Prison School c. 209-211 impressions

April 3rd, 2016

I tackled the character development of Mari with regard to her misandry in my last post. Although Mari is still, quite definitely, wary of men, she recognizes Kiyoshi’s ability and has grown very reliant on him. He had literally died during chapter 209, because Hana, in an act of desperation, not only exposed him wearing panties: she also exposed his penis in fron of the school’s thousand girls. The same chapter established that Kiyoshi’s heart belongs to only Chiyo: he bemoaned during his death that he couldn’t tell her he liked her. There are no other women in his life, and this was supported by the fact that in his resurrection the following chapter, the rest of the women he knew were merely breasts to him.

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Chapter 209 ended very bleakly. Kiyoshi has just died, while the only person Kiyoshi loves called him a disgusting pervert. Akira Hanamoto, being a masterful writer, however, turns it all around in the succeeding chapter. Chiyo greatly respects Kiyoshi because she believed (and was partly right) that the panties were all his plan to throw the Kibasen into chaos. Mari manifests her intelligence by performing precordial thumps on Kiyoshi, who eventually comes to his senses exhibiting quirky behavior. He has become Death, the destroyer of worlds: his exposure ensures that he will be seen in the school as a pariah, and my interpretation is that he goes on simply because in a previous chapter, he asked for Mari’s blessing with regard to Chiyo, and she acceded to his request. In addition, since despite his perversions he has a heroic nature, he plays with the boys who wish for the reinstatement of the wet T-shirt contest. His resurection brings about his fearlessness. I think that his ‘Let us go,’ simply means that he wishes to go all the way for Mari and for the boys’ sake: like Mari, he no longer has anything to lose as well. Besides, as he’s assured of Chiyo’s sister support, he just wishes to complete his task.

211, I think, is the nadir of his social reputation. Not only is he unable to put his penis inside the striped panties, he is actually empowered from it. Kate succinctly and accurately interprets their condition: even if the USC will win, they will no longer demand a following. Mari has fallen from grace, and Kiyoshi’s hijinks will be inexorably connected with her.

Impressions:

I don’t know what to expect anymore. It will definitely be a Pyrrhic victory for any side, but I can’t see Kiyoshi and Mari escaping from prison this time.

Mari x Kiyoshi: pictures paint a novel

March 17th, 2016

I have committed a grave error against Mari in my write-up yesterday. Redditor necktie_13 mentioned that most of Mari’s reactions with regard to Kiyoshi were unspoken, and that led me to a gaffe in analysis. Because I’m very used to textual analysis, I didn’t pay too much attention toward Mari’s facial reactions in regard to Kiyoshi. However, Mari’s interaction with him have gained a considerable amount of softness. Prior to even the incidence between them with the snakes, Mari subtly has already modified her perspective towards Kiyoshi during their conversation in chapter 112.

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Instead of berating Kiyoshi, she understands that he was truly trying to help Meiko as she fell off the ladder without any intention of harassing her.

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Another notable interaction between the two of them occur during the chapter with the snakes (chapter 120): while he was bitten by a viper, Mari was actually reminded of her father with Kiyoshi. Despite the fact that their relations have soured during her time in Hachimitsu, it’s undeniable that her perspective of males is being slowly rehabilitated because of Kiyoshi. Chapter 118 also shows her being visibly flustered at the thought that (surprise!) not all men are out to only have sex with or use women.

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Her flustered appearance is once again repeated in chapter 121, when Kiyoshi vows to save her above himself.

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Her emotional investment in Kiyoshi percolated through the next few chapters until chapter 124, where she slaps him because he wanted to grope her before dying as he believe he was poisoned. This was no longer the distant Mari, aloof from all men. She felt offended — more importantly, however, she asked Kiyoshi for forgiveness because she had started to understand him, not as a piece of garbage, but as a person.

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She becomes more willing to have physical contact with him, even if that were because of a reward.

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By chapter 129, she smiles openly in front of Kiyoshi.

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Later on, in fact, she once again loses her composure when Kiyoshi attempts to send a message to the men.

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She blushes for the first time while asking forgiveness from Kiyoshi a second time in chapter 131. When we are embarrassed with the person we treasure, we blush. People don’t blush towards people they don’t take emotional stock in: people blush towards people they give a damn about.

