Tokyo Revengers – 13 – Crossing the Bridge

Why? Why is this show still going on? Why did Hina have to die, again, and in the most horrific, heart-demolishing way? What was Kisaki Tetta up to all this time? These were the unavoidable questions going into Revengers’ second cour, and this first episode of that cour had to do a lot of heavy lifting to convince me to stick around Takemichi’s tragic party, rather than executing a tactical Irish exit.

Rather than pass or fail, I must give Revengers…an “Incomplete”. This is purely a bridge episode, literally called “Odds and Ends”, though I appreciate that it’s a little rude to call Hina’s funeral a “loose end”. But the episode starts out by making us relive Hina’s final moments again, which I did not appreciate.

We know for a fact Takemichi isn’t going to let Hina’s death pass; not as long as he has the ability to go back and fix things. Where he and Naoto went wrong is thinking simply saving Draken would fix everything, all while pretty much forgetting about Kisaki Tetta…which was very weird.

Leaving Kisaki completely alone was never going to pay particularly positive dividends in the future, and even if we grant that Takemichi is an idiot who might well not consider Kisaki, Naoto let the joy of getting his big sis back distract him from the fact they had much bigger Toman fish to fry before they could secure a future for Hina.

Takemichi’s plan to become the leader of Toman and “bring it down” from within is an admirable one, but aside from being able to take the odd beating or stabbing we just haven’t seen the level of fighting ability, cleverness, or charisma needed to be one of the captains, let alone the boss. This isn’t something you can get by asking nicely with dog poop on your head.

Also, it’s been clear from the start that Takemichi has clear boundaries when it comes to being a gang member. But outside of murdering Kisaki Tetta (and possibly that Hanma guy too), I don’t’ see how you eliminate him as a threat. And since the days and months run parallel in the two timelines, Takemichi can’t go back any further in time to do what needs to be done.

So yeah, it was an uneven return to Tokyo Revengers, a judgment perhaps best exemplified by an extremely dull montage of Takemichi working and sitting around his still-messy apartment waiting for Naoto to call, all while extremely dramatic music is playing. This show has never been interested in showing its work, but Takemichi’s still just winging it doesn’t bode well for Hina’s future.

Tokyo Revengers – 12 – Hina We Go Again

I knew two things going into this twelfth episode of Tokyo Revengers: this wasn’t the last episode, and Hina was most likely doomed…again. I was hoping to be proven wrong, but when nearly half of the runtime is spent watching Takemichi and Naoto very gradually make their way to Hina’s place, it didn’t bode well.

It was very in character for Takemichi to reconsider seeing Hina at the last second, thinking that it would just be odd for someone she dated twelve years ago to show up one night with her little brother. Fortunately, fate smiles on our crybaby revenger, as he bumps into Hina and she recognizes him instantly.

Once his tears finally subside, their reunion is painfully awkward; so much so that Naoto prepares to ditch them to figure things out themselves—they are adults, after all. Then Takemichi clings to Naoto’s leg, and for some reason Naoto gets it in his head that taking the two out on a drive will be a better idea than keeping Hina away from any and all cars, considering how she died in the previous timeline.

No, instead, as a very obvious and extremely menacing black Hummer follows them, Naoto drives Hina and Takemichi around until he’s called away by the station, so Hina has to take over driving duties alone with Takemichi. Takemichi, meanwhile, notices she’s wearing the four-leaf clover necklace he gave her twelve years ago…yet inexplicably chalks it up to some kind of coincidence.

They park at the Tokyo waterfront, where she has a memory of being with “the one she loves”. Takemichi learns that it was he who dumped her twelve years ago. Considering how easily he almost ended up sleeping with Emma, you’d think he’d remember what a jerk his past self was. Hina, meanwhile, often said how it felt like there were two Takemichis, and the one she fell for was really his future self.

Even so, this is apparently too much for Takemichi, who runs off to the public bathroom, where he thankfully steels himself to confess to her, no matter how badly he’s afraid it will go. It will and does go bad, but not the way he expected—otherwise, he would never have left Hina alone, let alone tell her to go back to the car.

On his way out of the bathroom he bumps into someone he recognizes is the present-day Hanma, who promised Valhalla would ensure Toman never had any peace. He’s confused why Takemichi “isn’t in the car.” Uh-oh…

Turns out Akkun is behind the wheel of the Hummer that tailed them, and he drives right into the back of Naoto’s car with Hina—and only Hina—inside. A bloodied, tearful Akkun says he’s sorry, but he couldn’t go against Kisaki—any more than his alternate present-day self could. He even repeats a lot of the same lines he said, further torturing Takemichi.

He’s able to get the door of the burning car off, but Hina can’t get out; the front of the car has crushed her legs. Takemichi hugs her and says he’s always loved her, which makes her happier than he can imagine, but shortly after that she pushes him out of the car, which then explodes.

It’s extremely shitty to find Takemichi back at square one, with the added tragedy of having to witness Hina’s horrific demise this time. It’s also extremely annoying and lame that Hina once again has to suffer and die so our protagonist can grow (…again). While he managed to avoid one possible route that would lead to Hina’s death, now he knows there are others, and it will take at least another trip back to eliminate them.

