Saekano 2 – 07

It’s been two months since Winter Comiket, and Cherry Blessing has done well in both sales and critical reception. But with their first game released, Blessing Software is at a crossroads. Utaha is finishing up her newest novel, while Eriri is still blowing past art deadlines (what she’s painting, we never see).

Tomoya’s rival Iori surmises that Cherry was able to surpass his game in reviews (if not in sales) because both writer and artist grew and surpassed themselves. Now that the trio has been through it all together, the girls are far less careful about how they act at school around Tomoya.

Tomoya, Eri, and Utaha are all getting along swimmingly post-Comiket, but Tomoya has been unable to make any progress whatsoever in making up with Megumi. She gives him a listless “good morning” and doesn’t answer her phone when he calls her.

That ignored call is the beginning of Tomoya starting to actually stop and carefully consider everything Megumi had done for and with him, and the manner in which treated her in return. Because he took her commitment lightly and shut her out at a crucial moment, she’s not picking up now to discuss with him the pros and cons of a new, second game.

Valentine’s Day arrives, and when he brings up the possibility of giving her more work, Eriri simply wants more time to relax, not worry about such things, give him chocolate, take his arm and walk with him.

To her chagrin, he has lunch with Utaha, who also gives him chocolate, and offers to sign her real name (not her pen name) “all over his body”, in a classic Utaha tease that’s probably more sincere than Tomoya is willing to realize.

Utaha also released her latest novel, and plans to start another soon. Since she’s already in university, she won’t be coming to school anymore after today. So Tomoya asks her, almost desperately, if she’d write for him again.

Despite her resentment of Tomoya’s protectiveness with Eriri, she bashfully admits she wants to make another game with her. Eriri, out in the hall making sure Utaha doesn’t make any moves, hears Utaha’s warm tone.

If Tomoya can come up with an idea, it looks like Utako Kasumi and Kashiwagi Eri are all on board. Which leaves Megumi (sorry Hyoudou, you’re not a main!). Tomoya makes an effort to track her down, but she slips out just as school ends. He spots her eating alone in a cafe, texts her a request for a circle meeting, and watches her not ignore it, giving him hope that maybe their friendship hasn’t “run its natural course” quite yet after all.

Then he goes home, and late into the night, he plays Cherry Blessing through. Playing it brings up all of the memories he has of Megumi working tirelessly by his side to make the game such a success, and how little appreciation he showed in his words, actions, or lack thereof. So Tomoya curls up in shame. At last—a glimmer of self-awareness from the guy.

Thinking of her also inspires Tomoya to come up with a title for the upcoming game he’ll aim to release in time for Summer Comiket: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend. Meta! Here’s hoping he can make proper amends—and Megumi is willing to take the fool back.

Saekano 2 – 06

Both the immediate (Eriri collapsing) and long-term (finishing the game) crises are resolved this week, with one major caveat: to rescue Eriri, Tomoya gave up on a full Winter Comiket release, even though that’s the reason Eriri ended up in such a state (that, and her obsession with quality with the threat of Hashima Izumi looming).

Ironically, it’s Izumi’s bro (and Tomoya’s chief rival) Iori who comes to Tomoya’s aid, offering a ride to Eriri’s villa. Tomoya finds Eriri really did get everything done, and more to the point, he believes it’s her best work and the best work he’s seen all year.

That brings a smile to the gradually-recovering Eriri, but she’s even happier to hear him say, categorically, that she’s his “number one;” that her new art is better than Izumi’s. She doesn’t mind that he doesn’t go so far as to tell her she’s beaten Utaha and Michiru, but she happily infers it.

After that, the two settle back into the same routine as when they were little kids: staying indoors, playing games and watching anime, which Tomoya both notes was because Eriri was so sick so often, but also doesn’t complain about.

He goes further in wanting to apologize to the others in Eriri’s stead, as he’s the director and all, but Eriri insists: if she can’t apologize properly, she can’t keep moving forward. So she does so, and the whole crew is on hand for Winter Comiket…albeit with only 100 hastily burned copies of Cherry Blessing.

It’s shocking how quickly all the work they’d done suddenly becomes a finished product, which sells out within 30 minutes due to lots of buzz about a new game with studs like Kashiwagi and Kasumi collaborating. At the market, Eriri also apologizes to Izumi for how she treated her, and explains why she did (fear of being surpassed).