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And, of course, after affecting her escape, she speaks to Kiyoshi in chapter 166. Her perspective of him has clearly transformed: he is at the very least a good friend, but it seems that he may become so much more. Particularly telling is the ninth page of their conversation: instead of ‘we,’ she rephrases her answer toward Kiyoshi: ‘once this battle is over, take me out to eat some delicious yakiniku, Kiyoshi.’

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When Kiyoshi touches her breast in chapter 204, she doesn’t even react in an overly violent manner. She slaps him, but actually slaps him harder when he was fondling Meiko.

Finally, in chapter 205, both Hana and Mari affect shock when Kiyoshi tells them he’d confess to Chiyo.

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She shows disappointment.

Hers is probably the slowest tale of love to develop among the three characters Kiyoshi has had protracted interactions with, but it’s also equally tragic as Hana’s. They started off being biased against him, yet despite that he proved them wrong and showed them his propriety every time. While she still has to overcome her misandry, it’s clear that the snow queen’s heart has already melted. Sadly, her king is in love with her sister.

Transactional psychology in Prison School, or, why Chiyo will win

March 16th, 2016

I. Introduction

It has been more than six months since my last anime-related blog post. I have as much consistency as a schizophrenic does with his thinking. It’s been a few years since I have written volubly regarding anime. I’m not making any excuses: it’s not as if it’s surprising that working as a medical doctor takes a lot of time away from writing and enjoying anime. I’ve never really stopped watching anime, although I do it sparingly nowadays. I was still able to watch Zankyou no Terror recently, and while I planned a write-up on that one, it never really materialized because of its disappointing ending. I just think it would have been a better anime if it focused on Nine and Twelve and the girl in their quest for truth rather than introduce a confounder into the series which is counterproductive because the series is short at only 12 episodes.

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I wasn’t as passionate with that series as this one that I just finished watching. I have spent the better part of two days devouring everything I could on Prison School. I came for the fun and the tits, but I stayed for the story: I say this with a straight face because the story has great insight on abnormal psychology. I am heavily invested in this series: I recall it was when Tatami Galaxy aired that I was this involved with a series, so it’s been a very long time. My only problem now is that I have to wait for the future chapters of the manga, although the chapter the manga is at during this article’s writing (ch. 208) is a great spot to elaborate my thoughts on the series. Read the rest of this entry »

Cure (1997 film): among the best horror films I’ve seen

October 25th, 2015

I’m not a big fan of horror films. I’m tired of the genre’s reliance on in-your-face spooks and special effects. I’ve watched Cure twice, however. It’s undeniably a horror film, but the events that occur within it are situated in the real world. It’s also a mentally-challenging thriller.

Other review sites had already summarized the events in the film, so I won’t do it again. Since the film is open to interpretation, however, I’m going to write about mine and corroborate it with evidence.

Spoilers are below.

I think that Takabe was never completely mesmerized by Mamiya. That’s one of the central questions of the film. Since I don’t have a psychology textbook with me, I used a bit of Wikipedia. Hypnotic suggestion is dependent on the person. While most of the killers in the filmed may have medium susceptibility to hypnotic suggestion, Takabe had shown a strong resistance to Mamiya’s suggestion.

This is the first time Takabe knocks down Mamiya's lighter.

This is the first time Takabe knocks down Mamiya’s lighter.

Most of the first half of the movie presented how Mamiya was able to hypnotize the people who eventually performed murder. He usually utilizes the lighter in a one-on-one environment to draw the murderers in. Barring that, as with the case of the female physician, he uses the person’s reflection and the sound of flowing water, but it takes significantly more time to totally mesmerize the person.

The second time that Takabe knocks down Mamiya's lighter while daring Mamiya to hypnotize him.

The second time that Takabe knocks down Mamiya’s lighter while daring Mamiya to hypnotize him.

