Given – 04 and 05 – Roaring to a Stand Still

In a delicious twist, Sato rejects Uecchi’s offer to join the band. Uecchi is utterly befuddled, agitated, and his google-fueled antics put Harkuki and Kaji in hysterics. Perhaps oblivious to the meltdown he has caused, Sato does exactly what he was asked to do and gets a part time job at the live music venue.

When Uecchi finally goes to confront Sato, old friends interrupt and STRONG IMPLY Sato’s guitar belongs to some one very special and very tragically dead…

Thankfully, Uecchi shakes him out of it and demands to hear Sato sing. The following episode is largely dedicated to Uecchi creating a song for Sato to sing and the lead up to their first public gig.

…Also, the episode reveals revealing that Harkuki loves Kaji, that Kaji has a boy friend no one knows about, that Sato is pretty damn good at basket ball, and Uecchi learning that Sato was dating a boy in middle school but that boy may have suddenly killed himself in an extremely tragic way! Appropriate, this last bit of news comes amidst a deafening roar of white noise punctuated by a hard cut to black.

Given remains beautifully rendered, even when it’s being ‘lazy.’ Seriously! The backgrounds and colors and level of unnecessary detail are insane. Episode 5 did take a noticeable dip, but that is to be expected mid season and it didn’t hurt the narrative’s more introspective focus.

I’m really enjoying the idea that Uecchi is the only semi-straight member of the band, yet imperfect knowledge may prevent each member from realizing that. I’m finding it even more interesting to watch Sato, who seems like he’s characterized as having a spectrum disorder in addition to being gay. It makes for some curious takes on his scenes with Uecchi.

Sato strikes me as a sincere representation of a gay male who’s not romantically into the straight male who is pursuing him. He seems aware of that Ueechi may not realize he is even pursuing him, which seems ironically likely since Uecchi resorted to dating advice to get Sato into the band. Now that the sexuality angle is out in the open, we’ll see if Uecchi reconciles with his own obsessive feelings, or if his obsession is purely based in the art of music the way he previously seemed to think it was.

Advertisements

Given – 03 – Rejection!

In a delicious twist, Sato rejects Uecchi’s offer to join the band. Ue is utterly befuddled, agitated, and turns to google for advice on how to win over someone after they’ve rejected you. This goes about as well as you would expect, and Harkuki and Kaji think it’s hilarious!

Meanwhile, Sato does exactly what he was asked to do and gets himself a part time job working at a music events space. When Uecchi goes to confront him there, everything is interrupted when Sato’s old friends recognize him and STRONG IMPLY the guitar over his shoulder belongs to a dead friend.

Sato is a polite, if not slightly stereotypical take on a person with a spectrum disorder. He can not express himself well and the added trauma of death makes him aware that something is wrong. He doesn’t even realize he is already expressing himself, and that Ue is rocked by that expression down to the core.

Alone on the street, Ue grabs Sato and shouts that he wants to hear him sing. Ue needs to hear him sing and Sato agrees. Unseen, Kaiji has heard their exchange and knows their band is in for something special…

Another episode of Given is another episode possibly a hair short of Masterpiece level work. From framing, to color, to writing and emotional candor, if it connected with you before, it will do it again. Why on earth are you not watching it already?

Given – 02 – Insiders x Outsiders

Uenoyama struggles with the idea of being a good teacher. He’s not even sure what Sato wants out of the guitar. Uenoyama is stuck inside his own head, oblivious in class, and unabsorbent of his classmates’ growing curiosity over the nature of his relationship with Sato, even when they ask him about it directly.

Sato struggles with expressing his interests and objectives. He’s not even sure what he wants out of learning guitar. He’s not even sure he has a favorite song, though a melody keeps playing in his head. Sato is often oblivious to Uenoyama’s instruction and questions, but he absorbs the training quickly. Sato has a very keen ear.

These are the early days of training, where Sato’s newness and mystery is exciting. Pretty Harkuki feels a change towards a better, kinder man in Uenoyama but Tough Kaji insists it was already there. To himself, he wonders if Uenoyama’s kindness is something closer to that of a protector, which has broader implications he does not share.

