Barakamon – 11

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“All Work and No Play” – that’s what Handa Seishuu was before traveling to the island. All that work was preventing him from experiencing life and stifling his calligraphy.That’s why I wouldn’t be surprised if the director provoked the punch that sent Sei away on purpose, conspiring with Sei’s dad to get the lad out of his hermetically-sealed comfort zone of Tokyo to a place where he would find new inspiration and where his talents could expand and blossom.

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Whether it was all planned or the grown-ups used the punch as an excuse, the gambit paid off nicely, as Handa Seishuu is not only doing far more interesting work, but is also a more humble, caring, present person. Of course his growth doesn’t stop him from splashing tea on his “star” masterpiece just seconds before the director has a chance to bestow a grand prize appraisal of it. In other words, it was good enough for the exhibition, but now it’s ruined, so he must come up with another, even better piece.

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The first we see of Seishuu in this episode, he’s very stern and distant-looking in a suit on a train platform, carrying over the somewhat “stranger-ish” nature of his sudden departure from the island without a word. Thankfully, as soon as he interacts with Kawafuji we see he’s the same old overdramatic overreacting man-child we know and love. And it’s actually not a bad thing to wreck what would have been his exhibition submission, since it challenges him to repeat the brilliance with new constraints of time and location.

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It doesn’t go well at first. At his stately traditional-style family home, surrounded by the bustling city, Seishuu finds he simply can’t write the way he did on the island. Trying to have Kawafuji and Kousuke role play as villagers doesn’t cut it, either. Kawafuji determines the only way to get anything out of Seishuu is to bring the villagers to him…via telephone. Hearing everyone’s voices brightens his mood and sparks his imagination, and after pulling another all-nighter, he seems confident he’s again achieved excellence.

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We don’t get to see that piece yet, but all I know for sure is that this episode achieved excellence for sure. It was an elegant, uncompromising blend of side-splitting comedy (mostly at Seishuu’s expense) and affecting drama—elements not uncommon in any episode of Barakamon but taken up a notch here, and augmented by the fresh setting and hectic circumstances. Seishuu looks to be in good shape for the exhibition, and hopefully he’ll be back in the village at some point during the finale.

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Glasslip – 12

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The snowy world where the combination of Kakeru’s mom playing the piano and the way the light passes through the glass vase isn’t the future, nor the past, but an entirely different world altogether; one in which Touko, not Kakeru, is new to the town and thus the odd one out as the fireworks near.

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I must confess, I’m still not sure exactly what’s going on, but it has a nice dreamy “off-ness” to it, with Touko acting as if everything is perfectly normal, right up until it isn’t, at the Fireworks. There she’s aware that things are different; that she’s alone in this world. How and why are anyone’s guess. College professors will be talking about this episode for some time to come (no they won’t).

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My intermittent confusion aside, I simply enjoyed the weird, alternate universe ride, with everyone pretty much acting the way they do in the world we’re familiar with—including the pairings of Yuki/Yana and Hiro/Sachi—and only Kakeru and Touko’s relationships swapped with the seasons, but both they and their families remain drawn together by fate.

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At one point before Kakeru told her it was all in her head, I entertained the possibility this alternate world was just as real and legitimate as the “normal” one, and that perhaps circumstances had fully unlocked Touka ‘s “ability”, to the point she could travel between different realities at will (or by accident).

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Even if that’s not the case, this was quite a leap in prominence for what started out as a very modest supernatural element. We’ll see if it can be satisfactorily resolved in the finale. One thing’s for sure, the music was particularly powerful this week in establishing a very dreamlike, melancholy atmosphere. Will Glasslip take the rare step of ending unhappily?

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Hanayamata – 11

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In the end, the dream of the five-girl yosakoi club with Hana N. Fontainestand at it’s core performing at Hanairo wasn’t undone by poor planning, or infighting, or stage fright, but a simple but devastating case of horrendous timing on the part of Hana’s mom, who has come to take Hana with her back to the states so they can be a family again. Mind you, that’s another dream of Hana’s, one she’d had before she even met Naru and the others, and strong enough that it wins out.

