Hinamatsuri – 03 – Shaken AND Stirred

This week three of Hinamatsuri’s young women learn the value, rewards, and pitfalls of hard work from three very different vantage points, starting with Anzu. Anzu is unable to return to her mystery home, so she is homeless. She resorts to petty theft in Utako’s shopping district, but the constant chasing is getting exhausting, and one never knows when she might accidentally cut loose with her powers.

The hobo that once gave up her location to Sabu takes Anzu under his wing and shows her how to make honest money to pay for food. It’s a lot of work for a pittance, and even when she and Yassan show up to the hobo camp with sake to share, the mostly old men there treat her like crap…until she sings them an old nostalgic song that brings many of them to tears.

Anzu is rewarded with a canned drink and membership into the tribe, with all the benefits that entails. But the next day it’s back to the drudgery of searching for stray coins and collecting cans, during which time she runs into Nitta. Seeing her situation and seeing through her half-hearted explanations, Nitta assumes the worst and attempts to solve it with money.

The same stubborn pride that keeps Anzu on the streets also makes her angry at the handout, and she throws the 40,000 yen back in his face. However, when she remembers the hobos talking about how steel and aluminum price drops will cut deeply into their haul, she swallows her pride, chases Nitta’s car down, and accepts his gift.

When she’s immediately surrounded by Usako and the other proprietors she stole from, she loses more than 39,000 of it as repayment, and returns to camp dejected and ashamed. But Yassan assures her it’s for the best: she’s no longer wanted for theft; she has a fresh start as a “homeless girl.” If she keeps working hard as she can (and accepts gifts like Nitta’s when they come), she’ll be able to survive, as they have. Without using her powers.

Next we move on to Mishima Hitomi, who already knows the value of hard work and has applied it to studying, resulting in her position as top student in class, a position she takes great pride in. However, after her impromptu go at bartending last week, Utako wants her to keep working there, and is willing to blackmail her with an incriminating photo to make it happen.

Hitomi counters with a recording of Utako blackmailing her, and Utako takes a different tack, suggesting they both delete their data on each other…but Utako had already downloaded the photo to her PC, so it’s Game, Set, and Match Utako: Hitomi starts working at her bar for 1,500 yen an hour. She is a hit, not because she’s a middle schooler, but because she’s just too damn good at mixing drinks.

Just as at school, she works hard, takes no shortcuts, and comes to take great pride in her good work at the bar. But her two world collide when her homeroom teacher comes into the bar with the vice principal (who is already drunk), trying to nab the position of head teacher.

The teacher is not drunk, and quickly recognizes Hitomi, but decides its in both their best interests to keep the secret to himself. But he still doesn’t let Hitomi off the hook: as something of a mixology aficionado, he challenges Hitomi to make him a Million Dollar, and then a Bartender, to test her shaking and stirring skills. Hitomi passes with flying colors, and he’s duly impressed in her skills, as Usako and the other patrons knew he would be.

While a misunderstanding and her own passivity got her into the job to start, and she was blackmailed into continuing it, her natural talent for the job keeps her coming back…and the mad stacks she’s depositing into the bank account her parents don’t know about don’t hurt one bit! Not only that you watch Hitomi work behind the bar, you can tell she’s in her happy place.

Anzu expanded her world by transitioning from theft to a modest but honest living, while Hitomi expanded hers by adding paid labor to a repertoire that had once been unpaid study, though that will pay off when she needs to get in a good high school and college. And because she’s making so much bank, she needn’t worry about burdening her folks with tuition.

That brings us to the young woman at the top of the social ladder, simply by having her egg land in a rich yakuza’s apartment and that yakuza having a heart of gold…in other words, privilege and luck. Though she may have helped Nitta out off-camera, since the first episode she hasn’t really worked. Having seen Anzu surviving on the streets, Nitta wonders out loud why Hina couldn’t try to do the same thing (is he half-joking? quarter-joking?)

Hina gets the message, and after a frightening dream in which she’s filthy and destitute on the street while Nitta walks past with a glamorous Anzu on his arm, Hina adopts a more genial and eager-to-please attitude that understandably throws him off. When he goes off to work late, she attempts to work hard so he won’t throw her out.

But unlike Anzu and Hitomi, Hina’s hard work ends up working against her goals, not towards them, while her attempt to expand her skills through various household chores ends in one huge mess after another. Her comedy of errors, while predictable, is nonetheless cleverly depicted. I especially liked her attempt to air out a blanket, only for it to fly away into the Tokyo cityscape like a  magic carpet.

