Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo – 05

y751

I had my doubts about what would happen to my lovely body-swapping comedy when more of the titular seven witches entered the fray: would the balance be upset? Would the extra characters just make things more muddled and unfocused, killing the crispness I’ve enjoyed so much? Well, if Odagiri Nene is any indicator, my reservations were unnecessary. Nene is far more than a school villain, Y7 is about far more than body-swapping, and it knows exactly what it’s doing.

It’s just Ryuu’s luck that Urara wants to kiss him just when he’s off to go see Nene to resolve his current “charming” problem. Urara is the last person he wants to fall in love with him through some kind of kissing spell because, well, he’s falling in love with her for real, and wants the real thing in return. So he tries to keep his problem a secret from Urara.

y752

That doesn’t last long, however, as he’s unable to find Nene and the time he agreed to kiss Yamada comes and goes. Where a lesser show wouldn’t have him telling Urara the truth until the very end of the episode, Y7 has a lot more ground to cover, and covers it deftly and efficiently.

And it’s actually good for Yamada to tell Urara wha’ts happened, because now they’ve determined that body-swapping isn’t Yamada’s power, but Urara’s; Yamada’s power is copying others’ powers, while making his host susceptible to their own. The body-swapping Urara swaps bodies…and Nene has fallen in love with Yamada.

y753

As it happens, as Yamada and Urara kiss and figure this out, Nene is watching from the bushes with her lieutenant, Igarashi Ushio (Ono Daisuke), who is upset that Nene has been overcome by unrequited love for Yamada, because, well, it’s pretty obvious that he likes Nene.

y754

At first, Ushio lashes out at Yamada with a vicious kick. We learn that the two were old friends and fellow n’er-do-wells who sought the same thing by transferring to Suzaku High: fresh starts. But neither of them were able to find any guys they could tolerate, let alone befriend. But an incident caused them to drift apart, leaving Yamada essentially alone until he met (or rather fell on) Urara.

Ushio calms himself and takes a more contrite attitude, getting on his knees, promising he’ll destroy the incriminating photos of Yamada and even make Nene drop out of the election, if only he’ll change Nene, the person most important to him, back to normal.

y755

Yamada refuses, but Urara agrees on his behalf. This angers him, but in a moment of emphatic (and admirable) assertiveness, Urara gives him a sharp, brutal SLAP and orders him to knock it off. Just as he did with his predicament and the start of this episode, he’s being stubborn and holding back information form her that could help her understand his situation better. They’ve switched bodies numerous times; this is not the time to be tight-lipped, especially when Urara assumed from his standoffishness that he’d gotten sick of her, which is so not the case.

y756

Grudgingly, Yamada agrees to kiss Nene, satisfying Ushio. When Yamada asks him if he kissed Nene, he says he did, but he likes the person he became because of it. We learn why when Yamada gives Urara the rest of their story. While in an alley they came upon some roughs picking on a girl from their school. Ushio instigates a brawl and the girl is able to run off, and Yamada backs him up, because he’s not about to watch his friend take on four guys by himself. It’s good to see Yamada in Full Delinquent Mode, even if it’s a flashback.

Back at school though, Ushio throws Yamada under the bus. Not only does he get suspended for a week, but the entire school becomes afraid of him, the very thing he hoped to avoid by transferring there in the first place. Ushio, meanwhile, washes his hands of Yamada and takes his place beside the classmate they rescued from the roughs: Nene.

Had Ushio met Nene before, kissed her, and become infatuated to the point of not only starting a fight for her, but framing Yamada so he took the heat? Or had Ushio and Nene never met, and it was Nene who kissed Ushio out of appreciation for saving her? The possibilities are intriguing.

y757

In any case, Ushio’s betrayal was the reason Yamada hesitated in turning Nene back to normal. But when he meets Nene in private at her hideout in the old school building, he gets fresh insight into her power, and why he can’t possibly allow Nene to stay in a state of unrequited love forever.

Nene seems eager to get this whole thing over with when everyone else is around, but when they leave the two alone, she asks him not to kiss her. You see, she never knew how happy her power could make people until she herself experienced it, something Yamada made possible. And whatever else being in love with Yamada is—unintended, artificial, futile—it isn’t BORING. As we saw with Ito and Miyamura last week after Yamada kissed them, being in love is awesome.

