Fruits Basket – 10 – A Ripple on the Water

It’s the day before Valentine’s Day, when Yuki appears to only have one admirer’s chocolate in his locker, but only because every previous admirer (and there were many) tossed the chocolate that was in there into the trash. Kyou is also a lot more on edge, and Tooru wonders why…until Kagura shows up at the school gates and it suddenly makes perfect sense.

When Kyou rejects Kagura’s request for a date (mistaking it for a request), Kagura suggests they have a double date with Yuki and Tooru. Yuki is ready to veto the idea, but Tooru is so excited he can’t say no. Then Kagura and Shigure both make remarks about him and Yuki getting along a lot better and runs away, not wanting to hear that. When Tooru tracks him down, she tells him it’s okay for him to hate Yuki…but she plainly doesn’t get why, and still hopes she can wipe away both lads’ anxiety and pain the way they did for her.

Kyou, Kagura, Yuki and Tooru all go on the double date (to an anime film of all things!) and it all goes swimmingly, but more interesting is when Shigure visits the main house to deliver Tooru’s chocolate to the other Souma members she’s met, and ends up talking with Hatori. What about? It’s hard to say; as Yuki says, Shigure’s a particularly hard-to-pin-down kinda guy, especially where goals and motives are concerned.

One thing’s for sure: he’s in league with Akito, and while Hatori believes he and Akito using Tooru as a pawn for some self-serving purpose, he’ll neither help nor hinder his efforts, but simply remain neutral. Shigure, for his part, laments potentially having to hurt Tooru at some point in the future, but whatever “dream,” “affection,” or “fervor” he’s after, it’s apparently more important than not hurting her.

From episode start to finish, and even with some glimpses of flashbacks, Shigure remains a stubborn riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. His long-suffering young editor Mitsuru (who is about to take a box cutter to her wrist when Tooru first meets her) just wants the guy to meet his damn deadlines, but just as there’s no figuring out a guy like Shigure, there’s no rushing him either.

I’m definitely intrigued by this gradual increase in the rumblings that Shigure is Up To Something, which is effective because it doesn’t come out of left field. We always knew it wasn’t mere altruism that led Shigure into allowing an outsider in Tooru to live in his home, any more than he harbored two exiles from the main house in Yuki and Kyou simply because he’s a cool uncle. I also suspect things may not go exactly the way he plans.

Advertisements

Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge – 10

tan101

I never though it would be possible: a pool scene with no girls in bikinis flitting about! Just a shirtless Ohta and Tanaka, surveying a very nice public pool filled mostly with kids.

A couple of said kids discover Tanaka can’t swim, try to tease him, and incur the wrath of Ohta. They make peace, however, and Tanaka inadvertently teaches them how to float perfectly along the water, a talent he owes to his listlessness.

tan102

It was fun to see Miss Wac at her other part-time job as pool lifeguard, criticizing Tanaka and Ohta from a place of ignorance, this time in aquatics.

It’s left to out imagination how exactly Tanaka gets home when Ohta reports he’s too tired and listless to carry him, but I loved the fact Tanaka’s floating method became a trend with grade schoolers, much to the dismay of their swim teacher.

tan103

The second half is all about girls in yukatas, making up, if you will for a first half that was mostly ‘beefcake’. Miyano wants to attend the fireworks festival with Ecchan in a sexy yukata, but thinks she needs to grow 10cm to do so.

Tanaka and Ohta decide to help Miyano out: not with rapid growth, which ain’t gonna happen, but by helping her choose a cute yukata. Shiraishi also joins them, and we learn that, just like Tanaka, she’s more used to watching the fireworks on TV in an air-conditioned room. Frankly, part of me wanted to see these two doing just that at episode’s end.

tan104

Instead, Shiraishi regrets to inform the others that her two girlfriends already invited her, but it’s no big deal. Shiraishi gets all the joy and satisfaction she desires when Tanaka heartily endorses her yukata.

Miyano…is a different story: even the smallest-size yukata off the rack fits…poorly. So Shiraishi, reciprocating all the good Miyano did for her, decides to dust off another one of her wrecklessly-perfected skills, in this case sewing, to make a custom yukata that wil fit Miyano properly.

tan105

The result is…well, adorable, but also with an air of maturity. It’s a complete success, and Echizen is so charmed by the sight of her cute friend, she allows Tanaka and Ohta to join them.

Not moments after Echizen internally remembers when she and Ohta used to go see fireworks in matching yukatas, Ohta asks her if she remembers that very memory; and when she denies, he’s suspicious.

