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.

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Hibike! Euphonium 2 – 10

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It’s no coincidence Mamiko spends most of a scene scrubbing a pot she burned trying to make dinner. Mamiko wants to make up, not just with her parents, but with her sister as well. She’s scrubbing all the grease and grime that had amassed so that a new pot of soup can be made – a fresh start, without forgetting about what was said or what choices she made in the past.

As Kumiko volunteers to cook in her stead as she scrubs (she’s clearly the better cook of the two), Mamiko lays it all out candidly: how she thought going along with whatever her parents wanted was the adult thing to do, even though she wasn’t an adult at the time; how she resented Kumiko for being able to have fun with band; how she now regrets the choices she made, but is now ready to live her own life, hoping to avoid similar mistakes in the future.

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Kumiko always assumed her folks let her do as she pleased because they’d given up on her, because she had no promise. Mamiko doesn’t believe that; she just felt, as many older kids do, that her parents were taking a different approach with the younger kid; it’s what parents do. And before going to her room for a nap, Mamiko tells Kumiko to live her life too: be a kid when she’s a kid and an adult when she’s an adult; don’t be left with any regrets; learn from your suddenly awesome big sis.

While other friend-reconciling or concert-heavy episodes packed emotional and at times visceral punches, this may be my favorite episode of Euph2, because it’s the most personal one for Kumiko. She reacts to Mamiko’s news of leaving home with a stoic face, but on the train the next day, she suddenly bursts into tears. She is sad her sister is going, even if it’s what her sister wants…and probably needs.

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The episode brilliantly presents Mamiko as a parallel to Asuka, a connection I never really though about, but which makes perfect sense. I love how it’s Kumiko’s sister who provides a timely assist in terms of giving her a usable angle to go after an exceedingly stubborn Asuka.

Asuka is doing almost exactly what Mamiko did at her age, and while Kumiko didn’t do anything about that at the time – indeed, she didn’t even know what was going on, except that her sister was drifting away – she’ll be damned if she’s going to stand by and let Asuka go through with it unchallenged.

Challenge her Kumiko does, and Asuka, at least initially, is ready. She peppers Kumiko’s assertions with doubts like an expert debater. She keeps the focus on Kumiko’s argument rather than her problem, and even gets personal with Kumiko in a not-very-nice way, regarding her typical method of dealing with people.

She questions how someone like Kumiko, who herself tries to avoid hurting or getting hurt; who is “wishy washy” and keeps a safe distance; can expect people to tell her what they really feel, not just about Asuka coming back, but about anything.

 

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Kumiko is disheartened and temporarily stopped in her tracks, but the power of Mamiko’s words ring in her head and mix with Asuka’s euphonium, and Kumiko gets her second wind. Her voice rises in intensisty, tears stream from her cheeks as she confronts the heart of the matter.

She knows Asuka wants her father to hear her at the Nationals, and so does Kumiko herself. And she reminds Asuka that neither of them are adults yet, just high schoolers; and pretending to know everything and think “sucking it up and dealing” is the best course just isn’t right.

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Kumiko delivers an argument even Asuka didn’t quite expect, and moreso, delivers it with an honest passion Asuka can’t help but admire. Kumiko hurt her here, and let herself get hurt in return. The little blush on Asuka’s face is proof that that matters.

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Of course, Kumiko didn’t know if it would work when Asuka is suddenly called away. So when Asuka shows up the next day for band practice, Kumiko is gobsmacked. Many other band members tear up at her return.

And why? Well, Asuka proved she actually is special, at least when it comes to academics, scoring high enough in mock exams to have ammunition against her mom’s assertion she can’t succeed if she stays in band. Asuka takes her place beside Kumiko, and they prepare to practice.

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Asuka isn’t the only one Kumiko is surprised to see: Reina is also there. With everything that’s been going on with Mamiko and Asuka, Kumiko admits she’s kinda let Reina fall by the wayside.

