Glasslip – 09

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This week starts out with everyone, either by choice or circumstance, isolated from the one they love. Yana from Yuki; Sachi from Hiro (and Hiro from Sachi); Kakeru from Touka. For a good chunk of the episode, everyone is alone, and they don’t seem too happy about it, whatever side of the relationships they happen to be on. Last week we tripped. This week we come down.

It’s the most extreme example yet of how all the events and emotions of the summer so far have conspired to pull the circle of friends apart. The episode had a monastic, cleansing feel to it, as if this was a time for solitude and reflection. During this time, many characters devise ways of reconnecting through various barriers or filters, meeting varying degrees of success.

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First up is Kakeru, who is stuck at home listening to his mom play that same damn song we’ve heard a million times. Enough already, play something else! Not that his folks are any more human when they’re trying to talk with him about his future, making sure to get in a dig about how they both knew exactly what they were going to do at his age.

Kakeru can’t hear the fragments anymore. Apparently unable to contact her in any other way, he comes by Touka’s house, and they talk between glass. What a difference a day makes…when the girl you like has a traumatic vision of you being a bit too forward for her taste. Not that it’s Kakeru’s fault that she saw that, but it clearly shook her, and she refuses to return the art room with him. She’s not ready.

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Yuki escaped for track camp not just to get back into some kind of routine, but to get away from Touka, who he liked far too much for someone who didn’t like him back, and away from the awkwardness with Yana, as well. Yana treats his unannounced absence as a challenge, and runs his route everyday, sending him rather poetic texts about the weather and other observations.

At camp, Yuki is not necessarily improving, his knees hurt, and he’s still full of doubt. But as desperate and melancholy as these texts first seemed as Yana sent them, not expecting a reply and not getting one, Yuki breaks radio silence when Yana reports clear skies, while it’s dreary and raining where he is.

Yana isn’t even sure what she’s doing or why, and yet they make Yuki happy and relaxed. The juxtapositions during their beautiful phone conversation are very apropos: Yuki may be under the clouds, but Yana is a ray of sunshine peeking through via cell phone. Yuki says he’ll be home soon; possibly tomorrow. It would seem Yana got what she wanted…but what’s next for them?

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Then, finally, there’s Sachi. I tend to save Sachi for last in my reviews…and that’s because she’s the best. Kakeru tried to connect with Touka through glass; Yana with Yuki through texts, and Sachi tries to connect with Hiro through literature. Specifically, she recommends to him a book on the shelf in his family’s cafe, and his disappointment gives way to a bemused curiosity.

Sachi asks not just Hiro, but also Touka, to join her at a Kirinkan, where they wait until after closing time for a hauntingly beautiful crescent moon under earthshine. Like Hiro, I don’t quite get it at first, but then Touka says “the moon is pretty” in a way that sounds like a confession of love, according to Soseki Natsume, the author Sachi had Hiro read.

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Inviting them to this special place of hers, at this special time, when the moon was just so, having prepared Hiro literarily…Sachi’s was certainly the most impressively complex method of re-connecting with the ones she loved—lots of moving parts—but as Hiro puts it, “as long as there’s love”, her feelings were going to come through…and they did. They end up saying the very things she wanted to say to them. This is what happens when Sachi uses her extraordinary planning skills for good instead of evil.

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Majimoji Rurumo – 08

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I’ll admit I wasn’t terribly excited for the episode when we meet a second witch. The show got along fine with just the one, after all, and aside from Chiro and Sumiko, the supporting cast is mostly innocuous ciphers. While her bug-eyed, silent cat Mimi is awesome, things get less encouraging still when Harulily offers Kouta a new contract, and her “death-free magical ticket” free sample seems to instantly revert him back into the beastly “Hentai-Shiba.”

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So it wasn’t just a matter of Harulily eating up valuable time late in the show’s run, but also the fact she could swoop in and undo all the progress Kouta has made by living with Rurumo. But then Harulily drops the ploy altogether and reveals she’s an old friend (of sorts) who has always been irked by Rurumo’s unflappable stoicism in the face of her pan-incompetence. She’s not here to mess up Rurumo’s shit, she’s just checking in on her.

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The sudden deflation of Harulily as a threat nicely subverts the traditional “rival witch episode” formula, as Kujirai did a few eps back, and is another sign this show is a lot cleverer than it looks. Somehow, a magical girl duel just wouldn’t feel right on this show. And Rurumo’s personality is such that she’d never rise to taunts or insults, any more than she’d respond to Lily’s demands for her to show more emotion with blank stares and single-word answers. Lily’s better as a foil than an opponent.

