Masamune-kun no Revenge – 02

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Compared to the seinen drama Kuzu no Honkai, Masamune-kun sports a much more vivid palette and a lot more comedy, but the titular character’s problems feel lighter; somehow more petty. After all, he’s still raw after all these years about how Aki treated him? They were snot-nosed little kids; all kids are terrible; his experience is not unique.

But as this second episode progressed—and Masamune thought he was making progress with Adagaki—I began to realize there’s a good reason Masamune is so serious about this revenge plot, even if it isn’t even in his best interests at his age. Being a former “pigs foot”, and the bullying he received as a result, had a profound effect on his emotional development.

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Masamune may be a much sought-after hottie girls are always fawning over, but not too deep inside, he’s still a little kid, not just hung up by the slights he suffered, but being held back by them.

It’s also made him sensitive to the perceived suffering of others, such as Adakagi’s maid Koiwai Yoshino. He buys her the necessary food for her to deliver to Adagaki, but when he teases her and he sees she’s not enjoying it, he stops. In her he sees another victim of Adagaki’s caustic haughtiness – a Cinderella always gettin’ it from the evil stepmother.

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Predictably, Koiwai still hears it from a very (always?) hangry Adagaki in the storage shed, and as she ducks out for tea, Masamune swoops in and attempts to build upon his heroic act to woo Adagaki. He makes smooth moves and says smooth words, and when he leaves, has convinced himself he’s gaining a “mental advantage” over his adversary.

But is he? Masamune’s no student of human behavior; he isn’t even aware of how ill-equipped he is to carry out his revenge plot. He’s using methods gleaned not from experience courting girls or anything like that, but reading his sister’s shoujo manga.

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His shortcoming are made plain when he’s literally caught in a trap by Koiwai, who first shows Masamune that she’s no Cinderella, but a fiercely loyal servant, as her family has been to the Adagakis for three centuries. The rope, hunting knife, and fact she knows his nickname “Pig’s Foot” indicate she’s a serious threat, and Masamune crumbles almost instantly.

Luckily for him, Koiwai isn’t so loyal as he thought, nor are her actions a threat so much as a demonstration of her skill. She knows Masamune is trying to get back at Adagaki, and she’s all for it. In fact, she offers to help him out. Koiwai is definitely somebody Masamune wants on his side, and it seems like he has a mutual “foe” in the imperious Adagaki.

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In his quest to gain Adagaki’s email address, Masamune volunteers to join the school beautification committee she’s on, which helps get class rep Futuba out of a bind. To Masamune’s dismay, Adagaki isn’t shocked when he shows up, and basically ignores him the same time. This has a profound effect on Masamune, just as her abuse contributed to making him what he is today.

He’s ready to throw in the towel…until a grateful, blushing Futaba, who had been looking distinctly for him, comes in and asks him out to a movie just like that. Again Masamune’s immaturity is laid bare, as he realizes he’s not so worthless after all, but actually quite popular. His confidence is buoyed, but poor Futaba gets rejected, because going out with Futaba, as nice as it sounds, strays from his “main objective.”

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When Adagaki comes in, Masamune assumes she’s jealous he was speaking to Futaba alone. He even thinks he hears it in her voice. He’s riding a high, and ends up going in for the kill way way waaaaay too early, showing that Adagaki isn’t going to be won over so easily.

For his foolishness, Masamune is sent on a wild goose chase of letters that lead him back to where he starts, where Adagaki unfurls—perhaps not for the first time—a large and elegant “I DECLINE” scroll in a semi-public place. Masamune loses his cool and yells out the window, but thankfully for him, Koiwai is now in the classroom, and she’s ready and willing to offer him assistance he’s clearly in dire need of.

This episode revealed the surprising emotional complexity at play in Masamune-kun, showed that his quest to get back at Adagaki won’t be so simple, and most admirably, turned Koiwai into a far more fascinating and intriguing character than last week’s humble maid.

It will be fun to see if Koiwai is serious about helping Masamune or if she’s actually a loyal servant working hard for her master. As she herself says, Masamune is too naive.

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Kuzu no Honkai – 01 (First Impressions)

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It’s not what it looks like…

The Gist: Yasuraoka Hanabi is and has always been in love with the older Kanai Narumi, who she calls onii-san. Awaya Mugi has always loved his middle school tutor, Minagawa Akane. Now both Kanai and Akane are teachers at Hanabi and Mugi’s school, and they are into each other.

Brought together by their similar situations, Hanabi and Mugi grow closer, nearly sleeping together, then enter a pact to soothe each other’s loneliness, becoming, in effect, replacements for the ones they truly love.

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This show isn’t entirely humorless

Whoa. Move over Masamune-kunKuzu no Honkai is the best Winter ’17 romance I’ve yet seen. It certainly has the strongest opening episode, which cuts to the freaking chase with immense alacrity.

