Hajimete no Gal – 01 (First Impressions)

Hashiba Junichi is a pathetic loser and knows it. He’s in his second year of high school, saddled with the same trio of even sadder friends in Shinpei, Keigo, and Minoru, who if anything are partially responsible for holding Junichi back from his goal of nabbing a girlfriend and losing his virginity by now.

Note I said “partially”, because the major contributor to Junichi’s lack of success in securing a partner (sexual or otherwise) is himself. His friends truly have no one but themselves, but in the first few minutes Junichi is visited by not one but two “total hotties”: his well-endowed loli childhood friend Shizune, and the ethereally gorgeous academic ace Yui, who comes on pretty dang strong.

And yet Junichi turns Shizune away, still considering her a “little sister” with a “child body” (completely ignoring her huge boobs), and pretty much freezes when Yui talks to him, eager to talk more.

Blame for Jun-kun’s predicament shifts back to his very embarrassing friends—one of whom may be a straight-up pedo—when they brazenly peruse their smut mags in class, shoving a tasty one into his hands. And that’s when the titular Gal, Yame Yukana (God, what a Gal name) appears in Junichi’s life—to look down on him and call him disgusting.

But disgusting and pervy or no, Junichi’s friends have hatched a plan, and he’s their guinea pig (democracy in action): They choose him—tacitly acknowledging is the least repulsive of their sorry little band—to ask the Gal out, since, in their virgin minds, she’ll presumably put out without much fuss. (Junichi’s hastily-conjured sex fantasy with Yukana is suitably ecchi, with all the naughty bits covered by carefully-manicured hands).

One planted false love letter later, Junichi finds himself behind the school after class, and to his shock, Yukana has deigned to give her admirer an audience. After some rather lengthy, 7-grade setup and introductions, this is where the episode comes into its own, as we continue to be privy to every thought that crosses Jun-kun’s mind.

To his continued shock, Yukana is being incredibly patient and open-minded with him, and when he does what his friends said to do and beg on his knees, there’s the sense even she knows this is beneath him—and she barely knows him! From there, Junichi remains in survival mode, doing all he can to avoid an even worse scenario than rejection: the reputation for being a prevert and/or virgin for the rest of his high school life.

But as was demonstrated at the start of the ep with Shizune and Yui, Junichi is in a far better position than he realizes. That’s because, despite all logic, Yukana likes him, and agrees to go out with him. Or maybe not despite all logic; perhaps she’s as lonely—and trapped in her present persona (her a gal, him a loser)—as he is.

The art is crude and the boobs are over-sized, and Junichi’s friends can be really annoyingbut once this episode got into gear, I was really enjoying the passionate yet puerile discussion and display of sheer teenaged sex-and-bitterness-fueled awfulness that is high school.

And hey, sometimes it’s just satisfying to see a loser win for once, even if he’s only a loser because he believes himself to be one. It looks like both sides are poised to get something out of this, so let’s see where it goes, shall we?

Advertisements

Tsuki ga Kirei – 04

It’s the School Trip episode, and there’s a sense of adventure to the proceedings, as the whole amassed class boards the Shinkansen and arrives in a bustling Kyoto. It’s just the start of a dense, lush, richly-detailed episode that nevertheless has a light touch due to the elegant plot.

You see, amidst this big trip, all Kotarou really wants is to know Akane’s answer to whether she’ll go out with him; the sooner the better. Because cell phones are officially forbidden, he has to hide his and hope it’s not confiscated; otherwise he’s doomed.

And I’m not kidding when I say Kyoto is bustling; the scenes of throngs of tourists milling around are pretty impressive, even if the CGI models are a little stiff, it’s better than panning stills; not to mention the accurate-to-Kyoto environs look great.

The fact that Kotarou and Akane have to contend not only with their nosy classmates, but also the vast space and volume of humanity Kyoto throws at them, really heightens the tension. Will they be able to meet on this trip?

C’mon, haven’t we all been there at some point: staring at our phone, the only light in the room at night, willing that next text to come in from the person you like? Even if you haven’t, the tension is thick enough to cut through with a knife.

The show does an excellent job thrusting us into the shoes of both Kotarou and Akane, making their various friends, nice that they are, feel like hovering irritants. They want to reach out to each other, but they’re mired in their respective circles.

