Zombieland Saga – 08 – An Unexpected Father-Daughter Reunion

It’s a Lily episode! By which I mean, it’s a Gou Masao episode, since we learn that’s her birth name. And it’s just as much a Gou Takeo episode, Takeo being Lily’s father. That makes this the first episode of ZLS that is at least partially told from the POV of a person who survived one of the members of Franchouchou.

At first the show plays around with the idea this immense mountain of a man could simply be a creep, but I never bought into that angle. Instead I see his fatherly determination to confirm whether “Number 6” is really his Masao. That enthusiasm earns him a rolling sobat from Saki, protecting her girls. But Lily later reveals to Sakura that the giant was indeed her father.

Lily explains the vast size differential by saying she took after her mother, who died when she was very young. Her father raised her on his own, and when she noticed how much he loved TV, she signed up for auditions, got cast in one thing after another, and never looked back.

However, Masao AKA Lily put so much stock in her tininess and cuteness that the day she found a hair on her leg she refused to go out and perform, and when she found a whisker on her face, she basically died of mental shock.

From Takeo’s POV, he was a bad father, pushing Masao too far. When he saw her smile appear posthumously on TV, he picked up the set and threw it at the wall, and ceased to watch any TV ever again.

Lily and her dad’s next meeting is a lot more cordial as both apologize, but Lily doesn’t betray who she really is, and her dad doesn’t pry, convinced No.6 just looks like his daughter—besides, from where he’s standing, there’s no way she could just come back to life. His daughter is gone; he doesn’t want to cause some girl undue stress or harm just for resembling her.

While Saki is the leader of Franchouchou, she’s always erred on the side of mocking Lily, both for her tiny stature and later for her butch real name and ridiculously vain way of dying. But Sakura has shown she’s much better with Lily, and in Sakura Lily finds the shoulder she needs to cry in after putting on a brave face for her dad.

Sakura and the other girls put their heads together and get clearance from Tatsumi to hold a free public show and invite Lily’s dad, who almost doesn’t attend, but changes his mind at the last second. He’s then treated to a concert in which the other idols provide backup vocals and moves and Lily is in the spotlight.

She sings a song with lyrics that, while perhaps a bit too on-the-nose and even kinda sappy, nevertheless successfully delivers her feelings to her father, even if he still doesn’t realize she’s really his daughter. The next time he’s at work, he doesn’t go out for lunch while his co-workers watch TV, which of course features that chicken commercial in which Lily appears.

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Bunny Girl Senpai – 02 – Can You See Me? Can You Hear Me?

Sakuta buys Mai some food, and she rewards him by taking his arm in hers. However, they’re still technically “having a fight,” so it’s not all Cloud Nineness. He asserts she’s not being honest with herself about wanting to get back to showbiz, and reveals he knows why, and she slaps him.

But he’s right: it’s not showbiz she hates; it’s her manager/mom, who forced her still middle-aged daughter to pose in a swimsuit against her will. She’s used that to try to justify her hiatus, but in her heart she wants to keep working…it could even be why she’s now invisible to everyone.

Mai intends to spend one of her last precious Sundays out of showbiz with Sakuta in Kamakura, something she insists isn’t a date but puhleeeeze. Sakuta will surely be on time, but he encounters a lost child, then a busybody who mistook him for a pedo, and then the two have to go to the police station to explain why he was kicking her in the ass (because she kicked him first).

It’s quite a story, and so out there it almost couldn’t be made up, and Mai decides to believe that’s why he was over an hour and a half late (she also lied about bailing if he was only one minute late).

While on the train, Sakuta tells Mai why he’s helping her and won’t give up on her; because there was once someone who didn’t give up on him, and he wants to be for Mai what Makinohara Shouko was to him…even if there’s no record of Shouko ever existing except in his memories.

Mai brings Sakuta along on a quick errand to properly inform her mother of her impending change of agencies, but her “Adolescence Syndrome” has advanced so far her own mother can neither see nor hear her. And it’s worse: neither she nor anyone else has the slightest clue who Sakurajima Mai is; not even the announcer who promised not to publish his chest scar.

This starts Sakura on a quest to find out if anyone still remembers her, a quest on which she tags along to a faraway town. There, they check into a cramped business hotel room, and as Mai showers, Sakuta starts calling people. Finally, he learns that his classmates at the high school still remember Mai. Futaba promises to look into it.

