Hibike! Euphonium – 13 (Fin)

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From the speed with which she turned it off, Kumiko wasn’t awakened by her alarm; she was already awake and alert, and ready to start the most important day of her life as a musician. From her stiff-upper-lip departure from her home, and the playful elbow-knocking with Reina on the train, to the execution of the logistics for the competition including roll calls, loading, instrument checks…and hair-tying—the Kitauji High School Concert band slowly but steadily marches to meet its destiny, and this time Kumiko is committed like never before.

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Fully half of this virtuoso finale is glorious, painstaking, nerve-wracking waves of build-up as the band prepares, and it’s just about perfect. Everyone gets their moments to shine and steady themselves for the monumental task before them: to advance to the Nationals. All of the hairs on my back and arms (and there are many) stood on end as the full band tuned, making a bottle of water vibrate a la Jurassic Park. Yet through the soundproof doors is something more frightening than any beast: judgement.

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Yet when the time comes to open those doors, no one shrinks or runs: Kitauji is united as one; even those not in the competition. Those who seem more nervous are comforted by others; even Shuu makes sure Kumiko, who’s never been that warm with him, is okay, and Kumiko decides she’ll at least give him a fist-bump for good luck, in one of countless subtle verbal and physical gestures that fill this marvelous half-hour.

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And doggone it, even Asuka is getting a little wobbly-eyed at the prospect of a period she wishes would never end ending. Only Kumiko is beside her to assure her nothing’s over; they’re just getting started. Kumiko is no longer simply half-assedly dreaming or thinking or hoping they’ll make it to the nationals. She truly believes they can, and she wishes that they do, out loud. It’s SHOWTIME!

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In the second half, we’re treated to the most sustained piece of music since the SunFes march, only here the stakes are much higher. And while the camera cuts from place to place and we get a brief interlude into Kumiko’s thoughts, once again Hibike! makes the right choice by simply letting the music breathe, not dolling it up with weird psychedelic visual effects.

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I hope you watched this with some good speakers and cranked those suckers up to get the full wall-of-sound effect once they got through the workaday required piece and moved on to their stunning free play, the “Crescent Moon Dance”, which had no major errors I could hear. It was a proud, confident, and powerful performance by a band with something to prove, and they proved it. No better example of this is Reina’s clutch solo, which was so loud and pure and gorgeous it moved me and Midori to tears.

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And while Taki-sensei had been a hard-ass leading up to this day, we saw him soften a bit when Kumiko came by after school to recover her phone, and that he truly wanted his band to succeed, and believed they had what it took to reach their goal. As for the band, when they finally finish their piece and rise for hearty applause, they almost seem to be in disbelief and shock that they were so good. But I wasn’t. They simply rose to the occasion and poured all of their efforts into the music.

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Unlike the first episode, where a middle school Kumiko had an “oh well, better luck next time”, “dud gold is still pretty good” attitude, she, along with everyone else, looks like their lives depend on the best result…and they get it! Not only is Kitauji awarded Gold, but they move on in the competition. And Kumiko and a tearful Reina’s hands are tightly intertwined for that moment of victory.

Even if this show doesn’t continue a second season (and there are apparently seven special episodes bundled with the Blu-ray), their piece continues, and we don’t necessarily need to see how far they’ll go. They did it, and it was fantastic to behold. Any Summer shows with similar themes are going to be very hard-pressed to match Hibike! Euphonium for pure emotional power and beauty of both sound and image. I shall miss it dearly.

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End-of-Month Rundown – June 2015

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Just a couple more episodes (one more Hibike! Euphonium and one more Kekkai Sensen) and Spring 2015 will be a distant memory. Well, a recent memory, anyway. And you know what? It really wasn’t a bad season!

Part of that is that we continued our trend of dropping any shows that couldn’t stay above a 7.5 average on our rating scale, resulting in one of the highest-rated seasons ever on this site. But it was also just because from top to bottom all of the shows offered something either fun, original, entertaining, hilarious, exciting, or all of the above. We were, however, surprised and a little disappointed with how many shows simply ended, often with the regular ending sequence, without any kind of “Thanks for Watching!” card at the end. What gives??

The good news: Two of the Springs top shows—Ore Monogatari!! and Shokugeki no Souma—will continue into the Summer. The bad news: it doesn’t look like we’ll get a second season of Hibike, and who knows if and when Oregairu gets a third season. Good/Bad news: Hannah watched all of UBW, but many have said Zero is better show. Definitely bad news: our budding politician Franklin probably won’t be able to review anything this Summer either. :\

We’re preparing to tackle a very full Summer schedule, and even if we eliminate half of the shows we try out, we’ll still end up with another dozen-show season, at least. It will be a lot to plow through, but we look forward to the process. To get reviews up faster, we’ll continue to try to keep reviews brief and avoid the temptation to upload the entire episode in screencaps. We’ll see how we do.

Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

—RABUJOI STAFF

Re-Kan! – 13 (Fin)

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Yamada’s Brother’s Impression of how high school girls should dress in the Summer. Actual bust size may vary.

Re-Kan! wraps with a multi-stage slice-of-life episodes, starting with a trip to a theme park (or is it amusement park? I believe Amaburi pointed out the difference). The usual gang of Amami’s classmates come, and Yamada’s often inappropriate brother also tags along.

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Finally, Kana and Kyouko surprise Amami by inviting any and all of Amami’s ghosts friends who want to come. Amami also meets a new ghost, or rather an old one who helped her reunite with her dad when she got lost at the park as a small girl. In return, the ghost girl asked Amami to come back one day with her friends. Amami may have forgotten, but she still honored the request, and fun is had by all.

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From the theme park the gang has a sleepover at Amami’s place, complete with dinner, fireworks, Old Maid, and the guys sleeping out in the yard, per propriety. (The episode cuts to their classmate Yoshida several times, not participating in all these boilerplate summer activities so he can presumably draw a manga, unaware he’s missing out on some great material for said manga).

Narumi isn’t as scared of spending the night in Amami’s ghost-filled house as she thought, but she still can’t sleep. Turns out no one is asleep, but only resting their eyes, but before they can agree to pull an all-nighter, Narumi dozes off thanks to Amami holding her hand, the same way Amami’s father used to hold hers when she couldn’t sleep.

With that fun-filled Summer day, Re-Kan comes to a close, proving you can stay upbeat and heartfelt in a supernatural anime and still deliver creative, consistent laughs, both of the high- and low-brow variety.

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Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo – 12 (Fin)

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Going into the finale it looked like Yamadas still had quite a bit of work to do in order to gather the seven witches for a ceremony before Yamazaki and get his Shiraishi Urara back. So I was surprised by how relatively easy a time he had of resolving things.

Yet it wasn’t surprising in a bad way, because there were still blanks that needed filling for some important players, and in getting filled, they paved the way for ultimate Yamada’s success, which turned out to be good for everyone.

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Take Rika: we were never privy to the source of her absolute loyalty to Yamazaki, until now, and it turns out to be pretty clear-cut: Yamazaki was the only one who remembered her and knew she was coming to school and studying at all. With this new info in mind, it makes sense that she wouldn’t do anything to threaten the fortunes of the only person who knows who she is.

But here’s the thing: Yamazaki is no longer the only person. Yamada, Nene, and Tamaki also fill that role, and three people knowing of your existence doubtless feels better than just one.

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So Rika agrees to help Yamada, if he can bring Leona back to school so she can wipe her memory. Rika is not only pragmatic, but proud of her position as seventh witch, and takes her duties seriously. Miyamura has no idea what business Yamada has with his shut-in sister, but Leona agrees to come in, and we learn more that drives this story to its resolution: she and Yamazaki were once the entirety of the Supernatural Club.

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When he became Student Council president (likely a wish to the seven witches), his memories of Leona were taken away. But like Urara with Yamada, while the memories are gone, the feelings that go with them are not. Thus, when Leona passes Yamazaki in the hall, he tears up, and because he’s a sharp lad, he realizes why, and why Yamada isn’t his enemy any longer.

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Nene and Tamaki then manage to capture Asuka-in-Urara’s-body, employing all the other witches in an ambush…

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…While Yamada drags Miyamura (a student council member) to Asuka’s to retrieve a very scared and confused Urara who, I’ll restate, still possesses feelings for Yamada, even though she doesn’t remember him.

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The seven witches assemble, and though Asuka manages to escape, Yamazaki tells her to stand down, as he intends to observe, not disrupt, Yamada’s ceremony. Yamada stands in the middle, and time stops, or rather slows way down, just for him and Rika.

Before he closes his eyes and prays for his wish, Yamada asks Rika if she’s happy she ended up with a witch power. Rika states that she mostly is, but doesn’t discount the difficulty of bearing such a power, and isn’t looking forward to foisting them on a successor when she graduates.

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With that, Yamada makes his wish, and while they prank him a little when he returns to the supernatural club room, everyone’s memory is back. But as they celebrate, he elaborates: he didn’t wish to restore their memories; that was just a by-product of wishing for the witch powers to disappear entirely. After all, thanks to him, the witches no longer had the problems that led to them receiving their powers, and with no more powers, Rika and the others don’t have to worry about burdening successors.

