Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider – 06

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With five episodes behind us and five ahead, we’ve reached the middle of Subete ga F, and it’s predictably a crossroads of a kind. Last week ended with a disagreement between Saikawa-sensei and Moe, as well as the introduction of a knife and Shiki likely bringing Shindo into her plan to murder her parents.

Saikawa and Moe have had access to numerous clues, but haven’t solved anything yet, so they return to the campsite, if anything just to get some distance from all the messed-up shit they experienced at the lab.

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Alone on the beach, Saikawa goes over what they’ve learned so far, while Moe does the same in front of her educational colleagues, who wrongly assumed from her demeanor that she confessed and Saikawa rejected her.

She drowns her frustrations in non-alcoholic beer, but somehow, amusingly, gets drunk anyway. Some “non-alcoholic” beer can still be 1% ABV or more, but the can says 0.00%, so I don’t think that’s the case here? As for the can, it seems to be a cross between Sapporo (with the red star) and Kirin Free (white and green can). In any case, Moe is apparently a mean drunk.

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Things get seedier on Saikawa’s end when Yamane offers him a bribe to be a party to conspiracy. They have a big NASA contract coming up, and the police discovering Magata would ruin over a year of work. Saikawa is disgusted, and returns to the other campers.

Later that night, after Moe’s slept off the NAB, she and Saikawa have a nice moment where Saikawa lights a sparkler and talks about how he used to fear fireworks and not comprehend how people could enjoy doing something he perceived as so dangerous.

That’s enough for Moe to deduce that Saikawa’s not leaving the island after all, which means neither is she. She doesn’t care how dangerous it is, she wants answers. She’s close to this, after all. And as long as Saikawa is by her side, she believes she’ll be fine. They go to Yamane and agree to stay quiet for a week if he gives them unfettered access to the lab.

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United by their desire to see this through to the end and discover the truth for themselves, they restart their investigation with a full head of steam. Saikawa believes the killer wrote the three messages on the computer.

Moe discovers a change of elevator positions during the emergence of Magata’s body on the cart. Saikawa observes that all the encyclopedias on Magata’s bookshelf only go up to fifteen, the number of years she lived there. Is “fifteen” the “F” that one message said “everything becomes”?

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Then the final kicker: we watch how the murder of Shiki’s parents goes down. When Shindo hesitates, she takes the knife she gave him and stabs her mother herself. He grabs her from behind, and they essentially plunge the knife into her father together, getting blood all over her and the doll in the process. She spares her aunt, who witnessed everything, and she looks extremely satisfied with how everything went down.

So there we have it: we now know how Shiki killed her parents, and maybe one of the reasons why as well (to free Shindo from the shame of their becoming lovers). It’s yet to be determined how much the details of this incident informs how and why Shiki and Shindo themselves were murdered, but as Moe—who like Shiki, is into an older man—said: Shiki seemed “overcome” by death.

But did she really go “mad” as a result of that? What is “madness” to someone with such a towering intellect? In the second half to come, I imagine we’ll find out; and hopefully it will be an elegant unveiling.

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Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider – 05

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It was probably present before, but this week more than others I noticed the common theme between the two “couples” in Subete ga F: Shiki and Shindo in the past; Saikawa and Moe in the present. In both cases, the men are unfulfilled, wanting more freedom but being tied down; fearing the very freedom they crave because of what it might cost.

And by the end of the episode both couples arrive at a turning point, as well as a philosophical impasse of sorts. The apparent murder case, so prominent last week, takes a back seat to how being in the Land of Magata Shiki is affecting Saikawa and Moe, even as they act out a very similar scenario to that of the now-dead couple.

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Suffering vivid dreams of the day her own parents died, Moe ends up pumping Shindo’s still-in-shock widow for information. Losing her husband has left her untethered, floating free; but she doesn’t know what to do with herself, so she bakes too many cookies and is happy to tell Moe whatever she wants to hear about the day Shiki’s parents were killed.

But no matter how many details Moe learns, she comes no closer to understanding Shiki or her crimes, to say nothing of accepting them. It’s when she confers with Saikawa that a rift starts to form between them: the playful flirting replaced by increasingly harsh debate over who and what Shiki was.

