LIMIT: Episode 1

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I’ve only heard good things about the manga LIMIT, so I was interested in checking out its live-action adaptation. It’s not as dark as I thought it would be, but it takes an unusual approach to tackling run-of-the-mill high school problems, and that’s enough to keep me watching.

A group of students stand outside at attention as a girl narrarates. “We were too simple-minded at the time. We believed that tomorrow would be just another ordinary day like today. No need to stress yourself, just read the situation.  I thought that’s the only rule you need to know to go with the flow of this world. Until that day…”

We cut to our heroine, Konno Mizuki (Sakuraba Nanami), wandering through a forest, her school uniform tattered and splotched with blood. A muffled radio crackles in the background as the announcer talks about a bus with thirty students on it that disappeared during a camping trip. There are flashes of the broken bus and the students who lost their lives before Mizuki falls in despair as the crackle from the radio grows louder.

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Rewind to the morning of the trip. Mizuki is heading to school when she sees a fellow student, Kamiya Chieko (Tsuchiya Tao) trying to help a man passed out on the ground. She watches for a moment with disinterest before the signal changes so she can cross the street and keeps walking without looking back.

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At school, Mizuki gathers with her girlfriends who are all excited about the trip. Other girls make way for them as they walk down the hall and boys can’t help but stare at them; they’re obviously the “it-girls” of the school. Mizuki narrates that they already knew by this time that equality doesn’t exist and that superiority, favortism, and discrimination exist everywhere. You’re only at an advantage if you’re pretty or cool; that applies to you no matter what stage you are in life. Because of that, she envied soldiers, who used minimum strength and lived lightly.

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The head of the group, Himesawa Sakura (Takada Riho) greets Hinata Haruaki (Suzuki Katsuhiro), a boy who seems popular with the girls. Mizuki looks over at him when Sakura’s not looking, but doesn’t say anything.

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In the classroom, we see how everyone moves naturally into their own groups while a select few are outsiders. Mizuki says that school is a microcosm of the world that will go on forever.

The class is preparing for a five-day camping trip in order to improve relations among the classmates, so they’re taking away all electronics. Mizuki gets a text from Hinata, but decides against reading it before shutting her phone off and handing it over to their teacher, Igarashi. Hinata glances at Mizuki to see if she got his message, but she doesn’t even look his way.

Igarashi notices that Mizuki and Sakura have matching phone accessories and Sakura says they bought them together. Ichinose Haru (Kudo Ayano) looks disappointed at being left out, but when Sakura asks what’s wrong, Haru says it’s nothing, though she’s definitely not shooting friendly glances Mizuki’s way.

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Once on the bus, Sakura’s group sees that the back seats are taken by two other girls. They don’t need to say anything, one look is enough for Usui Chikage (Masuda Yuka) to mutter to her friend that they should move to the front. Mizuki notices that Usui’s wearing a crime prevention buzzer that her mother bought her and Haru says that’s cute and pats her head mockingly. Usui doesn’t say anything and just looks down.

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As the teachers prepare to leave, we see that the driver has been chewing gum all morning. Igarashi is sick so he can’t go on the trip, so Takeda is going in his place. He brings out a sickle for the trip and hands it over to her. I cannot imagine for what reason students would require a sickle for a camping trip, but okay. Igarashi waves them off as the bus leaves with ominous music playing.

Takeda is detailing the chores they’ll have to do at the camping site and Sakura’s group complains that they get stuck with all the work because they’re the last class to take the trip. They say it’s the fault of a certain someone who drew last place in the lottery and one of the girls kicks the seat of Morishige Arisa (Yamashita Rio) and asks why she isn’t saying anything. They start picking on her and everyone on the bus joins in, calling her Morishige Moriko. Morishige silently takes the abuse and starts scribbling something in a notepad furiously.

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In the store, Mizuki sees a notice for the meteor shower and thinks about her father who encouraged her to go on the camping trip, saying it would be nice to go since she’d be able to see the show. He asks if she remembers when they saw a meteor shower with their whole family back when she was in kindergarten, but Mizuki isn’t in the mood to reminisce and asks when he’s leaving.

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Dad still tries to keep the mood light and asks her to visit him at his new workplace. She calls him egotistical for quitting his job whenever he wants and causing her mother so much trouble.

She runs into Hinata who notices her large amount of snacks and says that quitting the school club didn’t ruin her appetite. He asks that she makes time for him on the last day and asks if she got his text message. She tries to dodge him, but he’s persistent and asks why she’s always ignoring him.  She says she’s not, but she runs off to Sakura as soon as she enters the store to avoid talking any further.

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The girls get bored during lunch and decided to pick on Morishige again. She’s drawing manga insead of eating and the girls pick it up, keeping it out of Morishige’s reach and read it out loud. A few like Usui look uncomfortable, but everyone laughs at the cheesiness of the manga. “Imagination has no limits, right?” Sakura mocks her.

Morishige gives up and silently looks at the ground, her hand clutching her skirt. Mizuki notices and there’s a flashback to when she was in middle school and was also bullied, getting drenched with water in a stall. She doesn’t step in though and Morishige ends up stopping the fun by spilling water on Sakura’s purse and takes back her manga.