By the look of Reina, I’d guess she’s either pissed off at the lack of Kumiko’s attention (doubtful) or has put the pieces together regarding Taki-sensei and his late wife, knows Kumiko knows, and is angry she didn’t tell her.

It’s almost as if the show intentionally made Reina and Kumiko such wonderful BFFs to this point so that when they hit a bump in the road, which seems to be the case here, it would have that much more impact. Of course, I’m just theorizing at some point. Gotta hear the next piece.

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Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 02

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After just two weeks, Kiss Him Not Me is shaping up to be my top Fall comedy (Euphonium is my top drama), as it manages to pack so much fun in its episodes. This week efficiently covers the sports underdog and study group scenarios with vigorous aplomb and a unique, contagiously feisty energy.

The members of Kae’s ‘he-rem’ are already very well-defined: Igarashi (Iga) is the friendly athlete; Mutsumi (Mu) is the kind, mature senpai; Shinomiya (Shi) is the smitten kohai; and Nanashima (Nana) is, well, so I liken him to the tsundere of the gang.

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I say this because of the four, Nana is least amenable to carrying around otaku tokens she gave them on their group date, and when she tries to translate her newfound ease of motion with a soccer gig, he’s the most skeptical. Mind you, he’s not far off base: As self-described “indoor person”, Kae soon finds out lighter isn’t stronger.

I’d also point out that for someone typically uncomfortable with anime, Nana picks up on Kae’s Captain Tsubasa reference about being friends with the ball, even getting combative about her arrogance (Tsubasa practiced 24/7). But when Nana hears the same girls who recruited Kae shitting on her disappointing showing in practice, he can’t help but rebuke them and help coach Kae up, a dedication that surprises the others.

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Everything is resolved with a big come-from-behind draw, (not win, mind you) when Kae decides to use her nigh-impossibly backwards kick to score the equalizer in extra time (managing not to hit herself in the face, showing improvement.)

While not a true victory, it demonstrated Kae’s dedication to trying hard at something totally new, as well as Nana’s willingness to prove Kae’s haters wrong and instill some soccer knowledge in a girl who suddenly makes his heart skip.

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With sports out of the way, the episode effortlessly moves on to exams. If Kae fails her next round, she’ll have to take summer classes, grenading her summer plans, all involving otaku events such as formally saying goodbye to her beloved Shion, who is as far as she’s concerned as real a person as any of the boys.

Studying is not Nana’s strength, and because first-year Shi studies at second-year level, the two are almost constantly at each other’s throats, getting the whole study group kicked out of all public venues. This leads Mu to suggest they all study at Kae’s house, requiring Kae to do a super-quick cleaning session (referring to her room as the “Sea of Rot”, perhaps referencing Nausicaa). 

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The otaku gags fly freely, from Kae’s Shion pillow and sheets and store cut-out, to the pristine shrine she keeps in her room. Kae’s mom embarrasses her by using a makeup gun, and Kae’s brother (who resembles the other main lead in Kae’s anime) tries to scare off the lads, but to no avail.

Even if they’re not to-a-man comfortable with her passion (like Mu), they are willing to keep open minds, and are rewarded by having a good time. Mu confidently mans the rudder of this stormy sea of otakuness, asking if everyone can pray at Shion shrine with her, pointedly asking Kae’s bro to beat it, and insisting everyone help Kae carefully pick up the BL stash that means so much to her. The result is, the study group works, and Kae avoids extra classes.

Her new challenge: Summer Vacation, already packed with otaku events, just got a lot more full, as her gang will surely want to supplement that stuff with their own preferred Summer activities, from going to the pool to exploring castles. Kiss Him Not Me offers an embarrassment of riches, and Kobayashi Yuu continues to do superb work voicing the multifaceted Kae.

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Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo – 06

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It’s Summertime on Y7, and Miyamura, Urara and Itou waste no time hitting the beach, but Yamada can’t go because he has supplemental lessons. Urara in her generosity lets Yamada switch bodies for her so he can soak in the rays. Itou seems miffed by Miyamura’s assertion Urara thinks it’s boring without Yamada with them, but Urara has kinda always liked Yamada above them.

