Kuzu no Honkai – 09

When this week’s Scum’s Wish starts, Hanabi is alone, and wants to die. When it ends, she still feels alone, but realizes she isn’t, and doesn’t want to die. But first thing’s first: Both Narumi and Mugi reject her on the same day (poor girl!) a trip to a forest getaway with Ecchan is a welcome distraction. Any time her mind is busy is better than not.

Ecchan is looking forward to having Hanabi all to herself, but they find her cousin Atsuya is at the cabin. Atsuya feels like an interloper the whole time, but he’s not just there to mark his territory. In his opinion, Hanabi is a dead end for Ecchan: she’ll never get her to feel how she feels about her. And he doesn’t want Hanabi continuing to string her along.

But this trip was never about “making Hanabi hers”, but about saying goodbye for good. Atsuya in the next room or no, Ecchan still gets one last night of bliss with Hanabi. But after that, she vows to be alone. Hanabi wakes up early, and on a walk with Atsuya he tells her Ecchan can’t be used as a replacement.

After they spend one last day out on the town, as the couple Ecchan had at some point hoped they could be, Ecchan expresses her pride in Hanabi for “going for it” with Kanai-sensei, even though she knew how much the rejection would hurt. She did, in effect, what Ecchan had already done, only Hanabi has been “too nice” to reject her, so she has to break it off herself.

With a heartfelt, genuine display of affection and an intense desire to keep knowing Ecchan and learning more about her, Hanabi manages to secure consideration that Ecchan may come back to her, but it may take a long time. Forgetting how to love someone after loving them for so long, takes time, if it happens at all.

Now down Narumi, Mugi, and Ecchan, Hanabi returns to school in a haze of loneliness and despair. She wouldn’t be out of place in Zetsubou-sensei‘s class. Neko spots her looking forlorn and at first appears eager to gloat about how now, finally, Hanabi is getting her comeuppance; a taste of the bitter medicine Neko’s been tasting for years.

But doesn’t gloat; not really. She also has an earnest nugget of recently-earned wisdom to deliver: being rejected is a kind of liberation. Once one starts doing things for themselves—even something as small as buying and wolfing down a danish—you can start to feel better. And having heard these words from Neko, Hanabi realizes she isn’t alone. Her pain isn’t unique, and it’s not implacable.

The episode closes with Akane at Mugi’s for a “teacher home meeting”, only with the parents not home, it’s actually a booty call. And despite Mugi’s clear discomfort with the premise, she is very insistent that he acknowledge that it is an official teacher meeting, and that he call her “teacher.” Yikes.

On the one hand, Mugi is getting something he’s wanted for years. But there’s no indication he’s succeeding in “changing” her as he vowed to do last week. Instead, he seems to be falling deeper under her control, with no discernible way out as of yet. Hanabi thinks Mugi’s being “tricked.” Akane (at least the one in her head) agrees, but adds that he wants to be tricked; that all men do.

Maybe Mugi will go on like this, content with what he has. Or maybe, in time, he’ll come to see the real Akane as nothing but a replacement for the Akane of his dreams…and that he can’t go on like this.

Kuzu no Honkai – 08

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Nice hat!

This episode was so strong throughout, and its ending had so much impact, I nearly forgot that it started with Ecchan and her cousin Atsuya, automatically the weakest of all the pairings simply because we’ve never met Atsuya before.

Aside from being tall, long-haired, and a bit shy, we don’t learn much, except that he’s certain he still has a chance with Ecchan (despite most evidence to the contrary). Ecchan, interestingly, doesn’t seem so certain he doesn’t either.

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Now, on to the Big Event(s): the Dual Confession of Hanabi and Mugi to their respective crushes. I like how they make sure they do all their Summer homework first. Not only are they being proactive, responsible honor students, but they’re operating under the assumption that they’ll be in no state to study later.

Naturally, they don’t study the whole time, but fool around a bit, and that’s when Mugi tells her he’s had trouble imagining her as Akane. Which is interesting because she hasn’t been thinking of him as Narumi either.

From what I gather from their pre-confession interactions is that Hanabi and Mugi are gradually falling for one another, and starting to become aware of it.

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Of course, they still believe (and are probably correct) that their lingering hope of being with their crushes is an impediment that must be extinguished. Whether they move on as a couple together, to them, moving forward means confronting those crushes and getting rejected.

They’re both scared, but in another sign of how her feelings for Mugi have evolved, when he hugs her, his intent doesn’t matter: the hug calms her and stops her hands from shaking. No one but Narumi ever excited Hanabi, and yet here’s Mugi, doing just that.

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Hanabi and Mugi agree to meet back up at 10pm the evening of the Sunday they’ll confess, but I didn’t believe for a second that they would actually meet up at 10pm. Mugi meets with Akane during the day, and she immediately takes command.

When Mugi manages to quickly get out an “I love you”, Akane doesn’t react, because she knew. Mugi, we know, knew she knew. But she didn’t know that he knew she knew, so the knowing stopped at two levels.