Had Kiseki or Hanma known that Naoto is the one who enables Takemichi to travel back in time—or that he’s even able to do that—they would probably have made sure Naoto was in the car too. But the fact they carried out the plan without Takemichi in the car means they too left a loose end hanging, and that loose end is bent on exacting revenge by becoming the damn leader of Toman.

Rent-a-Girlfriend – 01 (First Impressions) – This Is How It Works

I’m not usually enthusiastic about scenarios involving “fake” boyfriends and girlfriends. They can really only go two ways: the “fake” relationship gradually becomes real, or it ends with the two as good friends. That said there’s a lot of nuance between those outcomes, and Kanojo, Okarishimasu, AKA Rent-a-Girlfriend manages to tap into it.

Kinoshita Kazuya is devastated when his adorable first-ever girlfriend unceremoniously dumps him after a month—in the first thirty seconds of the episode, when he’s about to introduce her to us! I appreciated that briskness. It allows him to wallow in despair until he finds an app called DIAMOND that allows you to rent a girlfriend for 5,000 yen per hour.

He gives it a try, and to his surprise his girlfriend-for-a-day Mizuhara Chizuru is absolutely stunning, and delivers exactly what one would expect of a girlfriend-for-a-day—no more, no less. Kazuya, despite knowing full well what he bargained for, proceeds to leave a 1-star rating after hearing identical reviews.

Due in part to still being In Despair over losing his girlfriend, Mizuhara’s act is increasingly off-putting to Kazuya and makes him feel like a fool. It just feels so forced, empty, and pointless to him, and on their second date he’s not shy about voicing those opinions even though he’s receiving precisely the service he requested and paid for!

When he becomes a little too public in his protestation of the situation, Mizuhara pulls him aside, drops the act, and lets him have a piece of her mind, revealing a bit of the Real Mizuhara (though that’s obviously not her real name). She’s super pissed by his 1-star rating (she’s only ever received 5s) and worked her ass off doing research on fish for their second date.

She has every right to be, and to his credit, Kazuya realizes he is completely in the wrong. She doesn’t owe him a damn thing. Unfortunately, the opportunity to apologize and end things there is lost when he gets a call from his parents: his grandmother has collapsed. He arrives at the hospital to learn it was nothing serious, but because his mom brought Mizuhara in with Kazuya, both his parents and grandmother believe she’s his new girlfriend!

When Kazuya freezes, Mizuhara exhibits her crack on-the-fly ad-libbing skills, and confirms that she and Kazuya are indeed dating. This may be a bad move for her and Kazuya, but she’s not about to break the heart of a nice old lady who just suffered a fall, and can’t see the harm in pretending a bit for her sake; after all, she does it for a living!

Gran, for her part, is an awesome bird, not mincing words when describing Mizuhara (a hale and hearty hottie!) asking whether they’ve had sex, and giving her their blessing to do it as often as they like! Things get still more complicated when Mizuhara learns this isn’t the firs ttime Kazuya’s gran was admitted, and she’s made some friends of the other old ladies … including Mizuhara’s grandma!

One long sweaty period under a blanket with Mizuhara (and one unintentional erection) later, Mizuhara has to tell her gran that yes, indeed, she and Kazuya are a couple. This leads the two grans to immediately start conspiring in an effort to get the two youngins married post-haste so they can graduate from friends to family.

Outside the hospital, Mizuhara proposes they tell their grans that they broke up; it’s the easiest way. Then Kazuya launches into a heartfelt monologue about how her grandmother is “like a goddess” to the family, and that it’s his wish to make her happy with a girlfriend before she dies. Mizuhara smiles at his sentiments, then slaps him for being so damn corny and self-absorbed!

That said, corny is also “perfectly fine” with her, as it’s her stock and trade in the rent-a-girlfriend business and all. She understands the lonely place Kazuya is coming from (suggesting it’s something she too suffers, but simply hides better) She can’t quit her job as a rent-a-girlfriend anytime soon, but after receiving Kazuya’s apology and thanks, she tells him he’s free to call her again anytime he’s feeling lonely.

Kazuya ends up giving her a 5-star rating (with a very corny positive review), but is committed to never contacting Mizuhara or any other rent-a-girlfriend again. He wants to turn a page and try to find a real one for himself…right up until he spots his ex laughing with another guy and can’t deal. Then encounters Mizuhara—whose real family name is Ichinose—on campus, in glasses and twin braids. Looks like they attend the same college!

As I said, making me invested and excited about a fake dating scenario is not easy, but Rent-a-Girlfriend excelled with ease. That’s thanks to punchy dialogue, clever comedy, deft voice-acting, attractive character design, lush production values, and most importantly a flawed, passionate protagonist who is rarely in the right but is nevertheless likable and redeemable.

This episode also did that thing were it got through so much and was so absorbing it felt like two episodes as I was watching it, without feeling overstuffed. Mostly it was a heckuva lot of fun, so I’m in for now.

Fruits Basket – 29 (S2 04) – Reflect and Repent

We’re dropped right in the middle of some drama involving Haru and the heretofore never seen Horse of the Zodiac, Souma Rin. Specifically, Haru is sprucing up her hospital room with some fresh roses, but Rin wants him to buzz off, because she’s tired of him.