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Instead of doing something silly like “battling each other with Kouta as the stakes”, Harullily spends her second following Rurumo around on part-time jobs, all of which Rurumo fails splendidly at, but keeps moving on to the next one, full of quiet optimism and a stiff upper lip. Rurumo exhibits her talent for planning deep ahead in case of multiple same-day firings (borne of her innate clumsiness), as well as her poise and resilience in the face of persistent failure.

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Every time Harulily tries to question what Rurumo is doing or how she’s doing it, Rurumo is ready with a quote from Kouta, mentioning him by name more and more, irking Lily more. She may be jealous of Rurumo’s passion for Kouta, but a part of her is happy that Rurumo is working so hard toward her goal and not letting anything get her down. Lily turned out to be a welcome lens into the hard but happy life Rurumo has settled into with Kouta.

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She’s also the bearer of a portent of doom, though she only thinks it: when Rurumo’s training is complete and she becomes a full-fledged witch again, Kouta will die. At first she curses stupid Rurumo for not knowing this very important detail, but it later occurs to her: maybe she does. Maybe Rurumo is trying to find a way to become a witch without killing Kouta. Maybe she’ll stretch out her training for years, letting Kouta live a long life.

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Or maybe not. This show killed a fluffy kitten, but offing Kouta would really be gutsy. Has Rurumo simply made her peace? His frequent remarks about reaching “ultimate levels”…could they have been foreshadowing his death? Eh…I kinda doubt things will get that serious. But the fact a fleeting guest character could descend on the show, spark that amount of thought, and then fly away back to the underworld, is gratifying in and of itself.

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Hanayamata – 08

“The variety of personality types is perfect!” —Sari-sensei

As this week’s episode crept closer to the girls’ first official public performance, they cross every T and dot every I, and a great deal of anticipation is built up. Finally, it’s happening, after so much hard work and such humble beginnings.

“Practice wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, whenever you can.” —Me

Haru and Tami take Sari-sensei too seriously and get self-consicous about their thighs, leading to last minute exercise. Yaya and Hana remark that they aren’t actually fat, but Yaya also remarks that they could use a little extra stamina.

SCANDAL!

They’re inspired to exercise more after Yaya proves how valuable a member not in name only she can be, by adding her drums to Tami’s piano music and making a hip little arrangement: the OP with a synth tone replacing the vocals.

Nice assortment of reactions to the department store shindig

Yaya also proves vital in both the planing and scheduling stages, as she insists they all arrive at the station by 8:00, even though the performance isn’t until 1:00. Sure enough, the other girls are late, but she planned for that, so it’s all good.

“I’ve got your back…literally and figuratively!”

Disaster strikes when they forget the music CD, but Sari’s sister (and Tami’s friend) Machi arrives with it in hand. As soon as this fact is made official, we get a glimpse of their strained relationship, stemming from their different personalities.

Lookin’ good…

Finally, it’s showtime, and everyone is nervous (even Yaya’s legs shake), but once they get up there to before a small but lively crowd, and the music starts, for a pretty decent amount of time the four are kicking ass. And then Naru makes a wrong move, bumps Hana, and falls, dropping her Naruko.

“No…not again….”

It mirrors her bad dream last night, which was actually a memory of falling while cheerleading in elementary school. In the present, we can only watch in horror as everything all of a sudden goes horribly wrong in excruciating slow-motion. Rats…so close!

“Maybe I should join? According to the OP, I DO join, after all…”

But hey, it’s not the end of the world. This is their first show, and it wasn’t meant to be some big unrealistic breakthrough. It was valuable practice for future public performances. We fall down so we can get back up again. I hope Naru remembers that and doesn’t dwell on her failure. Their dancing also seemed to momentarily impress Machi, though it looked like watching her sister watch and cheer them on made her jealous as well.

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Music: Onimonogatari – “An Old Story”

Last week’s Space Dandy got me thinking about other phenomenal episodes of anime I’ve watched in the past few years, and I actually ended up re-watching the second episode of Onimonogatari, informally known as “The Demon’s Sililoquy” from the “Shinobu Time” arc of Monogatari Series Second Season (my original review, which didn’t really do it justice, is here). It’s as rule-breaking and polarizing as the Monogatari series itself; in a way, it’s a distillation of its essence: deep, rambling dialogue, occasional linguistic puns, gorgeous imagery…and little to no conventional action.