Yet in the midst Eriri dispensing all of her apologies and the team dispensing every last copy of their game, something seems off. The camera uncharacteristically lingers on Megumi too often, and she seems to be hiding something that will certainly rain on the parade of the big release.

Content to quietly skip the post-release party and go home for the time being, when Tomoya forces the issue, she finally has a very Kato-ish “outburst”, one that cuts Tomoya to the quick, far more than if she had yelled or cried. In his haste to save Eriri, he neglected to tell her about anything that was going on, during the precise days she said she’d make sure she was available for him, no matter what.

Tomoya took her earnest promises and commitments lightly, and ultimately ignored them altogether and took everything on himself, keeping her in the dark until everything worked out. That is something Megumi cannot forget, nor easily forgive.

As happy as I am to see Tomoya and Eriri on such good terms again, I can’t say I blame Megumi. If getting out of the doghouse is even possible, Tomoya, with his famous lack of awareness, may find doing so even tougher than making a dating sim from scratch.

Saekano 2 – 05

After witnessing Megumi reject a request to date from another guy, Tomoya has to keep Utaha from being too harsh on Eriri, who has fallen way behind on the art despite a schedule extension.

Utaha now considers a Winter Comiket launch a “pipe dream” until proven otherwise, but Eriri promises she’ll make it, and Tomoya has her back…though saying “she’ll deliver exactly what you expect” probably wasn’t the best choice of words for an artist.

One morning, Eriri stops by Tomoya to tell him she’s going away to her family’s winter house in the woods to draw in seclusion, even skipping school to meet the deadline.

Tomoya seems more or less fine with this, but he—and I, for that matter—feel a foreboding atmosphere; like somehow Eriri won’t be coming back, or won’t be the same when she does.

Letting Eriri go “off into the wild” was a big, possibly fatal mistake, according to Utaha, who is ready with a whole “five-stages of creative deprivation” spiel with Tomoya and Megumi, predicting all the ways Eriri will stray from her usual self in her desperate attempt to make the greatest art ever with which to beat the Hashima siblings, ultimately leading to her dropping the project altogether and never being heard from again.

What with Utaha’s added “sixth stage” of Eriri finding another guy and another job and thus Tomoya won’t have to worry about her anymore (the implication being he can focus more on her), Tomoya is loath to take these predictions so seriously…even if they don’t sound so far-fetched.

Megumi proposes he and she go to the villa the Saturday before the Monday deadline, but Tomoya humbly declines, both due to the situation of a guy going away with two girls, but more importantly, because he has deadlines of his own to meet. Megumi lets the matter drop for now, but is already concerned that Eriri would go to such lengths to complete her work.

Just as Utaha foretold, Eriri starts exhibiting signs of stage one (rough language), and Tomoya is worried, since two (blaming herself) can’t be far off. Tomoya tries to play lip service by saying “he believes in her”, but what he’s asking Eriri to do has become increasingly unlikely, even for someone with her talent, because there’s too much pressure and not enough time to pull it off.

Tomoya’s attitude irks both Utaha and Megumi; and Utaha is doubly irritated that she has more respect for Kashiwagi Eri thant Tomoya right now. She puts a lot of words in his mouth, but he can’t or won’t dispute any of them. Tomoya is starting to look like a failing director.

But Eriri does eventually manage to make some progress in drastically changing her style, once it starts to snow. She and Utaha knew the grand route would need a different style, and Eriri isn’t the most versatile artist…but she works her butt off in that cabin and finally, apparently, has the necessary art ready.

Whether she actually does or not, I have no idea, honestly. All I know is, Eriri doesn’t look like she’s in a particularly good physical or mental state by the end of this episode. While Utaha got a degree of resolution in her episode, lying on the floor with Tomoya, Eriri finds herself lying on the floor alone, isolated in a snowy forest cabin, in need of food, sleep, and affection. Here’s hoping she gets all three, soon.

Sakurako-san no Ashimoto – 10

saks101

While on a bonehunt with Sakurako and Shoutarou, Isozaki-sensei gets called away by news that his former student Hitoe has disappeared. Sakurako offers to give him a lift, but is really interested in the mystery sticking with him offers. Hitoe is the second of three once-inseparable friends who were students in Isozaki’s homeroom.