As for Urara, she apologizes for losing her memory and rejecting Yamada, even though she didn’t really have any choice. She also assumes his confession was false, but he sets her straight by repeating that he loves her and wants to go out with her. She, in turn, reveals that the “someone else” she said she liked was really Yamada; she just couldn’t remember him at the time. So there you have it: a tidy happy ending that’s both logical and satisfying.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 12 (Fin)

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We left Nagate in a very bad, but at the same time very sexy way, with placenta in the precise form, sound, and probably even smell of his first love Shizuka, whom he’d once shared a very meaningful period of time while stranded in a cockpit. But the senses are deceiving; this is not Shizuka and never was, it’s a predator, and she looks primed to eat him.

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Or…well, do something with him. The French kiss she/it initiates, and the whole slow pace of her attack on Nagate, suggests something other than mere feeding. She’s taking her time with him, restraining him, and about to become one with him; I wouldn’t be surprised if this is Benisuzume either conducting an experiment of her own or something built into her genetic profile.

In any case, Beni didn’t count on Izana being inside Nagate’s frame. She’s able to use her bionic arm to activate aux power and close the neck airlock, separating the Shizuka placenta from the rest of Beni and releasing Nagate, who stabs her in her core, causing not one but two of those sweet, sweet bubble disintegration sounds that tell you a Gauna’s gone for good.

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That’s not the end of this decisive battle, however; Planet Nine remains a battlefield, and Nagate, the crippled Tsumugi, Izana, and whatshisname are soon surrounded by seemingly all the Gauna on the planet. Nagate prepares for another last stand, but he’s bailed out by a cavalry of Hayakazes led by Samari, who have finally arrived in orbit, one hundred strong (grouped in 25 Hayakazes). As Nagate and Tsumugi serve as bait, the rest of the planet’s Gauna are mopped up with overwhelming firepower.

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It’s a great feeling when that last Gauna disintegreates, but due to the nature of this show, it never felt quite right to let my guard down until everyone was back aboard Sidonia, and even then, there could have been some ginormous ship-to-ship battle in space to close us out.

Instead, Nagate (with a still-alive nude Placental Shizuka in his arms) carries Tsumugi and launches away from the planet to join the Hayakaze squad, and they return to the mothership without incident.

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With the titular Battle for Planet Nine won, the balance of the episode, and perhaps the Sidonia series, is spent in Epilogue Mode, similar to the last episode of UBW. Nagate is awarded a medal (the first awarded in decades) by Kobayashi in order to continue building him up as the Great Hero to inspire the rest of the soldiers; there’s a party where the Honoka clones cluster around Nagate to Izana’s disapproval.

Nagate asks what’s become of the new Placental Shizuka, and Kunato tells him she’s being treated as a valuable specimen for further research, citing “important things must have a spare.” The march of “progress” goes on, and I imagine it also entails one day creating a spare Nagate.

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The series then ends where it began, which I thought was a nice touch (though my one major gripe about this finale is that we didn’t get to see any more Izana after that awards ceremony). Nagate hadn’t just come a long way in becoming a decorated, respected, and fawned-over pilot and war hero; he also came a long way geographically, as the same journey through the bowels of Sidonia from his cloistered domicile to the rice thresher is played in reverse, only instead of an urchin on the run for theft, he has an entry pass and is welcomed with salutes once the staff knows who he is.

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Nagate inspects the simulator his grandfather and him used to learn how to fight Gauna, giving him the tools to make a contribution to society should he leave the confines of his sheltered home. He did, and he doesn’t regret it. He’s seen and done amazing, extraordinary things with a host amazing people of all stripes.

Yes, he’s still technically a pawn of the junta, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s a Knight of Sidonia, who will keep fighting to protect his home and its inhabitants until he draws his last breath—or at least until his new-and-improved Chimera replacement takes over for him!

As for me, I shall deeply miss Sidonia’s dark, gritty, sexy, terrifying, and always gorgeous and impeccably-rendered sci-fi milieu. From the start it’s reminded me of the rebooted Battlestar Galactica, only it managed to maintain the mystique of its primary foe (the Gauna remain alien and terrifying by the show’s end; the Cylons, not so much). Sidionia told and showed us a lot,  but never too much; it’s deepest mysteries remained so through to the end.

I really wouldn’t mind a third season, or failing that, a Blame! anime, a peek of which we saw on Nagate’s TV. I want this style of anime to continue.

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Fate / stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 25 (Fin)

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UBW’s epilogue drops us in London two years after the end of the Holy Grail War, with Shirou tagging alongside Rin as her pupil at a Hogwarts-like magical college. It would also seem they’re living together, and are quite happy about it.

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After we’re shown some glimpses of their new life—home-cooked breakfast for Rin (still not a fan of the morning), an English love rival who spars with Rin in a kind of magical MMA bout; Shirou nursing Rin’s wounds after her defeat.