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Bright as she is, Moe wears her heart on her sleeve and owns herself. She doesn’t feel “tied down” by having one personality she settled on as she grew and matured as a human. Saikawa, however, feels more trapped, both by his job and by the decision most all people make when they grow up to eliminate the contradictions and choose one personality with which to interact with the world…and fit in.

He admires Shiki for never doing that even as she grew up; he even believes she was fulfilling more of her potential as a human than he or Moe or hardly anyone else. He even goes so far as to call her “pure”, which considering her murders and fooling around with her uncle, would sound strange to anyone with conventional ideas of love and ethics…ideas Moe happens to have.

To Moe, when Saikawa starts waxing poetic about Shiki, even though he’s making no direct judgments on her, she feels rejected; it’s as simple as the guy she likes liking another girl more than her. But Moe does have one variable in her favor Shiki lacks: she’s still alive.

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The bookend-ing of flashbacks completes with Shiki purchasing a survival knife for Shindo, calling it “a tool to free oneself.” That could mean many things. Shiki’s parents clearly are unaware of the affair she and her uncle are engaged in. “Freeing oneself,” in that case, would mean making sure that affair stayed secret. Cutting the ropes that tie you down, to be with Shiki, the one who glides over all.

That knife could be the weapon that killed Shiki’s parents, and the doll in the room is Machiru, one of the personalities she carries. By gifting him the knife, Shiki is also forcing Shindo’s hand one way or another; asserting her authority over all these adults in her life by the primacy of her intellect, not things like familial bonds dictate who’s in charge.

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Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider – 04

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Another week, another episode with more questions than answers. More than once I conjured in my head those words from Alice in Wonderland: Curiouser and curiouser. There is so much that is curious and suspicious about this whole situation.

Saikawa and Moe explore Magata Shiki’s quarters and find quite a few more clues with which they start to piece together a narrative, sticking with practical matters like how the killer dismembered Shiki, stuffer her limbs down the garbage chute, cleaned up the quarters, and got to the roof to kill Shindo in the helicopter.

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But with each new strange discovery they have to amend their working theory, while remaining ignorant to the identity of the one whose actions they’re trying to construct. On her PC, Shiki left three separate notes of farewell and good luck, one of which states the show’s title, “Everything is F”…in lieu of Wonderland’s “Eat Me” or “Drink Me.” But there’s nothing else on the hard drives, just the latest version of Red Magic – two whole versions beyond what the staff had.

The night turns to morning, but there’s no way to know with no windows in the quarters, as if they’d either abandoned by or released from time, depending on who you talk to. As Moe inhabits the space where Shiki once sat and talked to her via video conference,  talking about Shiki’s wedding dress, Saikawa recalls a dress Moe used to wear when she was young, that made her look like a doll.

Dolls are both unfettered by time (as they do not age) and by conventional existence (they lack free will, and can only be manipulated by outside forces). Shiki seems to have built a robot: a kind of doll that thinks and moves on its own, but for a seemingly very limited purpose (locking or unlocking her bedroom door). And I can’t overlook the fact parallels are being drawn between Shiki and Moe, not just in their doll phases, but the fact both lost their parents when they were young.

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The show returns to the past with Shindo in a room with a young Shiki who wants him to touch her, after carrying on conversations between herself and her other personalities. Shindo appears flabbergasted and ashamed, but somehow powerless to cease this strange, alarmingly bright young woman’s whims. He says he’s “falling down a slope”, just as Alice went down a rabbit hole into a completely different world.

And at the end of the day, everything Moe and Saikawa find themselves tangled in that same world. It’s Shiki’s world, and they’re just living in it. She was presented as a doll on a robotic cart, and even before that seemed to invite manipulation from others like Shindo. But the good professor and his bright young protege could now be dolls under her control. Furthermore, she may not be fully gone; though her body is dead, Mahiru and Red Magic Version 6.0 invite so many intriguing possibilities.

