Hanasaku Iroha 2

Another absolutely masterful twenty-four minutes of coming-of-age drama and slice-of-life. Ohana tries to ingratiate herself with her grandma/manager and co-workers by being pro-active. This serves to show them she knows how to work; her useless mother saw to that. But constantly taking initiatives and surprising people is not always ideal in a business as complex as a bathhouse. It’s more about everyone being a part of a well-oiled machine, not acting independently.

Ohana doesn’t keep acting inconsiderate and spontaneous. She vows to change her behavior. But she’s not going to change who she is, and she isn’t going to allow Minko to keep telling her to die, nor Nako to keep being so shy and tight-lipped. These two girls are still not quite her friends, but with much effort, they’re getting there, slowly. I like how nothing, nothing comes easy for Ohana. That’s what makes it so realistic.

An especially great little moment occurs when she’s relaxing outside thinking about boys the very moment Tohru appears. Their non-flirtation in the van which almost gets them both killed, is kind of a wake-up call to Ohana. She can’t just do things her way. Thoughtful effort can be construed as thoughtless to others. Thus, one shouldn’t tell someone to “die” carelessly.

Finally, this episode is just as gorgeous as the first, if not moreso. Not only is the bathhouse itself an intricately-detailed, labyrinthine feast for the eyes, but the town and the skies above it – be it dawn, dusk, sunset or misty morning, are nothing short of breathtaking. The opening theme is really grating, but I don’t care. The show that follows is a home run. Rating: 4

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The World God Only Knows II – First Impressions

The World God Only Knows barely skips a beat, introducing a new girl for Keima to conquer who is nothing like the four that have come before her, who were all distinctive in their own ways. One thing I enjoyed last season was the premise of dealing with only one girl at a time – no harems or love polygons – and the fact that the end Keima sought was always to clear the level – not to win the girl for any extended period. It helps him that the loose soul’s out, the girl’s memory forgets him.

This newest girl, Kasuga, is interesting because Keima relates to how far she has strived to master a discipline. As the heir to a distinguished martial arts school, she has worked all her life to reject her femininity, along with everything cute and thus weak in her mind.

Yet the girl who loves kittens and cute boys is every bit as strong as her, so much that she bursts out during a sudden rush of emotion. This is beyond schizophrenia, because Keima and Elsee can see this spectral double. Speaking of Elsee, yeah she’s still the weak link in this series, being overall very obnoxious and tiresome, though she does at least make herself useful with her invisible boa-thing.

The opening and ending sequences – both huge strengths last season, have been replaced with two really awful J-pop songs I already can’t stand. But these foibles don’t overshadow the overall goodness in between them: the sly Keima already has a strategy for winning Kasuga’s heart, and he may have to let her beat him up a bit to succeed. Rating: 3.5