Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru 12 and Wrap-up

Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru means “And Yet the Town Turns”, which is a fitting title for this consistently funny and charming slice-of-life series. No matter what crazy happenings befall this town and its inhabitants, life goes on as it always has. The finale presupposes: what if, while on all fours in the middle of the street, despondent that her mystery story didn’t make it past the first round of a competition whose prize would net her enough money to replace an expensive pen she ruined, Hotori was suddenly hit by a truck…and killed?

While dark and serious on the surface, the lighter side of such a question is explored as Hotori is shot up into the afterlife, which is pretty much just like the living world; everything’s a bureaucracy and everyone has to work to afford the perks of heaven. Yet, there’s something very wrong with Hotori being here: it just isn’t her time yet. After she watches through tourist binoculars at all of the people near and dear to her reacting so powerfully to her apparent death (even her teacher and the patrolman!), it drives point the fact that no, the town won’t keep turning as it has been. Not without Hotori.

Miraculously, her brain recovers from its trauma and she wakes up; though it may have had something to do with her father’s timely 3400-yen (about $41) donation to God. As for the pen, she can claim it was crushed in the accident, so in addition to surviving a close brush with death, she’s out of the woods with her uncle. With Hotori back and everyone who knows her relieved, the town can keep turning. I frankly didn’t want a town without her, and neither did anyone else. Rating: 4

Series Mean Ranking: 3.583 (Ranked 5th out of 15 Fall 2010 Series)

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All of the scenes this week were tied together by one constant: an oncoming freak typhoon. Thus, Hotori and Kon’s bleach plans are ruined, as is Tatsuno’s reason to ask out Sanada. Hotori also walks the semi-sentient family pet tanuki. Earlier, we’re introduced to Hotori’s dad, who simply wants a peaceful morning walk, but is constantly flummoxed by distractions and petty misfortune – like a rare out-of-order vending machine.

The episode also had mini-segments of something called “Mr. Poor-man” interspersed throughout; these didn’t really do anything for me, and had the air of filler to them. This was made up for somewhat by some nice ordinary snapshots of life for the Arashiyama family, of Mr. Moriaki trying to equate math with sleuthing, and of Hotori and Kon hanging out, or rather Kon tolerating Hotori. Kon’s intense look is out of place in a slice-of-life, but in a good way; you keep hoping she’ll whip out a katana or ninjitsu or something. Rating: 3

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Soredemo gets all extraterrestrial and supernatural in this week’s outing. When suspiciously perfect holes end up in the wall, ground, and on a sign in an empty lot, Kon thinks it’s the end of her normal boring life and the start of something amazing. It turns out Hotori made the holes with an alien ray gun she found on the ground. Kon happens to have found the device that repairs what the gun destroys. Hotori’s guilt totally overshadowed any interest in investigating the phenomenon. While a little random, this story wasn’t at all unwelcome.

Part two is even stranger: it follows around an old man we’ve never seen before, who died but never got an escort to heaven (at least, that’s how he thinks the system is supposed to work). So for ten years, he’s roamed the town, attracting only the attention of certain animals…though his remarks oddly sync up with Hotori’s when she’s present. It’s revealed that this old man is the maid cafe owner’s dearly departed husband, who still prays to him daily. Both this and the alien parts were bookended by Sanada praying at a shrine to grow closer to Hotori. In all, this episode was a nice, lighthearted exploration of faith: belief in things regardless of proof. Rating: 3.5

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This week’s was a crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-and-chewy-on-the-inside kind of episode, full of diverse flavors and textures. The prologue aptly illustrates how successful a pawn shop can be when in proximity to a warring married couple. Shizuka makes hundreds of thousands of yen continually buying and selling a vase.

The middle portion of the show explored talents, like Toshiko and Harue’s ping pong skills, and the lack of talent, like Hotori at gymnastics and ping pong. Toshiko laments being good at everything but never working to become great at something. Hotori is great at whining, and so cannot relate.

