Higurashi: When They Cry – 02 – Something is Rotten in Hinamizawa

From last week’s suddenly murderous Rena to Rika’s burning-red eyes, we open with Something Completely Different, with Rika waking up somewhere outside of normal time and space, welcomed by a little horned shrine maiden named Hanyuu with whom she is well-acquainted.

Rika asks if she died, but Hanyuu doesn’t have an answer. All she can say is that the “shard” on which they stand leads to July 1983, which angers Rika, who has apparently lived that month for a hundred years. With no other choice, and knowing everything there is to know about that place and time, Rika vows to “win their future” like they’ve won it before.

While offering an enticing taste of the “bigger picture”, and I now know July 1983 has happened many times before, it is only a small taste, and there’s plenty of mysteries yet to be revealed. It is only the second episode, after all! As for the cliffhanger of Rena with that scary blade, she reverts back to “kyute” Rena once Keiichi looks back at her.

Back at school it’s time for P.E., which means the girls are in super-tight bloomers for fanservice while guys get to wear shorts. Strange how such an otherwise laissez-faire school has such strictly-followed P.E. uniform guidelines! Especially when the physical activity of the day amounts to a game of “zombie tag”, with make-believe gory imagery filling in for the real stuff yet to come.

Keiichi and Rena head back to the junkyard that evening (they should really go in the morning of a weekend when there’s more light!), with Rena holding the creepy murder blade. When Keiichi offers to carry it, she shuts him up with another curt response—even though he ends up handling it anyway while freeing Kenta-kun.

As he delivers blows to the wood in the way of the statue, Keiichi suddenly gets a flash of him bashing someone to pulp with a bat—a vision of the future or merely a possible future? Considering Rika’s strange experience with Hanyuu and the shards, anything is possible. As for Rena, she keeps spacing out at times, as if revealing her true nature or an alternate personality.

Keiichi and the kids end up encountering Tomitake, who always seems to be on his way to something else. His quasi-military clothes suggest he’s up to more than harmless bird photography in the village, but Mion tells Keiichi that his true reason for being there is nothing more nefarious than looking for a single lady to date.

That night everyone attends the Watanagashi (or “cotton-drifting”) festival. The ceremonial dance is to be performed by Rika, who wears the same shrine maiden garb as Hanyuu…that can’t be a coincidence, right? In any case, she’s painfully cute, and Rena can’t resist fawning over her.

Before Rika’s dance, Keiichi, Rena, Mion, Rika and Satoko avail themselves of the many festival foods for sale, from takoyaki, snowballs, and cotton candy—particularly appropriate for a festival honoring futon cotton). Mion makes sure Keiichi gets to have a nice moment alone with Rena, though between Rena’s occasional momentary mood shifts and that whole future incident with the bat, I can’t see any romance between them lasting long!

Tomitake appears again, taking a photo of the group without permission before saying he can’t stay for Rika’s dance. Before he leaves, Rika approaches him and pats him on the head, almost as if to bless him. I guess she knows Tomitake—and everyone else in the village—a lot better than I initially thought.

Then there’s the episode’s pièce de résistance: Rika’s gorgeous, beautifully animated ceremonial dance. The convivial festival atmosphere abruptly shifts to something more sacred and profound as the crowds watch in silent awe. Then we cut to Tomitake in a field being greeted by blonde woman we’ve yet to meet.

What does it mean? is my most frequent question this week. The five friends continue to have youthful fun, but how much longer will it last? Well, the calendar indicates only a couple more days before shit hits the fan. So then the question becomes what Rika can do to stop a future where Keiichi is bludgeoning people to death—if that even is her goal—and how the adult characters fit into the equation.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Higurashi: When They Cry – 01 (First Impressions) – Moe Horror Done Right

Higurashi: When They Cry wastes no time establishing that this story will not have a pleasant ending, as it opens on a boy beating a girl to death with a bat with at least one other corpse in the room. It’s not played off as a nightmare, either, as protagonist Maebara Keiichi wakes up in that same room some time before that bloody spectacle takes place.

While some horror anime that hold their powder until the end of the first episode (Gakkou Gurashi! comes to mind) Higurashi isn’t interested in keeping you in suspense about whether shit will hit the fan in this suspiciously idyllic village, but rather when, how, and why, and how bad…I’m guessing pretty bad!

We haven’t had much good horror on RABUJOI lately aside from Hannah’s great retro reviews of 2004’s Elfen Lied, but that same cute girl horror DNA is evident in Higurashi. This is actually a reimagining of an identically-titled series from 2006. I’ve personally only seen half of When the Seagulls Cry, a family murder mystery, but never finished, so consider me a Higurashi Novice.

That said, one of the changes that’s quite evident in the remake is the new character design by Watanabe Akio of Monogatari fame. The way he draws eyebrows and mouths in particular were a dead giveaway, and I’m a big fan of Watanabe-san’s work here. “Easy on the eyes” is an apt description; “as pleasant as the ending won’t be” is another.

