Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo – 08

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I’ve liked how deftly Y7 has kept things fresh by approaching each new witch intro from a different angle, which is also appropriate considering the unique problems that led to them getting their powers in the first place. Urara was and is Yamada’s primary love interest. Nene was an adversary, while Meiko and Maria needed his help.

With Takigawa Noa, we seem to be dealing with another adversary. Her powers are believed to be the opposite of Maria’s, meaning the Supe Club assumes Noa’s turned three formerly popular students into troublemakers through blackmail or manipulation. But nothing is ever as clear-cut as it seems on this show. In fact, Noa’s turns out to be the most emotionally complex witch cases yet.

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She’s also, at first, the toughest nut to crack. Yamada thinks at first he can put on the charm and get a kiss to make things easier, but to his shock, Noa is grossed out by him, having only teased him about liking him.

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With Yamada’s pride hurt, he tries again, but only gets a push broom to the face. When he reveals he’s in the Supe Club and knows she’s a witch, Noa pulls attitude 180, and is suddenly keen to kiss him. So keen, Yamada thinks something is fishy, and rebuffs her advances. Now she’s the one with the hurt pride.

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Using her knew knowledge of Yamada, she hits him where he lives, having her three troubled friends/minions brutally ransack the clubroom. I’m not sure how they weren’t simply suspended or expelled right then and there, but the adults are all but nonexistent in this school, so whatever.

Pissed off more than ever, Yamada confronts President Yamazaki for the truth about Noa, and he gets it: she wants to make witches out of her three friends, and eradicate all the others. That means Urara, Nene, Meiko and Maria are all in danger.

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Rather than panic, Yamada stages a trap for Noa’s crew, using a game, excited Urara as the bait. I appreciate her adventurous spirit throughout this mission, and the fact she trusts Yamada’s judgement more than anyone else. The female friend of Noa kisses Urara, and celebrates the fact she was able to switch bodies, so she can now pesumably do something to get Urara expelled and thus powers revoked.

Only Yamada kissed Urara before, so the girl only ends up switching with him, in Urara’s body. She and the other two are tied up and held captive in the club room while Yamada, still in the girl’s body, opens negotiations with Noa.

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Two others (not sure who) accompany Yamada in the bodies of Noa’s friends, but Noa knows who they are immediately. She offers the notebook, then both notebooks in exchange for her people, but Yamada wants more: for the witch-hunting activities to stop, a condition Noa flatly refuses.

The talks break down, and Tsubaki and Itou beat Yamada for failing again, but Yamada insists this is about more than getting the notebooks back: three students’ reputations are at stake, and Noa must be stopped. That’s when Noa’s friends agree to stop their activities of their own volition. They’d rather be together with Noa than for her to be alone.

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This awakens Yamada to a key point: Noa hasn’t been manipulating her friends. When he gives them back to her, he asks her if taking over the school with her power was really her goal, and castigates them for causing all those problems that caused them to lose the popularity they already had.

That’s when a frustrated Noa kisses Yamada, and he experiences her power firsthand: in a dream, he relives the most traumatic memory of her past, when her classmates locked her in a storage room for hours until she wet herself. Similarly, her three friends never did anything bad; they were framed.

Noa has wanted to save them for so long, and thought she could do so by getting them witch powers. But when Yamada stopped them, she remembered they were popular from the start, and only their association with her hurt them.

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Then the three friends come to Noa’s aid, fighting Yamada and insisting they won’t leave her side. But Yamada shoots back that it’s their wishy-washiness that’s causing Noa’s suffering. Yamada doesn’t have all the answers, but he thinks they should at least do whatever they can to make Noa smile.

At that, another switch seems to go of in Noa’s head, and when we next see her, she’s in the club clinging to Yamada, whom she claims to have fallen for completely. Urara, whom you’d think would be jealous about such a development, is actually happy, because Noa’s power is more about simply seeing someone’s darkest hour, it’s about both kisser and kissee opening their hearts to one another, eliminating artifice and pretense.

They haven’t known each other long, but Yamada and Noa experienced that, and now he knows she’s not just an annoying schemer, and he’s not just a nosy, gross upperclassman. Urara also remarks that the two aren’t all that dissimilar: Yamada’s power also ultimately brings him closer to each of the witches, since to know their powers is to know the problems that gave rise to them. He knew exactly what to do for Noa, and she appreciates it.