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Sakura’s group are offended as if Morishige did something wrong and Haru tells Morishige to clean it up. She snatches the pages back before dropping them into the puddle on the floor. Sakura smiles and says that at least her boring manga could be useful for something. Morishige lets out a lone tear, glaring at Sakura for ruining her work. Sakura asks what she’s mad about and tells her she should just die.

Finally Kamiya speaks up and calls Sakura’s group childish for picking on Morishige. But she doesn’t let her slide either and tells Morishige that she should at least stand up to them. Everyone diverts their eyes, but Sakura says the real question is who’s responsible for this mess and says, while looking at Morishige, that one always pays for their mistakes.

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Sakura stalks off with the other girls following and Mizuki says under her breath that Sakura is angry. Kamiya catches the remark and asks if it’s really that scary to not be liked by Sakura, a question Mizuki doesn’t have an answer to. The girls gossip about Kamiya while throwing away their lunch, wondering if they should make her an outcast or if she has no friends because she’s poor.

Sakura’s in a bad mood, but Mizuki calms her down by complimenting her lipgloss. Sakura begins to dote on her, and that only pisses off Haru, who leaves before the other girls. Mizuki is unfazed by Haru, thinking that she doesn’t care what others think about her because she can get by without using too much effort. Too bad Haru can’t do the same and we see her retching in a stall.

The bus driver takes an energy drink as lunch ends and everyone prepares to keep going. The teachers sleep as the students trade snacks or play music, taking little notice of the swaying of the bus or the sudden bumpiness of the road. The only person aware of the danger is Kamiya, who notices too late that the bus is going the wrong way. The bus driver collapses against the wheel, his foot firmly on the gas just as Kamiya begins to wake up the teachers, but the bus careens off the road and over a cliff.

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Mizuki wakes up some time later, slightly injured, but well enough to move. She looks around in horror, barely able to register what she’s seeing; everyone else on the bus is dead. She climbs out of the bus and finds Kamiya with a dazed Usui. As Kamiya explains what happened, Usui spots the box of cellphones. The three quickly rifle through the phones, but they’re all dead or don’t have a signal.

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Haru starts calling out for Mizuki and they find her with the other students who were thrown out of the bus. Glass is tearing into her back, but Mizuki and Kamiya manage to pull her out without too much harm done. No one notices Morishige, hidden under another girl, start to stir. Mizuki and Haru embrace, happy that the other is alive, but then Haru asks about Sakura.

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They start looking around the bus for Sakura and Mizuki looks back in the bus. She spots Hinata’s mp3 hanging from his lifeless hand, but she pushes back her tears and continues to look for Sakura.

They find Sakura behind the bus, thrown out of the back and crushed by the door. Morishige manages to get up as the other girls crouch by Sakura, fruitlessly calling out to her lifeless body.

Back at the school, one of the teachers informs Igarashi that Takada called for him. Still in a sick state however, he thinks she says Takeda and tells the principal that the students have safely arrived at the camp. The principal marks the day the students are supposed to return from the trip.

Haru has become hysterical by this time, unable to accept that Sakura is gone. Their weeping is cut short however by an unnerving laugh from Morishige. She says that Sakura got what she deserved and she always wished she would die. They ask how she could say such a thing, but Morishige only throws Sakura’s words about imagination at them. Sakura died as punishment for making fun of people. “You always pay for your mistakes,” she says before laughing maniacally.

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Mizuki: “We thought we would always continue like this. That nothing would change in this small world of ours.”

Igarashi is seen collecting papers left in the classroom and leaving as it becomes dark.

“Our perfect little world has completely collapsed with a bang.”

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Thoughts: I’m really impressed by how much this show managed to set up in only thirty minutes. The politics of high school are well established and we clearly understand where each girl’s role in the school, so you anticipate how these five will change and interact now that they’re out of their little world. There’s definitely a Battle Royale-esque feeling to this show. They’re not being forced to fight to the death or anything, but they’re experiencing something just as traumatic, and with five people that are as different as these girls being forced to work together to survive, I’m sure that tensions will be running high and not everyone will emerge safely.

I’ve never particularly liked Sakuraba Nanami in anything she’s been in because she’s so passive while acting and I want more from her. That being said, I really like her character Mizuki, who is just putting on a facade to be able to keep moving along with the world. She’s not that different from Moriko or Kamiya, having undergone the same experiences they have, but she’s managed to find a way to put it behind her and stay on top. Without having Sakura breathing down her back all the time, I’m interested to see how her relationship with the other four girls will change and if she’ll manage to step up and unite them.

I’m also curious about Kamiya, who seems likes she would be the cool, level-headed one in this situation that manages to pull everyone together, but there’s something off about her. She’s all for treating people fairly and helping others, it seems, but she’s not the monologing, uprighteous type. She’ll tell people when they’re wrong, like she did with Sakura’s group and Morishige, but if they decide not to listen, then she shrugs it off because it has nothing to do with her. in this case, it would be in her best interest to work with the other girls, but I doubt her prickly nature will make that possible.

I’m pretty meh to the other girls since so far they just seem to fall into the category of the ones who will go batshit crazy, but overall, I’m interested in how this will play out, so I’m going to keep my eye on this one.

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