Saku instantly notices how personal he’s taken the disappearance of the first and how he couldn’t bear to lose another. He also sees how he atones for not being able to do anything about the first girl who disappeared, Minami. When they visit Hitoe’s rich and haughty parents who know nothing about their daughter, Saku is disgusted, gathers all the clues she can about where Hitoe may be headed (a few days’ clothes and a phone battery away) and gets the hell out of there.

saks102

We finally see Hitoe, the girl from last week’s cold open, still in a kind of trance, or possibly drugged, with her little dog and a bed covered in bandage wrappers, talking to her “sensei” about her “wings.” Shou learns from Yuriko that Hitoe modeled for a painter and was rumored to be dating him as well. So there’s the “sensei.” (Speaking of senseis, Yuriko makes sure to apologize for her harsh words to Isozaki, now that she knows he does know what it’s like to suddenly lose someone.)

They then visit Minami’s apartment, a far more downscale affair than Hitoe’s, and Sakurako gets a lot more out of Minami’s mom, who is at least in tune with her daughter’s life than Hitoe’s mom, even if she doesn’t know the full picture. When Saku finds the painting Minami modeled for—with a butterfly on her back just like a painting Hitoe modeled for—that picture starts coming together: we have a predatory artist who lures girls in with the promise of “wings” that will take them away from their awful homes and lives.

saks103

Saku finds multiple receipts for a particular restaurant (not Wagnaria) in Minami’s dustbin, and that leads them right to her, where she’s anemic, exhausted, and clearly still traumatized by what she’s been through. Still, she tries to hold onto her secrets as long as she can, though Sakurako sees through her physical tics and decides a change of venue is better.

She takes Minami into her house and has Gran fill her belly. Perhaps, when she’s ready, she’ll be able to say more about Hanabusa-sensei, the painter both she and Hitoe loved.

saks104

After a day when he got a good look at Sakurako’s ass when she was rummaging under Minami’s bed, Sakurako continues to surprise Shoutarou by personally inviting him for breakfast in the morning, a first for her. But in his monologue as the episode ends and we see the butterfly design etched into the showering Minami’s flesh with a painter’s knife, a future Shou recalls that while he was happy about Saku’s invitation, he had no idea at the time what her true intentions were, and the bones she truly sought.

This was another strikingly different episode from an anime that has always confidently blazed its own trail, exploring unique specific themes such as friends from different backgrounds, how friendships crumbled when they desired the same thing; the differences in their relationships with their mothers; the fact that ennui, depression, and the desire to rebel stretches across class and status.

This episode took a look into the secret world of young people most adults including their parents never see nor hear, and so may as well not exist to them; entire galaxies of hidden ideas and dreams, and one insidious little mini-cult of three, all worshiping this Hanabusa fellow who still lurks about in his coat and hat. He has much to answer for.

8_mag

Shimoneta – 05

shi51

Shimoneta does not hold back (no pun intended) on the continuing unfortunate results of Anna’s accidental first arousal by Okuma; she is absolutely out of control from start to finish, frightening due to the strength of her convictions (read: delusions), yet also a profoundly tragic figure; a walking, talking, drooling example of everything wrong with her mother’s hardline stance against sex education.

Her mother has kept her bottled up all this time, and now the flood gates are open. Yet so ignorant is she to the basic biology of sex, Anna refers to her discharge as “love nectar”, first mixing it in the dough for cookies made specially for Okuma, then trying to get him to drink it straight from a  bottle where she’s been collecting it. Anna’s complete inability to cope with her lust has turned her into a dribbling, chain link fence-cutting psycho.

shi52

All the while, Anna is apparently lucid enough to keep this erratic behavior secret from her mother, who either trusts her daughter enough not to stick her nose in her business (pretty hypocritical, considering how evasive X Prohibition will be to the rest of the Japanese youths) or she’s simply too busy with the PR campaign to bother noticing Anna melt down.

Public Morals begins a crackdown on the school specifically to dissuade students from storming Yotsuga Forest where the porn stash is believed to be located. Yet Ayame goes anyway, willing to storm the place on her own, no matter the consequences, as a matter of principle, and in hopes she’ll inspire others.

