Oreimo 2 – 01

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Thanks to Kyousuke convincing her, Kirino is back in Japan and catching up with all her friends, but even a year after everything began, she’s back to ignoring him and geting hostile when he tries to talk to her. Kuroneko is also short with him until he asks her what she meant by her kiss, but Sena interrupts before she can say anything. Tomorrow Kirino invites Kyousuke to accompany her on a massive shopping spree at Akiba, and when they return home, more eroge arrives via mail. As thanks, Kirino gives him one to play one through.

Oreimo returns with a reversion of sorts: all the progress Kyousuke thought he’d made in his relationship with his sister seems to be gone, but he continues to obsess over having an active and important role in her life, even as other women he’d be better off paying more attention to hover nearby. We’re not sure quite what kind of clarification he needs from Ruri; the girl kissed him, for Chrissake. What more does he need: an essay with footnotes and a letter of recommendation? She even told him she likes him, as much as Kirino does. But rather than pursue that which could be his – either Ruri or Manami – he remains committed to that which he can’t have.

Yes, she eventually comes around a little in this episode back, but Kyousuke had to do an awful lot of manual labor to earn the smallest token of gratitude. She’s apparently allergic to please and thank you. But Kyousuke is convinced Kirino does care for her, and thinks she’ll be devastated if he chooses another girl. Or hell, maybe he just likes getting trod upon by her, while stringing other girls around. This would be nothing new, and it will be a problem if this new season is simply history repeating itself. The status quo must be challenged.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • The episode starts off with a flashback in which Kirino wants to bathe with his brother, Kyousuke tells her off, and she shows a more assertive side to herself, telling him of right back.
  • Kuroneko’s close-up…there are no words.
  • Sena is an interrupting bitch. And sorry, but no school in the world would allow its students make hardcore homoge for club.
  • Kyousuke and Kirino’s dad gets to belt out a few lines. When’s he going to roll out some Evas for his children to pilot?

 

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Chihayafuru 2 – 13

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The Mizusawa/Akashi Girls match continues. Chihaya notes Megumu’s consistent calm, but uses all of the skills her teammates and Dr. Harada taught her, including the fact that Megumu is her, had she not been as well-coached. Hanano’s notes help Desktomu, while Porky’s opponent is more manly than he expected. Chihaya uses her accuracy to take three consecutive cards and start whittles at Megumu’s lead. Megumu momentarily wavers, but when Yu contributes vocal support, which she had neglected, she gets upset and recommits herself to beat Chihaya and challenge the queen.

There’s more similarity between karuta and March Madness than you might know. For instance, if there are two games going on at the same time, one between the 1 and 2 -seed teams and one between the 3 and 4, the natural inclination is to pay attention to the first game. But when the 3-4 game turns out to be more competitive and interesting, you change the channel and watch that. This is what happens to the audience at Omi Jingu. The match between Mizusawa and Akashi Girls starts picks up steam, and the swirling, clashing energy between the hard-fighting teams shifts the crowd’s attention on them. We don’t see a second of the other match.

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The match doesn’t end this week, which is annoying, but it is a good match with a lot going on. It’s ironic that Porky was looking forward to playing a girl and gets the tomboy of the team, but more interesting that not only did Komano use Hanano’s unique scouting notes to heart, and they worked for him in a real game situation, but Hanano noticed that he used her notes, recalling his praise for her,  and feels pride in her contribution. Could this be the initial stirrings of a very unexpected romance? Well…probably not, but we wouldn’t mind if it went in that direction. She and Komano would make a very intriguing couple.

Meanwhile, Chihaya is staying right in her match with Megumu, and not just because she’s relying on her strengths, but because she’s constantly assessing her weaknesses and working to conquer them, or at least turn them to her favor. Chihaya believes Megumu is relying on her speed, and we know Megumu is driven more by being the one who makes everyone happy rather than any desire to be the queen. When her teammate usurps her, she responds aggressively. She is often faster than Chihaya, but we wouldn’t be surprised if she hasn’t revealed her whole game.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Megumu’s fans – both the three swooning photogs and the weepy, youth-obsessed faculty advisor, are a bit grating here. We could have done with one or two fewer cutaways  to each. As for the Fujisaki girl, her stare reminds us of a MISAKA clone.
  • One weakness that Chihaya has yet to conquer – and one that may prove devastating in her queen match – is her inability to contest close cards. She’s really quite terrible at it!
  • We liked when Sudo noted that some of Chihaya’s moves reminded him of Wakamiya. They’re supposed to!

Aku no Hana – 01

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The bookish Kasuga Takao is engrossed Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil), but also nursing a hard crush on Saeki Nanaki, the top student in his class. One day he forgets the book in the classroom and runs back to pick it up. He also finds Saeki’s gym uniform on the floor.

Uh oh…an anime that leans heavily on literature we’ve never read…but seriously, just what the hell was this? It looked totally different from everything else this season, or year, for that matter; using real-life actors and rotoscoping them. The result is a totally different visual language from what we’re used to, which is more than a little jarring. So many anime are escapist; this recalls and even amplifies the reality of a humdrum existence. Every building is dingy; every piece of metal is a little rusty, and every sky is not quite blue enough to be happy. It draws us in, but not entirely because that’s what we want.

We can’t help but feel like the realistic movement of the characters and their natural way of conversing together, combined with the overall bleakness of the show’s palette, all conspire to unnerve and unsettle us. We’re talking about a kid who likes The Flowers of Evil, and while we don’t know much about it, we do know it was written in a time when huge changes were happening in society, including the nature of beauty. While the show may want us to pity Kasuga and his dull existence, we’re not meant to particularly like the guy, either, and…we don’t! He kinda creeps us out. But we also kinda want to know what will happen to him, so we’ll keep watching…for now.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)