Just Because! – 12 (Fin)

Setting the final episode on the seniors’ final day of high school is an obvious touch, but a very effective one here on Just Because!. We can share that sense of accomplishment, relief, and anxiety the new grads are going through. There’s also the sense that everyone feels a bit out of place, from little details like flowers and parents to a completely different schedule of events from the usual routine.

Unfortunately, we have to wait quite a long time for the inevitable payoff of Izumi and Natsume meeting in college. That’s because they don’t see each other the entire episode. This seems at once a wry nod to viewers that such an inevitable payoff, while desired, isn’t something that can sustain an entire episode.

Rather than pad it out, JB! does a curtain roll of everything and everyone else, starting with the news that Izumi didn’t get into the fancy college he thinks Natsume is going to. She only texts him that she got in “her first choice”, without indicating that she changed it to his.

That profound misunderstanding threatened to mar all of the events in the episode that weren’t dedicated to resolving it, but it turned out to be an episode that rewarded patience. We also get an arguably superior scene to the episode’s final moments in Izumi and Komiya’s last scene together.

She won and lost the competition: lost because her photo of him didn’t win, but won because her fellow club member’s photo of her taking a picture of Izumi did win, which means the club, and her place of belonging survives. It’s little consolation for Izumi’s formal rejection, however, and both animators and seiyu LYNN really knock it out of the park with Komiya’s understandable reaction.

Speaking of dingers, we get a nice symmetry to the series when Izumi and Souma play ball in the yard again, only this time with their positions reversed. When Souma hands him the bat and says “hit a home run”, Izumi knows what he’s talking about, because of what hitting one meant for Souma.

That being said, Souma’s fiert first pitch immediately lets Izumi know he’s not lobbing a batting practice toss…Izumi has to earn his homer—and he does, making crisp contact that sends the ball flying, just as a jetliner screams overhead, the vapor trail imitating the ball’s path, making the homer seem that much more epic. Izumi runs off to Natsume.

Unfortunately, Natsume doesn’t wait on the hill long, as she assumes that Izumi won’t come, and a phone call from Yuriko and her celebrating friends lures her away before Izumi can get to the rendezvous point.

So that’s kinda that…and an entire month passes, without them speaking or even texting each other. To this, all I can say is, WTF, show? A month? Seriously? A longer period of time apart than the two have ever suffered, at so crucial a time in their lives? I’m not a fan of the choice, or the persistent lack of communication that caused it.

That being said, their encounter at college, in which both un-bottle that month of longing with quick confessions to one another, was very well done. Not as nice as Komiya’s scene, but still nice.

Some shows are about what happens after two people who really had to labor to end up with each other enter a romantic relationship, but this was just about how it happened. I’m always for at least a taste of seeing the new couple fall into a new rhythm together, but we didn’t get that here.

Oh well, what we did get was most enjoyable regardless. Just Because! is no Tsuki ga Kirei, but there were certainly moments when it came close.

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Just Because! – 11

Everyone in Just Because, it seems, requires certain seemingly unrelated conditions be met before taking action.

Souma wouldn’t ask Morikawa out unless he hit a home run. Natsume won’t “lay her feelings bare” unless she gets into Joei. Izumi won’t tell Natsume how he feels unless he gets into Suizan. Morikawa won’t go out with Souma until they settle into their respective futures at college and work.

Only Komiya confessed to Izumi before meeting her stated condition (winning the photo competition), but she’ll still wait for Izumi’s answer until after the exam, which she expects him to pass.

Mio’s sis is too good at imitating her sister’s face

This was a very practical, functional episode in which all of the members of the Natsume-Izumi-Komiya triangle meet their conditions, which in a way was the easy part. The toughest trials for the three come now that they no longer have those artificial boundaries in place. In the final episode, they’ll have no choice but to follow through on what they promised they’d do.

Between Natsume and Izumi’s simultaneous balcony sessions to their morning routines to their lengthy commutes to the colleges to their time at their desks taking the exams, there’s a great deal of thematic heft given to those exams, as befits the fact that passing them means far more than simply getting into those colleges. Both of them have assigned a lot more importance to them than that, but neither shrinks from the task at hand.

As they furiously put pens to paper, Morikawa and Souma enjoy each other’s company at school, too restless to be home, each worried about their friends. It’s here where Morikawa and Souma first pool their knowledge of both Izumi and Natsume both switching schools…but it’s “too late” to stop them.