We’re gradually introduced to Keiichi’s friends, starting with the meek but extremely good cook Rena, the green-haired “big-sis”-type Mion, and a pair of younger girls in the mischievous Satoko and adorable Rika. They’re all so cute and have such great chemistry with Keiichi and each other, you almost want to forget that things will go sideways without fail.

It’s a testament to Watanabe’s designs, the veteran voice talent, and the beautiful setting of Hinamizawa village that despite the bloody cold open we’re invited to enjoy some good times with this group first, and are thus lulled into a false sense of security and safety. The multilayered traps Satoko sets at school are a useful metaphor for what Higurashi does in this episode: the first trap you see is merely a decoy.

Case in point: As soon as the sun started to set and the crisp blue sky turned a simultaneously gorgeous and menacing orange and red, dread started to amass around me, even as Rena kept things light and breezy. She leads Keiichi to a sinister-looking junkyard and climbs over the junk with zero regard for tetanus, looking for treasure and finding it in a buried Kenta-san.

While Rena is scrounging around, Keiichi meets a photographer who comes out of nowhere, identifying himself as Tomitake. The fact he’s the first adult we see other than Keiichi’s mom is disorienting, but then he mentions an unpleasant “incident” involving the loss of someone’s arm in the area. When Keiichi askes Rena about it later, her cutesy voice immediately shifts to a curt and dead serious “I don’t know.”

While I was certain something awful was going to happen in that junkyard (and the show most certainly wanted me to think that), Keiichi and Rena come out unscathed, though you could say Keiichi has now been “marked” by suspicion over surroundings that must now feel a tinge more threatening.

The next day after school, Keiichi asks Mion about the aborted dam construction project, and Mion offers him some information: the developers tried to ram the project through, but the village was spared from flooding and relocation thanks to some help from politicians in Tokyo. That said, when Keiichi asks about any violence, Mion has the same curt response as Rena.

Keiichi heads back to the junkyard as the sun once again falls, but Rena forgot he offered to help her unearth the statue. It’s clear she wasn’t prepared for him to show up, and heads home to grab them some tea. While waiting, darkness falls, in more ways then one, and Keiichi finds an old magazine detailing the story of a dam construction worker who was lynched, murdered, and dismembered.

As he reads, Rena creeps up on him, wielding a huge, curved, and very sharp-looking blade, while cute lil’ Rika stands behind Rena with glowing red eyes, suggesting she might be controlling Rena’s body. Roll credits, complete with an ending theme that absolutely slaps. Now that got dark quick, didn’t it?!

Higurashi is not for everyone, as those without the stomach for bloody horror will be joined by those who insist the franchise didn’t need rebooting. That said, had it not been rebooted, I would never have checked this out, and then find it right up my alley as a casual (and sufficiently-desensitized) horror fan. I’m looking forward to watching Keiichi and the town’s slow descent into madness and murder.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Oregairu 3 – 12 (Fin) – A Genuine Something

First of all, wow, what a finale! It’s a pretty much perfect way to send off our crazy mixed-up kids while giving viewers who have eagerly watched them grow for three years a happy ending that seemed impossible at the beginning, when Hachiman was just an arrogant antisocial twerp. Now he’s an arrogant antisocial twerp with a goddamn adorable girlfriend!

But first things first: business. Hikki roped Yukino into a seemingly no-win joint prom scenario he came up with just as an excuse to keep her in his life, but the two dive into their mission with renewed energy and purpose. While before they’d sit far apart, now they’re right on top of one another, and while their dialogue is still awkward, now it’s romantic awkward.

Hikki even proposes the two go to a beachfront park and scout it as a possible venue on their day off, knowing full well it would be a date. With all the will-they-won’t-they tension melted away, we get to enjoy the warm, gooey romance in the center.

From Hikki noticing and complimenting the alternate hairstyle Yukino did just for him to Yukino pulling Hikki into a bubble tea selfie without a moment’s hesitation, to their reaction to seeing a wedding taking place, it’s just absolutely glorious finally seeing these two together and happy! It TOOK long enough!

The Service Club is back in operation for the sole task of organizing the joint prom, and between Hikki and Yukino, they actually have enough friends and well-wishers to help them out with their tall self-imposed task. Their gradual gathering in the clubroom serves as an unofficial curtain call for several secondary/tertiary characters like Zaiko, Saki, Yumiko, Hina, and Kakeru.

Someone important is missing, but she eventually walks in the door, fashionably late with her trademark “Yahallo!”—Yuigahama Yui, ready, willing, and eager to be working together as a team again, and even though the pain of losing Hachiman to Yukino is surely still fresh and raw, she intends to overcome it and continue a warm relationship with both of them.

Hikki and The Lads go for a quick revitalizing trip to the sauna, where buzz commences about whether Hikki is now dating Yukino. He refuses to answer, but Saiko (notably the only boy wearing his towel as if he had boobs to conceal) has his back as always, saying they all agreed to watch over them, not engage in futile speculation.

