Hanayamata – 03

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As is the case with Ao Haru Ride, we’ve still got a ways to go before the core group is “getting on like a house on fire,” but all the pieces are there after this week. The Ha and the Na are locked in, but to be an official club they need at least two more members. That leaves Ya, Ma, and Ta, all of whom make apperences, but none of whom seem to be in a hurry to join. But they will of course; it’s in the OP. It’s not a matter of if, but how and when.

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First up: Yaya. At the beginning of the episode she considers Hana a dangerous, annoying rival; gobbling up precious time Naru could be spending with her. Her position doesn’t necessarily change by the end of the episode, but after hanging out with Hana for a day (when Hana appears passed out in front of her family’s ramen shop), Yaya finally understands Hana’s appeal. She may be a small, clingy dunce, but she’s so open and positive you can’t help feel happy around her.

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Yaya has to admit there’s something to her, as they have so much fun they accidentally ditch Naru, who Yaya was meant to meat for the movies. Of the three girls left to recruit, Yaya is the closest to coming aboard. Not only is she well on her way to becoming friends with Hana the Ball of Positive Energy, but Hana moves her with the notion that its best to spend what little time we have on this world doing things we like with people we like. Things like yosakoi.

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The other two potentials remain on the periphery. The bespectacled student council president, Tokiwa Machi (Nuakura Manami)’s only interactions with Hana and Naru are scolding them for illegal club marketing, but ironically she becomes the catalyst for them taking this more seriously. Well, that and gathering the courage to get past the suspicious shop manager and learning about an upcoming show.

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The stern, standoffish Machi looks like the toughest nut to crack, but she seems to be acquainted with Nishimikado Tami, a longtime family friend of Naru’s, so maybe Tami will help out with her. Machi also seems like the one least likely to get into yosakoi, but I won’t judge a book from its cover. Members, adviser, costumes, gear, music, routine…there’s a lot to do, but Naru and Hana just have to take it one step at a time.

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Stray Observations:

  • The James Bond-style cold open was pretty damned cute.
  • I now know how to properly strike a naruko…that being said, I’d be handling a flag.
  • I loved Hana’s observations of Japanese culture: the perfect woman; pop songs with random English words; tiny portions of food…
  • Yana dresses Hana in her little brother’s clothes. Hana pulls it off.
  • I liked how Naru milked her outrage at being ditched for all it was worth, and Yana accedes.

 

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Ao Haru Ride – 03

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As her sophomore year begins, Futaba has pledged to start over; building everything she’d lost all over again, and maybe gaining more than she ever had before. On one level, that means making new friends on more than just a surface level. On the other, it means continuing to chip away at Kou’s armor, worrying less about who he was and learning more about who he is now.

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Before that though, we see a flashback of how she and Kou used to make eye-contact, both “fumbling through” in sixth grade, but fumbling together nonetheless. Even present Kou can’t escape the past early in the episode, as his older brother, a teacher at the school, remembers Kou writing Futaba’s name at his desk one night.

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It all works in both their favors, though, as Kou is forced to lead Futaba away by her hand. Futaba jumps the gun with too many questions at once, but Kou makes her cry by being too harsh, and has to apologize. He also apologizes for not meeting her at the festival years ago. Right now Kou’s cold and warm sides are fighting each other. Futaba sees it too, and she wants in. She’s here for him. Will he let her in?

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Meantime, Futaba also sees to another goal—rebuilding her shattered social life—by trying to set the right “atmosphere” in her new class, which consists not only of Yuuri, but Kou as well; in fact, Kou’s easygoing, almost practiced attitude in interacting with people inspires Futaba to do the same. Funny then, that she manages to make Yuuri look good, but rumors of her dealings with her old friends earn her the “scary delinquent” label. High school. It’s brutal.

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One day in, and Futaba is frustrated and depressed. Enter Kou once more, who tells her in his cryptic, pretending-not-to-be-interested way not to give up, and “do what she wants,” because despite her notion that everything has “started” (and has somehow sputtered) in reality, nothing’s started yet. Futaba starts something by volunteering to be class rep. Kou joins as the male rep; Yuuri and newcomers Aya and Shuuko as event reps. And just like that, Futaba has built a nice-looking circle of (potential) friends. Now she’s getting somewhere.

