favorite Flame Haze Wirhelmina Carmel

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Blood + Episode 16

Episode title: Siberian Express

Basic plot: Saya & co. head toward Europe via the Siberian Express train through Europe. Along the way, they get attacked by yokushuu. Pics and detailed spoiler below:

Screenshots (click to enlarge):
They meet Red Shield's Russian agent, Liza.
Riku and Haji help an elderly woman with her luggage
Notice her ring... they made it a point to make the jewel flash
Anyway, Saya's happy to see Riku's honest kindness
A shot of Julia... well, because ^_~
Saya's so cute
The nude body of a woman is thrown off the train... blood drips from bite marks on her neck
Later, Liza walks into her room... hmm... where did she get that ring?
Saya makes no hesitation to battle the yokushuu who make an unwelcome appearance on the train
Haji battles one of them
A surprise move from Saya
Lost in the snow

Story summary:
Elizabetha (Liza), a Red Shield member in Russia, welcome Saya and the rest. They will take the Trans-Siberian railway to get to Ekatarinburg (dunno why). They see an elderly woman struggling with her bag and Riku goes over and offers to help. He slips, though, but Haji is there to catch him. Haji takes the luggage on board and Riku takes the hand of the old lady (and we see she's wearing an ornate ring with a large blue stone) to help her on board.

Onboard, Kai is complaining loudly about the compartment seatings... he rants about Saya being with Haji. David thinks that's the best, but because he keeps whining, they change rooms... and Kai ends up with Haji in the same compartment... he's still not happy, of course. Lewis thinks having Kai along is a barrel of laughs, and David chides him for being too relaxed. "Why, there are no yokushuu in Russia, right?" he says. "No, it just means there have been no reportings of any yet."

The next day, they are eating in the dining compartment. Lewis has received a box of chocolates as a bribe to introduce Julia and Liza to two young men, but Liza shoots them down. Riku spots the old lady he helped the other day and asks if she wants to join them. Haji graciously gives up his seat so that she can sit with them. They exchange pleasentries and destination points. At the other table, Liza explains that why she became a red shield member (she was the soul survivor from a massacre by yokushuu). She leaves the table.

In the evening, we see Liza in the bathroom taking off an earring... she turns her head as if she feels a presense behind her. The scene cuts to the racing train, then a nude body of a short haired woman gets thrown off the train. The camera pans to her head, and we see bite marks on her neck.

Meanwhile, Saya is in Julia's room and Saya's hooked up to a blood transfusion bag (don't know if Julia's collecting or giving). Saya asks if Julia knows anything about her past, especially Vietnam, but Julia evades answering her question. She said she doesn't know for sure; all she has are Saya's records. She says it'd be best if Saya remembered her memories herself.

Meanwhile, Haji's playing his cello, and motions to Riku to give it a try. Riku is happy at the chance and Haji gives him gentle instructions.

Liza enters the room she shares with Julia and sees Saya. Julia says they're using her bed and Saya apologizes. "Don't worry about it," replies Liza, brushing back her hair. She's wearing an ornate ring with a blue jewel.

In another compartment, we see the two young men that tried to get themselves introduced to Julia and Liza. They're writhing in pain on their beds. There are empty vials and hyperdermic needles on the floor nearby. Their bodies begin to change. Saya, Riku, and Haji hear something and they burst out of their rooms. A yokushuu charge them from the far side of the train aisle. Saya holds out her hand and says, "Haji." He gives her her sword. She closes her eyes, and when she opens them, she is in fighting mode. She attacks the yokushuu, but another one attacks from behind her. Haji blocks it and they each take on a yokushuu. They fight all over the train and David tells them to keep away from the passenger areas. Kai wants a gun from David, but doesn't get one this episode. Haji and Saya are separated in combat and they focus on Haji's fight on top of the train. He gets wounded and the yokushuu rushes him. Haji gets his demon hand ready and is about to take it head on when he hears Saya's voice in his head and he withdraws. A sword appears suddenly through the roof of the train and cuts the yokushuu cleanly in the head. It crystalizes and dies shortly after.

Saya comes out into an open car and Julia, Lewis, and Liza are there. "Is everyone okay?" Saya asks. Liza stares at the tip of Saya's sword. "Saya's... blood," she half whispers. Suddenly, Kai and David runs toward them. "It's coming!" yells Kai, and then a door flies towards them. A yokushuu charges them and Lewis fires heavy duty rounds at it. It seems to fall off, and Lewis thinks he got it, but David says it's not over. Sure enough, it's hanging on and tries to climb back on board. David fires more shots point blank at it, and it falls. They can hear the wheels/rails of the train shreading it to pieces. Lewis thinks it's over, but Riku screams as the upper half of the yokushuu has appeared on his side of the car. Saya rushes forward and slashes it, but it grabs Riku's leg and he begins to fall. Saya slashes off the arm, but she falls off the train. Riku's falling too, but Haji jumps, pulls him into his arms, shielding Riku from harm as they fall. Kai screams and tries to go after them, but David stops him. They are distracted by Julia who shouts Liza's name. Liza has also jumped off the train. David orders Lewis to have them stop the train, and later they're searching for Saya, Riku, Haji, and Liza. We see Saya unconscious in the snow and the show ends.