After a quick trip to the store to buy Mai new underwear the two awkwardly share the tiny bed. Mai gives Sakuta an opportunity to steal her first kiss, but the window closes. She asks what he’d do if she broke down and cried about not wanting to disappear, he tells her he’d hold and comfort her and tell her it would be alright. Before bidding him good night, she thanks him for not giving up on her.

So far Bunny Girl has been a focused and compelling budding romance, albeit involving a guy with the distinct advantage of being the proverbial “last guy on earth”—though that’ll change if/when they return to the school where some still know her. The clever and playful banter between Mai and Sakuta is a constant joy, and I really felt what they must feel at times: like the two of them are all there is in their world, and maybe all there needs to be.

Bunny Girl Senpai – 01 (First Impressions) – Fighting Against the Atmosphere

Azusagawa Sakuta wakes up on the morning of May 29th and opens a notebook entry from three weeks ago, when he supposedly met a “wild bunny girl.” But he doesn’t remember. Rewind to May 6th (my sister’s birthday), and while at the library, Sakuta indeed encounters a girl in a bunny suit no one else seems to notice.

He recognizes her as the famous and prolific child actor/model Sakurajima Mai, who also happens to be his senpai at school. Sakuta, derided by some as the class loner (he’s even told to stay away from a girl’s boyfriend so as not to tank his popularity), decides to open a dialogue with her, despite her telling him to forget all about what he saw at the library.

Actually, Sakuta helps her out a bit, deflecting a gawking photo-taker. Even if she’s “used” to such occurrences, he can tell they’re the kind of thing that wears one down. Sakuta is partially ostracized due to a rumor about him putting people in the hospital. Rather than dispute or fight for himself, he gave in to the “atmosphere” he believed is was pointless to fight, like trying to fight back ocean waves.

Mai confides in Sakuta that she’s been becoming increasingly invisible to the people around her, such that even when she’s standing right in front of them and talking, it’s as if she’s not there at all. Sakuta identifies her predicament as “Adolescence Syndrome”, something that, while scientifically dubiuous, is still something that is clearly going on with Mai.

It happened to Sakuta and his sister Kaede as well. Kaede suddenly received bruises and cuts after being bullied online; Sakuta woke up one morning with a huge gash as if from some kind of three-clawed monster; it put him in the hospital, and the “hospitalization incident” rumor took root from there.

When Sakuta digs too deep too soon into Mai’s situation, she flees in a huff, and he ends up interacting with a television announcer eager for his attention and a science-y girl whom I’m assuming is a childhood friend of his. The latter brings up Schrodinger’s Cat—seemingly obligatory in these kind of shows—but reiterates that Adolescence Syndrome is something she can’t get behind, simply because science won’t support it.

Of course just because something is beyond the ability of science to explain doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, just as Mai doesn’t not exist simply because people can’t see or hear her since she went on hiatus. But there’s an ominousness to knowing even the Sakuta of May 29th has all but forgotten Mai; hers is a continuously worsening condition.

It’s already so bad it’s hard to buy food…and she can prance around as a bunny girl without anyone noticing. But at least for now, in early May, Sakuta does notice. Perhaps if his future self keeps reading his past self’s account, he will remember her.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect of Bunny Girl Senpai; only that anime with such long titles often aren’t that good. But I can state with reasonable certainty that it’s not bad at all. It offers a clean, crisp presentation with an immersive soundtrack, natural dialogue that doesn’t get too lofty, and intriguing supernatural elements within an otherwise ordinary world. Color me intrigued!

Sora yori mo Tooi Basho – 03

AND THEN THERE WERE FOUR. While I initially liked it when it was just Shirase and Mari, I quickly ended up liking the addition of Hinata, who while fiery and is no more effective at advancing the group’s Antarctic plans than the other two.

Now Shirase’s worst nightmare has come true: another high school girl—celebrity, aspiring idol, social media personality, and former child actress Shiraishi Yuzuki—has beaten her to the punch, as the group learns she’ll be joining the expedition.

And yet the universe isn’t done with Shirase yet, as she soars from the deepest valley to the highest peak when no less than Shiraishi Yuzuki herself shows up at her house, and willing to give up her seat to Shirase. Yuzuki has no interest in going; it’s too cold (lol duh).