Ohta starts off well by properly complimenting Echizen’s yukata, which isn’t what he or Tanaka expected. But things take a turn for the worse when, in the middle of Echizen working up the courage to compliment his yukata, Ohta runs off at the mention of unlimited syrup at the water ice stall. But then, I guess we always knew Ohta’s priorities.

tan106

Tensions lesson once the fireworks start, and we see Shiraishi with her two friends enjoying them in one spot, and Echizen, Ohta and Tanaka in another, united in their awe of the fireworks’ magnificence.

But wait…where’s Miyano? She’s so short she can barely see the fireworks over the taller masses around her. Someone put her on your shoulders, already!

16rating_8

Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry – 03

cav31

The Stella x Ikki romance is humming along so well, Stella judges it time to ask him out on a Saturday date. Unfortunately for her, Shizuku had the same exact idea at the same time, sending a text to her bro as Stella trying to get the words out, which Ikki responds to immediately.

When Shizuku brings her roommate “Alice” (a man who identifies as a maiden), it turns into a group date, with neither Stella nor Shizuku happy about the other being there. Alice briefly flirts with Ikki as a joke, but otherwise isn’t in the running.

cav32

Typical harem date hijinx ensue, from Shizuku holding Ikki’s hand (“normal sibling behavior”), to Shizuku calling out Stella on her self-description as Ikki’s servant when she tries to get closer to him, to Ikki wiping cream off Shizuku’s cheek and eating it, then Stella covering the lower half of her face in cream in order to attract similar treatment (Ikki just gets a towel). From Shizuku’s reaction to Ikki’s cream swipe to Stella’s ham-handed counterattack, it’s clear these two are new to the seduction game. It’s a process!

cav33

But thankfully, the whole episode isn’t just a lightweight date, when the mall they’re in gets taken over by gun-wielding, hostage-taking masked goons working for a Blazer named Bisho. It happens when Ikki and Alice are in the john, and Alice hides them in the shadows using his handy shadow-manipulating device, but Stella and Shizuku are among the hostages.

No matter, they put aside their rivalry and start working to resolve the situation. Shizuku needs Stella to stay put and stay off the radar, but when the tough guys start beating an insolent mother and son, she stands up and uses her power to protect them, blowing her cover.

cav34

When Stella goes head-to-head against Bisho, his “Ring of Judgment” absorbs her strikes and fires them back at her with equal force. But he respects her courage and offers to spare the hostages if she supplicates herself…in the nude.

Not wanting any innocents hurt, she starts to strip, but before she can remove her bra, Shizuku springs into action, having prepared a water-based magical barrier that protects the hostages from bullets and allows Ikki and Alice to take out Bisho, while Stella takes out the henchmen in her undies.

cav35

They do so, and Ikki overcome’s Bisho’s weapon by simply cutting his hand off, and all’s well that ends well, with a somewhat woozy-from-exertion Ikki running to embrace Stella (who is surprised by but also happy with such a affectionate gesture. And he doesn’t hug Shizuku!)

But there’s a baddie hiding amongst the hostages too: a woman who threatens to kill another woman nearby if they don’t stand down. Fortunatly for Ikki & Co., an “ally” appears out of nowhere and basically cleans up the mess they were in, saving everyone.

That “ally”, which I put in quotes because he’s someone who seems to do such things in order to get all the credit and groupies, is Kirihara Shizuya, someone with whom Ikki has a past. Specifically, Ikki “ran away like a coward” rather than do battle with him an unspecified time ago.

Ikki tries to be cordial, but Kirihara’s barbs annoy Stella to no end. Worse, Kirihara gets a new text message: the first opponent he’ll face will be Kirihara. I doubt Ikki will be running away this time, and will have a plan to beat him.

8_ses

Ore Monogatari!! – 22

orem221

YAY! It’s Suna and Yukika’s time to shine! It’s their turn for falling into love and floating around on a cloud like Takeo and Yamato! It’s time for Yukika to create a new PURAIMUTAIMU to replace the one from Kindergarten! They go to the zoo with the show’s lead couple, and both seem to enjoy themselves. We’re headed towards a foregone conclusion, right?!

Well…not so fast, there.

Yes, they do have a good time at the zoo; initially Yukika talk to Suna or even be too close to him without becoming paralyzed, but when the other couple encourages her to make some memories, she pipes up, gets them into an animal trivia competition, and singlehandedly wins it, but only because they were counted as a couple when Suna takes her hand. It all looks very fun and pleasant and awkward in all the ways first dates can be.

orem222

But the problem isn’t whether they had fun; it’s a matter of magnitude. Suna had a nice enough time; he didn’t not enjoy himself. But from Yukika’s perspective, it was categorically THE HAPPIEST DAY OF HER LIFE. It’s the same with how they feel about each other: Suna doesn’t dislike Yukika, but Suna is the love of Yukika’s life and has been for most of her conscious life.