Yamada now understands why Ushio doesn’t mind being under Nene’s spell. But Ushio has a shot at Nene; Yamada makes it clear he’d never fall for Nene, either naturally (as Ushio might have with her) or due to her power (which is reflected by his copying power). Urara is right; Yamada can’t let Nene pine for him forever, and at the end of the day Nene isn’t of sound mind. So he kisses her.

y758

As if the resolution of this situation wasn’t enough, Ushio produces an incomplete journal from a past Supernatural Studies Club, documenting the Seven “Witches”, or girls with supernatural powers, who attend Sazaku High. Two have now been identified by the club: Urara and Nene, but the other five are a mystery, and the new club is going to find them, because Urara, being one herself, is confident that they want to be found.

Yamada is their Witch Detector, and so grudgingly goes along with this plan. And he can’t really complain, as both he and Ushio got what they wanted: new and exciting school lives that aren’t defined by their violent pasts, and interesting friends. I look forward to new witches being discovered and even more tantalizingly complex character dynamics to sprout up.

9_mag

Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo – 04

y741

What keeps every minute of Yamada 7 compelling is the cast’s ability to not simply explore and investigate Yamada’s strange power, but also use it to their advantage. Urara has been the most stealthy yet most prolific in that regard, especially this week, when she swaps bodies with Yamada just before going on a school onsen trip.

y742

In this case, swapping bodies isn’t about experimenting on the nature of the power. Urara is ostensibly using it so she can study as Yamada while Yamada mingles with the other girls. But because he’s doing it in Urara’s body, he’s able to effect a change in how they regard her; that is, as one of their own rather than an outsider.

Yamada storms into Urara’s room demanding his body back out of exhaustion from spending all day and potentially all night with the super-hyper girls, but it’s also an opportunity for Urara to admit she’s left too much to him, so it’s her turn to take over in her own body. Their perpendicular kiss, followed by a shot of Urara from Yamada’s POV, is pretty darned sexy, to boot.

y743

But Urara was reckless, and went through her own belongings—including admiring her own panties—while in Yamada’s body, and Vice President Odagiri Nene snaps incriminating pictures. Now, we know from the OP that Nene is most likely one of the seven witches (along with Urara herself), so we know she’s aware of what really happened in those photos. But she wants the presidency, and if Urara skips out on a mock exam, it will hurt Miyamura’s chances and help her own.

A flustered Yamada seeks counsel from Itou and Miyamura, who are more interested in playing cards; this is their first of several great exchanges for what’s turning out to be an awesome supporting duo. They’re not cool with him using Urara to explain away the photos, as it would hurt her reputation. As for switching bodies with Nene, they’re not sure he’s thought it all through.

y744

Still, he has little other options, so he calls Salia Nene out later that night in her jammies and kisses her—or rather, she kisses him…which is an important distinction, because not only do they fail to switch bodies, but when Miyamura and Itou kiss him, he fails to switch bodies with them as well, meaning his ability is gone.

y745

Everyone agrees the best thing to do is sleep on it—Yamada’s had a long, exhausting day—but the next day at the barbecue Urara makes him yakisoba in gratitude for helping her get along with the other girls, who all love her. She also wants to go on a trip over Summer break with the Supernatural Club. As Yamada is a member of said club, and he likes Urara, this is an enticing prospect.

y746

Which gives him a quandary: Urara joined the club so she could switch bodies with Yamada in a safe, private place. If he doesn’t have that ability anymore, will she leave the club, and abandon him? I doubt it, but Yamada has bigger problems upon returning to school: Itou and Miyamura are infatuated with him.

This is a bold move for Y7, having not even fully explored all the possibilities of his body-swapping abilities, to give him the power to make whoever he kisses fall in love with him. Not only that, when he kisses them again to take away the love, they still feel a sense of loss, and only want to get that feeling back.

Masuda Toshiki and Uchida Maaya put on a comic clinic portraying Miyamura and Itou as not only all hot and bothered and competitive with each other while under the spell, to their excitement and desire about being put back under the spell when they’re not on it.

y747

My theory for what’s going on? Urara and Nene are two of the Seven Witches. When Yamada kisses Urara, he gains the power to swap bodies. When he kisses Nene, he gains the power to charm others. Worried about what Urara would do if she found out he lost the former power, he tries to keep it a secret from her as he heads to Nenes’ to “resolve everything”…but Urara’s right outside the door.

