Zombieland Saga – 11 – The Girl Who Tried, and Died for Her Efforts

In a nearly shot-for-shot recreation of her first night in the mansion, Sakura wakes up and discovers her fellow zombies, only they’re all “awake” now (except for Tae of course). Their roles have reversed; she’s the one with no memories of what’s happened since becoming a zombie.

Instead, she only remembers her life when she was alive. As for that life, well…let’s just say the opening minute of the first episode was not an accurate depiction, except for the getting-hit-by-a-car part.

The other idols are hoping they can get Sakura back on board with the show, but her memories of them isn’t all she’s lost; she’s also lost her will to do, well, anything. Her motivation is shot, as if that truck accident caused it to spill out onto the asphalt instead of blood (as she no longer has any).

She lacks motivation because she remembers her life, which followed a depressingly predictable pattern: she’d always try really hard and give a task or goal her all, only for all that hard work to go to waste due to a last-minute mishap or accident.

The last time she decided to give something a try one last time, it was because she was inspired by Mizuno Ai of Iron Frill, who said she doesn’t hate failures or mistakes, since they help her learn and become even better.

But Sakura was denied the opportunity to even mail her audition paperwork to the idol agency, thanks to that truck. Now she’s dead, and a zombie. Nothing ever works out for her, because, as she says, she doesn’t “have what it takes.” She says this something like ninety times.

And I guess that was part of why I felt kinda meh about this episode. I feel for someone working so hard again and again only to fall victim to impossibly bad luck, but at this point she literally has nothing to lose. I understand the “main” character getting her miniarc last before the finale, but for her dilemma to be couched in such mundane, repetitive angst kinda saps the momentum of the show.

Maybe that’s the point, and maybe Tatsumi’s speech to her about him having what it takes (something, er…”big and impressive”) so she doesn’t have to will snap her out of her malaise and get her back on track. But right now Sakura is the first of the idols I liked better before we learned more about her.

She thinks the universe is out to keep her down, despite the fact she was brought back to life to be what she dreamt to be before she died. If that’s not a sign the cycle has been broken and thus cause for optimism, I don’t know what is!

Zombieland Saga – 10 – Sakura, Hot Under the Collar

When Tatsumi announces Franchouchou’s biggest gig yet will take place at Karatsu’s Furusato Exhibition Hall Arpino (which is, naturally, a real place) in front of five hundred people, Sakura is stoked. Like, more stoked than usual. After seeing her fellow idols deal with their respective pasts and deaths and come out the better for it, the vibes she’s getting from Arpino make her hopeful performing there will reveal something about her own past and death, about which she still knows nothing.

She’s so excited, it affects her practicing, as her pace is way faster than the others. Tatsumi finally announces that the group will spend some time surviving as a team in the mountains to prepare for the show. While there, all Sakura wants to do is practice, but the others are busy doing all the things that are necessary to live in the mountains (if they were alive, of course). Her frustration with their lack of practicing for the Arpino show culminates in her head being ripped off by a giant boar.

Once she pops her head back on, she’s done with the mountain excursion, which Tatsumi brings to a close soonafter.

That makes things awkward when they return to the mansion to practice, and she’s still out of sync, which she lashes out and blames the others for not practicing in the mountains before storming off. Everyone is stunned; usually Sakura is the cheerful peacemaker of the group.

Yuugiri (who along with Tae are the only other two members whose deaths we haven’t explored) meets with Tatsumi at a restaurant to ask what his next move is, now that the mountain thing didn’t work out so swell. When he expresses his worry about Sakura and the others being able to surmount the increasingly high peaks, Yuugiri gives him an epic slap that we’re treated to from several angles and speeds, punishing him for lacking faith.

Before returning to the group to apologize profusely, Sakura catches a look at them in action, both practicing and going over the details of the moves and who goes where, and she’s mesmerized. Without practicing as much as she did, everyone’s in perfect sync. So she admits to herself that she’s the problem, having only thought of herself since learning of the Arpino gig. Of course, the others welcome her back with open arms.