And if Akane ever had anything resembling a match, it would be the person who has watched her and knows the person behind the mask. Mugi only liked her because he couldn’t have her.

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Just as Hanabi is meeting up with Narumi, Mugi finds himself in a hotel room, in bed with Akane, removing her clothes. As the RPG shot above shows, he knows he’s outmatched against such a tough boss, but doesn’t care. Akane may be a “horrible, promiscuous, broken narcissist”, but he wants to believe she can change, and that he can be the one to change her.

Can Mugi be her “first”, as in the first person she actually cared about? Mugi assumes she’s incapable of caring about him, but we don’t get in Akane’s head, so he may be wrong about that. We certainly see expressions from Akane we never have before, and they appear genuine, as if the sheer audacity of Mugi’s gambit threw her off balance.

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Of the two confessions, I always assumed Mugi’s would get messier, because of the object of his desire would make it messy with her masks and manipulations. What I didn’t expect is that Mugi was well aware of what he was getting into, but that he still had hope Akane could be redeemed in some way (and if the one who knows her and how she’s lived her life the most believes that, there could well be hope).

Because Narumi is so guileless and kind—basically the opposite of the Akane—it was a good bet that, pending a sudden unrealistic shift in his character, he’d make his rejection of Hanabi as clean and gentle as possible.

That doesn’t make it any easier or less painful for Hanabi, but once it’s all over—and it’s over pretty fast—she feels like a weight has been lifted, because this impediment to her future happiness had been extinguished. Call it a ripping off of a band-aid.

But part of why she’s relatively fine with how things go down with Narumi is because of how she’s started to feel towards Mugi. She believes she’s not alone because both he and she have unrequited loves, but Akane’s love didn’t out-and-out reject him.

Instead, he rejected the awful person she is and vowed to make her a better one. And now he’s in bed with her, and Hanabi is alone.

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Noragami Aragoto – 13 (Fin)

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Noragami Aragoto doesn’t pick up right when Ebisu is about to be blasted by a pacification ring; instead, it skips to Yato escorting a young man to the Olive Tavern. It doesn’t take long to realize the boy is the reincarnated Ebisu, which means the adult Ebisu he knew and befriended in the underworld was executed.

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Yato is clearly sick about this whole situation, and Yukine and Hiyori stay on the periphery pondering what they should do as he himself wonders how he can change; how he can cease being a heartless war god now that he has a heart, and follow Ebisu’s example of working to protect and save people, and becoming a god people want to remember and have faith in for things other than contract killing.

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By the end, Yato, perhaps without knowing it, changed Ebisu. Once, he had no qualms about dying over and over, because his shrine maidens would always tell him he’d reincarnate every time without fail, and so should never fear death. In fact, due to his lives’ work, Ebisu kinda had to die a bunch of times in order to make progress researching phantoms and acquiring the locution brush. Needing to break eggs to make an omelette, so to speak.

But by the time that last ring blasted him, Ebisu didn’t want to die and be reborn again. He wanted to live and stay in the world as he was. It was, in fact, his dying wish, and the reason Yato is so beside himself; Ebisu, who told him he’d make a great god who could make people happy, managed to change himself at the end from what he always was.

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Now that Ebisu is back, but with close to no specific memories of his past self, it falls to his overseer to raise him back up into a useful member of god-society. And if that overseer has his way, this Ebisu will never see or touch the locution brush again. Yet when Bishamon and the other gods who assisted him hear of his noble ventures for the first time, they don’t necessarily agree that Ebisu should be stopped; in fact, it wouldn’t be what the past Ebisu or Ebisus wanted: for his reincarnations to carry on his work until he makes a breakthrough.

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Back freeloading at Kofuku and Daikoku’s, a restless Yato takes Yukino to a secluded lake, where he asks his exemplar, heart firmly on sleeve, to help him change: from a god of war and calamity to a god of fortune and happiness; the god Ebisu saw in him.

Hiiro appears on queue to dissuade Yato, dismiss Yukine, and drag her brother back to their father to be “praised”; thus continuing the same cycle of death and soft smiles that’s been going on for centuries. She also points out that the plan to use Ebisu as a scapegoat to allay suspicion from their father, who also works with phantoms, worked like a charm.

But no more. With Yukine beside him for strength, Yato overcomes all the warm memories of him and his sister, and does what is necessary to truly change: release her as his regalia for good. When he does so, Hiiro’s smile changes to one of shock, disbelief, and even despair. But that’s not surprising: Hiiro has never changed, and may never change. It does, however, make me wonder if she could change, once enough centuries have passed.

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Now officially free of Hiiro, Yato turns to Yukine to be his guide on his new path to becoming a less calamitous god, something he has no idea how to do since he’s “only good at killing.” But he’s wrong, and Yukine tells him there’s very little he needs to do that he hasn’t been doing already.