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Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider – 03

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I went into this episode hoping for some answers but prepared for more questions, and got both. First, the indisputable answers: the figure in the wedding dress on the robotic cart is, in fact Magata Shiki. Magata Shiki is dead, and because her arms and legs were amputated, someone murdered her.

The rest—how she was murdered when no one went in her room, nor did she ever leave, in fifteen years—remains, well, a mystery. To say nothing of the identity and motive of the killer.

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As a result of encountering Shiki’s delimbed corpse, everyone, including Saikawa and Moe, are in a bit of shock; not knowing quite how they feel, let alone how they should feel. But Saikawa and Moe are also two uncommonly smart cookies, so they soon find a bit of solace from the horror before them in trying to unravel the mystery that comes with it.

The geography of the room and its apertures (one big, one small); the impeccably-kept surveillance tapes spanning a decade and a half (they didn’t rewind-and-reuse, like convenience stores); the custom security system called “Red Magic” that is so flawless, last week’s error seems planned; there’s a lot to sift through, and Saikawa attempts to do so; sucking down cigarette after cigarette in the process.

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Then Director Shindo arrives on the island via helicopter with Shiki’s younger (but notably more adult-looking) sister Miki, who is shocked to learn Shiki is dead. Moe, while going over in her head the part of her video conversation with Shiki relating to her feelings for Saikawa, thinks it somewhat coincidental that Miki, the last surviving Magata, should arrive around the same time her sister is found dead and mutilated.

For the record, we also learn how Moe met Saikawa (when she was a fifth grader) and why she developed feelings for him (he was the first adult she ever met who was smarter than her). The implication is, her towering intellect had made her hunger for stimulation; for a challenge.

While she initially hated Saikawa for being smarter, she clearly now sees him as a means for her to exercise her intellect. He expanded her humdrum world, by doing nothing at all but existing.

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It seems like Moe is about to mention something about her (deceased) parents, but Saikawa is concerned with how late Shindo is; when they return to the helipad, they find him dead from a knife to the back of the neck. It’s another surefire murder,  and just as Shiki never left her room, he never left the helicopter cockpit, and only used thumbs-up from inside. Perhaps the killer was there all along. But then what’s Mika’s part in all this?

Even more intriguing—and more than a little, well, wrong—is another monologue by the director accompanying another flashback (the one in the car last week was indeed a flashback involving a younger Shiki). This past Shiki is confirmed as only thirteen, but as he puts it, it’s “a long thirteen years”, in which she absorbed and retained everything she possibly could, and now wanted to “lose” something…which is pretty heavily implied to be her virginity.

It was up to Shindo, the adult in this situation, to put a stop to whatever was going on in the car and Ferris Wheel, but for various reasons, he couldn’t. Now both he and Shiki are dead; murdered…by who? How? Why? We’ll need quite a bit more ‘expository dialogue’ to find out.

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Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider – 02

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Professor Saikawa leads a group of college students on a camping trip to Himaka Island, but as far as Moe is concerned, it’s a golden opportunity for just the two of them to spend some quality time together outside of the university, smitten as she is for the young professor.

As much as she was looking forward to this trip (according to her butler), she gets pouty whenever the subject of the island’s most (in)famous inhabitant, Magata Shiki, comes up. Could it be she pulled strings to contacte Magata and had that recorded conversation just to get to better know the person she’s battling for Saikawa’s attention and enthusiasm?

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Once they arrive at the island and set up camp, Saikawa is quick to branch off on his own, as is his wont, while Moe is just as quick to join him, the two of them alone like she prefers. Here Moe shows a little more dimension beyond infatuation when she calls Saikawa out, asking straight up why he keeps her around “if he doesn’t like her.”

Saikawa’s frank response—that he doesn’t do anything he doesn’t want to outside of work hours, such as the present time—appeases Moe, but also emboldens her to want to go to the beach at night and drink alone with him; but Saikawa demurs, pulling the age card, even though he knows full well despite her looks Moe is nearly twenty, and capable of making these kind of decisions.

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Then there’s a raven-haired maiden in a white shift being driven by the director of the Magata Lab. Curiously, she demands the same basic things that Moe demands: to see the beach at night, drink alcohol, and the like. Furthermore, she inquires as to what the director’s wife is up to and what his own obligations for the evening are, then places her hands upon his as he clutches the gearshift and gives him a look that’s equal parts seduction and menace.