Showing she can be just as energetic as the others, Shirase gets a bit too worked up and bangs her foot on the door. As if to further punish her for celebrating too soon, Yuzuki’s manager and mother (apparently in that order) Tamiko puts the kibosh on her client-daughter’s plans to shirk her duty.

Mari and Hinata try their best to sell Shirase to Tamiko, but while she’s gorgeous, Shirase is too shy when put on the spot to be of any interest to the hard-nosed manager, while neither Mari or Hinata are pretty enough. Harsh!

However, Shirase persists as she usually does, and enters into a contract with Tamiko: if she, Mari and Hinata can convince Yuzuki to go to Antarctica, they can come to. Bang, just like that, they’ve got their in.

Again, Shirase is so brimming with excitement and giddiness Hinata has to knock her on the head to calm her down (Hanazawa Kana puts on a clinic this week showing every side of Shirase, but Iguchi Yuka keeps up as Hinata, as does Minase Inori as Mari).

Once Mari heads home, we get what was somewhat lacking last week: some Shirase/Hinata-only interaction, and we see that they to have become fast friends as well. While Hinata and Mari feed of one anothers’ energy (and Mari admires Hinata’s relative maturity), Hinata interestingly serves as more of a straight man to Shirase’s antics.

She’s serves as an open ear to Shirase’s very earnest self-assessment. She knows she’s being selfish, but Hinata considers it assertiveness, not selfishness, and wouldn’t be hanging out if she wasn’t okay with it.

After not-so-slyly staging a “chance encounter” with Yuzuki, they join her at a family restaurant where there are free refills where she can study. There, the trio begins attempting to convince Yuzuki into changing her mind. She’s on to them immediately, but they still want to hear her out: why is she so adamant about not going?

Her reason, as it turns out, is all to understandable: she’s been acting since she was four years old, and has been kept busy since then. As a result, while she may have a stout 38,000 followers (far more than fair RABUJOI), she has zero friends. Even now, when she tries to make them, they’re more interested in glomming onto her celebrity and aren’t that intereted in who she is.

Yuzuki fears she’s running out of time to make good first impressions for potential friends, and if she goes to Antarctica, she’ll lose more precious time still. When Mari hears this story, she feels suddenly compelled to give Yuzuki a big ol’ hug…and who the hell can blame her?! Thankfully for Yuzuki, she has not one or two but three potential new friends sitting at that booth with her.

She’s initially skeptical these three “best friends” could possibly understand her situation, but that’s before they reveal they haven’t known each other that long at all…they’re “just trying to go to the same place.”

In the end, Shirase, Mari and Hinata didn’t have to use any clever tricks to get Yuzuki to reconsider her refusal. They merely had to show up and present themselves as who they really are: three girls who practically just met and want very much to go to Antarctica. Yuzuki could be the fourth.

Add to that the fact Yuzuki’s last potential friends at school seem ready to give up on her, and a bizarre dream in which Yuzuki is plucked from the window by the three girls on a ladder outside her hotel window (which I briefly thought was real—and rather shark-jumping!)

Yuzuki is charmed by the dream, but acknowledges that that was all it was; a fleeting expression of hope friends would come to her rather than laboring to seek them out.

But hey, the basic idea of her dream comes true anyway, with the trio appearing at her door (not her window, thank goodness) to make their final plea. Their timing is impeccable, and moves Yuzuki to tears of joy. She agrees to go, but only if Shirase, Mari, and Hinata can come as well.

The newly minted quartet then head to the Polar Science Museum in Tokyo (which I must visit next time I’m there).

Shirase gets hyped by the realistic penguin models, the four explore an old Snowcat, watch the aurora in the theater, and take a selfie together. Things are starting to feel real.

So, what’s up with the woman with the beauty spot in a “Challenge for Antarctic” car looking at that photo of Shirase and her Mom? She’s neither of the women who turned Shirase down in Kabukicho. Am I supposed to read her somewhat inscrutable expression as “grave” or “neutral”?

In any case, the band has been formed, and I couldn’t be happier. But something tells me things aren’t going to get easier just because they’ve got their tickets all but stamped. Four high school girls going to Antarctica will require, I imagine, a degree of training and preparation. Looking forward to those next steps and how the group responds to them.