The masterpiece of the half-hour is the third segment: Shizuka embarks on an epic quest to find out the origins of a very odd-looking but delicious candy. Her stirring journey takes her to the sureal, the fantastical, and the metaphysical, and even dabbles in science fiction. Shizuka had shown up only sparingly up until now, so it was nice to see more of her in action. This series has proven it can weave a funny, absorbing story with anyone from its rich cast. Rating: 3.5

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Chiaki Omigawa‘s often shrill, whiny voice should be extremely annoying. So why does hearing it have the opposite effect? Her expressive, electric turn as Hotori Arashiyama is one of the better voice performances of the season, and I never tire of it. Anyway, we had two stories this week, both excellent. Let’s break it down!

Part 1 cements Japanese vending machines as the great monuments of their time, alongside earlier wonders like the Sphinx, Nazca lines, and Macchu Picchu. Hotori appreciates the “fun factor” of these complex, seemingly futuristic (yet old-looking)  machines that make hot udon, hamburgers, and other hot food with the press of a button. I have to agree with her that food and drink procured taste much better than they have any business to, due to the entertainment value. The novelty value and relative wonder trumps the crappiness. Like astronaut ice cream!

The second half finally answered a question I asked myself every week up until now: what’s with those lyrics in the ending music? Now they make sense, as the lyrics contain a lot of the dialogue and events of this half. The deal is, Kon (NOT K-on) recruits everyone for her band. Turns out, they’re all good musicians. A band with a bass, drums, accordion and violin is actually a pretty novel combination, and Rieka Yazawa (another fine seiyu in her first anime) belts out some bitchin’ vocals. Rating: 4

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The first segment involved Sanada encountering a sleepy Hotori on the bus, and then deciding to play hooky and “elope” with her for the day. They used to play together all the time when they were younger, but it’s revealed that when Sanada got into his “girls are icky” phase, he stopped. He’s clearly into Hotori now, though she doesn’t know it, of course. It probably hasn’t crossed her mind. They’d probably be dating by now were it not for his reticence and her obliviousness, but neither are easily overcome.

The second segment is a similar escape, only this time, it takes the form of an evening adventure for Hotori and her litle bro, who drank one of her energy shots and can’t sleep. This is a very cute segment in that it shows that Hotori is actually a pretty cool big sister when the cards are down. It’s pretty funny when Takuto almost has an existential crisis when the clock hits midnight – after all, he’d never been out this late before.

Soredemo serves up two more lovely slices of life this week, continuing to cement Hotori Arashiyama’s place among my favorite characters this fall, if not this year. She’s just an ordinary girl who’s a little eccentric and over-imaginative (and lazy), but I cannot overstate how thoroughly the writers and animators brought her to life. No one pops out of the screen more than Hotori. Even asleep, she oozes personality. Rating: 4

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In the first half, a party is thrown at the cafe for Tatsuko two days prior to her birthday, only for everyone to find out that its actually Kon’s birthday. Hotori gives Kon an old box with a Japanese love charm inside, while Tatsuko gets an African mask, which she promptly tries to sell to the very store Hotori got it from.

In the second  everyone has to make a website for class. Not owning a computer herself, Hotori invites herself over to his place with Tatsuko in tow. He doesn’t have a scanner, so they leave, but not before accidentally discovering his print porn stash. Sanada had furiously cleaned his room and deleted all of his computer porn before the girls arrived, but all for naught.

Hotori and Tatsuko visit a very ill Kon, and they learn she owns thousands of CDs, plays the bass, and is a pussycat when sleeping. After tending to her, Tatsuko also gets sick, then Sanada, and even the Cafe’s proprietor; everyone except Hotori. This, after she said idiots don’t catch colds. As usual, Hotori’s intellect remains hopelessly scatological, while Soredemo remains an eminently watchable, enjoyable slice-of-life comedy. Rating: 3.5

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Part one takes a break from Hotori’s life and shows us slices of her friend and fellow maid Yukiko’s. Something as minor as asking a guy out for a movie date proves impossible, for despite all of Yukiko’s confident inner monologue, she simply can’t muster the courage to get the words out. The scene where she steps on the history teacher’s foot after a shounen-like leap from the stairs is a knee-slapper.

Part two provides an accurate slice of fourth grade life, from the perspective of Hotori’s little brother Takeru. He hangs out with the geeks of his class, playing the equivalent of magic cards, and isn’t interested in girls. But a girl is interested in him, and they end up spending a day together. The next day at school, he seeks her out, but she acts like they’re not friends, leading him to lament how baffling women can be.