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The couple takes a day trip to Glastonbury to visit King Arthur’s tomb, a trip Rin plans so Shirou can properly say goodbye to Saber. It’s a nice touch, and the English countryside and ruins are lushly rendered.

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While on the bus ride home, with Rin asleep on his shoulder, Shirou reflects on the events that got him here to this point, by her side. A month after the war, Rin tells him of her plans to move to London and attend the mage’s university, inviting him to come along; an invitation he gladly accepts. Rin’s primary postwar goal is to make the man she loves happy, which means keeping him by her side.

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Back in the present, in an encounter I’m sure had more resonance for those more familiar with the franchise, a tall, stern man questions why Shirou is there, and remarks that it’s a “small world” when he hears of Shirou’s desire to be a HoJ. My guess is this guy knew Kiritsugu.

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Shirou has been invited to join the Mages Association and eventually Clock Tower, but he declines. Rin isn’t particularly surprised, but is more than willing to follow him as they see the world they saved. Lots of great loving smiles from Rin in this epilogue.

Shirou and Rin’s indications, along with the post-credits sequence, suggest Shirou will never be able to escape the same path as Archer, but until then, he and Rin are going to have as many good times as they can. When the time comes, she hopes her positive influence in his life will enable him to move a little further forward and get “the right ending.”

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Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 13

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As she sleeps and dreams in Bossun’s Concentration Mode, New Yuki seems to resign herself to the fact that as much as she doesn’t want her time in this world to be limited, it is, and there’s nothing she can do about it. As she sleeps, “Old Yuki”‘s memories come into greater focus and reorganize. Her dysmnesia resolving. Time, and neurology itself is against her.

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New Yuki may have the personality and mannerisms of a new person, but she was never meant to be one; not permanently. Her body belongs to another, one who was injured in the accident, and as her brain heals, the temporary nature of her existence, along with the dread of her impending “disappearance” suffuse every moment she spends “on the outside.”

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But what continues to amaze me is that despite New Yuki treating these final days as a kind of requiem for who she is, and an opportunity to disappear with no regrets, the show doesn’t rule out the possibility the very title of this show is a misnomer. Is New Yuki really disappearing, or is she merely changing…or to be more precise, being changed by external stimuli, i.e. her friends?

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New Yuki is, after all, pretty much identical to Old Yuki; their difference lies primarily on the ownership of memories: If New Yuki believed those memories were her own and not Old Yuki’s, she’d probably act a lot if not exactly like Old Yuki. Furthermore, while Kyouko picks up on the fact Yuki is treating these like her last days, she is the one who posits the theory that it’s Yuki’s exposure to her and Kyon that’s causing this change in her, and therefore not a bad thing.

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But this discussion about whether there’s erasure or change going on is moot: erasure IS change. Also, New Yuki isn’t going back to Old Yuki; not really. I’m not sure the coinidence is intentional, but this episode has a “III” in it; the Yuki that results from her memories and personality being restored will be a third, new Yuki. New Yuki or “Yuki II” may only end up as synaptic scars, but that’s still a difference.

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The final scene is exhilarating, because we know Yuki will be “back to normal” soon, but heartbreaking, because it’s in her state as New Yuki, on the precipice of oblivion, that she has the courage to say what Old Yuki never could: that she loves Kyon. These are words Kyon really had to hear directly from Yuki, and when he does, it’s over the phone, and he knows he has to hurry to her side to properly respond.

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It doesn’t work out. By the time he finds Yuki, she’s dozed off, and just as she told him, she’s slightly confused by her surroundings when she wakes up. She also would seem to have no recollection of having just confessed to Kyon over the phone, though we’ll have to wait until next week to confirm this.

But who’s to say Yuki’s decision to confess right then and there, triggered by the knowledge Kyon knows her so well and cares for her so much, triggered her own disappearance, and the restoration of her old personality? If that’s the case, then it’s as if the Yuki created by accident accomplished a very important feat for her more easily-flustered counterpart.

Will Kyon believe the Yuki that confessed her love for him is gone, or will he understand that the back-to-normal Yuki feels the same way; that the accident was the finally learning her feelings? Here’s hoping.

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Oregairu 2 – 13 (Fin)

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My, how time flies when you’re engrossed in a long-standing love triangle of friends! Oregairu wisely pared down its cast to just the main three this week, and gave those three an arresting send-off in more or less the same awkward state they’ve been in for most of the season, but at least knowing where they can, if not should go, along with where they’ve been and where they shouldn’t go.