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For the record, I can’t fault Hana for her choice, but I can fault her mom; it simply isn’t fair to abandon your kid due to work, then change your mind just when she’s already found a new form of happiness with her friends in the yosakoi club. Her mom assumes the only thing in the world that matter to Hana is being together with her mom and dad. It’s a classic case of a parent who simply isn’t there a lot assuming time has stood still in her absence, when that’s far from the case.

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That doesn’t mean Hana is totally absolved of all blame for her predicament, since she never breathes a word about her friends, the club, or how important the festival means to her to her folks. She simply goes along with the plans that are made for her without speaking up until it’s far too late, when she shows up at Naru’s window regretting not saying anything. Perhaps she was worried she’d come off as ungrateful of her mom returning, and that that might even lead to her mom leaving again.

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Both are understandable emotions for a child who yearns for her family to be whole again. Even if she’s hardly been there; even if she chose her job before her family once before, her mom is still her mom. I just wish she’d said something, anything; she may have been able to delay things at least so that she could participate in the festival, and it’s disappointing that she didn’t even try.

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But hey, that’s life, and in the end, she sticks with her choice and is indeed out of there. After leaving a tear-jerking letter for her friends, Yaya (ever the tsundere) leads them on a desperate rush to Narita to see her off, and they’re just able to give her a proper farewell.

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Thus, even with everything almost to the point as we’ve seen it each week in the OP (they wrote and recorded the lyrics), Hanayamata will be missing their integral “Ha”, the one who brought everyone else together, on the eve of their biggest triumph.

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Ao Haru Ride – 11

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Not sure what this exchange was all about, but I warn you, show: I’m in no mood for new characters!

Most of the first half of this episode expounds upon the daily grief, emptiness, and hesitation to care that Kou has felt every waking day since losing his mother. The manner in which he lost her: very slowly; while he was mostly alone with her; while working so hard to get good grades and a good job that he didn’t spend as much time with her while she was healthy; that he didn’t even catch signs that she might not be well, even though he was doing everything for her; that his brother told him to look after mom, and he failed.

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These are the reasons Kou is the way he is, and the reasons he changed so much from the boy Futaba fell for in middle school. And for once, the show comes up with a metaphor for us: it isn’t so much how Futaba puts it: that the door to his heart is closed and double-locked, it’s that the door doesn’t have a doorknob or keyhole. He’s not just keeping people like Futaba and his new friends out; he’s trapped inside, and doesn’t know the way out of there.

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Doorknob, lock, or no, Futaba is determined to break through that door no matter what, not just to let herself in, but to bust him out of the emotional prison he inadvertently built. Futaba is more determined than she’s ever been, to the point that Yuuri doesn’t really seem to have that much of a chance. She may know about Kou’s grief, but when push comes to shove she didn’t have the guts to do what Futaba does, descend upon him like a storm that will blow the door to his heart open.

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As clouds gather in the sky, it takes grabbing Kou, falling upon him, and embracing him tightly, as well as finding the right words to convince him, but Futaba seems to finally make some progress, giving Kou the “permission” he’d always been seeking to feel for someone or something again. That no hole in his heart can’t be filled, even if it takes more than one, or dozens, or hundreds of smaller things to fill it. It isn’t going to be easy, but Futaba is there to stand with and support him in the gradual but necessary process of forgiving himself and moving forward.

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Space Dandy 2 – 11

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That’s not a box…it’s a tesseract!

In its more bizarre yet creative outings, Space Dandy has a knack for imbuing abstract concepts with a recognizable specificity in order to tell an conventional story. Last week and this week were both conventional romances, told in completely different ways. Last week Scarlett hired Dandy to pretend to be her boyfriend, then fell for him for real. This week we see one of the “couple hundred or so pasts” Dandy’s had that he’d rather not re-live, in this case a transdimensional love triangle.

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Little bit of Aubrey Beardsley in this composition, oddly enough.

The cold open set us up to expect a standard tale of a fire going out in a relationship, but it’s good that we don’t see Catherine in this scene, because it would give away the fact that Catherine is a 4D being represented by a tesseract with a beating cartoon heart at its core, which would have killed the mood a bit, at least at first. In the normal 3D present, neither the cat or the robot get what Dandy ever saw, but Honey understands completely: love is love, and it takes all forms and, apparently, dimensions.