Sato’s transition from outsider to insider begins with the learning the technicalities of music but effectively completes over dinner, when the band reveals they each have part time jobs. Kaji tends bar, delivers items on his bike, and even works security. Harkuki is a hair model in a video channel, and works with Uenoyama at a convenience store. Each boy’s job descriptions are playful but made with care. No matter what job Sato chooses, and he must choose one to support the band, he should consider one that feeds him during his service.

Given is a master class in framing and composition. Above, the criss-crossing shadow connects Uenoyama’s eyes up to his friends, and the sweep of the drum set sends our eyes around to the door. But the rigid green door, which completely encloses Kaji and Harkuki traps them there, stuck behind the drum set.

This fraction of a scene expresses hesitation. It implies Kaji and Harkuki are waiting for their friend to stand and join them emotionally. That waiting shows us they care, and emphasizes the conversation they share outside about Uenoyama comes from their caring.

And It reads equally well for western left right and eastern right left.

Given is also a master class in color, pattern, and skilled integration of 3D rendered backgrounds with traditional animation. It’s subtle at first, but the range of color (especially as it pertains to the the believability of lighting) and consistency of perspective in this show is fantastic. Yet, unlike the space ship in Astra Lost in Space, these 3D elements do not stick out.

Great care was used to control the pallet and soften edges. The over all effect makes Given believable looking, yet also dream like. A perfect aesthetic choice to match its cast introspective, dreamlike state.

This week ends with Uenoyama pressing Sato for direction. There must be a song he wants to play that Uenoyama can teach him. So Sato sings the music that is inside him. It has no title. It is only brief. It brings Uenoyama to tears.

Even though Uenoyama doesn’t officially ask Sato to join the band until after he hears Sato sink the secret song inside his head, the decision has all but been made official during their dinner. Weird, awkward, mysterious, and with much to learn, Sato is the change agent everyone needed. I can’t wait to see — and heard — where this is headed!

Given – 01 – Boys in the Band

Mafuyu Sato lives his life in a dream state. He wakes each day from the same nightmare, fear gripping Sato’s body only as tightly as his grips the neck of his guitar. The guitar he carries but has no idea how to play. He is a mystery.

Ritsuka Uenoyama lives a life of diminishing purpose. He commands great skill with his guitar, but as he sharpened his art, he dulled his passion. He is tired but awake. He lives with with his art-def sister and his father gave him his first guitar. There is no mystery in his life. Only routine.

Sato and Uenoyama meet by chance at Uenoyama’s favorite nap spot, nestled behind the gym. Then Sato witnesses Uenoyama play, and Uenoyama’s bandmates witness Uenoyama in rare form. Slowly, bonds begin to form…

Given is, by miles, the most interesting anime running this season. Given is very good looking, though this is more due to great use of color, lighting and character design than actual animation. Given is also very good sounding.

However, what makes Given sing and shine is solid crafting of characters and storytelling. The nuance of how Uenoyama and Sato are living opposite parts of life makes it special. The choices of how we see that play out, without dialog or other characters telling makes it masterful.

Given does not have the artcraft value of Yuri on Ice but Given nails the depression and challenge of being an artist, and of an artist feeling love, with an equally flawless sincerity. You owe it to yourself to check it out.

Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro – 10 – Rumomoshpringa

This week, Momo asks a favor of Chio and Manana: to “assist” her in buying and consuming sweets. They’re a little confused at first, until they invite her to partake in their years-long tradition of sucking the nectar from flowers on their route. Turns out Momo is really into sweets, and gets really enthusiastic and hyper after eating them.

Chio and Manana decide not only to help Momo, but end up joining in the sugary bliss. I’ll point out that I’ve watched shows in which Momo’s behavior wouldn’t be so unusual (Shokugeki no Souma and Dagashi Kashi come to mind), so it’s refreshing to have someone yelling about how “Hokkaido is in her mouth” be regarded as the weirdo they are.

After all that sugar intake, Chio spots the wee ass-finger-poker and decides to follow her. The girl, named Chiharu, leads her right to Andou, who turns out to be her big brother. Chiharu is pissed that a girl from Samejima Academy made him give up the biker gang life, but she’s mistaken about a great many details.

Do Andou and Chio have…something between each other? Sure, but it’s not as if she’s a succubus who has Chiharu’s once-cool, now-lame brother in her thrall. And yet, when he tries to “scare” her into punching him the way she did before by copping a feel, both of them are embarrassed more than anything else.