She’s placed him on so high a pedestal that his comparative wishy-washiness actually ends up hurting her. Last week I entertained the possibility Suna actually liked Yukika, but she didn’t let him finish his sentence, but in the absense of further evidence, we have to conclude he doesn’t like her enough. As much as we may want it to work out, and for Suna to finally start dating a nice girl, it’s just not going to work.

orem223

Soon Yukika becomes unable to continue working towards something she can’t imagine ever working out, due to that magnitude problem, and resolves to cut herself off from not only Suna, but Takeo and Yamato, cold turkey. This is an obvious overreaction,but an understandable one considering where she’s coming from socially (there’s a reason she’s so good at zoo trivia; she spends much of her time reading). What I like is that Takeo and Yamato don’t try to force the issue or over-meddle, they just give Yukika the opportunity to reassess her next move.

In the end, she too thinks severing all ties with the three others would be too sad, and Suna meets with her to give her a gift for her ten years of chocolates, and they reach a kind of closure, agreeing to remain friends. I appreciate the show didn’t try to hard to force Suna into what in hindsight was a pretty long-shot relationship. Suna is, despite his forelorn appearance and lack of girlfriend, actually a pretty content fellow, and it would take a much more powerful romantic spark than the one Yukika was capable of mustering to convince him to leave that place of contentment and try something new.

And so it is with a sense of logical resignation we consign Yukika to Ore Monogatari!!’s roster of “Losers”, joining Saijou and Ai and underlining that sometimes even when conditions are right things don’t always work out as perfectly as they did for our lead couple.

8_ses

Ore Monogatari!! – 21

orem211

For White Day, Takeo gives Yamato cookies he baked. You heard that right: gives her cookies he baked. And while he’s his own toughest critic on said cookies, the fact that they even exist bowls Yamato over; she declares them too precious to eat—and meaning it—but still takes a bite and is delighted with them. Finally, Takeo gets to experience what she’s been able to since they met: watch someone he loves enjoying something he made.

orem212

The Valentines/White Day proceedings were an effective and logical segue to the next arc, “Find Love For Suna.” Turns out there was no one to find; someone was watching him and circling him from afar all along, becoming a little bolder every year, especially after Valentines, and possibly borne out of the knowledge she’s running out of school years to follow Suna. This girl, Amami Yukika comes close enough that she enters Takeo’s keen “follower radar”, misjudging her as someone with malevolent intentions, then rescuing her letter from the river.

orem213

If any show can make a stalker girl sympathetic, it’s Ore Monogatari!!, as well as the talented voice of Kayano Ai, who gives Amami the right blend of delicate femininity and forthright determination. Judging from Suna’s photo album, Amami has literally been in the background of Suna and Takeo’s lives since kindergarten when she fell for him when him after he saved her from a thrown dodgeball. The trouble is, she hasn’t made any moves to get him to acknowledge her (all her Valentines letters were anonymous), so she hasn’t been acknowledged.

orem214

“Takeo Cupid” wants to help in any way he can, but he also realizes it’s Amami who will have to do the heavy lifting like, you know, talking to Suna. All she really needs is a push…or rather, several pushes, as she’s so overwhelmed by suddenly being in the foreground with Suna (rather than watching him from afar) it’s hard to breathe, let alone talk. Still, when he not only refers to her by name but the fact he’s known of her existence since kindergarten, she confesses her love to him right there in the street, with Takeo looking on. Then she runs.

orem215

This is where a second nudge by Takeo is needed. He brings her back to Suna (who almost seemed to be waiting for them), where she tells him she wants him to watch her and learn more about her before he gives her his response. I thought this was overly cautious on her part, since it wasn’t completely outside the realm of possibility he’d say “sure, let’s go out.” Suna isn’t opposed to going out with girls, just girls who talk shit about Takeo.

orem216

They exchange cell numbers, and an initial bond is formed, to my relief. But Amami needs a couple more nudges, as she finds it hard to break out of her usual routine of stalking-kinda-not-stalking. Takeo sends Suna off to walk her home, but she still can’t talk, so Takeo then brings in Yamato for a female perspective on the thing. She shares her experience having difficulty making moves toward a relationship, but as we’ve seen the benefits of making those moves have been more than worth the stress involved.

