Bokutachi no Remake – 02 – On the Right Track

Given the chance to go back ten years, Kyouya has resolved to do a better job this time around, starting with taking a different path in choosing art school. But beyond that he had no idea where that new path would take him. If the answers are in his head, you could say they’re locked, and getting to know his three roommates is a good start in finding the means to unlock them.

By coincidence, Kyouya gets a part-time job at the same konbini as Nanako, and a part of that job is restocking the walk-up fridges. Between the darkness of the stocking space behind the shelves and the coolness of the fridge, the scene is akin to a cozy winter night in the park, only Kyouya and Nanako are on the clock.

While Kyouya may have entered art school completely devoid of confidence, he’s already learned from his roomies that just because they’re talented doesn’t mean they don’t have their own insecurities. It didn’t sit well with Nanako that she thougth Lake Biwa was the ocean, so she left her hometown to get a better idea of the size of the world, hoping to learn who she is as the explores it.

Kyouya admits to us that he’s in no hurry to get past either quiet little scenes with Nanako in the fridge or even the little conflicts that arise when two guys and two girls live in the same space (read: food stealing, which Shinoaki will not tolerate).

Things become a bit more urgent in the now when their class is assigned a short film assignment. They’ve only got three minutes to tell their story. Having spoken to Aki and Nanako and having found similarities to his own (and even having visions of the three on the same train platform), Kyouya comes up with the idea of telling the story of a woman’s life by using a day at train station.

Tsurayuki, the one roommate Kyouya hasn’t reached out to about why he enrolled, goes into his room for a half-hour and comes out with a treatment for the station idea. But then he takes Kyouya aside and says he had the same exact idea locked away. He knows Kyouya didn’t steal it, but asks if “anything else is going on.” Kyouya is unsure of how to answer, so he says nothing, and the tension passes.

Still, it’s telling that Tsurayuki is the first one to get a hint that there’s more to Kyouya than meets the eye, even if he has no idea what that is. He’s a screenwriter, after all, and scenarios like that are always going through his head. He accepts that two people get the same idea all the time, and the group starts production of the short in earnest.

This inevitably leads to creative differences, with producer Kyouya’s insistence they stick to the three-minute limit butting up against Tsurayuki’s desire to tell his story his way. He thinks if it’s good, no one will care about the runtime, and even asks Shinoaki and Nanako to adjust what they’re doing to accommodate his contribution.

When Kyouya puts his foot down, Tsurayuki is angered, but in this case at least, Kyouya is right; this is an assignment and if the rules are broken all their collective efforts are for naught. That said, he also knows Tsurayuki has a point about taking risks and not over-compromising on one’s art.

A lot happens this week with the group beyond the group’s short film. There’s the aforementioned getting-to-know-you and slice-of-life scenes; Kyouya, Shinoaki and Nanako are snared into a fine arts club desperate for members, and Eiko reveals her group is also filming in a train station and won’t be outdone. I do hope at some point Eiko becomes a less antagonistic presence, knowing how well she and Kyouya work together in the future.

When Kyouya’s teacher can tell he’s down in the dumps, she shows him a script from a film that everyone loved, but no one liked the finished product, because the director and cast got to do whatever they wanted without any boundaries. She reminds him a producer doesn’t just issue cuts or subtraction, but about properly wrangling and harnessing the collective talent of his team to make a final product people will like.

It’s just as much a creative process as writing a script, drawing storyboards, or acting, and it’s something Kyouya reveals he’s actually good at when he applies himself. He manages to strike the balance of motivating Tsurayuki and the others to do what they do best without letting them run wild, and they in turn appreciate his calming, organizing presence.

That’s why it’s so heartbreaking that on the first day of filming, when all their planning and preparation is about to start paying off with real images on film, learn Tsurayuki accidentally checked out a digital still camera instead of a video camera. Here, the others echo a statement Kyouya had repeated to himself and used as a crutch for much of his ten years to come: It is what it is…nothing to be done about it.

It is here where we learn the true power of Kyouya’s potential as a producer: he alone, having lived and learned from those ensuing years, is the only one of the four to say No, something CAN be done about it. And he’s right. Chris Marker’s La Jetée is just one famous example of a film composed of a series of still photographs.

I’m guessing that’s what they’ll do, but even if it isn’t, the fact Kyouya isn’t going to let things end here means he’s continuing to learn and benefit from the time jump. What’s so satisfying about this dynamic is that he now finds himself in a position to help everyone out because living and working and bonding with them helped get him in that position. It’s a symbiotic balance creative teams always strive for.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Kageki Shoujo!! – 02 – Sink or Swim

The morning before their first day of actual classes, Ai deigns to attempt to wake Sarasa up…in the gentlest and most ineffectual way possible. But their class rep Sawa personally wakes Sarasa the hell up, because the people they’re facing this morning are far more fearsome than the JSDF: their second-year advisors, AKA “Big Sisters”.

The students of the centennial class have already demonstrated their capacity for ill-natured backbiting, but it’s the same way in the classes above them. We learn that Risa and Hijiri, Sarasa and Ai’s Big Sisters, are bitter rivals who usually hide their contempt for each other behind smiles and niceties.

When Risa flat-out tells Sarasa she’ll never be Lady Oscar, she makes the poor tall girl sob into the floorboards. When she asks why not through the tears, Risa mentions the curse of the tree, and in doing so gives Sarasa all the ammo she needs. If everyone believes the tree is cursed, she’ll just have to prove the curse is fake!

While Risa admires Sarasa’s innocence and drive (as does Sarasa’s childhood friend and kabuki actor-in-training, Akiya), Hijiri reports that “Naracchi” has “zero motivation” for Kouka. But just as Hijiri’s barbs about Risa only being suited for villainess roles have led her to strive towards greatness, she tells Hijiri they can’t know what future winds may lift Ai’s sails.

I can take a stab at the identity of that wind: she’s somewhere around 5’10” with green-tipped twin tails! But it won’t just be Sarasa’s bottomless confidence and enthusiasm gradually wearing down Ai’s apathy: she also isn’t just gong to sit back and take abuse, passive-aggressive or otherwise, from her classmates.

During class introductions (which are wonderful shorthand for the various girls’ personalities) Ai at first gives a curt description of herself, but Kaoru, the big shot legacy musume-yaku-in-waiting says everyone knows “that’s not all”. So Ai stands back up and says she’s there because she was forced to quit JPX48. It’s an important step for Ai standing up for herself against damn fools.

During a tour of backstage, Sarasa sees a dramaticaly-lit door and goes through it, leading to the main stage of the Kouka Revue. Andou-sensei warns her to get off the stage and under no circumstances walk out onto the “Silver Bridge”, the part of the stage where only Kouka’s top stars are permitted to stand.

Sarasa doesn’t break that taboo, but she also takes her sweet time leaving that stage! That’s because as soon as she stands on it, it’s clear she feels she’s where she’s supposed to be. As if by divine providence, a spotlight is cast upon her. Ai can feel that belonging too, dazzled as she is by Sarasa’s stage presence.

Incremental progress is made on several fronts. We’ve got a huge cast of young women, some sympathetic, some clearly villains, and some who are just kind of there. But as long as the spotlight stays on Sarasa and Ai most of the time, I’ll be a happy camper. As Ai’s stalker arrives in Kobe, we’ll likely learn next week how close he ends up getting to Ai, how she deals with that, and where Sarasa (or other classmates) might factor into the forthcoming confrontation.

Rating: 4/5 Stars