Enter Manana, whom Chio informed the poking girl was in her sights, and has come for some revenge. She punches Andou out cold simply because he’s in the way of that revenge, but an unconscious Andou still manages to reflexively rise up and protect his little sister, who now pretty much believes Chio when she says she hasn’t made Andou her sex slave.

The final segment is presented without dialogue in a nice change of pace, and chronicles Andou’s attempts to befriend a cat. It highlights both Andou’s basic decency and humanity, as well as his continued interest in Chio.

Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro – 09 – A Need for You Somewhere

Chio was up all night gaming and not studying for the exams, so she resorts to praying at a shrine for divine assistance. Instead, they meet the creepy high school girl-obsessed “Master” whom their Kabbadi nemesis “trained” with in the park. While an unapologetic creeper, you have to respect the man’s commitment to his craft. He remembers his time as a high-rolling salaryman that women were only hired for their looks, not their academic bonafides.

Thus he and Manana try to give Chio a makeover, first with a blonde wig that ends up way too Showa Era, then a more classic old-fashioned wig that, while suiting her “plain face”, looks very odd when combined with her school uniform. Manana and Master’s running commentary is a constant source of laughs, as are Chio’s funny little background sounds.

Manana and Master perhaps praise Chio’s ‘do too much, for she starts to believe she’s “made it”, attractiveness-wise now, and decides to show them her sexy side by, ahem, pole dancing on the shrine grounds. Their reaction says it all. And the fact Chio picked up how to pole dance from a video game (and can pull it off due to her surprising athleticism) made it all the more wonderfully weird.

Speaking of weird, Chio appreciates things few other girls her age appreciate, like a pipe hanging over a waterway that’s made as hard to cross as possible…but for a valve that serves as a “safe zone.” Chio compares it to a strong, strict man who nevertheless has a kind side.

Speaking of such men, Chio and Manana encounter Andou numerous times during their walk to school, and it occurs to Manana that he seems to be trying extremely hard to impress Chio, and it’s working. She suspects (correctly) that he likes Chio and this is his way of courting her: using special moves to get papers in slots, smoking a cigar…you name it.

Then Manana imagines a future in which she’s still too poor to buy a small car, but Chio is living it up in her Porsche 718 Boxster with a very successful Andou by her side (and hilariously, sporting the same Showa hair/overdone makeup from the makeover segment)—with a haughty accent to boot.

Manana cannot allow such a future to occur, but Chio figures out for herself that Andou might like her (revealing to Manana that they have each other’s contact info). But Chio is immediately “proven wrong” when she and Manana spot Andou pressing another guy against a wall with his foot high up in the air.

Andou, wrongly assuming Chio was a hardcore fujoshi, decided to lift a special pickup move from a BL video…but Chio is still just occasionally glancing at the one mag she bought at the konbini. Instead, she assumes Andou is into guys and she and Manana give the men some privacy.

Later, Chio curses herself for ever believing anyone would fall for her, but Manana quietly insists she’s wrong. And she is! Who wouldn’t fall for Chio?!

Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro – 07 – Inner Fujoshi

Chio’s preference for Western-style hardcore shooting games puts her in rare company in Japan, such that she often has to pay extra to play them in Japanese. She also knows of only one konbini where a magazine covering those games is sold, until one day, it’s just not there.

Instead, there’s more BL game mags in its place. However, Chio’s lack of experience in the genre left her with the misconception all the L involves scrawny Japanese Bs. What ultimately sells her is the type of hardened assassin she loves to play in her western games.

Chio has discovered an exciting new world, but she has to interact with her old friend Andou in order to purchase it. She tries to make the mag less pervy by sticking chocolates on the shirtless ad guy’s nipples, but that only makes things worse, so she builds a kind of crop tank top.

Andou is initially distracted by the free driving school catalog Chio originally used to cover the BL mag, thanks in part to a coincidental “BL” in Chio’s email address, Andou gets wise to her purchase despite her efforts, though he makes it clear he’s not judging!