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While in Yamada’s body, Urara is suddenly confronted by the green-haired Otsuka Meika, one of Yamada’s fellow summer school buddies, who ends up kissing him as a “gesture of their new friendship.” This makes Urara suspect Otsuka is a witch, but she doesn’t know her power, as nothing happens during the kiss.

The next day, after Otsuka accuses Yamada (who is really Yamada now) of being a different person (causing her a nosebleed and such), and Yamada returns to the dorms to find Nene and Ushio have joined them on their…er, witchhunt. The only problem is, the “volume two” notebook they seek is in a locked classroom, and the one with the keys is running Yamada’s class. To get access, the class will have to pass the exam and end the supplementary lessons.

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To that end, Urara switches with Yamada manages to convince Otsuka to kiss Yamada one more time, while she tasks Yamada with giving her a bath. This results in Nene getting all close and personal with Urara, unaware it’s Yamada until it’s too late. I love how these powers encroach on all of the characters’ boundaries of privacy and modesty, a free and uninhibited dynamic rare in a genre where even calling someone you like by their first name is a big step.

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Urara succeeds, and Otsuka wearily kisses Yamada again, and then Yamada kisses everyone else…and nothing happens. The boys all meekly decide to wait it out in the girls’ room, but Nene and Itou break their resolve and they all go to sleep. Yamada is then woken up by a loud, brash female voice, which turns out to be Otsuka’s; her power is telepathy. Neato!

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The next morning Yamada undergoes telepathy training with Otsuka, whose inner voice is far more forceful and domineering than her regular voice. In fact, there’s a flame-wreathed drill sergeant who won’t suffer any sass. She’s already passed her telepathy on to the others in their class, and now Yamada is a member of their little outfit. Together they’ll collaborate on passing the test, which is what everyone wants.

The problem is, witnessing Urara in Yamada’s body gave them the mistaken impression Yamada is smart and has all the answers. He doesn’t, but they’re depending on him anyway, so he must send the questions to Miyamura for Urara to solve. Then Urara will send the answers via Miyamoto to Yamada, who’ll distribute them to the others.

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It’s a lot of complicated telepathy to ask of a novice, but he works hard and everyone passes the test. And to the episode’s credit, it doesn’t get bogged down in showing a lot of the process, which probably would’ve just made my head hurt! Yet even though the classroom is unlocked it has been cleared out, allegedly by the president. Still, they’ve discovered a new witch, and the whole big group celebrates by enjoying the rest of their Summer vacation at the beach.

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On the last night, as the others light fireworks, Yamada and Urara have a bit of alone time, during which he reports that he may have figured out why the three witches he knows have their powers: they wished for them: Urara, who didn’t like her situation, gained the power to switch bodies; Nene, who wanted to be president, gained the power to charm; and Otsuka, who couldn’t talk to people, gained the power to communicate.

That means there must be a reason Yamada, while not technically a witch himself, gained the power to copy powers. It’s a mystery he believes will be solved when they discover the remaining four witches, something they’ll have to do without the benefit of the second volume notebook.

One could say he shares the same insecurities as the three witches he’s ID’ed so far, being a recovering delinquent, and his life has grown richer and happier with each ID. So maybe it would behoove him to look within himself to find the other four, since they’ll inevitably have the same problems he wrestles with.

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Koufuku Graffiti – 12 (Fin)

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This is it. The Final Battle. Who lives? Who dies? Who ends up in whose bed? Who is able to exact their revenge, and who ends up burning in hellfire for all eternity?

Ehh, this isn’t that kind of show. Nor did it need to be. When I look back on Koufuku Graffiti, I’ll remember a warm, happy, and taste bud-enticing show; the feel-good show of Winter 2015.

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Don’t worry, all of this is in Kirin’s dad’s head.

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Hey, it’s 2016 in this show. We’ve been watching the future.