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Ah, Haruno-chan. The lighting, BGM, and close-ups always seem to cast her as the villain, an interloper who likes watching the world burn. But more than a force of malevalence, she’s an agent of change, for Yukino if not herself (her own personal and emotional issues are not a big focus of this show, which is both a shame and a relief). The time is soon coming for Yukino to make her own choices in life. If she doesn’t, her mother and Haruno will make them for her. Will she let herself be washed along in the current, or swim against it?

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For now, she seems to be caught in some netting cast out by Yui and Hikki, not to catch and eat her, but to keep her in the pleasant stasis Yui wants to keep going on forever but knows it won’t.

Outmatched outside the school, when Yukino calls Haruno, she decides not to lend her more potential ammunition, and instead parrots what Hikki told her: neither sister is thinking clearly, and a night apart is indicated.

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Throughout Oregairu Yui has indicated on numerous occasions that she wants to “make a move” vis-a-vis Hikki at some point, but this isn’t that time. Instead, she invites both Hikki and Yukino to a date at the aquarium.

Hikki isn’t the sort of guy you’d expect to be on a three-way date, but it’s not like this is going to be The Episode Where One Girl Gets Dumped so that a couple can emerge and progress into adulthood.

Rather, the aquarium trip is billed as a kind of last hurrah for the trio in their current state, a nostalgic look back before turning towards an uncertain but increasingly close future where stuff like this is not guaranteed.

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Thus follows a sequence of the three making comparisons between the traits of aquatic wildlife and themselves, with the metaphors flowing wildly. The camera’s insistence on shoving that sign with the mated pair of penguins, the fish in the muddy water, being contained, and the life-partner penguins grooming each other—all of it reminds them of what they are.

But an aquarium is a place that doesn’t exist in nature: a kind of training center where one learns about the ways of the aquatic world, the world humans left when they exchanged gills for lungs and fins for legs. The parallels are never not on-the-nose, but not obnoxiously so, and they also happen to all ring true.

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The Deadman Wonderland Ferris Wheel the three ride is one last elemental symbol that the three of them are spinning their own wheels. They feel like they’re going somewhere, but always end up at the same place in the end; the progress is an illusion—just like the “world where nobody gets hurt” Hikki believed he’d created back at the season’s start.

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Pretty soon that ride has to end. When it does, the Service Club might be toast. But if you wanna make a life omelette, you gotta break some eggs. Yui, who has thought all of this through, thinks she knows how to help Yukino with her family issues, and brings up the bet that, if she wins, she gets to “take everything.” She almost gets Yukino to go along, just as she appropriated Hikki’s words to Haruno.

What Yui seems to be suggesting is that things continue going on, finding answers for one another, like three penguins grooming one another (which I doubt happens often in the wild). But Hikki intervenes before Yukino goes along with it he thinks Yukino should find her own solutions or she’ll grow, and neither will he or Yui.

Now, I knew going in this wasn’t the kind of show that would rush into confessions. It did come close with its many confession-friendly atmospheres set up this week, but what with three people present there were never going to be any. But everyone’s eyes are open now, both to what the three of them are and that they have to choose between stepping back on the Ferris Wheel together, or starting off on a long road they won’t necessarily be able to share.

This felt like so much more emotionally complex a show than the first season, and I imagine if there’s a third it will grow even more so. But even if there isn’t one, I’ve really enjoyed the run, and content with the open ending.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 13

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Despite the very dreamlike imagery, I was pretty convinced for some reason that the training camp was finished and this thirteenth episode, bridging the gap between the first and second halves of this show, would take it easy. That misunderstanding only lasted until we learn Isshiki really was just having a dream.

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The first years have a long way to go: Chef Doujima has arranged a challenge that will surely thin the already thin herds: having to create an innovative breakfast dish using eggs worthy of acknowledgement by a huge cross-section of diverse customers, from the growers and producers of the Totsuki resorts’ foodstuffs, to the resorts’ service staff, all of whom are extremely keen, experienced food critics. They also have to serve 200 servings of their dish—which they have all night to devise and prepare—in order to complete the challenge.

This episode does a good job rendering an incredibly tense and difficult situation being tackled by people who are already exhausted from the day’s challenges. But the intent is clear: the chefs who pass the training camp have to have ample backbone and endurance to go with their talent, taste, resourcefulness, and speed.

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The episode also branches out, affording us dozens of little mini-stories happening to all of the various characters, none of whom are as simple as enemies or friends anymore. Even Erina has multiple facets, and the personification of one of those is a mysterious new character I’ll call “Snow White,” whose looks and air of confidence suggests she’s quite a chef to be reckoned with. Naturally, Souma treats her like he’d treat anyone else: with courtesy, friendliness, and respect, irregardless of her hidden motives for him.