On my second viewing I looked at the size of the water puddle on the floor to estimate how much time lay between the water dropping through the ceiling and the hall guard entering the room. Since the film doesn’t go out of its way to be supernatural, I believe that a puddle that size would probably take between thirty seconds to a minute to grow to that size. Takabe is also very immersed in his pursuit of the serial killer that he is resistant to suggestion: the picture of the room when the hall guard entered was Mamiya rolling on the floor with Takabe abruptly standing. Perhaps Mamiya was able to impress upon him, finally, the necessity of Takabe killing his wife in order to life his own life. I also think that when Mamiya mentioned Takabe helping him escape, I think he meant that Takabe knew Mamiya’s capabilities to mesmerize the hall guard yet left him alone despite that.

The water puddle has a small size. It was only less than a minute between the water pooling and the hall guard arriving.

The water puddle has a small size. It was only less than a minute between the water pooling and the hall guard arriving.

Mamiya, however, never completes the sign of the X before he is gunned down by Takabe. I think that the ending is Takabe’s conscious choice to become the next among the ‘missionaries’ who would tear away the veneer of society and expose the darkness in people’s hearts: he gets rid of his wife in the process, and seems to be an even more potent Mesmer than Mamiya ever was. By freeing himself, he also becomes the undesired cure for other people. To me, the Cure in the film’s title pertains to the release from civilization and society that holds us back from our deeper desires: ultimately, all of the murderers in the film wished to kill their victims, but they let themselves go because of the suggestion.

The X was never completed.

The X was never completed.

There’s a very good chance that this film will end up as one of my all-time favorites.

The Bad Sleep Well: or, Welcome to the Philippines

October 5th, 2015

I’ve written three drafts regarding this film, and I think all my drafts have failed. It’s so hard to put this film into words. But since summarizing the movie didn’t really help me, I’ll just write about my perceptions regarding the film and hope it’s sensible and cogent enough.

Akira Kurosawa has been known to be among the greatest film directors in the world. His greatest films are among the most imitated: Seven Samurai has been adapted into different films, and even an anime series. Yojimbo became Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name. Throne of Blood was recognized by the preeminent Harold Bloom to be one of the best Shakespearean adaptations he has seen on film. Only Yasujiro Ozu is perhaps more revered by film directors and critics, and that’s even a coin toss.

I’ve watched Kurosawa’s Dreams about ten years ago, because it was required viewing by our tasteful English professor. I didn’t think much of it, although I thought it was a good film. While I’ve intended to watch his more popular films since then, I guess I didn’t really want to, as I didn’t prepare time for those.

It’s only been recently that I’ve used great movies to bond with my father. I guess I’ve been exposed to real life and medical cases for too long that I’ve forgotten to enjoy films that pique both the mind and the heart. What I had started with Friedkin’s Sorcerer I kept up, until I eventually stumbled into Akira Kurosawa.

I’ve had Throne of Blood on my PC for about six months. I just didn’t really want to watch it. I wanted to watch a more contemporary film made by him, so I waited until I discovered that Kurosawa made a loose adaptation to Shakespeare’s Hamlet set in the 1960s.

Its title was The Bad Sleep Well. The Criterion Collection certainly made it look attractive: its front-cover picture was a white building on a black background with a prominent red X on one of its floors.

The Bad Sleep Well

The only mistake I made when watching the film was that I watched it during night-time. It’s a film that takes its time with its build-up, so one needs to pay utmost attention with its conversations and character interactions: it’s not for those who enjoy the rampant shallowness and the anti-intellectualism that pervades Philippines today. Toshiro Mifune still stars in this film (Mifune starred in all of Kurosawa’s great films except Ran) but unlike his long-haired and bearded counterparts in Kurosawa’s samurai films he is clean-shaven and quiet as Nishi. This film shows that he is a masterful actor because he is equally able to present characters who are larger-than-life and violent as he is able to show brooding, quiet, and highly intelligent ones.

Mifune ditches the dirt and the beard and replaces the kimono with a suit, yet still acts extremely well.

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The film is subtle: in fact, to me it’s been insidious. It’s the kind of film that one nods off to at times because of its deliberate pace but grows on the viewer after the ending credits have appeared. Looking back, it’s probably one of the best films I’ve seen this year. The opening scene is well-filmed: a momentous occasion such as a wedding of the daughter of the firm’s head is sullied by the suggestion of corruption at the highest levels of the firm. The press that covers the wedding is suspicious, but powerless.