Three days later, with just seven to go until the show, Sakura is in much better spirits. In fact, she’s so chipper she acts out the first scene we saw her in when she was still alive, ending the exact same way: getting struck by a passing Hijet. Of course, since she’s dead already the truck doesn’t kill her, but it does wipe her memory…again. Some of her memories from her life flash by, and then she passes out.

The rest of Franchouchou now has just seven days to bring Sakura back up to speed and get her ready to perform with them in their biggest show yet…provided the Sakura who wakes up agrees to participate! It looks like another tough mountain to climb.

Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 12

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This week is another quiet, pensive exploration of “New Nagato Yuki”, as time passes and more aspects of “Old Nagato Yuki”‘s personality gradually begin to surface. With four more episodes left after this one, the show may as well take its time.

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As a result, we’re treated to a rare instance of observing a character more or less observe themselves, along with Kyon, constantly on edge about the possibility of fading into oblivion once Old Yuki fully returns.

It’s a slow, slow burn, and very…neostalgicNew Yuki is seemingly experiencing this library for the first time, but it is in fact the same library where Old Yuki met, and possibly fell for, Kyon.

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I continue to be fascinated with the two different sets of glasses Nagato Yuki owns. The New Yuki wears one set; the Old Yuki wore the other. And as if she were getting superstitious, or even validly worried about further stimuli progressing her disappearance, New Yuki chooses not to put the old glasses on.

When Kyon tries on a pair of sunglasses, Yuki is almost taken aback by how easily he can do so without having to worry about his personality drastically changing.

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But even though she eschews the old specs, there are other stimuli New Yuki cannot avoid, because she doesn’t know about them until it’s too late, such as when Kyon gets her a book she’s too short to reach. She’s blushing, getting nervous for “no reason”, and her heart is beating faster.

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Hell, she’s even smiling. New Yuki wants to think she’s in control; wants to think she has a decent chance at surviving, that this “change” is permanent…but there’s too much evidence to the contrary, and it’s all because of her continued proximity to Kyon.

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New Yuki is remembering Old Yuki through dreams that are really memories, but they feel like someone else’s, an interloper’s, if you will. I find it fascinating that the show isn’t automatically taking Old Yuki’s side here; New Yuki has every right to exist, even if it’s not for much longer, due to the fact she only exists at all due to some strange brain glitch as a result of an accident that will pass with time.

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But things may not be so black and white. There are at least three Yukis to consider: the one before she met Kyon, t one who is in love with Kyon, and her current self, who stands between them, with bits of both mixing with her.

It would seem as though her brain injury fractured these parts, and that their “natural state” is combined into one; the one that, thanks to the linear passage of time, loves Kyon.

Yet that doesnt’ make it any easier for New Yuki, who considers herself a separate entity within the same body—a body she doesn’t necessarily want to surrender.

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Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 11

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“I couldn’t tell who I was.” so begins a stirring re-telling of the events of last week’s episode, only from Nagato Yuki’s perspective, or rather “Nagato-Yuki”, someone who carries Yuki’s memories but don’t feel like her own. As a result, in this portion of the episode everyone’s voice is muffled slightly, as if there’s too much wax in our ears.

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Those muffled voices combine with the darker and grainier imagery to really effectively express the discombobulation of Yuki’s condition. And yet, even though there were sinister undertones to Asakura’s “Who are you?” query that ended last week’s episode, it’s a testament to the writing that Yuki is bestowed with even more humanity, as Asakura decides she’ll make an effort not to “deny” the “current” Nagato Yuki.

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That doesn’t meant Asakura isn’t concerned about Yuki’s health: a personality change could be a precursor to a more life-threatening condition. So she convinces Yuki to go to the hospital, where the doctor believes Yuki is suffering from a type of memory impairment called “dysmnesia” brought on by the shock of the accident. The doc believe it to be temporary, but recommends a hospital stay. Asakura talks her down by promising to take care of Yuki, who has thus far still been able to function.

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When Asakura finally lets Kyon in on this, he’s not surprised, and even more readily believes what’s happened when Yuki confesses she left her video game at home, something the “old” Yuki would never do. But like Asakura, while worried, he’s still respectful of the “current” Yuki’s right to exist and doesn’t want her to feel alone. To that end, they resolve to treat her just like they always have. Continuity and normalcy will hopefullly hasten recovery.