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For the second straight episode, Food Wars doesn’t simply focus on Souma. Everyone gets a chance to show off their breakfast-innovation skillz: there’s Takumi’s “Insalata Frittata” (which is almost so corny it almost comes all the way around to being cool); Megumi’s delectable looking “bite-size oden” (which capitalizes on her nurturing cuisine); Nikumi’s “loco moco donburi” (I loved her look of nervous anticipation as the judges tasted), all the way to Erina’s exquisite Eggs Benedict (made with a dried mullet roe-infused muffin that shimmers like gold and tastes like million bucks).

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Erina is the first to pass, with Takumi right on her heels, and Megumi doing particularly well, still flush with confidence after her near-as-makes-no-difference win against Shino. But Snow White has an odd dish made up of various plain-looking eggs, which doesn’t seem to be popular. And that brings us to Souma, who by episode’s end has served less than ten of his “souffle omelette”, which showed promise but may have fizzled out, as some of his ideas sometimes do (peanut butter squid, anyone?).

Could the pressure of wanting to get better be negatively effecting Souma’s focus and ability to power through the challenges? Is that constant worry he’s not yet good enough stifling his creativity rather than stoking it? It looks like he’s in a very bad way, and he’s on his own. While I’m sure he’ll pull out of it next week, it isn’t the “whether” but the “how” that I’m most interested in; along with what Snow White’s game is.

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Nisekoi 2 – 12 (Fin)

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Not unpredictably, Nisekoi: decides to wrap things up with “Best Girl” Kirisaki Chitoge. The story of the first half  is simple: she loses and then eventually finds her beloved red ribbon. But because the ribbon carries so much sentimental power for her—due to its connection to both her beloved mother and her beloved Raku—that the time she’s separated from it and worried it could be in some dumpster somewhere is a palpable yawning chasm of near-Mr. Despair-like despair. Even Marika is thrown off by how meek and out of sorts her rival is.

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No one is more worried/concerned about Chitoge than Raku, however. While her predicament makes it easier for him to see her feminine side (though physically she’s still a beast) and he entertains the notion that things might be better if she just stayed like this, at the end of the day he’s a fan of the status quo, which means a cheerful—if sometimes unreasonable and violent—Chitoge.

So he buys a new ribbon for her. She immediately sniffs it out as a brand-new impostor, but because she’s so distraught, her guard is down and she expresses genuine gratitude for Raku’s kindness.

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Then Raku spots the real ribbon atop an electric pole, and the super-athletic Chitoge springs into gear…only to watch in horror as her ribbon catches on the train cable and gets shredded by a train. But at some point in her pursuit, she stopped following the real one and pursued the fake, which is the one that got destroyed. Raku produces the real one, unharmed…or is it?

When she puts it back on she returns mostly to her normal best self, but when she’s back home, we see she’s painstakingly repairing the destroyed ribbon Raku said was the fake new one, but there’s a chance the messed-up one was the real one, and Raku again switched them up to make her feel better. But at this point, she’s happy she has two ribbons, both of which her love Raku gave her at different times in her life.

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The second part is one of the best kinds of Nisekoi segments: those spent primarily in Chitoge’s head as she struggles with precisely what kind of feelings she has for Raku and if, when, and how to express them to him. It’s clear her heart wants her to confess, but her head overanalyzes and sweats over every detail and eventuality and potential effect of her words or actions, all coalescing into a paralyzing effect; no matter what goes on in her head, Raku can’t see or hear anything but the slightest hints; all to easily misinterpreted or simply not noticed.

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Chitoge seeks advice from her dad, who tells her the outrageous tale of how he met Hana. Back then she was a student juggling 17 jobs to pay her tuition, one of which was pizza delivery girl. She delivered a pizza while Chitoge’s future dad was it the middle of a shootout with a rival organization (well, he wasn’t doing the shooting, but directing from a pool lounger). Seeing Hana so confidently stride into the middle of a warzone…it was love at first sight for pops.

But he goes on to say that wasn’t the case for Hana: he had to suffer multiple embarrassments, rejections, and yes, broken bones before Hana finally fell for him. Chitoge may be right that her parents’ tale of coming together is atypical, but she’s wrong that it doesn’t resemble her own romance with Raku in some fashion. The difference is, Raku still keeps their relationship at an arm’s length due to it’s official “fakeness.”

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But he still gets clobbered by Chitoge regularly, and as we saw from the last segment, when she suddenly stops being herself, he not only notices, but worries about her and wants to help. Turns out, the chemistry between her and Raku is so good, the question of how or when to confess to him is more or less resolved by Raku himself.

In talking about how they’ve been fake lovers for more than a year now, reminds Chitoge what she really wants, which is to spend more time with him. And as long as she can do that, there’s no rush to say the words…which is good, because she can barely say them to her stuffed Chitoge gorilla.

