Those Snow White Notes – 02 – Let Loose and Take Flight

Setsu remembers back when a girl in his class was mad he dropped out of a shamisen competition, calling him a coward who was running away with tears in her eyes. She wanted to beat him, but it was more than that: she clearly admired and respected his play as someone worth working to defeat. When he tactlessly tells her he only cares about his grandfather’s sound, she slaps him.

It’s that same cheek—along with the other one—that Setsu’s mother is grasping when he finally comes to after being gassed. Umeko, would never win Mother of the Year, but she’s at least concerned enough about her son to establish some structure to his new home in Tokyo, setting him up in a boarding house in the vibrant old town (Shitamachi) and enrolling him in school.

When Setsu tells his mom he’s lost his sound, Umeko asks how far it went, and insists he answer with his shamisen. Beside the boarding house room’s open window that overlooks a bustling street, Umeko challenges Setsu to make everyone down there turn and look as he accompanies her singing, warning she won’t tolerate disgraceful play.

It’s then, during his playing and her singing of “Tsugaru Ohara Bushi”, that we learn that while she’s by all appearances a pompous, arrogant, and overbearing force of nature, Sawamura Umeko is perfectly able to offset those traits with her singing talent. Tetsu says he “hates” her, but her voice has always made his heart tremble. You and me both, bud!

Unlike her personality when not singing, Umeko’s voice is more than a force of nature: it’s all four seasons. It’s apropos that her song can be interpreted as the life cycle of an apple tree…and a woman. From the first note she sings, the unyielding power, confidence, and beauty of her voice is plain…and terrifying.

For a bit under four minutes, I was transported to nirvana, experiencing winter, spring, summer, and autumn, feeling the wind blowing, smelling the blossoms and ripening fruit. Every single person in the crowd below stops what they’re doing, turns to the window, and listens. A girl seemingly falls in love before our eyes.

Umeko and Setsu put a spell on everyone, including me…and then Setsu breaks a string before he can finish his big solo, and it’s all over but the ovation below. Umeko admits she did this so Setsu would make a good first impression on the neighborhood, ensuring he could practice whenever he wants.

But that night, all of the praise and promised freebies from his neighbors amounts to nothing in Setsu’s angsty thoughts. All Umeko has done is ensure he can continue drifting along and going with the flow, accomplishing nothing; amounting to nothing. Methinks our boy doth protest too much…I think he’s got a pretty sweet deal here!

The next morning at the boarding house restaurant run by a father-daughter pair, Wakana arrives as promised to see Setsu to his first day at his new school. Umeko gave Setsu a choice: continue his education, or return to Aomori. The brothers’ breakfast and tense discussion is interrupted by their mother in a cosmetic ad on TV.

As they walk to Setsu’s school, Wakana tells him about the competition he just came from, in which he placed third. First Place went to Kamiki School master Ogata Kousuke, while Second Place went to his kohai, third-year high schooler Tanuma Souichi. Setsu recognizes the name Tanuma, as his little sister was in the same year as him, and indeed girl who slapped him in his flashback.

While Setsu gave up on competition to try to pursue his gramps’ sound, Tanuma Mai won in the competition’s women’s division, telling Wakana prior to the performances that he was no match for the Kamiki School…and turned out to be right. With Wakana and Setsu’s master deceased, it’s as if they’ve hit a brick wall and are “stuck in the dark”.

Between his good looks and refreshing accent, Setsu is well-received by his classmates despite his cool introduction. Wakana learns Umeko told some tall tales (and signed a fat check) to get Setsu enrolled so quickly. While in the faculty lounge with his homeroom teacher Kobayu-sensei, Setsu meets Maeda, a girl in his class who also happens to head up the school’s shamisen appreciation club.

She also happens to have a shamisen left at the school by one Ogata Kousuke. Setsu is initially troubled by the idea of a tourist like Maeda handling such a honed instrument, but lowers his hackles when she looks at him forlornly with trembling eyes and asks “Is it wrong for me…to touch it?” Phrasing!

