Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – 08

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My goal isn’t to go overseas, or to play in the Chopin competition. My goal is Arima Kousei.

Aiza’s instructor Takayanagi bristles when he says this — Kousei never shows up, and Aiza’s ready for bigger better venues — but he understands well where Aiza is coming from. Kousei is what has driven Aiza to work tirelessly to catch up to and even surpass Kousei. Kousei is a rival, and squaring off with a rival, even if Kousei is neither present or aware of that rivalry, has made him grow faster than any teaching Takayanagi could have done.

A strong will enabling him to stand up to his fears. An unswerving fortitude at his core.

Aiza Takeshi possesses these things, but he must first throw up before the performance, and he’s almost giddy with relief when it’s over; his hands tremble afterwards. But when seated at the piano, remembering Kousei is here, today, and watching him, is all the motivation he needs to turn out a brilliant, crowd-hooking performance that puts everyone before him to shame.

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Kousei does watch (from monitors in the waiting room with Emi, who makes it clear to Kousei that Takeshi is here, and he played as wonderfully as he did, because of him. When Kousei asks if she feels the same way about him, she tells him not to make her laugh, but she’s not being honest with Kousei. Takeshi, on the other hand, is super-stoked by Kousei’s praise. It’s not so much that he knows he beat Kousei or even caught up to him; the fact that he moved him is the most important thing.

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Now that he’s admired Kaori in a similar way, Kousei understands a little more about the influence his mere existence had over Takeshi and Emi since they were little squirts. Meanwhile, Takayanagi is glad he indulged his student’s desire to face his rival; so glad, in fact, he gloats about how good he was to Emi’s instructor Ochiai, and remarks how far Emi has fallen recently and how she has no chance against the performance they just witnessed.

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Frankly, I myself was a little skeptical it could be topped, but that was me being a FOOL, as Takayanagi was being. While he carelessly threw down the gauntlet, Ochiai accepts his challenge. It’s true: Emi can be erratic and hard to motivate, and the littlest thing in the world could throw her off her game. But things are different today. She has all the motivation she needs: Kousei.

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Emi plays her cards close in her dealings with Kousei this week, but when she takes the stage, there can be no doubt about how much he means to her. Kousei is her goal, too. Emi first encountered Kousei when she was in the audience of his very first performance in front of a crowd. He was a bundle of nerves, but the performance caused an explosion of emotions in the young Emi, and she decided to become a pianist right then and there.

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Just as Emi made clear to Kousei what Takeshi meant to him, Takeshi tells Kousei that Emi, despite her hard edge, has actually ‘had a thing for him’ for a long while. And while Takeshi stood up to his inherent fear of performing, an act of pushing in, Emi’s situation is a little different: she must organize and redirect the storms of emotions flowing out of her upon those 88 blacks and whites.

She had a tasty scone that morning, she looks fantastic in her dress, she’s having a good hair day, and Kousei is listening, so the conditions are perfect for her to belt out the most gorgeous and enthralling piano performances of the show, easily surpassing the one Takeshi just played. (The piece is Etude Op. 25 No. 11 in A minor, “Winter Wind.” by Chopin, which…seems kinda hard to play.)

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Like Kaori, she pours those powerful emotions — her soul — into the notes, moving everyone listening and even creating an otherworldly synesthesic environment where her emotions take on color: red for anger, but also yellow for loneliness. She fashions a horn of her piano: a horn she compels to ring out. Not simply in anger or rejection, but in hope of reaching the Kousei who made her a pianist and compel him to come back.

Like Takeshi, she’s only there for him. It’s not about winning or besting him, it’s about using their music to bring him back. Even if Kousei ends up besting them both (which I maintain is doubtful this early in the run, but hardly impossible), it will be a victory for them as well. It will mean an injustice has been righted, and mark Arima Kousei’s official return to Music with a capital M.

What else starts with M? Masterpiece. This was another one. Your turn, Kousei!

