Nisekoi – 09

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Chitoge’s interest has been piqued by the mystery of her first love, but further investigation is put on hold by “open-air school.” Maiko fixes it so their team consists of him, Raku, Ruri, Kosaki, Seishirou…and her. Once again, Nisekoi shows that nobody airing can match its close-ups of characters’ faces—not even Kill la Kill.

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Whether its everyone’s reactions to learning they’re in the same group (and have to share the cramped bench in the back of the bus), or their hapless attempts at poker faces during a game of Old Maid (which had just as much intensity and pressure of a karuta match in Chihayafuru), this episode was a veritable cornucopia of heated emotions, not the least of which because Chitoge is starting to entertain the notion that Raku could be her first love. He’s got a scar, after all.

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And in Anime Land there are few stages better-suited for the proliferation of high-level discomfort and tension than a hot spring inn, which is ironic, because in real life they’re probably exactly the opposite. Thanks to Claude switching up the gender-specific curtains the the bath entrances (which shouldn’t be that easy to do in the 21st century), Raku ends up in the enviable but potentially disastrous position of being a boy in the girl’s bath.

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There are many obvious ways of proceeding with such a scenario; many of them involving much physical punishment and social ostracism being exacted upon Raku. To it’s credit, the episode doesn’t make Chitoge a conclusion-jumping idiot (this time at least), and not only doesn’t blame Raku, but even does everything she can to get him out of there without being seen. Despite some very close calls (and an accidental kiss to Raku’s upper backside), she even succeeds!

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

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Nisekoi – 08

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This episode was probably a bit of a slog for those not enamored with Tsugumi Seishirou. Fortunately, we like her just fine, and we also liked this very Seishirou-centric episode, in which odd changes in her body start to occur and she seeks answers and advice from her acquaintances. Her description of her “symptoms” are so precise and clinical, both Chitoge and Claude initially recommend she seek medical attention. Thankfully Seishirou doesn’t stop with those two, and eventually the common refrain of more normal people is that she’s suffering a bad case of love.

Seishirou may claim to not know anything about love, but we know that’s bullshit from the way she devotes herself to Chitoge and enjoys being by her side. She’s just never met a guy who has caused these reactions, and is totally at a loss for how to process them. Nothing Raku does to her deserves the harsh physical reprisals she visits upon him—on the contrary, he’s nothing but a decent, sweet and chivalrous fellow to her—but in the absence of any guidebook or roadmap or training in matters of love, she goes to her default assassin setting.

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Knowing her odd upbringing and years of conditioning meant to erase her femininity, suddenly becoming a slave to her heart is akin to being faced with an unknown enemy, so it’s logical and understandable for her to lash out, as offense is the best defense in her normal workings. The many closeups of her expressions as she wrestles with these strange emotions are enough to illustrate the intensity of her internal dilemma, as is her complete loss of concentration in assembling her gun at the mere mention of Raku by Claude. She’ll only be able to hide her compromised state from her mentor for so long; though Claude is a pretty dense fellow, even if he’s more suspicious than the other people around the fake couple.

But while Seishirou is growing into an interesting, if somewhat frustrating character in her own right, she also serves and important purpose in the central “fake” romance: she is the link to a past Chitoge has forgotten. Seishirou again betrays the fact she does indeed know at least something about love since she witnessed it betwen Chitoge and her first love, and waxes nostalgic about it, to the point Chitoge’s interest is sufficiently piqued that she digs up her old diary from the time and discovers that not only did she fall in love and make a promise to a kid with a distinctive scar, but that the diary also contained a key that looks very similar to Raku’s locket.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Nisekoi – 07

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Nisekoi isn’t done introducing major characters. This week we met Tsugumi Seishirou, who transfers to Raku and Chitoge’s class and whom everyone assumes is a very pretty boy. Seishirou puts out a lot of different vibes to Raku: at first he’s weary of his gangster connections, then gets the feeling he’s a normal, friendly guy. Then Seishirou gets Raku to say he’d die for Chitoge, then pulls a gun on him – so he can do just that!

