Just Because! – 09

Whew, there’s a lot to unpack this week. A lot happened!…or at least a lot seemed to happen. Morikawa’s new ‘do causes an unexpected sensation from just about everyone in her class, except for the one guy whose reaction mattered most to her—Souma, because he’s an idiot.

After her not-confession (which Izumi mutters to himself had the exact same effect as a not-not-confession), Komiya is awkward with him, and all the times they naturally bump into each other always end with her retreating wordlessly.

Souma and Natsume encounter one another at the shoe lockers justs as Morikawa starts to play her trumpet, which sounds like it’s beckoning Souma, particularly when Natsume tells him he should go to her. Souma doesn’t want to be a bother…but he is.

No matter, Natsume goes to Morikawa instead; she wants to know how she decided on her future. Morikawa answers earnestly as always, citing her devotion to her family and paying them back for their kindness, but also wanting to taste life on her own for a bit, hence a woman’s university.

Morikawa wonders if it’s just a matter of her not wanting to be an adult, but Natsume thinks Morikawa really has “her act together”, especially compared to her.

After some unintentional synchronization after school (after which she exclaims “this day sucks!” with a smile), the third time turns out to be the charm for Komiya, as she runs into Izumi again while he’s on a run. She runs into the konbini and buys him a cold tea; he goes in and buys her a hot one in return.

There’s a Valentine’s Day sign in sight, and Izumi tells Komiya it’s almost time for his least favorite time of the year. Komiya coyly replies that even if Natsume never got him chocolate, he should expect some this year. Did I mention how fun these two are to watch?

Before leaving hastily yet again, Komiya expresses hope they can “get along like this from here on out!”; after she leaves Izumi mutters that that’s impossible. I think Komiya kinda knows that; Natsume still probably enjoys a lead in Izumi’s heart, regardless of how few nice interactions they’ve had.

The next day, Morikawa’s brothers spot Souma on the baseball field and run out to meet him. Souma finally has the opportunity to compliment Morikawa, and while she seems grateful, there seems to be something on her mind.

That gets back to the continuation of her talk with Natsume, after she asked how Natsume if she had feelings for Souma. Natsume responds that she liked him, past-tense, in a one-sided middle school crush, but locked the feelings away, but they eventually dispersed naturally.

Natsume was satisfied with “nothing coming of it” and “not trying to let anything come of it.” She also says there’s someone else she likes anyway, and when on her way home, she can’t resist buying chocolates for that person…and has made the decision to change her university to Izumi’s recommended school.

That means, of course, Izumi’s now studying for enrollment to the wrong school! It’s an object lesson in why you should really be more open about their plans, especially with someone you has feelings for. It would have obviously been a nice surprise if Natsume had stayed put, but that’s no longer the case.

I definitely dig Natsume’s bold move in escaping her sister’s orbit, even if neither she nor Izumi are making it easy for each other to come together. Still, while I’ve instantly come to love the idea of Izumi and Komiya, that “impossible” from him certainly leads me to assume Natsume is the one he’ll choose, even if they attend different universities.

I’m okay with that; I like both girls but there has to be a winner and a loser. All I’m sure of is that the next two-three weeks are going to be a roller coaster.

Just Because! – 08

Komiya Ena took Izumi’s photo before getting his permission, but after an extensive yet completely organic charm campaign, she eventually got it…and developed feelings for Izumi along the way. Perseverance and optimism won the day.

Komiya does the right thing by asking Natsume permission to ask Izumi on a date, but Natsume’s stern “no” doesn’t discourage her. Komiya knows intrinsically that she’s responsible for her own happiness and can’t wait around for things to happen on their own.

Natsume may have thought she’d bought a little time with her “no”—itself a huge move for her that confirmed she’s at least not indifferent towards Izumi—but she does nothing with that time. Izumi even asks her what she wanted to talk about, but she gives him the “never mind, it’s nothing.”

Natsume and Izumi’s situation takes a back seat when they join Souma and Inui for lunch at Morikawa’s house, which could and probably should have been just a Souma-and-Morikawa (and her little brothers) lunch.

It’s a cordial meal, but there’s something distancing about the way Natsume speaks of the support she got from everyone when Izumi provided the lion’s share of said support during the snowy exam day. It’s like the warmth of that day has been replaced by the more familiar coolness of earlier episodes.

That said, it’s not all Izumi’s fault; Izumi is the one so stealthily demonstrating his feelings for her by applying to the same school, where they’ll presumably be able to see each other. But if that’s what he wants, what the heck is he waiting for? Like Natsume, he simply lacks the proper amount of gumption to act on his feelings, or even put them in forthright words to the necessary party.