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Ryou and Kirin pass their exams, so they’ll be going to the same high school as Shiina next year, along with a couple other classmates who are eager to befriend Kirin, who never had a thing to worry about in the friendsmaking department because she’s kind and sweet and makes a cute pok-pok sound when she walks.

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Then, terror strikes in the form of a depraved house invader. Oh wait, it’s just Akira, trying to surprise Ryou and succeeding, but in the wrong way, getting a bonked nose for her trouble.

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Akira actually has a nice gift for Ryou, who’s thinking a lot about her grandmother, who was there for her opening ceremony, which feels like yesterday. The gift is an apron made from her grandma’s apron, so in a way, whenever she wears it, it will be like cooking with her grandma, or as Kirin maturely puts it, she can look forward to making new memories rather than simply dwelling on past ones.

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Ryou decides to christen the apron by preparing the same meal her grandma made to celebrate her entry into middle school three years back. It’s the same meal she made in the first episode, but it tasted bad to her back then because she was alone and still thinks it’s mising something when she tastes it alone.

That changes when Kirin arrives with all her luggage and samples the meal, and deems it one of Ryou’s best yet. Even Ryou notices an improvement in flavor after Kirin arrives, proving that food really does taste better when it’s shared.

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Everything on the shelf above the sink stayed in the exact same position all those years. That’s some precision right there.

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Ryou is in for one last twist when Kirin explains all her luggage and mentions movers are on the way…because she’s moving in with her, something neither Kirin nor Akira ever told Ryou, though they thought they did.

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Ryou seems to have a problem with this, though it’s more about being left out of the decision while everyone else from Shiina to Akira to Kirin’s parents know about it, yet she doesn’t; for all we know even Yuki downstairs knows! But now that Ryou knows too, she’s happy Kirin is moving in, Kirin cries tears of joy and relief, and everyone helps her move in.

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Looks kind of like Laputa, doesn’t it?

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Ryou started out alone, with her important parents far away, her aunt busy at work, and her grandmother dearly departed. But now her home is full of life and love and energy, and even when everyone leaves, Kirin will still be there. Ryou looks like she couldn’t be happier.

As the credits roll, we get an epic supercut of every foodgasm in the show, putting into perspective just how much delicious food was stuffed into the last twelve episodes, and getting me that much more excited for another cooking show, Shokugeki no Souma this Spring. I’ll also have to track down some yellowtail and daikon!

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Koufuku Graffiti – 11

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As exams draw nearer, quick and easy meals are the order of the day. While Ryou would probably prefer to spend all day cooking and eating, she and Kirin need to study.

It’s fortuitous then, that Ryou’s mysterious parents send her her second care package, which is full of packaged ramen in various flavors. There’s nothing like opening a big box full of food!

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The package has Kirin, whom we know has had a tenuous relationship with adults anyway, thinking about Ryou’s parents. What kind of people are they? What do they do? Kirin’s mom doesn’t have straight answers, but Kirin’s imagination runs wild when she hears they wanted to get Ryou a bodyguard. Satou Rina only gets a couple of lines as these alternate, bitchier Ryous, but she makes the most of them.

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Ryou has been a little lonely lately because her mom isn’t around to make late night study snacks for her, so the timing of the package is perfect. Also, Kirin knows how to make tasty ramen, so Ryou has a snack made for her after all, and it’s predictably that much more delicious because it was made with love.

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At the bottom of the ramen box is a secret letter specifically addressed to Kirin from Ryou’s mom; Kirin’s stealth crawl to a private place to read it is pretty dang cute, and the “top secret” label on the envelope, along with Ryou’s mom’s standing offer to provide both girls with bodyguards, helps fuel Kirin’s intense curiosity.

Ryou doesn’t help by calling her parents “two of the most important people in the world.” Still, the fact their true occupations remain secrets is a fun little running gag. At the end of the day, whatever they do, they made a good daughter.

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In part two the exams are even closer, and Ryou and Kiri visit a shrine to pray for good luck and success. Then Shiina drops a bomb: she already got accepted into the same high school they’re trying to get into. On the one hand, both I and they are relieved they’ll remain together. But Kirin in particular feels miffed that Shiina was so secretive about it.