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Sure enough, even though when she first encountered Kyon after he accident she said her current self couldn’t feel the feelings she knows the former Yuki had for him, she’s not incapable of emotion altogether. She even expresses some very Yuki-esque embarrassment at not wanting to ask for so much food, even though her stomach growls more than once as a result, betraying her true state of hunger.

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This development, which has been foreshadowed all along in the show’s title, has certainly provided a spark to the show. And while I decry overly assertive music that “tells me how to feel”, I’ll make a notable exception here: Kato Tatsuya’s surging score throughout this arc has been phenomenal. This arc is also reminding me of one of my all-time favorite animes, Serial Experiments: Lain; never a bad thing.

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Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 10

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The last three episodes of lazy onsen antics would seem to have been a concerted effort to lull us into a sense of complacency and security before Yuki got hit by a car and…simply changed. Honestly, she undergoes the most radical character change I’ve seen since Golden Time. It’s sobering; it’s unsettling; it’s downright intense. And it’s also kind of amazing.

That’s because the previously most dramatic moment of this series was when Yuki walked in on Haruhi giving Kyon chocolate. That seems so petty and insignificant now. Also, while I had worried Haruhi would take over the show, here she doesn’t appear at all, not for one second. Nor, ironically, does the sun. It’s all dark clouds and rain, matching the gloom and uncertainty of the situation.

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Also, it takes a little while, but I realized how Yuki was talking and acting: like she did in the Haruhi series: distant, unemotional, nigh impossible to read. In other words, completely different from the Yuki of the first nine episodes. That it feels so very wrong for her to talk and act like this is a testament to how well the show has sold to me the idea of “New Yuki”.

And neither Asakura and Kyon seem to know what to do with her now that she’s seemingly regressed to who we know of as the “Old Yuki” of the other shows, who acts this way because she’s not human, but rather an alien interface. It’s impossible for a veteran of the franchise to not make the connection, which I’m sure is the producers’ intent.

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For the record, I don’t believe there’s any alien influence or other supernatural powers at work here. To that end, the explanation that makes the most sense is that Nagato Yuki suffered some kind of personality-altering brain trauma as a result of the accident (The somewhat spoilery preview shows brain scans that would seem to back this up).

But man, this episode was packed with uncomfortable scenes in which a normally flustered, flattered, or bashful Yuki simply…didn’t have any reactions at all. It’s smart of the show to jettison the others for an episode and keep her with the two people who know her the best, which underlines just how much she’s changed since that encounter with the car.

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I will say I thought the soundtrack was a little over-assertive throughout most of this, except for the very end, when we started hearing stuff we’ve never heard on the show before, stuff that doesn’t jibe with Yuki’s romantic narrative, but something else entirely. Asakura’s look of resignation, followed by her final question to Yuki before the credits roll; essentially, “Who the heck are you?” heightens the tension that accompanies the already ample discomfort and gloom.

I have no idea where the final six episodes will take us, but I can say for sure that my hopes for a “feel-good”, low-effort romance are as broken as Yuki’s primary glasses. But I will also say that the show has my full attention. It’s taken a huge bold step I honestly never saw coming, but probably should have, because of that dang “disappearance” in the title.

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Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 09

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Even though it starts with an innocuous late night game of cards, it feels like a lot more happens in this episode than last week’s, thanks both to Ryouko’s vivid imagination and Tsuruya’s stargazing suggestion. It’s also a better episode...IF we forgive its deeply disconcerting final moments.

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At first Yuki loses, and as a penalty she has to get food and drinks for eveyrone. Naturally, Kyon comes along, for chivalrous purposes (it’s dark out and Yuki’s a klutz). Indeed. she trips and ends up in Kyon’s arms, and from Ryouko (and everyone else’s) POV they seem to even lean in to kiss.

But then, quite unexpectedly, it all turns out to have been a fantasy Ryouko made up in her head. In fact, the lovebirds never went out; she’s the one who ends up with the Old Maid.