Worse, when things get messy, Hina simply gives up and moves on to the next chore, and when she finds a bowl of ikura in the fridge marked “rewards for Hina” she unilaterally decides she’s worked hard enough to give herself the reward.

Fittingly, as Nitta tells his associates, it’s been so long since Hina has done anything to earn a reward, the ikura in the fridge has gone bad, something Hina’s stomach suddenly realizes while she has every dish in the house levitating and dripping soapy water all over the hardwood floors. The dishes shatter, she goes down, and Nitta, who was impressed by how nice she was being before he left, is poised for a rude surprise.

Basically, Hina could learn a lot from Anzu and Hitomi about the importance of being competent at the hard work you are attempting. She did it before with the forestry (and the raid of Nitta’s rivals); she can do it again. She just needs more practice! Ultimately, everyone, even Hina, wants to feel needed, and to strike a proper balance between taking and giving.

AICO – 06 – 99 Problems and a Burst Ain’t One

The closer the team gets to Primary Point, the more tricky it is to predict how the Matter will react, and what will work against it. Kaede’s recklessness puts the entire operation in danger when the Beetle is damaged and they lose precious time.

Maybe it’s the stress of their environment, but all of a sudden the Divers I touted as consummate professionals are bickering like siblings in the back seat. Ah well, Kaede gonna Kaede, I guess.

Back at Kiryu Hospital, Isazu and Nanbara complete their plot to edge Kurose out in order to maintain control of the Area situation. As villains go, these two are pretty dang dull, sitting in cars and offices and calmly betraying their college friend.

While I understand Isazu’s intense desire to save his daughter, what good will reviving her, or the Japanese economy, do if there’s no Japan, or world, in which to live or prosper? If he’s obsessed to the point of madness, he hides it well.

One thing made clear six episodes in is that AICO’s forte is clearly not characters. Nearly everyone is either derivative, generic, annoying, or a combination of same. Take Kanzaki. We still know almost nothing about him (though I somewhat suspect he may be artificial too), except that he loves bossing Aiko around and otherwise treating her like dirt.

The person he’s dealing with is Aiko’s real brain in a fake body, yet he treats her like she’s a full-on robot without a shred of humanity. He’s also oddly petty in that treatment, even scolding her for trying to make the Divers’ rations more palatable. Maybe he’s curt because time is an issue; maybe he’s an artificial dude who resents Aiko’s emotions…or maybe he’s just a dick.

The show’s saving grace continues to be its action and the heightened peril the nearly omnipresent Malignant Matter presents. Our infiltration team is a bunch of tiny, puny humans who are only kept alive by highly sophisticated technology, the proper training and experience to utilize it, nerves of steel, and a disturbingly high amount of luck.

This particular episode also benefits from having Aiko actually defy Kanzaki, not only by making a tasty meal for her protectors, but serving an ultimately decisive role as resident Matter Detector. If she’d listened to Kanzaki, and sat back and done nothing, the mission would have surely failed. Nice to finally see some agency from her.

Their successful passage through a devilish gauntlet of active Matter from above, below, and all sides, the Divers also manage to work out their interpersonal issues, particularly when it comes to Kaede being a loose cannon. Kaede almost runs out of her famous luck, but is saved by the same guy who grabbed her by the neck and chewed her out earlier, while the rich kid loses an arm, but it’s artificial and easily replaced.

Some may actually be disappointed by the show’s unwillingness to pare down the admittedly quite large Diver crew; losing some players would certainly raise the stakes. Perhaps it’s holding its powder until they get closer to Primary Point…and even then, mission success is not assured.

Aiko may have saved the day, but attacking Matter has a deleterious effect on her, and the surgery can’t proceed if she’s knocked out and can’t be revived. More pressing is the fact their way forward is blocked by more Matter, while a CAAC team is hot on their heels.

AICO – 05 – I’m Not a Thing, I’m a Person and My Name is Aiko

After a harrowing trip through Area One, the group rests and resupplies at the facilities near the guillotine dam, a place of relative safety with all of the nearby Matter either destroyed or paralyzed. The respite also means a slowing of the brisk and satisfying pace AICO had maintained until now.

Outside the area, Kurose decides to give Director Nanbara a ride to CAAC headquarters. She and Kurose happened to date in college, but Nanbara dumped him, and while the two are on cordial terms, neither comes away with much information from the other about the situation with Aiko. Nanbara also warns Kurose to stay out of the affairs in the Area altogether—apparently unaware he’s already very much involved, and indeed facilitated Aiko’s escape.

