Flying Witch – 03

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Flying Witch continues to engross and enchant with a deft, gentle touch. It excels at showing life at the pace a Yokohama girl transplanted into the boonies would see it: much slower, but pleasantly so. I appreciate the dialect barrier: she has no idea what her uncle is saying, so it’s good her cousins do.

When Makoto wants to start a garden, Kei and Chinatsu help prepare a patch of the field out back, neglected since their grandmother’s passing. Like their dad’s accent (and their lack of same), the family’s move away from farming is a sign of the times, but the show doesn’t dwell on it in a negative light; it’s just the way things are.

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Similarly, when Makoto, city girl, sees a pheasant tantalizingly close up for the first time, she and Chito just can’t resist trying to catch it. Makoto exerts almost as much energy chasing the thing (which has nothing to do with her witch training) as she does preparing the earth. But the three get the job done, and now it’s up to the soil to absorb the nutrients, which will take, you guessed it, time.

It’s a testament to just how calm and quiet this show is that Chinatsu later describes Makoto’s world-wandering sister Akane as a typhoon, even though Akane isn’t particularly forceful or stormy or a burden; she’s just not at the same pace as this quiet country life.

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Akane is a mover and a shaker, living as a nomad (currently in Africa); giving everyone unprocessed gifts of cacao, salt, and oil; and correcting her modesty by agreeing with her sister that she is, in fact, a big deal in the witching community.

But like the signs of the times, the show makes no bigger a deal of Akane than anything or anyone else. It’s a rare anime instance where hearing bits and pieces of the larger witching world is more effective than showing everything. It leaves the imagination step in to wonder.

Akane hears (from Chito…the cat) that Makoto hasn’t used any magic since moving there, and only flown on her broom once. This confirms what I’d already suspected: not only is the show downplaying more overt forms of magic, but Makoto herself still isn’t comfortable with them.

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That’s okay with Akane, and even sees it as a boon for her sister, not having to rely on spells the way she does. That being said, she wants Makoto to cast spells from time to time, lest her powers dwindle. I like the the idea that the magic a witch possesses must be nurtured and polished like any non-magical skill.

To that end, Akane shows Makoto and Chinatsu one of the simplest beginner spells there is: summoning a witch with a girl’s black hair, fire, and an incantation written on paper. Makoto uses her own hair and ends up making a huge column of black smoke that summons all crows, which is what happens when a witch’s hair is used.

I’m fascinated by the fact that the power of a witch can be expressed in such a subtle way as her hair burning differently than a non-witch. It’s another detail that enriches the world of the show, a world grounded in reality with little flourishes of magic you’ll miss if you’re not looking.

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Barakamon – 04

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When I decided to paint beige-colored racing stripes on 1991 Honda Accord, the most difficult step in the process wasn’t the measuring, the marking of guide points with non-permanent marker, or making sure the masking was tight. No, the toughest part was making that very first mark with the paint upon the (sorta) pristine blank surface. There was no going back from that moment, so I figured I’d best not screw up.

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Once that first mark was made, I felt a lot more confident, and sure enough the stripes were turned out true and crisp. Seishuu faces similar apprehension, only it’s quite a bit more pronounced, because the boat he’s painting belongs to an ill-tempered gangster (and Miwa’s pops), and for the entire process he is distracted by a gaggle of little kids darting around like gnats, upsetting the calm such a job normally requires.

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Then there’s the fact that he shouldn’t be doing odd calligraphy jobs now that he’s been entered in the upcoming Naruka Institute Calligraphy Exhibition. Exhibiting the humility he’s gained since moving to the island, he doesn’t promise to claim to Grand Prize, as he’s still “in the darkness,” but he’s certain he’ll someday “find the light,” lines that are both cool and corny. I don’t buy, however, that someone his age has never operated a rotary phone!

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If you can successfully paint a five-kanji name on the boat of a prickly gangster-geezer under the constant distraction urchins constantly up in your business, well…you’re not completely worthless as a human. Intimidated by the vast stretch of pure, empty white, Seishuu ceases up, until Naru plants a tiny black hand on that white. Then another, then the others join in.

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It’s as if whatever spell was keeping Seishu from touching brush to boat was lifted. From there, Seishuu dives in going with a wild, splattery style to cover up the prints, and ending up with something both he and Yamamura can be satisfied with. But the true challenge lies ahead with his exhibition work, where he won’t have the benefit of Naru making the first mark for him.

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Barakamon – 03

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It’s not very often an episode comes around where I’m snickering or laughing almost the entire time, but this was one of those. It all starts with the stern, severe, hard-as-stone gaze of SAMURAI HARU, capturing the pride and maturity a youngin’ feels when she’s learned something new, the Kana on a chocolate bar and milk carton, in this case. Of course, when she’s corrected, the swagger vanishes and she’s back to being a little kid.

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That’s the first of a series of vignettes the episode starts out with, enticing my palette and leaving me wanting more, then getting something a little different that produces the same effect. It’s a tactic similar to that used by chef Thomas Keller to relieve well-off people of hundreds of dollars and many hours of their evenings…and it works.

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When Seishuu goes to the town general store, he learns a clever way to pick up fallen needles (YEAH BITCH! MAGNETS! OH!), and also gets a taste of the older villagers’ thick and all but indecipherable dialect, one that sometimes even leads to misunderstandings between each other. It’s also funny that one old lady thinks another is hard of hearing, when she really isn’t.