Would kissing Nene or Urara get him his body-swapping power back? What powers do the other five witches have in store? And who’s aware that they’re a witch and who isn’t—I’d guess Urara’s the former and Nene’s the latter, but who knows? All I know is, this is some entertaining supernatural romantic comedy right here.

8_mag

Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo – 03

y731

In addition to its ability to smartly construct episodes that go off in interesting and unexpected directions, 7-nin also does quite a good job balancing comedy and poignancy without coming off as sappy. It reminds me a lot of Majimoji Rurumo, only with far more refined character design.

y732

It’s also clever in the way it brings up situations in which one’s gender makes a difference, such as dealing with the President, Yamazaki Haruma, who doesn’t give men the time of day, which turns out to be a red herring. The Prez can tell from their smell that he’s talking to Yamada and Miyamura, not Urara and Itou. But that’s fine, because he has a job for Yamada: convince Urara to apply to college. Then he’ll get his club budget.

y733

Yamada, Miyamura, and Itou are then confronted in an outdoor corridor by Vice Prez Odagiri Nene (Kitamura Eri) and Igarashi Ushio, the latter of whom seems to have some kind of undisclosed history with Yamada. Ushio mocks Yamada for being Miyamura’s “dog” now, while Nene warns Miyamura that she, not he, will be the next President.

Turns out Miyamura has more banking on their deal with Yamazaki than Yamada and Itou realized. But Miyamura assures them it’s not just about him anymore; he honestly wants to see the club succeed. He also warns Yamada that if they fail, Yamazaki might shut down the club altogether.

y734

The interesting mechanics of the body-swapping play a crucial role in Yamada’s ultimate success, though it doesn’t seem like that at first, what with Urara suddenly swapping bodies with Yamada, who not only gets Urara’s body, but her nasty cold as well. Assuming she tricked him so she could study at school, she goes home…to Urara’s house, with Miyamura and Itou tagging along.

y735

What I love about where this mission takes the three is, despite his delinquent rep, Yamada’s the most not-okay with snooping around Urara’s place, even if it could reveal clues about why she doesn’t want to apply to college. But Yamada finds something else out about the home and Urara’s life; something not immediately apparent to the others: the home may appear “normal”, but it’s also an oppressively lonely place. Even her photo albums are full of forced smiles.

y736

Not coincidentally, when Urara comes home in Yamada’s body, angry as hell he ditched her (even though Yamada was sure the opposite was the case), we see that what truly hurt her was opening the clubroom to find no one there. When she remarks how it’s lonely whether she’s at school or at home and tells him to go home, Yamada gets the picture and decides he’s not going anywhere.

Even though her face is turned, her memory of the empty clubroom made it clear she wished Yamada had disobeyed her, so she’s elated when he comes back with a damp washcloth. Then he proceeds to shock her and me by making a deal with her: he’ll make a serious run at getting into college, if she comes with him.

With the prospect of college no longer just another setting in which to be alone, she accepts, just as the sun comes out. It may seem fast, but let’s not forget these two have shared bodies, kissed several times, and come to learn a lot about one another, including sides of them no one else knows about.

y737

That would have made a fine ending, but 7-nin wasn’t quite done. Why close on a poignant moment when you can close with the realization of Yamada’s precious dream of having a microwave in the clubroom, which was his initial motivation, after all.

Only it doesn’t turn out quite as wonderfully as he’d dreamt: not only does Itou microwave his prized yakisoba bread too long while still its plastic wrapping, Yamada’s own body has caught Urara’s cold, which makes sense, as he kissed her twice. You know you’ve got your Couple Card when you’re making each other sick!

8_mag

Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo – 02

y721

While last week was an exploration of two very different people finding common ground in each others bodies (that sounds kinda wrong, but bear with me), while a third supports them, while this week explored the ironies and misunderstandings inherent in suddenly throwing a fourth member into the club, Ito Miyabi, complete with her own set of charms, and neuroses. She’s voiced by Uchida Maaya, no stranger to playing weirdos.

y722

Itou joins and proceeds to thoroughly clean the supernatural club room. The others don’t tell her they’re in the room because it’s a safe place to switch bodies—which is far more supernatural than materia stones and UFO photos. Instead, they simply accept her intermittent existence in the room without explaining anything.

y723

So when she inevitably walks in on Ryuu and Urara kissing, she gets the very reasonable impression that the others never intended to start the supernatural club back up, but only wanted a place to make out. Slowing her roll and telling her the truth from the start might have been tricky, but now they have a scorned Itou out for revenge, which is worse.

y724

Itou’s campaign of vengeance consists of distributing posters, fliers, and rumors about how Yamada and Shiraishi are an item. When Yamada sees that the rumors are isolating Shiraishi again, he takes the rash step of cornering a hostile Itou in the clubroom and coming clean the quickest way he can: by kissing her.