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Weekly OP: Hanayamata

For once, a YouTube comment captures the essence of an OP as well as I could have: “Cute and Catchy.” The visuals demonstrate the show’s trademark smooth, silky dancing animation, while the theme’s tendency to “dance” between minor to major intervals is a big part of its catchiness. The last four bars bring the sequence to a dreamy, satisfying close.

The theme is called “Hanaha Odoru Reya Iroha ni Ho” (花ハ躍レヤいろはにほ) by Team Hanayamata (composed of the show’s five main seiyus). And as you’ve probably guessed by now, the title of the show is the first syllables of the five girls who will ultimately form the yosakoi group.

Love Stage!! – 01

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I am RABUJOI’s resident Pessimist Reviewer. I’m impatient, hyper critical, caustic and, as an artist myself, particular about what makes a show visually worth watching. So, it is only fitting that my punishment for trash-talking Rail Wars!, Sailor Moon and Glasslip be to unearth ‘what is good’ about several shows on our B-roster.

My first show is Love Stage!!, a water color style rom-com about Izumi, a directionless, effeminate college boy and his struggles to find an identity within his massively tallented show-biz family.

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Love Stage!! is about consequences, decisions and misunderstandings. You see, 10 years ago Izumi played the ‘little girl who catches the bouquet’ in a wedding commercial and his co-star Ryouma, who was never told Izumi was actually a guy, has carried a torch for Izumi all this time. Fast forward to today and the wedding company wants to film a reunion commercial with the original cast, now with Izumi as the bride to be.

The ensuring chaos is fairly predictable: Izumi obviously doesn’t want to be a trap, his parents want him to take the job because he hasn’t figured out what to do with himself yet, and Ryouma is an episode away from experiencing a serious surprise!

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What is not predictable, and what makes Love Stage!! worth watching, is how Izumi comes to realize his crack-pot dream of becoming a manga artist is never going to happen unless he actually works on it — and he does really start putting work into it. In this way, Izumi himself is the first character to realize his own misunderstanding, and we see him make a decision to correct it and live with the consequences.

What also makes Love Stage!! enjoyable is how sincere and positive all the characters are. Izumi’s parents, while pushy, never shout at him for falling short of their expectations or making poor life choices. Nor does Izumi mope too long over the mess his life has been and the mess his life is about to be. Love Stage!! is just a warm, happy show and I respect that in a sea of otherwise broody or whiny rom-coms.

Also, i swear Izumi’s dad’s mustache is glued onto his face!

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Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – 03

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This week introduces us to two more characters who appear from the OP rainbow heretofore unknown to us: the short-statured drama club president Hori Masayuki, and the dashing, statuesque, academically and athletically gifted “Prince of the School”, Kashima Yuu.

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Interestingly, Chiyo assumes both of them to be the opposite gender, getting angry at Mikorin for “cheating” on the guy in Nozaki’s shoujo manga with this Prince, who turns out to be a girl, and worried about Nozaki spending late nights with the mystery background artist, who turns out to be a guy.

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With six of seven listed main characters now introduced, rankings are inevitable, and sadly it’s been a game of diminishing returns. We like the pair of Chiyo and Nozaki the best, followed by Mikoto and Yuzuki, and finally Kashima and Hori. And we like Kashima considerably more than Hori. Hori’s a bit of a dick!

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Maybe he’s a great actor trapped in the wrong body, and he’s got that chip on his shoulder. He certainly likes Kashima far more than he lets on and genuinely wants her to shine on the stage (which she does). But what’s with all the physical abuse? None of the instances where Hori hit Kashima were what I’d call abhorrent…but they weren’t that funny, either.

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Let’s just call them..awkward, shall we? If she’d hit him back once or twice, maybe it wouldn’t have rubbed me the wrong way, but it’s very one-sided and repetitive: she pisses him off, he draws blood. Too often Kashima came across as a big dumb lovable punching bag for Hori’s frustrations, which overshadowed her more positive qualities and sapped some but not all of the comedy.

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