The Choir/Badminton Club continues preparing for their white festival musical drama, despite having their formal request denied by the student council. They reach out to the shopping district association, which agrees to distribute pamphlets for their show. Taichi continues to delegate to other, more skilled parties, and Konatsu secures Ueno for piano, despite Hirohata’s objections. Wakana bumps into Naoko while visiting her mom’s grave and lets her listen to her song. The principal tries to take a stand, but the developers are having none of it and institute a strict curfew for all students.
There are many at Shiro High who are ready and willing to lie down and listen to whomever seems most like being in charge; in this case, the developers who are replacing the school with condos. Konatsu isn’t one of those people, and she makes her voice heard whenever she can. As little as we’ve actually enjoyed her character throughout the run, we have to give it to her here, she’s not taking anything lying down. Her obstinancy is a rarity among her classmates, but her fellow club members are behind her 100%. In fact, it was Wakana, not Konatsu, who first insisted the show must go on. She goes to bat for the club by begging the shopping district to help with advertising, but this has the unhappy side effect of gaining the attention of the bad guys.
But one thing Konatsu did was inspire that pathetic wimp of a principal to at least try to stand up against the developers. He doesn’t succeed, but the weight of what he’s done is definitely still upon him, and we’ll look to him to step in and use whatever power authority he has left – little as it may be – to assist the likes of Konatsu and the Choir Club. At episode’s end, it’s raining the evening before the show. Without having peeked at the preview for the final episode, we suspect weather won’t be the problem. But we would hope those haughty developers get put in their place.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)
Sawa’s injuries are minor, but cause enough of a scare that she must withdraw from the tournament for liability reasons. He also tells her to step back from her dream of beinga jockey and go to college. Back at school, the club’s practice room has been stolen by the music majors; a pissed-off Sawa chews them out. They go to Wien’s house to practice, but his piano is out of tune. Sawa tells everyone what’s biting her, but Wakana echoes Sawa’s dad, and Sawa snaps at her. When the vice principal allows the club to audition for the main stage, Sawa is home sulking, but the rest of the club convinces her to come. With her bike at school, she must ride Sabure.
First of all, kudos to Tari Tari for not going the easy route of injuring Sawa to the extent she can’t continue; falling off the horse isn’t life- or limb-threatening, though it does expose her malnutrition to her father. Instead, this episode makes Sawa wrestle with trying to keep her dream alive when the facts of her life simply aren’t favorable to that dream. Even if she starves herself to the weight limit, she may grow too tall to be a jockey – and what’s the point of being light enough if you’re too weak to stay on your horse? Her dad isn’t the best at conveying his feelings to his teenage daughter, but he once again makes sense: it was naive for Sawa to simply press on without a backup plan, belieiving everything will turn out okay.
We like how Sawa’s realization is a weight that sours her usually pleasant disposition (we were pumping our fists when she unleashed a devastating tirade against the stuck-up music majors.) Another great moment is when Sawa hears her dad arguing her case on the phone with the equestrian school. This is after Sawa’s friends sang her a song over the phone to show they care about her and want her by their side. Fittingly, Sawa rides her horse to school, in a scene that’s equal parts heroic, redemptive, and absurd. We don’t even hear the last-minute audition, but considering what a stick-in-the-mud the vice principal is, we won’t speculate on whether they got a spot on the main stage. Sawa’s struggles aren’t over, but she’s not without hope – and she’s not alone.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)
Car Cameos: Sawa and her father take a Toyota Comfort taxi home, and a Toyota Alphard can be seen just before the train to Wien’s house passes by. While riding her horse Sabure through town, Sawa encounters a Toyota Soarer, AKA Lexus SC430.
When she realizes the old men who acccompanied her audition are a famous band called the Condor Queens, Konatsu gives up her stage slot to them. They park their RV on Sawa’s property and make themselves at home. One of the members chases down Wakana because they knew her mother, who helped write their big hit. When Konatsu suggests the club skip practice to hear the Queens rehearse, Sawa snaps at Konatsu, doubting whether she’s taking the choir club seriously. The Queens tell Konatsu to ‘find her own stage’, and she secures a venue outside a flower shop. The club practices hard and performs for a small but engaged group. That evening, one of the Queens gives Wakana a letter her from her mother.
So, just so we’re clear on this: Wakana’s riding her bike and just happens to encounter a man who was friends with her mother, and a member of the band that just happens to be at the cafe where Konatsu, Sawa and Taichi are auditioning; the band Konatsu and her grandfather just happened to listen and dance to. What a carnival of coincidences! Frankly, we’re not quite sure why there had to be so many. It didn’t ruin the episode, it kinda made us scratch our heads a little: couldn’t Wakana have come upon someone who knew her mother a little more naturally, in a way that didn’t conveniently involve everyone else?
