3-gatsu no Lion – 21

3GL has proven time and again it doesn’t have to stick to one story per episode to excel, and this is one of those split episodes that really resonated with me. The Lion King Tournament took up so much of the show’s—and Rei’s—attention and energy that the fact it’s over now feels like a great weight has been lifted, and now life goes on, which we get to witness a slice of.

Rei accompanies Shimada to his hometown of Yanagata, and as he’s known as a “rainbringer”, the Human Shogi can’t be performed outdoors. It is, however, still performed, on a stage in an auditorium, and I have to say I really dug the tradition and pageantry involved in such a production. The town’s pride and devotion to shogi is evident in every one of the human shogi pawns’ faces.

As for Shimada, he may have brought gray clouds and rain, but indoors, the various Yanagata shogi festivities seem to recharge him, to the point that by the time he’s leaving, he’s ready to start his climb to masterdom all over again, realizing he’s been rushing and failing to enjoy the ride.

At the same time, hearing that Shimada came up with a community shogi program that benefits otherwise isolated elderly folks adds another dimension to Shimada, who has now gotten more development than any other shogi player besides Rei.

The next segment has nothing to do with Shimada, but is focused on the Kawamotos as Gramps mines his granddaughters for inspiration. He’s trying to craft another “signature sweet” to supplement the already popular “baked crescents”.

He trusts and respects the sisters’ opinions, at least to a point: when they start getting too non-traditional, he bristles. That being said, he also loves Momo’s suggestion of using gum, though that’s probably just ’cause he loves Momo and would call her a genius even if she suggested something truly heretical, like Hershey’s Kisses.

Later, Akari and Hina decide to splurge at a sweet shop, but end up going overboard with extras, sending the check skyrocketing to a sum that could have been used to feed the family for a week. As they say, those places are at trap, and they’ll clean you out and leave you fat, but that doesn’t mean the treats they push aren’t great anyway, or that it’s wrong to treat oneself once in a while.

Later, Hina is the one with the eureka moment, developing a versatile and cute daifuku snowman confection. Clearly the apple didn’t fall far from the tree, as Gramps admits the sisters’ mom was the one who came up with the Baked Crescents. Family, for Gramps, is not just obligation, but a font of inspiration. And the shop stays in business thanks in part to their ideas and energy.

In an exceedingly adorable closing scene, Hina calls Rei, then hears his phone ringing at the door; he happened to be arriving by surprise. It’s nice to see the two so in sync. There’s also a nice positive “karma” in Rei showing up with excess Yanagata treats from Shimada, as if the universe is re-filling the coffers Akari and Hina’s parfait run emptied. But more than anything, it’s nice to see Rei reunited with the Kawamotos.

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Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu 2 – 10

While there are certainly important stories to be told, the true genius of SGRS is the realism and intensity of the world in which those stories take place. While there was a soapy vibe to Yakumo’s inadvertent arson, this week grounds the even for what it was: something that was likely to happen to the tinderboxy theater sooner or later, regardless of who or what started it.

Even if Yakumo was trying to deal a blow to rakugo by sending the place up, the fact is, the theater is just a thing. You don’t really need it to perform rakugo. All you need is people to perform, people to support those performers, and an audience. And those things can be found anywhere. They’ll be okay…even the kid who worked at the theater to try to get closer to rakugo.

When we see Yakumo in the hospital, Shin and Matsuda are crying by his side, but Konatsu is sitting off at a distance, with a look that conveys both suspicion (both she and Yota had to stop him from jumping off a bridge, after all) and uneasiness.

As much as she has always hated her adoptive father for killing her birth parents, the window for hashing things out with him once and for all is quickly closing. Sooner or later Yakumo, like the theater, is going to go up-either by his own hand or by nature.

Still, even as Yakumo lies there in bed with a hell of a face burn, we know that when it came down to it, he’s terrified and not at all interested in dying. He’s not ready to leave the family he’s made, which we learn is about to get larger: Konatsu is pregnant again, and this time it’s Yota’s.

Since Yota is always calling Konatsu “nee-san”, its easy to forget that these two are married, let alone sleeping together. But I loved the way Konatsu drops the news—by mentioning how she craves sweet things when she’s expecting. I also loved Yota’s total obliviousness until she actually spells it out for him too.

You can feel the love and joy in this little scene. The RABUJOI, if you will ;)

As for her scene with Yakumo, it’s steeped in a combination of loathing and tenderness. It’s not the same love that she has for Yota at all, but it’s still love, and arguably a deeper one. As she helps him into the sun and combs his hair, he tells her how his mind wanders to things he never thought about when rakugo was his life, like how he never planted a cherry tree in his garden, or all he missed out on for rakugo.

Konatsu doesn’t let the opportunity to ask him why he never followed her parents to the grave, and there’s no need for any more pretense: Yakumo was too busy raising her to think about killing himself, and in any case, being a parent has a way of simultaneously overwhelming and soothing you. Raising Konatsu kept his regret at bay, and made it possible to live as long as he did.

Upon hearing all this, Konatsu softens, her eyes well up, and she does something it’s probably been very hard for her to consider doing: thank Yakumo, for not abandoning her.

Of course, she’s very welcome, and doesn’t even have to thank Yakumo, since she did as much for him as he did for her by being in his life. It’s a marvelously executed and acted scene; the epitome of bittersweet-ness.

Then Yota comes on the radio, Shin pops out of the bushes and recites the story Yota is telling (while tossing sakura petals in the air), Konatsu asks Yakumo if she can be his apprentice, and he says “yes” without any pushback whatsoever.

Yota and Shin’s story is accompanied by a montage of imagery that matches their words, though that imagery is coming not from the imaginations of the listeners, but in the city and world living and breathing around them during a warm, pleasant sunset. It looks like a moment of almost perfect contentment for Yakumo…

Which also makes it the perfect time to leave that world, if he was going to do so. When petals on the floor are suddenly picked up by a sudden wind and dipped into darkness, Yakumo wakes up on the planks of zig-zagging, seemingly endless boardwalk flanked on either side by countless candles. Sukeroku greets him, and this time welcomes him to the land of the dead.

Tellingly, Sukeroku doesn’t tell him he’s not yet supposed to be there. So is this it for Yakumo? Did that perfect moment signal his exit from the living world? Did he agree to train Konatsu to avoid stirring rancor so close to his end?

Youjo Senki – 09

The Empire devises a plot lure out the Republic’s main-force, crush it, and end the stalemate in the Rhine. This involves railway logistics and a lot of leg work (flying work?) on Tanya’s troops’ part to deceive the Republican troops, and it looks like there are casualties amongst her unnamed ranks.

However, the big push is that Tanya and eleven of her troops will be riding V1 rockets behind enemy lines to launch a surprise attack against the Republic’s three possible command centers. If her team takes them out, which is likely, the war with the republic will be over in an instant.

Ultimately, this episode is yet another strategy and battle presentation, with an emphasis on setting up more battle for next week. We get a cameo from Tanya’s classmate and Doctor Schugel, and Serebryakova gets a little character development via Tanya’s lieutenants (who see her as bizarrely unflappable and charming amidst what should be horrifying, and what horrifies them) and there’s even a bizarrely lengthy joke after the credits, regarding one of Tanya’s men being removed from active service because he ate a rotten potato.

Unfortunately, the result falls in with Youjo Senki’s more mediocre offerings. It’s not bad, just a straight forward war and internal workings of an army storytelling. Without a focus on Tanja’s inner workings, or giving her agency over the intrigues of the day, or without learning more about God, that makes for a purely watchable experience.

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