He helps her assemble the shamisen, which has a torn skin as a result of disuse and neglect. But other than that correctable flaw (at the not insignificant cost of ¥40-50k!) he recognizes it as a particularly exquisite specimen. Maeda is smitten with it, and with Setsu, who clearly knows his shamisens. Alas, before she can properly thank him, Setsu has executed a perfect Batman exit.

Wakana meets up with him after school and presents him with the parting gift of a genuine kiri wood case, which Setsu clearly loves. Wakana also says he now understands more why Setsu left home, considering the burdens left for him there. Setsu tells Wakana how, like penguins and seals can recognize the call of their young out of a group of hundreds, he’ll always be able to pick his brother’s sound out of a chorus of shamisens.

Before Wakana takes his leave, Setsu suggests they go somewhere and play something together. They invite the boarding room father and daughter (Sakura) to join them, and they pick out a nearby Inari shrine where Sakura assures them the kitsune won’t mind their music.

Talk about it! Once again a musical number sends me straight to heaven. The two brothers play a piece with no title they came up with when they were younger and “just messing around”. As Sakura and her dad stand absolutely rapt, the brothers’ music summons images of a golden light-soaked Aomori evening. Wakana recounts how Setsu would always follow him. He’d run ahead, or climb a tree, and Setsu would fall behind and cry.

But then Wakana would take Setsu’s hand and bring him along, making sure he didn’t fall too far behind or feel lonely. Back and forth they’d go, just as their dueling shamisens chase each other. The piece gets very quiet for a bit, then they both cut loose and take flight like birds.

Sakura recognizes that this is no idle strumming, but the melody of the two brothers; the vocalization of their love and devotion; a dialogue of souls bound by blood far stronger than words could manage. With fresh strings on Setsu’s shamisen, the piece ends properly with a two-note exclamation point: blang-blang. The duet is the perfect cap to another perfect episode of Those Snow White Notes. Now the wait begins for the third episode, when Maeda will no doubt attempt to recruit Setsu into her club.

Those Snow White Notes – 01 (First Impressions) – Challenge Issued

AOTS Alert. Repeat, we have an Early AOTS Alert. Those Snow White Notes is an absolute joy to experience from beginning to end. Its absolute banger of a first episode tells a story of inspiration, loss, loneliness, listlessness, self-worth and self-actualization, jealousy, love, and much more—so much it feels like a little self-contained mini-film.

Oh yeah, did I mention it centers around a shamisen player, so the show’s music is supervised by The Yoshida Brothers, in addition to being directed by the fellow who not only gave us the tone-setting first episode of Rakugo Shinjuu, but both seasons of the excellent Master Teaser Takagi-san, of all things? We’re clearly dealing with some talented folks, so it’s amazing it doesn’t feel nearly as pretentious as it should.

A lot of that has to do with how simply and how efficiently the story is laid out and how easily it is to slide into the lives it follows. We start with Sawamura Setsu and his big brother Wakana listening through a cracked door as their grandfather plays to a transfixed crowd. An aside: I’m probably not alone when I say the sound of a well-played shamisen activates my sense of musical awe in addition to my ASMR, resulting in persistent goosebumps every time I hear it…or even think of it!

That said, as soon as the sweet music is over, the warm scene is replaced by a face-slap of a bitter winter scene, in which the Setsu is leaving home. When his gramps died, his “sound” disappeared too, so he’s going “somewhere loud” in hopes he can get it back. He doesn’t know if Tokyo is that place, but he knows he can’t stay home, saying “there’s nothing here anymore.”

We’re only two minutes in, and we’ve already learned so much while being treated to what is the first but hardly the least shamisen number. (It’s also clear I’m going to end up writing way too many words in this review! If only we had an editor around here…)

SWN’s next efficient-yet-effective character portrait is of Tachiki Yuna, an actress/model who is paying the bills with a hostess club job, having to keep smiling and pretending to be happy to be there even after her agency notifies her that she was passed over for a role. After her shift she’s encouraged by her boyfriend Taketo’s texts, and she considers herself fortunate to “have a man who’s talented.”