And while it centers on the girl Hanabi (voiced by Anzai Chika, Reina from Euph as well as Chaika) and her thoughts, what drew me to KnH is how it tosses the usual girl-pursues a boy and boy-pursues-girl scenarios out the window.

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Look at those lovebirds down there…disgusting!

It also makes them equal actors with equal agency. In the face of the utter despair that comes from not being chosen by the the ones they deem their soul mates (and watching them flirt with each other every day at school), Hanabi and Mugi act to change their conditions, and make their miserable lives just a little more bearable.

In the episode’s powerful central act, Hanabi and Mugi are hanging out in his room as they always do, acting something like friends, in a dark and gloomy room. They’ve done this many times, but this time Hanabi feels compelled to reach out and embrace Mugi from behind. Mugi suggests she not see him as himself, but to imagine he’s actually Kanai.

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This is what they’ve wanted for a long time…but not from each other

Things get quite a bit steamier (without the deed being done, mind you) as Hanabi allows Mugi to be a vessel that contains her ideal version of Kanai doing these things with and to her, and she’s very conscious of how Mugi is no doubt seeing her as his beloved Akane. It’s so raw and sad, but it does soothe both parties, so it’s not a total waste of time.

When she was much younger, Kanai told Hanabi “we both have something the other is jealous of”, referring to her mother, a great cook, and his father; Hanabi’s never known hers. He then says they’ll be able to “help each other when we’re feeling lonely.” Hanabi took it as the God’s truth, but Kanai let her down, and came off as a liar.

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If we’re going to do this, then let’s DO this!

Mind you, that didn’t break the powerful spell he’s always had on her, and so here Hanabi and Mugi are, deciding that they’ll be the ones to help each other when they’re lonely, because they both have the exact same thing: someone who may never return their burning feelings. They agree to let each other have everything but their feelings, and if one of them makes it with the one they actually love, their pact will end.

Yeesh. That’s some dark, depressing stuff, but also not outside the realm of reality. While the formula is common, I personally haven’t seen this specific premise crop up much. It’s so simple, yet powerful, and like I said, it’s great that the girl and guy are equal partners. One hopes they’ll eventually fall for each other, because their other prospects don’t look so good, but who knows…that’s why we watch!

The show also has welcome moments of levity that don’t come off as tacked on, even though they sometimes surprise. And while its palette is a little on the drab side most of the time, that fits the desired atmosphere, and the animation is superb. If you’re up for some really well done seinen romantic drama, check this kuzu out.

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One Room – 01 (First Impressions)

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One Room is a four-minute, first-person perspective, single-speaker anime. It may eventually turn into a dating sim, or may get dark, or it may continue to be a string of monologues each week.

This week featured Hanasaka Yui, a girl who just moved into the apartment next to ‘us.’ She’s unremarkable but pleasant, and her gestures a subtle and varied. Along with the camera, that sort of wanders around each scene, and the broad color range, the show has an atmospheric feel.

It’s probably not worth your time, though, because ‘the viewer‘ is a characterless camera, who occasionally looks at Yui’s chest. ‘We‘ offer to tutor Yui, who wants to get into a good school, and coerce her into our bedroom for study, which all feels creepy. Yui’s body language seems to agree.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in being projected into the body of a creeper, let alone a rapist…

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Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon – 01 (First Impressions)

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The Gist: while drunk in the mountains, Kobayashi invites a dragon to live in her apartment as a maid. Tohru, the dragon in question, happily agrees for reasons not entire clear to the hung-over Kobayashi the following morning. This agreement, including Tohru’s apparent sexual love for her, may stem from a life debt. More on that later…

In the meantime, Kobayashi has to go to work and Tohru, who knows very little about the human world, has to get by with internet searches and calling other dragons on a magic phone. As you would imagine, Tohru doesn’t totally get it right…

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You’ll probably like Dragon Maid if you enjoy peppy humor, with the hints of a darker story beneath the surface. (Tohru’s nightmares, whatever Kobayashi did to save her, etc.) The visuals are average but pop pleasantly. The dialogue has strong comedic timing and the situational surprises are nice and quirky. (Kobayashi and Takiya being opinionated maid-otaku when drunk was hilarious, Tohru washing Kobayashi’s laundry in her mouth was gross but fun, etc.)

You may not care about Dragon Maid if the whole ‘pretty girl with animal parts’ genre is played out for you. While her ability to fly, breathe fire, and turn into a giant, not-at-all-human looking creature separates Tohru from the average Cat-Girl, the humor structured around her is effectively the same: She doesn’t understand our world and makes odd choices while trying to please her new master.

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The Verdict: I was pleasantly surprised by Tohru’s nightmares, which bumped the show above pleasant but forgettable comedy. Making Kobayashi female is also a nice twist on the convention. Even though she’s somewhat andro, and her coworkers tend to think of her as one of the guys, she is not homosexual, which gives the showrunners more to work with regarding Tohru’s advances.

Go on, you know you want to give this one a watch!

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