Ultimately, they determine the best way forward is for Amami, Suna, Takeo and Yamato to do a double date, in this case to the zoo, which Suna promptly agrees to. Takeo tells him he doesn’t have to, but Suna knows that, and wouldn’t say he’s going if he didn’t want to. That doesn’t mean he’s going to say straight-up “Yes, I want to go on a double date with Amami to see if it will work out because she seems like a genuinely good person and possibly a good match as well.”

Even if asked directly, he won’t answer that directly, but the seeming lack of enthusiasm can’t be taken as an actual lack of it. I imagine he’s just as interested to see where this goes as Takeo, Yamato…and me. Lord knows Suna has demonstrated throughout the show that he deserves a good woman, and not just because he’s good-looking.

9_ses

Oregairu 2 – 05

ore251

This week, Hikky has a lot of work to do, much of it damage control he knows he’s been holding off too long. Last week’s bleak scene of two siblings in the dark turned out to be the perfect opportunity for Hikky to get the easy stuff out of the way: reconnecting with his little sister.

Komachi forgives him far more readily than anyone else will, because of her fifteen years of living with him, she’s learned, unlike Yukino, that there are things about people you can’t change, and in time they grow endearing. Love is acceptance of those things. Far more than wanting him to change his ways, Komachi just wants Hikky to talk to her about what’s troubling him.

The cold open thaws the atmosphere, and the scene with the siblings that follows is a masterclass in familial dialogue. It also serves to throw us, the audience yearning for something positive, a much appreciated bone.

ore252

Hikky may not be able to put into words why he wants the Service Club preserved, but he doesn’t need to: Komachi wants it preserved too, which means he has a new mission, one that’s more important than Iroha’s, because it’s from his sister. Fulfilling it means preventing Yukino or Yui from winning.

His need for counsel coincides with the alignment of all his allies not involved in the current unpleasantness, starting with Zaimozuka, whose even greater isolation from normal school society is expressed by the fact he spends his lunch breaks in the library.

Komachi, appreciative of Hikky working hard, ends up assembling Kawasaki and Saika, and when the former is asked to come up with a list of good candidates for president, she makes sure to include him seriously, even though he has zero chance.

ore253

The counsel helps Hikky decide what to do, which is to double down on his interpretation of Iroha’s true desire: to preserve her “brand image” by avoiding a “high-risk, low-return” commitment like StuCo president, along with her desire to get closer to Hayato.

With some Facebook-hacking help from Zaimozuka, he’s able to assure her the backers she needs to win the election, while assuring her she’ll not only be protected from the sting of failure because she’s only a first-year, but will also be able to avoid failure altogether by reaching out to Hayato for support, giving her the in she needs.

I’ll note that he doesn’t include Hayato or Miura Yumiko in on his plan, but they’re not his clients on this: Komachi and Iroha are. And Iroha agrees with the plan, after all but proving Hikky right about her persona by delivering a super-quick boilerplate rejection the moment she suspects he’s flirting with her (which he isn’t trying to do).

ore254

While Iroha is convinced of his plan, the truth is even with the extra backers he’s not sure she can win. Getting her to go along with it was only the first step in his primary mission given to him by Komachi; a mission that means more to him as well: keeping the club together. Hikky uses the satisfaction of Iroha’s contract as a bluff to get Yukino and Yui to drop out of the race, assuring Iroha’s victory and the preservation of the club.

ore255

It’s a gamble, but it works. Yui is elated Hikky worked so hard for her sake to protect the place she treasures the most, and because he worked in silence and secrecy, without exposing himself, she has cover to forgive him for his methods.

It’s not so much “I don’t want to know” or “out of sight out of mind” (though it’s partly both); it’s more that like Komachi, Yui is accepting of the way Hikky is and always will be. Or as Hikky puts it: “So long as a problem doesn’t cause problems, it can’t be called a problem.”

ore256

The fruits of his hard work are seen almost immediately once Yui expresses her approval and accepts his apology. She affectionately fixes his scruffy hair against his protests, and moves her chair right next to him. I don’t want to pick sides, and all three friends are partly to blame for their predicament, but I’d wager Yui was suffering the most with the prospect of losing the club, and even she admits it would indeed be lost even if she won.

ore257

So Iroha wins, and is already using the very willing Tabe as her personal assistant in setting up the office when Hikky congratulates her and asks her to make it a good school, what with Komachi attending next year. Iroha takes this as another attempt at hitting on her, which creeps her out.