Afterwards as the sun starts to go down, Hikki meets up with Yukino, Yui, and Iroha, all ready to go to dinner with him Yui and Iroha leave first, leaving the couple together for a moment. He holds his hand out to help Yukino up, even though he knows she can stand up on her own, and she knows he knows. But he holds out his hand anyway, and Yukino takes it anyway. Daaaaaaaawww…


The big day arrives: the day of the joint prom, yes, but also the day Komachi and Iroha meet. It’s everything I could have hoped for, with the two exchanging formal pleasantries and vicious barbs in equal measure and Yui in the middle as a kind of referee. It’s rare you get Yuuki Aoi, Touyama Nao and Ayane Sakura sharing a scene together, and every moment of it is a gift.

Yukino’s mom tries once more to rattle her daughter’s cage, but her efforts are utterly ineffective. Yukino firmly and confidently acknowledges her duties and responsibilities as the boss of this prom—as well as the potential cost to her family’s rep if it doesn’t go well. When turning to leave, Haruno tells Hikki to “brace himself” for a real, genuine journey he’s undertaken with Yukino.

But thanks to all of their hard work and the assistance of their friends, the prom goes off without a hitch just like the last one, only without the dread of the three friends breaking up forever upon its conclusion. If the first prom celebrated the end of the beginning, this prom heralds the start of a new era for Hikki, Yukino, and Yui.

And all of this is, in large part, thanks to Hiratsuka Shizuka, who never stopped bugging a younger, stupider Hikki to join the Service Club and meet similarly transient souls who’d benefit from each other’s interactions. Shizuka ends up getting a lovely extended curtain call and special treatment in the form of a dance with Hikki in a emptied-out hall bathed in a gorgeous sunset.

Then Hikki gets a little lucky when Shizuka trips and lands on him. The romantic energy has never been stronger between these two, but Shizuka is content to be the wise sensei who considers Hikki to be her Ultimate Student. He’s proud of him, and he’s grateful to her, and their warm handshake is the perfect parting gesture.

Speaking of perfect, a seemingly frazzled Yukino has a thick stack of papers in hand as she warns Hikki that the “hard part” of the prom has just begun. Before they split up to perform the various necessary tasks, she rattles off a list of thinks for him to take care of. As the list grows, Hikki starts thinking it’s too much…until Yukino tells him one more thing: I love you.

She said it! No half-measures or weasel words, just the big three! Upon seeing Hikki’s stupid blushing reaction, she shrinks into her papers and shuffles away. I loved it, and even though he knows he’ll have to say something just as clear and unambiguous in response to her in the very near future, Hikki loved it too. The things about her that annoy him also kill him with cuteness, and I’m sure the feeling’s mutual.

Fast forward to the start of Hikki and Yukino’s final year of high school. The two are in the clubroom tying up lose prom ends when their new kohai Komachi enters, enthusiastically volunteering to join the Service Club. When they tell her no such club exists anymore, Iroha follows Komachi through the door (complaining about how fast the “little rice girl” runs) with a StuCo-preapproved application for a New Service Club.

Komachi is the new president, and no sooner do Hikki and Yukino learn they are listed as members does their very first new client arrive with another “Yahallo!” Yui has come for advice on what to do if the person you like has a girlfriend, but you want to be friends with her forever.

A knowing Yukino offers Yui a seat and prepares to pour her some tea. This could take a while, but it could take forever as far as they’re concerned, since that would mean they’d always be together, figuring it out, as they have so many other things.

Season Average: 9.08

Kakushigoto – 03 – The Accidental Harem

I came into Kakushigoto hoping it would be a lightweight feel-good slice-of-life father/daughter comedy. Yet every time it jumps to a future where an 18-year-old Hime has apparently lost her father pushes it into striaght-up drama territory. Everything in the present and 10-year-old Hime exhibits a thin layer of wistfulness, lending even mundane or comedic scenes more emotional weight, like the shading of a manga frame.

This week only begins (and doesn’t end) with a time leap, so we can still ease into the present-day slice-of-lifeness. But we learn something definitively that I had been suspecting: the house at the top of the hill is the exact same plan as the one 10-year-old Hime lived in. Kakushi apparently had a copy of the house built to the exact specs of the older one…where perhaps he and his wife lived before Hime?

In Mangaland, Kakushi’s entire staff has injuries, a stroke of bad luck and coincidence, so his editor hires a substitute replacement. The regular assistants are impressed with his speed and efficiency, but Kakushi deems him “too efficient” for an assistant.

That confuses them at first—how could an assistant be too fast and efficient?—until they find that assistant published his first work. Once an assistant has reached a certain level of skill, there’s nothing stopping them from striking out on their own, without even mentioning how he worked for Kakushi for a few days or so!

As for the curious design of the house, Hime’s friends wonder out loud if Hime and her dad are poor (of course, one of them has an elevator and concierge in her house, so wealth is surely relative). Hime had never thought about finances before, but takes it upon herself to pinch every penny.

Kakushi comes home on a hot summer day to find the A/C suspiciously turned off and Hime pressing her body against the nice, cool floor. He proceeds to tell her he makes far more than the average salaryman, almost betaying that he’s not really a salaryman before recovering and saying he’s more like upper middle management. He also almost explains why the house looks the way it does, but stops himself.

