Norn9: Norn + Nonet – 03

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Norn9 continues to hook me with its gorgeous aesthetic, but man, it’s men are jerks! Well, around half of them are; the others are twerps. I think the only guys still unmarked by assholishness are Heishi and Masamune. Mikoto and Sakuya have some kind of past with each other, but I don’t see how she’s been able to stand most of the rest. Poor Koharu is entirely at the mercy Kakeru’s whims; he can joke and mess around with her all he likes, but when she so much as tries to rub dirt off his ear, he slaps her away as if rebuking his chattel. Jerk!

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Even lunch has to devolve into a childish confrontation, when Nanami gets lambasted for her apparently subpar shiruken onigiri. Akito puts her hands on her and tells her she’s so quick to toss her food, she shouldn’t make it to begin with. He at least shows a little heart by no throwing the food out after taking it from her, but still…Jerk!

Oh, and there’s Future Boy, who’s apparently a big smartypants, who is poring through the ship’s library trying to learn as much as possible about in order to get back to Tokyo. However, when he sees a glowing ethereal girl, he gets a strange nostalgic feeling, complete with a flash of her embracing him somewhere.

Okay, Future Boy isn’t really a jerk, but as curious as his predicament is, the show was overstuffed with characters before he showed up.

Kakeru finally apologizes to Koharu for slapping her hand away from his ear, and offers an explanation: it’s all he has left of his father, who was murdered. Work on not being a jerk, Kakeru.

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This somewhat disjointed episode ends with another confrontation with Akito, being a total jerk to Nanami, whom he believe suspects him of being the “inside perpetrator.” The entire reasons he thinks she partnered with him was so that she could one day turn him in to The World and be rewarded. But he, in his jerkishness, is mistaken about that.

Nanami, in fact, is aware Akito has no special ability, but is willing to protect him. To his protests and veiled threats she responds by demanding he kill her here and now rather than draw it out any longer; but he doesn’t want to kill her.

Even when a gust of wind and the whimsical lack of railings on the Norn almost sends Nanami plummeting to her death, Akito can’t help but grab her hand, even when she gives up. It’s clear then; Nanami intends for them to live together or die together. Maybe he’ll be less of a jerk to her?

Sorry for the flippantness…but I decided to watch one more episode, which demonstrated that this show has the ability to both pull me in with its pretty world and intriguing personal mysteries, and push me away with some of its more erratic and/or abrasive characters.

I’m think I’m going to let the latter motion win out and stay pushed away from Norn9. It’s probably for the best.

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Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – 03

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SGRS has played a clever trick. I thought this show would be about Yotarou, the reformed thief, but he hasn’t been present the last two episodes. Instead, it’s been young Yakumo’s, or I should say, Bon’s show.

And that’s totally all right, as he puts immense craft, care, and detail into his quietly epic life story, a large part of which contained Sukeroku (AKA Shin) who is absent from the present world. In hindsight, that absence and the events that let up to it (which have yet to be told) are given greater weight with each new section.

Bon is struggling with the same boisterous kind of rakugo Shin performs and gets reliable laughs from, and having to balance school means he feels like the gap between them is growing. So Shin suggests he try rakugo that makes the most of his weak voice: bawdy and erotic stories. On that note, Shin suggests they go to a brothel and get laid…once they have the scratch, of course.

In the midst of hanging out offstage with the “house band”, Bon, who had no prior interest in or time for girls, meets Ochiyo, a girl he becomes interested in and spends lots of time with. The warm fondness and melancholy in present-day Yakumo’s voice makes the couple’s inevitable separation really sting.

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That hurt is somewhat mitigated by present-day Yakumo keeping Ochiyo’s promise to never forget her, because here he is telling us about her! The reason she has to leave Tokyo is basically the same reason people start leaving Tokyo in droves: World War II is about to break out. The dread of that fact is underlined by highly effective use of loud white noise, which swells and cuts out suddenly, creating tension and foreboding.