Yuna happens to be in the bustling streets of Roppongi when Setsu literally bumps into her after getting temporarily dazed by the sheer brightness of the city lights. The two part ways, but Setsu immediately bumps into some less savory characters who start to beat on him. It’s here we learn that Yuna has a heart of gold, as she comes to the Setsu’s rescue with some karate kicks.

After dreaming about his grandfather essentially telling him to stop playing the shamisen if he dies, Setsu wakes up in girly pajamas in Yuna’s cozy apartment, and she cooks the two of them breakfast. Setsu learns that Yuna is a 22-year-old gravure model. Yuna learns Setsu is a Tsugaru shamisen player, but he can’t play for her because he’s “empty inside”, which just happens to be how she’s been feeling lately.

When Wakana hears from Setsu in a letter, he assumes his little brother just went to Tokyo to get laid. But seeing in Setsu a kind of kindred soul, she proposes he continue living with her and doing the housework until he can get his sound back. Before long, a week passes, the longest he’s ever gone without playing since first picking up a shamisen.

Yuna takes Setsu to a restaurant to meet her great and talented boyfriend Taketo along with his band, and Taketo is revealed to be a preening, self-involved jackass who is far beneath Yuna. Setsu intervenes when he sees Taketo trying to extract some serious cash from Yuna to pay for studio he’s renting. He then tells her he’ll be too busy writing music to hang out later that night.

When Yuna and a bandmate have to hold Taketo back, Setsu peaces out, running through the crush of people and noting just how much noisier Tokyo was than a bumpkin like him could have imagined. He gets caught up on a word his gramps used about his sound—”disgraceful”—not because Setsu sucked at shamisen, but because all he ever did was imitate his gramps.

But right here and now Setsu is mad and wants to express it. He wants to play. So he sits down beside the river and plays. Yuna happens to pass by as he’s starting to play, and while he’d later describe the performance as rough and ugly due to the rust of a mere week, but Yuna and I become entranced.

As someone who can only understand between 1-10% of any given spoken Japanese sentence, the language itself is a kind of music, although I know enough words and phrases to know that it isn’t, so it remains separate from the real thing. But pure music like Setsu’s strumming transcends words as it expresses emotions, ideas, and memories of both player and listener.

In Yuna’s case, she’s transported back to her meeting with her agent, who was trying to get her to audition for racier movies and TV. Rightfully insulted by the insinuation she’s nothing but a pretty face and body, she throws a glass of water in his face, and is warned that she won’t go far if she turns such jobs down.

In the midst of listening to Setsu’s raw and angry performance, Yuna takes comfort in knowing even if her career doesn’t amount to anything, at least she has a good man in Taketo. She stops by the good man’s place to find him with having slept with some other woman, to whom she says “you can have him” and leaves as Setsu’s piece comes to a bitter, final note.

When Setsu comes home, Yuna is still awake, and tells him she heard his music. When she did, she realized they’re not alike at all. Setsu isn’t a “sad person with nothing going” for him like she is, and so she can’t help but feel jealous of him. She says she’ll be going away for a while, and asks him to vacate her apartment while she’s gone.

Another day, Setsu encounters Taketo on the street, who is preparing for a concert with his band. Taketo decides to use Setsu as a hostage, telling Yuna he’ll break his arm if she doesn’t show up. For this shitbaggery, Taketo is promptly punished with a Karma Kick from Yuna, coming to Setsu’s rescue once more.

She apologizes for involving Setsu in her drama, but with the wind kicked out of Taketo, she needs to ask for him to be involved a little bit longer. They need someone to go out there and entertain the crowd until the scumbag recovers. Just like that, Setsu finally gets a stage and a crowd on which to test whether he can get his lost sound back. Three guesses as to whether he manages this.

The ensuing powerhouse of a performance by Setsu calls to mind the best music scenes of Your Lie in April, only in this case the crowd was expecting a rock band, not a Tsugaru shamisen player. As he nervously tells the initially confused crowd, he plays “Jongara Bushi”, and as he does, he recalls in black-and-white memories what his grandfather had to say about the peice.