I must not have had a very eventful childhood, because me and my friends never played a game in which we tried to stick our fingers up each other’s butts. However, this seems to be a thing in Japan, and it’s explored in a gross but fun segment in which a girl from a rich middle school challenges Chio and Manana to a duel in; a challenge they initially ignore.

The girl forces the issue by zapping Manana, and is then surprised to find Chio has formidable skills (having had a crappy middle school life herself). But it’s ultimately Manana coming from behind to exact payback. Chio ties off her thumbs and holds her captive in the park to try to discern her motives.

As far as they’re concerned, the girl’s goal is to leave no ass unplugged. She slips out of her bind and gets Manana again. Chio is then given a handicap when the two end up in the middle of a busy part of the park, surrounded by adults and kids. Chio has to be careful about what she does to the girl here; the girl has no such compunctions.

This puts Chio on the defensive, and she ultimately proves her own worst enemy when she backs herself right into a broken protruding tree branch. However, the girl isn’t able to deliver the coup-de-grace, as she’s snatched up by Kushitori, who is still training in the park.

She offers her own ample posterior for the girl’s punishment, then delivers a thoughtful lecture on respecting each other’s bodies. The girl is initially charmed by Kushitori, but Chio snaps her out of it and she leaves having learned nothing.

In the final segment, which is just a quickie but says a lot, Manana and Chio spot a lonely-looking old woman sitting by what used to be a hydrangea patch in the forest, but is now built-up with concrete, glass and steel. They lament how modern society has trampled on the memories of previous generations.

Turns out their romantic imagining of it being the spot where she and her love met was nothing but a fiction. In reality, the woman is slumped over playing an addictive game on her phone. She’s in that particular spot because she can steal free wi-fi from the cafe nearby. When a barista comes out to shoo her away, she chews him out in kind, shattering the girls’ romanticized dreams.

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – 11 (Fin) – What We Like Never Changes

We begin the finale of what is likely only the first of two (if not more) seasons of a solid Working!!-like anime that focuses on young working adults and their relationships, with Koyanagi and Kabakura in a kind of domestic bliss, just enjoying a day off reading manga and drinking tea as a couple.

Narumi wants that kind of normalcy in her partnership with Hirotaka, so she decides she’ll arrive at his house unannounced. Neither of the welcomes she comes up with in her head come to pass; instead she finds the door unlocked and Hirotaka all but passed out, exhausted and starving as a result of playing games and doing nothing else.

Before getting into a bickering match with Kabakura about BL and finally getting him to agree to try it out, Koyanagi has a phone chat with Narumi, who is in the act of doing “the girlfriend thing” of taking care of her man like his mother would have earlier in life. It’s an outmoded dynamic, but there is no doubt it is the norm in Japan, and America as well.

Narumi quickly learns that her boyfriend will walk around his apartment naked after bathing in search of a towel, and that even the few articles of food in the house were brought there by Naoya, who performs the girlfriend duties Narumi wants to do whenever he sleeps over.

Kou’s route with Naoya inches ever so slightly forward, with it seeming far more likely Nao is unaware she’s a girl than not; perhaps we’ll see more (slow, steady) progress there in sequels. Meanwhile, Narumi takes Hirotaka out on a mandatory walking “date,” before remembering that not only is her favorite seiyu on a variety show, but that she specifically wants to see it with Hirotaka.

In other words, she wants to share what she likes with the person she likes. Who doesn’t? Hirotaka then puts actual effort into his running in exchange for another girlfriend-cooked meal, just as Hirotaka wants to just Netflix and chill with her after dinner. A very chill ending to a show that I suspect has a lot more stories big and small to tell down the road.

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – 07 – Playing a Netoge, Then Eating Out Separately

This week’s WotaKoi is split between two completely different stories involving the core quartet, which is probably for the best as I doubt either one could be sustained for the entire episode’s length. Feeling more than ever like two distinct episodes works to both stories’ advantages, as neither wears out their welcome.

Most of Part One is presented within the virtual world of a fantasy netoge the crew has agreed to play together. The warrior Kabakura and elf assassin Narumi are the first to arrive, and Kabakura is thoroughly charmed by Narumi’s adorable avatar.

Not too much later the sexy black mage Koyanagi joins them, but when they end up in a random encounter with a rare boss, they’re almost undone when Hirotaka’s avatar is being controlled by Nao. Once Hirotaka takes over, he literally takes over, as in defeating the boss and collecting the loot as if he were playing solo, without any cooperation from the others.

