Natsuyuki Rendezvous – 08

Rokka is confused by the sight of bouquets Atsushi made for her, and the fact Atsushi’s journal, tools, and backpack are all missing. She calls Hazuki – still under Atsushi’s control, then has the urge to go backpacking herself, without a finite destination. Meanwhile, Hazuki, under the urging of the mini-Rokka, finally escapes from the undersea scene into a white void…

Well, whaddaya now, Hazuki’s STILL STUCK IN THE DAMN DRAWING. We don’t want to discount the fact that there was a lot more lovely flashbacks of Rokka’s last days with her husband (as well as flashbacks to Hazuki’s earlier dealings with her), but we must confess our enjoyment of this episode was marred somewhat by our hope and expectation (however premature) that we were finally going to get some kind of payoff. But the series was content to keep Hazuki wallowing in the drawing, totally shut off from the real world and what Atsushi’s doing with him.

By the way…what exactly IS Atsushi doing with him, now? He withdrew a bunch of cash from his and Rokka’s bank account and dons a giant backpack supposedly filled with clothes and provisions. One flashback mentions a trip to a faraway place he and Rokka never got to go to. Well fine, but how on earth is Rokka going to track him down? Will it just happen by chance? And even if she does, what is she supposed to make of Hazuki’s actions? Right now she just seems lost, confused, and distraught – not a state you’d think someone who proports to love her would want her to be in for long. Will this series continue teasing us till the end, or will Atsushi ever finally move on for good?

Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Binbougami ga! – 08

Rindou reaches out to Ichiko in friendship, but Ichiko repeatedly rebukes her. Ichiko’s main detractor Tange Akane takes advantage of Ichiko’s distraction to lure her into an ambush using a gang of guys. Rindou saves Ichiko from the gang, but the abandoned school building they’re all in starts to collapse. Safe outside, Ichiko weighs saving Rindou, afraid she’ll still want friendship. Because Ichiko had a traumatic experience with her last friend Kurumi, she doesn’t feel she can trust anyone. Momiji prods her into action, and afterwards, Rindou promises she’ll never use or betray her the was Kurumi did.

Beneath her brash, beautiful, arrogant veneer, Sakura Ichiko is a unsociable misanthrope who is afraid of getting close to anyone. The unbridled friendliness of Rindou puts her off; it doesn’t even occur to her that she could have a real friendship with her or anyone else. Why? Because she was used and betrayed by a so-called friend in the past (this friend is guest-voiced by Rie Kugimiya in full Two-Faced Bitch Mode). Rather than take a chance at making friends again and getting hurt again, Ichiko keeps to herself, and dedicates each day to projecting pride, confidence, and cynicism for her fellow man.

But both Momiji and Rindou have seen other sides of Ichiko. The tender side; the vulnerable side; the side who stood up to Rindou’s father, not just – as she insisted – because he pissed her off, but for Rindou’s sake. Not only does Rindou repay her by risking her life to save hers, she outright refuse’s Ichiko’s rejection of her, wearing her down with her assurances she’ll never hurt Ichiko. Whether Ichiko likes it or not, she has herself a friend. She’ll survive.

Rating: 6 (Good)

Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu (Retro Review)

Originally posted 19 Dec 2010 – We’ve been fans of Haruhi Suzumiya from the first episode of the original series back in 2006, and have remained fans ever since. She’s certainly a polarizing character most will either find charming or unbelievably annoying. The same goes with the Suzumiya franchise. It’s spawned dozens of imitations since it first aired. We even sat through the infamous “Endless Eight” arc, in which the producers had the audacity to recreate the very same tortured feeling of repetition that Kyon felt. Call us masochists, but we relished every excruciating, suspense-building episode (well, mostly).

One of the things we love about the series is the infinite possibilities that come from Haruhi’s apparently limitless power. A simple visual metaphor in the original series OP says it all: the camera zooms into Haruhi’s eye and the entire universe unfolds within it. That’s the potential of this series: anything can happen to Kyon, an otherwise ordinary student with no powers in an otherwise normal school in an otherwise normal city. This epic, sprawling, two-and-three-quarter-hour film met that potential…and surpassed it in ways we couldn’t have predicted.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: the production values rule. This film was a masterpiece of light and color. It breathed life into its characters and settings by employing peerless care and attention to detail. Whatever this film cost, it was frankly worth every penny. From the soaring orchestral arrangements of familiar musical motifs, to portrayal of such mundane actions as applying double-stick tape or walking home at night and having headlamps cast upon you, this film simply looked and sounded badass. On some levels this film even surpassees Ghibli in rendering its utterly beautiful yet believable world.

As for the story, in the best tradition of the franchise, it weaves a tangled, complex tale, as Kyon travels across time and space, having somehow fallen out of his own. As the title suggests, Haruhi is nowhere to be found…at first. But the twists and turns the plot takes as Kyon desperately searches for someone who understands him, and the epic quest to set things right in the world – and indeed, discover what constitutes ‘right’ for Kyon, make for a satisfyingly addictive cinematic experience.

The film essentially boiled down to a choice Kyon – not Haruhi – has to make; a choice made possible by Yuki Nagano, who after living with humans so long, has reached the point where systemic “errors” cause “anomalous behavior”. Read: she’s developing emotions for her SOS Brigade-mates, slowly but surely, and decided to act upon Kyon’s outward attitude towards the world he lives in. He seems weary of all the supernatural experiences, the danger, and the hassle of dealing with Haruhi.

So Yuki remakes the world; a stable world where both she and Haruhi are powerless, and there are neither time travelers nor espers to be found. It’s a world she thought Kyon would prefer, and a world where Yuki herself would be a normal girl with feelings for him. Naturally, upon finding himself suddenly in this world, he wigs out…at first. This is where the choice comes in: will he admit he actually likes being with Haruhi and enduring her schemes, or live a quiet, safe life devoid of anything fantastical in the new, normal world Yuki made for him?

At times, this seems like a choice for Kyon between Haruhi and the ‘new’ Yuki. After much hand-wringing, he chooses the original world, not because it was the logical choice, but it was what he really wanted. Thus, he rejects the new, normal human Yuki with whom he could have had a normal romantic relationship. Even so, his later pledge to original Yuki – that he’d fight just as fiercely to get her back if anything ever happened to her – showed that his affections aren’t limited to Haruhi – or Asahina – but to Yuki too.

Well, that’s enough rambling! This is a long and engrossing film, but we almost can’t wait to see it again soon (We have. It still rocks.) We’ll simply close by saying this wasn’t simply an excellent Haruhi Suzumiya film, or anime film; it was an excellent film, full stop, and an instant favorite of ours. If Kyoto Animation wants to make another Haruhi anime series in the near future, we certainly won’t stop them.

Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

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