The next day at school, Dark Haru causes a rampage in his classroom. Yuki and Kyou are lucky enough to get to him before he hurts anyone, but the Haru they encounter knows just what buttons to press to anger both of them. Yuki keeps his cool, but when Haru goes for Tooru, Kyou slugs him, and then the teacher douses them both with cold water. Haru reverts to cool Haru, but must wait for his parents to arrive and discuss his punishment with faculty.

It’s a fine mess he’s in, but Haru thanks Kyou for holding him at bay, and Yuki later pays him a visit to see what’s eating him. Yuki may preface their talk by saying he only thinks of himself (unlike people like Tooru), but the fact he came because he was worried about Haru proves that’s not true! By the same token, if Haru only thought of others, he’d never turn Dark, as he did when Rin dumped him.

Haru ends up being suspended (not “suspected” as Momiji puts it) by the school, and while walking home, learns Tooru is worried about Haru. Yuki is too, and decides now is as good a time as ever to exit another comfort zone and pay Haru a visit, even if it means returning to the Souma Estate, source of so much childhood trauma. He’s physically dwarfed by the gates and walls and even suffers a brief panic attack, but steps through them all the same—not just for Haru, but for himself.

Yuki walks past his nagging mom and makes a beeline for Haru’s, but finds that Haru isn’t in any particular need of cheering up. His version of “reflecting and repenting” is goofing off in his room, playing video games, snacking, and reading magazines. Still, Haru is both shocked and grateful that Yuki actually came to see him, knowing full well how hard it must’ve been.

Haru resolves not to give up on Rin, despite her harsh words. Yuki also spotted Rin entering the estate before him. He doesn’t run into her on his way out, but she sees him, and the look on her face suggests she isn’t the most pleased about him visiting Haru, or the estate, or something.

The personality traits of the Horse include being passionate, determined and uncompromising, beautiful and stylish, short-tempered and impulsive, given to starting and ending relationships quickly, eager to save face yet not eager to admit their mistakes. We haven’t seen much Rin yet, but so far all that tracks! I look forward to getting to know her.

Tsurezure Children – 11

There’s a lovely momentum to this week’s quartet of stories, befitting what may be the second-to-last episode (though I wouldn’t mind a second cour) – things seem right on the cusp of coming together for some of the more stubborn pairs, thanks in part to third parties.

Take Chizuru, who learns through Ayaka’s now active and thriving relationship, what it actually means and how it feels to be in love. There are too many coincidences for her to merely shrug this off, and too many who have heard the rumor Sugawara likes her.

As for what I consider the most emotionally close (if physically furthest away) relationship, Kana ignores Chiaki after the first kiss incident, and he thinks he’s been dumped. Kana’s friend tells her breaking up is a bit much for a muffed first kiss, and she knows that. It gets to the point where she thinks she’s ignored him enough, and starts to worry that he might hate her.

The two are so in sync, Chiaki decides to send one last message just as Kana decides to accept one last message, if he apologizes. Everything’s looking good…until she drops her phone in the tub! I’m not too too worried, though; if these two really love each other, they’re not going to let technological snafus keep them apart.

Still reeling from their technological snafu, Takase and Kanda are both still interested, but weary of making the first move, even to the point of asking for/offering pencil leads for final exams. Enter Minagawa, the third party, to tell Kanda to get them from Takase as a means to get closer.

She chickens out, but Takase, who has the easier job here, thankfully doesn’t. When Kanda runs out of lead, he tosses her more, and after the exams they’re on friendly speaking terms again; which is what they both want.

The third party in Ryouko’s case is the entire rest of her class. As she crams for the exam after so many months of slacking off like a yankee should, she gets super-self-conscious about how that class sees her, worried they’re all better than her because they studied more or something.

Akagi wants to offer support while she’s studying in class, but won’t (and orders the Prince kid to hit him if he does), since Ryouko will be alone for the actual exam, after all. We’ve seen precious little of Akagi without Ryouko around, and it’s nice to see his hands shaking in anxiety because he’s worried about his girlfriend.

Ryouko doesn’t have what you’d call a fun time during exams, but who does? When she drops her eraser, she’s even too self-conscious to raise her hand. Her classmate Patricia Shibasaki picks it up for her, and adds that she’s rooting for her. Her nerve restored, Ryouko can continue.

Kuzu no Honkai – 03

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Just as Moca has a legitimate reason for loving Mugi (they’ve known each other a long time), Ecchan has one as well: Hanabi saved her from being assaulted on the train. When she ends up sharing Hanabi’s bed, Ecchan isn’t planning to do anything, but she just can’t hold back, and takes a gamble…one that doesn’t work out.

Hanabi thinks Ecchan is pretty, and she clearly values her as a friend, but when things get physical…it just doesn’t feel right for Hanabi, and not just because Ecchan is a girl. There’s a heavy weight she feels from being the object of Ecchan’s desires, accompanied by an acute, paralyzing fear.

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We learn a little more about what sent Mugi head over heels in love with his tutor Akane; he had his cherry popped by a beautiful senpai who later dumps him and breaks his heart. There’s every indication the girl he was with treated their fling as just a fling: casual, secret, fun while it lasted. Then she moved on.