I must say Iroha wasn’t what I expected this season: she’s better. I thought she’d be a new love interest and wedge between Hikky and the other two, but thanks to her cooperation he was able to save the club and make up with Yui without the kind of undue damage to himself the girls hate.

ore258

So what about Yukino, the hardest nut to crack? Well, that remains to be seen. This wasn’t a total victory (it couldn’t be one, not even halfway in): the club is saved for now, but the smell of tea no the room. What worked for Komachi and Yui doesn’t quite work for Yukino. Her line as she agrees to bow out of the race and then leaves the clubroom is “You thought you understood, didn’t you?” I take this to mean Hikky thought she was running to fulfill the client’s request.

Then I thought back to the beginning of this episode, with Hikky and Komachi making up so easily because of their unique status as siblings, and I thought of Haruna rattling Yukino’s cage. I wouldn’t be surprised if part of Yukino’s continued dissatisfaction is that even though Hikky got the job done without resorting tot he most distasteful tactics imaginable, he also kept her from meeting the challenge set by her big sister.

ore259

That challenge was to leave the service club and take her rightful spot atop the school, where she can be of the most help to everyone in accordance with her noblesse oblige. A future with Yukino as president, Yui as Veep, and Hikky in some unspecified utility role without an official title, is also a possible future Hikky imagines while walking with the outgoing president, who would have liked to see such a future.

Rhetorically speaking, “strictly rhetorically,” Hikky wonders if life would have changed had he taken a different route with the election. Same people, same dynamics, only a different room, a different organization, and a Yukino who is more fulfilled as President, and who has answered Haruna’s challenge. But Hikky took a different route, which had its benefits and its consequences. We’ll see what the latter consist of.

9_ses

Oregairu 2 – 04

ore241

Wow, so much to unpack here. Where to begin? Well, for starters, by episode’s end, the club has set itself on the path to total destruction, though perhaps it was on that path all along, with Hikky’s false confession to Ebina just the latest but possibly last straw.

ore242

Both in exchange for helping out with Ebina (thus keeping his circle of friends close) and because he thinks Hikky is too harsh on himself, Hayato sets up a rehabilitation project for him, the true intentions of which Hikky fails to discern throughout most of their double date with the girl who likes Hayato and Kaori. Mostly, he just scowl-grins and bears it as Kaori laughs at everything Hikky says and does.

ore243

Whether due to coincidence or the fact Hayato public invited Hikky in the classroom, all their other classmates seem to have gravitated to the same mall. Bumping into Iroha probably wasn’t any more intentional than bumping into Yumiko and Ebina, but it serves Hayato’s desire purpose to show Hikky in a different light to their unenlightened dates.

ore243a

Iroha approaches Hikky like a normal friend, not some weirdo like Kaori thinks he is, but Hikky genuinely senses Iroha is annoyed he’s out playing around rather than working on her problem. I’m glad the show doesn’t always put what Hikky thinks characters are really saying to him in subtitles, but in this case, it could serve as a useful mirror to Hikky: Not everyone can interpret Iroha like this, which means they can’t interpret him either.

ore244

What they see is what they believe, and how they judge. Not that’s it’s right, it’s just the way some people are. Hikky is more enduring than enjoying this double date, so it surprises him when Hayato suddenly calls out Kaori and the other girl on their surface judgement-based selfish comments. They can think what they want about Hikky, but that doesn’t mean he wants to hear about it.

Then Hayato takes his heroic project to the next stage, bringing Yukino and Yui into the mix under false pretenses. Hayato called on them to serve as props to prove to the other girls there’s a lot more to Hikky than they’re getting.

ore245

But the very reason Yukino and Yui work as props is because Kaori makes a surface judgement based on their fabulous good looks and Hayato’s praise. He also makes sacrifices of Kaori and the other girl; whether they’re sorry or not, this more a demonstration for Hikky than for them.

Once the dates bail, Haruno enters the mix, pushing all of Yukino’s buttons as only an older sister can: it’s a harsh, biting exchange, in which I wasn’t certain if Haruno was expressing genuine resentment or simply rattling Yukino’s cage. Knowing this show, all of the above. Did she plan this whole thing with Hayato?

When Yukino and Yui take off, Haruno turns to Hikky, pointing out his “cute” tendency to always assume everyone has evil intentions. To be sure, Haruno seems to get off putting people in situations they can’t handle and watching what happens.