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To be honest, I have no idea what’s going on in that car, or even who the girl is: is it Magata’s little sister, whom the lab’s second-in-command helpfully informs Moe and Saikawa is off retrieving when Moe’s fake headache grants them access? Or is it Shiki herself? We see that Moe is either also interested in learning more about Magata, or is doing what she feels is the best way to get to Saikawa: by helping him meet his idol.

As for the lab itself, arriving there, exploring it, and being introduced to the various employees, it all has the flavor of an Agatha Christie novel, complete with shifty expressions, mysterious loyalties and backgrounds…and a locked room, wherein Magata Shiki herself has apparently dwelt for fifteen years without stepping outside…

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…A streak that appears to end after an apparent system-wide bug dramatically flashes the lights as a white-veiled, red-lipped Shiki, or something looking just like her which Moe insists is Shiki, blasts out atop one of the robotic trays that carried headache medicine to Moe not ten minutes earlier.

Naturally, Moe uses this frightening experience to grasp her beloved professor’s arm tightly, but something tells me that despite Shiki’s murderous past, she’s not going to be a physical threat so much as a psychological one, a possibility reinforced by the director’s monologue about his life being “ruled…and toyed with”, or rather wanting it to be “ruled…and toyed with”, by the girl in his car.

Again, still not entirely clear what’s going on, but I’m definitely intrigued, if a bit bemused.

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Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider – 01 (First Impressions)

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Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? is the title of a painting by Paul Gaugain, painted in Tahiti.  He considered the work his magnum opus, and he intended, tried, and failed to take his own life upon its completion. The title is an inscription in the top left corner of the piece, and may have been painted only after the attempted suicide. The three questions paraphrase those asked in a lesson by his liturgy teacher in school, which clearly stuck with the painter.

Those same three basic questions are asked several times in Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider, an intriguing mystery show full of precise compositions, dramatic lighting, subtle facial expressions, complicated emotions, philosophical discussion, a striking opening image of a girl sitting beside a beached and decaying shipwreck, and a cute college student who drives an slick new Alfa Romeo 4C to work at the office of her professor, whom she is pretty obviously in love with.

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The cute college student with the bob is Nishinosono Moe. The object of her attentions and affection is Saikawa Souhei. We first see “Where They Were” separately: Saikawa in some kind of awful meeting, Moe getting up and driving to work. Then we see “Where They Are”: simply coexisting in the office; Saikawa reading something on his computer and smoking while Moe makes coffee and waters the plants. Then we go back to “Where Moe Was”, when she “meets” the enigmatic Professor Magata Shiki.

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I say “meet” because Magata communicates through a video feed. But Moe’s encounter with her establishes Moe as academically and philosophically sharp. She’s in over her head with someone of Magata’s towering academic stature, but she comes in confident and with a plan of action, and Magata notices.

Back in the present, Saikawa goes off somewhere, and a lady named Gido arrives whom Moe is pretty sure is her romantic competition, and her mood changes considerably as a result when Saikawa returns. She tries to hash it out with him, but is interrupted by another student, Kunieda.

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When Saikawa goes out to lunch, he invites Moe, who reveals she spoke to Magata, something Saikawa hasn’t done, despite his esteem for the famous professor. Magata also happens to be infamous, due to the allegations she murdered both of her parents (she tells Moe what she told authorities: “A doll did it,” but then she does look very doll-like).

Once again Moe’s alone time with Saikawa is disrupted by interlopers (students Hamanaka and Kushieda). But Moe exploits their presence to plan a trip to the very island where Magata self-exiled herself and now studies at her lab in seclusion. And so now we know “Where They’re Going.”

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Once there, they’re sure to learn more about Magata, who asked the big existential questions—and asked some of her own—when she was only five. Normally, that’d be an indication Magata now has a brain the size of a planet, were it not for Saikawa’s continuing assertion throughout the episode that everyone is born a genius, and grows progressively stupider as they age and learn to interact with others.