Comments: There were a lot more action than I thought there would be. And Saya actually used some brains while fighting in this one! Also, it looks like Haji has a soft spot for Riku. It struck me that he could turn into a surrogate father figure for him. Saya's determination is showing through as she's become more accustomed to fighting. I don't like how the members of Red Shield won't tell her anything of her past. Finally, I dislike how they disregard the reality of language difficulties. It's amazing how they can communicate with everyone in Vietnam and now here in Russia. As a teacher of English to Japanese students, I know how hard it is for them to get up to a working conversational level... oh well, maybe Red Shield has some Star Trek Universal Translators stitched on to their clothing or something...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Shakugan no Shana 16

Episode title: Enpatsu Shakugan no Uchite

Wow... an awesome conclusion to the flashback/birth of Shana as Flame Haze arc... or the "why Shana likes melon bread so much" arc. ^_^ Incidentally, I finally bought melon bread for the first time and ate it for breakfast. It was not as bad as I always thought it would be, but not as good as Shana claims. Of course, if were Wilhelmina getting the melon bread for me, it would be a different story. ^_^

Anyway, back to the story: it was battles galore: Wilhelmina vs. Orgon's knights, Mirihim vs. Orgon, Shana vs. Tenmoku Ikko, and Mirihim vs. Shana. Plus we got flashbacks to the last days of the previous Enpatsu Shakugan and her relationships with Mirihim and Wilhelmina. Also, we learn about Tenmoku Ikko's origins. And alas, Shana and Wilhelmina part ways.

Pics (click to enlarge) and story details to follow:
Wilhelmina in serious battle mode
Shana gives it her all
Trying to hit Tenmoku Ikko's weak spot
The Tomogara Bel-Peol realizes one of her minions is lost
The previous Enpatsu Shakugan, Mathilde-Saint-Omer
Wilhelmina before she donned the maid outfit
Mirihim and Wilhelmina's obligation to the Enpatsu Shakugan
Mirihim and Shana battle
Pics of Shana's childhood
Ooh... ah... kinda makes me wanna get more melon...bread
One last childhood scene
Tender partings
This week's eyecatch

Details (spoilers):
Wilhelmina makes quick work of Orgon's knights. She tells him a new Enpatsu Shakugan is in the process of being born, and because he knows, she can't let Orgon escape. He is incredulous at the thought that she'd think that he'd run (he has a big head and overestimates his own abilities). But Wilhelmina says it won't be her or the new Enpatsu Shakugan who'll defeat him... Orgon gets hit by rainbow colored energy and Shiro the skeleton walks up (I guess he could heal himself after being cut in half by Tenmoku Ikko). Suddenly, flesh appears, and Shiro turns into a long-haired bishounen. Orgon is surprised to see him and the bishounen calls Orgon his former teacher. The bishounen is actually a former tomogara called "Niji no Tsubasa Mirihim" (Rainbow Wing Mirhim). Mirihim quickly destroys Orgon (off camera). In among these scenes, there are flashbacks to the previous Enpatsu Shakugan saying goodbye to Wilhelmina so that she can fight her final battle.

Inside the buildings, Tenmoku Ikko and Shana face off. Vine is still squirming around so Tenmoku Ikko devours him (I think... the video is kinda dark). Tenmoku Ikko reveals that he'd become a Mistes on his own, taking his own life and inbuing his spirit into the armor and sword. His quest was to find and fight the strong. Shana sees that his will is similar to hers. She'd decided to become a Flame Haze on her own will and thus welcomes this battle. Shana is thrilled with the power of a Flame Haze, makes a tactical error but escapes, then decides to stake the duel on one powerful blow in what she hopes is his weak spot. Gathering her energy, she strikes.

Meanwhile, Mirihim and Wilhelmina face each other after he's killed Orgon. He says that he has one last duty to fulfil... that he's lived on this long for this purpose... as it is for Wilhelmina. He heads toward the building where Shana is at. Wilhelmina says softly that it's different for her. She calls him a bastard... back then and now (she loves him). There's a flashback that shows that the Enpatsu Shakugan Mithilde Saint-Omer has defeated Mirihim in battle. She says as the victor, she can lay conditions so that he can live on. She makes him promise that he'll eat no more souls, cause no more mischief, and that he'd help give birth to the next Enpatsu Shakugan. She smiles and walks away. Wilhelmina is there and tries to touch Mirihim but he tells her not too. He says that both of them are bound to the last oath and he turns into a skeletal form. (Note: though Wilhelmina loved Mirihim, he loved Mathilde instead.)

The Tendou Kyu begins to fall apart. Shana regains conciousness, and she sees that she's defeated Tenmoku Ikko. She takes his sword so that together they can fulfill both destinies. She feels Shiro's presense and Mirihim appears. They battle, and while doing so, he teaches the way how Tomogara fight. They attack each other at full force and Shana is the victor. In the end, he smiles and Shana shouts something, but is lost in the noise (I imagine it's something like, "itcha dame!" or "shinja dame!" or "ikkanaide"... basically something like "don't die").

Wilhelmina is waiting outside and runs toward Shana when she emerges safely. "I'm looking at the new age," she says. Later, they are at a seashore watching the sunset. There are flashbacks to Shana's happy childhood with Wilhelmina. Wilhelmina says that they have to part, but Shana should be alright. She has one last melon bread for Shana and begins to warn her about eating too much sweets, when Shana half hugs her. Wilhelmina puts her arms around Shana and says, "I'd like to be hugged de arimasu." Of course Shana complies.

The scene returns back to the present with Yuuji and Shana sitting on a bench eating melon bread. "So why do you like melon bread so much?" he asks. "I'm not gona tell!" she says and runs off. End of episode.

Ah, that was a sweet arc. I'm sad to see it finish, and I'm sad that I won't be able to see Wilhelmina Carmel... she's my favorite character so far. Fortunately, it looks like she'll return later (the fourth arc after this) ... though it looks like it could be as an enemy...