Since Hime found not only clothes but age-appropriate cooking recipes in her 10-year-old box (her mom really went the extra mile), Kakushi allows Hime to cook with the housekeeper. Turns out the housekeeper is from Indonesia, and so puts an Indonesian flair on the recipe. This mirrors a situation at work where the studio is digitized and they receive a rainy day from a remote artist, only it’s an Indonesian day, not a Japanese one.

Hime’s school sports festival arrives, and Kakushi tries to get himself in shape should he have to do anything athletic. There’s a fun bit discussing the various muscle groups used while reading manga. Then he has trouble drawing a high school girl character aspiring to be an idol, only to come home and find a high school girl aspiring to be an idol in his house, the guest of her first-ever fan, Hime.

The girl, Senda Naru, is so surprised that an adult (and a man) is so eager to hear her story (because Kakushi needs material for his manga), that by the time they part ways she’s developed a bit of a thing for him. She won’t be the first!

As Kakushi openly expresses his worries about his daughter not having a mother around, he inadvertently compliments both his cooking teacher You and the local florist Kumi. When the clothier sells his salaryman disguise and he has to go out in public in white tie like a groom, he runs into Rokujou, who assumes he’s proposing and wigs out.

By the time the festival rolls around, Hime has an entire cheering section composed of her dad, and his rather sudden but diverse harem: You, Kumi, Rokujou (who turns into a demon when she sees Kakushi with the other women), and the aspiring idol Naru. Yet Hime is more bemused than appreciative; for all of Kakushi’s worries, Hime isn’t missing a mother in the slightest. If anything, she’d rather spend more time with just him!

The fact she’s so naturally mature about these things at ten years old (not to mention how quickly she learns how to clean and cook) makes be believe that despite having neither parent alive, 18-year-old Hime is going to be just fine. That means Kakushi did a great job, despite his insecurities … which makes the time leaps a little less sad.

Kakushigoto – 02 – Boxes Within Boxes

In addition to being about a single father and daughter, Kakushigoto offers a glimpse into the lives of manga artists. Kakushi’s team is up against a deadline, so they escape reality by getting absorbed in doing chores or cooking. They end up completing the manuscript in time, and while it might sound counter-intuitive, they were only able to do it because of the gyoza-making session session.

Since a manuscript is done, Kakushi and crew have some free time, so they head to a beach (and a villa owned by a manga artist who, like many, dreamed of working by the sea, only to soon regret it). Unfortunately for Kakushi’s assistants, the villa is in dire need of a deep clean.

Meanwhile, Kakushi spies on Hime, who is on a school field trip. He’s caught several times by Ichiko, who thinks he’s talking about her (and not Hime) when he says “the cuteness is undeniable.”

Kakushi also goes to great lengths to ensure Hime doesn’t endure teasing, first by buying a beetle for her to easily catch (though it’s the wrong species), then flying in an Indian master chef to add seasoning to her curry (though it’s too spicy for the kids).

He returns to find his assistants are too exhausted from cleaning to go out, so they aim to have double the fun tomorrow. Alas, a typhoon hits the area hard, and they’re stuck inside with the power out and nothing to do…but draw manga. One of them, Rasuna, draws in her swimsuit, because she brought a swimsuit so she has to wear it somewhere, dammit!

While taking Hime to a festival, Kakushi keeps spotting bootlegged merchandise bearing the face of a character from his manga. Mortified Hime will put two and two together, he buys up all of the masks, cotton candy, and attempts to shoot all of the targets, using his assistants to carry the huge loads of merch away.

In the process of doing all of this, poor Hime has to sit on a bench and wait instead of spending time with her dad. It’s a case of Kakushi worrying and thinking way too much. Hime isn’t actively trying to find out the truth of his livelihood.

In another segment that bends reality, a pair of police investigators come to Kakushi’s makeshift studio, on suspicion they’re running an antisocial cult. With every piece of “evidence” the detectives find, their crazy suspicions grow more ridiculous, until they fear Kakushi and his comrades are planning to overthrow the government.

Three of his four assistants surrender, hoping they’ll receive leniency, and Kakushi follows suit when he considers the possibility of not being there for Hime. Ultimately it’s Rasuna who proves to the cops that Kakushi is indeed a manga artist and harmless—as long as you consider a naked artist’s portrait in the back of his book!

Finally, while printing out photos of their festival trip, Kakushi wonders where Hime’s yukata came from. She tells him it’s hand-sewn, and she found it in the closet. Kakushi opens said closed, for the first time, and discovers boxes for every year of Hime’s life up to 16, no doubt packed with age-appropriate, hand-made clothes. Kakushi has been so busy with his manga and keeping his job a secret, he never knew his wife too great strides to ensure Hime would be well-dressed after she was gone.