Both parts breathe life into these characters, with Hotori, already full of life, dancing around the periphery. While she’s certainly the anchor of this show, this episode proved that in can focus on just about anyone else’s life and still excel at earnestly portraying it. Rating: 3.5

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This was an exploration of Hotori and Mr. Moriaki’s complex relationship. Obviously, the latter is the strict teacher and the former is the slacking student, but Moriaki is baffled by Hotori’s total lack of mathematical ability to the point that he considers her his “second natural enemy.” The first was his teacher, who told him that in division, sometimes you simply have to live with the remainder.

Moriaki obviously considers himself much more than a simple math teacher; he sees himself as standing on the front lines in a battle between order and chaos. He’s with order; Hotori’s with chaos. They both thrive in their respective realms, and interact like they’re from different planets. Despite being his kryptonite, Hotori seems to have a crush on him. Naturally, he’d firmly reject any advance by a student; his morals wouldn’t allow it.

The interesting part? He’s already had to do just that in the past, and that first student with a crush came back six years later to teach beside him. All in all, an intriguing profile of a character upon whom Hotori seems to be inflicting much more stress than she’s aware. And that broken chair bit was, in the parlance of our times, pure win. Rating: 3.5

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Soredemo continues putting out exceedingly charming slice-of-life comedy (two stories per episode). Part 1’s art detective story proved that Hotori is in fact good for something besides bitching, complaining, and f-ing up. It even managed to make subtle homages to two other Shinbo works (the “camera shutter eyes” of Bakemonogatari and the black-and-white “despair takes” of Zetsubou-sensei).

Part 2 finally introduces the blonde-bobbed girl, who Hotori naturally mistakes for a young boy at first. We don’t find out much about her besides the fact she’s cute, fairly athletic, and has a cat. She’s also older than Hotori and is in her class, although being the ditz she is, Hotori never noticed her before. We’re sure to find out more about her and how she’ll fit into the maid cafe side of the story in time. Rating: 3.5

Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru 2

This show oozes life and energy from start to finish. It’s a fairly straightforward slice-of-life comedy with what I’m finding to be a surprisingly endearing and appealing cast. The animation is also pretty good, with lots of close-ups, subtle facial expressions, and momentarily-exciting action scenes (usually Hotori falling or crashing into something). There are, however, a lot of seemingly random butt, crotch, and rack shots of Hotori…

We get a glimpse of Hotori’s home life (she’s much older than her brother and sister, and often gets in trouble when they get upset) and learn that the cafe’s owner (the old woman with the man’s voice) gave her free curry for ten years (every time she came in crying for various reasons). We also learn that Hotori is always getting butting heads with the local patrolman.

While she seems pretty oblivious to the guy who keeps coming just to see her, if romance is the ultimate goal, the cute and sociable Hotori doesn’t have quite as much work to do as Kuragehime’s Jellyfish Princess. She can be a spitfire at times though, so it will be interesting to see how smoothly it will go. There’s also a blonde maid in the credits who hasn’t made her appearance yet. Rating: 3.5

Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru – First Impressions

Shit, just when I’m done with one slice-of-life/maid comedy series, another one pops up. But this one is by SHAFT and directed by His Shinboness, and shows promise. It doesn’t bother me that there seem to be a lot of maid-themed anime out there; after all, maid cafes are a legitimate part of Japanese culure. It’s even more interesting that this cafe is hardly perfect.

Chiaki Omigawa’s shrill, earnest voice is unmistakable (she never really seems to disguise it, as it’s distinctive in its own right), she plays Maid #1, Hotori Arashiyama, who doesn’t know anything about being a maid cafe maid, and doesn’t have the motivation to learn. The cafe itself is almost always empty, aside from a classmate of Hotori’s who secretly likes her.

When her two friends come to visit her, one of them (the other has horrible teeth) immediately calls bullshit, and pledges to train Hotori properly, as well as become a maid herself. And there you have it. There was plenty of verbal and physical comedy to be had here, and the opening and ending themes are charming and well-animated. If you have a maid stigma, definitely avoid this series; I don’t, so I won’t. Rating: 3

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