This is actually played as a pretty uncomfortable scene, with Itou’s face a flurry of expressions from fear, nervousness, bashfulness, to acceptance, and then the face of Itou (in-Yamada’s body) before Yamada (in-Itou’s body) clocks her.

Chalk the discomfort to Yamada feeling he neither has time or the wherewithal to properly explain, and Itou her hostile state wasn’t going to listen.

y725

After the obligatory check of Itou’s body, Yamada proceeds to try to undo all the harm Itou’s rumors caused, only to find no one took them seriously, because she’s known around school for making stuff up, like UFOs and such. Shiraishi even admits she was alone because it’s close to exams and she asked not to be disturbed!

So Yamada’s desperate measure turned out to be completely unnecessary, while switching bodies had far greater consequences, as Itou (in Yamada’s body) disappears after being spotted posing in the mirror, striking poses, and performing finishing moves.

y726

A search of Itou’s phone reveals she was being hustled for supernatural objects by some thugs, and decided to go after them in Yamada’s body. She gets her ass kicked, but Yamada (in Itou’s body) shows up and takes the thug trio out, introducing us to the idea that Yamada’s stronger body wasn’t enough to fight her enemies; Yamada fights with his spirit, so even in Itou’s body, he kicks ass. I really like this concept.

y727

After switching back to their own bodies, Itou is content to withdraw with dignity, but Yamada shows her her completed club application, re-welcoming her into the supernatural club. At the end of the day, Itou was lonely and looking to become more popular at school, and while the path to get there had a few corkscrews and switchbacks, she’s now in a club with far better caliber people than she first imagined when she saw them kissing.

y728

Itou also puts the possibilities of the body-swapping into high gear, testing out every possible combination between the four of them. I’ll admit I lost track watching the scene the first way through (which I think was kinda the point), but the order goes like this:

  1. Yamada switches with Shiraishi (when Itou shoves him into her).
  2. Miyamura kisses Yamada (in Shiraishi’s body).
  3. Itou kisses Yamada (in Miyamura’s body).
  4. Miyamura (in Shiraishi’s body) kisses Yamada (in Itou’s body).

That right there is some big-league comedic complexity. It’s a wonderfully absurd sequence and all the voice actors do a great job imitating each other’s voice patterns and modulations.

y729

In the end, we finally meet more witches, though they’re not identified as such. I’m not sure where this whole power struggle for class president between Miyamura and Odagiri Nene (Kitamura Eri) is going, but nor do I really care…yet. 7-nin will have its work cut out for it integrating stodgy politics into the far more fun body-swapping narrative.

8_mag

Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo – 01 (First Impressions)

y711

Franklin has had a ridiculous schedule these days, so while he had first dibs on Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, he passed it to me. Lucky me! Yamada-kun is a fast-paced, nice-looking, tightly-constructed supernatural comedy backed by some truly inspired voice performances, and a helpful dose of always-welcome heart.

y712

Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches’ first episode interestingly has no witches in it, at least not any who identify themselves. But I didn’t miss them. Instead we have your typical unmotivated n’er-do-well Yamada Ryou who falls down some steps with perfect honor student Shiraishi Urara…and they switch bodies.

While Yamada does the obligatory pat-down of his new female body, resulting in the classic bloody nose, he also learns that Shiraishi is the unresistant victim of persistent bullying, as well as the victim of hassling by a trio of smitten geeks.

y713

Yamada may be a delinquent, he still has a sense of honor and justice, but when he offers to help Shiraishi with her problems, she outright refuses, even coming between a punch from Yamada (in her body) which was meant to stop just short of hitting the bully, but hits Shiraishi (in Yamada’s body) instead.

y714

The two try to return to their own bodies by falling down the stairs again—several times (don’t try this at home…or at school, kids!) to no avail—Shiraishi suggests they kiss, since they inadvertantly kissed on the first fall. Lo and behold, it works. I liked how straightforward Shiraishi was about kissing Yamada…after all, they’ve already shared each other’s bodies; and from her POV she’s essentially kissing herself. Tough-guy Yamada’s a lot more bashful.

y715

I can’t go on in this review without first giving serious props to Osaka Ryota and Hayami Saori, who have to pull double duty and absolutely nail it. When Shiraishi is in Yamada’s body, and Yamada in Shiraishi’s, Osaka and Hayami do a superb job inhabiting the other’s unique vocal patterns.