Komiya, meanwhile, has a lot more gumption, which is why she comes so tantalizingly close to asking Izumi out via LINE. She wants to send something, but gets caught up on the structure, formality and perceived tone (another reason to just talk to someone).

She needs a little nudge—or in this case, the paw of her big fat cat—to send it, and when it’s read immediately, I really related to the waiting game she had to endure, as well as her elation upon getting a positive response from Izumi.

Komiya doesn’t know exactly what she’s feeling or what she wants, but she does want to move forward with exploring it, and more importantly, has the wherewithal to follow through in a timely, direct fashion. It would help her out a bit if Izumi wasn’t so dense—asking Siri (or a Siri equivalent)  what “date” means? Really?

Then we have Haruto, who like me, sees the wonderful chemistry Izumi and Komiya share, and see Komiya get so pumped about her date, and I just can’t help root for Komiya.

Naturally, on the morning of the date, Izumi runs into Natsume first, and Natsume is on to him; they’re so in sync, she even asked Siri the exact same question. Natsume’s on her way to cram school; she wasn’t trying to break up a date; but she looks awfully bitter when Komiya shows up, leading to one of the better-delivered exchanges of the episode, if not the whole show:

—”I told you no.”
—”Do I need your permission?”
—”Then, why did you ask?”
—”Well, just because.”

In addition to Komiya finally delivering the TITULAR LINEthis dialogue so nicely encapsulates the differences between Natsume and Komiya. Komiya didn’t ask permission just so she could do it anyway; she didn’t think Natsume would say no, or feel so strongly about Izumi at all.

After all, who’s spend more time with Izumi of late? Komiya. She’s not saying “shit or get off the pot,” but her way of doing things just naturally runs roughshod over Izumi’s more deliberate approach.

Also great? Natsume and Komiya having a moment of solidarity when they both tell Izumi that their cryptic discussion is “none of his business.”

Natsume doesn’t protest any further; she has to go to cram school. So Komiya carries on with her date with Izumi. And it’s such a nice, low-key date! She takes him places where she snaps photos…and he snaps a photo of her, which she then makes his wallpaper!

They look like they’re having so much goddamn fun, even sitting in the dark clubroom looking at photo albums. One of those albums show a first-year Natsume with her older sister Mina…

…Who we then segue to! Mina asks Mio why she wants to attend the same university as her, telling her she should go to the one she wants. Seems a bit late in the game to be telling her this, but it does expose a certain “running on inertia” style to Natsume’s life.

Right now, she defines her purpose, first and foremost, of entering college, which is the same one as her sister, probably just because! What’s wrong with just because?

The sisters don’t happen to spot Izumi walking Komiya home after their adorably awesome date…which is for the best; enough coincidences, already! But that album photo reminded both Izumi and Komiya that there’s another side to their triangle, and it’s a side Izumi is studying hard to stay beside in the future.

With that in mind, Komiya asks Izumi why the heck he doesn’t just confess to her. His answer—”I would if I could”, doesn’t satisfy anyone; particularly himself.

So Komiya does what she’s always done to reasonable good effect: go her own way, proceed, persevere, hope. Now winning a prize at the photo competition isn’t just about keeping the club alive, it will determine whether she confesses her love to Izumi.

And no, Izumi, she’s not making a funny joke, she’s picking a direction and going. If you don’t like it, say something; do something. Otherwise, enjoy the journey.

*****

With all this talk about the triangle, I almost forgot about Souma and Morikawa! It’s…fine, they’re fine; they’re just not quite as compelling. She still owes him an answer. It was good to see Souma continue to get along with the bros, and Morikawa’s little makeover, which Izumi of all people sees first (and does a double take), was a cute and unexpected way to close the episode.

Owarimonogatari – 07

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With Sodachi’s arc completed, we rewind a couple months to before Araragi met Oshino Ougi in the first episode. Araragi has Kanbaru Suruga to meet him at the cram school. Kanbaru is her usual bright, cheerful, sexually aggressive self (she assumes she was summoned so Araragi can take her virginity, and she arrives braless).

Sawashiro Miyuki knows this character through and through and really sinks her teeth into her portrayal of a girl we haven’t seen in some time and, frankly, missed. Noting her pre-Hanamonogatari long hair, it fascinates me how Araragi’s girls seem to swap hairstyles through time.