Is this meant to suggest the would-be lovers are doomed to attend different schools? I hope that’s not the case and that with some paperwork wrangling they can align where they wish to go…if that’s what they both want.

While the buildup and the presentation of those exams was very deliberately paced, the results come in in the relative blink of an eye. Natsume’s letter definitely says she’s been accepted to Joei. Komiya’s smile most likely means her photo won. Izumi’s grin means he got into Suizan, meaning the conditions have been met. With all that paperwork out of the way, I’m looking forward to seeing these three proceed to sort things out.

Sore ga Seiyuu! – 13 (Fin)

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Still basking in the awe and enormity of the biggest event of her young career (which is even more enormous in her dreams), Futaba is feeling a bit listless and aimless, which isn’t a good place to be what with her assessment at Aozora looming. Despite her secondary circle of friends (who are either still trying to become seiyus or moving on to other things) believing she’s “super-elite”, Futaba can’t hide her relatively quiet and undistinguished past two years. Sure she’s worked with plenty of legends, but if she doesn’t want to get fired (and go through with her promise to give up on a seiyu’s life if she is), she needs to think more about her future; find a focus; anything to tell the assessment panel.

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She sees a glimmer of that future when she imitates a passing boy, which is doubly significant because A.) she’s so good at voicing boys she gave Ichigo and Rin a start, and B.) the boy was talking about how not to get lost: Remember something big that doesn’t move. As a city-dweller who’s bad with directions, I myself lived by this advice…at least until I got a smartphone with Google Maps (and devised a mnemonic device for memorizing street names).

But I digress: When Futaba first shows up to the slaughterhouse office for her assessment, the atmosphere is suffused with dread and despair, as everyone who exits that room comes out looking miserable. When she takes her seat before a rather intimidating row of assessors, barking questions one after the other, she very nearly loses her nerve, but still manages to get out where she sees herself in the future.

She wants to be a seiyu for a long time. It’s possibly an even more ambitious goal than being a main character or famous heroine, due to the dropoff of seiyu work for most people after 30. But she tells the panel it’s a goal she aspires to all the same, and one she counts on making a reality.

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This week also features Ichigo (her foot now healed a month after the concert) auditioning for and winning the voice role of a local strawberry mascot, and Rin taking and passing her entrance exams. But the spotlight this week, as it was in SgS’s first episode, is Futaba, who despite having never been able to land a main character role, is the main character here. And it’s very apropos for us to see every excruciating minute of her struggles this week, while the others have a relatively easy time off-camera. This is how it’s always been.

But it’s also a welcome development that Ichigo and Rin are right there when Futaba gets The Call—one that starts out ominously but turns out to be a great relief: she’s being given another year to prove herself—and the three are able to celebrate their hard-one individual victories as a unit. Along with Ichigo and Rin, Futaba looks poised to continue working hard in that unit, which will hopefully get her more attention and more roles; especially if she pitches herself as a boy-voice specialist. And the time ahead of her will be more distinguished than the time behind her. Because the Seiyu’s Life is the only life for her!

Like Futaba in the seiyu world, Sore ga Seiyuu! may not be the flashiest or the most watched or lauded, but also like Futaba, it was more often than not extremely fun and rewarding watch full of a unique energy and modesty as it brought insight to the world of a quirky profession while making observations relatable in any profession.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 12

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It’s the halfway point of Ore Monogatari!!, so did the show do what anime of every genre typically do around this time and throw a new wrench into the works; a new conflict for Takeo and Yamato to overcome? Well, yes and no. But first, it was a pleasure to see Takeo’s athletic prowess on display in areas besides Judo.

He’s a literal wall of flesh at goalkeeper (and scores a goal on the other end by throwing it baseball-style), and surprisingly graceful on the ice rink; like a penguin underwater. The point is, Takeo is physically gifted; extremely gifted, and combined with his kind heart, makes him socially gifted; he’s always surrounded by friends.

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Yamato is just as popular with her peers, though not because she can perform awesome feats of strength. In addition to her kindness and general affability, Yamato is also pretty good at academics. In fact, it’s one thing she’s much better at than the hulking Takeo. So the “conflict”, if you even want to call it that, is borne out of the fact that eventually these two will go to college.

They both want to attend the same one, but Takeo doesn’t want to make Yamato enroll at a substandard one, so he has to study; exercising a muscle he rarely needs to simply because the rest of his body is so extraordinary.