It was great watching the battle of wills between Noa and Yamada, as well as the breathless evolution of their relationship. Yuuki Aoi is a great addition to the already stacked cast. Two witches to go!

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 08

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First of all, a hearty bravo is in order for the show’s opening, in which we see a totally different character battle some kind of cyborg in a Sidonia-style setting. From last week’s cliffhanger, I imagined we were suddenly thrown into the events on Planet Seven, so I was pleasantly surprised when it was revealed Nagate, Izana, Yuhata and Tsumugi were merely watching a very well-produced TV show.

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The fact they’re gathered ’round the tube after a hard day’s hull reconstruction, and that Tsumugi is getting more playful and spontaneous (sometimes leading to non-lethal accidents) all contributes to the family atmosphere in Nagate and Izana’s new home.

When Yuhata moves in and she and Tsumugi turn Izana’s room into a communal space with a kotatsu, it’s disrupting Izana’s ideal living situation with Nagate and Nagate alone, but at least in Tsumugi’s case, she means well. In Yuhata’s case, she uses her rank and the need for further conservation of resources to move in, but we know she has the sorta-hots for Nagate.

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Her increasingly lively household, paired with the strenuous labor of reconstruction, and the fact she’s dealing with fundamental changes to her body (both her mechanical and female parts), all contribute to make Izana look like a person who needs to relax and take a break.

Her ageless grandma Yure notices this, and also notices how Izana is starting to blossom into a younger version of herself. To that end, she requests that Izana wear one of her fetching old dresses and the two Shinatoses go out on the town. Those outfits strike the right balance of revealing (with that nice back latticing) and practicality (they still have carabiners in case of gravity fluctuations). Even Izana’s clear weariness with being dolled up like this doesn’t change the fact that she looks fantastic.

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Naturally, she runs into Nagate while trying to hurry home without being seen, and since their home is the same now, it makes for an awkward walk, but also a flattering one. Like myself, Nagate has always found Izana cute, but now that she’s more overtly feminine, he can’t help but blush in her presence, and whenever they accidentally touch, neither quite knows what to do with themselves.

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Nagate takes the route of passivity, but when he straight-up fails to notice Izana is behind him while he’s headed back to base in formation with the Tsumugi, Izana gets upset with him. Again, Yure takes notice, and decides to take matters into her own hands, knowing she’s witnessing a romantic stalemate in progress.

Nagate is never going to ask Izana out, or vice versa, so Yure puts it into terms he can understand: duty and orders; life and death. She suddenly summons him to her presence, timing how long he takes to get there, then starts to tell—not ask—him to go on a top secret snap “Cultural Properties Inspection” of the Thousand Year Village, and telling him to ask Izana to accompany him.

Yure gives him the distinct impression—in surely the funniest use of the show’s omnipresent schematics yet—that if he in any way fails to complete his mission to her satisfaction, she may sever his head with an explosive she planted in his neck vertebrae. What’s so great is that you can’t be sure at all whether she’s serious. This is how you move things forward.

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When Nagate comes home and discusses their “mission” with all that official-sounding terminology, Izana picks up on what’s going on, accepts that this is the only way Nagate can ask her to go on a vacation with him, and says yes. The couple’s body language here, and throughout the episode, really, is really well done.

All the while, their privacy is violated by a too-curious-not-to-look Tsumugi, who suspends Yuhata in the air so she can peek too. In the morning, they’re both kind of put off by Nagate and Izana’s not-too-subtle subterfuge as they sneak out one at a time.

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When they arrive at the entrance to the Thousand Year Village, and the doors open to reveal a gorgeous traditional building amongst a grove of cherry blossoms, it’s like they’re walking into another dimension. The metal and concrete walls of Sidonia are still there, but this place is a warm rejection of that cold science.

Izana is so bowled over by the sights, she doesn’t even realize she’s taken Nagate by the hand. But in a nice change of  pace, they don’t both turn beet red, quickly let go and back away. They continue holding hands, look into each others’ eyes, and say each others’ names. How romantic is that?

While I’m sure there are detractors to this kind of character-focused “Sidonia Lite”, I’m loving and savoring every minute of it. The next horrific threat could pop up at any time, and with the likes of Kobayashi in charge, it certainly will; but in the meantime I’m perfectly happy watching Nagate and Izana live their lives and draw closer to one another.

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