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Thankfully, Yuki and Kyon do go out together when Ryouko and Haruhi conk out and Tsuruya suggests they go to a perfect spot for stargazing, which is quite a hike away. Kyon offers to hold Yuki’s hand, but she can’t quite do it, settling for his sleeve. They end up in a whimsical park full of huge dinosaur models.

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Turns out they’re being tailed by Ryouko and Haruhi here as well, and it’s here where Ryouko confesses to Haruhi she’s not worried about Yuki and Kyon alone together, she’s jealous, and lonely. But the ever-chipper Haruhi assures Ryouko her relationship with Yuki won’t change for fall by the wayside, whatever happens between Yuki and Kyon. They’re words Ryouko needed to hear and wants to believe.

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Everyone ends up reuniting at the stargazing spot, which is as awesome as advertised. When Yuki ends up off on her own, reaching out to starts that look close enough for her to touch, but can’t be, it’s Kyon who touches her hand, and takes it into his.

As their love theme—Debussy’s Clair de Lune—plays, Kyon leads Yuki back to the others, hand-in-hand. Yuki, who had been momentarily preoccupied by her insignificance in the vast universe above, is brought back down to earth, a place where she’s valued and loved not just by Kyon, but Ryouko as well.

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They get to sit next to each other on the train ride home, and just like that, the long, sprawling, eventful “training camp” is over, and Yuki is a little closer to reaching her goal. Cut to the rains that precede Summer, a time when Ryouko remarks Yuki will have to come up with excuses to see Kyon, and after they part ways, Yuki walks out into the street with the Walk sign, and it sure looks like she gets hit by a fucking car.

This…was upsetting. Not because I think it will be the death of Yuki—she appears alive and well in the preview—but because it’s so damned random. So far all of her nice romantic moments with Kyon have just kind of worked out, and now it’s as if the show wants Yuki to pay the piper or something for all of the good luck she’s had. It’s cruel.

Then again, the universe only needs one fraction of a second to everything away from you, and Yuki isn’t immune to that possibility. Also, disappearance is part of the title; I just sorely hope it isn’t her memory and love of Kyon that disappears. That would suck, frankly. I just want Yuki to be happy in her spin-off. Is that so much to ask?

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One Week Friends – 06

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On the one hand, I wouldn’t have minded a study group episode with just Kaori and Yuuki being awkward, but because she invited Saki and Shogo too, it was much more productive. It also showed that everyone makes friends and treats friendships differently. Shogo may seem cold and scary at first, but the fact he’s hanging out is proof that they’re already friends, without any forced small talk being needed.

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The sight of Kaori with a group of friends also delights her mother, and formally meeting Hase, the friend Kaori is always talking about, compels her to arrange a later meeting with him alone. Yuuki is nervous at first, but Shogo lays out the possibilities: she either wants to talk about Kaori’s memory, or tell him to stay away.

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We never thought the latter was going to be a possibility, but Kaori’s mom does express surprise Hase is still her friend after so long. If Shogo puts little work into making and having friends, Kaori’s “situation” demands that her potential friends work extremely hard for her friendship. We learn from her mom that while the car accident gave her a concussion, there was no brain damage that would have caused such specific memory loss.

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Yuuki may be bad at math (like me!) but he’s no fool: he knew this was a possibility. But the fact that he now knows her issue with remembering friends is at least partially psychological doesn’t change anything. If what he’s gone through is what it takes to be her friend; if he has to re-introduce himself to her again and again and again, so be it.

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By agreeing to those terms without complaint or wavering, he stands to gain more and more of Kaori’s trust. And as she starts to remember how happy having friends was and is, who knows; her “friendnesia” may start to recede, or disappear entirely. Until then, Yuuki will continue to be her friend on whatever terms she deems necessary. He’s a loyal dude.

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Kabukimonogatari – 02

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When Koyomi realizes they were sent into the past the day before Mother’s Day eleven years ago, he decides to take the opportunity to save Mayoi’s life. Shinobu is dubious, but goes along with the plan. While they’re there, they also spot a younger Koyomi and a younger Hanekawa. Once they locate her father’s house they stake it out in the morning, but she’d already left earlier. They find her, Koyomi startles her, and while chasing her she is almost hit by a passing truck in the crosswalk, but Koyomi pushes her to safety just in time, and then escorts her to her mother’s. Shinobu opens a portal back to the present, but when they return, they learn that the world has been destroyed.