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PSYCHO-PASS 2 – 08

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We get a double-helping of investigations this week, as Mika conducts her own from the MoE archives while Professor Saiga gets the straight story abotu Kamui Kirito from Dr. Mazusaki. Mika and Saiga learn the same thing by different methods: Kamui wasn’t just the only survivor, but the subject of an unprecedented medical procedure that implanted parts of all 184 of the children who died in the plane crash — including seven of their brains — into Kamui, resulting in a Sybil-proof “compound person.” The Togane Foundation holds all the patents for that procedure.

This collection of body and brain parts is a fascinating concept, and very much akin to Sybil’s own collection of brains. Kamui isn’t just one person anymore, you see; and he’s far more than the sum of those parts.

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Mazusaki takes full opportunity of his wise audience of Saiga (and Akane) and doesn’t hesitate to spill the beans, including his personal reason for believing in and supporting Kamui, who is essentially a Frankenstein’s monster. The reason is, Kamui showed him the way to clear his psycho-pass and saved him from ruin. That, and Kamui isn’t just after revenge, but the total upheaval of society, starting with Sybil’s downfall.

In an interesting scene with Saiga, Togane remarks that Saiga is the opposite of Kamui, in that he darkens rather than clears psycho-passes, which he deems more than a skill, but a talent. Because that talent deprives Saiga of his freedom in a Sybil-controlled society, Togane imagines it must be less than ideal for Saiga to have to depend on someone with an unusually clear psycho-pass — Akane. Saiga turns it around on Togane, who registered the highest crime coefficient of all time, now an enforcer beholden to the MWPSB.

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Mika continues to tap away in her archive alcove, and the more dirt she finds, the more she worries about her own psycho-pass getting clouded (a highly prescient concern). Akane and Togane then get a scene together after a false alarm at her apartment, where Togane tells her she’s a born detective, with all the pros and cons that comes with. It’s a pretty tense scene even though we know Togane won’ do anything (yet), just because we know how obsessed he is.

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What’s truly enlightening about this episode, though, is Mika proving her salt as an investigator, after so many weeks of incompetence. She connects Togane’s mother to Kamui and comes up with the conclusion that Kamui is seeking revenge against the Togane Foundation.

Knowing Togane Sakuya’s history with turning inspectors into enforcers, she also concludes that Akane is his next “experiment” (perhaps his toughest nut to crack yet). His goal is to turn her black, meaning Togane is just like Saiga in being the opposite of Kamui…only Togane turns people black for sport; Saiga does it unintentionally.

She wraps up her report with a recommendation to dismiss or suspend Tsunemori Akane, on the grounds that Togane’s fixation on her, as well as her reckless actions (which have, by the way, cost lives) represent an existential threat to the MWPSB that must be dealt with.

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Little did Mika know hitting “send” wouldn’t be sealing Akane’s fate, but her own.

Kasei summons her and congratulates her on her report, but also regrets to report that Mika stepped in the wrong shit and was led right into a trap designed to stamp out anyone who digs too deep into Sybil’s secrets. Togane sidles up behind her with a gun and restrains her, and addresses the chief as “Mom”. That’s right: Kasei is Togane’s mom, whose body died, but whose brain became a part of Sybil.

The mother lets the son do what he wants with Mika, which for Sakuya means using her as a guinea pig for the future eventuality of revealing the truth about Sybil to the public. Obviously, this is the absolute last thing a perfect citizen like Mika wants, and while I’ve never sympathized with her more than this week, part of me also thought “Well, that’s what you get for trying to get Akane fired behind her back!”

Had Mika gone to Akane instead of Kasei, she wouldn’t be in this predicament. But instead Mika stayed true to her character and fell victim to resentment and vanity. I haven’t said this before, and I still think she’s a tool, but still: Poor Mika!

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Amagi Brilliant Park – 08

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Amagi Brilliant Park’s eighth episode is a hilarious tale of body swapping, unintended consequences, and everyone making a royal mess of Seiya Kanie-kun’s life. It was a joyous romp, the best ABP so far, and so very very close to scoring a fully perfect 10.

So how did ABP turn a classic body swap/impostor identity trope into something brilliant? For starters, no one is really stuck…

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It is easy to forget how difficult these past weeks have been for Kanie-kun. Between his confident smile and the park’s growing success, only the low attendance numbers at the end of each episode are there to remind us how dire the situation is — and even though success means life or death for many cast members, Seiya takes it the most seriously.