Kotarou finally gathers the courage to send Akane a place and a time to meet…only for his phone to be confiscated by a (drunk) teacher at the worst possible time.

From there, it’s a textbook “missed/lost connection” scenario, as Akane sent a text asking Kotarou to elaborate on what he meant by the time and place…and she waits and waits, to no avail. So much must fly through her head: did he lose his phone, or is he intentionally ignoring her replies?

The beauty of this particular situation is that it simply unfolds before us without undue explanation, exposition, and precious little inner dialogue, really giving the increasingly awful-feeling situation room to breathe without undue verbal interference.

Kotarou has to muster courage once more, in order to borrow Chinatsu’s phone to call Akane. And Akane is rightly pissed, though neither she nor Kotarou should place so much hope in the reliability of cell phones. That’ll lead them to ruin!

All’s well that ends well, thankfully, and the tension is released when, after voicing her frustration with her ordeal and with their inability to clearly communicate thus far, Akane is the one who musters the courage to say something: that she wants to talk with Kotarou more.

That’s her answer, all but eliminating the ambiguity her fortune said would lead to calamity. Sure enough, the pouring rain ceases and the clouds part to reveal the beautiful blue sky. Now let’s hope these two crazy kids didn’t catch colds!

Tsuki ga Kirei – 03

I said last week that Akane and Kotarou aren’t in a hurry, but I guess I have to take that back now. Between all the pairing off going on in the run-up to the class trip, and the fact that at some point everyone will be heading off to various high schools, the two can’t sit on their hands forever. That being said, neither has any experience with courtship, so much of their nascent relationship is sustained through the messenger app LINE, as they remain painfully unable to talk to one another in school.

They also have a lot going on, what with Kotarou’s literature club and local festival activities and Akane’s track meet. This eats up the time they could be spending hanging out. Akane’s track buddy Nishio (who tended Kotarou’s wounds) considers him a friend now, and she’s serious about surpassing Akane, at least in track. Akane, meanwhile gets perilously close to being asked out by Hira; it’s only a random exclamation from a nearby party that makes him think better of it.

Kotarou can’t attend Akane’s meet due to his drumming practice, and the show really excels both at capturing the tension involved in waiting for someone you like to text you, and showing just how torturous it can be to have to carry on with your plans that don’t include that person.

Fortunately, fate smiles upon the couple, or rather, volition does. Kotarou isn’t in a hurry to leave the shrine, while Akane, whose phone died, decides to check out said shrine on the off-chance Kotarou is still there. He is, and they have a lovely, if at times understandably awkward, encounter under the beautiful moon.

And feeling both the pressure of time and the auspiciousness of another meeting with the lovely, warm, kind Akane, Kotarou manages to finally ask her out—not with Line, but with words. Not with chance, but with choice. Naturally, we don’t hear her reply, but their once tentative dynamic has already entered a new phase.

Orange – 07

oran71

Orange continues to be a particularly hard show to assail, which explains all the 10s I’ve been doling out. It is without question First in Feels, that ahs affected me like no show since AnoHana.

Like many mysteries in fiction, I believe like my RABUJOI comrades that less is more in terms of explanation. To that end, Orange has kept away from explainin how the future letters work. What matters is that they are a means for Kakeru’s salvation, and now Naho is no longer alone in that struggle, and never was.

Suwa suggests they coordinate their moves in order to share the load of saving Kakeru. They do so by finding out his birthday and then asking him what he wants. Not only to Suwa and Naho do this, but the others as well who (as far as we know) are unaware of the letters.

oran72

But because Kakeru and Taka want to support Naho’s pursuit of Kakeru, even being out of the loop doesn’t stop them from helping the cause. Taka finall gets to directly threaten Ueda, but stops short of assault and instead promises the school will know of the scorned girl’s continued bullying if it persists.