Even after learning Seishirou Claude’s top hitman from Chitoge, and that he’s been preparing his body and mind to protect Chitoge for ten years, Raku has no choice but to accept an duel. Seishirou opens up a massive arsenal on him, but Raku manages to evade the attacks long enough to fire his own ammunition: the knowledge that Chitoge isn’t the kind of girl who’d sit by and be protected by someone. He also gets Seishirou to follow him out a third-floor window into a pool. With Seishirou out cold, the battle is Raku’s, but he’s too considerate to leave his soaked opponent outside to catch a cold.

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That’s when he undresses him in a locker room and discovers that he’s a she, and they’re forced to hide in a locker standing very close to each other while Chitoge and their classmates search for them. In there, Seishirou admits defeat, and starts to cry about not being worthy of protecting Chitoge herself, despite abandoning being a girl for that end. Raku then flatters her by saying she’s cute, something she’s apparently never heard from anyone before. At that point, Chitoge discovers them, but the armor is cracked: Raku was nice to Seishirou, and she definitely seems to like getting complimented by him.

Seishirou’s seiyu Komatsu Mikako delivers a layered and diverse performance, showing Seishirou’s many moods, sides and mistaken genders with subtle changes in her voice. There’s also the fact that she knows about the promise Chitoge made to a boy (not her) ten years ago, but suspects she forgot about it, adding further credence to the theory Raku was that boy. In any case, Seishirou looks like a good addition to the cast, someone we can see competing against Raku for Chitoge’s attention, while also gradually falling for Raku himself, further complicating Nisekoi’s love polygon.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Nisekoi – 06

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We’ll be honest: right now Nisekoi is doing some things that always throw up warning signs for a long slog (not to mention piss us off to no end): relying too much on information omission, poor communication, and sheer coincidence to draw out the romantic tension. Like a wad of gum, it can only be stretched so thin before it separates, and with it our support of the show’s story. In other words: whatever Nisekoi is planning, it needs to get on with it already!

At the same time, Nisekoi is (so far) providing adequate cover for what would otherwise be construed as stalling: specifically, that both Chitoge and Kosaki both end up in positions in which they must suddenly readjust both their thinking and behavior. For Chitoge, it’s realizing Raku saved her from drowning, isn’t such a bad guy, and deserves thanks, not a beating. For Kosaki, it’s the realization that Raku and Chitoge aren’t really dating, which is terrific news for her, but she isn’t quite ready to act yet, and her reasons are understandable.

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Chitoge has been wrestling with the increasing probability Raku isn’t a moron bean sprout for some time now, but Kosaki obviously already knows she loves him and why. When Ruri runs off (in a rapid manner normally employed by Kosaki) and leaves her in an empty classroom with the one she loves, he’s even kind enough to unknowingly demonstrate it to her, which gives her the strength to start her confession.

Unfortunately, a baseball interrupts the end of her sentence. But while the baseball was an incredibly lazy, stupid way to torpedo her attempt, the fact of the matter is she’s making progress, and her knowledge Raku leaves her re-energized with hope. She’s not even that miffed about failing at that particular time. For one, it isn’t as if she dislikes the friendship she and Raku have now, and once she confesses, it will change, so she wants to enjoy it a little longer.

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And then there’s the fact that she can’t simply jump on top of Raku while he and Chitoge are the key to an uneasy peace between their families. Chitoge swears her to secrecy, warning that the city will be decimated if they fail to deliver (and as this is SHAFT series, it’s possible she’s not overstating matters). So Kosaki remains in a tough spot: she can neither confess too quickly nor afford to hold it off too long. Raku, meanwhile, is still agonizingly unaware of the possibility Kosaki likes him, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary; nor has he confided in Kosaki that he’s not really dating.