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We see this unfold in what turns out to be a sexy dream Mugi wakes up from with an erection, just when Hanabi sneaks into his room for some contact. He initially stops her from touching him, worried he won’t be able to stop if they cross that line, but Hanabi doesn’t want him to stop, so she continues.

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Just as he was once so inexperience with his first, Mugi no doubt sees a little of himself in Hanabi’s inexperience, but after she expresses a bit of smugness, she starts to tear up, because she’s realized something: what she gets from Mugi she can’t just get from anyone. She didn’t get it from Ecchan, whom she was too scared to touch. Mugi is different.

Then and there, he’s someone she can see falling in love with, even if he isn’t Onii-san. After all, if she came on to Onii-san, who’s to say he wouldn’t feel the same tense, uncomfortable weight she felt from Ecchan? This is Hanabi taking stock of what she has in Mugi and thinking about her best interests.

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Later that night Mugi and Hanabi go to a family restaurant for dinner, and who do they run into but Akane-senpai, with a young-looking guy who definitely isn’t her brother who is really into him. Talk about awkward. Akane tries to be friendly, but the guy drags her away, clearly eager to continue their evening unfettered by her “students.”

The next day, Mugi tells Hanabi he recognized the guy as another student she’s tutoring. It’s all too clear he was more than that. Hanabi can’t believe how blind love makes Mugi, and is frustrated they don’t see things like this the same way, to the point she worries they weren’t as close as she thought.

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But then she realizes of course they’re not that close, at least not yet: their relationship, such as it is, has only just begun, and both of them agreed at the start they’d see other people in each other. Seeing Akane out in public with a different guy threw that plan into chaos for Hanabi.

She decides what she’s feeling now is something approaching hatred for Akane, which isn’t allayed by their brief, uneasy encounter in the schoolyard. Hanabi asks Akane (still wearing the same clothes from last night) if that guy was her boyfriend; she said it was just a friend, and that they can talk about it later. Assuming neither of them want Onii-san to find out about them being with other guys, Hanabi contemplates her next move as Akane, her back turned to her, cracks a wry, knowing smile.

Kuzu continues to excel with its serious, weighty but deft internal drama (not of the melo- variety) and quietly steamy scenes of sensuality (one of which ends with the mundane practicality of having to wash dirty clothes). We’re with Hanabi and Mugi all the way as they endure and explore their pain and pleasure; their playfulness and despair; their confusion and their revelations.

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Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – 09

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Things move fast this week, but most of the things that occur are basically foregone conclusions. Kikuhiko and Sukeroku both become Shin’uchi, but in his debut, Sukeroku sticks it to the association president by performing his specialty, “Inokori”, in which he must embody multiple sides of one character, Saheiji, depending on who else he’s talking to. It’s a challenging story, but Sukeroku pulls it off and gets the only approval he needs: that of the crowd.

Now a Shin’uchi, Kikuhiko is committed to shedding a woman he feels someone of his stature can no longer be with. It’s not pride so much as obligation to the structures he was raised into, which demand that a man put things above his own personal feelings. His breakup with Miyokichi had been telegraphed for some time, but that doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking when the hammer comes down.

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Miyokichi, as it happens, isn’t the only one who gets dumped: as a result of his insolence in his debut, Sukeroku is taken aside by his master, who informs him Kiku, not he, will be the Eighth Generation Yakumo. Again, the writing was on the wall. As well-intending as Sukeroku is, and no matter how much practical sense it makes, he was never going to be able to successfully convince the old guard of his “change or die” views of rakugo.

For the elders, including his master, change is death; there is no difference. Oral tradition cannot truly survive if it becomes a game of Telephone. Tweaking tradition is a slippery slope, one that the elders would rather fall to their death by clinging to rather than allow it to be propped up with new ideas.

Furthermore, Sukeroku was always hampered by his modest origin; he was always an interloper, a “stray dog” who clawed his way into this world. There’s no way the master would allow such a person to succeed him, no matter how unassailable his talent. There may be TVs now, but castes still matter.

When Sukeroku argues too forcefully, Yakumo expels him, throwing him out of his house. And that’s how our two dumped and dejected people find and comfort each other.

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Speaking of comfort, Kikuhiko isn’t experiencing it just because everything seems to be going his way. In his mind, Sukeroku is still better at rakugo than him, no matter how many elders or syncophants say otherwise. He’s particularly irritated when a dilettante-ish rakugo critic tears down Sukeroku in an apparent effort to curry favor. Kiku ends the interview right there.

Then Master Yakumo’s wife dies, and with mortality on his mind, he informs Kikuhiko that he intends to give him his name. Kiku’s initial reaction is that it’s a mistake; Sukeroku should get the name; he’s more skilled; he doesn’t have any skill compared to that raw talent. But Yakumo reproaches his apprentice.

It’s not Kiku’s place to tell him who he should give his name to, nor to say whether he’s better or worse than Sukeroku. Just like his brother, Kiku spoke out of place, but out of humility and inferiority, not arrogance and outsize obligation to take rakugo upon his shoulders and “save” it, as Sukeroku wants to do. There’s more to being Eighth Generation than being The Best At Rakugo. 