That stress finally gets the better of him and he passes out right at the beginning.

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Stressing out and succumbing to a summer cold is hardly unique, though. Nor is Seiya’s conflicting need to attend (and do well in) high school while simultaneously working at the park.

If you had to guess how the episode would play out from Princess Latifah’s ‘get some sleep and go to school’ scene, I couldn’t fault your assumption that we were in for seeing the park take a dangerous backseat in Seiya’s life for half an episode before coming up with a brilliant (or hand wavy) solution by the end.

This even seems likely when Sento comes to visit the infirmary…

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Except Sento opens up with her true romantic feelings and makes aggressive sexual advances on Kanie-kun. Then he notices Sento has a zipper sticking out of her head and Tiramie pops out laughing.

Practical jokes aside, Tiramie and Macaron have a solution for Kanie’s attendance problem: make a Kanie-suit using the mole peoples’ technology and let some of the cast members go to school for him.

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I thought these students were holding hands and that a progressive yuri couple was hiding in plain sight. On closer inspection, It’s drawn a little weirdly but probably not…

I’m not actually sure why Kanie-kun agrees to this but he does, and Sento takes the first shift. Maybe he agrees because Sento is taking the first shift or maybe he agrees with Macaron that he has so few friends that no one will notice at school.

Regardless, Sento stumbles right out of the gate when she gives a friendly greeting to Chuujou Shiina, the red-twin-tail who also works at the park. Chuujou is immediately suspicious, as Kanie always ignores her and is not a particularly warm person…

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While troubled by Kanie’s apparent indifference to Chuujou, Sento is even less prepared for the confession letter waiting in Kanie’s locker. In short, while Sento is touched that Tsuchida Kanae admits to putting it here accidentally (she’d intended the letter for Kimura of class 5) her supportive and pleasant nature is very out of Kanie-kun-character.

Worse, Sento’s kind words confuse Tsuchida’s own feelings, something that Sento completely fails to pick up on and does not report to Macaron when they trade off the following morning.

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Like the zipper on his head, people quickly get over Kanie-kun’s head falling off when it’s hit by a baseball…

In the best case scenario, Macaron was going to make a complete mess of things anyway. He’s a grown man (sheep) who has fond memories of his wild time in high school (especially getting into fights) and he’s also a dad and a divorcee.

So, when he hears a hurt Kimura and Tsuchida fighting over her no longer wanting to confess to him, he steps in and gives Kimura some advanced level girl winning advice.

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Macaron’s advice is actually pretty reasonable, if obviously out of character for Seiya. He tells Kimura to back off and give the girl space — ignore her even — to make her want to get his attention and he tells Tsuchida to stop apologizing for everything and raise her sense of self worth.

Like Sento, Macaron doesn’t realize how much impact he’s had on Tsuchida’s feelings for Seiya, nor does he give Tiramie any heads up the following day.

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At this point, everyone knows something is off about Kanie-kun. Zipper and personality differences aside, he’s made references to being divorced and suddenly develops Tiramie and Moffle’s vocal tics.

Tiramie takes Kanie’s life even further off the rails by skipping class, being mean to a teacher and, because he hasn’t been given any background on Tsuchida, making advances on her.

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Unfortunately (or not), Tiramie is a horrible person and his creepy, aggressive nature quickly implodes any chances he has with Tsuchida. In fact, he’s specific enough that Chuujou guesses what’s going on and storms off to tell Kanie herself.

Tsuchida’s rejection scene is fantastic in itself. As she’s starting to suspect Kanie is a womanizer (she misunderstands his familiarity with Chuujou and has heard he’s close to Sento) she won’t let him touch her and the animation of her tight dodges is playful and impressive.

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So Moffle puts on Kanie for the fourth day and before he can screw anything up in his own unique way, he’s confronted by Tsuchida’s friends over treating her badly and there’s nothing even Sento can do to keep things peaceful.

Thankfully, before Moffle can destroy everyone for being called a ‘fake,’ Kimura shows up and explains that Kanie (as Moffle) has acted crazy all week to help him get back together with Tsuchida and that all should be forgiven.