Gramps described the beginning as passionate and hot-blooded, but it starts to calm, grow progressively sadder and heartrending, weakening and waning. He’s basically describing a life. But, unlike a fiery youth who calms down in middle age and eventually withers and passes away, “Jongara” claws its way back, refusing to be beaten down, issues a challenge with its final furious crescendo.

The crowd watches in dead silence, just as Yuna did, and you can’t help but think of what is flashing through their heads while they listen; while they’re being taken on this roller coaster ride of powerful emotions. Just like April, the stage lights illuminate dust motes to give the simultaneous appearance of snow and magical sparkles. Setsu is casting a spell on everyone in that hall with his sound, and not even Taketo can deny its power.

Not only that, but the performance is being live-streamed on the internet, where even if it doesn’t go viral, it’s being watched from home by someone Setsu is sure to meet at some point; perhaps someone who like him has been around shamisen music enough to know that by their standards his performance was just okay. But I’m with Yuna, Taketo, and rest of the crowd: that was fucking awesome.

Also awesome? Yuna doesn’t take Taketo back. They’re done, and he knows he “lost himself a good woman”, even if Yuna would argue that she’s good at anything. Also, while I’m sad to see her go, Yuna does go on her trip to find her…well, not sound, but I guess to find what it is she can contribute to the world and feel good about it. Modeling and porn were decidedly not those things, but I hope the show won’t lose sight of her journey.

Setsu continues to live in her apartment after she leaves, but Taketo tends to come by a lot, so it’s clear that while he’s an asshole, he and Setsu will probably continue to interact with each other, if not outright befriend each other. While Setsu has the kettle on, he recalls walking Yuna to the train station, gives him a kiss before pushing him away and boarding the train with a final wave goodbye. Assuring him that whatever girl he ends up with “will be very happy”.

Back at her apartment, Taketo says that Setsu seems most alive when he’s playing, but if the shamisen is what gives him life, then sooner or later that world will “drag him in.” Taketo is hitting the nail on the head when their talk is abruptly interrupted by the most ridiculous occurrence in the episode: on the snap of a woman’s fingers, the door to Yuna’s apartment is forced open, a smoke bomb goes off, and two SWAT officers flank a glamorous woman with silver hair, blue eyes, and an April O’Neil jacket.

She’s here for Setsu, whom she calls “Baby-chan”, and Setsu calls her Umeko, but I know from the initial description of the show that this is his mom…who it’s immediately clear is a lot. Looks like however much of his sound Setsu believes he’s found in Tokyo, Umeko will have an unnegotiable say in his life…at least as long as he’s still a kid.

Talk about a mood-changing, enticing record-scratch of an ending! And it’s followed by an end theme that positively slaps: Miliyah Katou’s Kono Yume ga Sameru made, featuring the Yoshida Brothers. This was an opening episode that scratched all of my itches and then some. If you’re tired of my incessant gushing, go give it a watch yourself! I for one am probably going to go watch it again!

Kabukichou Sherlock – 04 – Animals at the Public Bath

Moriarty lures Sherlock out of his filthy apartment to go to the public bath house with the promise of a rakugo performance later in the night; Watson is also invited, perhaps so the three can do a little bonding. Instead, Moriarty spends most of the time telling Watson what he’s doing wrong (there are a lot of rules and practices in a bath house, after all). Things start to get weird when Watson spots one animal-headed guy after another.

Turns out they’re members of a band that wears animal masks, and one of them is missing, which…I guess is the mystery here? The cold open shows two band members getting into an alteraction, and we eventually learn that “Pheasant” punched “Peach” (the missing guy), and wasn’t aware that he later died. “Dog” then hid the body, leaving “Baboon” the only band member who didn’t know about the body.