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As Kiku continues to thrive but derive no joy from anything other than doing rakugo, Sukeroku and the scorned Miyokichi quickly shack up together and become an item. Just as Sukeroku and Kikuhiko must embody different people to perform their stories to suit their audiences, so too does Miyo, a skilled and experienced geisha, know how to be exactly the woman a particular man wants. She could be classy and prudish for Kiku, whom she loved, but knows Sukeroku less propriety.

I’m glad Miyo doesn’t waste any more time than she needs to worrying about Kiku; what’s done is done, and she’s moving on with someone who actually wants to be with her. Sukeroku doesn’t know if he’s quite that person yet…but he does like boobies. There’s something sad and close-looped about the two being depressed about the same person—Kikuhiko—but they must make do with each other.

Also, she doesn’t have time to wait around or worry; she has a baby on the way, and wants to raise it in the countryside. Her geisha house is shut down, so she steals the till with the intention of running off with Sukeroku.

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He stops by Kiku’s not for money or a place to stay, but to say goodbye, even as Kiku urges him to make peace with the master so he can give him his name. Sukeroku knows what he has to do to get back in the good graces of their master, and he can’t do it. He tells Kiku about Miyo and the baby and the country, and Kiku is not happy.

What is Kiku going to do without Sukeroku around annoying him and challenging him to be his best? What is he going to do with Yakumo’s name when he’s certain his drunk, uncouth, stray dog of a brother deserves it more? Someone he wants to punch and embrace in the same moment?

These unanswerable questions (which must attempt to be answered anyway, one day at a time) sow the seeds of a bitterness and regret that will stay with Kiku for years, then made worse one day when Sukeroku loses his life in his prime. That bitterness will come to define the man telling this story to Yotarou and Konatsu in the present.

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Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu – 02

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Now that Bunta has agreed to make a bishoujo game with Kuroda, he must be properly initiated into the world, which Kuroda achieves by leaving a choice selection of games in his shoe locker. She also shows him where the magic will eventually happen: the room she has reserved for the “Marketing Research Club”, which she helpfully points out is just a front in another quirky discussion between the two.

The Bishoujo Club has a producer in Kuroda and a writer in Bunta, but they’re short, a minimum, four more staff positions: for lead animation, programming, CG Art, and voice acting. She uses English-based acronyms to describe these jobs, but since this isn’t my first otaku rodeo, I found her explanations to Bunta somewhat redundant.

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Despite Kuroda’s belief his social skills would make him the perfect recruiter, Bunta brings back a bunch of unmotivated poseurs. Then Yuuka and Atomu barge into the club to look around, and Bunta realizes Yuuka would be perfect for the voice actress role (of course she is; she’s Hanazawa!) and Yuuka herself is interested in voice acting, even if she doesn’t much care for games.

That leaves Atomu, who isn’t sure how he can contribute, and fails to impress Kuroda…until the subject of dating comes up, and he goes on a bitter rant about how fickle girls are and how he wants nothing more but to abandon the 3D world for 2D paradise. That gets Kuroda’s applause, and she appoints him assistant director.

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Kuroda continues the initiation of her new club members by returning to Akiba. Strangely, Bunta acts like he’s there for the first time despite having gone there just last week with Kuroda alone. Maybe now that he’s into games he’s seeing the place with freshly opened eyes?

There, Kuroda shows them some very nice doujin works (including some by pros) and boldly proclaims they’ll create a game that will leave all the others in the dust. This isn’t a labor of love for her, results matter. Especially when her brother runs a highly successful game company.

After the group breaks up for the day, Bunta visits a maid cafe…where his classmate Andou Teruha just happens to work part-time in secret under the work name “Luka.” I thought sparks would fly, but both parties keep their cool, with Teruha switching from her normal deep voice to the bubbly Luka at the drop of a hat, while making clear her job will remain a secret (she doesn’t have to say “…or else”).

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After spending all night playing games he’s legitimately into, Kuroda’s next task is for him to acquire an artist. He’s not that good at discerning good art from bad, but that’s the person she wants searching for talent: if he’s moved by something, than it’s going to be something special.

Sure enough, while perusing the wares at a bookstore, he comes across a little sign drawn in a style that makes his heart flutter. His research determines it was done by  “Hokikiyo”, alias of the top-ranked-on-Pixi Yuuki Uguisu, who also just happens to attend their school as a first-year, and works at the bookstore Bunta visited.

However, she’s also a painfully skittish milquetoast, however, so the club’s aggressive attempts to recruit her fail at first (i.e., drawing her out with a love letter and then surrounding her menacingly).

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It’s when Teruha sits beside a frustrated Bunta and learns he’s making a girl game and looking for “Hokekiyo”, Teruha reveals she’s a fujoshi (another term defined by side-chatter), is familiar with her work, and helps recruit her, cornering her in the girl’s lavatory and bringing her to the club room. Everyone praises her enough to convince her to createart for their game, though she quietly confesses she really wants to draw for an eroge.

Teruha herself also joins the club as a programmer, and just like that, the team has been assembled, presumably leaving the rest of the show to the production of the game. On this efficiency, I’m a little torn: quickly getting the “building the team” out of the way is satisfying in its way, but it relied on an awful lot of convenient coincidences.