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The third member of the triangle is Paul (a simple name for a complex character), who has arrived in the third dimension within his 2D universe, which resembles a full level map from Nintendo Power, which turns anything it touches into 2D. It’s not Dandy who first encounters it, but Dr. Gel and Bea. The Gogol overlords treat it as an invasion, but Gel is a man of science before he’s a man of war, and relishes being transformed into 2D, because he gets to experience the unknown.

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It’s interesting then, that what is a total unknown for a venerable scientist is old news for Dandy. It’s just taken on faith that somehow, he entered into a romantic relationship with a 4D woman, without going into detail exactly how that works, because, after all, love is just as inscrutable between 3D lovers. Cathy’s 4D/2D fling with Paul is even more inexplicable, but it doesn’t matter; the dimensions may as well be different countries, and the lovers’ dimensional differences a matter of differences of perspective.

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Of course, the concept of a romance “just not working out” is a lot easier to quantify in this story: of course things “just wouldn’t work out” for beings of fundamentally different spacial dimensions! But we still see from the way Dandy treats Cathy that there’s still affection there, even if it’s more of the “just friends” kind. The fact they can still be friends and that Dandy would help Cathy out with Paul goes to show that while their past breakup was painful, it was more an act of evolution than destruction.

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Our heads thus firmly wrapped around the love story, the presentation and mechanics of the clashing dimensions is a lot of fun, as the 2D visuals are accompanied by suitably retro 8-bit sound effects. Several video games are loosely represented in the 2Dverse including Space Invaders, Civ, SimCity and Zelda, and the fact of the universe folding itself up like a newspaper, only to be punched through by the Aloha Oe’s giant scissors (an idea that came from Honey) is another crazy but clever way of the dimensions going at it. Gel and Bea’s eventual devolution into zero dimensions is also funny, if a bit chilling (though I’m sure Gel’s lovin’ every minute of it).

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Finally, while Meow and QT often just served as the skeptic and reporter this week, Honey got some nice screen time. Cathy likes how Dandy is now hanging around someone as positive and “spunky” as Honey, while Honey shows off a bit of her self-interest by accompanying the others out of the perceived possibility of scoring with Paul, who is a 2D prince. In the end though, love can’t always overcome looks, as Honey considers Paul’s simple crowned blue rectangle form a deal-breaker.

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Barakamon – 10

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Being the audience this week is tough, because only we know it’s Seishuu’s last day on the island. No one, not even Naru, sees it coming from the way he acts on that last day, and maybe that’s the point. After helping Naru’s grandpa build a wall, he attends the village festival with Naru and Hina, and seems committed to not spoiling the little time he has left with them.

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He does, in fact, try to tell everyone (everyone being Naru, Miwa, Tama, Naru, Hina, and Hiro), but it’s just when the awesome fireworks are about to begin. He can’t very well say it then, now can he? The reaction would be predictable, with Naru likely having a fit and running off, possibly into danger. All episode I was waiting for that kind of confrontation.

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But nothing of the kind came; in the end, Seishuu chose not to mar another happy, fun day with the villagers that just happens to be his last. Instead, he lives that day to the fullest, and doesn’t so much as betray a hint that he’s out of there the next day. He disappears from the island as quickly as he appeared, but his absence is sure to lead to despair.

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Part of me is afraid of the possibility that Seishuu always meant to leave suddenly ike this, like ripping a band-aid from a wound, and that his connection to the island was never as strong as it seemed; that he was merely here to figure out his calligraphy, and once he had, had no further reason to be there. For the record, I don’t think (or rather, don’t want to think) that’s true, but it’s hard not to think like that considering how suddenly he peaced out.

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Hanayamata – 10

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Hanayamata wastes no time this week installing Machi as the fifth and final member of the yosakoi club, but she’s not here on a whim: she thought their performance at the department store was woeful, and she’s going to whip them into shape, come hell or high water. But first, with just three weeks left until Hanairo, they must now adjust their choreography and music for five.

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Tami, she of ample means, suggests a training camp at a traditional hot spring inn where her family always has a room reserved, and Machi insists they’ll practice the entire time they’re there. That’s wishful thinking, as the other four members end up pulling all-nighters in order to get their work done, which leaves them somewhat lacking in energy, a problem compounded when they must practice outside in the heat.