Her suicide mission is interrupted by the cavalry: Fuwa Hyouka found Otome’s lewd drawings Okuma dropped in her lab when Anna was chasing him, and she distributed them to the student body, which came to the forest en masse. She uses all the boys as a diversion against the morality cops, and sends the girls in.

shi53

Sophia’s rally at her daughter’s school is ruined, so Anna goes to the forest and locates both Blue Snow and Okuma (who is in a light disguise). Ayame orders Okuma to save himself, but even when he lands smack-dab in the Cave of Porn, he decides he’s not going to let Anna unmask and punish Blue Snow. He probably realizes the ideal life he imagined with Anna isn’t going to happen.

shi54

He emerges wearing woman’s lingerie, and the sight of his package is enough to make Anna hysterical, as they used to say in olden times. Unaware it’s Okuma behind the pantymask, she’s so ashamed of her body reacting so intensely to another man, she literally jumps off a cliff and flies away, leaving a love nectar rainbow in her wake. That’s right, a love nectar rainbow. I sure didn’t see that coming!

shi55

Even SOX are rendered bewildered and speechless, but at the end of the day, they successfully got all of their fellow students to storm the forest, and scored a huge haul of fresh and diverse porn with which Otome can be inspired to create an ever-richer catalogue of illustrations for distribution. They even manage to switch the signatures from other schools with those illustrations, and Sophia makes the mistake of holding one up without looking at it first while on a live nationwide broadcast with no tape delay.

It’s a huge coup for SOX, who were on the cusp of being wiped out, because the scandal essentially stops the X Prohibition Law in its tracks, as well as gets Sophia in trouble. Thinks are looking good for the ero-terrorists, but more challenges lie ahead, one of which is named Anna Nishikinomiya.

8_ses

Shimoneta – 04

shi41

At first, Anna seems to be processing her “experience” with Okuma last week by clamping down on school indecency, tightening her grip on public morality as her mother prepares to make a speech at her school on her “final solution” for nipping lewdness in the bud and preserving the purity of Japan’s youth, saving them from their own base urges. Anna is also straight-up avoiding Okuma, making him think she despises him now.

shi42

With a vote on the X Prohibition Law looming, Ayame briefs her SOX team of Okuma and Otome on their next mission, which is to storm a forest where hardcore porn is known to be located (the forest was once the property of a famous pornographer) with a mass of “cherry” boys and girls from school, overwhelming the authorities with numbers. SOX is not the only dirty terror group, but one of several all working to free Japan from the shackles of artificial sexual repression.

shi43

Anna’s mom ends up surprising Ayame by announcing the student vote for X Prohibition will take place the same time control will be lifted from the porn forest. She also unveils the future of oppression: heavy-duty chastity belts that prevent any fooling around in that area by either sex, further closing off that crucial part of the human anatomy to youth a a crucial time in their development. The image is somewhat humorous, but the idea behind it is truly chilling.

shi44

Ayame is pissed off about her plan becoming far more difficult, but she still thinks she can convince the student body to storm the forest IF she can get Otome out of her artistic funk. To do that, Ayame exploits Okuma’s new stalker, who has stuffed his mailbox with love letters and left puddles of saliva on his patio, by putting a note telling her to come in, all while Otome hides in his closet and observes.

Okuma is convinced nothing will happen and Otome will see nothing interesting, but he ends up about as wrong as it is humanly possible to be, as his stalker turns out to be Anna, who is extremely sex-crazed despite having no idea what sex is. She enters Okuma’s apartment, tears his and her clothes off, mounts him, and starts licking him. All she knows is that this feels good, so it must be good, and right, and pure.

shi45

Clearly having no idea the note on Okuma’s door would be so successful, Ayame walks in on this spectacle, and Anna basically grabs her clothes and runs out in embarrassment, yet still in a kind of trance in which she doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with what she’s doing. Why would she? Her parents never told her about this kind of stuff. Yet the burning in her loins cannot be denied.

shi46

It took an accidental kiss during a stalker dust-up, but Okuma’s beloved angel Anna has well and truly broken out of her shell. Her ignorance is such that rather than admit her harsher enforcement measures at school constitute gross hypocrisy considering how she’s been behaving on the side vis-a-vis Okuma, she absolves herself by proclaiming that “love is justice”, and that the more she doles out on others, the more love she’s able to give to Okuma.

Absent any kind of proper education on romance or sex, Anna is quite literally making it up as she goes along. Even more troubling, her authority and pedigree are such that few can dare challenge her improvisatory philosophy. She’s suddenly become quite the hedonist, but she’s playing with porn-burning fire.

