Flying Witch – 05

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This week, the dreaded Walpurgisnacht arrives, and no one is spared the ensuing carnage. Kidding, kidding…this Spring’s most naturalistic show has its most laid-back, uneventful outing yet, which makes sense: it’s Sunday, and no one in the Kuramoto residence has much to do.

Makoto leisurely goes through the last of her unopened boxes, Akane dozes in the living room, Kei reads books in his room, and Chinatsu decides to follow Chito on his cat rounds.

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The journey nets her a lucky cherry petal on her head and dirty pants and hands from falling in a small hole. After she returns and the family has lunch, Makoto goes on the same basic walk as Chinatsu did, only this time using Chito as a GPS rather than trying not to be discovered following him.

Chito, like the cat in Whisper of the Heart, has very specific places to show his walking compansion, along with a dog to tease. The most exciting thing to happen in the whole episode is when the dog breaks loose, but Makoto and Chito manage to get away.

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Makoto and Chito then join Nao for a sake delivery to the house of a well-off elderly woman (the same one who told Chinatsu about a lucky petal that could get her the man she loves). Nao seems interested in such a love spell, despite not having anyone in particular she likes.

Makoto and Chito return home, where now both Akane and Chinatsu are dozing away. Chito curls up with Chinatsu, and the credits roll. Not terribly much to say here, except that this was another lovely, cozy portrait of a particularly slow day in quiet Aomori. The only thing you could call magic on display was Makoto’s ability to understand Chito. No witch flying today!

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 18

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This week is—the second semifinal match, the second-to-last of the Phoenix Festa— The winner shall face Allekant’s AL-D and RM-C. The challengers? Ayato and Julis versus the two aces of Galadadworth Academy: Doroteo Lemus and Elliot Forster.

Wait…WHO are these dudes? Never mind; it doesn’t matter.

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That’s right, this match is a gimmie. The show doesn’t even pretend that the outcome is in doubt. If it had, these guys would have been built-up more in past episodes. These guys are comically weaksauce, to the point I hate to think about the chumps who had to lose to them in order for them to advance this far. Sure, Ayato and Julis have a tendency to make even great opponents look silly, but knowing they’d advance to the finals for sure made this whole match a bit perfunctory.

Elliot is very skilled but also very young, and Ayato senses and easily exploits his lightweight resolve, while Julis simply pops off standard attacks of gradually increasing intensity until Doroteo lets himself get roasted inside his suit of armor. Yes, he had a mecha-horse and a long lance, but couldn’t lay a finger on an opponent on foot with a sword.

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Indeed, this is an example of bad seeding. It would have been far more interesting to me if AR-D and RM-C faced off against Ayato and Julis in the semifinal, so that Saya and Kirin could waste these knights and the four friends could face off in the final. What would have been wrong with that?

I don’t know, but for now Saya and Kirin can only stew in the sting of their defeat to an opponent they should never have had to face to begin with (the Festa is clearly rigged to favor Allekant’s puppets), while they search for the kidnapped Flora. Did I mention I don’t much care for Flora, nor do I care for her basically showing up just so that she could get kidnapped?

Well, I don’t, but she’s just a little kid, and clearly important to Julis, so I understand Ayato wanting to go all out to track her down, even meeting all secretively with Irene, who laments she has no hard intel for Ayato (since Dirk never bothered to brief her), but she does manage to narrow his search to Rotlicht with a hunch.

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Meanwhile, Ernesta and Camilla work through the night preparing their puppets for the final with Ayato and Julis. This is the build-up scene (combined with the previous battles and scenes featuring these two) the Galahad guys didn’t get. These are the guys to beat.

In this scene we learn a lot more about these two Allekant scientists, how Camilla’s body was severely damaged in a terrorist attack, and how Ernesta built her half a body, leading Camilla to pledge half her life to Ernesta in return.

We also learn the two have different goals: Camilla wants to develop a universal lux anyone can wield; Ernesta wants no less than to create a new form of sentient artificial life. She’s already on her way, thanks in part to the puppets’ match with Saya and Kirin.

AR-D wants to keep his face scar to remind him of his imperfections; RM-C wants a less embarrasing way to transfer her luxes to AR-D during limit transfer. Ernesta is over the moon by this progress; Camilla is clearly more weary.

As for Ayato, his cover is quickly blown and he gets chased all over Rotlicht by Men In Black, before a gorgeous young woman pops out from behind a column offering safety.

That’s right, it’s yet another girl for Ayato—though at least one who has been foreshadowed not just by the inter-world signage of the show, but by the fact the OP and ED are sung by this girl, the famous idol Sylvia.