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Things couldn’t be more affable as Araragi struggles to tell Kanbaru the real reason for their meeting: to ask her if she’ll help him out with something, and to go to another rendezvous point to meet someone. Flirting and clever wordplay ensues, but then the two hear some loud noises, and a giant suit of samurai armor enters the classroom.

Kanbaru wastes no time tossing Araragi aside and charging at the armor, but every time she touches it, it grows stronger and she grows weaker, until she passes out from an energy drain, something Araragi knows to be a vampire power. The transition in atmosphere from happy and playful to dark and dangerous is nicely handled. It’s also the first time in a while Araragi is up against a physical threat, unless you count Oikura’s slaps.

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With Kanbaru down, Araragi steps up to the plate, but there isn’t much he can do and the armor starts to choke the life out of him. Kanbaru prepares to sacrifice herself for her beloved senpai, despite his wanting her to run, there’s no way she will. The impasse is broken by pink flames that surround the armor, which Kanbaru believes are the work of Hanekawa.

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The armor retreats, but Araragi and Kanbaru are stuck in the burning building. Kanbaru asks him to take her virginity before she dies, but Araragi shoots that idea down, as he has a better idea: try not to die, by jumping out a window together. That somewhat reckless action is preempted by an explosion that extinguishes the fire: an explosion caused by one Ononoki Yotsugi, whom we last saw in Tsukimonogatari (which also takes place after this episode).

This episode got off to a slow-ish start that was mitigated by the return of Kanbaru, then became a tense test of Araragi and Kanbaru’s mutual devotion to each other, which they naturally aced. And with the title of “Shinobu Mail” and the armor demanding Kiss-shot (AKA Shinobu Oshino) return the sword she borrowed from him centuries ago, I imagine the blonde vampire herself will be making an appearance before all’s said and done.

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Sailor Moon Crystal – 02

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This week we’re introduced to Mizuno Ami (Kanemoto Hisako) and witness her progression from quiet genius girl, to brainwashed tool of the enemy, and finally to Sailor Mercury. This second episode also suggests the show wants to balance the main serialized storyline with smaller, more episodic plots. Like the first, it moves briskly and embraces the goofiness, even coming off downright cool in some moments.

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The story of the week is that Ami, despite having perfect scores, is suddenly attending the equivalent of a cram school (and a very evil looking one, at that), along with an increasing number of students. Like the jewelry women last week, they all wander willingly into the trap, and then the enemy has them. Unlike Usagi, Ami is first conscripted by the enemy, albeit after she’s brainwashed.

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Yet again, Usagi’s weaknesses as virtues: just as she was too poor to buy any evil jewelry, she’s not…ahem…academically inclined enough for the brainwashing CD-ROM(!) to work on her (i.e. girl dumb as brick, yo). But this episode showed that her most powerful weapon wasn’t her crass materialism, ignorance, or quickness to tears: it was her profound kindness and loyalty.

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While other classmates were intimidated and stayed away from Ami, Usagi, after Luna provides an opening, extends a hand of friendship. Having just become a sailor guardian herself but discussing it with neither family nor fiends, Usagi gets that there’s more to Ami than her cool exterior. Sometimes it takes a fluffy black kitty to bring out one’s warmer side. Unless one’s allergic.

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Usagi’s kindness gets through even to a heavily brainwashed Ami under duress from the fake teacher (though it’s ironic Usagi warns Ami while dressed as a fake doctor). The teacher is really a demon servant of another servant of Queen Beryl. The higher-ups seem to employ a lot of delegation rather than doing things themselves.

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That strategy is looking increasingly flawed as the Sailor Scout ranks expand. When Usagi transforms into Moon and gets whaled on by the demon, taking blow after blow for Ami’s sake Ami snaps out of it, produces the pen she won at the arcade, and then we get the second elaborate CGI sailor guardian transformation, that of Ami into Mercury…Game, set, and match.

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Mercury commands water, which makes sense with her delicate yet ambitious personality, and creates a fog that gives Usagi the chance to slice the demon in two with her boomerang. Tux Mask gets an assist as well, but only Usagi sees him and he vanishes quickly thereafter. Luna—ever the Good Kyuubey—rejoices that she’s found the “brain” of the group. Usagi and Ami seem more happy about the fact they’ve made friends.

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Nekomonogatari: Shiro – 03

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Senjougahara tells Hanekawa she can’t “survive in the wild” because she’s too “white,” or being “dull in the shadows.” Kanbaru Suruga receives a text from Araragi asking her to meet him at the cram school. Senjougahara’s father returns, so she convinces the Fire Sisters Karen and Tsukihi to allow Hanekawa to stay with them for the time being. She sleeps in Araragi’s room, but she wakes up in the form of Black Hanekawa. Oshino Shinobu chats with her there, and Hanekawa tells her about Araragi’s whereabouts, asks about the Tiger oddity, and offers her a ride. When they arrive at the cram school, it is burned to the ground.

