Ao Haru Ride – 08

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“Today, no matter, what, I will definitely, definitely tell Yuuri properly!” As soon as Futaba said this, we were convinced she’d lose her nerve when it came down to it, a fear reinforced when two seconds later she says “I bet I’ll still lose my nerve when it comes down to it.” The odds of her telling Yuuri drop even more when Yuuri, unaware of the hammer Futaba’s trying to bring down on her, invites Shuuko to join them for ¥100 donuts.

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Prove me wrong, I said to the anime I like to think is based on one of Nozaki-kun’s shoujo manga: show me you can move forward and resolve this shit.” And what do you know, Ao Haru Ride answered the challenge. Even with Shuuko around and Yuuri going on about Kou, Futaba still gets it out; gets it all out, in the first five minutes of the episode. That was as welcome and refreshing as a cold shower on a searing summer day (though we’ve had precious few of those round these parts.)

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And wouldn’t you know it, Yuuri takes it extremely well…at first. Her immediate reactions involve saying “You too?”; noting how she’s not surprised, as Kou’s so totally hot and all; and acknowledging she’s at a disadvantage since Futaba’s closer to him. Then she goes to the bathroom and we get the first of two instances of characters crying for multiple reasons (Futaba’s the other, later on). One could say Yuuri is crying because her friend loves the same guy as her, which means she could potentially lose of them.

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But she’s also crying because Futaba obviously went through hell getting those words out, but she did. As Futaba thinks to herself earlier, this is the crux of her growth as a person: no longer “friends in name only” with anyone, she’s allowed to say what she wants, and in this case, needs to say. She wants to be honest, even if it could create conflict. Having friends you care about opens you up to hurting and being hurt, but the rewards are immeasurable.

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Witnessing a genuine exchange between two friends who love each other has a significant effect on Shuuko, who only tagged along because Yuuri asked her too and she had nothing else to do. What’s amazing about this first act is that this is the first time Shuuko is hanging out with people after school since she started high school. Far from fearing socializing is always this intense, she realizes what she’s been missing out on.

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It’s the perfect environment for her to get something off her own chest: that she’s in love with Tanaka-sensei. Futaba’s utter shock at this confession serves as proof Yuuri never spilled the beans, which comforts Shuuko further. When Aya passes by and happens to spot Shuuko hanging out with friends—and enjoying it—it puts a spring in his step and a tune to hum. He’s happy for her, as are we.

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One of Futaba’s best expressions yet: the “yeah I’m stalking you deal with it” look!

Yikes, I’ve only covered half the episode! That’s not to say the other half isn’t interesting, because it was, but it didn’t have quite the cathartic, warm-and-fuzzy power of the first. That could be because after running into Kou by chance, who is playing with the stray black cat, then says he won’t adopt it because “caring for things brings a lot of trouble” in the most obnoxious angsty way possible, Futaba decides to spend the rest of the night stalking him!

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This is why I like to think Nozaki-kun wrote this manga. He truly understands girls’ hearts, and in shoujo, if you like a guy and stalk him, he’ll eventually like you too! I kid, I kid…sort of. But really, if he doesn’t want Futaba following him he could be more forceful about it, but he’s very wishy-washy about it, and by the end puts on the air of a protector by lecturing her on the risk of being assaulted by going out in the night alone, culminating in the closest they’ve come to a kiss.

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Perhaps its because he was genuinely worried that Futaba would do that to try to get closer to him that he was cross with her. But at least Futaba isn’t just hiding in her head and actually trying to act on her feelings. As Shuuko so eloquently puts it, it’s ultimately up to Kou to decide between Futaba and Yuuri, or to reject them both. But if he has feelings for Futaba (and let’s face it, he does), then he shouldn’t be allowed to get away with toying with her much more.

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Stray Observations:

  • Komatsu Mikako is doing great understated work as Shuuko; her laugh sounds like the first laugh she’s laughed in years.
  • Come to think of it, Uchida Maaya is also showing she can handle non-chuunibyou dialogue with the best of ’em.
  • Aw, why not? Kudos to Kaji Yuki, while we’re at it. No one does sensitive/whiny angst like Yuki. This is Hope we’re talking about, after all.
  • Steelers? C’mon, animators. Surely you can think of a better team to slap on Kou’s t-shirt.
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Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – 08

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“Prince” Kashima discovers Hori’s copy of Team-Nozaki’s work and misinterpreters the extensive notes he’s made in it and conversations with Nozaki to mean that Hori is looking for love-guidance and/or wants Kashima to treat him like a princess.