I got a kick out of the post-credits preview with an increasingly desperate CG-Claudia trying to impress Ayato with her own singing. Sorry Enfield, I don’t think you’ll feature much next week either!

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Kiznaiver – 05

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Humans, particularly while young and coming into their own, need bonds, if for no other reason than to define their place in the world, and make them aware they’re not the only person who matters. Adolescence by and large, makes kids extremely arrogant, and that arrogance is manifested seven different ways among the Kiznaivers.

Let’s go ahead and add Sonozaki to the mix as an eighth teenager who internalizes the universe. The latest trial the actual adults have for the adults-in-training (which include Sonozaki) throws her for a loop. She isn’t at the mountain inn retreat out of duty, she’s there because Kacchon invited her.

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With another test looming in the background, the retreat still begins with a pleasant casualness and subtle excitement of the eight kids simulating a household for the first time. Divi-ing up the chores, getting to know  more about each other bit by bit; Tenga’s scheme to help the “emotionally heavy” Chidori; Maki and Yuta’s intriguing dance; Nico’s sidelong glances…the bonds are being enriched without the aid of shared mortal danger. It’s all very absorbing.

In fact, the first shared zap of physical pain doesn’t come until Sonozaki smacks Kacchon in the cheek while the two are keeping each other company alone in the dark. She’s not reubking him, just killing a mosquito, but Chidori sees what she wants to see (already suspecting Sonozaki is an interloper) and races off into the night in tears.

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I knew informal assigning of individual original deadly sins to the Kiznaivers was a risky (and not entirely necessary move), but it’s interesting to see the very complex emotions on display between Maki (AKA “firewood”) and Yuta as they share a scene in the kitchen.

Yuta is surprised Maki makes good omelette rice for him, as if feeling sorry that he’s hungry (his dietary restrictions kept him from having dinner with the others). He sparks a conversation about how he got fat, then invites her to share something about herself.

Maki, who I labeled as “pride”, seems reluctant, committed, even, to avoiding showing her true self to anyone. Yuta has seen reason to doubt her stuck-up facade (like the fact she made him dinner), and takes the bait when she asks him if he likes her chest.

“Chest”, though, is only her metaphor for the thing no one normally sees, and if it was seen, could change one’s feelings about the person completely. Maki is haunted and tormented by a ghost from the past in her private moments. That’s what she’s still trying to hide, but now that she’s a Kiznaiver, that may no longer be feasible.

It’s not the first think Maki and Yuta say to each other that means more than one thing. Maki takes things in a more explicitly amorous direction, saying things like “not caring if she breaks”, using the term from the ghost’s voice. Yuta thinks she’s only talking about masochism and sex, but after she jumps him (and inadvertently makes him admit he’s still a virgin), their liaison is interrupted by Yamada, their teacher.

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Yamada and Urushibara arrive (not informing the Kiznaivers that they brought Kacchon’s Kizuna’d bullies with them) and another high-stress test begins: a purported Test of Bravery so common to these kinds of inn/camping retreat episodes. One bully bashes in the room with a chainsaw, the other weild an axe and corners Chidori in a cabin.

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Fueled by fear and adrenaline, the six Kizzys other than Chidori rush out into the night and find their own graves, but when Nico hits a Gomorin and it goes down easily, they calm down a little, confident they can do this.

I loved Hisomu’s contrasting  looks throughout this ordeal; delighted rather than terrified by the sight of the graves and wielding a bucket and ladle instead of weapons. Maki’s outrage at Yuta talking big while cowering behind her was also a nice touch. This couple’s been through a lot tonight.

But the central figures of this test, not surprisingly, are Chidori and Kacchon. When Bully #1 is zapped by Nico’s blow, Bully #2 (#1’s childhood friend) is unmasked as well before Chidori, and collapses in a pile of woe-is-me, why-must-I-be-the-only-one-suffering tirade that hits very close to home for Chidori.

Hearing her own problems expressed almost verbatim from another has an immensely powerful effect. Chidori takes after the bully and lays it all bare: if the bully wants to die, he’d better give Kacchon his money back first.

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For the first time, Kacchon realizes the emotional pain of the all the bullying he endured expanded to Chidori. He only now knows the pain he endured and pretended didn’t exist at all was also hurting her because now their emotional pain is being shared as well. Not just between these two, but all seven Kizzys.

Now that he knows the error of his selfish ways, when Kacchon finds Chidori (in the middle of her tirade when she brings up how Sonozaki is also adding to her pain with her interloping), he demands the money back. He takes the stand Chidori always wanted him to take on his own. Now Kacchon gets her a little more.