Really, getting rid of the temptation of Hiiro and his dark past was the most important step. He already makes people happy, like Yukine and Hiyori, who has faith that together Yato and Yukine can slay disaster before it strikes. And no, she doesn’t ask to have her tail fixed, nor does Yato offer it. She seems content with being the way she is for now.

The happy ending is only marred by the revelation that Fujisaki, the handsome young man who got along so well with Hiyori, is, in fact, Yato’s father. He joins his classmate, who cannot see the large retinue of phantoms by his side, along with Hiiro. Maybe she’s not going to change anytime soon after all.

As for his dad, it doesn’t look like he’s given up on bringing Yato back into the fold. No doubt many of the disasters thrown Yato’s way will be of his father and sisters’ making. He must be ever-vigilant. But as Kofuku says, with Yukine and Hiyori by his side, he’ll be fine.

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Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 13

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As she sleeps and dreams in Bossun’s Concentration Mode, New Yuki seems to resign herself to the fact that as much as she doesn’t want her time in this world to be limited, it is, and there’s nothing she can do about it. As she sleeps, “Old Yuki”‘s memories come into greater focus and reorganize. Her dysmnesia resolving. Time, and neurology itself is against her.

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New Yuki may have the personality and mannerisms of a new person, but she was never meant to be one; not permanently. Her body belongs to another, one who was injured in the accident, and as her brain heals, the temporary nature of her existence, along with the dread of her impending “disappearance” suffuse every moment she spends “on the outside.”

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But what continues to amaze me is that despite New Yuki treating these final days as a kind of requiem for who she is, and an opportunity to disappear with no regrets, the show doesn’t rule out the possibility the very title of this show is a misnomer. Is New Yuki really disappearing, or is she merely changing…or to be more precise, being changed by external stimuli, i.e. her friends?

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New Yuki is, after all, pretty much identical to Old Yuki; their difference lies primarily on the ownership of memories: If New Yuki believed those memories were her own and not Old Yuki’s, she’d probably act a lot if not exactly like Old Yuki. Furthermore, while Kyouko picks up on the fact Yuki is treating these like her last days, she is the one who posits the theory that it’s Yuki’s exposure to her and Kyon that’s causing this change in her, and therefore not a bad thing.

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But this discussion about whether there’s erasure or change going on is moot: erasure IS change. Also, New Yuki isn’t going back to Old Yuki; not really. I’m not sure the coinidence is intentional, but this episode has a “III” in it; the Yuki that results from her memories and personality being restored will be a third, new Yuki. New Yuki or “Yuki II” may only end up as synaptic scars, but that’s still a difference.

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The final scene is exhilarating, because we know Yuki will be “back to normal” soon, but heartbreaking, because it’s in her state as New Yuki, on the precipice of oblivion, that she has the courage to say what Old Yuki never could: that she loves Kyon. These are words Kyon really had to hear directly from Yuki, and when he does, it’s over the phone, and he knows he has to hurry to her side to properly respond.

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It doesn’t work out. By the time he finds Yuki, she’s dozed off, and just as she told him, she’s slightly confused by her surroundings when she wakes up. She also would seem to have no recollection of having just confessed to Kyon over the phone, though we’ll have to wait until next week to confirm this.

But who’s to say Yuki’s decision to confess right then and there, triggered by the knowledge Kyon knows her so well and cares for her so much, triggered her own disappearance, and the restoration of her old personality? If that’s the case, then it’s as if the Yuki created by accident accomplished a very important feat for her more easily-flustered counterpart.

Will Kyon believe the Yuki that confessed her love for him is gone, or will he understand that the back-to-normal Yuki feels the same way; that the accident was the finally learning her feelings? Here’s hoping.

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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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Hanasaku Iroha 18

Nako’s the quiet, shy, nervous one, right? Well, yes and no. Turns out Nako would have preferred to be born a fish, because she prefers swimming in a sea to the ordinary human world. But she considers her home a sea, and a haven, in which to be herself. She has a big, loving family that can be a hassle sometimes.

But this “Real Nako” is loud, cheerful, and assertive. Somebody we’ve only seen in the shortest of bursts – when she rescues the author from drowning, for instance. She is also grown quite comfortable with Ohana and Minko, to the point they’re almost like sisters…almost. She’s still nowhere near as loose and free around them as she is at home.

When she recieves a considerable raise from the madam manager, she assumes it comes with the expectation she’ll improve. This comes from her father’s philosophy towards child-rearing: praise your child, and she’ll strive to improve herself to be worthy of that praise (contrast this with her mother’s more tough-love stance). Nako is aware of the disconnect between her “real” self and how she acts at the inn, at school, and anywhere else in public.

After trying in vain to “change” herself by spending lots of money on a new outfit and coming to work trying to act like she does at home, she makes a mistake that lands her in trouble. It is then that the manager tells her her raise wasn’t a challenge, but a reward, after guests wrote her a glowing report. Despite not having to change, I do hope to see a little more of that real Nako; she was way more fun to watch.


Rating: 3.5