Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – 19

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Don’t let that petulant mug staring down a phone fool you: Arima is in one way or another a hero to many in this episode, which makes us realize he’s been that hero to many all along.

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This week is full of optimism in the face of doom. Nobody is moping in the corner feeling sorry for themselves; they’re doing something about it; moving forward to attain what they desire. Yes, even Tsubaki! Her love for and devotion to her next-door-neighbor pianist is driving the career jock to excel at her studies for the first time in her scholastic career, and the hard work and determination look good on her.

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With her negative prognosis and deteriorating frame, Kaori was in an even worse way. But Kousei manages to pay her back for rousing him from his deep sea slumber with his love and devotion, bringing color to her greyed heart and shaking her out of her bed of only-half-joking suicide threats and into the rehabilitation room.

She also asks for a risky surgery that may give her a little more time, because every little bit of time on this earth, with Kousei, will be worth it. Kousei makes her remember how bright and sparkling she was on that stage. Now she’s working to get back on it with him.

I’ll just say both Kousei’s interactions with Kaori’s parents and Kaori’s speech to the surgeon were both tearjerking moments, which I’m enough of a katsudon-eating real man to admit!

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Tsubaki still has problems asserting herself within Kousei’s life as an object of romance, but that doesn’t stop her from taking Kashiwagi’s advice and visiting Kousei, both to support him during his fierce all-night practicing for the upcoming compeition (which is, for him, as important as acing final exams).

For all the people he’s able to inspire, including Tsubaki, Kousei remains someone who needs caring for. Tsubaki whips out some scissors and cuts his disheveled hair, something we have to thank her for. And while it doesn’t look much different the next day, the fact that Tsubaki is there, in a way, “marking her man”, is definite progress, which I hope will continue.

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When the day of the preliminaries arrive, Kousei is able to disarm both a ravenous Emi and and a post-vomiting Takeshi with delicious free-range egg salad sandwiches, which he happens to have three of. Seeing these three rivals sitting together shooting the breeze is an unexpected delight, and a show of their splendid chemsitry.

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Flashbacks show that these three really have a lot of history sitting together, eating, and waiting to see which one of them will be best that day. It was always Kousei before, but his unrelenting competency drove both of his rivals to become the major talents they are today, and did so again by training Takeshi’s sister, provoking him to come out of “retirement.” We also see that Emi always enjoyed sitting beside Kousei. In a show without Kaori or Tsubaki, they’d have made a great pianist power couple themselves.

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Most of the second half is about Takeshi’s comeback, and about how enemies in music not only benefit from the support of one another, but require it. Takeshi and Emi wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for Kousei, and one another, while Kousei wouldn’t be there without Kaori.

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But today, Takeshi takes the first step towards leaving his hero Kousei’s shadow and starting on his own path; beyond replicating or surpassing him is not needing him anymore, like a fledgling finally flying off from the nest. As such, his Chopin performance is so stirring, there were moments when I wished all the various parties watching, along with his internal monologue, would cease so I could listen in peace!

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It’s only the first of two pieces Takeshi is scheduled to play in the preliminaries; but Takeshi plays like his life depends on, and ends up “making Chopin smile” along with bringing down the house. He’s back from his self-imposed exile; a musician among musicians; among enemys who are also his friends and his fuel, who fully intend to respond to his brilliant performances with some of their own. I can’t wait to hear ’em.

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Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata – 07

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A big reason why I’ve enjoyed Saekano so much isn’t just its knack for cleverly inserting commentary about the genre in which it dwells while telling a unique story all its own that benefits from that self-awareness and self-critique. It’s also the show’s knack for getting us to forget all about the future and simply focus on the now, and the wonderful dialogue and interactions between Aki Tomoya and the varied girls in his life.

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This episode was off to another great start. After spending all of his time with Utaha last week, this week it seems to be Eriri’s turn, and she makes the most of it by making Tomoya role-play a sex scene with her. Both of them are well aware they’re merely reading lines to one another, but since both of them put in such good performance., they end up arousing one another, something Eriri probably hoped for.

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I personally wouldn’t mind if that was the whole episode, but there are big changes afoot this week, and in the process of introducing those changes, the show suddenly turns its gaze away from the now and towards the horizon, which I must admit is a little unsettling.

Just as Tomoya is chastising Kato for suddenly sporting a ponytail (my take is that Tomoya really likes it, otherwise he wouldn’t notice it, but he won’t admit it). A discussion ensues, into the cultivation of well-established and time-honed “core traits”—like a blonde twin-tail or long jet-black hair—versus “cheat tricks” like the sudden change of hairstyle.

Those two core traits are brought up by Kato and clearly meant as a commentary on the two other girls chasing Tomoya around. Kato is establishing that she is unique and goes against the grain of the tropes.

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That leads to Tomoya bringing up another time-tested trope: the “little-sister-type kohai”, and hey-presto, Hashima Izumi appears on queue. Of course Tomoya also had, and now has, this kind of girl in his life as well. It’s something that was missing to this point; now all he needs is an attractive relation, which we know to be Michiru from the prologue.

Izumi was prominent in the OP and ED and had the look of a younger, devoted-kohai character, so I knew she was coming. Better yet, she’s voiced by the bright and ever-exuberant Akasaki Chinatsu. Also true to her type, a lot of what she says in praising Tomoya did for her could be taken entirely the wrong way due to her particular phrasing. But her sudden appearance, bereft of a single prior word about her existence in the show itself, is a little problematic.

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Be that as it may. Izumi is definitely a disruptive force that unsettles the status quo, and not surprisingly pisses Eriri off, since she’s already had two other stout competitors to contend with to that point, and she was the only one with a long past with Tomoya. No longer.