What’s interesting is how connected Chidori and Kacchon truly have been for so long, not to mention Maki and Yuta (through their secrets); the Kizuna System is merely a catalyst to help them break through their inner shells and come to terms with the fact that everyone has their problems, everyone suffers, and knowing of each others’ pain and sharing in it, and being able to move past it (or make use of it) is a crucial element of life.

Those worried about a Tenga-Chidori thing can probably breathe easy for now, if Kacchon and Chidori’s closing scene together is any indication. And now it’s clear getting through the summer is another metaphor; for getting through adolescence.

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Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge – 05

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After expertly establishing Shiraishi as a rounded, rootable, easily-to-empathize-with character, this week’s Tanaka-kun begins with a supermarket mystery: what did Tanaka’s sister want him to buy?

This initial segment accomplishes and reiterates so much with such a simple premise. Ohta is the kind of dependable all-rounder every woman in the store wants in their family or for their daughter’s (or their) husband…and he’s all Tanaka’s. 

Thanks to the process of elimination and a clue in the form of a single letter Past Tanaka sent as a reminder, they narrow the mystery items down to things starting with “P”, including pancakes. Ohta glows with maternal pride as Tanaka shuffles off into the sunset, shopping mission accomplished.

Unfortunately, Tanaka’s choices were wrong on all counts: his sister wanted pipe (i.e. drain) cleaner, and if he was going to get her pancakes, she wanted the ones from the specific place in the TV ad. Nevertheless, she made him dinner out of all of the (strong-smelling) ingredients he brought home.

We’ve yet to meet Tanaka or Ohta’s sisters, but there’s much that can be gleaned from just this indirect contact with her: she tries to push Tanaka beyond his boundaries of listlessness and uselessness.

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With that segment to open, I expected to finally meet a sister or two, but again the show demonstrated its penchant for restraint: why not spend more time with Shiraishi, since she’s fresh in our minds from last week?

Now that she’s more comfortable in her own skin, Shiraishi is coming to notice other things beyond what people think of her. Specifically, she’s pretty sure she’s fallen for Tanaka, as the lovely watercolor prologue to her segment aptly shows (Ohta showing up just when she’s about to place her hand on Tanaka’s sleeping shoulder).

Mind you, she’s still Shiraishi, and considers a “former dweeb” and loner such as herself falling in love to be the height of arrogance. We spend most of the balance of the episode in her churning head space, and are thus treated to the best kind of rom-com inner mon.

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Shiraishi wants to carry Tanaka on piggyback, but knows she can’t do that without getting a little closer to him. But how? She informs her two best girlfriends of her predicament, and they throw their moral support behind her.

Her initial idea is to learn more about Tanaka through Ohta’s interactions with him, since Tanaka hardly has interactions with anyone else (and no one is closer). At first I thought this was a classic recipe for Ohta mistaking her crush as for him, but the show wisely avoids that kind of trouble.

Instead, Ohta proves useful to her, clearing the path for her that much more by asserting that it’s unlikely Tanaka has a girlfriend or someone he likes at the moment.

But then Shiraishi hits an apparent roadblock when she enters the classroom to find Miyano is already there by Tanaka’s desk (where she wants to be) having a spirited conversation about…something (a conversation she doesn’t think she’d ever be able to have with him.)

It’s a scene with few important words (Miyano is just rambling as Tanaka nods) but so much runs across Shiraishi’s face as the camera draws in closer to it, and her and Miyano’s eyes meet.

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Of course, Shiraishi has the wrong idea: Miyano isn’t Tanaka’s girlfriend or anything like that. After retreating, Miyano pulls her back, seemingly knowing what’s up, and presents her to Tanaka as another new apprentice (one she can call kohai).

This is a misunderstanding, and it could have easily stayed that way, but again, Tanaka-kun isn’t a show that always goes the easy or predictable route. Shiraishi recognizes this opportunity for what it is, and pulls the trigger: She wants to be Tanaka’s friend, not an apprentice.

After Tanaka’s response—sure…and anyway, we already are friends—you can feel all the stress and worry melt away for Shiraishi, replaced by relief and joy. She didn’t take the first step—that was already taken—but now she recognizes that she took it, and the pressure is off, for now.

Miyano tells Shiraishi they’re friends too, and when the three exchange emails, covertly offers her support in what she now knows Shiraishi’s goal to be.

There’s no competition or rivalry here: Shiraishi wants to be Tanaka’s, she can be. She just has to keep taking things one step at a time, while believing in her own worth.

Tanaka doesn’t appreciate the magnitude of his words to Shiraishi yet, but nor is he the kind of guy who’d ignorantly deny or dismiss out of hand someone liking him. I wonder what his sister would say about this development!

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