Dagashi Kashi – 02

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Dagashi Kashi continues to be Shidare Hotaru’s (and Taketatsu Ayana’s) world; everyone else is just living in it. Kokonotsu lives in a goldmine of candy classics, Hotaru has more passion for them in one of her brightly-painted nails than Koko’s whole body. There’s a tremendous enthusiasm gap here, but the hope is Hotaru will eventually wear Koko down into accepting succession of his father’s store (though who knows if it’ll happen).

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Until then, Koko can hardly complain about being bored with Hotaru around; there’s literally never a dull moment with her around, getting into a big lecture about the proper way to eat Kinako sticks, then breaking out tablets of non-alc Namaiki Beer she somehow proceeds to get piss drunk on (and Hotaru is possibly even more entertaining in this state).

In both cases, Hotaru, despite being so well put together fashion-wise, doesn’t seem to know some of her mannerisms and phrasing can be inadvertantly titillating for Koko. There’s this subtext of Hotaru growing up so fast into the candy and snacks savant she is now (she could probably run her dad’s company today), she never had either the time or the inclination for romance. And yet, she’s by any measure extremely happy and fulfilled.

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On the other hand, Koko, and Saya for that matter, are still very much kids at heart. Koko doesn’t want to give up on his manga dream and gets embarrased when Hotaru does or says certain things, while Saya likes Koko, but Koko is of course oblivious. I do appreciate that while there is a clear love triangle here, Saya’s the only one remotely aware of it, and in any case the show doesn’t push too far on the romance or triangle angle.

Instead, what would have been another quiet, hot, boring small town day for Koko and Saya becomes…something else entirely, thanks to Hotaru happening to pass by showing off her Ramune Whistling skils, then going on to recite the entire history of the whistle, telling it like some kind of school drama, and casting both Koko and his father in unsubtle attempt to try to convince Koko that following his father is the best path for him.

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To his credit, Koko stands his ground. Convincing him isn’t going to be easy, if it’s even possible, but if anyone can do it, Hotaru can. She even gets Saya’s blessing, since if Koko doesn’t take over the store, it might mean he’s leaving town; leaving her behind.

So now both Hotaru and Saya share a desire to keep Hotaru right there, in the Shikada Candy Shop that is his destiny. The episode closes out with some menko, a card-flipping game Saya turns out to be really good at despite having never played, to both Hotaru and Koko’s dismay.

The trio just seems to be having a ton of fun, and I’m having a ton of fun watching them. I didn’t really miss You or Saya’s bro Tou, though that’s not to say I’d mind if they show up next week. In fact, I like that the show can keep characters in its back pocket and still run the table.

The only character who must be in every episode is Hotaru; she’s the linchpin of this whole nutty operation.

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Dagashi Kashi – 01 (First Impressions)

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Simply put, Dagashi Kashi is a taut, crafty, stylish laugh-riot. It is life from lifelessness. I had an absolute gas watching it, and it never failed to surprise me with a goofy facial expression here or a momentary trip to a different genre there. And the premise should prove to be a veritable goldmine of comedic and romantic material.

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The cast is lean, but makes every shot count: Shikada Kokonotsu (“Coconuts” to his friends-I’ll call him Koko) is the son of an animated small-town candy shop owner, Shikada You (a hilarious Fujiwara Kenji), who really wants him to succeed him as “ninth generation head”, but he’s currently in his mangaka stage.

Enter Shidare Hotaru of the famous Shidare candy company, who is looking for You but encounters Koko instead and immediately sets to work testing his confectionery instincts with umaibo.

The classic gothic lolita garb-donning young woman proves extremely eccentric, and well, very animated. Not just a pretty face with concentric irises, she’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys, and country boy Koko is super ultra intrigued. Taketatsu Ayana really sinks her teeth into the role with relish.

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In fact, once You returns, Koko gets swept up in the combined madness of his dad and Hotaru, who formally relays her father’s desire for You to come work for his company. You flatly refuses, but when Hotaru hears of You’s desire for Koko to inherit shop, she makes a counter-proposal on the spot: if she can convince Koko to take over the shop, his dad will take the job.

She may be mad as a hatter, but she knows what she’s doing when it comes to business and snacks. I myself know the joy of extravagantly shoving too many hot fries down my gullet. One of life’s little thrills!

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You wastes no time mistaking Hotaru for Koko’s girlfriend, which Koko vehemently denies (while blushing, natch) but Hotaru doesn’t dismiss the idea. She doesn’t say anything about it, actually. That segues nicely to Koko’s present love interest in the town, Endou Saya, whose brother Tou is Koko’s best mate (Saya is ably voiced by Numakura Manami)

Koko is oblivious to Saya’s feelings, but never fails to compliment her coffee as the only coffee he ever drinks. When a possible rival in love is brought up, she shows off her fiery temper, but even dropping dozens of sugar cubes in Koko’s coffee doesn’t faze him.

When Saya comes face-to-face with her competition, it’s quite by accident—as in Hotaru had an accident on her bike while too closely inspecting the message on her popsicle stick, and fell into a muddy rice paddock.