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Machi’s bossy, tell-it-as-it-is nature also clashes with Yaya, particularly when she finds out they blew registration deadline for Hanairo, which, I must admit, is pretty bad: if you’re going to work so hard towards such a big event, at least make sure you’ll be in it! Festival or no, Machi is determined to catch up with the others, and practices a lot alone.

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When Sari spots her sister doing this, she lets the others know; moved by Machi’s devotion, they join her in practicing, which then attracts and delights all of the other inn guests. It’s a fun, triumphant moment for the club, as the fates allowed them to perform in front of an interested crowd after all, despite blowing the Hanairo deadline. Machi even cracks a smile.

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Even that turns out to be a false alarm, as we suspected from the start, but for a different reason. We though Sari had already registered and remained quiet after Machi’s discovery in order to motivate the others. Turns out she’s not quite that underhanded. Instead, she contacts the yosakoi store-owner Oofuna Masaru (whom she knows likes her) and asks him if there’s anything he can do.

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He can, and thanks to another group dropping out, Team Hanayamata is officially back in, and new badge design comes to Naru, incorporating five flowers that represent the girls. Everything is looking good, but with Hana’s mother suddenly arriving at Japan, it looks like it’ll be Hana’s turn to have a character episode, much like Naru, Yaya, Machi, and Tami have had before.

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Ao Haru Ride – 10

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No one likes being left out, especially when it involves two people you’d rather not be together alone, as Kou and Yuuri are to Futaba. The fact that the same weird vibe is coming off them, and they make the same pause before assuring her “it’s nothing”, only make her more suspicious about it being not nothing, which it isn’t.

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“It”, in fact, is the very thing Futaba wanted to know: more about Kou. She didn’t know his mom died, and the shrine is what he showed Yuuri (Yuuri later confesses she was glad she knew something about Kou Futaba didn’t). When Futaba learns what it was, she feels like a selfish, awful person for needing everything to be about her feelings. That leads to tears that Kou can’t help but dry, and they come the closest yet to a kiss before Tanaka pops into the kitchen, ruining everything.

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Kou has to go out for his job, so Tanaka takes Futaba home, and getting the feeling she’s someone who wants to know, he’s very generous in filling in some of the blanks in regard to how the present Kou came about from the one she knew, as well as why Kou is cold towards his older brother. Basically, Tanaka was busy teaching his first year of school, leaving the younger Kou alone in the hospital to sit by their mom as she slowly died.

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Kou bore the brunt of the full force of slowly, steadily losing someone he loved before his eyes, while Tanaka only got the odd glance, busy as he was. That experience made Kou who he is today: someone reluctant to make friends; to get too close; to fall in love again. As much as he may care for Futaba, part of him is paralyzed by that fear: that if he tries to care about something again too much, he’ll lose it.

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Futaba has made it pretty clear: she wants to be with him. She lost him once, and doesn’t want to lose him again. She also sees through his cold act to the kindness he’s always had, which Tanaka confirms. Futaba’s challenge is to get him to believe it’s alright to open up and get close again; that happiness is worth some degree of risk. That won’t be easy, especially with a still determined Yuuri also gunning for him.

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Space Dandy 2 – 10

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Yet again, Space Dandy demonstrates that it can handle a conventional human love story as deftly as the most tripped-out existential alien fantasy adventure. Of course, even the alien tales are based on elements of the human condition, but sometimes it’s nice for Dandy to have another actual human to relate to in a universe full of non-humans.

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The only two recurring human characters are Honey, with whom Dandy has a more playful, less personal relationship, while Scarlett has been teased before as a more serious, mature potential mate for the Dandy, and despite the fact she looks down on him, it’s clear she’s simply doesn’t have that many other choices out there. Space is so big, the saying “Not even if you were the only man in the galaxy” is a claim that can be legitimately tested.

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That’s exactly what happens when Scarlett asks Dandy to enter into a contract whereby he pretends to be her boyfriend, a plot line normally reserved for high school romantic comedies, but which can be an endless font of said comedy in the right hands, and Space Dandy’s are almost always the right hands. But because this is also a sci-fi show, Dandy can also blend elements of that genre; specifically, Gundam.