Also, and this is could be an ongoing thing if the two episodes are any indication: the characters all feel rather smoothed over, subdued; as if they lack sharp edges; Atomu’s “breaking”moment being the lone exception. The characterization and accompanying comedy often walks a fine line between understated and overly buttoned-up, even to the point of tedium.

I hope it doesn’t stray too far to the latter side. What with all the intros, there wasn’t a lot of time to go in depth with anyone. Perhaps the show will find a stronger voice once the game-making gets underway in earnest.

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Charlotte – 02

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Yuu’s first day at Hoshinoumi Academy is fairly eventful, as Joujirou demonstrates the incredibly destructive and unnecessary way he buys lunch. But while his demonstration and its resulting wounds is played for laughs (and it is pretty funny on its face), the show delves into darker territory with regard to the effects special abilities have on the people who possess them.

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But first, Nao and Joujirou show Yuu how they operate, using the location pinpointing and power identification skills of a “comrade” to locate ability users who, like Yuu, are up to no good. In this case, it’s the archery captain, who uses his “thoughtography” ability to produce images of girls in their underwear which he then sells…to help support his struggling family.

Nao and Joujirou put Yuu to work immediately, using his body-swapping ability to get the name of the culprit and foil his attempt to blackmail Nao (who is nonetheless flattered that the culprit thinks she’s attractive). It’s clear Yuu is a good fit, and that he’s now on the straight and narrow stopping people from going too far with their powers or using them for nefarious purposes.

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The StuCo he’s now in less about punishing the ability users and more about protecting them from themselves. Those who get discovered are often taken away by the powers that be to have their brains poked and prodded. Nao knows this because her own brother, the first youth who had a power awaken in them, underwent just that kind of intrusive experimentation, leaving him a husk of the person he once was.

The importance, and indeed nobility of The StuCo’s cause is underlined greatly when Nao brings Yuu to see her brother. At this point, Nao is used to him not reacting to anything, despite his hospital being in the most gorgeous, P.A.Works-y environment possible. She even buys lunch and eats it on the train like they’re on some workaday errand, not visiting her profoundly wounded brother.

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Her casual attitude may be Nao attempting to live as normal and happy a life as she can in her brother’s stead, because she managed to escape the same fate. But however you interpret it, it’s a brother-sister dynamic Yuu doesn’t repeated with him and his beloved Ayumi. While initially resistant to all the crazy crap going on at Hoshinoumi with Nao and Joujirou, perhaps Yuu will continue to be more smart with his powers and get with the program.

After all, as Nao says, any of them could be captured tomorrow and their lives and the lives of those they love irreparably ruined. For all its goofy or laughable moments, Charlotte doesn’t fail to bring the gravity either. That combo makes sense: for those with lives almost always on the brink and an ongoing mission that may not end until they lose their powers at adolescence, one must have fun, goof off, buy beef tongue and destroy a cafeteria now and then to maintain their sanity.

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Charlotte – 01 (First Impressions)

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What is it? Otosaka Yuu abuses his power to possess another person (for just five seconds at a time), which has twisted him into a kind of Yagami Light Lite, with troubling megalomaniacal and sociopathic tendencies and poor moral fiber. He cheats at both tests and in love, until he’s caught by a camcorder-wielding silverhair named Tomori Nao.

Nao, who can become invisible (but only to one person at a time) insists Yuu join her and her colleague Takajou (who can teleport, but never knows where he’ll stop) at Hoshinoumi Academy, a school specially suited to people with special powers like them. Facing expulsion at his present school and getting dumped by its idol Yumi, and faced with the enthusiasm of his little sister Ayumi, Yuu grudingly agrees to the transfer.

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Why should you watch? P.A. Works’ last effort that I watched, Glasslip, was a huge disappointment. Charlotte is much livlier, funnier, and flat-out better right out of the gate. Unlike a kid just dealing with teenage angst or longing, Yuu is a pretty confident dude, but also unprincipled, and selfish, literally causing traffic accidents to get a date with a girl. He’s the kind of swine you love to hate, like Light or Kanie from Amaburi. Yet I can’t help but root for him as I hope his new colleagues will work to reform his character somewhat.

The episode efficiently lays out the possibilities and limitations of his power, and the fact that if he could possess people as long as he wanted without them knowing, then he might be able to act so high and mighty and godlike. But he doesn’t. His power is half-baked, and so are those of his colleagues, so things can never quite get that out of control.

However, when they get a little out of control, such as when Takajou races around the city like a bull in a china shop chasing Yuu, or Yuu makes someone do something that causes a chaotic chain reaction, it’s great fun to watch. It’s also a just episode, in which Yuu gets all the misfortune coming to him…but doesn’t overdo it.

We see all the sides of him, like the side that sees Ayu as his only family and loves her so much he won’t tell her his omelette is too sweet.

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Why shouldn’t you watch? Like all previous P.A. Works, this show is gorgeous, and it got off to a great start, but if you still feel burned by Glasslip, I won’t begrudge you passing on another high school drama…is what I would say, only the drama so far is pretty pretty understated; in its place is just comeuppance and a healthy helping of comedy. If we’re just talking about Charlotte in a vacuum, its flaws are few.