Kudos to the animation team as well, which gives Yamada a much more serene look when Shiraishi’s in him, while Shiraishi’s facial expressions and limbs are all over the place when Yamada’s in her.

On the flip side, both the seiyus and animators also understand that two people who suddenly switched bodies still wouldn’t be able to impersonate one another that well, thus the actual person within the body shines through loud and clear, even when they’re trying to hide it.

y716

This means anyone looking for something fishy about the couple is going to catch on pretty quickly, and that’s just what happens with StuCo VP Miyamura Toranosuke (Masuda Toshiki), who sets up a nifty trap that confirms his suspicions, getting beaten up by the geeks (a hilarious bit of classic comic turnabout) so “Shiraishi” has to defend herself, using an unmistakably Yamada roundhouse kick (Yamada also isn’t used to fighting in a skirt, hence the pantyshot).

y717
Some interesting comedic touches: Miyamura and Shiraishi checking out Yamada’s junk, and Yamada suddenly sitting down on a chair covered with cobwebs.

Their secret is out, but while Miyamura has intentions, they’re more opportunistic than sinister: he wants Yamada and Shiraishi to join the dormant Supernatural Club so he can start it back up. He also wants to see how far the body-swapping-by-kiss goes, and quickly determines Yamada can swap with anyone by kissing them.

Thus the two-person body-swapping act is expanded to three, and then four when an eavesdropping classmate (Uchida Maaya) enters the club with the intention to join. I really like where this first episode went, even before we’ve even seen any titular witches. I just hope where it’s going is as good, and with a lot more seiyu star power behind it, I doesn’t seem likely to disappoint.

8_mag

Noragami – OVA 01

nora_oad1

We’re big proponents of the body-swapping episode when done well. In addition to being a refreshing change of pace, it is also an opportunity for the seiyus to show off their talent. Listening to Uchida Maaya successfully imitate the way Kamiya Hiroshi voices Yato is enough to justify watching this OVA (or OAD…whatevs). That’s not the only reason to do so, however. With the immediate crises of the main storyline set aside and the show placed in a sandbox, it decides to have a little fun, which turns out to be infectious.

With the aim of increasing his exposure to humans, creating new delivery god business, and simply staving off boredom and loneliness, Yato decides to impliment a “divine possession” of Hiyori. That would be stressful enough for her on an ordinary day, but he decides to do this on her first day of high school. Even if she’s in class with many familiar faces, she’s brand new to the other three-fourths of the school, so impressions matter.

nora_oad2

Yato’s field day consists of solving a hard math problem (making Hiyori look smart), acting very forthright and brash (confusing those who know her) handing out his number (making Hiyori look a bit loose), singing, dancing, kicking ass in soccer, etc. Kofuku also joins in the mischief, involuntarily causing dozens of accidents and mishaps. Eventually a (weak) phantom shows up causing a voyeuristic student to jump out a window, but Hiyori-Yato catches him heroically.

There’s a great impish energy emanating from Hiyori-Yato, and a gnawing frustration in Hiyori (and Yukine). Calling upon Lord Tenjin and Mayu backfires when the two appear on campus dressed to the nines and become engulfed in bewitched students (though they do eventually put an end to Yato’s fun). When Hiyori returns to school the next day, we appreciate that everyone remembers everything she said and did yesterday. All eyes are upon her, most of them full of admiration and respect. So at the end of the day, Yato did get her high school life off to an auspicious start. All it cost her was a dislocated shoulder!

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Valvrave the Liberator – 15

val15

The New JIOR crew abandon their crashed ship, which landed not far from the Karlstein Facility, where L-Elf and his former colleagues were “made.” L-Elf comes up with a plan to secure a new means of transport from there. He infiltrates the base with Saki and Akira. One of the child sentries shoots Saki, but she survives due to her contract with Valvrave. L-elf takes the two sentries out, and Saki and Akira possess their bodies. The rest of the crew plants bombs in the tunnels near the base. Marie sneaks into Haruto’s Valvrave, where Pino treats her like an old friend. Kyuuma and Yamada deal with the Dorssian “Ideal Blumes.” Haruto’s role in the plan is interrupted when Marie confronts him about what he is. L-elf shoots her in the head to preserve Haruto’s secrets, but she rises up soon after, unharmed.