Back to that fateful baseball: it’s use in nixing Kosaki’s confession makes a little more sense later in the episode. Chitoge finally finds a way to thank Raku to his face (in pretty good English) finds his locket on the ground; its chain having been busted by her multiple assaults on him that day. She has it fixed and delivers it to him, making them once again even in her eyes. On the car ride home she suddenly remembers she made a promise to someone too, years ago. Since we still haven’t seen Kosaki’s key unlock Raku’s locket, we’re still not 100% sure she was the girl he promised his heart too—now a glimmer of possibility exists it was actually Chitoge.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Chitoge’s failed three stages of apology were some great exercises in mutual cognitive dissonance.
  • Even though Kosaki’s confession wasn’t to be, it was beautifully staged, what with Raku mistaking her embarrassment for a fever and going into full Help Mode.
  • Ruri warns Kosaki if she wusses out again, they won’t be friends. We’re with Ruri. Damn the consequences; more than anything else, Raku needs to learn the truth.
  • In a dilapidated warehouse that wouldn’t be out of place in the world of the Monogatari Series, Claude assigns a mission to his shadowy apprentice: save the poor “Princess” Chitoge from the clutches from the “prick” Raku. He’s confident she can do it. We smell the next love interest.

 

Darker than Black Gaiden – 03 OVA

Hei and Yin have been taken to a remote jungle compound where a small group of contractors has gathered for refuge from the human world. Their de facto leader, Amagiri, believes if Yin continues to evolve, she’ll obtain the power to change – or destroy – the world. Some of the contractors ambush Yin in the jungle, injuring him. When he returns to the compound, the rest of the contractors were slaughtered by Claude, who took Yin.

As Yin moves inexorably towards evolution to a higher and more dangerous form of being, we can’t help but feel this episode got a little bogged-down (literally, in the case of its torrential rains, as well as figuratively). The jungle refuge was a pretty neat setting, but it was underused, with most of the running time consisting of Hei and Yin sitting around, or having quiet conversations about things we already knew about. Essentially, Hei and Yin should have taken up Amagiri’s offer to leave while they could.

The thing is, Hei was seemingly immobilized by his own indecision. Yin tells him that he got her evolution started, and it seems to quicken when he’s near – in which case separating himself from her would seem to be prudent. Yet Yin says even that wouldn’t matter, as she’ll never be able to forget him, and his effect on her would remain. Call us crazy, but it sounds like she loves him. Of course, now that Claude has Yin, and injected something to “make her unstable”, killing her may be the only way to save the present world, if they so desire, that is.


Rating: 3

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 12 (Fin)

In the finale, Yune offers to help in the workshop, and when she grabs a pair of gloves, he yells at her and tells her to leave. She goes outside, and later, nobody can find her, and Claude starts to worry. He finds her on the roof of Galerie du Roy, chasing after the sound of a theoretical cat bell. While saving her from a fall through the dome, he reveals why he was angry earlier: the gloves reminded him of his father,who died falling from a scaffold at the Grand Magasin, which is why he didn’t want her to go there. Having found her, he insists all he wants is for her to stay safe and enjoy life in Paris, then changes his mind and offers to take her to the Magasin.

This last episode was a good microcosm of the series, as well as a showcase of everything good and bad about it. First the bad: Claude can be really angsty and impatient at times. Yune is a girl from a foreign land, and she’s very fragile, yet time and time again, he barks at her or scolds her, without telling her the reason. That grew a little repetitive. Also, I believe we’ve already had the “Yune Gets Lost” episode, did we really need another one?

That said, the episode does make the best of things, using the search for Yune as a vehicle to give all the various characters of the show a little sendoff, including Alice and Camilla. As usual, the visuals of the Galerie du Roy are gorgeous, and we get to see them from a new vantage point, the roof. And finally, we learn a little more about what’s eating Claude all the time; anyone who watches their father die is entitled a little angst now and then. Just…try not to frighten the tiny Japanese girl!


Rating: 3.5

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 11

Claude forbids Yune to join Alice for a trip to the department store, and she obeys, once again saying one thing while possibly thinking another. Instead Claude, Yune and Oscar go to the park for a picnic. Oscar impresses her with a “spell” that stops the rain and sleight-of-hand tricks, but they remind her of a similar “spell” she put on her older sister that she believes made her blind and weak.