Despite being perhaps the least enthusiasm for the game, he’s still the best at it and his player has the maximum level, because, well, he’s a game otaku. Acing games is kinda what he does.

We’re back in the real world for Part Two, as the guys and gals split off for a night of drinks and dinner. Hirotaka and Kabakura must patiently endure their two junior co-workers talking non-stop about Narumi and Koyanagi, including getting their personalities and traits totally wrong due to their lack of interaction with them.

Meanwhile Narumi and Koyanagi are poised to have a lovely dinner chatting over the anime Narumi had Koyanagi borrow and watch…only for the two to, as usual, hold opposite views regarding said anime. They regain common ground in considering their boyfriends in BL situations, but once again butt heads over which of them should be on top.

When dinner’s over, the four end up running into each other on the street. With the junior co-workers there, the two couples play things cool and quiet, not overly indicating they’re dating each other, and merely bidding each other goodnight.

It was definitely a case where things might’ve been easier (or at least less irritating) if Hirotaka and Kabakura had simply said they were dating Narumi and Koyanagi, respectively. But at the same time, it’s really not their business, so the lads are content to endure their ignorance for the sake of romantic privacy. And rightly so!

Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 12

wat121

And so Kiss Him Not Me comes to an end, with the ending pretty much in the title all along. Mutsumi’s sudden realization of his romantic feelings for Kae make her other four suitors scramble to keep him away from her, but he eventually outsmarts them with a P.A. announcement calling Kae to the school roof.

wat122

Mu, however, does not discourage the others from joining him on that roof and letting their feelings be known. With everyone saying they like her, clearly, and asking if she’ll go out with them, the onus is on her to choose.

Kae flees to A-chan with her predicament; A-chan is understandably frustrated with Kae putting everything in fujoshi terms, but the solution they come up with is for Kae to do things dating-sim-style. The scene is another hint that Kae simply isn’t ready for a 3D romantic relationship.

wat123

She goes on dates with each of the suitors, and has a wonderful time with each of them, as each of their charms are laid bare before her. But it doesn’t make it any easier to choose among them; indeed, it only make the choice harder and more confusing.

All five are great, they’re just lacking that special something that would compel her to choose one over the others. Which is why, in the end, she chooses no one. The status quo prior to their confessions is the situation at the end, for Kae doesn’t “love” any of them the way she loves Shion, who may be resurrected in a new season of his anime.

wat124

So there you have it. Kae has never subscribed to the notion that the princess belongs with the prince, or even that the princess belongs with another princess. She’s all about 5×7, tops, bottoms, and lords. Furthermore, she lives a full and happy life not with a boyfriend or girlfriend, but with her sixteen waifus.

“Sorry, that’s how it is,” she says to her shocked, former suitors. And I can’t really feel that bad for them. They’re all still friends, both with her and with each other. Hopefully they can get over the fact she’s not the kind of girl who’d date them, and never was.

It’s a fitting end to a satisfying, if not perfect show that centered on a genuine ‘unconventional’ girl (whatever that means) who may be a bit naive when it comes to romance, but in the end knows what she wants and what she loves, and isn’t about to conform.

16rating_8

Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 11

wat11

Mu’s ill-advised attempt to convince his brother that Kae was already his girlfriend is undermined by everyone else, and only ends up emboldening Kazuma, who now knows that all of them are into Kae, and he’s only too happy to throw his hat in the ring.

wat113

One by one, the group falls before Kazuma, who uses tactics that exploit the weaknesses of each person, be it Shi’s skittishness, Nana and Iga’s reputations, or Shina’s first doujinshi.

It feels a little Wile E. Coyote, in that each character gives up after one attempt to thwart Kazuma, but the point is that only one person can stop him, and he can only stop him by shedding the “meek little brother” act of always conceding everything to him.

wat114

Kazuma is the way he is because Mu always gave him what he wanted. But as he demonstrates in the obscure Sengoku era-themed card game duel, Mu is not willing to cede ground to his brother. He cares too much about Kae.

