Hanayamata – 07

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Hana and Naru’s hold on Yaya in the yosakoi club was always tenuous, due to her insistence on “member in name only” status and her obligations to her band. When Need Cool Quality bombs at their audition and then disbands just as Hana and Naru are trying to involve Yaya more, it’s the perfect recipe for Yaya to blow up. And blow up she does.

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It’s not out of the blue, either: in her wounded state, all the giddy enthusiasm of the yosakoi girls throw at her is akin to mocking or laughing at her misfortune, at least from her perspective. When Tami purports to know exactly what’s going on with Yaya, based on her experience with Machi, Hana and Naru’s super-confident first reconciliation attempt backfires spectacularly—as it should, IMO—leaving them far worse off than if they’d said nothing.

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Yaya and Naru’s dynamic used to be that of the superior perfect idol and the fawning acolyte, respectively. Now Yaya’s band is in a ditch—a decision made by the others without her input, no less—yet Naru and Hana’s yosakoi club is chugging along full speed ahead. She’s jealous of their success, and bitter for having taken her own past success for granted. She’s humbled, embarrassed, gloomy, and generally pissed off.

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Naru and Hana’s first attempt didn’t fail because they were being too lovey-dovey, but because they approached Yaya as if they knew exactly what she was feeling and how to “fix everything”, thus projecting a patronizing, almost haughty tone. They correct that the next time, first luring Yaya to the roof by hurling harsh insults upon her, then acting more contrite, with some desperation and genuine waterworks for good measure.

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Getting someone as stubborn as Yaya to back down from comments like “I hate you all!” and “Don’t talk to me ever again!” is no cakewalk, but they pull it off, accepting all the blame for the recent spat and beg her forgiveness, and cry a lot, giving her tacit permission to do the same. Most importantly, they acknowledge they don’t have all the answers. Hana doesn’t make the strongest case in the climactic exchange, but Naru says more than enough to stick the dramatic landing, leading to tearful catharsis.

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Fox Girl Tami Hugs for Everyone!

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Ao Haru Ride – 07

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If you think this episode felt like stalling or a staving off of Futaba’s upcoming confrontation Yuuri, then this is the wrong show for you. Good shoujo anime often delve deep into the heads of their heroines and make their inner dialogue an interesting and crucial part of the story. What actually happens almost becomes secondary to how the heroine arrived at what to do or say.

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Ao Haru Ride succeeds in making Futaba wrestling with what to do, as it becomes more and more apparent what she must do, an pleasantly entertaining affair. Sure, there are times when it seems she’s going around in circles, but that repetition is helpful to her eventual understanding that she may not be able to love Kou and be Yuuri’s “precious friend.” Her procrastination helps her arrive at this conclusion.

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A good shoujo anime also tries to minimize the utilization of pure dumb luck and coincidence in the heroine’s dealings, or at least tries be subtle about it. But there was nothing subtle about Futaba’s “chance encounter” with her former friend Yumi, who in middle school was in the exact situation Futaba finds herself in now, thus serving as a very convenient cautionary tale.

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What works better is the fact that Yumi’s presence allows us more backstory that deepens our understanding of how Futaba came to be a tomboy in high school. She was once as passive and cute and docile as Yuuri continues to be, but she surrendered when things got tough, and is only now trying to figure out who she is. Yuuri, meanwhile, remains committed to being herself, no matter the social cost.

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Futaba hoists Yuuri upon a pedestal all this time, while her interactions with Kou this week demonstrate that her cute vulnerable girly side is far from gone, and Kou seems to bring it out without trying, even leading her to be self-conscious about her bag and change her shampoo. She’s worried Kou doesn’t see her as a girl…but if he loves her, who cares how he sees her?

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The main issue here is that no matter how loving and kind and sweet and forgiving Yuuri is, Futaba won’t know how she will react to the news she also likes Kou, and furthermore liked him first (though I’m not sure she’ll elaborate). And the harsh truth is, losing her as a friend is a possibility, though not a certainty. What is certain is that she has to tell her. Now she knows that without a doubt.

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