Who would’ve though Yune had a Dark Past She’s Not Proud Of, eh? Well, a dark coincidence at least. Yune’s sister Shione had pale blue eyes, which would have been no big deal in Paris, but in Japan, people gave her looks and even feared her. Lil’ Yune insisted that Shione only look at her, and otherwise keep her eyes closed, sparing her from the looks. Anime eyes tend to be all the colors of the rainbow, but in this realistic period piece, color matters.

It’s an innocent enough sentiment from a concerned lil’ sister, but when Shione grew frail and went blind, Yune blamed herself out of superstition. Shion’s plight is a dreadful shame – but not Yune’s fault. It turns out every time she sees Claude’s eyes, she thinks of Shione. She finally stopped holding everything in, let it all out, and experienced a catharsis. Another cute chapter of a cute series that has just one more cute episode to go.


Rating: 3

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 10

Claude is off to Dijon to meet with an important client about new metalwork. Claude has to study his late father’s work, and it brings back memories of his childhood when his father was still alive and business was booming. He’s conflicted about keeping the business running by simply copying what his father did. Meanwhile, Oscar keeps Yune and Alice entertained with a projector and phenakistoscope found while Yune was cleaning the storeroom.

My favorite scene this week was when Yune remembered what Claude told her about the metalworks shop: His father and grandfather worked to make every metalwork sign in the entire Gallery, so their skill is on display everywhere, with signs fulfilling the dual purpose of advertising for the shop it hangs over as well as advertising for the one who made the sign. It’s as impressive as it is sad; the best days seem to be behind both the Gallery and the metal shop.

Claude’s father was a genius with metal, but Claude also remembers him being cold and stern. This new job in Dijon is the latest challenge – can he outdo his departed dad? Oscar has never pushed him to keep the business going. The question is, is he keeping the fires of the forge burning for his father, or for himself? Not much to say about the B story involving Yune, Alice, Oscar, and eventually the whole gallery; it was pleasant enough. People were certainly easily entertained back then!


Rating: 3

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 9

Part II of “Hangin’ With the Blanches.” Yune has tea ceremony with Alice while Claude reminisces about his past with Camille. The two were good friends despite the difference in status, but whenever Claude wanted to take her out to explore the city, she’d refuse and get all huffy. It turns out her family only let her hang out with him if she didn’t leave the house. That, combined with the fact they’d never be able to marry, makes for uneasiness on both sides in the present.

I didn’t really get the last couple episodes. Sure Yune has fun with Alice, but Claude has just sitting in a dark room for two episodes, and nothing was ever resolved between him and Camille. True enough, it may never be resolved, but his flashbacks with her felt repetitive. We get it; she’s rich, he’s not-so-rich; it could never be. But she still wanted to be friends with him, and I guess it didn’t turn out that way? What of it? What does that have to do with crossroads in a foreign labyrinth?

Camille is more interesting than Alice, but I fear we’ve seen too much of her. At the end of the day she’s just an angsty aristocrat who tacitly complains about her “plight” while doing absolutely nothing to change it. She’s been stuck in a stuffy mansion her whole life and hasn’t experienced anything new or real. She just pouts like a Persian cat. Bring Yune back into the spotlight. She’s everything Camille isn’t.


Rating: 3

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 8

Yune and Claude stop by the Blanche residence, and Alice takes Yune by the hand and wisks her off. If it was ever in doubt, this episode confirmed that she sees Yune not so much as a human friend, but as a doll-like ideal of a childhood dream she had. It’s pretty odd that this girl made up a story about meeting a Japanese girl, then meeting her by chance years later. Is she an oracle?

In all seriousness though, while she and Yune chatter away about folk tales and rice balls, Claude is just standing around waiting, when he’s cornered by Camille. From a flashback and her general behavior around him, she had an unrequited love for him. The cold way they interact here confirms that they share some complex feelings, not all good. Camille resents her role as a family bargaining chip – she won’t be marrying for love – but she’s resigned to that life.