The government starts censoring rakugo just at the time Bon sees the raunchier stuff as his way in, almost as if the universe were blocking his path. Soon it’s just the master and his two students, and he only takes Shin with him to a kind of USO tour in Manchuria, sending Bon and his bad leg to the country with the mistress. But the night before Shin leaves, Bon has his brother pinky-swear that they’ll see each other again.

Bon gets a job in a factory, meets another nice girl, and settles into a provisional life, a life without Rakugo he never thought he’d have to deal with until it came. Sure, he’s not exactly on the front lines or anything, but his suffering is borne of not being able to take the path he wishes due to, well, history itself.

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And yet, he never fully gives up on rakugo. He stuffs the books in the closet, but he still tells stories to himself when he feels down. He finds the rakugo heals and fuels his troubled heart; it gives him vitality and hope. And then, one day, just like that, the war is over.

More white noise, and a few well-chosen sights like a cloud in the sky and the sight of a radio broadcasting the emperor’s surrender mark that new event. When it comes to depicting the parts of the war we know well, the show doesn’t show much, because Bon himself doesn’t see any of the horrors.

More than anything, both Bon and the Mistress miss Shin and the master terribly, and even some time after the war continue to live in a kind of limbo as they await a return that may never come. The good news is, rakugo roars back into popularity, including the kind best suited for Shin, who gets a promotion and gets very busy very fast.

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He gets so busy, he’s totally caught off guard when one dusk, just as suddenly as Ochiyo, and country life, and the war, and loneliness, came and went, Shin, Bon’s brother and other half, returns. Five years had passed mercilessly, heartlessly, but by the end of it their promise was fulfilled and they were together again. They ease back into theater life; rakugo life; and peace. Only now, no doubt, with so much time spent apart, this family understands and appreciates far better what it means to be together.

And speaking of reunions, who should show up at their door but Miyokichi, a beautiful young woman. The brothers have competed in rakugo, and endured separation for an entire war’s length. Will their next trial be a love triangle?

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Dagashi Kashi – 03

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On a hot day, as kids we’d usually go for a soda (or pop, depending on what state we were in), snowballs, soft serve, or frozen yogurt. It never occurred to me how great it can be to eat hot things when it’s hot out. Hotaru demonstrates this, I think, by firing up a stove to the shop and cooking up some tonkatsu Butamen; kind of a a mini ramen cup.

Tou, who’s back after a week off, put together what was going down and invited himself, knowing that in return for the intense heat, he and Kokonotsu would get to watch a cute girl eating noodles, not to mention getting so hot her dress gets see through. Naturally, Hotaru is totally oblivious to all of that.

Her only concerns are candy, snacks, and acquiring You for her father’s company. And that’s the other side of it: she doesn’t realize the power she has over Kokonotsu, courtesy of her looks and close casual manner with him. As far as she knows, the battle will be won with her convincing arguments for the primacy of candy.

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So rather than seduce him, which just isn’t in her character, Hotaru continues cockamamie plans, one of which involves You pretending to be a lifeguard to make extra bucks on the side, since the shop doesnt’ do. She’s unaware of her ability to seduce, so instead she tries to guilt trip.

She and You (also back after one week off) are awfully proud of their plan and are regarding one another in a better light all the time, but snagging him all comes down to her ability to convince Koko to take over the shop. Alas, an attempt to show the wonder of candy through strategic placement of kurukurubu jelly sticks in the pool backfires when Koko, Tou, and Saya see the “no food or drink” sign.

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The last segment is somewhat strange, in that Hotaru’s interaction with Kokonotsu is minimal. Like Hotaru with You in the previous segment, this looks like an effort to explore each two-person combination in the lean five-person cast. Hotaru curbs her suspicion that Tou is a pathetic confectionary tourist and shows him the proper way to deliver a Botan Rice Candy (with its edible wrapper) to one’s mouth: the same way one delivers a fastball to the plate.