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Saya gets Hotaru in the shower, but when Tou walks in on Hotaru and sees her nakked, Hotaru doesn’t even flinch, introducing herself and apologizing for putting Tou out. Later while enjoying some free coffee (which Hotaru agrees is wonderful), she breaks out some “Young Donuts” out of seemingly nowhere. No matter what, Hotaru seems to be equipped with the right snacks for the right job.

There, Hotaru regails Saya about her mission and the “contract”she’s ended up in, which should keep her in town for the foreseeable future. Of course, she’s so flowery and dramatic and vague, it’s as if she’s telling some kind of fantasy epic. Which is kinda is, to her. Her victory is dependent on convincing “the one who would succeed the legend.” This should be a sweet ride.

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Ao Haru Ride – 08

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“Today, no matter, what, I will definitely, definitely tell Yuuri properly!” As soon as Futaba said this, we were convinced she’d lose her nerve when it came down to it, a fear reinforced when two seconds later she says “I bet I’ll still lose my nerve when it comes down to it.” The odds of her telling Yuuri drop even more when Yuuri, unaware of the hammer Futaba’s trying to bring down on her, invites Shuuko to join them for ¥100 donuts.

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Prove me wrong, I said to the anime I like to think is based on one of Nozaki-kun’s shoujo manga: show me you can move forward and resolve this shit.” And what do you know, Ao Haru Ride answered the challenge. Even with Shuuko around and Yuuri going on about Kou, Futaba still gets it out; gets it all out, in the first five minutes of the episode. That was as welcome and refreshing as a cold shower on a searing summer day (though we’ve had precious few of those round these parts.)

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And wouldn’t you know it, Yuuri takes it extremely well…at first. Her immediate reactions involve saying “You too?”; noting how she’s not surprised, as Kou’s so totally hot and all; and acknowledging she’s at a disadvantage since Futaba’s closer to him. Then she goes to the bathroom and we get the first of two instances of characters crying for multiple reasons (Futaba’s the other, later on). One could say Yuuri is crying because her friend loves the same guy as her, which means she could potentially lose of them.

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But she’s also crying because Futaba obviously went through hell getting those words out, but she did. As Futaba thinks to herself earlier, this is the crux of her growth as a person: no longer “friends in name only” with anyone, she’s allowed to say what she wants, and in this case, needs to say. She wants to be honest, even if it could create conflict. Having friends you care about opens you up to hurting and being hurt, but the rewards are immeasurable.

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Witnessing a genuine exchange between two friends who love each other has a significant effect on Shuuko, who only tagged along because Yuuri asked her too and she had nothing else to do. What’s amazing about this first act is that this is the first time Shuuko is hanging out with people after school since she started high school. Far from fearing socializing is always this intense, she realizes what she’s been missing out on.

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It’s the perfect environment for her to get something off her own chest: that she’s in love with Tanaka-sensei. Futaba’s utter shock at this confession serves as proof Yuuri never spilled the beans, which comforts Shuuko further. When Aya passes by and happens to spot Shuuko hanging out with friends—and enjoying it—it puts a spring in his step and a tune to hum. He’s happy for her, as are we.

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One of Futaba’s best expressions yet: the “yeah I’m stalking you deal with it” look!

Yikes, I’ve only covered half the episode! That’s not to say the other half isn’t interesting, because it was, but it didn’t have quite the cathartic, warm-and-fuzzy power of the first. That could be because after running into Kou by chance, who is playing with the stray black cat, then says he won’t adopt it because “caring for things brings a lot of trouble” in the most obnoxious angsty way possible, Futaba decides to spend the rest of the night stalking him!

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This is why I like to think Nozaki-kun wrote this manga. He truly understands girls’ hearts, and in shoujo, if you like a guy and stalk him, he’ll eventually like you too! I kid, I kid…sort of. But really, if he doesn’t want Futaba following him he could be more forceful about it, but he’s very wishy-washy about it, and by the end puts on the air of a protector by lecturing her on the risk of being assaulted by going out in the night alone, culminating in the closest they’ve come to a kiss.

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Perhaps its because he was genuinely worried that Futaba would do that to try to get closer to him that he was cross with her. But at least Futaba isn’t just hiding in her head and actually trying to act on her feelings. As Shuuko so eloquently puts it, it’s ultimately up to Kou to decide between Futaba and Yuuri, or to reject them both. But if he has feelings for Futaba (and let’s face it, he does), then he shouldn’t be allowed to get away with toying with her much more.

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Stray Observations:

  • Komatsu Mikako is doing great understated work as Shuuko; her laugh sounds like the first laugh she’s laughed in years.
  • Come to think of it, Uchida Maaya is also showing she can handle non-chuunibyou dialogue with the best of ’em.
  • Aw, why not? Kudos to Kaji Yuki, while we’re at it. No one does sensitive/whiny angst like Yuki. This is Hope we’re talking about, after all.
  • Steelers? C’mon, animators. Surely you can think of a better team to slap on Kou’s t-shirt.