Fast-forward to the present day when Hime is 18, lamenting how she never tried to find out what her dad really did and is only learning now. She finds new boxes for ages 17-20 in the storage house. It sure seems like Kakushi has died at this point, and that lends an extra layer of melancholy to all the segments in the past—especially when you consider how much time (and money) Kakushi spends keeping his job secret.

If he’s dead when she’s 18, that means the 10-year-old Hime only has seven years left with her dad. It’s kind of heartbreaking!

Shokugeki no Souma 4 – 07 – Battle of the Two Queens

After a brief repsite, we’re on to the fourth and deciding bout, with Elite Ten’s top three (and only three still standing) facing off against three of the four remaining rebels. Souma sits this bout out. He’s earned it! First up: Momo vs…Erina! It’s not often we get to watch the God Tongue in action, and even the Central-loyal crowds acknowledge her general amazingness.

That, and the nature with which Megumi went after her, all conspires to put Momo in a foul mood, a mood she intends to improve by baking and confectioning her tiny butt off. I have to say, she’s awfully “lucky” she keeps getting theme ingredients that are perfect for deserts! She goes into overdrive, erecting a massive and ostentatious castle of roll cakes decorated with animal designs and exquisite ribbon candy.

It’s not all about showmanship and “cuteness”, however. Like her basket of roses, “big ass cake castle” is a simple concept, but excels in he little details, as a perfectionist patissier like Momo is wont to do. She even employed soy sauce as a rich and salty element in the whipped cream to accentuate the sweetness, similar to the similar tactic used with salted caramel.

Because the castle is so big, Momo is able to enchant not just the judges and Urara, but the entire audience as well, turning the Shokugeki into another opportunity to promote her celebrity. The judges are certainly impressed, and Momo uses everyone’s approval to stare down menacingly at Erina from the battlements of her fortress.

But Momo is sadly mistaken to underestimate her opponent. I mean, we’re talking about the God Tongue here, daughter of the current and granddaughter of the former headmasters of Totsuki. Whether the dish is savory or sweet, Erina knows what she’s doing, and not even Momo’s preternatural ability to assess the cuteness of flavors is any match for Erina’s culinary instincts.

Erina’s dish is, as you’d expect, much smaller than Momo’s, but packed with refinement. It is, at the end of the day, two pancakes with red bean paste in the middle—a dorayaki, like Megumi’s. But where Megumi didn’t quite transform the elements enough to beat Momo’s rose basket, Erina infused her knowledge of cuisine with the resourcefulness and willingness to stray outside the bounds of “what is normal” she’s gained from Souma.

The result of that fusion is an easy victory over Momo, who in an arrogance that has been rewarded all her life, presumed that she ruled over all things dessert. In fact, there were entire nations, regions, and worlds she not only didn’t have dominion over, but didn’t even know existed.

Megumi gave Momo a taste of those worlds and irritated her, but Erina beat her with them. Erina even acknowledges Megumi’s inventiveness by using the French version of her name, “Grace”, in the name of her dish. As for Erina admitting Souma inspired her, well, she goes right back to her tsundere safe place. But it’s a good solid victory.

Next up: Takumi vs. Rindou in a spear squid battle. In a final twist to make it harder on the rebels, this and the battle between Satoshi and Eishi will be judged by Azami himself, meaning Takumi and Satoshi will have to prove to him that his philosophy is wrong.

Shokugeki no Souma 4 – 04 – Red Riding Hood v. Rocky

Once Souma, Megumi and Takumi finish gathering their ingredients from the massive storeroom, they gather in a huddle, coordinating their flavors and coreographing what they’ll be doing for each other during the third bout. It’s teamwork that impresses the Bookmen, and it gives them a rare edge over the mostly lone-wolf Elite Ten.

Among the crowd are the master chefs who trained these three on the Totsuki train: Souma’s dad, Doujima, and Shinomiya Koujirou, who trained Megumi. Things didn’t start out well, as Megumi is a bundle of nerves, remembering when Shino “fired” her from an earlier training camp. ‘

However, he quite accidentally hits on the perfect training method with Megumi: seemingly hollow slogans! You see, Megumi was a huge fan of a table tennis manga in which a once-timid player was goaded into greatness by a coach who’d never give up on her. She forgets their bad blood and embodies that table tennis heroine.

It’s a good thing “Coach” Shinomiya was able to stumble upon an effective method, because Megumi is in the fight of her life against Momo, who doesn’t hold back. As the sole pastry chef of the Elite Ten, Momo’s own methods and style vary from the other nine, but even moreso due to her edict that everything she says and does be as cute and elegant as possible. Simply boiling the apples isn’t enough…they need to have a nice bath in rose water.

To that end, the process of preparing her dish puts a literal spell on both the Bookmen and the MC Urara, in whose head a switch suddenly flips and she’s back to being cute and elegant rather than a trash-talking delinquent. It probably won’t last, but it’s definitely an indication there’s something not quite right about Urara, and neither of these extremes is who she really is.

Momo’s adorable bread basket of rose-shaped apple tartlets transports the judges to fairy tale land, where they’re probably content to stay and simply award the win to Central once more. But Megumi’s unassuming-looking dorayaki intrigues the more historically-inclined Bookman, Histoire.