Magata, who is a hermit, may have avoided some of that society-driven degradation, and hence Saikawa considers everything he’s accomplished (and he’s a top young mind himself) to only be a drop in the ocean of Magata’s greatness. In other words, the perfect rival for Saikawa’s intellect, as well as Moe’s rival for Saikawa’s attention.

A quiet, mature, contemplative show about very smart adults, morality, mortality, intrigue, and a weird love triangle?—I like where Subete ga F ni Naru is. Will I like where it’s going?

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Charlotte – 07

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Charlotte doesn’t hold any doors open, nor does it waste any time or pull any punches: Yuu survives the injuries incurred by the debris, but Ayumi is gone. And it’s only in that moment and in the days to come that Yuu realizes how much he took her presence, and her cooking, for granted. He thought he was taking care of her, but it wasn’t a one-way street, and Ayumi’s death leaves a yawning chasm in Yuu’s heart, a stinging sense of loss and helplessness that pervades this powerful but heartbreaking episode.

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Having failed to protect or “repay” his sister, Yuu surenders and shuts down. He tries to fill the hole with cup ramen and television, and either ignores or lashes out at anyone who tries to wrest him from his self-imposed punishment, from Misa and Jou to even Yumi, whom he once worshiped. Liking and pursuing her must feel like a sad joke compared to the situation he’s in now.

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Then sketchy men in black show up, and Yuu starts to think (perhaps not wrongly) the government is about to capture him. So he gets away, where he thinks the soaked kid can’t find him, and his “home” grows even smaller as he squats in an anime cafe eating pizza and mochi balls while continuing to escape from life by playing violent video games that he probably used to not care about in the least.

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When some roughs are using that video game too long Yuu takes the bait and starts playing games with them. One gang after another, no matter how strong or numerous or feared, falls before his body-swapping ability. He creates chaos among the group, and it’s in that chaos in which he’s able to work most effectively to defeat them. He’s using his skills not to help people, but to entertain himself.

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He learns “real life”, with real bodies and real blood, is more fun than the games. The hole he’s filled becomes infected and festers. He’s becoming a villain before our eyes, and the path he’s walking looks more and more like a one-way street. When he finds some drugs on one of his victims, he’s about to take things to the next level when Nao kicks them out of his hand, appearing out of nowhere. Where is Nao in all of this, I asked myself throughout Yuu’s self-destruction kick. Was she so guilty about how she handled the Ayumi case, or so upset about what became of Yuu, that she couldn’t face him?

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No, she was right there, by his side…the whole time. Last week’s cliffhanger kept open the possibility that supernatural powers would have some role to play in the story’s resolution, but magic couldn’t save Ayumi from her own power, nor could it save Yuu from drowning in grief and despair. But with her power, Nao could stay by his side, invisible only to him, with no time limit, and wait for him to get better. When it’s clear he won’t, she makes herself visible to him, in order to make him get better.

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And why? Not just because she feels partially responsible for Ayumi’s death, but because Yuu is, at the end of the day, someone she cares about, and if she can help it, she’s not going to let him destroy himself. So she makes a deal with him: if he has one bite of the food she makes for him, he’ll never see or hear form her again. At Joujirou’s house, she painstakingly recreates the same super-sweet omelette rice Ayumi always made for him. And he can’t have just one bite. He eats every bite, and agrees to come home.

It’s not words or actions that pull him out of deep waters of despair that are all to easy to slide into following the shock of a loss. It’s food; it’s a smell and a taste, and all of the better times and happy memories tied to them. It’s a reminder that he is still alive, and there are better ways to live, and better ways to fill the holes in your heart.

Brilliant portrait of a broken Yuu, and a equally brilliant scheme to save him by Nao. I’m still drying my eyes from the heavy emotions this episode so eloquently expressed.

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Charlotte – 06

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Ah, now that’s more like it. Just when I was hankering for Charlotte to mix up its ability user-of-the-week formula that was growing repetitive, it does just that in its midpoint episode. Things are different this week, as the ability user has a potentially extremely dangerous ability (called “Collapse” by Kumagami), and may not be a stranger, but Yuu’s own adorable little sister Ayumi, who had just suspiciously taken ill last week.