Something that we’ve been noticing about this new -Monogatari series is just how leisurely it is with the progression of events, and how indulgent it is with the characters pouring out all of their feelings and observations in between those events. In the first episode, Hanekawa meets the tiger oddity. In the second, she moves in with Senjougahara, who meets her alter-ego. In this episode she moves in with the Fire Sisters and her alter-ego meets Shinobu. That’s a pretty sparse amount of activity compared with other Summer series that stuff their episodes to the gills with events. Monogatari definitely operates under its own set of rules at its own pace, and makes no apologies for its meandering ways. It lives in the in between; for the journey, not the destination.

Much of that journey is philosophical, and you’ll either tire quickly of the verbose conversations flying around, or you’ll get immersed in them and in the small worlds that are built around them. Through the sparse sequence of events, Hanekawa has been drawing closer and closer to Araragi and the secret mission he’s involved in. And now we have a second burnt-down building, which just happened to be Hanekawa’s first place of refuge after her house burned, and a key locale in the Monogatari saga. It’s sudden loss is a huge deal, as is Shinobu’s suggestion that Araragi will surely get himself killed without her aid. But despite how close Hanekawa is getting, until they actually show him, we’re not going to assume he’ll ever appear in this arc at all.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • We love how low-key Senjougahara’s dad is. He puts on an apron, puts the kettle on, then vanishes.
  • Senjougahara and Hanekawa may sport short hair, but Tsukihi is rocking hair as long as she is tall; Kanbaru has also grown her hair out.
  • We see a lot of the Araragi family’s impeccable, ultramodern home, complete with cathedral-like bathroom.
  • The Araragis’ parents are police officers!
  • Don’t know if this is the first episode with it, but we noticed a “Chinaberry” (ouchi) frame for the first time. Nice color!
  • Vampires must not have a problem with blood rushing to their heads, ’cause Shinobu’s hanging from the ceiling a long time.
  • Love the quick-cutting scenes to simply show Black Hanekawa is leaping great bounds across town.

Nekomonogatari: Shiro – 01

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As Hanekawa Tsubasa heads to school, she bumps into Hachikuji Mayoi, and then encounters a huge white tiger. She discusses it with Senjougahara Hitagi at school, as Araragi Koyomi is absent. Before the day is out, Tsubasa’s house is obliterated by fire, and she seeks shelter at the abandoned cram school. She wakes up to a beside-herself Senjougahara, who was out all night looking for her. She invites her to her place to shower with her and get some rest.

Welcome to the first in a fresh sequence of “-Monogatari” arcs, starting with one focusing on Hanekawa. The last arc we saw took place before Araragi met and fell for Senjougahara; we’re not exactly sure when this one starts, but it’s after the two have become a couple. Araragi is notably absent in this first episode; the only sign of him existing being a text telling Senjougahara and Hanekawa not to worry, as he’ll be busy for the forseeable future; with what, who can say. As for this Hanekawa-heavy episode, it does a good job underlining how rough it must be for someone who lacks a true family or home, even before the house she lives in with two people who are her parents in name only burns down.

She blames the shock of the fire for shacking up in an abandoned building, worrying Senjougahara, but perhaps that was the tiger oddity that haunts her, preferring to sleep in a less domesticated place than a friend’s house. Senjougahara fills in for Araragi which is an interesting dynamic when you consider she was the one who won the heart of the boy Hanekawa admits without hesitation that she still loves. Whatever this tiger thing is, they may have to solve it without him. Other than that, it’s your pretty standard “-Monogatari” episode: slow pace, mostly conversation sexy close-ups and cards displaying colors and inner thoughts.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

 

Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun – 11

Yamaken finds himself unable to explain or control his attraction to Shizuku, but anything she says or does around him turns him on. Her proximity to Yamaken continues to frustrate Haru. On an evening stroll, Haru threatens Yamaken, but he shrugs it off, leaving Haru in a funk. Shizuku appears in a moment of despair. He reiterates his love for her, but expresses his frustration with the current situation. Shizuku isn’t sure how to respond.