And, with a bow, all is forgiven.

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Later, Chuujou and Kanie (who’s partially stripped out of a Kimura skin suit) have a nice chat and, this time, it’s Kanie’s own fault for turning a girl’s heart towards him. She’s never seen beneath his cold and calculating exterior and never known that his pragmatism is guided by kindness.

He’s not angry with anyone for what they did because he knew they all did it to help him and, even though he’ll have to explain this crazy story to Kimura in the morning, no lasting harm was done.

Well, except Sento has a new competitor for his affections…

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The whole story was funny as hell but it was also touching. The pacing for the gags was on even footing with the pacing and delivery of the romantic developments. Heck, even relative newcomer Chuujou got developed, along with the non-park world the park exists in.

Not a single things was out of place or unnecessary or out of balance. Well…except the women-hungry kindergartners but we’ve at least seen them before.

The most touching message of the whole episode is that Kanie-kun is surrounded by many people who would like him and make him very happy, if he himself was more obviously happy.

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Rating Amagi Brilliant Park is tremendously frustrating this week. On one hand, episode 8 was the funniest, most tightly woven plot the show has produced to date. On the other, I’m not sure I can justify giving it a perfect 10.

How about I leave you with “This is the best a show can do without actually hitting a perfect 10?” If you haven’t followed this show from the beginning, I strongly urge you to o back and watch from the beginning. (Especially if you followed InoBato’s but have lost interest each time that show falls off message).

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Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 08

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Did the writers of this episode recently watch Whisper of the Heart? Both center on a yearning young lady who worries about being good enough, both begin with that girl checking out all the same books as a guy, and both end on a hilltop at daybreak. But before I lay into those writers for shamelessly lifting from a classic, I must note that the similarities pretty much end there.

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For one thing, Amasawa Seiji didn’t get nearly as much girl time as Kyoutarou this week. Seriously, Kyou’s all over the shop with the ladies, or rather they’re all over him. From getting squeezed between and fought over by Tamamo and Senri in bikinis on stage, to ending up with Tamamo’s bra, to rescuing Kana from the sea, the show wants to make it clear that yes, he will be giving up quite a lot if he becomes a shepherd.

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It’s not what it looks like! Though I wouldn’t be surprised if Senri swung both ways…

Interestingly, the aftermath of Nagi’s kiss-and-run is set aside so that the show can focus on the stakes, one girl at a time, starting with Kana. As we know, Kana is the clown of the group, not counting Ikkei (because Ikkei barely exists). What we didn’t know is that Kana was the clown in her last group of friends…who are no longer friends.

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Then, as now, she didn’t choose to be the clown; it was a role she was given and never challenged it. She put doing what she deemed it took to remain ‘wanted’ in a highly-structured group where everyone had a role to play. After her beach play was a failure, the brittle clown facade is crumbling. She compensates by “trying too hard”, which makes her inner struggle more evident to her new friends, who say “this isn’t like you at all!”, inadvertently goading her into trying even too-harder.

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The club also works to get their client stage time, and, StuCo Veep Takigawa gives no ground in negotiations. They hold out hope they can change her mind (not knowing that she’s trying to destroy their cub!), but for that, they need Kana to write a new script. Only Kana isn’t coming to club.

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One surprising sight was seeing Kyoutarou shadowing Nagi with her trainee shepherd work, with things back to normal; ‘normal’ meaning ‘intermittently awkward and lovey-dovey’. Yet again, Nagi dodges the question of why she wants to be a shepherd so badly, and uses the situation as another opportunity to dissuade Kyoutarou from becoming one. She does that by telling him where to find Kana so he can talk to her, thereby sharing yet another beautiful memory he won’t want to lose.

As payment for her intel, she chokes him with her legs and bites his nose.

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Up on that hill, just before sunrise, he finds Kana, and the discussion turns to books. How Kyoutarou started reading books because he was looking for ways to get along with others, something he’s clearly succeeded out. And if you’ll remember, Kana checked out a lot of those same books, perhaps for the same reason.