The Bad Sleep Well is a 1960’s film, but it could have been alternatively titled ‘Welcome to the Philippines.’ The viewer first questions whether Nishi is a good or bad person. He crosses the line between good and evil too many times for the viewer to figure out until the film’s latter half. One, however, ultimately discovers his motivation and his struggle to be moral. Similar to Heneral Luna, however, the film ends on a somber tone: those who will good and do good are often buried in corruption and bureaucracy. The film has very strong historical bases, too: during the time of Stalinist Russia, it wasn’t those who were morally pure or idealistically noble who survived. Those who pandered to Stalin the best became his right-hand men. The sycophants survived, while the pure and ethical were murdered. The film was also extremely timely during its release: issues of deep-seated corruption pervaded the Japanese government during the 1960s as well.

It is a film I can recommend to very few people. It’s a film that takes patience and focus, both of which are in dearth in this time and age. It is a very rewarding film, however: first, it was done by Kurosawa; second, it’s a timeless commentary on the ills of society and sycophancy; and finally, it’s a damn good film with great actors.

The cake is a lie.

The cake is a lie.

Death Parade: on Decim’s choice

September 16th, 2015

It took me quite some time before I could even write about Death Parade.

Call me lazy, I guess.

Goodnight, sweet princess.

Goodnight, sweet princess.

I think that Death Parade is the best series to come out this year. Its episodic nature gradually revealed the color and depth of its major characters, leading to its wonderful climax and denouement. I think many people were impressed with its ending.

Do I agree with Decim’s choice at the end?

I do, and I’m going to use a philosophical basis for my answer. Although I disagree with the excessive austerity of Kant, his deontological (duty-based) perspective towards ethics is, I think, applicable to Decim’s condition.

Decim is an arbiter. It was what he was created for, and it is his role. He selects the people who deserve a second chance from the people who deserve to end up in the void. He is able to do it because people come across limbo (the different bars) as tabula rasa. They are devoid of their memories or of what they had done in their lifetime that their personalities can be assessed with little to no obfuscation.

Chiyuki was an aberration because she came in knowing that she had killed herself. In order to properly assess her true personality, he had to create an elaborate ruse where she had gone back to Earth and had a choice to sacrifice a person in order to come back to life.

Kant speaks of actions having moral worth only if they are done in accordance with duty despite the fact that the doer is absolutely against doing what he needs to do. Decim does exactly that, and Chiyuki doesn’t disappoint. He has performed a moral action.

Although the romantic in me wish that they’d end up together (in a psychological suspense anime, yes, I know), what made Death Parade a great show was that it did not compromise with its viewers or its ideals. The series dealt with its aberrations wonderfully, and had a most pertinent ending: Decim learned to understand a bit more of humanity, and Chiyuki understood, finally, the gravity of her past actions – even if they were justifiable.

Sorcerer (1977): one of the best thrillers of all time

September 3rd, 2015

I have always believed in the saying that ‘if you watch what everyone else is watching, you’ll think what everyone else is thinking.’ I’ve always been disgusted with intellectual stagnation, so I tried to avoid immersing myself in only what was popular. That philosophy allowed me to watch a film as old as Cavalcade, which was the Academy Award-winner for Best Picture back in 1933. (I don’t recommend watching that film: it’s a slog, and not even Noel Coward’s screenplay could save it. It’s probably among the worst Best Picture winners I’ve seen.) Most of the dated films I’ve seen were most definitely not as bad.

This scene was immaculately and painstakingly filmed. I was blown away with how it was executed - in 1977.

This scene was immaculately and painstakingly filmed. I was blown away with how it was executed – in 1977.

Casablanca still remains to be one of the most well-written and well-acted films I have seen, even though it was initially shown in 1942. Sorcerer also lies in the opposite spectrum from Cavalcade. It’s one of the best films I have seen. It was directed by William Friedkin, who is better known for his Best Picture-winning French Connection, and his seminal horror, The Exorcist. As I wasn’t and still am not into shock-horror films, I abstained from watching Exorcist. (I do watch films such as The Night of the Hunter and The Shining, however.) Because I was fond of thriller films, I watched The French Connection. It was merely a bonus that I saw the talented Gene Hackman play as an anti-hero instead of his later villainous roles. It was a good film then, and is a good film now.