In an amusing, if not particularly thrilling card duel (during which the gathered crowd and everyone but Kae constantly mention they have no idea what’s going on) Mu executes a just-barely-legal, gutsy move Kazuma did not expect, defeating him by all means at his disposal.

wat115

Mu’s newfound intensity and confidence gets through to Kazuma, who accepts defeat graciously; not something I thought would happen after he locked and taped Mu in a locker just a couple days before. But Kazuma is happy Mu finally stood up for himself.

The group is happy Mu won…right up until the moment he capitalized on his victory by confessing his feelings to Kae, who seems to react positively. That naturally puts the others on edge, as with Kazuma (probably, hopefully) out of the picture, Mu is now back to being their rival for Kae’s heart. Even though she’s content to have sixteen fictional waifus.

16rating_7

Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 10

wat101

This week marks another single guy-centric episode, but like Shinomiya’s, instead of the same Mutsumi we’ve gotten week-to-week, we get an overdone charicature, only not quite as overdone as the klutzy Shi. Combined with a somewhat lame first half involving a cave adventure that turns out to be pointless and a disaster of a second half, this was Kiss Him Not Me’s worst outing.

wat102

The adventure is stale, and while the idea of Mutsumi not knowing whether he romantically likes Kae (like the others) is interesting, Mutsumi has always been the kind but rather dull one, and having him carry an episode, even half of one, just doesn’t do it for me.

Nor does his sudden intense fear of darkness, which is not much more than an excuse for Kae to take his hand and lead him through the cave. This is a guy who stripped both himself and Kae down to warm up her underheated body. It makes zero sense for him to be so flustered about holding Kae’s hand now.

wat103

Things only get worse when Mutsumi’s older, creepier brother shows up as a student teacher. Setting aside the fact that his bisexualism (if it’s really even genuine) is handled about as seriously as a show like this could be expected to handle it; this guy straight up tells underage kids he could totally sleep with any one of them. That’s a fireable offense at best.

wat104

Not only that, he takes an interest in Kae, to the point he invites her to lunch after running into her in Shinjuku (despite her clearly being uncomfortable with the idea), then takes advantage when he has to catch Kae from falling to make a move on her. Mutsumi is able to stop him before anything happens, but the look on Kae’s face is all you need to know to determine that this guy’s a sketchy creep, and I’m not sure how else we’re supposed to see him.

That he intends to “bide his time” until he’s no longer teaching there to “pursue” Kae (without any input from her about what she’d think about such a pursuit) doesn’t make him any less detestable. Even if he’s only putting on an extra-skeevy act to try to motivate Mutsumi to ask Kae out, it doesn’t change the fact he’s being totally inappropriate with a student.

I can forgive this show’s dancing around the whole weight thing, but not this. The fact is, the show just isn’t that funny right now, and that’s a problem.

16rating_6

Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 09

wat91

It’s a beach episode, folks, with a lot of familiar elements from that subgenre, including vertical pan up to unveil the ladies’ swimsuits. Shiny! It’s also a rare Shinomiya-centered episode, in which most of the inner dialogue comes from him as he struggles to impress Kae, and makes mess after mess of trying.

wat92

From accidentally launching himself into her boobs on the beach to having to hide behind his bigger friends as they scare off some creeps, Shino’s feeling particularly inadequate this week. When he knocks her down trying to save her from a snake, causing her to drop all her kebabs on the ground, it’s the last straw, and he runs off in tears.

wat93

Concerned for Shinomiya’s well-being, the gang chases after him, but he manages to get way far ahead of them for some reason, while Shina seems oddly un-knowledgeable about the environs of her family’s beach manse. The gag with the bridge that breaks but the gang (sans Kae) only “plummets” a little is funny enough, until you wonder how that fall (which is at least ten feet) didn’t hurt anyone. They can’t blame mushrooms this week!

wat94

Some odd choices about the journey to save Shino aside, I did enjoy how the two fujoshis embrace him for his “klutz appeal”, which ties into the themes of the show thus far. But it felt like someone jacked up Shino’s Klutziness and Anxiety Quotients to 11 for this and only this episode.

In trying to deepen the character, the show turned him into a outlandish caricature of himself. Of the episodes thus far that have centered on a single guy, Shino’s has been the worst. It wasn’t a bad episode, but I know Kiss Him Not Me can do better.

16rating_7