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In a bit of a masterstroke, Scarlett’s ex Dolph is a Gundam pilot who utilizes its capabilities to stalk her incessantly. It’s a hilarious look at the possible downsides of putting emotionally weak or stunted young men in such powerful machines. The close-up of the mecha’s red-glowing eyes being repurposed from igniting fighting spirit a to creepy obsessiveness.

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Going to Planet Trendy, which has any possible date setting trendy young couples crave, allows for lots of different environments in which Dandy and Scarlett carry out their week of fake romance in hopes Dolph will get the picture and go away. He doesn’t, but sticking him in the corner of every idyllic romantic setting makes for great visual gags.

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Also deliciously ironic: while Scarlett is behind the desk of the Alien Registration office, Dandy only ever has failure to show her, but while on their dates, he keeps ending up “hunting” (i.e., being chased by) legit rare aliens. It’s almost as if Scarlett is his unwitting muse. This sudden rise in fortune for Dandy mostly irks Scarlett because he’s doing this stuff on their dates, when he’s supposed to be looking after her.

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This episode is packed with so many great moments, like Dandy and Scarlett parting ways at the end of the day, only to come running at the sound of her scream. Turns out it’s only a spider, but that spider is horrifying, and in the act of neutralizing it, Dandy destroys her entire house, after which the two can only laugh about it. It’s nice to see Scarlett’s hair down, armor off, and cheeks flushed.

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Eventually, Dolph can’t take it anymore, alights from his Gundam, punches Dandy out, and gets way too close to Scarlett. Dandy realizes that the only way to get rid of him for good is to kiss her, and that sends Dolph into a fury worthy of a climactic Gundam episode, only he’s arrested, jailed, and has a restraining order filed against him. With Dolph off her back, all that’s left is to end her arrangement with Dandy, a day early, too…but their parting is melancholy, and both end up back at home feeling miserable that it’s over.

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The icing on the cake of this episode is one last gorgeously staged romantic interlude, where the two meet at the bar like they were scheduled to, only Dandy is just a minute or so too late, and so the storybook happy ending doesn’t happen. Things go back to normal with Scarlett at the office and Dandy showing up with crap, but they exchange looks that indicate that things are at least a little different.

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Glasslip – 10

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Last week started out with everyone separated; isolated in their own worlds, but Sachi’s gambit began the work of repairing the bonds that had been strained. She confesses not just to Hiro, but Touka as well. It’s very cute, and the good vibes carry over into this week, as Hina certainly notices a more cheerful Touka as she shows off the dress Yana gave her.

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Like Sachi, Yana-chan also fixed things her way, with the intricate texts of the running route. Yuki returns this week, and this will be the first time they meet since realizing there might be something there between them. Their long-awaited reunion is strategically deferred for dramatic effect, as Yuki traces her steps a bit and even hides when she runs by.

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Instead of interrupt her run, he decides to meet her at home with towel and water bottle in hand, just as she’s met him countless times before. It’s a beautifully understated reconciliation, but true to these two’s personalities, very little is said aside from salutations. He welcomes her back, she welcomes him back…and they mean it. They missed each other.

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Kakeru misses Touka, who’s stayed away ever since her disturbing mind-trip. With all the making up going on (including that Hiro and Sachi), Kakeru and Touka, the central romantic pair, begin the episode far apart. Touka decides to end the Kakeru embargo, but he’s out hiking. His mom invites her to tea in Kakeru’s tent, and his dad joins them too.

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In addition to showing her how he turned up so weird, Touka’s tea time with his folks also rekindles her desire to learn more about him, especially now that she knows how nomadic a life he’s led due to his mom’s profession. She also learns how his childhood was marked by bouts of “sudden, unexpected loneliness” as well-established circles of friends he entered into late got into “festival mode” and forgot about him.

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The rift that had grown between Touka and Kakeru closes considerably, and like Hiro and Machi or Yuki and Yana, the two independently realize how fond they are of the other, and how much they miss each other. The one to finally reunite them is none other than Touka’s favorite schoolyard chicken, Jonathan, who leads Touka to outside the art room where Kakeru is waiting.