Yet with all the weight of these new adjustments to the formula, the show still finds apropraite moments of comedy, like the best way to exclude Joujirou from their trip to see Ayumi. Yuu is about to swap bodies with him so he can make him jump out the window, but Nao beats him to it by simply dropkicking him out the window. It isn’t the first time Yuu and Nao are of one mind on an issue, and it won’t be the last.

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A little more random peripheral comedy is found on their trip to the store prior to visiting Ayumi, in which Yuu’s practical purchases are augmented by Nao’s procurement of stewed mushrooms (apparently an excellent topping for porridge…Zane?) and most amusingly, a $20 tin of cookies Yuu has never seen removed from its dusty shelf, let alone purchased.

Yuu enters before Nao and Yusa, and finds a group of Ayumi’s classmates already there: the cornflower blue-haired and well-spoken class rep Nomura; the boy Ayumi rejected, Oikawa, and the gloomy, taciturn Konishi, who gives Yuu the evil eye on her way out. That look set off warning bells that she, not Ayumi, could be the Collapse user.

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While Ayumi’s nose predictably becomes a nose fountain even upon her first glance of a heavily-disguised Yusarin, far more heartening was her attitude towards Yuu and Nao. The two are constantly fervently denying her suspicions they’re dating, or her assertions they make a good couple, even as they proceed to work well as a couple. Methinks they doth protest too much, and out of the mouth of babes (well, middle schoolers) comes the truth that they really are gelling nicely.

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Yuu even heeds Nao’s suggestion Ayumi stay home an extra day even if she’s feeling better. But Ayumi is sick of being cooped up, and sneaks out of the condo complex and into school. There, she interacts with all the classmates who visited her, only now Oikawa is exerting more pressure for her to go out with him (What a creep!), forcing Nomura to swoop in and hold him back (Good for her!), and finally Konishi coming at her with a clicking utility knife (Yikes!)

Before she brandished that knife, I was still considering the possibility Konishi would use Collapse against Ayumi for stealing Oikawa from her. But once it appeared, it looked more likely that Collapse was Ayumi’s power after all, to use as a last-ditch defensive measure.

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Once Yuu and the others learn Ayumi is at school, they rush there with speed. I found it notable that Joujirou’s ability was not utilized, though perhaps they felt adding more chaos to an already chaotic situation wasn’t the best course. (Yuu and Joujirou were also delayed by pasta, of all things!)

The result of that choice is that they’re too late, and Ayumi’s ability involuntarily manifests before Konishi cuts her. Everything beneath her—concrete, steel, glass, everything—crumbles to bits. She’s saved from Konishi, but falls victim to her own ability by being apparently crushed beneath the debris it created.

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In a sudden state of panic and intensity we had yet to see in Yuu, he clambers to the debris pile that was once a corner of the middle school and starts desperately digging for his sister. In the process, an orange-haired girl who earlier flashed an ID to school security laments she too was too late (I gather she’s part of a team other than Nao’s charged with stopping ability users).

Then a concrete pillar falls on Yuu, and the scene cuts to black and the credits roll to a gorgeous, ethereal new ending theme that sounds like a lament, and an end to everything that’s come before. After those credits, we encounter Kumagami standing in the rain over debris stained with blood. This raises far more questions than it answers, to my considerable intrigue.

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Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata – 12 (Fin)

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This final episode of Saekano that we know of had the air of a show that was merely saying “see you later down the road” rather than a full-on sayonara. So while it crossed its Ts and dotted its Is for the (remote, IMO) possibility that it wouldn’t be back, it made the right move by not trying to do too much in its finale. Mainly, it focused on sealing the deal on Michiru joining the circle.

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Tomoya got Michiru and her three bandmates their first gig, and while it’s not much, they’re glad to have it. Kato is on her way to the venue with a still very dubious Utaha and Eriri, and finds herself acting as mediator between the bullying Utaha and the sensitive Eriri. Both are still sore from their experiences with Michiru and are acting out in their own ways, but Kato is confident in Tomoya’s ability to achieve his objective. Michiru’s going to come on board and the game’s going to be great.