Visceral reactions aside, one of the practical reasons why I loved the episode so much was the music that accompanied that gorgeous imagery, so I finally did some very shallow digging and found out that the composer for the entire Monogatari Series thus far, as well as other favorites like Suzumiya Haruhi and Oreimo, is a fellow named Kosaki Sotaru. His MAL picture makes him look closer to fourteen than forty, but don’t let the babyface fool you: the dude knows what he’s doing.

Shinobu’s sprawling, epic, gorgeous, ultimately heartbreaking tale of how she came to Japan from Antarctica four centuries ago, became a god, met, made, and ultimately lost her first minion in the worst way, demanded a soundtrack to match its scope and gravitas. The piece that opens the episode is appropriately called “An Old Story,” is just what the vampire storyteller ordered. Apropos of nothing, I wonder if Kosaki-san ever listened to The Verve…

Ao Haru Ride – 08

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“Today, no matter, what, I will definitely, definitely tell Yuuri properly!” As soon as Futaba said this, we were convinced she’d lose her nerve when it came down to it, a fear reinforced when two seconds later she says “I bet I’ll still lose my nerve when it comes down to it.” The odds of her telling Yuuri drop even more when Yuuri, unaware of the hammer Futaba’s trying to bring down on her, invites Shuuko to join them for ¥100 donuts.

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Prove me wrong, I said to the anime I like to think is based on one of Nozaki-kun’s shoujo manga: show me you can move forward and resolve this shit.” And what do you know, Ao Haru Ride answered the challenge. Even with Shuuko around and Yuuri going on about Kou, Futaba still gets it out; gets it all out, in the first five minutes of the episode. That was as welcome and refreshing as a cold shower on a searing summer day (though we’ve had precious few of those round these parts.)

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And wouldn’t you know it, Yuuri takes it extremely well…at first. Her immediate reactions involve saying “You too?”; noting how she’s not surprised, as Kou’s so totally hot and all; and acknowledging she’s at a disadvantage since Futaba’s closer to him. Then she goes to the bathroom and we get the first of two instances of characters crying for multiple reasons (Futaba’s the other, later on). One could say Yuuri is crying because her friend loves the same guy as her, which means she could potentially lose of them.

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But she’s also crying because Futaba obviously went through hell getting those words out, but she did. As Futaba thinks to herself earlier, this is the crux of her growth as a person: no longer “friends in name only” with anyone, she’s allowed to say what she wants, and in this case, needs to say. She wants to be honest, even if it could create conflict. Having friends you care about opens you up to hurting and being hurt, but the rewards are immeasurable.

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Witnessing a genuine exchange between two friends who love each other has a significant effect on Shuuko, who only tagged along because Yuuri asked her too and she had nothing else to do. What’s amazing about this first act is that this is the first time Shuuko is hanging out with people after school since she started high school. Far from fearing socializing is always this intense, she realizes what she’s been missing out on.

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It’s the perfect environment for her to get something off her own chest: that she’s in love with Tanaka-sensei. Futaba’s utter shock at this confession serves as proof Yuuri never spilled the beans, which comforts Shuuko further. When Aya passes by and happens to spot Shuuko hanging out with friends—and enjoying it—it puts a spring in his step and a tune to hum. He’s happy for her, as are we.

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One of Futaba’s best expressions yet: the “yeah I’m stalking you deal with it” look!

Yikes, I’ve only covered half the episode! That’s not to say the other half isn’t interesting, because it was, but it didn’t have quite the cathartic, warm-and-fuzzy power of the first. That could be because after running into Kou by chance, who is playing with the stray black cat, then says he won’t adopt it because “caring for things brings a lot of trouble” in the most obnoxious angsty way possible, Futaba decides to spend the rest of the night stalking him!

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This is why I like to think Nozaki-kun wrote this manga. He truly understands girls’ hearts, and in shoujo, if you like a guy and stalk him, he’ll eventually like you too! I kid, I kid…sort of. But really, if he doesn’t want Futaba following him he could be more forceful about it, but he’s very wishy-washy about it, and by the end puts on the air of a protector by lecturing her on the risk of being assaulted by going out in the night alone, culminating in the closest they’ve come to a kiss.