Then Haruno leaves, and it’s just the two guys again. Hayato will surely get backlash for his dressing down of their dates, something both Hikky knows could be a problem and Hayato is pissed about. But at the same time, he makes it clear to Hikky: he did what he wanted. He isn’t going to stand around and let people undervalue Hikky, even if Hikky has no intention of defending himself.

ore247

The next morning, Hikky has to learn from Shizuka, and then Yui from Hikky, that Yukino has indeed challenged her sister’s words by deciding to run for president. Or was that something she always considered doing, and Haruno only gave her the nudge she needed? Either way, if she’s in it to win it, and wins, the club will suffer and possibly end altogether. Whether that’s okay with Yukino or not, the fact is, things can go on the way they are. She won’t let Hikky sacrifice himself to the whole school. Even if she hates the way he does things, better for her to do them than him.

Yui desperately catches up to Hikky to walk home with him, for probably the first time in a while. There, she delcares she’s running for president too. If she wins, she won’t take it as seriously as Yukino, and the club will survive. And she needs the club to survive, because an imperfect, even painful situation is better than a void. So she’ll beat Yukinon.

Hikky calls that a selfish decision, which is tiramisu-rich coming from someone who thinks the rest of the world cares about him enough to hate his guts. All three are being selfish, trying to pull this election in a direction that serves their needs, all looking for the same answer, but being put off by their methods.

As for Yui’s confession that she likes this club…that she…likes…it…is another attempt to get her feelings to reach Hikky, and her tearful close-up and darting eyes sell the hell out of it, even if Hikky’s reaction is predictably blah. I am officially on Team Yui! Screw those other guys for making her so sad.

ore248

Speaking of voids, the second bookend of the episode with Komachi is almost a grim portent. These two siblings are so distant now, they can’t even exist in the same room with the lights on, let alone speak. It’s a void of Hikky’s making, utterly shutting her out of his life when she’s so keen to help. Komachi is no Haruno, but Hikky is now a feral self-consciousness monster lurking in his dank lair, and Komachi is treating him as such, staying away lest he lash out.

But who will he endorse? Or will he run himself? Heck, let’s through Hayato and Ebina in there, too! As we know, any problem a high schooler faces can be solved by running for StuCo President.

9_ses

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – 02

"He's tapping his fingers...I knew he'd like being back here."
“He’s tapping his fingers…I knew he’d like being back here.”

I should have known this show had every intention of surpassing its already excellent first episode in pure win with its second, showing us just how powerless Arima is to Miyazono Kaori’s charms. He was smitten enough—as I was—before we heard her play. And then we heard her play, and goddamn, that was the best musical performance I’ve seen in an anime since Kids on the Slope; mayyybe a bit better. A truly spellbinding scene that almost seemed to transcend time.

sku21a

First I like both the feeling and the characters’ observaiton that the inside of Tama Hall almost feels like they stepped into another dimension. The world of classical music appears small, insular, and passionate. The set piece for the competition is Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No.9 (Kreutzer), and the winner gets to play a rare Guarneri in a recital. We see as the competition progresses that this is a hall that can put you to sleep, but it can also be a place where light and magic springs forth from the hands of the musicians.

sku22

The latter is what happens when it’s Kaori’s turn. She seems to utter a small incantation before not slavishly playing the composer’s piece, but feinting, lunging, and parrying the Sonata as if it were a fencing opponent. One of the more conservative judges calls her play blasphemy, accusing her of “picking a fight” with Beethoven. But I’m not sure he wouldn’t have enjoyed such a rousing version, which sounded nothing like the other players. (Note that I know jack about music, but I know what I like, as does the audience, who chooses Kaori.)

sku23

Not only does Kaori bring the half-full hall to its feet in sustained applause usually reserved for formal concerts, but also tightens her grip on Arima’s heart. Tsubaki surprised him into coming, as this was once a venue where he was all but forced to perform at the highest level to achieve first place at any cost for his mother; in other words, he’s understandably edgy at first. But Kaori simultaneously calms him and sets his heart ablaze.

sku25

After her performance, Kaori intently seeks Arima’s opinion, her hands shaking with anticipation…does she know about him and his past, or does she simply sense it (or neither)? Arima, speechless as he is, is still able to convey how he felt about it: it was the kind of performance that compelled perfect strangers to buy her flowers. I also like how he describes watching Kaori like some kind of movie. He could have also said it was the kind of performance to make someone fall in love, but the reality is she’s on a date with Watari, and he’s designated “Friend A” and nothing more.