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The Verdict: Charlotte gave us colorful, dynamic, flawed characters with clashing personalities, punchy dialogue, justice, and the usual P.A. Works dreamily beautiful yet everyday setting. It lured us in and held our attention throughout. Its superpowers are in-your-face and impactful without dominating the proceedings.

It also smartly set up the introduction of the fourth main character as the next target of the other three: the J-pop idol Nishimuri Yusa must be using her power in some underhanded way in order to achieve fame. I’m looking forward to the reveal of that power and watching Yuu clash with Yusa. This is a definite keeper.

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Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – 15

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In a show with so many pleasing sounds, it’s distressing that the most noticeable sound this week was the sound of wheels spinning. With one frankly head-scratching exception, all of the key events of this episode were merely rehashing points that have already been made, with little in the way of new insights, and delivered with a distressing abundance of melancholy.

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First up in this Pity Party is Tsubaki, whose problem remains the same as last week’s, but now she diagnoses herself as standing still in life as everyone else moves on. It was one thing for Kousei to be taken away by music in the form of Kaori; now there’s talk of him going abroad. The timing couldn’t be worse, as she’s just realizing these feelings when he’s about to ship off.

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Tsubaki has also been totally phoning it in with Saito, and with his crush on her long gone, he’s the one to dump her, which he tries to laugh off as the two simply being too much alike. Obviously, it’s for the best. I was no more invested or comfortable with this pairing than Tsubaki was!

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Tsubaki waits for Kousei in the practice room, and he listens to her tale of being dumped as he plays Clair de Lune. But sorry, Uso: I won’t get fooled again; this is a pretty scene, but it accomplishes nothing that hasn’t been already well-well-well-established.

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Kousei can say he’ll “stay by her side” freely, but I’m not sure why, beyond trying to half-heartedly comfort her. She knows you’re moving away, dude. You can’t say you’ll stay by someone’s side and then move away. That’s the opposite of staying by someone’s side. Saying something like that makes you a liar, which is, incidentally, the title of this episode.

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The episode doesn’t spend all its time reiterating and embellishing the slo-mo train wreck that is Tsubaki and Kousei’s relationship, but dances from place to place. Kousei keeps hesitating to visit Kaori in the hospital. Emi is killing it in competition, with Kousei as her muse, while Takeshi is only wounding it.

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The most inexplicable development is the pint-sized Aizoto Nagi falling out of a tree into Kousei’s lap. He takes her to Hiroko’s, where she wakes up and reveals she’s a top piano student at a prodigious school, and begs Hiroko to be her teacher. After hearing Nagi play the same Etude Kousei played in the competition (harshly, but very well for her age), Hiroko agrees to bring her on.

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Nagi tearfully rejoices, but those tears were faked by eyedrops; this is all clearly some kind of scheme. But the joke may be on her, as Hiroko delegates her training to Kousei. You know what they say: “Those who can’t [hear the notes], teach.”

I’m not quite sure what to make of Nagi’s introduction (hence the head-scratching), except that it’s kinda late in the game to be introducing a moe misfit. The check-ins with Emi and Takeshi reminded me the show doesn’t have enough time to do all the characters it already has justice.

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Then, the cherry on top of this Cake of Despair is Kaori, who was pushed to the sidelines for the whole episode due to her being in hospital and Kousei refused to see her. He comes close once, but hears Ryouta laughing with her in her room and scurries away.

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It’s not enough that we know Kaori has some undisclosed illness that requires ridiculous of meds and intermittent, interminable hospital stays. We also have to watch in horror as her legs suddenly give out beneath her, in the dark corridor of a hospital where apparently no one is on duty. Pretty dang morbid.

I’m sure someone will find her, and she’ll be put back in bed, and Kousei will visit her and she’ll simply laugh and smack him in a stylized comic burst and basically tell him everything but the truth.

Everyone is suffering in Uso right now (except Saito, but who cares about him?), and I’m starting to suffer right alongside them. Would it kill somebody to tell another what they’re really thinking? For gosh sakes, the destroyer girls did it in their third episode!

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 07

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Erika and the episode waste no time after Kyoya’s latest apathetic remarks; Erika approaches him cordially with the decision that she’s no longer a Wolf Girl, and he no longer has to pretend to be her boyfriend. Yes: Erika dumps Kyoya. It’s a command performance for both, but as Erika later cries to herself on the way home, it’s clear her love for him isn’t all gone, nor is Kyoya as okay with this development as he seems.

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A bit of residual anguish is to be expected, but the next day Erika is determined to move forward. She basks in Yuu’s kindness and accepts his invitation to hang out at an arcade, under the condition San can come along. The whole time, San notes how hyper and happy she is, almost like she’s forcing things — and she is. But Erika’s attitude is to be expected of someone who has just had a huge weight lifted off her shoulders.

She’s free: free from torture and verbal abuse; free to choose someone anew, who really cares for and will treasure her. Only…she makes clear to San she’s not sure Yuu is that someone. San warns Erika she can’t lead Yuu on too long, otherwise she’s no better than Kyoya. Yuu needs an answer ASAP, even if he’s not forcing her for one.