Rating: 3.5

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 7

Yune and Claude hit a bit of a rough patch, and for a while there, in the midst of all the latter’s yelling, I was starting to fear their relationship was going downhill. This week proves that cultural differences aren’t just a matter of comic relief or whimsy, but can be hazardous to your health…and for business. Yune has taken ill, and it’s revealed very subtly at first, with a stumble here and a cough there.

Meanwhile, the little kid who stole a candlestick is back, and this time Claude is there to shoo him off and scold Yune. Yune doesn’t blame the kid for having to steal to eat, but Claude takes a harder line; give Parisian kids an inch and they’ll walk all over you and clean you out. I respect Yune’s basic decency, but she needs to learn more European pragmatism As for concealing her illness…well, if I was a turn-of-the century Parisian like Claude or Oscar, living with a Japanese person could be potentially infuriating

To Yune, not troubling them with her illness is more important than her personal health. Even after Claude has said multiple times her well-being is more important than anything else in the store. Luckily it was just a cold, and thanks to Alice, Claude makes her some Japanese-style rice porridge, but what if it was something worse, and by the time she collapsed it was too late to help her? Speak up, Yune! Oh, I’d also be remiss if I neglected to mention Claude gives Yune a kiss this week…albeit on the cheek, and as the traditional French greeting.


Rating: 3.5

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 5

More ways of the French bemuse and confuse young Yune this week. She constantly wants to be of use, but in her new Parisian life, she’s neither required or expected to constantly work. She should fine time for leisure, to celebrate her freedom, to spend the money she’s made. But she’s having trouble understanding.

When I was in Japan I was amazed by how consistently kind, friendly, and helpful shopkeepers were, whether it was a 7 Eleven or a Toyota dealership. You receive a hearty welcome and the smiles hardly ever leave the faces of those working. Yune has this same mentality, but Claude warns her that in France, being too friendly or emotional to customers can scare them away.

When a young lad makes off with a candlestick (to later sell for food), she gives chase and gets lost in the gallery, neither of which boost her self-worth. When everyone either ignores her or gives her a strange look, she decides running and closing her eyes to be the best course of action, and…it is! She bumps into Claude. He repeats to her that her safety is more important than any item in the store. Yune took Claude’s advice too seriously. But she is learning.

Oscar makes a good point about a lot of the store’s wares (before going on a booty call): when electricity and such arrive, they’ll be rendered even more unnecessary. However, even things that are no longer useful are worth protecting. Do we still need butter churns? Or katanas? Not really; but those processes are a part of culture. Such arts must be preserved. Claude means to do that, and Yuna aims to help.


Rating: 3.5

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 4

Ah, it’s time for our weekly fix of period clash-of-cultures slice-of-life, with this episode bringing the blonde and annoying Alice Blanche into the picture. She’s an aristocratic fanatic of all things Oriental; though I couldn’t call her a Japonophile like myself because she’s simply too ignorant about Japanese culture to make a determination either way.

Anyway, I may have been too harsh on Claude’s manner with Yune; at least he treats her like a human. Upon laying eyes on her, Alice treats poor Yune like a cute pet, or a doll come to life. She also treats her like a slave to be purchased, and later tries to bribe her into living at her mansion. She almost succeeds, as the deal includes her prized kimono and a private bath, something Yune has been missing since she arrived in Paris. Baths were only a daily thing for the very rich in France. They still are, too…haha I kid. Sumimasen!

Anyway I’m not that optimistic about Alice as she seems almost to selfish and stupid to live, but I still enjoyed this episode. It contained a lot more comedy than before, and also chibi cuts, which were employed liberally, though not ad nauseum. I also continue to enjoy the rich Parisian scenery, and hope that Yune – and we along with her – gets to explore more of the grand city. And Claude learns to enjoy Japanese cuisine…’cause he’s really missing out!


Rating: 3.5