I really enjoyed the creativity of the closing scene, whether it’s Kana telling her backstory using Madoka witch-style shadow-puppet visuals, or Kyoutarou turning their talk into a theatrical performance. The sun rising behind the embracing friends as catharsis is reached was also a simple but well-executed visual. Sendai Eri also does her best work of the season here and throughout the episode, demonstrating heretofore untapped range.

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Kana returns to the club feeling much better about herself and her place in it, which she learns need not be in the role of the clown. She’s excited to write the hell out of a new script, and if it flops like the least one, who cares? It’s not the end of the world, and she had fun writing them.

Then Senri embraces Kana once more, imploring her to stop worrying so much about what others think and start worrying about what she wants…lest Senri take him first! Then, things immediately shift to Senri going AWOL on her music instructor. But that’s a story for next week!

Kyoutarou is sure play a role in her redemption as well, but lest we forget: without Nagi’s help, he wouldn’t have reached Kana at that crucial time and place. If he relies on Nagi again, it will further expose the limits to his ability to help others as long as he’s not a shepherd himself.

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Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle – 08

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How fitting that on the eve of a holiday centered around stuffing yourself,  we get perhaps the most overstuffed episode of Chaika ever. Seriously, there was a lot going on, and while the episode made an admirable attempt to keep everything interesting, it couldn’t keep some parts from feeling like padding.

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Compared to, say, Akame ga Kill!, which has been progressively killing off characters so it can focus on fewer and fewer, Chaika has kept everyone alive with just two episodes left, and so has to find a place for them, just as one has to find a place for every thanksgiving dish on the table. Its one major death – Gillette’s – was a fake-out causing more of a “huh” than a “wow”.

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Not to mention it chooses this time to finally reveal who the “Head Chaika” is, as Zita, Leo, and Matthaus interview one of Hartgen’s retainers. It seems like Gaz had reason to smile after Hartgen killed him, because henceforth Hartgen started acting just like Gaz, as if he was a man possessed.

Hartgen isn’t exactly Gaz re-incarnate, as he needs Head Chaika to show up (the evil Chaika’s are always the most scantily clad) and give him the idea for the martial arts tournament. Killing Gaz did something to Hartgen to change him into a pliable, warmongering pawn for Head Chaika to manipulate.

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Hartgen wants to be Gaz II, and so uses the tournament as (flimsy) cover to raise an army, hoping the Six Nations will react too slowly. Two ministers do deploy the Flying Fortress Cima to Hartgen; it’s sure to play a role in the near future.

In the mean time, Akari and Fredrica find a room with dozens if not hundreds of coffins just like Chaika’s…and then they’re ambushed by Chaika Puppet Ninjas. Yes, that is a thing that was in this episode, because everything in creation was in this episode.

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Meanwhile, the guards arrest the various pairs one by one and send them into a subterranean arena, where Black Chaika and her twin sisters sit and watch their own mini-tournament, betting on who will come out the victor.

First, Vivi and Nikolai are forced to fight Dark Gillette, something that’s initially very hard for Vivi to do because she loves the guy and has no idea what’s going on. But in the end, when Gillette prepares to kill Nikolai, she takes GIllette’s sword hand off with Niko’s greatsword, in a pretty badass display.

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The shock of his injury apparently brings Gillette’s memories back, and it seems he’ll keep living, though why is anyone’s guess. Next, Akari and War Maiden Mode- Fredrica are stopped by Shin, then Fred’s locked in a magical barrier and riddled with arrows, continuing the tradition of neutralizing the overpowered ally in crunch time (though serves them right for not looking up).

White Chaika and Tooru are up next, forced to fight Red Chaika and David (and winning pretty dang easily, when all’s said and done. When David is wounded, Chaika forfeits the fight and runs off in tears, rather than let her comrade come to further harm.

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Of course, they’re only Tooru’s appetizer; the entree is Shin, who shows up with the captured Akari and Fredrica. White Chaika is jumped by guards, forcing Tooru to fight Shin alone, and he gets schooled by his mentor. With that, the episode kinda fizzles out, without showing us what’s for dessert.

There were a couple cool moments, and I liked the arena format for the gauntlet of boss battles, but at the end of the day this episode had way too much squeezed into it, and strained and groaned under the weight of it all.

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