While on watch duty, Kazuki and Kaede learn a bit more about their client, who remembers fishing with her family on the river now overrun by Matter, and the events that lead to her not getting tangled up with Yuya, Kurose, and eventually them. In the process, we also learn that Kazuki is a spoiled rich kid who joined the Divers to chart his own course, while Kaede came from a broken family and enjoys her new solitude and independence.

We also learn that the translucent blue ball Aiko has is actually a very valuable prototype for a mouse-like artificial life form. Yuya’s comparisons between it, the Live Suits, and Aiko bother her quite a bit, seeing as how she feels like a person and doesn’t appreciate being treated and talked about like an object, even if Yuya is correct that she, or at least her body, is just that.

Not five minutes after discovering her blue ball was really a pet, Aiko loses it as it runs outside. She puts on a suit and chases after it, slipping, falling, and getting lost in the woods. This would have been a perfect time for the drug that keeps her from attracting Matter to wear off, at least from an urgency perspective…but Daisuke finds her and a very worried Yuya finds her pet, whom Kaede names “Gummi.”

With their client retrieved and the “Beetle” Tank loaded up, the team piles in, leaves their safe place, and heads to Area Two, just as a CAAC team enters Area One. Isazu and Nanbara agree that Kurose succeeds Dr. Yura as head of Kiryu Research, he’ll stop research Nanbara believes is crucial to the Japanese economy, and Isazu believes is crucial to saving his daughter. As such, he prepares to oust Kurose from Kiryu with trumped-up corruption charges.

Fuuka – 04

fuu41

In what was for most of its running time the quietest and most emotionally engaging episode of Fuuka yet, Yuu gets caught in his web of omission, then the two have their first fight, as they both stumble over how to properly make up.

First of all, Fuuka has every right to be upset that Yuu was on a dock in the rain embracing her favorite idol. However close he is to her, Fuuka at least felt that at this point in their friendship he could tell her about Koyuki.

fuu42

Proving his inexperience in such matters, Yuu only makes things worse with his first attempt at an apology, inadvertently likening Fuuka to a “stranger”, which would be cruel if he weren’t so clueless.

For his inability to explain himself, Yuu gets the cold shoulder from Fuuka, making every moment of the day that follows a living hell where food tastes like ash and the beach at sunset is lonely as hell.

fuu43

Neither Yuu nor Fuuka want things to go on like this, so Mikasa takes Yuu aside and asks him to tell him straight up what’s going on. Yuu is able to articulate things, and also how upset he is he and Fuuka are fighting and how badly he wants to make up. Fortunately for him, Mikasa brought Fuuka along to eavesdrop, and she heard everything, and they finally exchange apologies.

fuu44

Fuuka also thanks Yuu for having her back when her track senpai shows up to harass her, then questions her designs on a band. Yuu has heard her sing and knows she’s good, and she proves it again when three of the five members of HEDGEHOGS (who were hiding in plain sight, including the restaurant owner) let her perform vocals while they play an impromptu trial concert that not only calls off the track senpai, but attracts a small audience from the beach.

fuu45

Fuuka even recruits the senpai as the drummer of the band, pegging Mikasa for the keys, herself for guitar and vocals, and Yuu for the bass (which he has no idea how to play…yet). All’s well that ends well, as Fuuka and Yuu, free of their row, are able to sit on the beach and admire the stars.

Fuuka even snuggles up beside him in his sweatshirt, but he panics, slips, and ends up with his hand up her shirt, ruining the lovely mood, both for Fuuka and me, the viewer, as I was enjoying the subtlety of their interactions to that point.

Naturally, when Yuu returns home, who is in his house waiting for him but the triangle’s third vertex Koyuki, no doubt unwilling to let some loud blue-haired girl snatch away her Yuu.

16rating_8

Fuuka – 03

fuu31
Why don’t you just do what I dragged you here against your will to do?

So, we’re doing this, are we? Yuu seems to ask, as Fuuka founds a light music clu-excuse me, association, with him as a member, right before his eyes, with minimal resistance? Yes, yes they is doing this, because he let himself get swept away in Fuuka’s energy. So did Mikasa, but he’s a go-with-the-flow kinda guy. Yuu is complaining, but only to himself.

fuu31a
LIVING THE DREAM

Things seem to get even worse for him as he tags along with Fuuka and Mikasa to the beach. Wait, we’re going to the beach in the third episode? That seems early for a show that doesn’t take place near the sea. Whatever; Yuu finds himself waiting tables. He tells himself he can’t do it, and so he sucks at it. (Is he getting paid, by the way, or is this just child labor? No one says.)

He’s rewarded by getting to push a giant inflatable orca around, with a Fuuka on top – a Fuuka who in past episodes thought this guy was taking pics of her undies somehow doesn’t see how Yuu might be flustered by the angle he’s viewing her from.

fuu32
(Non-romantic first kiss)…or is it?