Speaking of a past, Izumi’s introduction is paired with her brother Iori, who is Tomoya and Eriri’s age and has a sorted and arguably more interesting history with him. Tomoya rejoiced when he learned that Izumi, the class prince, was just as much of an otaku as him. But their friendship was dashed on the rocks by a clash of otaku philosophies. Tomoya valued the sheer enjoyment and sharing of things he liked; while he saw Iori as “riding the coattails” of creators.

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But in that professing this, Tomoya exposes his hypocrisy. He’s an amateur running a doujin circle, ; by his logic, he’s also guilty of depending on two of the brightest rising stars in the industry in Eriri and Utaha; even if they are his friends.

I think the distinction lies in what Tomoya does offer his creators, though not knowing enough about Iori’s relationship with his famous circle members, these two may be peas in a pod after all. We may see Iori through Tomoya’s eyes as a greedy freeloader, but what if Iori inspires his creators the same way Tomoya inspires Utaha and Eriri?

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It’s probably a coincidence, but it looks like Iori shares a trait with one of his seiyu Kakihara Tetsuya’s more famous roles, that of Simon in Gurren Lagann. Both are good at digging and burrowing, and eventually dig themselves out of obscurity and into the spotlight.

Tomoya often conceals his true feelings about things by discussing them through a protective prism, namely his collective dealings with the girls he’s working with, but also courting, particularly Kato. By that same angle, Tomoya purports to spit upon the way Iori does things, but his own motivations and actions could be construed as just as selfish.

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More than anything, this episode makes me hope there will be a second cour of this show, and not just because I love it. I feel we’ve really only scratched the surface here. The Kato, Utaha, and (semi)Eriri-centric episodes are all to establish what Tomoya means to those girls and what they mean to him. Izumi and Iori are introduced to break up the love-in and create an external conflict that will drive the remaining story.

This is no longer simply about making a dating sim; Iori has officially declared it a battle, and he won’t hesitate to poach Tomoya’s talent, if he can. But after what’s gone down in the last seven episodes, the four remaining are not nearly long enough for a satisfying conclusion. So for the first time I can remember, I’m actually hoping for a second cour when I’m not sure if one is coming. And I’m also hoping that hot spring prologue was only the midpoint of this increasingly complex and entertaining story.

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Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 20

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Disappointingly, Parasyte takes a turn for the worse this week, completely sidelining Shinichi and Migi and instead focusing the entirety of its running time to a dull, repetitive, interminable, and at many points downright moronic SWAT operation.

Random humans I don’t particularly care about, ineptly battling a cadre of random parasytes I barely know and also don’t care about, is not a formula for an episode of television I’m going to, well, care about. It is, in fact, a recipe for a pedestrian slog; one I couldn’t wait to be over.

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Yamagishi, leader of the Parasyte Extermination Squad, seems to have a shrewd head on his shoulders, but quickly lets us down by employing scorched-earth tactics in hunting down the parasytes infesting the city hall, with absolutely no regard for either his troops or the scores of civilian bystanders, which he ends up treating like hostages. The scar on his scalp should have been a hint that this guy has a screw loose.

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It’s a plan that mostly succeeds because the parasytes assumed their enemy would be hampered by the presence of those bystanders. In other words, they assumed the humans would act like humans, instead of acting just like them: cold and efficient. In concept this is an apt commentary on the lengths humanity will go to in order to survive, including abandoning the precepts and conducts of civilization they typically abide by. But the execution is clunky, and as I said, I’m invested in neither party.

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The only member of the extermination squad I give a rat’s ass about is the psychic killer Urugami, and if I’m honest, that’s only because he’s voiced by Yoshino Hiroyuki. But Urugami is missing the exuberance of Yoshino’s other comedic and semi-comedic roles, and his too-on-the-nose snide comments about who’s calling whom a killer quickly grow tiresome.

He redeems himself, somewhat, by purporting to be bored and tired of this whole enterprise, telling the dudes with the guns to just shoot whoever, because it’s too much of a hassle determining who’s a parasyte and who isn’t.

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Whoa, dude, watch where you’re pointing that thing!

Yamagishi adopts a similar attitude when the parasytes scatter and we find ourselves in a seemingly never-ending sequence of him deploying, splitting, merging, and re-directing the various units under his command. “Screw it, just shoot anything that moves” becomes the standing order.

This isn’t particularly reassuring considering they seem to have recruited all these riot cops from high school. That there are all a bunch of unskilled, undisciplined, idiotic teenagers behind those masks is the only explanation for their gross incompetence.

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Aww, look how neatly they laid their clothes on the chair before gettin’ it on

They have endless opportunities to demonstrate that incompetence since this is The Raid That Never Ends. They do, however, bust in on a couple of stragglers in flagrante delicto, which is pretty funny. Nothing like gunfire and the persistent fear of death to excite the libido, eh?

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I’m sad because I’m not in this episode and I have nothing to do…

Meanwhile, the one character whose fate we still care about literally sits on the sidelines, doing nothing and saying almost nothing. He remarks about how there’s surely something he can do…but the writers don’t accomodate him. I think all Migi says is “No,” either unwilling to participate in the utter extermination of his own kind, or worried the threat of so many parasytes in one place is too great to involve themselves.

It’s Migi’s usual prudent pragmatism, but it just doesn’t make for good TV.

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But here’s the worst part: while this episode ends, the raid doesn’t, as there’s still a boss and overboss-level parasytes still standing, along with a handful of riot police. My last straw for the idiot police is when they listen to Gotou and willingly follow him into a larger room so he can more impressively kill them all.

It’s a blatantly staged action set piece with no purpose other than to demonstrate what has already been well-established at this point—that Gotou is a tough cookie—and it elicits little more than a shrug and a sigh. Franklin has abandoned ship, but I must admit after this plodding dawdle, even my patience is starting to fray.

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