It’s still troubling that Ueda continues to pop up on the edges, since she still represents a wild card in the grander scheme of saving Kakeru, but good to see the united front against her. I daresay I’m also starting to feel bad for Ueda. Awful a person as she is, it’s true Kakeru dumped her pretty  fast, and if she’s going to be dumped, then Naho needs to—and forgive the crude metaphor—piss or get off the pot.

oran73

Back in the old future, Naho, Suwa & Co. are still visiting Kakeru’s room, and the others reveal to Naho that Kakeru always loved him. Naturally, Naho’s instinct is to blame her inability to give a response contributed to the spiral of depression that led to his demise.

This time, they remember his birthday, Naho gets him a flashy sports bag—to replace the one his mom threw out in an act of possessiveness, an important symbol of moving on. Suwa gets Kakeru flowers, like he jokingly asked for, but just as Suwa does in his place in the future, Kakeru immediately gives the flowers to Naho, as an even stronger symbol of his feelings.

oran74

Their friends file out and allow Kakeru to properly confess his feelings for Naho, though he doesn’t expect an immediate response. That’s just as well, because it takes some nudging from her friends for Naho to summon the courage to answer him.

Not only that, it takes a letter dated September 23, the day Kakeru attempted suicide after his friends from Tokyo visited and laughed off his stated desire to die. Neither Naho nor Suwa are going to let that happen. Suwa joins Naho and Kakeru for one of the tensest and most emotionally intense scenes in the show so far.

oran75

In it, Suwa tells Kakeru no to hang out with his Tokyo friends, but with them, and goes further, saying he doesn’t want to just laugh with him. He, and Naho, want to know what’s really troubling him. Suwa’s firmness gets Kakeru to admit he wants to die all the time because he regrets breaking his promise to his mother and thinking her texts were “pain.”

As Suwa rightly puts is, Kakeru did nothing wrong. Everyone at some point feels the way he felt. It wasn’t his fault his mom died, and they don’t want him to continue blaming himself for everything. Not only that, Naho chimes in at the right time to deliver her unequivocal response: she loves him, and doesn’t want him to go away.

Kakeru’s joyful tears and smile are still tinged with melancholy, but Naho is in. She did what her past self could not, and she and Suwa, with their friends’ help, changed the future once more for the better. Now that Kakeru and Naho know how they feel about one another, the question becomes what comes next, and how to keep the good going.

16rating_1016rating_whl

Orange – 06

oran61

This week, as Naho and Kakeru grow closer and Naho learns more about the future, the enormity of her “mission” begins to weigh on her once more, and she again starts to doubt her ability to make the changes that needs to be made to save Kakeru. After all, she’s already failed the letters twice: when she invited Kakeru to hang out the day his mother died, and when she let him start dating Ueda-senpai.

oran62

Since those failures, and the extra problems they created, Naho has been careful to carefully follow the bullet points in the letters. They are saying she has to watch the fireworks with Kakeru alone by the pool, and so that’s what she aims to do.

Knowing that these two are gradually becoming a couple and eager to help them out when they can, Azu, Tako, Hagita and Suwa all work to assist the two in getting together in the ideal time and place. Kakeru brings up his past regrets when asking Suwa if it’s really okay to be in love with Naho and to pursue her.

Suwa’s answer is that it has to be, because being in love isn’t a choice (and also because he has a pretty good idea how Naho feels).

oran63

The consequences of Naho’s second failure almost derail the entire op, but Azu and Tako thankfully find Naho on the steps lugging Ueda’s contest prizes and take over the task, while Suwa and Nagita keep Ueda away from the pool in a way that will surely mean Ueda isn’t done fighting with the group. If she can’t have Kakeru and be happy, no one can. That could prove deadly to Kakeru later on.

oran64

But we’re allowed to forget about Ueda and all her bullshit for a few wonderful, beautiful moments, as Naho and Kakeru are united before the fireworks end. In the courageous mood her future self told her she’d be in, she answers his question about which boy she’d most want to as her out (him), and he in turn answers hers (via Azu): that he’d want her to ask him out. The night ends as one neither will forget for the rest of their lives.

oran65

Future Naho asserts that Kakeru’s regret stems from being unable to save his mother, while her regret comes from not being able to save him from the accident. Wondering why she can’t simply save Kakeru on the day of the accident, Naho reads ahead, and learns it wasn’t an accident – Kakeru rode his bike into a speeding truck on purpose, so he could go to where his mother was and apologize.