Finally, after Koko shoos her off while the shop’s A/C is fixed (which seemed kinda mean; though Hotaru was somewhat in the way), Hotaru interacts one-on-one with Saya a little more. Just as Hotaru thought Tou might be testing her (though he wasn’t; he’s just an idiot), Saya sees Hotaru’s desire for “girl talk” that starts with a quesiton about Koko has her thinking Hotaru is testing her.

She is, but it has nothing to do with Saya’s crush, only the fact she’s never seen her with candy, something Hotaru cannot stand by and allow. She gives her some “Neon Seven”, a very cryptic kind of candy that Saya initially picks at wrong (both of their close-up expressions are hilariously rendered) but eventually learns to eat properly.

Saya is amazed and entertained by Hotaru’s wealth of knowledge (as anyone would be), and the two end up talking so long Hotaru never goes back to Koko’s…which kinda serves him right for shooing her off!

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GATE – 15

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My first thought as to why Tuka is crying? Why, because she and the other two main girls have barely been in this second season. And what we have seen – her wandering around, looking for her dead father – was troubling.

When Itami finally has time to visit the trio, he learns that Yao Haa Dushi told her the flat-out truth – that her father was killed by the fire dragon – and Tuka just couldn’t handle it. The result is a state of psychosis in which she searches the camp endlessly for her father, forgetting about food and sleep; it’s so bad Lelei has had to sedate her periodically.

When Tuka sees Itami after waking up from one such sedation, she sees him as her father and embraces him accordingly, much to everyone’s dismay.

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Yao freely admits to “breaking” Tuka, something she did to force the hand of Itami, someone she believes will be able to help her slay the fire dragon and avenge her people. Yao is as fanatical as Tuka in this desire, only she hasn’t succumbed to as deep a madness as Tuka has. It’s cruel manipulation of our blonde elf, but you can’t fault Yao, who had been refused by everyone else in the JSDF.

Now, as she sees it, in order for Tuka to be healed Itami must make sure she gets the same thing Yao wants: revenge. Only then can she accept her father’s death and move forward. Unfortunately, the only way to get that revenge is by slaying the fire dragon, a foe Itami isn’t keen on facing off against anytime soon.

Meanwhile, Pina informs Diabo that Zolzal has been named their father’s heir. I’m not sure if he’s on Zolzal’s side or Pina’s, but he lets Pina know Zolzal told him to pick a side, that he doesn’t think Zolzal’s reign will last long, and that he’ll bring everyone down with him if he can. If Pina wants peace with Japan, she may have to do something about Zolzal, which would mean defying her father.

Finally, we see Tyuule’s true colors, as she’s been manipulating Zolzal into a pliable, unstable state of supreme arrogance, and is now confident he’ll do whatever she says, she tells an informant who sneaks in to make a delivery in exchange for being allowed to lick her leg. Tyuule hopes to incite a war that will destroy the empire, using Misako as the match to light the fire. Tyuule remains an interesting wild card; on no one’s side but her own, herself fueled by revenge.

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Itami is loath to carry out the plan Yao wants, because he wouldn’t be able to secure a large enough group to bring the dragon down (you’re probably talking about sustained air assault with gunships, rockets, and missiles, plus artillery to finish it off). He believes if he goes in with a small group, they’ll get wiped out, and the last thing he wants is to lose anyone in battle, especially for what is essentially a personal mission.

While he ponders the situation, he decides to go all in and pretend he’s Tuka’s father for the time being. Tuka is elated about this, and they hit the town on a father-daughter date, spending every moment of Itami’s R&R together (she even sleeps with him in bed, naked for some reason…)

While it’s nice to see Tuka so happy, it’s a false happiness that cannot be sustained. Eventually Itami will have to tell her the truth, and she’ll go right on denying it, or possibly plunge deeper into madness. Itami himself dealt with the loss of his father (if I’m reading the flashback correctly, his mother, herself mentally unbalanced, killed him and was committed for it, leaving Itami alone), so he can certainly relate to Tuka.