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The most sustained bit comes when Seishuu and Tamako end up going for the same bottle of ink; Seishuu lets the younger Tama have it (foreshadowing the episode’s eventual moral) for her manga manuscript, which Tama humbly asks him to take a look at. When he dare question the highly questionable content, Tama lets him have it in Full Mangaka Passion Mode.

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She’s extreme, but Seishuu can relate; they’re both artists, after all. That encounter segues to Tama lending him her favorite manga, then getting worried she accidentally lent him one of her incriminating BL mangas she secretly treasures (her whole story of how that came about is marvelous). She arrives at Seishuu’s house to clear up the misunderstandings he may be harboring, only to see him apparently locked in a passionate BL embrace with Hiroshi, which is another misunderstanding (Hiroshi merely caught him from falling).

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In the midst of all this island craziness, Seishuu had shipped off his latest and most expressive calligraphy for an exhibition, but is outraged and crestfallen to learn he only managed second place, losing to an eighteen year old whelp. When other whelps show up with their cheerful demeanor, he snaps at them, but again, Tama understands his passion, and she takes Miwa and leaves, leaving the cheering up to Haru, who keeps it simple: “Are you having fun right now?…If you’re not, let’s go have some!”

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She urges him to take a plastic bag and come with her and everyone else to the mochi-tossing ceremony to commemorate the building of a new boat. Seishuu is warned to stay away from the professionals (Yasuba and Panchi) but be aggressive. But again and again, he bounces off the crush of people, and is unable to snatch up a single mochi, despite being young above average in height, and keen.

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The ceremony is a simplified analog to his current situation with calligraphy: striving to be the best is futile: there will always be someone better. Pressing against those waves of reality is a waste of effort. It’s better to, as Yasuba says, say “Go on ahead” to the one who barges past. Yield to what must be yielded to and wait for the next opportunities, which will come with patience. Never stop fighting, but avoid unwinnable struggles.

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This was probably the best Barakamon to date, besting out the first episode (Don’t despair, first episode! Second Place is good too!). But I wouldn’t be surprised if a future episode comes along to best it. But for now, this is it, and it was glorious and hilarious from start to finish. From Samurai Haru and Psycho Poodle to Tama’s fujoshi ravings, it looked like the artists had as much fun drawing and voicing this one as I had watching it.

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Stay Observations:

  • “Kids grow up so fast.” LOL. Loved Giant Haru stomping off to the horizon.
  • The screaming noise Tama’s manga made when he slipped it out of the envelope was a nice touch.
  • “Society demands story elements it has never seen before,” proclaims Tama. Could she be talking about the show she’s in?
  • The BL manga that changed Tama’s life? Overtime Work Lovers: “Huh? You’re still here?!” That title is GOLD.
  • Tama uses Hideo Nomo’s “Tornado” delivery to throw the manga against a wall.
  • Seishuu and Hiroshi’s “embrace” literally blows Tama away…Akira style.
  • More village etiquette: Panchi knows she’s a heel during mochi-pickings, so she leaves home-cooked apology meals at the homes of those she wronged.
  • In the omake, Haru is appropriately mortified by how the schoolmaster (who looks and sounds like a gangster) uses crayfish as bait.

Nisekoi – 15

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Last week I lauded the addition of Tachibana Marika to the cast, and my positive impressions were only reinforced this week. Among the hesitant, dilatory Kosaki and the tsunderes Seishirou and Chitoge, Marika is a breath of fresh air. She’s aggressive about her feelings for (and legal claim to) Raku in a way the others simply haven’t been, and it feels like her approach is already influencing Raku while simultaneously making his choice a lot more difficult.

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The memory of meeting and falling for Raku is still fresh in Marika’s mind, as she tells the story of how he visited and played with her while she was bedridden. Even back then, Raku was a kind, decent fellow. When she brought up the subject of what kind of girls he likes, Raku told her, and ever since then, she’s made herself into that ideal. She put the work in and kept the flame burning, something you can’t say of any of his other suitors.

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Raku also finally gets Kosaki, Chitoge and Marika together to brief them on the situation: there are three keys, but only one locket. Marika doesn’t remember anything about the other two any more than the other girls do, only the memories involving her and Raku, and the locket is still being repaired, so the moment of truth is postponed. But regardless of whose key opens the locket, Marika is working to make Raku hers, even as Raku clings to his certainty that Kosaki is the one he presently loves.

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As I said, she’s succeeding due to her uncompromising devotion and aggression. It doesn’t matter if he hasn’t accepted the engagement; as far as she’s concerned, they’re all but married already. As such, she invites Raku to her penthouse home to meet her father, who is frikkin’ HILARIOUS. In addition to being voiced with gusto by Tachiki Fumihiko, he’s scary as all get-out; far scarier than any yakuza Raku’s met. There’s abundant comedy just in watching Raku squirm, and it’s just as funny how Marika acts naturally through all of her father’s intense outbursts.

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When it comes down to it, though, Marika’s father gets the full truth out of Raku, and turns out to be a fair, perceptive man who obviously cares for his daughter. Whatever Raku has going on, be it another girlfriend or a girl he’s really in love with, he reiterates that at the end of the day he must keep his promise and make Marika happy. There’s no threat in this statement; it’s simply plain words from one man to another, both of whom have staked their honor on this arrangement.

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Perhaps the best part of this episode of all is when Marika asks Raku in the hallway how she could further transform herself to make herself more desirable to him. Taking a page out of her book, Raku is truthful and aggressive, heaping all the praise she deserves upon her, and telling her she’s cute, awesome, and sweet, regardless of her hairstyle or accent. I’m inclined to agree.

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