Coincidence aside, the band of old men play the role of three sages/mentors, providing advice both to Konatsu, whose excitement over meeting them causes her to neglect the choir club, which irks Sawa. We’ve mentioned Sawa’s dedication to going along with Konatsu’s ventures and helping in any way she can, but once Konatsu starts to goof off, Sawa rightly lets her have it, getting her eye back on the ball. As for Wakana, she’s told by the band who knew and loved her mom flat out: you can’t just give up on music; it’s a “constant companion”, right down to her heartbeat. The episode doesn’t let on what her mother wrote, but her demeanor on the beach at sunset suggested longing.
Rating: 6 (Good)
Car Cameo: The foreign Condor Queens are living out of an equally foreign early 2000’s-era Fiat Ducato motorhome.
After their first recital, most of the Choir Club quits, and with only Konatsu, Sawa and Wakana remaining, they no longer meet the minimum five for a club, and the vice principal eliminates both their club and Taichi’s Badminton Club; he’s only able to recruit Wien. After a quick 3-on-2 badminton game that Konatsu’s side wins, she decides to form a new club combining choir and badminton, which the principal signs off on. At an impromptu audition for an upcoming market music festival, Konatsu, Sawa and Taichi are suddenly accompanied by Spanish mucicians, one of whom is very interested in Wakana.
Just as quickly as Konatsu’s Choir Club was established, in the opening minutes of this episode, she’s back at square one. Still, the five main characters join forces in the end to create the unorthodox but not illegitimate Choir and Sometimes Badminton Club, and much to the chagrin of the now incredibly stuck-up vice principal, the principal gives it his blessing. We learn why he’s interested in Wakana: he taught her mother, who was apparently a musical revelation. Wakana, meanwhile, continues to let herself be pushed and pulled around, while remaining unsure what she should be doing.
This series continues to portray foreigners with a bit of a heavy hand for comedic purposes (see: Wien feeding squirrels and getting excited by a net birdie; the Spanish-speaking guy coming on too strong to Wakana) but also adds some flavor to the proceedings (the sudden musical outburst by the Spanish guy’s musical friends) and more sublte details (Wien not saying “excuse me” when entering Taichi’s home). We’ve also noticed a trend of a few moments of a character’s childhood taking up the first moments of the episode; this week it was Taichi being bullied, then defended by his tomboyish older sister. We’ll see where these go.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)
With Sawa’s help, Konatsu is able to recruit Wakana as a non-participatory member of her new choir club, and the principal approves the application and volunteers as the advisor. Konatsu begins to conscript other misfit students with singing ability, including her younger brother. When the day of a dual recital with the official choir arrives, the principal isn’t around. Sawa attempts to track down Mrs.Takahashi while Konatsu finds out the principal is laid up in the hospital from a minor bike accident. She and Sawa make it back just in time, but the bus containing the rest of the choir is late, so they go on as a duet, accompanied by Wakana on piano.
We were a little reticent about continuing on with a show that so closely resembles Hanasaku Iroha in both looks and subject matter, and the fact Sawa and Wakana still looked so similar to us. The scene after the credits of the five characters all talking over each other, having numerous conversations, was also a little overwhelming right out of the gate, but we can’t deny it was very well done. It wasn’t long before we could tell the Sawa and Wakana apart and became invested in Konatsu’s goal of starting up a new choir. It’s hard not to root for someone considering she’s fighting the oppression of a vice principal who has a major stick up her ass. If this is a high school drama, she’s definitely the villainess.
We were amazed how fast everything progressed, from getting approval from the eccentric principal to recruiting a quorum of singers and rehearsing. We also liked Wakana’s running tally of cakes she’s due for all the favors she does for Konatsu, as well as Sawa’s dedication to her friend, including what has to be the most sincere, justified spanking we can recall ever seeing in an anime. Sawa’s delivery of the word “NO” in response to her teacher asking if she’s in the maternity ward because she’s pregnant had us LOL’ing profusely. And Konatsu and Sawa’s little duet at the end was sweet and moving. Konatsu got over her stage fright and rose to the occasion, with sticktoitiveness and a little help from her friends. After this episode, we’re confident this is no Hanasaku Iroha carbon copy, but something else altogether.
Rating: 9 (Superior)
Car Cameos: Mrs. Takahashi’s Daihatsu Move makes another appearence; a Toyota Coaster conveys the choir club to the recital hall; background cars include an Audi A4, Toyota Alphard, and Subaru Sambar.