Gee, what a coincidence the ship just happens to crash land within walking distance of the compound where L-Elf was created and raised! That aside, he takes full advantage of his knowledge of the place and formulates a plan to get everyone mobile again as soon as possible. As his original infiltration of JIOR early last season proved, it doesn’t matter whether he’s in space or on the ground, L-Elf knows how to get things done, using what he has at his disposal. Fortunately, that includes five Valvrave pilots, who use their body-swapping ability for the first time in a while. It’s pretty upsetting when that kid soldier just shot Saki in the chest, but we knew she’d be fine, even if Akira didn’t.

What was more surprising was that L-Elf was willing to kill Marie to protect the secret of the Valvraves. We had assumed Marie already knew about Haruto’s “curse”, but apparently she was kept out of the loop; more to the point, keeping the Valvraves’ secrets is important enough to L-Elf to warrant shooting her in the friggin’ head to preserve them. Like Saki’s shooting, seeing poor Marie take a bullet was no less upsetting even though we were reasonably certain at some point in her past she too resigned as a human, only she forgot about it. But if she was once a pilot, it stands to reason she could be a pilot again; that is, if she doesn’t become a psychological wreck.

7_very_good
Rating:7 (Very Good)

Valvrave the Liberator – 06

val6

Ignoring Haruto’s warnings, Rukino Saki enters the cockpit of a green Valvrave and contracts with it, becoming a “vampire” and its new master. She bites Haruto and inhabits his body briefly and commits some mischief, making it appear that they’re a couple in order to align herself with his celebrity. When the Dorssians launch an attack and destroy the module’s ARUS escort, Rukino sets out to fight, but when the battle gets tough she wavers. Shouko, Takahi, and her classmates cheer her on, and she destroys X-ein’s ship. The Dorssians retreat, but Cain leaves A-drei behind to infiltrate the JOIR module and face L-elf.

Typically, in order to make a meaningful connection with a character or characters, we need to spend a little time with them; learn a little about who they are, where they come from, and what makes them tick. But we don’t know much of anything about Rukino Saki as we’re thrust into her own little personal drama. She’s a former idol, and she’s as insecure as she is selfish. She seems to take joy in messing with Haruto and using him for her own purposes. So if she’s such a bitch, why should we care about her? Because she’s cute? All the girls on this show are cute. Because we see some flashes of the unpleasantness she suffered during her idol career? Well, maybe.

The thing is, like Haruto, Shouko, and L-elf, the show itself doesn’t seem to care about Rukino Saki any more than we do…not yet, at least. That’s not exactly unforgivable, as a lot of shit has gone down in these peoples’ lives. It just means this series is more concerned with action and zany, over-the-top situations than it is fleshing out anyone at this point. The thing is, last week’s outing wasn’t particularly entertaining and its flaws outshone the insanity. This week did a far more respectable job holding our interest, but if our emotional investment in the cast remains negligible, we’re going to have a hard time sticking with this show simply for the spectacle. We like characters, particularly ones that make a lick of sense.


Rating: 5 (Average)

Stray Obsevations:

  • Some, er, choice quotes from this week: “This is amazing! I feel like a bird! Wait, I’m a vampire now…so that makes me a bat!” “Rukino, you’re overextending!” “Who cares? We’re invincible super-humans!” “L-elf! For the sake of our friendship, please die.”
  • Did Figaro really just get snuffed out? Meh…whatever.
  • This series is so far akin to a Gundam series on drugs, so it make sense that the trope of enemies retreating early and often would show itself here.
  • In case you forgot this show is nuts: Nanami the ditzy trainee teacher is made the representative of New JIOR. Long may she reign.
  • L-elf literally just stands around doing nothing…again. With A-drei near, next week he’ll probably do…something. Maybe.

Natsuyuki Rendezvous – 11 (Fin)

After a long, tearful good-bye, a brief incident with garden shears, and a neck bite, Atsushi finally releases Hazuki’s body back to him. Hazuki wakes up as if from a long slumber, confirming his love for Rokka and asking her to marry him. Many years pass, to when Hazuki passes away at age 65, not long after Rokka. Their daughter Yuki vows to keep the shop, while their grandson inspects Atsushi’s old room, kept closed thoughout Yuki’s childhood. Atsushi chats with her son, Hazuki and Rokka’s grandson, and tells him to throw everything in there out.

