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As they say in South Park – “I learned something today” . Namely that I shoudn’t get obsessed with delayed fansub releases, even if I have really enjoyed the series in question thus far. Checking so many times every day for episode 4 created monstrously big expectations which were more or less impossible to fullfil. Don’t get me wrong, the episode is not bad at all and my only major complaint would be the rather inconsistent animation quality. Kate and Claire continue to be notably easier to like than Rachel and Rose but regardless of the viewers personal preferences the character interaction remains heavily grounded in reality with all the pros and cons that are to be expected from such an approach. The girls got rid of yet another lunatic but the way things are presented makes me thing that the series will not go for the monster of the week approach and even if it does it might still maintain the quality, as long as the characte development does not suddenly cease.

This episode makes a point of showing clearly the displeasure of Jessica (one of the of the Grace members), caused by the leader Paula’s symphatetic, rather than stern treatment of Kate. The latter is late for class, yet receives no penalty in the form of a ticket. Seems to me that Jessica’s resentment, maybe jealousy of Kate will obviously lead to something bad for that latter, though I guess she is already in too bad situation to care that much about. But she and Rose do care enough to go to school, even after the chilling flashback that convinced them they are dead in the previous episode. Clearly they continued on autopilot and even though the setting is New York, we all know that in anime, as in Japan in reality, schools are vastly important.

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Rachel, though, is a moody girl with not much patience and she has put two and two together and gotten to the conclusion that right now school is not important since she is dead. I for one totally understand her sentiments, even though the way she treated Kate and Rose who had come to visit her was anything but admirable. The important thing is that they all stayed in character – in most cases the easiest way for the scriptwriters to create some teamwork between the four would be to just force it. In other words to force the characters to behave more or less oddly for the sake of smoother plot development. For instance in Mai-HiME Nao and Natsuki agreed to Midori’s idea for HiME Rangers somewhat too easily and their resistance was mostly intended to make viewers laugh a bit and was bit something serious as one would expect from them. If this approach was used, Rachel would have fumed a bit because of the sudden visit but then would have probably broken down, cried and said something along the lines of “Thank you! I really needed someone to be there for me right now! We need to unite against the common enemy!”. OK, maybe not so cheesy as my version but I hope you got the idea. In fact Rachel announces that she has never been their friend and just kicks them out of her house.

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Claire tries playing the detective in this series. Relying on her vague memories of the night when she died she manages to find the mansion of the evil blond huy. However, he is aware of this but for some reason is content to leave her be. Also, he can’t see the strange butterflies that are guided the girls to their fateful meeting in episode one and now seem to serve as messengers for Lulu or at least as an ominous reminder of the girls plight. I love the contrast between the outer appearace of the beautiful butterflies and the shock they cause in the hearts of Rose and Kate or the Claire’s angry reaction and attempts to catch some butterflies. And of course, these insects help to maintain the surrela atmoshpere. Anyway, it’s interesting that Claire lives in a rough and poor neighbourhood, yet she has clear priorities and instead of making every effort to graduate from that obviously prestigious school, she decided that her investigation was more important, so she skipped school that day.

In the end of the episode, our heroines swiftwy take care of the task given them by Lulu, which is of course, getting rid of yet another crazy bestial looking man. Rose panics yet again which begs the question how long will the others put up with her cowardness. Rachel though hesitates at first but then has something of an Oyashiro-sama moment – gripped by berserk rage she turns the head of the man into a pulp using a baseball bat. This murderous fit of anger by caused by her remembering her friend that was killed by such a man in the previous episode. The flashbacks and the short fight were executed pretty well, if that’s the show’s version of monster of the week I can live with it, provided the spotlight remains more on the characters and their reasons for continuing the desperate struggle, rather than on the fights themselves.

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The most annoying thing in the scene was the clumsy animation work – from one angle the blood on Rachel’s face seems to have strangely disappeared, only to reappear seconds later when the camera angle changes, all this happening well after she had throw the bat away and no blood was flying around. The characters faces also looked even weirder than in the previous episodes. I am usually not observant enough to notice such changes in the animation quality but this time it was kind of hard to ignore them, though I am mostly nitpicking – as I said already the episode is very good, and my ability to enjoy it was harmed mostly by the burden of my expectations.

Kate is again the one who tries hard to unite the group. I think her taking time to be with Rose is one of the last surviving links with sanity that keeps the latter from simply running away from it all or going mad, though I may be underestimating her. But Kate too must have a breaking point, I wonder when she will lose patience with some of her “teammates. Rachel, as befitting her impulsive character, switches from desperation to determination. The sudden loss of her ability to enjoy parties with her similarly outgoing friends, the endless questions from her boyfriend also don’t help her regain her composure. Claire needs to rely more on the rest but it seems her rough life leads her to try and do much on her own. All in all, the characters get developed little by little which makes me want to know more and more about them. About Lulu too but she will probably remain a mystery until at least the second half of the show.

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Since the events seem to have an obviously supernatural cause I don’t think we can trust the cops to arrest some of the villains or do much to hamper their efforts to achieve whatever their goal happens to be. So my guess would be than one or more of the main characters will get in trouble with the police but that’s mostly a hunch. Talking of hunches, instead of noticing the obvious reaction of Kate when a possible Lis boyfriend was mentioned, the only thing the cops got after the talk with her was the feeling of the older cop that she was involved in the case somehow. Bunch of amateurs. I just picture inspector Runge from Monster talking to himself “I am Kate Ashley. I wear this stupid uniform. I get pissed at Lis for not having to wear it. I kill her and make it look like a suicide”. đŸ˜‰

The news Rachel was watching mentioned “no signs of physical injury” when referring to the new “suicide cases” but I don’t think many people bother to go and die in the woods after they have drunk poison or done something else in order to end their lives. If I were a policeman, I would never believe this was just a series of suicides. If after the autopsy the reason for the death is still unknown or looks like a death from sickness, why would the cops talk about suicides even when alone? Maybe I have read one too many mystery novels but I can’t say I understand their reasoning. But that’s a very minor issue. As long as the characters remain interesting and the plot more than adequate, I will keep watching and probably waiting impatiently for every new episode. However – when will have singing again?

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