Tasogare Otome x Amnesia – 05

During the school cultural festival, Yuuko decides the P.I. club will have a haunted house, and she’ll be the ghost. Kirie gets fed up with watching Yuuko hang off of Niiya, and storms off with Okonogi, bump into some of her friends who conscript Kirie for cat maid cafe duty. The experience boosts Kirie’s confidence, but then she realizes how similar she looks like Yuuko, and goes in the haunted house to face her own fear: the fear of being at the bottom of the barrel, and looking like a ghost. She runs out and bumps into Niiya, who compliments her in a roundabout way after she asks him why he likes Yuuko.

Ah, cultural festival episodes. They’re apparently an absolute necessity in most anime involving a school, and this episode represented dutiful compliance with that convention. It did, however, set Yuuko and Niiya flirting aside for most of its running time, focusing on Kirie, who up until now we’d known little about besides the fact she’s not as annoying as Okonogi, a bit of a tomboy, and Yuuko’s granddaughter. Here we learn what we could have predicted: she likes Niiya and is annoyed that he pays more attention to the ghost. She makes Niiya a stand-in for society at large: if he won’t give her the time of day, why should anyone else? After all, she has – gasp – short hair and – double gasp – a modest bust! Yep, she’s basically devilspawn.

When Okonogi dresses her up as a cat maid, to the approval and captivation of the cafe patrons, it’s a much-needed boost of self-esteem. She realizes that she’s got the Kanoe charm; some of the same qualities that make her granny so alluring to Niiya (well, that, and the fact Yuuko is so lovey-dovey with him.) Only she has an edge over Yuuko: she’s still alive. Is Kirie being a bit overly dramatic, considering she’s not that bad-looking at all? Sure. Is her performance this week all over the place? Definitely. But we still enjoyed her little journey of self-discovery, which was punctuated by a bevy of weird close-ups and quick changes of mood. Nothing spell-binding, but enough to hold our interest…for now.

Rating: 5 (Average)

Sakamichi no Apollon – 04

Jun comes by the music shop with good news: he’s gotten the quartet a live audience in the form of a gaijin jazz bar U.S. troops frequent. Christmas (also Sentaro’s birthday) arrive, and Kaoru bumps into Ritsuko at the music store, where they each buy a drumstick for Sentaro. When it starts to snow, Kaoru kisses Ritsuko, but she runs off in tears. When Kaoru sees Sentaro with his family, he yells at him in frustration, but later Sentaro shares his past with him, and they make up at a Hammond organ. When the night of their gig arrives, they start off well, but a drunk heckles them, and Sentaro leaves the stage. Jun and Kaoru continue with a rendition of Gershwin’s But Not For Me.

Jazz may be helping Kaoru to be more unexpected – after all, we would never have guessed he’d give Ritsuko a big ol’ smooch before hearing having an idea how she feels. But considering tears have been involved both times, we’re guessing she doesn’t like him that way, or otherwise her emotions are as confused as an out-of-sync jazz quartet. And while a piano, trumpet, bass and drums make a happy family in a jazz band, Kaoru has some major envy for Sentaro, believing he “has it all”, until of course Sentaro tells him he doesn’t. He had a rough life, being half-American and hated for it by other kids and his grandmother, who died in his arms, leading to his dad giving him the cold shoulder. It would seem he was partially raised by the church, and Ritsuko was always around as well.

Knowing the truth, the rich and privileged Kaoru feels bad that he pitied himself just because his aunt and cousin are unwelcoming bitches. And his own dad may never come home, so like Sentaro, he’s going to have to find another remedy for his lonliness. He thought that Ritsuko would help, but knowing she really loves Sentaro (and now understanding more about why), he feels his love is petty by comparison. This was another excellent episode that not only delved into Sentaro’s past, but also served up lots of unexpected little twists that parallel the unpredictablility of jazz. Be it the sudden snow, Kaoru’s stolen kiss, the racist drunk at the bar almost ruining their first set, or Yurika suddenly getting the hots for Jun (after a rough introduction where he thought she was there to patronize the troops!), life is indeed sometimes like jazz.

Rating: 8 (Great)