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While she cant be blamed for being very freaked out by her visions of snow, Touka has found her courage, and the desire to learn more about them and Kakeru overrides her fear. She also confides in Kakeru that they kissed in in that snowy vision, which leads to them kissing in real life. While old bonds had frayed among the circle, new, deeper bonds have been forged in these last two episodes. And maybe, hopefully sometime soon, more answers will come.

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Hanayamata – 09

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While Naru has a serious case of “Oh no, not again!” with regards to her little slip-up, it is quickly acknowledged by everyone else that this is, indeed, not the end of the world, and Naru needn’t commit seppuku about it. If anything, the crowd was probably moved by the camaraderie and love inherent in the other three helping her back to her feet and finishing out their routine.

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The fact that Naru passed out moments after they finished and the general fatigue from lack of sleep due to excitement meant the group wasn’t going to put on a flawless show anyway; Naru just happened to be the first to stumble. However they fared (and they didn’t fare that badly), it was valuable experience to build upon for Hanairo.

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Everything is peachy…until the members find out their club isn’t official yet, since Sally-chan-sensei is just a substitute. This news is first relayed by Sari’s sister, Machi…and that’s no coincidence: Machi doesn’t want messing up Tami and the others like she messed her up. The balance of the episode is about how Machi’s idolization of her big sis evaporated after Sari left home to pursue her own interests.

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It was, as Machi oft repeats, “selfish and irresponsible”, but let’s be honest here: Machi herself is just as guilty of those adjectives. She thinks Sachi will betray and abandon them just they put the most faith in her, but isn’t Machi also afraid that the opposite could happen? That her sister could find happiness advising the Yosakoi Club, and “rub it in her face?”

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Machi has been staring at the flame of resentment she’s kept burning so long, she can’t see past her younger wounded self. In hindsight, she sees that she overreacted to her sister leaving. She knows how much pressure their doctor parents put on them, and Sari didn’t want to be a doctor, she wanted to be a teacher. She also learns that Sari wants to repair their rift, which is why she’s at the school at all. You could say if it wasn’t for Machi, there’d be no Yosakoi Club.

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Now that Machi’s older and wiser, she’s aware of the fact Sari did what she did out of her own personal drive, which everyone has to follow, even if it doesn’t hew to the expectations of those we hold most dear. But Machi wouldn’t have put out that flame if it wasn’t for Tami’s diplomacy. And in exchange for her help, Machi doesn’t refuse an invitation to the Yosakoi Club. We were wondering how she was going to join!

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Ao Haru Ride – 09

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“Ya got a little schmutz…”

Futaba’s quest to figure out Kou continues, but she’s having trouble finding a way in. She tries to get him to notice her with makeup, and he does, but he rubs it off her lips and knocks it as “not suiting her.” Nine episodes in, and the guy is still playing his cards close. But he has lots of eyes on him now: the circle of friends forged from that day in the classroom.

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Keep it together…

Opportunity presents itself when Shuuko happens to catch her beloved Tanaka-sensei admonishing Kou on the stairs about his subpar midterm grades. Kou, for his part, is willful, threatening to quit school if his grades aren’t good enough to advance, then laughing it off as a joke. For this, Shuuko labels Kou a brat, and rightly so. Futaba sees it as an in: study session!

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“What’s this “lightly salted” bullshit? Where my Consommé at?!”

She’s not the only one interested: Aya defends Kou valiantly against shit-talking advanced class members, but rather than thank the guy who had his back, he asks why he did that, like an idiot. At this point Kou better do or say something mildly redemptive, because Futaba and Yuuri are starting to look like fools themselves for being so into this guy.

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“H-h-h-hey!”

But they can’t help that, and while Futaba takes a low-key approach to interacting with Kou at the study session in his room, Yuuri, feeling like she’s being left behind, takes the initiative, getting Kou alone, and spending a moment with him we only see the beginning and end of, but not the middle.

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“What’s going on in there…”

More likely than not, it was a wordless moment, so both Kou and Yuuri can tell Futaba “nothing at all” happened…but it was still a moment. I gotta say, I can’t yet endorse Yuuri’s taste in guys, but she comported herself well this week. If Futaba knows what’s good for her, she’d better not let her guard down!