That new tidbit about Itami’s life makes us wonder if he’s ever actually fully processed that loss and moved forward, or if a part of him is still trapped in the past, if not to as extreme degree as Tuka.

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When Itami has to return to the capital to translate – this time a longer-term arrangement, he breaks it to Tuka as best he can, but the pain in her face is plain to see before she replaces it with an understanding smile.

He crosses paths with Yao once more, who reminds him playing house isn’t going to work forever (no shit Shirlock), and even Lelei and particularly Roroy also appear to be concerned about how long the charade should be allowed to go on.

Heck, posing as her father is messing Itami up, to which his comrade Yanagida suggests: why not just go on the damn mission and slay the dragon?

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That night, as he watches the moon to think about whether to do just that, he meets a wizened old man from the special region with an prosthetic arm and leg, things Japan brought that make it possible for him to continue living his normal life. This old man knows what’s eating Itami before he even sits down: he’s worried about the cost of action. His advice is to listen to his heart, which already knows the answer. Sometimes you gotta act even if it’s dangerous.

So on the dawn when he’s about to head back to the capital via helicopter, after saying his goodbyes he spots a tear on Tuka’s face the moment before the cargo door closes, and jumps out of the helicopter to stay with her. The old man gave him a nudge, but it was Itami who made the leap.

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And that, ladies and gentlemen, means Itami won’t be doing any dreary capital duty anytime soon. No, he’s going on an adventure with Tuka to find and destroy the Fire Dragon. Sure, she still thinks he’s her father, but he can sort that out later.

I don’t know why Itami thinks it will just be him and Tuka, but he’s quickly corrected when Rory makes her presence felt, bites his arm, and forms a contract whereby his soul his hers if he dies. Lelei and Yao also join the party.

At this point I was wondering why he didn’t ask his closer subbordinates with whom he’s been in so many scrapes to volunteer to join him; I’m sure they’d come along if offered the choice. But that’s okay. I’m happy with the five-person group, and looking forward to watching them hopefully kick some fire dragon ass.

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Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu – 03

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Both Kuroda and this show’s title make reference to the “wasteland” / “wildlands”, but this show covers precisely zero new ground and blazes no new trails. Its premise and themes have already been thoroughly explored by other shows. There’s no uncharted territory here; only a retracing of steps.

KOYA also continues to paint its six main characters with the broadest of strokes in the dullest and least adventuresome of tones. This week features an interminable “training camp” that is supposedly intentionally aping the Hot Spring Inn cliché for comedic effect, but really only comes off as a Hot Spring Inn cliché, full stop.

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There are two main developments at play here: the constant philosophical clashing of Kuroda and Andou, and feelings for Bunta awakening in Yuuka, depsite her hard friendzone status in his eyes (as far as one can tell). I personally prefer the raw, spunky Yuuka to the more muddled raven-haired maiden that is Kuroda, but portraying Yuuka as suddenly so blushy and weak-kneed around Bunta – who is barely a character at all at this point – does her no favors.

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As for the conflict between Kuroda and Andou, well…Kuroda’s a hard one to figure out. Her character has a couple of distinctive ticks and qualities that don’t mesh into a cohesive whole. She’s more of a promising idea of a character not fully thought out. As for Andou, well…she is a character driven by one thing and one thing only: BL. And using the word “fangirl” as a verb; she really digs doing that.

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She loves BL so much, in fact, she’s willing to see the treatment of Kuroda’s game through BL eyes, labeling it a “Yuri-homo” rather than a straight-laced shoujo story. Her constant reminders to everyone that she’s obsessed with BL even seems to wear on the cipher Bunta.

No, the most impactful moment of this increasingly dreary episode was when Andou got fed up with sparring with Kuroda, said “I’m done”, and peace’d out. Bunta managed to very easily lure her back to the inn from Akiba (he spends a lot on rail travel this week!), but I fear no amount of convincing will bring me back to KOYA. There’s just not enough here to sink my teeth into. To borrow Andou’s phrase: “I’m done.”

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