The way this episode ended didn’t promise a third season of Nisekoi, but I honestly wouldn’t be surprised. But would I watch it? While hardly any show beats around the bush as stylishly and confidently as Nisekoi, the lack of deal-closing was just as frustrating this season as it was in the first, and the show show no signs of fixing that.

Fortunately, it rarely has to, as its episodic nature lets us focus on and revel in the colorful variety of love interests Raku has to choose from, which makes us forget for just long enough that he’ll never choose any of them.

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DanMachi – 13 (Fin)

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Rather than end its 13-episode run with a “To Be Continued” or other cliffhanger silliness (though I’m not even sure if this was meant to get a second season), DanMachi decides to spend its last episode the same way the end of a good RPG ends: with a huge final battle and a classic “good ending.”

The end definitely snuck up on us, and thus it was hard not to feel like things were rushing a little, but I was still glad for the finality of the boss battle, and all the character work and action it entailed.

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The boss himself is…well, naked and kinda dumb-looking, which has been DanMachi’s problem from episode one: none of the enemies are particularly scary-looking or even particularly creative in design. This is something the most recent GARO almost always got right (to say nothing of the nightmare-inducing Gauna of Hannah’s Sidonia.)

In addition to being somewhat goofy-looking, this boss doesn’t really DO much besides mill around waving his arms around. I’m not sure I buy the fact they can’t escape the level either; if the entire town can be mustered to fight the boss, surely some of them can use their magic to open an escape route.

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The show clearly understands the concept of distractions, decoys, and well-timed combos, because several of each are unleashed on the boss, to no avail due to his ridiculous regeneration ability. Dumb-looking or not, this is definitely the toughest boss the show has given us yet.

The combo that works in the end is akin to saving up all of the full overdrive gauges of your whole party, then unleashing those overdrive attacks in quick succession to bring the beast down, or at least shave off a decent amount of his HP.

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Ryuu, Mikoto, and Welf are involved in the final combo, which sufficiently softens up the boss for Bell’s “Hero’s Strike”, which causes a fade-to-white yet still doesn’t quite finish the boss; for that, he has to use the trusty runeblade Hestia made for him (and which symbolizes their love and devotion to one another) to crack the central crystal and send the boss to Nowheresville.

The final casualty list? Well, no one we know. In fact, those scumbags who kidnapped Hestia last week even gain a grudging respect for Bell, a nice bit of development even if its for characters we care about. As for those we do care about, they’re all fine, in good shape for what I imagine to be a second season a year or so hence.

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At least, that’s what I hope. After all, there’s still a lot of stories to be told both inside and outside the dungeon, many levels yet to explore and conquer, not to mention Bell being the “Last Hero of the Zeus Familia” or something.

As for Freya…well, not sure why her character existed at all this season, except that she’ll eventually play a bigger role later on, when Bell presumably grows ever more powerful and popular.

Until then, I bit adieu to DanMachi, a solid action fantasy with lots of heart, likable characters, and rich world-building that never failed to entertain.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 12

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It’s the halfway point of Ore Monogatari!!, so did the show do what anime of every genre typically do around this time and throw a new wrench into the works; a new conflict for Takeo and Yamato to overcome? Well, yes and no. But first, it was a pleasure to see Takeo’s athletic prowess on display in areas besides Judo.

He’s a literal wall of flesh at goalkeeper (and scores a goal on the other end by throwing it baseball-style), and surprisingly graceful on the ice rink; like a penguin underwater. The point is, Takeo is physically gifted; extremely gifted, and combined with his kind heart, makes him socially gifted; he’s always surrounded by friends.

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Yamato is just as popular with her peers, though not because she can perform awesome feats of strength. In addition to her kindness and general affability, Yamato is also pretty good at academics. In fact, it’s one thing she’s much better at than the hulking Takeo. So the “conflict”, if you even want to call it that, is borne out of the fact that eventually these two will go to college.

They both want to attend the same one, but Takeo doesn’t want to make Yamato enroll at a substandard one, so he has to study; exercising a muscle he rarely needs to simply because the rest of his body is so extraordinary.

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He initially enlists the help of Suna, but Yamato also starts stopping by Takeo’s place. When Takeo tells his mother Yamato is indeed his girlfriend, Mom and Dad gradually start to spruce the place up, even though Yamato would be the first one to tell them not to go through too much trouble for her.

What I like so much about Takeo’s parents is that A.), they’re both alive, which seems like a minority in anime; B.) they’re still happily married, with a baby on the way; and C.) they genuinely love their son and are both grateful for and protective of him. In addition, as Yamato remarks, Takeo really is a composite of his parents, with nearly equal parts of both of them in his physique and personality. Dad is tan and handsome and flashy; Mom is nurturing yet no-nonsense. Both are badass. Takeo is all of the above.