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Hanamonogatari – 05 (Fin)

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A revitalized Suruga returns home from her awesome mini-road trip with Araragi to find she has a package: a mummified monkey head, with a note from Kaiki telling her to do with it what she will. Armed thus with the Pièce de résistance of the devil, she returns to the gymnasium to find Rouka there. Both she and I now see her in a different light, now that we know she’s a ghost.

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Even so, Suruga challenges that ghost to another one-on-one match, this time consisting of just one play. If Rouka prevents Suruga from making a basket, she wins, and can have the head. If Suruga makes the basket, Rouka loses, and has to give up being a collector of misfortune and a gatherer of the devil. If Rouka refuses the challenge, Suruga will destroy the head, essentially ending Rouka’s quest anyway.

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Admitting it’s not much of a choice, Rouka accepts, warning she won’t hold back this time, though we know at this point Suruga has a plan to defeat her. Rouka doesn’t quite comprehend what Suruga aims to get out of this, but it’s clear to us: she wants to save her friend from becoming the devil. It’s also apparent to Suruga that Rouka doesn’t know she died and became a misfortune-collecting apparition/oddity. This delves into a common but poignant phenomenon in fiction where the dead don’t know they’re dead and keep living their lives as if they weren’t.

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I loved how the gym was dark and the court markings were backlit as Suruga brought forth the challenge, lending a very “final boss” atmosphere to the setting. When Rouka goes to the locker room for some shoes, the gym enters “Showtime Mode”, with the grandstands extending, the retractable roof opening to reveal the azure sky (Naoetsu is one swanky high school!), and a few inches of water flooding the court – perhaps a reference to Rouka’s “swampy defense” but also a metaphor for cleansing and renewal.

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The thrilling, intricately built-up duel between the two is over almost as soon as it starts. Suruga rushes ahead as usual, but then does something Rouka could never have predicted: she passes the ball to her, quickly stealing it back before she has full possession. In the moment of confusion she created, Suruga elevates and dunks over Rouka’s rushed block attempt. The two end up laughing in a heap on the (now dry) floor, with Suruga now on top of Rouka (the opposite of their last such encounter). Here, Suruga realizes how cute Rouka is, and considers kissing her.

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Rouka, in accepting defeat, voices her surprise, and ultimately, is grateful that Suruga passed to her, considering how rarely anyone on her team passed to her due to her choice to focus on defense, a choice not made due to lack of talent or skill, but to appease those less talented, just as she sought misfortune from those as unfortunate (or more) than her. Rouka also tells Suruga to stop drifting and get back on the active roster as soon as she can. With that, she vanishes into the aether while Suruga is crafting a comeback with her back turned, leaving behind the mummified monkey parts she had collected.

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Before the duel, Rouka and Suruga agreed on one thing: that it’s better to regret the lack of action than to regret what you’ve done. But Suruga tells her it’s better still to do something and not regret it. If there’s an overarching moral to be had from this story, that’s as good as any. Whatever else Kanbaru Suruga has been, she’s been a doer; on the offense. Sometimes, Suruga’s actions are reckless and/or lead to regrets, like wishing to the monkey paw, for instance. But her most recent actions freed Rouka from her torment. In a dream, she and her mother converse more as equals, as Suruga puts forth her own opinions rather than simply absorb those of others.

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Suruga wakes up from that dream to find Araragi in her room. As she sleeps in the nude, she’s taken aback for a moment, but Araragi isn’t there for “that”, but to help her clean her room, something she requested during the road trip. She also has him cut her hair, as she plans to return to basketball. Between the yellow bug, not being turned on by Suruga, and hairdressing, one might wonder if the producers are trying to say something about Araragi, but these are merely cosmetic characteristics that happen to match a certain stereotype, but aren’t meant to be read too much into, so I won’t. One thing’s for sure, though: the dude is good at setting up dominoes!

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As he shears off her flowing purple locks, returning her to the way she looked when we first met her in Bakemonogatari (a rare aesthetic rewind) he offers some closing words of solace to Suruga (It’s also worth mentioning that Suruga’s other idol, Senjougahara, also sports a short hairstyle when last we saw her). He tells her not to worry about what she did and whether it was right or wrong…because it was neither: It was just adolescence.

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