I have to say, there isn’t much for Sherlock to do here, and his Rakugo: Nude Variation and Watson’s fish out of water antics at the bath can’t really save this episode from being a bit of a snooze-fest. You’d hope with a show that features Sherlock would have more interesting mysteries, but right now they’re the least interesting part of the show, after the setting, colorful characters, and rakugo. Kabukicho remains a weird, cool place to spend time, but I hope some of that time is better spent in future episodes.

Saekano 2 – 03

Tomoya and Eriri find themselves suddenly confronted by the Hashima siblings, whose Rouge en Rouge game company put out a demo of a game very similar to their own.

While Megumi does her best to keep things diplomatic, it isn’t long until Eriri and Izumi are coming to blows.

Sure, they’re low-impact blows, and each seems to want to empower the other to do their utmost to beat each other (at art, not physically), but then there’s the fact that, at the moment, I don’t much care particularly how well Blessing’s game does relative to Rouge’s.

Isn’t it enough that the team works hard and puts out a game they can be proud of, into which they put their blood, sweat, tears, and passion?

In between acting like she and Tomoya have been married for years, irking certain male classmates, Megumi is preoccupied and fired up by Utaha’s surprise story revision.

But the only way they’ll know whether it works or not, and which script to choose for the game, is by implementing it. That means a lot of work just to catch up to the Rouge demo, with no guarantee their output will surpass their rival’s.

When one all-nighter involving Tomoya and Megumi only nets 20% of the work, other measures need to be taken. When Michiru suddenly arrives, appalled that Megumi spent the night, Tomoya sees an opening, and asks his cousin to recruit her Icy Tail bandmates into doing the gruntwork necessary to plug Utaha’s new story into the game.

They pull a second all-nighter, and considering how late I’m writing this on a Thursday night, I can’t say I don’t relate to their exhausted state when they’ve completed their task.

All that work makes it that much more harsh a slap in the face when Tomoya meets with Utaha and utters the line above. Apparently, after story, art, music, and programming have been combined, neither of Utaha’s stories cut the mustard; at least not now that Tomoya is convinced Iori has a better story up his sleeve.

He requests a complete rewrite—certainly his prerogative as game director—but I assume Utaha is dismayed by his blunt assessment, as I was. In an attempt to outdo Rouge, could Tomoya be overplaying his hand? By demanding perfection when perfection may be unattainable, will he only end up driving his partners away one by one?

Majimoji Rurumo – 11

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This was a lovely, upbeat little episode, and a nice way to close out the “ordinary time” of the show before things are sure to go down in the last episode. The events of this week reinforce everything we know: that Rurumo has brought out the best of Rurumo, that Rurumo is fare more than her skill shortcomings, and they’ll always have each others’ backs.

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Those truths are reinforced through an unexpected vehicle: the occult club, seeking recruits and notoriety, enters a band competition, of all things. Not being musically gifted, the lads lean on Tanako, who recruits a crack musical group consisting of Sawashita (guitar/boobs), Inoue Sumiko (bass), Izumi Kyouko (drums), and herself (keyboard). Rounding out the all-girls band “FHK” is Rurumo.

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That’s another surprise: Rurumo has the voice of an angel. She even throws some work and goodwill Masako’s way by telling everyone she’s good at making clothes; she designs witch outfits to go with Rurumo’s get-up, and senpai writes more lyrics to Rurumo’s haunting tune. It’s a classic case of a plan coming together, and it was very enjoyable to watch.

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As it does come together, Ruru-chan notices Kouta is happy, and wonders why. He answers as you’d expect: he’s happy because she’s happy, and having fun doing something she’s never done. FHK is a little too good right off the bat but as soon as they have to perform on a stage Rurumo can’t do it, and Kouta, knowing it’s because she’s so naturally bashful takes her place, covering for her as best he can.

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Of course, Kouta can’t sing worth a damn and FHK washes out of the competition, but getting to the finals was a pretty big achievement, and in any case mission accomplished: the club got a lot more noteriety. Most of all, Rurumo and Kouta exhibit their great regard for one another. And no magic tickets are used! We’ll see how the last episode treats them.