Knowing when it happens is irrelevant. Naho can’t save him from something his mind is set on anyway. Her true mission is to save his heart. That means learning more about his regret, which means asking about his mother. When Naho and Kakeru’s friends again arrange it so the two are alone for the Matsumoto Bon Bon, she gets plenty of opportunities, while also enjoying each other’s company.

oran66

Despite their ongoing denial about not being a couple (at least not yet), the two look the part, and the camera captures them in a number of gorgeous isolated shots. Most affecting is when they pray to the shrine, which gives Naho her in.

After he evades her question of what he said to his mother at the shrine, Naho resolves to get him to answer her properly, even if he ends up hating her. Saving his heart is more important than preserving their romance, underscoring Naho’s role as a reluctant heroine.

oran67

Turns out, Kakeru doesn’t hate her for pressing, though it’s clearly a painful subject to discuss. Indeed, he was worried she’d hate him if he told her the truth: that his mother, psychologically unstable, committed suicide the day he blew her off to hang out with Naho. That makes Naho’s first failure the reason Kakeru carries the regret that will ultimately destroy him if unchecked.

It’s an overwhelming blow for Naho, who can’t muster the words to comfort him. Suddenly, saving Kakeru’s heart seems like an impossible feat, especially all on her own. So she boldly reaches out to Suwa about her mission, and he seems to already be in the loop. You see, he also got a letter. BOOM.

That’s an explosive revelation right there, delivered with impeccable timing right at episode’s end. But it’s not so shocking, because we’ve seen Suwa and the others working so hard for Naho and Kakeru’s sakes.

I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone had letters, but it stands to reason if Naho could write a letter to her past self, she’d also write one to her future husband. It also explains why Suwa isn’t challenging Kakeru. In any case, now Naho knows his isn’t a mission she has to undertake all on her own. Everyone wants to save Kakeru’s heart.

16rating_10

Orange – 05

oran51

Last week’s episode ended on an optimistic note that I’m glad was carried through. Naho will never stop worrying or going over things in her head, but on multiple occasions this week, she says and does the things she needs to do to keep changing her (and Kakeru’s) future for the better. Note I said her future, as well as Kakeru’s…not her future self (more on that later).

On a rainy day when Kakeru forgets his umbrella, Naho is prepared not with a handkerchief, but a bath towel. Her friends, who know exactly what’s going on, get her and Kakeru can walk home together, and take a detour into a park with a picturesque view of the city. There, Kakeru gets Naho to close her eyes as he gives her a hair clip and snaps a photo of her wearing it.

oran52

The letter said everyone would walk home with Kakeru, but here in the present it’s just him and her. The letters are from a static future, one that she’s not changing. But she is changing her own future, which means the people around her are starting to say and do things differently than the future Naho’s past.

We learn categorically that Kakeru and Ueda have broken up, and all I have to say about that is GOOD. But more importantly, in a somewhat on-the-nose side-lecture by the science teacher, Naho learns (or at least learns about the theory) that going back in time and changing things creates a parallel world containing the new future, branching off from the future that was, which remains intact.

oran53

That lecture really got Naho down, because such a theoretical system means there’s nothing she can do about her future self’s regrets, nor Kakeru’s loss in that world. BUT, and this is key, she CAN keep herself from going down the same road she went down before, so there is absolutely value in continuing her mission.

A letter eventually informs her that some of her words and actions will erase memories good and bad, including an instance of Kakeru asking Naho out to the fireworks, just the two of them. When Kakeru no longer asks her that, Naho takes it upon herself to ask him, and leaves no room for misinterpretation: she wants to be with him and him alone.

It’s a phenomenal leap for Naho, who is surprised herself that she managed to say such words for the first time. This is what I was hoping for: that Naho would start to grow and take her future in her own hands.

oran54

Obviously, the consequences of her more aggressive pursuit of Kakeru is that Suwa ends up the loser, as the entire circle of friends (other than Naho) are aware he likes Naho, even Kakeru. Suwa, a jock, takes this like any soccer match he’d lose against a superior opponent: c’est la vie.