Sorcerer, however, is a better film in my opinion than French Connection. Although Roy Scheider was never a notable a leading man as Gene Hackman was, Sorcerer had a more engaging and well-wrought story. It was a truly gritty, well-directed and well-acted thriller: Wikipedia even revealed that due to its close-quarters filming back in the 1970s, stuntmen were not utilized much: most of the stunts were performed by the leading actors themselves. The director contracted malaria after filming the movie. It was as manly as any film could get.

Despite its merits, however, few people know of the film nowadays. Why is that?

The answer is simple: it came out during the same year that Star Wars came out. The 1970s marked the period where people transitioned from enjoying films featuring earthly suspicion and paranoia toward the more iridescent space operas. I think Sorcerer was among the latest attempts by a talented and well-awarded film-maker to ground a picture in realistic cynicism and bleakness. We all know what happened to Star Wars: there’s even a movie coming out later this year! Sorcerer, on the other hand, was left in the lurch. Only fans of good thrillers or great cinema search for it: I only stumbled it when I had already seen most of the notable 1960 spy films.

The plot of the film is simple. Four down-and-out men belonging to the lower depths in different societies somehow end up in Nicaragua. They live sordid lives there, and wish to get out. There are almost no options left until an oil well explodes, and the oil company searches for four desperate, daring men to carry nitroglycerin to stop the fire. (This is probably where the saying ‘fight fire with fire’ came about.) Things don’t get any easier when these men have to traverse through the forests of Nicaragua with such terrible terrain: exaggerated vibrations can cause nitroglycerin to explode.

Though the film’s first hour may be slow to people used to watching Michael Bay films, the explication and build-up is worth it. By painting the four major characters with the desperation they need to tackle such a suicidal job, the gravity of their job is magnified. The second hour makes up for it with a number of suspenseful, taut sequences depicting their struggle to successfully deliver the goods. The four major characters certainly do not disappoint, and Roy Scheider was at his absolute best here.

I recommend this film to movie-watchers looking for a cerebral thriller with a dash of social commentary, as well as to those who are simply fond of well-made films. I am not exaggerating when I say this ranks among my top 5 films. To me, it really is THAT good.

Secret: a flawed masterpiece

August 13th, 2015

I’ve been a fan of Korean dramas since 2006. It’s almost been ten years, and I’m still besotted with their engrossing stories and beautiful ladies.

It's a great romance, but flawed story-wise.

It’s a great romance, but flawed story-wise.

I watched Secret Love on a whim. I hadn’t really been fond of Hwang Jung Eum because her face looks extremely plastic. I also wasn’t able to finish any of Ji Sung’s dramas, although I made it up to more than half of Royal Family. I came in expecting nothing. Since it was on a number of critics’ top drama lists, however, I jumped in.

It’s similar to the revenge-dramas I’ve watched before: Hwang Jung Eum’s character goes to prison for a crime her boyfriend committed, yet he leaves her in the lurch. Ji Sung’s character is the boyfriend of the hit-and-run victim ran over by Yoo Jeong(or Hwang Jung Eum)’s boyfriend, and so he seeks a way to torture her in prison and abrogate her parole. He eventually develops feelings after he realizes that she is a good person through-and-through while stalking her, and together they eventually unfold the secrets behind the accident and within their lives.

Secret Love’s strength is not in its plot. There are points where the plot seems to be all over the place, but I can’t really say more because I’d be spoiling a good drama. Its strength lies in its actors. There’s a reason why it won all four acting prizes during the year it was aired: the protagonists and deuteragonists are simply just that good. Hwang Jung Eum’s face even grew on me (I finally saw her beauty) when I saw her act so well. Ji Sung, as her partner, was no slouch either. Bae Soo Bin, as Hwang Jung Eum’s foil, also acted well. They carried the mediocre plot of the series and made it so deliciously addictive to watch.

The ending was very satisfying as well, because it did not rely on some deux-et-machina. The series is akin to Leo Tolstoy’s God Sees the Truth, but Waits placed in a more modern setting. I enjoyed it very much, but from an emotional standpoint. Ghost, on the other hand, was simply a masterful techno-thriller with an extremely sinister villain in Uhm Ki-joon. It was technically and story-wise a better drama, but it didn’t have the addictive factor of Secret Love.