sku25a

But from the way Kaori acts towards him, it’s bound not to stay that way. Watari, preeminent ladies’ man, senses Arima is crushing on her, but far from warning him to stay away from his girl, he advises him not to be so hasty in accepting defeat or believing he has no chance. He knows from experience, people fall in love not because the ones they fall for are obtainable, but because they sparkle in your eyes; it’s not rational. And its also not just up to Arima: Watari tells him the girl will let him know.

sku26
Last week we had a Castle in the Sky reference, but the introduction of the violin is pure Whisper of the Heart

That’s quite the evolved sensibility from Watari; he seems the kind of guy who wouldn’t take a girl his friend formed a closer bond to. But again, it’s ultimately up to Arima to fight for her, and up to Kaori to decide who she likes. There are indications she’s leaning Arima’s way, judging by how seriously she valued his opinion and the fact she let his lie about Watari practicing slide because it was his way of professing his desire to walk her home, and promotes him from Friend A to Substitute Watari. Progress!

sku27

Poor Tsubaki! She looked like a perfectly acceptable choice for Arima for most of last week’s episode right up until Arima met Kaori. But now, Arima settling for her, as cute and loyal and fun and close as she is, could only feel like defeat at this point. Kaori is rapidly restoring Arima’s passion for music and sweeping away all the bile that had amassing in him from his mother’s negative influence. But in setting up this fateful double date, Tsubaki may have handed her beloved Arima to another.

sku29

Two episodes in, and this show is hitting on all cylinders, with few if any flaws. The animation during Kaori’s performance was fantastic, and while we have Beethoven to partially thank for elevating the scene, we have whomever put such a provocative, avant-garde spin on his Sonata for elevating it even more. I want a musical performance in every episode. And I want to watch Kaori and Arima to play together…like soon. Bra-fucking-vo. Encore! Buick Encore!!

10_ses

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – 01

uso101

Don’t look now, but I’ve got myself another contender for top Fall pick in the romance/comedy/drama genres, with this show easily eclipsing InoBato’s more shallow charms, while eschewing the gut-punchy twists of Waremete. Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (Your Lie in April) is off to a superbly gorgeous, heartfelt start, and it gets there by sticking to the fundamentals of anime as a medium: sights and sounds.

uso102

Cutting from a blonde girl chasing a cat around a town in full Spring bloom to the flashback of a piano prodigy absolutely killing it at a recital (playing Beethoven’s appropriately relentless Piano Sonata No. 14 – Presto Agitato) but the piano abruptly cuts to silence and the present day, when he’s transcribing pop music for work, but writing and playing none of his own. This is our bespectacled protagonist, Arima Kousei (Hanae Natsuki).

uso104

His work is interrupted by the cute, lively, tomboyish Sawabe Tsubaki (Sakura Ayane) in the form of a baseball through the window of the music room into his face. It’s almost a fated ball, since in addition to being his neighbor and childhood friend (who attended that recital years ago), she also seems to harbor pretty strong feelings towards him, which aren’t really returned in the way she’d like; Kousei considers her a sister.

uso105

The episode spends a good amount of time establishing these two as an all but ideal married couple, despite their differing views on the relationship, creating a kind of holding pattern. They may be very different people, but proximity and time have made Tsubaki grow fond of Kousei, though she remarks that he was cooler back when he played the piano.

uso106

About that: it’s not that Kousei doesn’t play piano because of some kind of magic spell: his ill mother was obsessed with molding him into a world-class pianist, and she was quite emotionally and physically abusive to him. That took its toll, with him coming to believe becoming great would help her get recover, but then she died before his first big recital. For that he blames and hates the piano, and himself…but still clings to it, because without the piano…he’s “empty”.

uso107

The visual medium is exploited to its fullest to express moods and states of mind. Despite his lush, arresting environs, Kousei sees the world in stark monotone, like sheet music or piano keys. But he’s in his fourteenth spring, and his last in middle school, and all around him people are pairing off into lovey-dovey couples, as the season is full of young love. He and Tsubaki are never far from one another, but he doesn’t see her that way.

uso108

It’s only when Tsubaki makes him join her for a weekend double date with their handsome, athletic mutual friend Watari Ryouta (Ohsaka Ryouta) and a girl who likes him that things change. The others are seemingly late, but he finds suspicious pair of shoes and tights, and is suddenly led to a playground where a gorgeous barefoot girl is playing Hisaishi’s uplifting “A Morning in the Slag Ravine” from Castle in the Sky on the melodica, accompanying a trio of little kids who want to attract pigeons like Pazu.