Meanwhile, Hori is swamped with background rendering work for Nozaki’s next chapter. Nozaki isn’t helping, as he doesn’t think very hard about his character’s settings and gives vague directions for Hori to follow.

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Chiyo suggests Nozaki take a swing at rendering his own backgrounds, which results in ‘floating’ characters, and character heights being off due to bad perspective. Nozaki ‘solves’ this problem by drawing boxes under various characters’ feet and by adding a page where the heroin explains that everyone is really into boxes these days.

These scenes are hilarious and make excellent use of simple, barely animated art (we’re just looking at pages of manga) so GSN-k can spend its money where and when it matters: Running around a school wearing a bull mask!

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Still believing she’s helping Hori, Kashima continues to ‘harass’ him about wanting their play’s princess role and even makes him a thought out girls outfit, which she delivers one piece at a time to his locker, each with a note cheering him on. 

Conflict between the two comes to a head after an all-nighter at Nozaki’s, where a passed out Hori finds himself riding on the back of a bull, racing across the school. After arriving at the nurse’s station, and revealing her identity, Hori appears marginally appreciative if not totally bewildered. (end episode)

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GSN-k is all about how funny and absurd life gets when people don’t ‘get it.’ Specifically, it pokes at each character’s ignorance of romantic interest from another or ignorance of their own romantic interests. Of GSN-k’s 3.5 couples, Kashima and Hori collectively ‘get it’ least. (in no small part because Kashima knows nothing about the manga group)

Because their bond is the most ‘confused,’ it makes a fair amount of sense that Kashima x Hori’s relationship is the most juvenile. (re:violent, the ultimate response of the confused) Unfortunately, the relationship is also the least interesting.

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Simple point: Kashima x Hori’s have no chemistry. (Kashima put more fire into clowning around with Mikarin over who was a stronger womanizer than anything she does with Hori)

Worse, you could argue that they have no real conflict. Hori isn’t consulting anyone to figure out how to be closer to Kashima. Nor is Kashima explicitly trying to express love for Hori. Good intentions and friendship, sure. Romance? Not so much.

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Compare this to Seo x Hirotaka, where Hirotaka deeply loves the singing voice of the woman he deeply hates yet doesn’t know the two are one in the same. (And Seo is very confused about all of this) That drama has legs and a narrative path to resolution that could be interesting!

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And then there’s the girl hitting, which fellow reviewer Zane was so deeply put off by. I’m certainly less offended by it but, in all fairness to Zane, I have to agree that it doesn’t add to the show. Not humor wise at least.

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In closing, week eight brought us several good scenes. Kashima’s interviews with Mikorin and Nozaki, the box gags and Kashima’s mad-bull-run verged on snot bubble funny and the boxes in particular got me to play the episode a second time through, just to see if they snuck any into ‘the real world.’

So, sure, the plot didn’t advance and we learned nothing new about Hori and Kashima but in the end, my laughter more than made up for the Ranma 1/2 style ‘i’m hitting you because l like you but you make me angry all the time’ slog.

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Stray Observations:

  • The bull head was totally absurd and fantastic!
  • Watching Mikorin get ‘out charmed’ by Kashima was fantastic and her comment that the Hero was a push over? Spot on!
  • I have no idea where this sub plot is going? Will it resolve? I’m taking Nozaki’s inner thought as a sign that it wont be!

Weekly OP: Aldnoah.Zero

(Unfortunately this seems to be the best version of the OP on YouTube…sorry about the reverb, it’s not my video.)

I’ve previously known (and enjoyed) the band Kalafina from the theme songs to Kara no Kyoukai series, as well as the ending theme of Puella Magi Madoka Magica. 

Their unique blend of esoteric and futuristic sounds meshes well with Aldnoah.Zero, and “Heavenly Blue” has a nice earnest defiance about it. Unsurprisingly, it would also make a good Gundam theme.

Visually speaking, my favorite part of the OP is the very end, in which a fretful Princess Asseylum points a gun at the camera before a cut to the title.

My first thought was that she’s pointing it at the other main protagonist, Inaho (hardly an original thought, mind you), but OPs don’t have to always make narrative sense, so it’s just as likely to be a visual euphamism rather than foreshadowing.