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The parents are so excited about Yamato that neither she nor Takeo can actually study, so they go to Suna’s When Takeo suddenly passes out from too much studying, it isn’t treated like any kind of serious emergency, but rather another opportunity for Yamato to snuggle with him. This time, to her horror, Suna walks in on her, but true to form he assuages her guilt, assuring her didn’t see anything and slinks out, basically saying “as you were.”

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This halfway point also didn’t provide any indications Sunakawa has any ulterior motives about being friends with Takeo, but is really just a caring, loving friend; a brother from another mother. This, again, goes against the usual anime romance archetypes, for which I’m glad. While the show was a smidge more ambiguous earlier on, it is now officially patently ridiculous to think Suna will one day try to steal Yamato from Takeo.

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Not only does he not seem to mind that this is the case, despite liking Yamato (in a non-romantic way, as a good match for his bro), but he doesn’t mope about it either. Suna’s not the most social or open guy despite his popularity, but that seems like a conscious choice rather than any kind of impasse or struggle he has to overcome. The show respects how he lives his life. Suna also derives quite a lot of fun and laughs from being friends with Takeo, as we see again when he plays charades during English study.

So the day of a benchmark (read: practice) exam for the three colleges Takeo and Yamato are trying to get into arrives. Both are bundles of nerves, but Yamato gives him moral support before they get started.

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Looking at the various subjects he studied as various enemies to vanquish, Takeo goes into the exam like a warrior entering a gauntlet. But like Yamato did in a previous test, his multiple choice answers are shifted, a mistake he feverishly tries to correct, resulting in a blizzard of eraser filings and a pool of Takeo sweat.

He gets a “D” in two of the three colleges he aimed for, and an “X” in the difficult-to-get-in one Yamato was trying for, but not only did she not get in either, in a nice bit of villainy from Suna, it’s a women’s only college anyway, so he was never going to get in no matter what!

Also, the “D”s aren’t even that big a deal, because it’s just a dry run. He’ll keep studying, Suna and Yamato will keep helping him, and I have every confidence he’ll get to go to college with Yamato, and maybe Suna too.

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Hibike! Euphonium – 12

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Watching Reina win, then win again, has lit a match under Kumiko’s bum: she wants to be special to. But there’s a tricky euph measure she’s having trouble with, and Taki makes it clear in no uncertain terms that she’d better have the part nailed by the competition or else, she’ll drag everyone else down.

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So she practices, out in the humid heat until she’s dripping sweat and even gets a nosebleed. Reina is there with some water, along with her assessment that while Kumiko is getting better, she’s not good enough yet. She also makes it clear that she won’t easily let Kumiko catch up to her: if Kumiko becomes special, well, she’ll just become even more special.

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Reina continues her campaign to fit into the band by apologizing to Kaori and Yuki for her smugness, catching both unaware but likely forging a new bond moving forward; not necessarily of friendship, but mutual respect and cooperation, a necessity if they’ll have any hope at the Nationals.

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But despite her near-obsessive practicing of the same measure over and over again, Taki-sensei seemingly has enough and asks Asuka to play the part alone for the rest of practice, a stinging condemnation that might spell the end of the line, at least according to Kumiko, who has worked so hard yet still can’t get it right. She’s at the base of a wall she’s not sure she can scale to the top, but doesn’t want to stop trying. And she’s putting everything into band, as we don’t see her studying one bit.

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Physically and emotionally spent, she breaks into a run (more nice work from KyoAni) and shouts from a bridge both her feverish desire to improve and her anger at the level she’s presently at. Shuu just so happens to be on the other side of that bridge, and joins her in the yelling, and Kumiko realizes she’s as upset as Reina was in middle school. Now she knows that anger, frustration, and pain she felt.

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The question is, what will she do with them? As luck would have it, Taki-sensei is still at school when she returns to retrieve her phone, and he’s surprisingly warm and open to her, both about how his own life turned out, following in the footsteps of his father. He didn’t do it out of obligation, but because he liked it, just like Kumiko has grown to like her Euph (and, perhaps to a greater extent, Reina.)

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She leaves the school with a spring in her step, having been, if not smiled upon, at least winked at by the god of fortune. She also finds that Reina tried to call her a million times, and when they meet up, Reina seems far more interested in Kumiko’s alone time with Taki than Kumiko’s quest for a Euph capsule toy.

With only one episode left that I know of, I can’t see Hibike! Euphonium ending in a satisfying fashion, no matter how many stops are pulled out. Attempting to do so would require too much speeding up of the narrative. So I’ll approach the final week hopeful that last episode won’t be the end, because I’m simply not ready to close the book on Kumiko, Reina, and the rest of this beautiful, brassy, poignant show.

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