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It’s interesting that Utaha and Eriri grudgingly accept Kato as something resembling a friend, not the threat they may have perceived her as when she first came on the scene. Heck, they even agree with one another in their little faith in Tomoya, but one can hardly blame them for being so unenthusiastic; it’s like they’re well aware they’re dealing with two very potent competitors in Kato and now Michiru.

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For her part, Michiru doesn’t disappoint in proving she’s by far the most overtly physical member of Tomoya’s harem, essentially mounting him out of shock and anger that she has to play her set in cosplay. She’s too ashamed of one thing—having to play with cat ears—than she is about being on top of her cousin, moving up and down rhythmically just as the others enter.

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In what is definitely a forced, unnatural plot twist (Eriri’s words, not mine), Michiru’s three band-mates fess up to being otakus themselves, and all the music she’s played with them have been anime cover songs. They agreed to let Michiru make the music for Tomoya’s game if he gave them the opportunity to come out of their shells and declare their otakuness to Michiru.

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Tomoya then proceeds to offer a still-uncertain Michiru a heartfelt pep talk (while she’s on top of him the whole time), convincing her that they’ll do great things together, and that her affinity for the anime music she’s already played is proof enough of her respect for the world of otaku that she’ll do fine in front of a crowd of same. He even reverses her past insistence grow out of otakudom by assuring her one day she’ll grow into a fine otaku.

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She takes the stage, and suddenly there’s a tinge of Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso in my Saekano. But Icy Tail (which when said with a Japanese accent sounds like “aishiteru” or “I love you”) breaks the ice not with piano or violin, but with Soairo Days from TTGL…nice choice!

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I didn’t catch Michiru’s seiyu Yahagi Sayuri (whom I also loved in Bakuman and Sankarea) being credited for the insert song performance, but whoever did sing it did a decent job, even if the band sounds rather polished considering it’s there first time on stage before a crowd. More than anything though, the episode really captured joy and fun of the concert. Everyone other than Utaha and Eriri looked like they were having a blast.

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And Tomoya’s plot, assisted in no small part by the rest of Icy Tail, works: Michiru agrees to score Blessing’s game. When she draws in far closer than first cousins should for what could be a deal-sealing kiss, then bends over for something even more improprietous, it turns out she’s just pulling one of her patented wrestling moves on him, like her lakeside suplex in the prologue, she’s an athletically gifted girl, and wants to let Tomoya know he doesn’t hold all the cards here, and she hasn’t completely forgiven him for ambushing her with the cosplay.

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From there, the episode starts to wind down, but not before Megumi and Eriri have a nice little talk. Before she knew it, Eriri had Megumi over for all-night game work, so they can’t very well refer to each other so formally anymore, so they agree to start addressing each other by their first names. This is a pretty big gesture for Eriri, who calls Utaha by her full nine-syllable name on purpose.

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After a look at the happy ending of the seemingly completed dating sim, and then the credits, we jump forward to the assmbled group admiring their work, which gets close to Aku no Hana levels of plot compression. But it turns out they’re only done the first route, with two months left till Summer Comiket. So there’s still much work to be done.

It’s as good a stopping place as any, but I’ll gladly join the chorus of voices who look forward to a second season where we see those other routes unfold, both in and out of the game. Throughout its run, Saekano was a smart, sexy breath of fresh air: cheekily self-aware, but never obnoxiously so, and full of so much witty banter and laughs that I wouldn’t rule out a full re-watch as I await a sequel. Until then, matane, Saekano.

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Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata – 11

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It sounds like Hannah was pretty disappointed about her show squandering its promise…though that’s partly on her for even remotely thinking that show was going anywhere daring or compelling.

Not to be smug, but didn’t have that problem with this latest Saekano. Last week focused heavily on the wild card Machiru, setting her up as someone who could genuinely challenge Tomoya, who was in need of some challenging in the midst of all his ladykillin’.

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What last week failed to do was show us what would happen when his harem came into direct contact with his purple-haired, skantily-clad cousin. The results were momentous; everything I hoped for and more. Utaha hawkishly defends otaku culture, while an initially flabberghasted Eriri even finds some common ground when Machiru mentions that, on some rare occasion, Tomoya can be cool and come through for you.