Time will tell if he’s truly okay and even happy as long as Naho is happy (even if it means she’ll be happy with Kakeru and not him), but for now he seems sincere, and when Azu and Taka confront him about their intent to side with Naho, he tells them he’s on their side too.

oran55

So they’re all in agreement: Naho x Kakeru will be supported and encouraged as much as they can, without getting to intrusive. That means Suwa swapping duties with Naho at the cultural festival so Naho can be with Kakeru.

Unlike Suwa, Ueda isn’t quite ready to concede defeat quietly, nor does she have the slightest intention of rooting for Naho. Rather, she takes the smaller girl aside into a dark corner, and asks questions that are none of her damn business while flanked by her stooges, generally intimidating the hell out of Naho, who finds herself in the unwanted kind of uncharted territory.

oran56

Things seemed ready to spiral out of control when Naho slaps one of the girls away, but thankfully Ueda chose a corner with a window that offers Suwa (who just happens to be walking by with some girls who like him) a clear view of what’s going on and ample time to put a stop to it.

I shudder to think what would have gone down had Suwa not arrived, and breathed a big sigh of relief when he came between the girls, towering over even the statuesque Ueda, and leading Naho out of the combat zone.

I hope this is the last time Ueda pulls something like this, but I won’t hold by breath, as the more conflicts Naho has to face only adds to the overall drama. No one said this would be easy.

oran57

Suwa makes one last gesture in favor of Naho x Kakeru by slipping the latter some bandages to put on Naho’s scratched hand. Kakeru makes it clear Suwa gave them to him, and Naho makes sure to do what the letters also directed: thank Suwa for looking out for him.

Present Naho had gotten into such a groove with Suwa (not to mention Azu and Taka) that she’d started to take Suwa’s kindness for granted. Future Naho married Suwa, but only after the first choice was lost to her. That being said, they seem like a happy enough couple, and they’ll continue to be a couple in the parallel future our present Naho is now separate from.

Sure enough, Suwa does appreciate being thanked profusely by Naho, to the point of tears of joy…and, maybe, also tears of resignation and sadness that Naho is out of reach. But this isn’t Suwa’s story. It’s Naho’s. You wanna make an omelette, you gotta break some Suweggs (I’ll show myself out).

16rating_9

Servant x Service – 13 (Fin)

serv13

Hasebe learns that because he had a high fever, his father was preoccupied with him and thus registered Lucy’s ridiculous name. Burdened with this secret and worried Lucy will hate him for his indirect role in her naming, Hasebe and Lucy are awkward all day. Chihaya rubs his nose in it while Ichimiya and Saya try to cheer him up; by the end of the day all of them agree he should tell her the truth as soon as possible. He finally confronts her and tells her, and she doesn’t blame him, and wants him to keep calling her Lucy. She again rejects his call to go out with him, but qualifies it by saying simply “not yet,” and finally gives him her email address.

For thirteen weeks we’ve looked in on the lives of three new civil servants experiencing life in the workplace for the first time, their slightly more experienced supervisor, his not-so-secret girlfriend/co-worker, his irritating but devoted little sister, and the stuffed section chief. When we look back on how we entered their lives and now how we’ve left, it definitely makes the term “slice-of-life”, as this was literally just a thirteen-week slice. But ultimately the focus of these weeks was on the unlikely but burgeoning relationship between the girl with the really long weird hippie name and the guy who falls for her despite himself, and finds out he’s ultimately responsible for that name. Their scenes together have been the highlight of a series that was always consistently pretty good, though never outstanding.

One thing we didn’t like about this series was how much time it devoted to Toko. But when she wasn’t in the picture, we were watching adults taking care of business, but also earnestly (sometimes harshly) reaching out to one another – or at least trying their best to do so. Right up to the end, Lucy proves she’s an adult by shrugging off the truth Hasebe finally reveals to her after much stressing (their awkward exchanges prior to the confession are very well done.) She doesn’t even consider blaming Hasebe for having a fever…because she’s reasonable. We’re also content with her “not yet” answer to Hasebe’s repeated propositioning. It’s just like her to be careful and tentative in an arena in which she’s still very green, but it’s also clear she likes Hasebe, wants to spend time with him, and, after all her bluster about hating her name, likes it when he calls her by it.

7_very_good
Rating:7 (Very Good)