Their first bite makes an impact quite different from Momo’s, snapping them out of fairyland with swift, powerful prizefighter punches.  However, she can’t quite surpass the visual flair, aromas and flavor of Momo’s dish. But the first bite is just the beginning, as Histoire munches deeper into the dorayaki and finds something…extraordinary.

The other judges quickly follow his lead and are similarly overwhelmed. What did she do…and is it enough to send Momo’s basket toppling from the victory podium?

Working!!! 3 – 08

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Yamada may have moved back home, but she remains at Wagnaria after Otoo and Kyouko allowed her to keep coming in like Takanashi’s little sister to help out, and spending the night there when her mother isn’t home. So in a way, there hasn’t been a major change in the status quo, aside from the fact Yamada is usually going home and is now on better terms with her mom—though not her brother Kirio.

After that Aoicentric episode, this one is more of a grab bag, with a little story involving just about everyone from Otoo reuniting with his wife to Souta having to get a birthday present for Yachiyo (he actually gives her four for the four years he’s liked her).

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Many of these stories involve a Yamato in one way or another. Takanashi is annoyed that Kirio is talking so pleasantly with Inami, because he likes Inami, but won’t acknowledge that. He ends up beating Kirio up too much, and must recite a long-winded compliment that Takanashi thinks sounds like a joke, and it’s also how Inami interprets it, embarrassing her. So no real movement there.

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In another non-Yamada-related tidbit, Takanashi notices Popura may have shrunk, and Souma confirms she’s lost around 2cm, causing her to become depressed, because as much as she likes being pet by Katanashi, she also wants to grow more, not less. Turns out she actually did grow a centimeter, only because Takanashi grew three, she didn’t gain any ground, causing her to become depressed again.

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Back to Aoi, who convinces her mom over a period of six weeks to buy her a cell phone, then sends her mom a text, waits 30 minutes, and gets a blank reply back. Kirio, full of hidden talents, interprets the blank text as a long-winded inner monologue going on in their mother’s head about what Aoi’s original text meant and how best to respond.

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Finally, Kirio is sick of Aoi not acknowledging him as her true big brother (thanks to that natto theft incident), so he tries to become her big brother by becoming Souma’s little brother, which he attempts in the most ridiculous, true-to-the-Yamadas manner possible.

It’s actually Souta, whom Kirio asks for advice, who tells Kirio to take this route, in order to best annoy Souma as payback. But it isn’t long before the plan backfires and Kirio is annoying Souta to the point he must retreat from his own kitchen. Don’t get involved with Kirio; it isn’t worth it!

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Working!!! 3 – 07

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A lot of the interpersonal conflicts that arise in Working!! come down to people interpreting each others actions, words, or lack of words incorrectly; making the wrong assumptions. So it’s no surprise that the core conflict of Yamada Aoi—that she’s run away from home—comes down to such misinterpretations. After all, she’s one of the strangest communicators out there, having a running third-person commentary of her life as she lives it.

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Aoi is also bright and friendly and warm and cute—when she’s not being impetuous, cocky, or a huge hassle to others. Her mom is not any of those things. She comes off to many like a robot, and Kirio and Aoi were even furnished with “mom manuals” in order to interpret her subtle facial expressions, since she speaks so little. Aoi is in conflict with her mom because she never RTFM.

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As such, Aoi interpreted her mother foisting huge books on her to mean she was coldly forcing her to cram, even though her mother inside was simply worried about Aoi’s future. And Kirio eating her special natto (which he didn’t think was so great) is the last straw (or natto strand). Aoi tries to form a new family in Wagnaria, then Takanashi’s house, but her proper place is with her family; it’s just a matter of being convinced.

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The issue is brought to the forefront, and resolved, by two side characters. Aoi’s mom happens to be Takanashi’s eldest sister’s masochistic ex-husband, and Otoo’s often-lost wife Haruna convinces Aoi to go back home based on the principle of “ships passing in the night”, or family members and friends who may have wildly different ways of looking at and interacting with the world can still bump into each other on occasion, which is something to be celebrated.

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Aoi thus learns the conciliatory, re-connecting value of a hug from her mother (who tracked her down, ninja-style), and returns home, even though she still considers Souma a better big brother than Kirio. But while this means Aoi will no longer be living either at the restaurant or Takanashi’s, I’m sure she’ll still be “working” there on occasion; as long as it doesn’t interfere with her studies.

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Working!!! 3 – 06

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Working!!’s frequent teases into serialized territory that don’t pay off or end in a slightly more amicable status quo can sometimes set me off, as they did last week, but I was happy to see it table the Takanashi/Inami saga for now.

The recent developments (or lack thereof) between both the two of them and Souta/Todoroki have not been lost on Souma, who laments that none of the four of them are particularly forthcoming about the salacious details (or lack thereof) he desires.

I didn’t hate Yamada as much this week either, because instead of braying on about natto and generally not making any sense in an unfunny way, she names Souma her big brother and becomes his sidekick in the acquisition of salacious details about their co-workers.