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Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru – 12

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The festival is a huge success, but when the closing ceremony draws near, Sagami is nowhere to be found. Yukino, Yui, and Haruno perform an impromptu rock concert while Hikigaya searches for her, finding her on the roof sulking. Determined to “do things his way” like Yukino, he tells Sagami exactly what he thinks of her, and that they’re more alike than she’d care to admit. The vicious dressing down happens in front of others, and so after Sagami goes back down and gives the closing speech, rumors spread fast of how mean Hikigaya is. Hikigaya goes to the club room to work and finds Yukino there doing the same. Yui comes in and waits up for them to finish before going to the after-party.

Hikigaya can’t help but stand back and admire just how much Yukino did things her way as the shadow festival director. It was her duty to make sure a successful festival took place under the ceremonial leadership of Sagami, and she did it. Hikigaya wasn’t about to allow Sagami to jeopardize Yukino’s mission at the last second, so he had to find her and bring her back. Inspired by Yukino, he too does so “his way”, making life for Sagami so uncomfortable up on that roof that anywhere would be preferable to her, even on stage in front of the whole school, which is where she needed to be to officially validate the mission. He also succeeds.

So during this festival, both Yukino (at the beginning) and Hikigaya (at the end) help others by hurting themselves; Yukino because she won’t get the credit and esteem of having run the festival, and Hikigaya for making his already-tenuous reputation even worse by verbally unloading on Sagami with both barrels, despite, or perhaps because much of it was absolutely true, and Sagami knew it. In any case, after hurting themselves Yukino and Hikigaya return to the club room to be alone, but end up comforting one another with their refreshing banter, followed by Yui, who knows both of them are better people than they’d ever believe.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Hey, Yui and Yukino both took a dose of IMT (Instant Musical Talent) potion before taking the stage.
  • Hikigaya asks the most depressing kid he can think of where he’d go to cry, and finds Drama Queen Sagami right there.
  • Last week Hikigaya and Yui were very chummy, but this week it was him and Yukino. 
  • He goes about being chummy with them in totally different ways. For one, Yui would never be able to keep up with the haughty banter he and Yukino spew…and that’s not necessarily a mark against her!
  • Two possibilities next week: Hikigaya comes closer to choosing one of the two girls, or the status quo is maintained with some explanation about how that’s best. Frankly, we hope it’s the former, because, in honor of the series’ title, that wouldn’t be what we expected!

Kami-sama no Memo-cho 8

With Sou in the hospital, Narumi inherits the captain’s chair of the Hirasaka group. With this new power, he does what he’s done all along: con others for a good cause. Narumi has no business running a gang, but he does so anyway, by the seat of his pants. He even tells them that the fact they got Renji’s location right after Sou was injured spelled a trap. This wasn’t any proven theory; it was a hunch, plain and simple. But is was true; there would have been a nasty battle had he let them go. As Alice notes, this Narumi is truly a mysterious cat.

He has the Feketerigo concert proceed as scheduled, keeping in contact with both the NEET crew and his minions. Renji’s crew blends in with the crowd. Meanwhile, Narumi has set a trap of his own for Renji, who takes the bait as expected. This sets up a confrontation between Renji and Alice/Narumi, wherein Alice drops a bomb on him: Hison is still alive. His treasured shirt that Hison made was embroidered in the same way as Narumi’s Feketerigo shirt – and by the same person: Hison, or as she’s now known, Yoshiki. As a condition of being allowed to live (and being paid off), she had to give up her womanhood. Harsh.

Sou shows up to exchange a few punches with Renji, but ultimately Renji’s rage and thirst for revenge dissolves once he learns the truth. The concert is a success, Renji ships off for Osaka, and with the Fourth still alive and kicking, Narumi returns to Alice’s side. Alice, for her part, is overplaying her hand vis-a-vis not liking having him around. For somebody as logical and empirical as she is, it’s a bit silly for her to constantly deny what’s plain to a dimwit. Good tea. Nice arc.


