Ore Monogatari!! – 09

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This week’s episode begins in somber fashion, Suna dreaming about sitting on that bench (the way Takeo did last week) during a particularly red sunset.

As Suna and Takeo part ways for their very different activities, the question becomes: can Oremonogatari have it’s expensive cake you need to get a part-time job at an aniki cafe to afford to buy, and eat it too? And this episode responds resoundingly: Sure, Why the hell not?!

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In the first minute of their meeting and mutual beaming at each other, one can tell it’s already Yamato’s happiest birthday EVAH. And while it’s not his birthday and he has Suna constantly on his mind (since Suna helped him craft the schedule for the day), Takeo can’t help but be happy around Yamato, too.

First up is bowling, which is all kinds of great, from the largest heaviest ball looking like a softball in Takeo’s hand, to the juggling that makes Yamato giddy, to Yamato trying to lift his ball, then going for a lighter one and splitting the pins.

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Their infectious giddiness continues at the expensive patisserie I mentioned, where Yamato is almost content just to look at the amazing confections on display, but fortunately for her Takeo not only made enough at his job to treat her, but has the staff sing her “Happy Birthday,” which sends her into heretofore unexplored depths of elation. She’s just happy Takeo is with her on her birthday, but even moreso that he’s going the extra mile for her sake.

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That’s when the constant references to Suna finally gets Yamato to ask Takeo a question he can’t dodge: “Where’s Suna?” After a pause, and handing her the schedule and planetarium tickets, Takeo tells her the truth; about how Suna’s with his Dad at the hospital, and how Takeo can’t bear to leave him alone anymore and must go to him.

Yamato is upset, but only because Takeo didn’t tell her something important sooner. She urges him to hurry to Suna’s side. At this point, she’s already had a gas, and because both she and Takeo are always thinking of others before themselves, she completely understands; which comes as no surprise. Frankly, a pissed or sad Yamato would be out of character.

Rather, Takeo having to take his leave is precisely why she loves him so much, just as her kindness and selflessness is a big part of why Takeo loves her so much right back.

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Suna must’ve felt bad about the fact his dad’s surgery fell on Yamato’s birthday, so he told him he’d be happiest if Takeo went and had fun. But this was Suna putting Takeo’s happiness ahead of his comfort. By the time Takeo arrives, he’s already had lots of fun with Yamato and vice versa.

When Takeo arrives, he’s not surprised, but it does lift his heart. It also opens it a little more, with him confessing to Takeo that he blames himself for the situation his Dad is in, for not being there for the attack that led to his first hospitalization.

Takeo assures him that no one else feels that way about him. It’s what Suna needs to hear, because he’s had no one to listen to about the matter but his own thoughts for far too long.

Before you know it, the surgery light goes out, the doctor pronounces the op a success, and Suna’s mom and Makoto arrive to take over, glad that Suna didn’t have to deal with this alone after all.

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And wouldn’t you know it, when Takeo and Suna head down to the lobby, there’s Yamato, not only waiting for them, but making paper cranes. Turns out she wanted to finish out the date they organized for her, but couldn’t stop thinking about them and rushed over. I’m with Takeo: I LOVE HER.

This episode deftly avoids all the narrative pitfalls of a big date episode, despite having a heart surgery at it’s tail end. The surgery goes well despite Suna’s initial pessimism, and Yamato proclaims she had her best birthday ever, and she and Takeo, floating on Cloud Nine, proceed to brainstorm getting Suna a girlfriend…maybe one just like Takeo (whom I believe was in Danganronpa…)

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After seeing Yamato safely onto the train, Takeo and Suna, the brothers by other mothers, pay a visit to the butt tree, and the episode ends as it began: with a sunset. But it’s far less red and morose and gloomy as the one of the cold open. Even when the sun goes down and the night’s chill arrives, it’s warm and bright with Takeo by his side.

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Hibike! Euphonium – 09

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Kowai…

Last week was a beautiful and highly memorable episode oozing with romance, love, heart-swells and heartbreaks and confessions and rejections, and ASUKA DON’T GIVE A SHIT. She is the voice of the episode that brings us back down to earth from those indelible images of a sore-footed, one-piece-dressed Reina lugging a Euph up a mountain, or the perfect duet played high above the shimmering festival. Fun Time is over. Gotta practice!

While Asuka’s objection to “issues” getting in the way of her practice time is presented in a semi-comedic tone, it’s nice how her very objection and complete lack of patience on such a subject is also an indication of her issues, which remain internal so far.

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The distracted girl Asuka all but kicks out of the room is Midori, who still feels bad and possibly guilty about Hazuki getting rejected, believing she played a part in her failure. Her depressed mood is translating to noticeably poor play.

Hazuki keeps her frown upside-down, even though we know she feels bad too, she wants to be happy, and is taking the well-worn path of acting happy first. Her strategic (and very graceful) change of direction when Shuu enters the train is proof she wants to move on.

Kumiko, meanwhile, is still wrestling with the fact that people are telling her she likes Shuu, when she’s never given much thought about it, and can neither confirm or deny it. She can craft a defense against such allegations—”I didn’t want to lose a friend”; “we go way back.”—but they don’t tell the whole story of her true feelings, because that story hasn’t been written in a language in her head she can understand yet; it’s all out of focus.

This show does a fine job emphasizing how different Kumiko, Midori, and Hazuki are, which is I think why Kumiko has accepted them as friends. They’re not all trying to be the same, like the rhetorical sheep Reina blasts; rather, they’re embracing their differences to gain new insight.

Midori is probably a little surprised when Kumiko says they should just act normally, since that’s where she believes Hazuki is trying to get. But she respects and goes along with that idea.