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He initially enlists the help of Suna, but Yamato also starts stopping by Takeo’s place. When Takeo tells his mother Yamato is indeed his girlfriend, Mom and Dad gradually start to spruce the place up, even though Yamato would be the first one to tell them not to go through too much trouble for her.

What I like so much about Takeo’s parents is that A.), they’re both alive, which seems like a minority in anime; B.) they’re still happily married, with a baby on the way; and C.) they genuinely love their son and are both grateful for and protective of him. In addition, as Yamato remarks, Takeo really is a composite of his parents, with nearly equal parts of both of them in his physique and personality. Dad is tan and handsome and flashy; Mom is nurturing yet no-nonsense. Both are badass. Takeo is all of the above.

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The parents are so excited about Yamato that neither she nor Takeo can actually study, so they go to Suna’s When Takeo suddenly passes out from too much studying, it isn’t treated like any kind of serious emergency, but rather another opportunity for Yamato to snuggle with him. This time, to her horror, Suna walks in on her, but true to form he assuages her guilt, assuring her didn’t see anything and slinks out, basically saying “as you were.”

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This halfway point also didn’t provide any indications Sunakawa has any ulterior motives about being friends with Takeo, but is really just a caring, loving friend; a brother from another mother. This, again, goes against the usual anime romance archetypes, for which I’m glad. While the show was a smidge more ambiguous earlier on, it is now officially patently ridiculous to think Suna will one day try to steal Yamato from Takeo.

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Not only does he not seem to mind that this is the case, despite liking Yamato (in a non-romantic way, as a good match for his bro), but he doesn’t mope about it either. Suna’s not the most social or open guy despite his popularity, but that seems like a conscious choice rather than any kind of impasse or struggle he has to overcome. The show respects how he lives his life. Suna also derives quite a lot of fun and laughs from being friends with Takeo, as we see again when he plays charades during English study.

So the day of a benchmark (read: practice) exam for the three colleges Takeo and Yamato are trying to get into arrives. Both are bundles of nerves, but Yamato gives him moral support before they get started.

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Looking at the various subjects he studied as various enemies to vanquish, Takeo goes into the exam like a warrior entering a gauntlet. But like Yamato did in a previous test, his multiple choice answers are shifted, a mistake he feverishly tries to correct, resulting in a blizzard of eraser filings and a pool of Takeo sweat.

He gets a “D” in two of the three colleges he aimed for, and an “X” in the difficult-to-get-in one Yamato was trying for, but not only did she not get in either, in a nice bit of villainy from Suna, it’s a women’s only college anyway, so he was never going to get in no matter what!

Also, the “D”s aren’t even that big a deal, because it’s just a dry run. He’ll keep studying, Suna and Yamato will keep helping him, and I have every confidence he’ll get to go to college with Yamato, and maybe Suna too.

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Nisekoi 2 – 11

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I’ve been a little disappointed with the seeming lack of progress on any of Raku’s romantic paths, along with the general scattered format of Nisekoi in the midst of so many more serialized romances. But it’s episodes like this, particularly its B-part, that make me forget about the “Utopian” (perfect, but impossible) Nisekoi in my head and simply enjoy the Nisekoi being delivered to the screen.  

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The first half of his All Kosaki, All The Time episode is comedic, and pegs her as almost too trusting of notoriously inaccurate bathroom scales. (It’s also an opportunity for Hana-Kana to stretch her vocal muscles, as Kosaki does a lot of yelling). Despite being valued by her family for having the best taste buds, buds she trusts when tasting the new fall sweet lineup, she doesn’t trust her eyes when she sees a slim Kosaki in the mirror, and doesn’t trust her fingers when they pinch so very little fat from her belly.

Instead, she trusts a number (or rather, the silhouette of the farm animal closest to her alleged weight) and begins down a spiraling path of self-destructive behavior to lower it. It doesn’t take long for Raku to notice something’s wrong, but Kosaki refuses to let him in on what it is. But he still wants to help, so makes her favorite food, only exacerbating the situation.

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Now Kosaki feels bad for “weighing too much” and for making him feel bad for making her food. She’s at a loss of what to do, but Raku persists in trying to help her, this time with tea. He’s been worrying about her all this time, and when he remarks that she’s thin and has to eat, the spell the scale put on her is instantly broken, and everything’s fine, because Raku’s kind words are more powerful than any (busted!) scale.

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That unconditional concern and gentle kindness is the segue to the far more serious and affecting second half, in which we get the full story of when Kosaki fell for Raku in middle school. Just as they’re both kind, gentle people, so to was their romance, as both were content with saying “Good Morning!” in the morning and “See You!” at the end of the day.