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Perhaps its because he was genuinely worried that Futaba would do that to try to get closer to him that he was cross with her. But at least Futaba isn’t just hiding in her head and actually trying to act on her feelings. As Shuuko so eloquently puts it, it’s ultimately up to Kou to decide between Futaba and Yuuri, or to reject them both. But if he has feelings for Futaba (and let’s face it, he does), then he shouldn’t be allowed to get away with toying with her much more.

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Stray Observations:

  • Komatsu Mikako is doing great understated work as Shuuko; her laugh sounds like the first laugh she’s laughed in years.
  • Come to think of it, Uchida Maaya is also showing she can handle non-chuunibyou dialogue with the best of ‘em.
  • Aw, why not? Kudos to Kaji Yuki, while we’re at it. No one does sensitive/whiny angst like Yuki. This is Hope we’re talking about, after all.
  • Steelers? C’mon, animators. Surely you can think of a better team to slap on Kou’s t-shirt.

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – 08

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“Prince” Kashima discovers Hori’s copy of Team-Nozaki’s work and misinterpreters the extensive notes he’s made in it and conversations with Nozaki to mean that Hori is looking for love-guidance and/or wants Kashima to treat him like a princess.

Meanwhile, Hori is swamped with background rendering work for Nozaki’s next chapter. Nozaki isn’t helping, as he doesn’t think very hard about his character’s settings and gives vague directions for Hori to follow.

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Chiyo suggests Nozaki take a swing at rendering his own backgrounds, which results in ‘floating’ characters, and character heights being off due to bad perspective. Nozaki ‘solves’ this problem by drawing boxes under various characters’ feet and by adding a page where the heroin explains that everyone is really into boxes these days.

These scenes are hilarious and make excellent use of simple, barely animated art (we’re just looking at pages of manga) so GSN-k can spend its money where and when it matters: Running around a school wearing a bull mask!

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Still believing she’s helping Hori, Kashima continues to ‘harass’ him about wanting their play’s princess role and even makes him a thought out girls outfit, which she delivers one piece at a time to his locker, each with a note cheering him on. 

Conflict between the two comes to a head after an all-nighter at Nozaki’s, where a passed out Hori finds himself riding on the back of a bull, racing across the school. After arriving at the nurse’s station, and revealing her identity, Hori appears marginally appreciative if not totally bewildered. (end episode)

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GSN-k is all about how funny and absurd life gets when people don’t ‘get it.’ Specifically, it pokes at each character’s ignorance of romantic interest from another or ignorance of their own romantic interests. Of GSN-k’s 3.5 couples, Kashima and Hori collectively ‘get it’ least. (in no small part because Kashima knows nothing about the manga group)

Because their bond is the most ‘confused,’ it makes a fair amount of sense that Kashima x Hori’s relationship is the most juvenile. (re:violent, the ultimate response of the confused) Unfortunately, the relationship is also the least interesting.

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Simple point: Kashima x Hori’s have no chemistry. (Kashima put more fire into clowning around with Mikarin over who was a stronger womanizer than anything she does with Hori)

Worse, you could argue that they have no real conflict. Hori isn’t consulting anyone to figure out how to be closer to Kashima. Nor is Kashima explicitly trying to express love for Hori. Good intentions and friendship, sure. Romance? Not so much.

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Compare this to Seo x Hirotaka, where Hirotaka deeply loves the singing voice of the woman he deeply hates yet doesn’t know the two are one in the same. (And Seo is very confused about all of this) That drama has legs and a narrative path to resolution that could be interesting!

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And then there’s the girl hitting, which fellow reviewer Zane was so deeply put off by. I’m certainly less offended by it but, in all fairness to Zane, I have to agree that it doesn’t add to the show. Not humor wise at least.

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In closing, week eight brought us several good scenes. Kashima’s interviews with Mikorin and Nozaki, the box gags and Kashima’s mad-bull-run verged on snot bubble funny and the boxes in particular got me to play the episode a second time through, just to see if they snuck any into ‘the real world.’

So, sure, the plot didn’t advance and we learned nothing new about Hori and Kashima but in the end, my laughter more than made up for the Ranma 1/2 style ‘i’m hitting you because l like you but you make me angry all the time’ slog.

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Stray Observations:

  • The bull head was totally absurd and fantastic!
  • Watching Mikorin get ‘out charmed’ by Kashima was fantastic and her comment that the Hero was a push over? Spot on!
  • I have no idea where this sub plot is going? Will it resolve? I’m taking Nozaki’s inner thought as a sign that it wont be!