She loves him and has told him so. He loves her and has told her so. So everything should work out, right? Only if either of them knew what the hell to do next…and we’re not talking about renting a room at the love motel. Shizuku and Haru are stuck; sedentary; in a holding pattern; static. Declarations lead to…nothing. Both are so new to…whatever it is they have that neither’s sure what to do about it, and whenever one of them makes an attempt, they clash. As Shizuku says, they’re just “out of sync”. He can’t seem to reconcile her loving him and hanging out at cram school with Yamaken. She can’t seem to reconcile the fact that, well, she doesn’t really like to be touched.

Meanwhile, she’s oblivious to Yamaken, who is growing more bold with each passing day as his weird crush intensifies. And let’s not forget Haru clearly has some serious, traumatic issues in his past that he hasn’t begun to deal with. It’s nice that Shizuku is a calming, taming force in his life, but until the underlying issues are resolved, theirs is a doomed romance. The sad part is, we already know the jist of all this; this episode taught us almost nothing new. It’s fine for their relationship to be going nowhere, but if the show itself isn’t going anywhere (or rather, going in circles, or even backwards), then we have problems.


Rating: 6 (Good)

P.S. Ooshima’s friend Yuu wordlessly stares at Yamaken on more than one occasion, while Natsume considers paying a visit to Mitsuyoshi to tell him how she feels. Isn’t he, like, fifteen years older than her?

Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun – 10

Shizuku is anxious to tell Haru how she feels, but he’s reverted to his previous feral state because Yamaken said he was in love with her. At a Christmas party organized by Natsume at the batting center, Yamaken says he was joking, but Haru only believes him briefly. When he learns Yamaken will be in Shizuku’s winter college prep course at cram school, he gets even more jealous. While walking home, Shizuku tells him she loves him and he can trust her – but when she goes to cram school he remains jealous and suspicious.

Shizuku’s made her choice about Haru, and when the perfect opportunity comes to talk to him, she finally does so, and it’s everything Haru should or could want: She loves him; he can trust her; Yamaken is of no concern. But it’s not enough for him: he shows a complete lack of understanding of what trust is, and demands she not go to cram school. Shizuku, being Shizuku, will do what she pleases. She may love him and he may love her, but she’s not his property and he won’t dictate her life. So she ends up a cram school, sitting next to Yamaken, who contrary to his self-denial, has fallen for her and now has his own chance, however slim – to convince Shizuku she loves the wrong guy – if he bothers to even try, that is.

While we’re not exactly thrilled with the prospect of continued tension between Haru, Shizuku, and Yamaken, we do like how Shizuku finally owned up to her feelings and stop trying to repress them for the sake of her studies. And her discourse with Haru on the story of Akutagawa’s Kumo no Ito – imagery from which Haru describes her hair and concepts from which they describe their relationship – is very well done; one of those moments when you remember Haru can be pretty sharp when he’s not a spastic braying jackass. Shizuku definitely has it easier here; Oshima is not nearly as great a threat to her as Yamaken is to Haru. But we’ll do what Haru can’t quite do and trust Shizuku for now, and not read too much into those occasional impressed stares she gives Yamaken.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Ao no Exorcist 5

Oh dear, the fiery rival who has the same goal. Where have I seen this before? Oh yeah, just about every shonen anime that exists. So does Ao no Exoricist succeed in differentiating the rivalry between Rin and Bon? I’ll say mostly…for now. Bon’s been giving Rin the stink-eye since he first entered Yukio’s cram class, and this is the episode where they literally butt heads.

Bon’s story is also fairly cliche: he comes from a trod-upon, “cursed” temple that his fellow townspeople now avoid like the plague. He wants to restore the temple to its former glory and, like Rin, kick Satan’s ass (whatever that entails). His initial assumptions of Rin are that he’s some kind of rich coddled kid who got special dispensation from the headmaster to even be here, and is always sleeping in class. I’m with Bon here; I came close to dozing off many times in class, but you’re in the front row. Count sheep at home, son. Shiemi is new to class, but she doesn’t seem interested in waking Rin up.

Still, Bon is wrong if he thinks he’s more serious about his goal, but that doesn’t stop him from challenging Rin to a potentially deadly duel with enormous frogs while the teacher bails out for a booty call (seriously?) I like how Rin doesn’t take the bait, but only steps in to stop the frog when Bon nearly gets eaten by one. Bon thanks him, and even gives him a hairpin (don’t ask), and a friendship is forged.

As for that headmaster? Well, we knew Mephisto wasn’t human, but we didn’t know he had other brothers in Gehenna, and that he considers Rin one of his brothers as well. Must be the pointy ears and magic. What he has planned for Rin and Assiah (his “playground”) may not be altogether savory… Rating: 3