uso108a

The sound of the music, and the sight of the girl playing so beautifully, suddenly switches on all the light and color in Kousei’s world, like he was shot with a diamond, and he experiences exactly what Tsubaki’s friend Miwa described as the moment she found love. It’s such a lovely scene, Kousei breaks out his cameraphone to capture it…just when a stiff breeze lifts the girl’s skirt, which is the moment she realizes he’s there, and she shows her violent side.

uso109

Tsubaki and Ryouta arrive and introductions are made: the blonde girl is Miyazono Kaori (Taneda Risa); Tsubaki introduces her to Kousei as “Friend A.” As Tsubaki predicted, Kaori and Ryouta start flirting with each other immediately, like the pair of perfect human specimens they are, while Kousei and Tsubaki look on. Then Kousei learns Kaori is a violinist. When she invites everyone to hear her perform, he declines and turns to leave, but she catches his hand and insists: he’s coming with.

uso110

That shows that despite their somewhat rough start, Kaori is receptive to starting anew, making friends, and sharing more of her musical talent with him. Little does she know that in doing so she may be touching old wounds he bears, but also showing him that music need not be a nemesis; it can also heal, inspire, and bring people together. And so it begins.

9_sestop_ses

OreShura – 08

oreshura8

Masuzu still isn’t convinced Ai has a boyfriend, so when the opportunity presents itself, she orders Eita to go on a double movie date, in which Chiwa will be Kaoru’s date. Chiwa gets upset with Eita and Ai getting so close and tries to sabotage the mission. They then end up projecting their quarrel upon the two main characters in the film. When it’s over and Eita asks Ai what was going on, she tells him it was nothing.

I wasn’t sure I needed another episode of Fuyuumi Ai’s utterly ineffectual attempts to court Eita. She basically needs Kaoru there at all times to stay on point, and even then, she’s so committed to maintaining her lie about ‘Michel’, she totally undermines any gains she hopes to make with Eita, who’s decided to be a bit thick and not pick up on her body language and behavior as signs she’s into him. The thing is, with sufficient patience and time, both will eventually come around. The only problem this week at least, is Chiwa’s presence.

Aside from it being impossible to snap incriminating pictures in a dark theater, Masuzu badly miscalculated by involving Chiwa. Not that she or Hime would be any better in that role (they wouldn’t). Of course, none of this investigation would be necessary if Ai simply owned up to not having any boyfriend. Now, though, it should be clear to both Chiwa and Masuzu: they have a new rival. She’s currently inept and Eita is still oblivious, but it won’t stay that way forever. At least, we hope it won’t; things need to keep moving.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

P.S. Poor Kaoru…he’s somehow a fifth wheel amongst only four people. Chiwa totally ignores him. We really wish he had the backbone to set Ai straight.

Mawaru Penguindrum – 04 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 29 July 2011 – One of this series’ many strengths is its excellent, almost neurotic attention to detail. Every frame is replete with incidental sights, sounds, symbols and conversations, some of which turn up later (or earlier, in awesomely-presented flashbacks). Case in point: Ringo’s friend mentioning Kanba dumping an actress “like she was no big deal” last week. Not only do we meet this actress, but learn that Kanba has been set up for an ambush by her and two other women scorned, which hell hath no fury than.

But Kanba and Himari make only brief appearances on the periphery of this episode. This is primarily a Shoma and Ringo affair. Kanba orders him to tag along with her and sneak a look at her diary – stalking in plain view, as it were. And naturally, Ringo’s day plans include a birdwatching date in the park with Tabuki. Much to her chagrin, Tabuki has invited Yuri, his gorgeous blonde actress friend (lotta actress love interests in this, innit?), and with Shoma by her side, it’s practically a double date.

She and Shoma even swap clothes after a skunk attack – a skunk that was reported on the news on tv in the background earlier in the episode. While I was initially weary of Ringo’s stalking craziness (and her multiple elaborate daydreams that end with her screaming), I really liked her in this episode, and I’m fully behind her quirky, obsessed, but basically sweet character. She’s gonna make happen what’s written in her diary, and she does not give a shit who or what stands in her way. And just when I thought Yuri was too perfect, she reveals her other side, calling Ringo out and warning her she doesn’t have a chance with Tabuki. Mwrow!

Of course, while things that are written in her diary have always ended up happening, they hardly ever do quite in the way she envisions in those daydreams. It was written that she’d kiss Tabuki by a certain time, so she cheats by jumping into the drink to warrant rescue and mouth-to-mouth. But it’s Shoma who rescues and “kisses” her, not Tabuki. It matters not; she believed it was Tabuki, so in her mind, the fate written in the diary was realized.


Rating: 9 (Superior)