We’re all for the occasional mysterious or ambiguous ending, but we after all we’d been through (like Hazuki), we wanted nothing less than a good old-fashioned happy ending, and by gum, we got one. And it was everything we could have hoped for. A few last memories of Rokka (when she got drunk, she’d reveal an envy of Atsushi’s talent). Atsushi’s method revolved around flowers as more than just things of fleeting, conventional beauty, but considered their entire life cycle from seed to death andr eturn to the soil. It’s a one-way process, which is probably what makes him realize he can’t stay in the living world and must leave Hazuki’s body, however much seeing Rokka makes him want to stay.

There’s a tense moment when it seems Rokka believes taking her own life and joining him is the solution, he drops the gardening shears. As Hazuki says – powerless at the time to stop what he thinks is happening – that’s not what they’re for. Hazuki’s long, dreamlike daze through Storybook Land caused him to grow and change. He gave up his body in a drunken stupor, convinced Rokka would never love him as much as she loved her late husband. He didn’t know he was inadvertantly giving both Atsuhi and Rokka a gift – the chance to talk one last time and to say good-bye.

We especially liked the simple, quiet but exquisite epilogue, starting with Atsushi floating above the city (no longer trapped in the house), but it’s not long before we’re told both Rokka and Hazuki have passed away – and not too long after each other. Their grown daughter Yuki (a nice combo of Rokka’s hair and Hazuki’s eyes) looks over some photos with her elderly Aunt Miho, and her young son explores the apartment where Rokka and Hazuki lived the rest of their lives. The shop and its surroundings look the same, but the old flowers wilted and died, having planted seeds that bloom in their place.


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

RABUJOI World Heritage List

Natsuyuki Rendezvous – 10

Hazuki experiences a role reversal, first by being presented with his own funeral in the picture book world, then confronted by Atsushi in Rokka’s body telling him to accept his fate. Hazuki refuses, so Atsushi transports them to a stormy shore and shoves him off a cliff. Hazuki notices the scenery is more realistic, then realizes he’s in the real world, watching Atsushi in his body having a picnic with Rokka. He Atsushi tells her how long he’s been in Hazuki’s body, and she asks him where the real Hazuki is…

Penultimate episode time: this week was the final set-up in preparation for the finish. Rokka now knows the score: one of the reasons she hasn’t been able to get over her dead husband is that he’s literally been there with her the whole time. In Hazuki’s body, he’s been dropping hints left and right, consciously or not, and meeting him there in the forest was the clincher. Now she knows that Hazuki wasn’t Hazuki when she slept with him. Now that she knows, and has calmed down, she takes all this information pretty well.

But Hazuki is out of the picture book now, floating around barefoot, able to see what’s been done with his body. Finally he can confront Atsushi-as-him face-to-face and demand, plead, beg for him to keep his promise and give his body back. Will he be able to finally do it? Atsushi-as-Hazuki has kept his cards close for a long time about his ultimate intentions; indeed he may not even know himself what the next step is. But Rokka makes it clear that the short-haired, bespectacled Hazuki and “The Hazuki [she] fell in love with” are two separate entities. And she wants to know what happened to that Hazuki. Which should give Hazuki hope.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Natsuyuki Rendezvous – 07

Hazuki remains trapped while Atsushi continues seducing Rokka, not caring who she thinks she’s spending time with. They go to the sea, spend the night at a hotel, and make love. When Rokka wakes up, Hazuki isn’t there, but Atsushi has left a note with the same unique character he gave her when they exchanged numbers on their first date. Atsushi spends the day making bouquets for Rokka. When Rokka sees them, she’s overcome by emotion, seemingly unsure of which man Hazuki is.

This series has an uncanny ability to consistently keep us in the dark about what’s going to happen next, but it manages this unpredictability with such grace and subtlety, we can hardly complain, and in fact, welcome the surprise. We really thought Atsushi would finally give Hazuki’s body back this time, but he wants a little more time. He’s perpetually aware that his is a “vain struggle” and that resisting the truth of his situation is futile, but he just can’t let go yet. Rokka has opened her heart – and body – for Hazuki, not him. Even in Hazuki’s body, there’s nothing he can do. Well, almost nothing.