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Takanashi is all out of sorts because of all his recent thoughts about Inami, so he feels he can find some comfort and solace in the simple petting of Popura’s head. Alas, he doesn’t find what he’s looking for, as he finds Popura grumpy and unwilling to talk to him or accept any food or drink.

Yamada posits that Popura is angry and stressed out from having to pick up the slack from everyone else (because they’re all in their heads about their would-be love interests). Her theory is not without merit, but it’s quickly debunked when Popura reveals she has a nasty canker sore.

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The next day she stays home with a fever. As Nazuna fills in for her (as an unpaid intern), Popura starts having fever-induced hallucinations of a five-inch Satou, who charges her with saving the world from an evil version of Takanashi who is trying to shrink the entire world.

MiniSatou conjures up a shabby-looking stick, and Popura’s beam has no effect on Takanashi, but only makes her shrink to a smaller size than MiniSatou.  Finally, she wakes up, having slipped into a fever dream. This was a nice, imaginative departure from the usual restaurant setting.

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Finally, we turn back to Yamada, which is usually a bad thing, but in this case her brother Kirio arrives to find her and take her home. I think I remember something like this happening in Working’!! 2, but I’m always happy when (almost) everyone is trying to inject some reality into Yamada’s life. At the end of the day she is a runaway who really should return to her family.

Only Souma suggests they send Kirio home for now, giving Yamada a reprieve from that reality despite the fact she left the attic he told her to hide in. I don’t know if she’ll ever go home, but it would obviously be better if it’s of her own volition and not by force.

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Working!!! 3 – 05

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While I like the fact that while trying to focus on work instead of obsessing over the meaning of Inami’s words last week has Souta cleaning the house so intensely that everything sparkles for the duration of the episode, this episode still felt a bit stretched-out and listless, tackling an issue that we’re no strangers to, but very much want to see more progress on rather than additional deliberation.

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That issue is Inami x Souta. Thirty-one episodes have aired without resolving this romance, and I’ll admit, I’m just about as exhausted by the will-they-won’t-they as Izumi is with activities like standing, talking, and being outside. Worse, nothing really new is added to the equation this week. Izumi simply gets the wrong idea and sets Inami and Souta on a blind date.

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Mind you, the sparkly house, image of Inami in a paper bag and boxing gloves, and then burning up are all fun, but they don’t change the fact that 90% of what they should be verbally expressing to each other remains stubbornly in their respective heads, running around in circles. It dawns on Souta that these events prove that Inami likes him, and Inami herself believes she said enough to give him that impression, but nothing comes of it; he simply gets bashful and scurries off. But hey, at least she didn’t punch him!

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Worse still, an already stretched-out A-story was padded rather clunkily by a seriously lacking B-story in which Yamada runs around with Natto, spills it on her, declares she’s “Done With Natto”, and is then convinced to go back to it after she learns most everyone’s favorite foods are soy-based. We get it; Yamada’s a big ol’ weirdo. Yet the episode insisted on banging a pot behind our heads shouting “OMG ISN’T YAMADA SO WEIRD!” I would have honestly preferred a B-story centered on literally anyone else. This was a rare miss for Working!!.

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Working!!! 3 – 04

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This week, something that in hindsight seems obvious became evident: the title Working!! doesn’t just refer to a bunch of quirky people working in a restaurant. That’s just the setting. It can also be about those quirky people working things out with one another, like Yachiyo and Satou, or Inami and Takanashi.

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After their drinking date, Yachiyo is consumed with the meaning of Satou’s sudden, warm, but cryptic hug. She knows she didn’t dislike it and wouldn’t be opposed to more of it, but has no idea why Satou did it.

When she confronts him in the kitchen, he tells her to figure it out for herself, while the best she manages to relay to him is that the thought of being friends with him makes her gloomy, without clarifying that she doesn’t want to be JUST friends.

Yachiyo is so distracted she’s making mistakes in her work, but thankfully the episode doesn’t make that a practical excuse for her to give up on Satou. Working!! is also about the characters helping out one of their own when they’re in some kind of trouble or acting strangely, as Yachiyo is.

To that end, Popura, the second-most senior server after Yachiyo, makes it work, picking up the slack and delegating all of the work Yachiyo is forgetting to do to everyone else, with each task optimized for the worker’s unique talents and quirks.

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Meanwhile, Kyouko’s underling Mitsuki shows up to drill Satou on his knowledge of Yachiyo, only to learn he knows a lot more about Kyouko since Yachiyo has classically always talked about her in front of him, and because he likes her, he doesn’t just take a fake interest; he retains the information, no matter how inane. Mitsuki thinks this means he loves Kyouko, but it really means he loves Yachiyo.

When Kyouko finds out about Yachiyo’s predicament, she solves it in the most direct, Shirafuji Kyouko Way possible: locking the two would-be lovebirds in the supply closet.

