Hanayamata – 06

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Naru has been following through on her efforts to change herself for the better, and those efforts haven’t gone unnoticed by her father. He’s concerned by the change, suspecting everything from delinquency to illicit sexual relations, and even more confused when she asked him if he’s noticed her changing, but he has nothing to fear.

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Naru’s simply found something to be passionate about, and work hard with others on. He unwittingly gives her the idea to make the favorite flowers of its members the theme of their yosakoi club. But with only two months to prepare for the Hanairo Festival, they decide that a smaller event would be better in order to test how they’ll perform for a crowd.

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Hana finds such an event at a department store, but numerous hurdles stand in their way. Sari is working hard not to be a pushover, and denies permission to participate unless they all score an average of 80 in their exams and show her their complete performance beforehand. Yaya also has to prepare for her band’s audition, which is a big deal to her and her bandmates. (Interestingly, we don’t get to watch their audition.)

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In the end, Hana doesn’t score high enough, but turns in supplementary work to Sari, not to change her mind, but to show her she’s working hard. When she accidentally gives Sari a notebook with their choreography, Sari starts to have a change of heart, and changes her mind after seeing them perform in front of the class.

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That first impromptu public performance comes when a classmate spots the naruko in Yaya’s hand, and Hana gets the idea to show rather than tell the class exactly what they’re up to. It’s certainly not a perfect or even complete performance, but you have to start somewhere. Also, the music Tami wrote is a really nice piano arrangement of the opening theme.

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But while the yosakoi club enjoys a victory this week, Yaya’s band did not qualify, and they look pretty forlorn about it. At this point I’m sure Yaya is wondering whether her drumming suffered due to diverting some of her passion and energy to yosakoi. The time may come when she’ll have to choose one or the other, and it won’t be an easy choice.

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Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – 06

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The first half of this week’s episode introduces us to the last member of the ensemble, Wakamatsu Hirotaka. He’s on the basketball team, but is always getting rammed by the out-of-control Seo Yuzuki. It’s stressing him out and leading to insomnia.

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Nozaki provides a remedy, if technically by accident, when Wakamatsu is over at his place. He switches on his iPod and a recording of Yuzuki’s beautiful singing voice comes on, putting Wakamatsu to sleep instantly. Yes, the source and solution to his stress are the same person; he just doesn’t know it.

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This is not at all a bad premise for a shoujo manga, and Wakamatsu decides to confront Yuzuki with methods used in manga: leaving a note in her locker that Chiyo thinks is a love letter; meeting her atop the school at dusk; even using gloves to challenge her to a duel. But even if Waka executed all of these perfectly, Yuzuki takes everything precisely the wrong way.

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Even when he yells at her, she’s too busy thinking of a nickname for him, and when he gives her gloves, she believes the whole meeting was so “Waka” could give her a gift. It’s a case of two people who like each other, but are on such different wavelengths they’re unable to connect.

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Part Two deals with another common shoujo scenario: the girl lovingly nursing the sick guy back to health. Naturally, there’s a twist to it, as Chiyo isn’t the only one the ill Nozaki sends an SOS text to. Waka and Hori also arrive. Nozaki doesn’t need medicine; he just wants someone to stay in bed for him, as if following the spirit if not the letter of doctor’s orders made any sense.

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Instead, Chiyo insists he stay in bed himself, and she and Hori decide to finish his manga for him before tomorrow’s deadline. Being the seasoned manga senpais to Waka is of no avail when they discover screentone has to be applied to the pages, something they’ve never done. Waka proves better at it than either of them.

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When Nozaki is too rambling about the dialogue, the three decided to add their own, with Chiyo and Waka using Yuzuki as a template for Mamiko, while Hori uses the same shimmering background for Suzuki, projecting Kashima. They finish the manga and it’s technically fine, but content-wise it’s a hot mess, and Nozaki has no choice but to ask for an extension.

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Yuzuki-as-Mamiko is pretty funny, and a nice call-back to the first half story. It seems the show will rarely combine all seven members of its ensemble for one story, unless of course all of them end up going on a trip together or something. having a different combination of strong, quirky personalities each week is keeping things fresh.

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Love Stage!! – 04

LS4_pic1“It must be hard to have a guy suddenly confess his love to you” – Ryouma

Shouga comes to sympothize with Ryouma, who is a gloomy mess and doing poorly at his job. To break Izumi out of his post-rape funk, Rei tells Izumi he’s been molested by a man before and answers a few questions. Izumi feels better and more confident that he isn’t somehow tainted by BL and has an unintended show down with Ryouma, who apologizes and convinces Izumi to stay friends, as long as they take it slow…

This week’s Love Stage does it’s best to move on from last week’s rape-fest. Ryouma is shown as deeply remorceful over his actions (as a rapist), Rei is shon finally comforting Izumi and sharing common ground over the apparent horrors of man-rape in the entertainment management business, and Izumi is shown bouncing back from post-rape-victim-funk when he learns that being aroused while being raped is not the victims fault. More specifically, Rei convinces him that it doesn’t mean he’s gay.

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Then Ryouma chases Izumi through the streets to apologize and catches up because Izumi’s escape is blocked by bear-headed sumo wrestlers. They have a lengthy conversation, where Ryouga basically says every hardship he’s ever had (almost all because of Shouga) has been bearable because of his memory/lust for Izumi. Then they share phone numbers and Izumi agrees to stay in touch as long as Ryouma takes it slow.

The disconnect, at least for me, as how LS presents everything. Sometimes, characters respond to the drama like it is: sexual assault. Other times, they take it as just some embarrassing thing a dude did because he was so worked up over a cute fem-boy.

It doesn’t help that the show still throws 4th wall breaking weirdness into the mix like the sumo wrestlers (which would be funny/weird in another show about a less serious topic). It also doesn’t help that LS goes way way way out of it’s way to show Ryouma is a sympathetic character… just makes it even more creepy.

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Other reviewers have equated these plot choices as integral to the BL/yaoi genre. That may be true but they seem odd to present if Love Stage’s goal is to present a more approachable version of BL to the audience. I really must wonder how many viewers were repulsed enough to stop watching?

Meanwhile, it is implied that their conversation was over heard by an unknown party, probably up to no good. What will this mean for Ryouma’s career? What will this mean for Izumi’s chances to stay as an anonymous manga loving man-boy-girl? Depends on how much you care about the show anymore, I guess.

For now, I will continue watching. If only to witness the next, off handed, indifferently handled horror it unleashes.

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