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At school, Erika and Yuu can’t help but see Kyoya with other girls, but his black prince persona is leaking out of him, as he’s frustrated with his loss of Erika and with those girls so eagerly presenting themselves before him to take it out on. Kyoya seeing Erika with Yuu, whom he dismisses as a ‘wimp’ and a ‘huge step down’, pisses Kyoya off even more.

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Yuu arranges a White Day date with Erika at the aquarium (ZOMG axolotls!), where they proceed have a ton of fun…while Kyoya lays on his couch at home, defeated. Kakeru (who along with his crew looks like a bunch of disguised shinigami from Bleach) spots Erika having fun with another guy and calls Kyoya in a panic, like the good friend that he is, to ask him what his fucking problem is.

Kyoya hangs up on him. It was so easy to mercilessly berate a girl who genuinely cared about him; now that she’s gone, and Kyoya finds that dispite his assertions to the contray, he genuinely cares about her, suddenly he has a far tougher road ahead to fix things. Yet there he lies on the couch. Who is truly the ‘wimp’ here, hmmmm?

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I said last week that Yuu’s syrupy-sweet, unconditional, suffocating niceness would grow old for Erika quick, and not just because she’s used to being mistreated, and it does. Because of that past pain, she desperately wants to fall for Yuu, but it’s just not going to happen as long as Kyoya still draws breath, cad that he is. Not only that, Erika just isn’t the type of person to fall for Yuu. She thrives in the battle, and giving up on Kyoya would mean surrender and retirement.

For that reason, Erika does the right thing and promptly, calmly explains why she can’t return Yuu’s feelings. Yuu may seem a but over-yielding and understanding here, but let’s keep in mind just how delicate and worrying a guy he is. He knew this was a long shot all along, and has no ill will to Erika. If anything, their brief fling was an enlightening experience for him, which will pay dividends in his future dealings with both people and girls.

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It’s worth noting that the popular fountain that’s said to increase a couple’s love doesn’t actually activate or light up until Kyoya happens to show up, with as close a tail between his legs as he can muster, which translates to him possessively grabbing Erika by the arm and dragging her away from Yuu, even though there’s no call for that beyond saving face. Yuu warns him that this time he’d better ‘treasure her properly’, something Kyoya doesn’t respond to, but perhaps understands now.

When Erika demands to explain his actions, he silences her with their first kiss, saying “No more ‘Whys’.” But a kiss isn’t going to cut it for Erika, who’s been through enough with him to deserve a straight answer. Again, it’s only as straight as Kyoya dares, which means it’s still pretty damn roundabout:

I already said you belong to me…it means you aren’t just a way to kill the time…in general society, they’d usually call it love, right?

Yikes. Still, it’s genuine. Satisfied that he was close enough for her to claim victory this time, Erika kisses him back, then agrees to let him be her real boyfriend. He takes exception to who is letting whom do what, but the long and short of it is, these two have worked things out. I couldn’t be happier.

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Golden Time – 23

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After blowing up the central romance and putting the brakes on all the secondary ones, Golden Time has been determined to break our hearts in its home stretch, then stomp on the pieces. It isn’t even as if we weren’t warned on numerous occasions by Banri himself, but that doesn’t make it any easier a ride to the finish. It would seem, for the Banri we’ve come to know, and the only one everyone save Linda knows, has finally run out of golden time.

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Last week, a multitude of actions and words conspired to shake the circle of friends to their foundation and threaten to level it to dust. While he still knows who Koko is, Banri quickly comes to realize, and understands why Koko broke up with him: she simply doesn’t think she’ll be able to withstand what’s coming. But 2D-kun (the one most out of the loop trying to put the pieces back together) and Chinami agree she’s forcing herself away from him. Both also hate they way things are, but depite 2D-kun’s optimism, there’s no stopping Banri’s cruel biological fate.

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At least Banri and Koko make up, and Koko even promises not to leave his side, even if the Banri she knows disappears. Banri assures her that no matter what happens, he’ll always love her, and never hate her. We’re not doctors, but it would seem the truth of the matter is, at some point in the near future, he’ll feel nothing at all for her, because it will be as if he never met her. But if she wants to re-meet and re-connect with him after he’s “gone”, that’s Koko’s choice. In effect, she’d be undertaking what Linda didn’t after Banri fell, at least initially.

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With all the yelling and screaming and hitting and avoiding all over and done with, friendships are repaired, but they also seems like they’re going into mothballs. Banri is like an astronaut about to embark on a dangerous mission. He doesn’t know the exact launch time, but he feels it coming and is preparing for it. More than that, though, he is living every last moment he has as the Banri he is, savoring them, for even if they’ll disappear, it doesn’t mean they didn’t happen, nor that didn’t enjoy his time with 2D-kun, Chinami, Nana, Mitsuo, Linda, and Koko. We know we did.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Linda’s role this week was particularly interesting, as she’s cross with Koko (rightfully so) but also comes to the rescue when Banri has another freakout.
  • Nana slips in bed with Banri…because she just kinda feels like it. Banri is a lucky dude.
  • We appreciated Mitsuo tearing up when Banri apologizes to him, and we’d never seen him as passionate and emphatic as when he promised, like Koko, that he wouldn’t leave him.
  • A lot of the festival club president’s pep talk could be applied not just to the Awa dance, but to Banri’s last remaining days as himself.