And it actually works! Yachiyo finds she can talk with Satou normally while they’re busy working, and they get on the same page about wanting to continue to act and talk normally. Yachiyo then tries to slip in her desire for Satou to take her out again sometime, but in her rush to make a dramatic exit, she forgets the door is locked.

Still, in that stockroom, these two took a little more stock in what they mean to one another, and while their future doesn’t look easy, it still looks bright.

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The rest of the episode is devoted to a relationship that hasn’t gotten much play this season, and indeed seems to have regressed: that of Takanashi and Inami. The former starts to notice how cute Inami is (now that she’s punching men, and him, a lot less), even though this goes against his obsession with tiny, cute things.

He strains to explain these feelings—maybe it’s Inami’s tiny bust affecting him?—but he can’t quite accept what Kirio says (loudly and obnoxiously): that the reason he’s had eyes for Inami lately is that he’s in love with her. Her, a mature woman far older than he likes.

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As Popura and Kyouko helped Yachiyo out with her problem, Yamada is trying to help Inami out, putting her “on the market” by constantly approaching Takanashi with methods that only intensify his feelings. His bizarre reactions discourage Inami, but she eventually gets it out of him that she’s been giving him a “good vibe”, but he isn’t able to confess he finds her “slightly, barely, blink-and-you-miss-it cute.”

He then takes up his paternal platitudes about her getting over her hatred of men and living happily ever after with the man she loves. Inami is understandably hurt that Takanashi clearly intends to eliminate himself from any equation involving her, if only due to his stupid self-imposed standards. For that Inami punches him and tears up, but her “punch” is only a delicate tap on his chest that lingers there.

She apologizes and runs off, indicating she (and Yamada) still have work to do. But I’m confident that like Yachiyo and Satou, Takanashi and Inami will somehow make it work.

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Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 06

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This week’s Yuki-chan was a bit of a “sampler” with a lot of different loosely-connected stories taking place within the episode. Because Yuki is trying to be bolder, so she speaks up when the opportunity arises to hear the story of Kyon and Mikuru’s “horrendous encounter” from Tsuruya—after Tsuruya launches Mikuru at Kyon, causing a boob-face collision.

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In a classic example of the listener being at the mercy of the narrator’s own biases and motives, Tsuruya recounts a story of Kyon shamelessly setting up a situation in which he bumps into Mikuru and takes her by the hand. In reality, both events were pure accidents, which, is actually why Kyon and Mikuru are able to converse normally: what happened wasn’t that horrendous to them at all.

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The theme of misunderstanding and withheld facts continues in the second segment, in which Kyon, who won’t admit he’s not doing so great with his studies, asks Asakura if she’ll help tutor him. She gives him a high-and-mighty lecture, whereupon he decides to ask someone else, like Nagato.

At the mention of Yuki, Asakura grabs his hand and the two exchange what I’ll call “smiles of understanding.” But because of those smiles and the fact they’re holding hands, Yuki’s skewed, hyperrealistic manga/video game vision presents a much more intimate scene unfolding before her.

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This misunderstanding is cleared up, but when Asakura and Kyon hit the books, Haruhi and Koizumi burst in, with their prep school education that’s a full year ahead of the two. I love the shot of Kyon’s POV when Haruhi sticks her head into the frame. Kyon and Asakura mistake Haruhi’s factual statements as an attempt to mock their “lesser” school and by extension themselves, so Asakura challenges a “math-off”, only to get in over her head and start crying.

Asakura had warned Kyon not to involve Yuki in anything related to schoolwork, but has little choice, and wins the challenge with Yuki’s superior academic prowess. Hey, she lacks confidence…no one said she was a dummy! In another nice nod to the show in which she’s an alien, Yuki is so bad at explaining how she arrives at answers so quickly it sounds like she’s speaking an indecipherable alien language at seemingly superhuman speed.

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The last segment involves both misunderstandings and Yuki being bold. Kyon decides to eat lunch in the clubroom and finds Yuki there tapping away at her video game (which looks like a dating sim). He decides to tease her by snatching the game and making her jump up high to grab it, resulting in the two accidentally embracing. Asakura enters just in time to witness this embrace, and quickly withdraws with her apologies.

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She bursts in again to find Kyon feeding Yuki, and again apologizes and withdraws. Kyon worries she misunderstood everything…but did she? The hug may have been accidental, but both of them held that hug an awful long time…almost as if they enjoyed it. Also, it makes no sense why splitting Kyon’s lunch would be easier if he fed her. That’s just Yuki seeing if Kyon would actually feed her…and he does! Nice moments for this couple; I just wish they wouldn’t always dismiss them as misunderstandings.

The final scene has Haruhi, Koizumi, Tsuruya and Mikuru at the club’s door in preparation for Haruhi’s “Training Camp”, which she’s sure she told Yuki about, just as she told Yuki she got a faculty pass to come to their school for club. In both cases, Yuki forgot being told these things because she was so engrossed in her video games. But approving Haruhi’s requests has increased Kyon’s exposure to Haruhi, making Yuki’s job to woo him that much harder. So Yuki: When Haruhi’s around, put the game down and concentrate!

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