Most surprisingly, Anna put her money where dirty-talking Ayame’s mouth is, taking debauchery to levels that make Blue Snow herself blush. Or in baseball terms (Hi Preston!), Ayame has been shouting slogans from the stands, but it’s Anna who rounded second base and slid into third, naked and drooling.

9_ses

Shimoneta – 03

shi31

After top art student and school’s pride, Saotome Otome, caught a glimpse of Okuma and Ayame’s rooftop antics, she literally snags him on a chain and drags him away to her studio, where she presumes he can assist her with (or rather she can blackmail him into) helping her with a romantic problem that is making her art suffer. The subject of her affections? Anna. So when Okuma must tell her who he loves, he says the first girl’s name that comes to mind: Ayame, so as to avoid conflict.

But Otome’s artists’ block is merely a side effect of a much larger problem that afflicts not only her, but much of the population: a decade of PMs and oppression is leaving large swaths of the population unable to express their love, or even identify what they’re feeling as such. This isn’t surprising; dirty jokes and the sexual knowledge that makes them dirty are crucial to natural human interaction. Without them, there’s a large gap that is filled with whatever else people can come up with.

shi32

For a certain unsavory admirer of Anna, that something is stalking and candid photos with threatening messages. Anna is shaken by this, but Ayame assure Okuma she’ll protect her while he tries to get Otome to join SOX, revealing that her friendship to Anna is genuine, even if the two are on opposite ends of the moral spectrum. Anna, after all, is person who made it possible for Ayame to exist in normal society; she’d surely be in jail without her. But with the very survival of the human race is at stake, and so Ayame must act against her best friend.

Anna, for her part, knows Okuma isn’t the stalker, despite Goriki’s suspicions (which are his own way of expressing his own love for Anna), and agrees to a sting in which Ayame will dress as a boy as they go on a date. At the same time, Otome plans her own rescue of Anna by the stalker, shaving Okuma’s legs and putting him in drag (for the second straight episode).

shi33

As they wait in the bushes, Otome cannot help but compulsively draw Anna, her first real model, in her own unique way of expressing her love. The resulting sting is a pretty thrilling and complex bit of physicality, as not only does the stalker turn out to be huge, but there are three of them, and not everyone in a position to protect Anna is close enough to stop their attacks.

Fortunately, Ayame knows right where to kick the first stalker, and Okuma is in time to stop the next one with a devastating right. Interestingly, he moved out of instinct, but isn’t sure who he moved for: Ayame, whom he told Otome he loved on a whim? Or Anna? Heck, why not both!

shi34

Whoever he was trying to protect, he loses his wig and takes a rock to the back of the head, and ends up not only landing on top of a stunned Anna, but his lips and legs end up locked with hers for a not inconsequential amount of time before he gets up, starts to apologize, and passes out from the rock blow.

As for Anna, that sudden closeness to a boy and the touch of his lips seems to awaken her libido with a vengeance. Again, she has no idea what’s going on, but she knows it feels amazing. Will this be an isolated incident eventually forgotten, or will Anna never look at Okuma the same again?

8_ses

Kami-sama no Memo-cho 4

Inside, beneath her hard exterior, Min knows she doesn’t make the best ramen in the world. Her father never intented to pass either his business or his recipes down to her, since their relationship was apparently strained. But he disappeared, so she took over Hanamaru anyway.

While she knows she’s not the best, she’s fiercely proud and strives to be better, and doesn’t appreciate ramen snobs taking just one sip then paying. Of course, that snob turns out to be her father, essentially checking in to see how she’s progressing. After all, artists like constructive critique. They don’t like people just walking out without explaining themselves.

The NEET Detectives’ case was very close to home this week, and without any Yakuza or clients-of-the-week, the core cast could shine. An apparent stalker is revealed – quite incredibly – as a bigwig designer at a lingerie company who simply cannot allow Min to walk around confine her “Taj Mahal” bust in something as vulgar and a sarashi. It’s silly, and allows for some fanservice, but the guy says he’s an artist – like Min, only with underwear, not ramen.

Artists can get hung up on things very easily, and are driven by some invisible force to achieve their goals, no matter how ludicrous. This episode really fleshed out Min a little more, giving her some background and depth; she previously hadn’t been much more than Narumi’s stern, cantankerous boss. Here’s hoping we can look forward to more character stories peppered in between cases – or mixed in with them.


Rating: 3.5