Of course, the flustering takes them too far out to sea (of course) and the extremely athletic Fuuka suddenly develops a cramp and sinks like a stone (of course) and Yuu has a perfect opportunity to save Fuuka’s life. The show redeems itself somewhat when it’s Yuu, not Fuuka, who ended up passing out and requiring mouth-to-mouth. Fuuka also freaks out about how he almost died.

The “kiss” gets Yuu all riled up and confused; he knows it was rescue breathing, and even hears how Fuuka doesn’t mind indirect kisses since she’s “not a kid”…but later Fuuka tells him to keep the kiss a secret, since it was her first.

SO Yuu decides not to tweet what would have been the most interesting thing he’s ever tweeted. It would be as if the Dos Equis guy wasn’t constantly followed around by cameras.

fuu34
You’ve grown so pretty—though I should tell you this right here isn’t the most flattering light angle!

Speaking of celebs Koyuki is headed to the same one as Yuu for work, but wants to get together post-haste. Sure, why not. There are only so many beaches in Japan, right? That being said, I enjoyed the relaxed nature of the two meeting – for the first time since grade school – and slipping right back into an easy interaction, only now, as Fuuka said, they’re not kids.

It’s got to be an exhilarating feeling, and it would make another interesting tweet, but for the fact the Twitterverse would not believe him if he simply said he was meeting up with his childhood friend Hinashi freaking Koyuki, and if he provided photo proof, a lot of people would have problems with it, because…it’s Twitter.

fuu35

One person, I imagine, already has a problem with it: Fuuka, who goes out in the rain at night to look for Yuu perhaps forgetting about things called cell phones (Koyuki, for the record, had just gotten done saying how if it weren’t for cell phones, she and Yuu might never have seen each other again.).

And she finds him: on a dock, with her favorite idol in his arms after a freakish wind blew her umbrella away. She also seemed on the verge of saying something important to Yuu. Will Fuuka be upset Yuu never told him (not necessarily fair, as their relationship has so far been, essentially her making him do stuff and him quietly assenting), or will she just be happy to meet Koyuki, even if she’s a rival for Yuu’s heart?

As for the music clu-er, association angle, well, there’s almost no movement, though the beach restaurant guy tells Mikasa not to touch his drums, and Yuu tells Fuuka he can’t play an instrument, but is ignored. And we’ll probably never know if Mikasa got that hot bodyguard’s number…

16rating_7

Majimoji Rurumo – 05

maji61

This week MMR keeps things simple with a pleasant, nice-looking “day in the life” episode with a “simple task becomes complex adventure” story. By now Rurumo’s general incompetence has been well-established, but the fact she was similarly incompetent in the magical world leads me to believe perhaps she’s developmentally disabled in some way.

maji62

Nah, I’m just kiddin’! She’s just clumsy and forgetful of details that always turn out to be crucial. But this week she has an urgent desire to complete the task Kouta’s mother assigned her: to deliver a parcel to Kouta, who is at his grandma’s doing farm work. But Rurumo doesn’t get off to an auspicious start, getting lost and mistaking postage stamps for train tickets.

magi63

Along the way she meets a couple of Kouta’s friends who are both into her, but she doesn’t remember who they are, a nice meta dig on their general blahness as characters. I also like she did remember something Kouta told her about saying “cosplay” when in doubt, as it gets her out of trouble with a “busty cop.”

maji64

She does eventually end up in the village where Kouta is, but follows the map wrong and ends up lost in a beautiful field of sunflowers. Chiro, who had accompanied her and left her to her own devices (this is her mission, after all) decides enough is enough, and locates Kouta. That’s when we learn all of Rurumo’s work is to get a lousy wooden smartphone case to him so he can impress his cousin’s pretty friend Yuki.

maji65

As a testament to his devotion to Rurumo, Kouta’s own silly mission falls by the wayside when he hears she’s gotten lost. She doesn’t stay lost long, as when he and Chiro return to the sunflower field, Rurumos’ raiment has accidentally magicked into a massive hat-shaped tree. Fortunately, Rurumo herself did not merge with the plant, as Chiro feared, and Kouta doesn’t have to expend any life tickets.

maji66

For her trouble, Kouta totally strikes out with Yuki, but as thanks for completing her mission, he prepares and old-fashioned country bath for her, to soothe her bones after so much running around and falling down. After that, she dons a yukata (not sure how she got it on properly) and joins the others for some summer fireworks, and Kouta pats her head, so all’s well that ends well.

7_mag