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Real nice slow-rain

Of course, things aren’t normal for anyone right now, and not due to any love triangles, but because there are only 55 seats and more than 55 tushes, which means even those who have played beside one another have suddenly become their rivals for those limited seats.

It’s something that weighs on Kaori, who gets more screen time this week. I love how Haruka reassures her the way Kaori reassured her during her crisis of confidence. Kaori wants to become better so she can keep the peace in the band and prevent another incident like last year. There’s also considerable pressure on her from her peers, particularly those junior to her who idolize her as the band’s madonna.

It’s interesting that our first good look at Reina since her big breakout episode is crossing paths with her fellow soloist, the clearly intimidated Kaori.

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I also love how in so many animes, we always hear horns practicing somewhere on the grounds, and Hibike! finally focuses in on those musicians. Kumiko looks particularly isolated—by choice—in her little corner of the schoolyard as she practices her piece. When she hears another Euph playing the piece very well, she runs over and is surprised to find it’s Natsuki, who earlier in the show was dozing during practice.

Seeing Natsuki there, giving it her all, Kumiko suddenly snaps out of her complacence: her seat on the band is not assured; no one’s is. And she’s not the only one working hard to become better, so she’d better get back to it!

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Those nerves won’t do her any good in the audition (it might have been better, if less dramatic, had she not heard Natsuki prior to her audition), but she can’t shake them. At least, not until Reina enters the storage room, ignores whatever Kumiko mutters to her, and takes hold of her cheeks, so her their faces and eyes are locked into each other.

I’m going to do my best, so you have to, as well.

She doesn’t let go of Kumiko’s cheeks as she parry’s her “buts” with a repeat of that mantra-like line. Suddenly, Kumiko calms down, then puts her hands on Reina’s cheeks and agrees. It’s great to see the camera cut to their feet as Kumiko’s weight pushes against Reina’s.

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Zero hour: Kumiko’s audition. The atmosphere is so deliciously tense. I loved how Taki’s impressed reaction to learning how long she’s played one instrument made her worry she set the bar even higher for herself.

I found my breathing patterns change as I listened to each note of the first bars she’s told to play. And she plays it well. Not perfectly, but not badly, either. Then Taki asks her to play a bar she hasn’t practiced as much.

It’s a bar we don’t get to hear (the show is as great at knowing when to withhold music as when to use it for dramatic effect), but I knew she played it well, too; because while she initially panics a little, she remember’s Reina’s words, and the feeling of her hands on her cheeks, and does what she has to do.

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That being said, the announcements of the parts was as nerve-wracking as the audition, especially the seemingly cruel way their advisor lists the names of those who got seats, then simply saying the total afterwards.

At the sound of those totals we always see someone suddenly burst into tears, one by one; it’s like a battle, and they were unlucky enough to get hit by enemy fire; only they’re all friends and, in a way, family. The discomfort of that scene, and the lack of visible celebrations from the winners out of respect for their comrades, is all perfectly pitched.

That goes for when Kumiko is announced right after Asuka, as the only two Euphs who got seats. Kumiko seems almost guilty she snatched the second seat from Natsuki, after watching her transformation from apathy to devotion. It even reminds her of when that girl in the past asked her “Do you think this is funny?” which now sounds like a rebuke to Kumiko’s own apathy about music at the time. But the true meaning of those words, and the identity of the person who said them, remain elusive.

Midori gets a seat as the contrabass, but Hazuki fails, but takes it rather well, at least on the outside. Reina makes it too, then surprises the entire band (except for herself and probably Kumiko) when it’s also decided she, and not her senpai Kaori, will play all the solos.

But whatever social fallout such a decision has on Reina, I’m certain she’ll keep moving forward…will want Kumiko to keep walking beside her.

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P.S. MAL remains noncommittal about the episode total of this show. I don’t wish this often, but I truly hope this gets the second cour it deserves. Anyone know for sure?

Re-Kan! – 09

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The mystery of who Amami is making a very specific kind of handmade chocolate for, and why, isn’t all that mysterious. But as always with Re-Kan, the emotional resonance, not the mystery or animation, did most of the heavy-lifting, and succeeded admirably.

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Not only that, as we watch Amami’s activities through the lenses of both her living and dead friends, all of whom have fairly reasonable theories, I felt the episode kept things in doubt long enough for the final twist to have some impact.

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Working with the info we’re given from the start, Amami is going to make a traditional Japanese sweet, the recipe for which she learns from the kindly wife of a grouchy old humbug who infests the park scaring the Valentines-crazed youngs away.

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The episode staves off the last piece of the puzzle with the use of editing and camera angles to keep the wife’s status up in the air until Amami finally presents the chocolates to the husband, at which point we see he is a widower.

Yet again, Amami did a favor for a ghost who couldn’t do it herself: make chocolates for her still grieving, lonely husband. She also doesn’t disappoint the ravenous Yamada or her friends by offering all of them chocolates, so everyone wins!

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When the grumpy old man is alone again, he polishes off the whole box of chocolates, and realizing his departed wife is still there beside him on some plane or another, thanks her, his heart having been lifted from the gloom. The final shot that tracks from him sitting alone on the bench to the shadows of both him and his wife, was quite lovely and affecting.

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End-of-Month Rundown – May 2015

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Here we are: One more month of Spring anime gone. It’s been a great season so far, whether you like drama, romance, comedy, combat, or all of the above.

Fate has a narow lead at the top, but as most shows still have a third of their episodes yet to air, anything could happen in June.

Any comments about the month or season, or in general, just leave ’em in the comments. And as always, thanks for reading!

—RABUJOI STAFF