While discussing their unique temporal situation and their singular opportunity at hand with Shinobu, Koyomi concedes that he may not be able to prevent the oddities of all the girls from coming into being; not even Senjougahara’s weight crab. Those oddities were formed from very specific circumstances and sequences of events involving more than just those girls. But Mayoi, he opines, is different. She simply died in a random accident on the way to seeing her divorced mother. And he feels that their ending up eleven years in the past wasn’t random: even if it’s only a stopgap measure, he’s determined to save her and help her find her way.

So after crossing paths with the tiny, flat-chested, but otherwise identical-to-present Hanekawa Tsubasa and almost letting Mayoi slip through his fingers, Koyomi does indeed save her and deliver her to her mom’s, and all’s well that ends well…until they return. In the end, we don’t see the present; Koyomi only describes it in the bleakest terms before the episode cuts to black. But it’s clear that saving Mayoi meant dooming the present he and Shinobu knew. Even if he thought it was a random accident, the only reason the present he knew existed was because Mayoi died in the past. What he saw as righting a wrong only made an infinitely bigger wrong.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru – 09

Yuigahama Yui, Hikigaya Hachiman

Komachi gets her brother to accompany Yui to the Summer fireworks. The evening has all the trappings of a date and when they bump into Haruno, she gets suspicious. While offering them a ride home, she lets slip that Yukino was in the car when it hit Hachiman when he was saving Yui’s dog, something she never told either of them. While Hachiman is walking Yui home, she tells him how they would have met even if it wasn’t for the dog incident, and is on the verge of confessing to him when her mom calls, ruining the moment. The next day, back at school, Hachiman is cordial with Yukino, but believes he’ll come to hate himself for feeling betrayed by her.

The title of this series is long, but it is accurate: Hikigaya Hachiman has something of a teenage rom-com SNAFU on his hands. Think about it: one car accident brought him, Yui, and Yukino together before they even met at school. And however much he wants to stay out of the romantic games young people play, he can’t deny that Yui likes him, he at least kinda likes Yui, and he also likes Yukino, at least until he found out she was in the car that hit him while saving Yui’s dog, yet said nothing to him about it. That’s where the “AFU” really comes into play: up until this revelation, he had never known her to lie or withhold anything about him.

The ramifications of that will likely be explored next week, but the majority of this episode is all about Hachiman and Yui, who make a cute couple. Hachiman is fully capable of being a nice, considerate, attentive man. Moreso, while Hachiman still believes the only reason Yui talks to him is because he saved her dog Sable (and later dogsits), Yui tells him even if that coincidence didn’t occur, now that she knows him, she likes to think they’d have crossed paths anyway. It’s kind of lame she just isn’t quite able to come right out and say she likes him. Those unsaid words hanging out there will only add to Hachiman’s SNAFU.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Failed confession aside, the fireworks date was a success, with many cute moments. It not only confirmed to Yui how nice Hikky can be, and also allowed Hikky some valuable time interacting with women in a non-school or club setting.
  • Hachiman may also be perturbed by the fact the Yukino her older sister Haruno knows is so different from the Yukino he interacts with. When he calls her scary, she laughs out loud. That being said, we also find her scarier than Yukino. Kind of a haughty bitch, too!
  • There was less Yukino in this episode than any previous episode.
  • It’s easy to vilify Yukino for never saying anything, but Yui has a point: sometimes the time you want to say something passes you by and you just can’t find another time to do it, and it never happens. Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen with her confession. Make your feelings plain, Yui-Yui. He needs to hear the words!

Amnesia – 04

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As Shin walks the heroine home, he tells her he doesn’t want to go back to being just childhood friends. When she and her coworkers have a fireworks party, she invites him. He declines at first, then comes, and proceeds to tell her about the accident. He was too forceful, which led to her running off and falling off a cliff. In the past, she didn’t give up on him, so he vows not to give up on her. After almost getting hit by a car, she wakes up. It’s August 1st again, and Ikki is back, and calling her out for a date. When she heads outside, she sees him with the girls who confronted her in the future.