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We also find that exposing oneself to Michiru isn’t enough to convince her to compose your dating sim’s soundtrack; far from it. In fact, part of what gets Utaha so steamed is Michiru’s outsider-looking-in perspective of Tomoya, and his obsession with otaku culture, is something to mature out of rather than cultivate. When Michiru disses Tomo, she disses everyone in that room. Except for Kato…who is definitely in that room…watching and waiting.

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Michiru’s reasons for not jumping into Tomoya’s project go beyond her semi-maternal dubiousness with his present course in life. She’s got her own dream of being in a band, after all. When she says she needs a manager to appease her dad, Tomoya is eager to step in, but when she tells him it won’t be a part-time job, it becomes her dream versus his. That’s right: Michiru isn’t perfect; she’s selfish too.

What’s so awesome is how much sense her selfishness makes. She’s known Tomoya all their lives; and she has an idea what he could and should be that just doesn’t jibe with what he is and wants to be. But it’s her affection and concern for him, not merely her own self-interest, that comes through when she says this manager job could be just the excuse he needs to drop this whole gamemaker charade.

And she calls it a charade because she had a good look at his fellow circle members. While she’s well aware that they all have their reasons for being in that circle (calling Tomoya a sly dog in the process), she doubts their commitment to making the game is anywhere near Tomoya’s level.

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Of course, we know better, and so should Tomoya, but Michiru’s words create genuine conflict in his heart. Suddenly he’s not just the fumbling leader of a haremy doujin circle, but a guy trying to find out whether his dream is really as quixotic as she says. But Kato is up all night at Eriri’s working on the game, knowing Tomoya is a week behind; and Utaha is up too. They’re all working their pants off while he worries.

He then makes the best decision of this episode and calls Kato early in the morning, and they have this lovely, natural boyfriend-girlfriend phone conversation, in which he voices his anxieties.

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Yet again, Tomoya luxuriates in the very thing he has no idea he has with Kato, yet simultaneously must know on some level he has. Kato gets him out of his house, where he’d been worrying all night rather than working, and gets some breakfast into him, ever the practical mind. But in an ingenious gambit, she talks through the game prototype to comfort and reassure him.

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And in an even more ingenious and somewhat diabolical scheme, she keeps her hand firmly planted on Tomoya’s and the mouse as the dialogue starts going to places Tomoya rather wouldn’t; things about having feelings for attractive cousins, something to which she can relate.

While Kato claims the dialogue was simply random, let’s get real: there’s no way it was random. This was calculated payback for Tomoya “steppin’ out” on Kato, and it was absolutely glorious. For the first time in a while, she’s able to make Tomoya squirm as much as Michiru.

At the same time, she proves how good she is for him by picking up his slack without even being asked to, and not feeling forced or obligated to. It’s a brilliant dynamic.

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His confidence in the project thus restored, and his apology delivered, he shares an earbud with Kato so she can hear Michiru’s music, and she agrees that she’d be perfect for the soundtrack. And it could be that Kato’s little piece of mischievousness also inspired Tomoya to come up with a plan to snag his cousin.

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As he is a man of wide-ranging otaku means and connections, he’s able to get Michiru’s band a slot at a live performance, a gesture he uses to prove to her he can be an effective manager. In turn, Michiru lets him see her get teary-eyed for the first time since he carried her on his back when she twisted her ankle years and years ago. She also apologizes, admitting she was being selfish.

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Thus, Tomoya has his cousin right where he wants her: in his debt. Tomoya looks awfully proud of himself as the episode cuts to black, but I’m certain more compromises are in store for him, and managing both Michiru’s band and a circle full of girls competing against each other won’t be a cakewalk either.

Still, I’m willing to come out and say these past two episodes cemented Michiru’s place as my second-favorite girl after Kato. As she demonstrated quite emphatically, there’s simply no beating Kato!

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P.S. I’ll be watching Saekano’s final (for now) episode later tonight and hopefully have a review of it up not long thereafter.