Rating: 3.5

Kami-sama no Memo-cho 5

There are two pairs of series this season we could classify as “Cutesy” or “Heartwarmy”: those are Ikoku Meiro no Croisée and Usagi Drop. There are also a pair of series we could classify as “Lolitective”: Dantalian no Shoka, and this. Despite these similarities, the two pairs are very different, and each have their own appeal. While GAINAX’s lolitective keeps its cast and world quite small and simple, Memo-cho is pretty much the opposite: huge cast with a solid core; huge city full of even more people, organizations, and goings-on.

We’ve touched on the similarities between Dalian and Alice. Both look down on their “squires” (Huey and Narumi, respectively), both speak and think above their weight level, both have their “cutesy” childish sides (both love sugar, Alice loves teddies), and both harbor an admiration and affection for their squires, despite their outward attitudes. This week, Narumi is away from her on business for Soiuchiro, Alice grows wary, and she betrays a little more of that affection, as well as her practical dependence on Narumi. Early in the episode she insists he isn’t her assistant; but she later contradicts that when her armor is down.

But Alice doesn’t just need her stuffed animals laundered and Dr. Peppers opened. Narumi’s presence, and the chores he does for her, help to keep Alice focused, and at the top of her game. Narumi’s duties to the fourth interrupt that somewhat, and she must adapt to his extendend absences. Regarding Narumi, he and Ayaka dive head-first into the world of girl J-rock band PR, darting around the city setting things up. Narumi is a hardworking, friendly and personable dude, so I can see why Soichirou recruited him to do it.

Naturally, there’s a seedy underbelly to this venture, as the band was once promoted by a rival gang, who may make things difficult for Narumi and Soichirou. We’ll find out if and how next week. Narumi also meets a new friend, a crazy-haired chap named Renji, whom he saves from beating up some thugs in a bar, then buys him some clothes. He’s back in Tokyo after three years, and apparently has ties to Hirasaka group. He’s also so good at fighting he’s sworn off using his fists. I’m sure he’ll be put to good use soon.


Rating: 3.5

Sket Dance 17

I’m not sure what the prevailing cliche is vis-à-vis high school rock concerts/competitions: the protagonists winning in a stunning upset, or not winning but never shied away from the challenge. The latter ocurred here, as all three Sket-dan members’ bands had to back out of the concert. The natural solution was for the three to form their own band, and they did: “The Sketch Book.”

Cliches aside, this was a nice little episode. It didn’t try to do to much. Too often one cannot take Sket Dance episodes too seriously because the guest characters are so over-the-top or ludicrous that it’s hard to emotionally invest yourself. These past two weeks, not only was Bossun emotionally invested in the “mission”, but we were too becase Sugisaki was such a likable, sympathetic character.

She was kind enough to help coach Bossun to play bass even while struggling with her courage and confidence as the date to travel to Germany to study drew near. We learned a lot from her, how the promise of her early breakout seemed to be fizzling out. Little did she know that her support and encouragement of Bossun would lead him to turn in a performance that moved her to pull up her sleves and go to Germany after all.


Rating: 3.5

Sket Dance 16

What a weird episode…for Sket Dance, anyway. What starts out as just another slapstick fest where the hilarious voice-acting really carries the day, turns into a more conventional school romance drama by the end. Bossun feels left out when Himeko and Switch join bands for the upcoming school rock fesitval (the origins of which are steeped in rich historical bunk).

However, once he picks up a guitar (later a bass), he turns out to have a knack for it, even though something as basic as tuning initially escapes him. Frustrated with the conditions in the club room, he “escapes” to the school’s music room, where Sugisaki Ayano bumps into him. She’s a very cute, earnest, friendly violin prodigy who helps him practice. The two establish an immediate rapport, and find it very easy to open up and discuss things with one other.

When their session wraps up with the promise of another one tomorrow, Bossun returns to the club room to find a very uncharacteristically serious Himeko on the phone with Yabasawa (we don’t quite learn what she’s on about). So what’s going on here? What’s with the sudden shift to playing the show straight? I don’t know, but it was deftly handled. Bossun is funny when he’s trying to be, but showed good range this week.


Rating: 3.5