This week some of the pieces finally started to fall into place for the heroine. She now knows about the bond between her and Shin that led to his confessing to her, as well as what transpired before she fell off the cliff. Shin is a forceful, aggressive guy who doesn’t usually mince words, and at first glance he seems a curious choice for the heroine to date, but after this episode we could definitely see her saying yes to him. She never gave up on Shin after the unpleasantness that followed his dad being branded a murderer, and never let him give up on himself. He wants to return the favor by not giving up on her.

For a long stretch of the episode, even though Shin is giving her a lot of backstory, there’s the sense that the heroine is no longer just trying to regain lost memories, but being content for the time being to form happy new ones, like the little fireworks soirée. These are people she got along with and even loved; in time, memory loss or not, she’ll reform the bonds she lost. But only if she can stay in the same place! Her shift back to August 1st, and the reappearance of Ikki the also-super-aggressive ladies’ man (dick didn’t even give her the chance to say ‘No’), threatens all the progress made with Shin. Her trials continue.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Sakamichi no Apollon – 11

Sensing something is up, Kaoru returns to Sentaro’s house to stop him from running away. After waking up both Sentaro and Ritsuko’s families, he doesn’t really have a choice. The next day Sentaro’s father arrives, and gives Sentaro a fountain pen as a gift. Sentaro and Kaoru begin practicing for the festival, recruiting both Ritsuko’s father to play the bass and Ritsuko herself to sing. The night before their performance, Sentaro heads out on his motorbike with Sachiko aboard, and they’re hit by a truck. Both survive, but Sachiko is touch-and-go for a time. Blaming himself, Sentaro disappears.

We thought we had been too hasty when we declared Sentaro gone for good in the last episode, and this one builds up a lot of hope and happiness and gives the trio of Kaoru, Ritsuko and Sentaro a few more days together before events take a turn for the worst once more. In the midst of one of Kaoru’s “favorite things” – being among his good friends – we thought there might be a return to the dizzying highs of Sentaro and Kaoru’s triumphnt jam session before the school, only with a bass and Ritsuko, whose English singing was so cute and endearing. But their concert never happened.

The incident that precludes it demonstrates why playing the blame game is most often unproductive and unfulfilling. Sentaro blames himself for letting Sachiko ride with him. Sachiko blames herself for insisting she ride (she’s old enough to know when she’s being willful). But if we look back at why Sentaro was on that motorbike, Kaoru could potentially blame himself for leaving his sheet music at the shop. The point is, something unfortunate happened, but it’s the last straw for Sentaro, who is convinced he’ll only bring further hurt to those close to him if he sticks around. It’s a deeply-engrained self-loathing that finally comes to the fore.


Rating: 8 (Great)

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Ringo’s measures grow more and more drastic as she attempts to fulfill her destiny as written in Momoka’s diary, attempting to rape Tabuki in his sleep twice. The second time, she has drugged him with cake and is stopped by Shoma, just as Yuri arrives. They escape, and Shoma learns Ringo’s true motivations. The diary takes a fall, and is snatched up by a passing motorcycle – likely the woman with the black penguin. Shoma is hit by a car after saving Ringo’s life.

Ringo just happens to see her father at the zoo gift shop his other family – definitely a potential blow to one’s mental balance – and she didn’t have much to begin with. She tells Shoma (and us) that she has to carry Tabuki’s baby at all costs – not for her, but as duty for her family. That’s why she’s going so far to bed him. All this attempted rape and duty to get pregnant juxtaposed with such silly romantic (and western) daydreams present quite the stark contrast.

The line between Ringo and Momoka is definitely beginning to blur, and her obsession has progressed from creepy to downright life-threatening (and totally morally wrong). She is responsible for Shoma getting hit by a car. I doubt this will snap her out of her percieved duty and it surely won’t convince her to enter a more normal, reciprocal relationship with Shoma (if he lives), but in any case, she’s lost half her diary – meaning she doesn’t know what her next step will be.


Rating: 4