Tokyo Story: an elegy to parenthood

August 4th, 2015

My father was a year old when Tokyo Story was released back in 1953. To put things into context, I am only 27 years. Tokyo Story is more than twice as old as I am.

The best film of all time for directors

The best film of all time for directors.

Why did I attempt to watch such a dated film?

I watched it because Tokyo Story is considered by both directors and critics alike to be among the best films of all time. It’s not enough to read about a great film: a film is truly experienced only when one watches it. I had initially obtained a copy of it back when I was still an intern, but forgot about it because I had to attend to responsibilities inside the hospital and out. I then watched glimpses of it, but it was only two days ago that I had finally completed the film in its entirety. (It doesn’t help that the film has a slow, pensive, and elegiac quality in it. Patience is extremely important when one attempts to watch this movie.)

I don’t think it to be the greatest film of all time. First, I am neither movie critic nor director, so my understanding of film theory is marginal at best. I have a few films I think are more appealing to me. (These films are often thrillers, like The Killing and Army of Shadows.) Yet I cannot discount the greatness of this film and the eternal timeliness of its subject matter: Tokyo Story talks about family.

The story is simple. An elderly couple from rural Japan decide to visit their children in Tokyo. They are slowly being pushed aside, however, because of their children’s responsibilities to their family and to their work. Shige is the most obvious offender, bordering on subtly disrespecting her parents. Noriko, on the other hand, is a widow of the couple’s son. Despite that, however, she showers the most love and concern toward the couple, and it is this realization by the patriarch that moved me to tears. The blood siblings rush back to Tokyo a little after one of their parents died: only Noriko remained to help.

It’s so easy to summarize the film, because it tells a simple story. Its greatness, I believe, lies in its artistic expression as one watches the film. There are no true villains in this movie: there are only children who have drifted apart, and parents who have grown old.

I know and believe it’s natural to drift away from one’s parents. I guess I am lucky that I grew up in a close, traditional household that me and my siblings’ ties to our parents are still strong despite our adulthood. One day, I would have to be separated from them as well. I’m just glad that we were raised with filial respect that has still endured even despite our misgivings as regards our parents. I’m glad that I’ve watched the film, because I saw myself in the character of Koichi, who was a small, neighborhood doctor. While patients are indeed important, the film reminded me that my parents, who have given me life, are also important. Sometimes I take them for granted, but I appreciate them even more now that I’ve seen the film. While I would still get pissed off at them sometimes, as children normally do, I have the utmost respect and love for them. I hope having my own family in the future will not efface that.

This post is my own reminder.

When everything becomes F: episodes 5-10

July 20th, 2015

And I already thought that the first four episodes were pretty good.

The third case is the series’s eponym, and I thought it was the best case in the entire series. Subete ga F ni Naru was complex, intelligent, and yet emotionally charged as well. It is the first encounter of Sohei with Dr. Magata Shiki, a person I could also call Irene Moriarty. I believe the writer of this series congealed both personlities (Adler and Moriarty’s) together, although Shiki has less murderous intent than Holmes’s Professor Moriarty.

The construction of the case was absolutely brilliant. In a hermetically sealed room, inside a closely-guarded laboratory on an island hours away from civilization, a corpse dressed as a bride came out of Magata Shiki’s room. The corpse had her hands and legs amputated, and she was riding on top of the delivery robot used to transport packages inside the laboratory. No one was noted to have come in or gone out of the room for fifteen years.

Who was the culprit? I admit, despite scratching my head and reviewing key scenes from the fifth episode, I could never have imagined such foresight and such daring in order for one to execute such a cunning plan so perfectly that there were very few hitches. Knowing the meaning of ‘everything becoming F,’ however, was a bit sad.

* * *

The ending of the series was quite good, although it still was a lesser case than the titular Subete ga F ni Naru. I think that the closing cases were more focused on the explication of the major characters’ perceptions and beliefs: I think it’s enough to say that I loved Saikawa’s character primarily because he mirrors my own. I’m not a very showy person, but I do treasure the people I love.

I can’t say anything more, can I? I just hope that you guys could give Subete ga F ni Naru a chance despite its jarring opening scene and Moe’s antics.