Like last week, there was a frustration simmering in the background the whole time Atsushi interacted with Rokka, and once again, Hazuki misses out on a milestone of his currently hijacked relationship. Let this be a lesson to everyone out there: never get drunk around the ghost of the husband of the girl you love. We feel really bad for Hazuki this week – though being underwater and being able to breathe and talk is pretty sweet. We also feel bad for Rokka; she’s being royally messed with by Atsushi. This hasbeen an interesting situation,but we’re hoping the mermaid’s right and this won’t last forever. There are just four episodes left: we hope Hazuki gets his body back soon. Even if no one’s sure who the main character is anymore, we’re still rooting for him.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Natsuyuki Rendezvous – 06

Shimao-as-Hazuki agrees to let Rokka wash his back, but she demurs when he asks her to bath with him. Both frustrated, he leaves, but not before drawing something in his sketchbook. Wanting to clear her head, Rokka spends her Sunday helping Miho tend her garden, but the roses there remind her of Atsushi. She retreats to the library, where Shimao-as-Hazuki happens to bump into her, and they go for a walk, during which time Rokka confesses to him that Atsushi was her first and only love, but now she’s fallen love in with him (Hazuki) too.

Atsushi remains in complete control of Hazuki, until the very last moment of the episode (we…think…?), and in this time, he and Rokka make a lot of headway. If there’s one thing he’s learned from both his time as a ghost observing Hazuki and his time as Hazuki himself, it’s that Hazuki ending up with Rokka is all but inevitable; it’s a matter of when, not if. This is confirmed when she finally confesses to Hazuki – Atsushi is the one to finally get her to say the words…and he’s the one to hear them as well. Learning he was the only man she’s ever loved (or been with) puts a look of shock on his face we’ve heretofore not seen.

Which brings us to the big dilemma of this episode (and last weeks, as well), at least from Hazuki’s perspective: he’s been lost in a pastel fairy tale land all this time, and thus hasn’t experienced any of these crucial moments in his relationship with Rokka. Atsushi half-reluctantly, half-regetably brought his wife closer to him, but will he know that when he wakes up? Will he gain the memories Atsushi formed while possessing him, or will he return to his body totally blank on the last two days? Will these recent events be a secret Atsushi will keep from him, leading to a misunderstanding between the real Hazuki and Rokka? We hope not. Or to put it like Hazuki did: we’re basically optimistic by nature, so we won’t let this bother us.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Kokoro Connect – 05

Inaba gathers Taichi and Iori to watch Aoki confess to Yui and ask her out, in an effort to put a jolt into their progress. It seemingly works, as Iori confronts Taichi while pretending to have swapped with Inaba. Taichi chases Iori down, reinforces his belief that she has her own personality, then tells her he loves her and asks her own. A moment later, Iori is taken over by Heartseed, who says they’re too boring, and throws Iori off the bridge.

At the hospital, Iori is in the ICU, and Heartseed returns as Mr. Go. He tells them she will die, but they have thirty minutes to decide whose personality will die with her body. Taichi volunteers himself, but Aoki believes Iori should die in her body. They discuss it with Iori, who agrees with Aoki, then switches from body to body saying goodbyes, telling Taichi she loves him too and they kiss (while she’s in Inaba’s body). She delivers her decision to Heartseed, but instead of dying, she makes a full recovery. Heartseed never meant to kill anyone. The body swapping ceases.

One of the trademarks of a great anime is making you totally forget you’re watching two-dimensional approximations of people voiced over by people in soundproof booths, and truly breathing life and vitality into the characters. After a rough start, Kokoro Connect is proving adept at this, turning in another emotional powerhouse. With a title like “A Confession and Death…” we knew what we’d be getting, but that ellipsis opened the possibility that the episode wouldn’t be that literal, and it wasn’t: we get two confessions and no death. Though at times, we must confess we thought they may actually kill Iori off. Turns out Heartseed is more curiously cruel than pure evil (he even thinks to safeguard her phone by tossing it to Taichi before throwing her off a bridge. How considerate!)

Prior to the game, we liked how one confession spurred on another, with Inaba apparently happy to be the yenta in the middle. We liked the dangerous trick Iori played on Taichi, proving her chameleon skills, but even better was Taichi’s spirited rebuttal of Iori’s misgivings, and his sudden but welcome confession. We’ll admit to getting into the drama; Iori and Taichi’s talk leading up to their “first/last kiss” got us right there (kudos to Miyuki Sawashiro for really channelling Iori), and we pumped our fists when the doctor cracked a grin, despite the fact we knew this was probably all a game/test.


Rating: 9 (Superior)