Those words had power for Kosaki, so when she overhears where Raku is moving on to high school, she decides to make her first real goal in adolescent life to  get into that same school as him. The love is a fuel that drives her to work hard, so she can still exchange those salutations with the object of that love.

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It’s a bold plan for Kosaki, considering both she and Raku are too gentle and shy to just come out and confess to one another. But when Raku spots Kosaki at the exams, he’s filled with elation and tells her they should try their best to both get in. At this confirmation that she may well be as important to him as he is to her, Kosaki swells with confidence.

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Then she FAILS! But, because this is a flashback, we know two things: Kosaki will be getting in the same school as Raku, and neither will be confessing to the other, even in a gorgeous, romantic winter scene perfect for such a gesture…

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…Kinda like this! Well, actually, exactly like this. A romance is certainly dependent on the decisions of its participants, but it also relies on a degree of luck, such as Raku happening to encounter a distraught Kosaki in that wintry park. When she repeatedly declines to take his scarf for fear he’ll catch cold, he proposes they share it, which gets both of them wonderfully flustered.

And just as the gears in Kosaki’s head are spinning like mad wondering if this is the ideal time and place to confess like she should have long ago (it is), Raku pipes up first, only he can’t get it out because luck intervenes in the negative, with Kosaki’s phone ringing. It’s an important call, though: turns out she’s been admitted into the same high school as Raku after all.

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Kosaki is happy. Raku is really happy, and Kosaki is happy that Raku is happy that she’s happy. Get the trend? And the rest is history: a history of kind, gentle gestures and exchanges, of “Good Mornings” and “See Yous”, but also much more substantial conversations and activities and embarrassments and close calls.

But through it all, despite periodic frustrations, both Kosaki and Raku have been happy, even without confessions or official dates or kissing. And in the midst of such happiness, if not full and unequivocal contentment, a mutual hesitation to rock the boat is understandable.

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Valvrave the Liberator – 14

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The Dorssians out of their hair for the moment, the New JIOR shuttle and Valvraves reach Earth orbit and begin the process of gaining access to the surface via follow rings. Everything is going according to L-elf’s plan when Satomi answers a call made by the Dorssians, who send a squadron of fighters after them. The Valvraves overheat quickly while defending the shuttle. Akira drifts too far away to be recovered, but Haruto goes after her. Satomi begs L-elf to leave the follow rings while Akira hacks the air traffic control network, which Satomi parses. Akira and Haruto are saved, but the shuttle ends up crash landing in Dorssian territory.

We hope you’ll forgive the rather clinical summary above for leaving out much of the Akira-Satomi plot; we’ll talk about it down here. Akira and Satomi’s dynamic makes a lot more sense now that we know more of their backstory, which remains true to the characters we know thus far. Pressured by his asshole parents to succeed at all costs, he pulled all-nighters studying for the best school’s entrance exams, giving him a fever. A concerned Akira couldn’t take it anymore, and did what she does best: she hacked the exams. She’s caught; Satomi didn’t come to her defense; and never helped her when she’s brutally bullied at school. She’s never forgiven him for that, and he’s never forgiven himself. But as Marie says, it’s better to have bad memories than none at all (she’s missing hers).

And at the end of the day, they’re siblings who still love each other, and they take the first steps towards making things right this week. Their development aside, this great episode overall, one that kept the momentum and tension going. Even if Module 77 is safe on the neutral Moon, all of the characters we care about were very vulnerable for this entire episode, aboard a fragile shuttle and with Valvraves that can’t fight forever. It’s also great that, for once, Haruto and even L-elf can’t save the day, but it falls to Satomi and Akira instead. One could definitely argue it was their fault the ship ended up crashing off-course in enemy territory, but at least they’re all alive. In Valvrave, if you’re alive, anything and everything is still possible.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • The episode starts with Rukino complaining about depending on Satomi to relay everything from Akira, which is exactly what happens in the climax.
  • The repair crew’s idle banter alludes to the past events we’re shown later in flashback form. Sometimes school rumors are true!
  • Akira’s adventure out of her cockpit (hiding her face in a box) is nice mood-lightening stuff.
  • Marie not having memories of her past is actually pretty good cover for her character being so underdeveloped.
  • More scenes of the evil Dorssians off-duty doing evil things like horseback riding inside or hitting on random chicks. They’re just like us…only eviler!