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More to the point, the fact Shiina has already achieved what Ryou and Kirin have yet to gives her an almost godlike status in their eyes, but when she says an exam is a solitary battle, and one has to rely on oneself and not others or gods, the blinding light of her wisdom is powerful to behold…but Kirin isn’t so sure Shiina’s 100% right about that.

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Case in point, when Shiina opens up a huge case of beautiful-looking pork cutlet sandwiches—resembling a suitcase full of money, only tastier—and everyone digs in to the deliciousness, they react in the usual way, but with a cut to Tsuyuko infusing the sandwiches with plenty good luck aura, proving Kirin was correct: Shiina did have help during exams, because every time she took a bite into the sandwiches, she remembered the person who made them, and felt less lonely in her task.

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Shiina decides to pay it forward by learning how to make the good luck sandwiches and providing them to Ryou and Kirin for lunch as they head to their exams, showing that while she can be cold and stoic under certain circumstances, there’s still a sweet, caring person within who asserts herself in the clutch. I’ll admit I missed Uchiki Yuki this week, but in return we got lots of awesome Shiina, so I can’t complain.

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Gokukoku no Brynhildr – 10

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Lots of changes this week, starting with no cold open and a brand-new OP. We’ll miss the first OP (a rare instrumental theme) but the new one features a rousing techno-death metal piece and introduces new characters, suggesting this show could be going another season. I thought Nanami was going to stick around for a while, but I really like where the show went instead, in perhaps its best first half-episode to date.

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In last week’s moving outing, Nanami showed up out of the blue and had a great arc, but we were a bit weary she’d be along long, owing to her non-main character billing and absence in the old OP and ED. And so it came to be: after visiting the observatory and earning the friendship of the others, and knowing she’ll be remembered and thus won’t die, Nanami’s beacon is ejected and she turns to goo. And then, no one but Ryouta cares.

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Then it’s made plain: while she wanted to live on in the memories of others, Nanami didn’t want the girls to waste what little time they had left on the world being heartbroken over losing her, so she wipes them. Since her power doesn’t work on Ryouta, she transfers herself into his memories instead, which in a welcome moment of levity, her ghost says “used up a lot of his capacity”. While her body is gone, she’s now literally living on in his head, where only he can communicate with her.

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The second half, in which the girls must do well on the upcoming finals to go to the beach, wasn’t as good, but did end up propelling several plots. Neko’s affection for Ryouta is back in the foreground after lots of hanging out with Kazumi (who wants Ryouta’s virginity if she places second to him). Naturally, Neko ends up beating them both; her clueless request for “a virginity” from Ryouta is pretty cute. But even if Ryouta saves her, her memories continue to vanish. Will she forget him, like she forgot karaoke night?

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While at the beach, Neko, Kana, Kazumi and Kotori all experience a warm fuzzy feeling they’ve rarely if ever felt in their lives: happiness and contentment. If only they could all stay on that beach, soaking up the sun. But their most dangerous opponent yet. Valkyrie, who resembles a white-haired Neko—a shironeko, if you will—is now on the loose, not necessarily under control, and itching to everyone into warm fuzzy goo.

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White Album 2 – 08

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December arrives. Setsuna and Haruki start dating with Touma’s blessing.Touma lets Setsuna start calling her Kazusa. They also help her study for exams, which she ends up passing, assuring her graduation. To celebrate, the three go on a trip to a hot spring inn in the mountains, a tradition Setsuna hopes they’ll do every year, no matter what happens. Kazusa tells the others she’s delaying college to give piano a serious go, starting with a recital after new years, which Haruki and Setsuna promise to attend.

With Haruki and Setsuna dating, Kazusa seemingly fine with it while also passing her classes, things seem to be going swimmingly since their school fair concert. The three continue to spend time together, including Christmas at a very swanky mountain inn, culminating in the three sharing a hot spring together, without doubt the most intimate contact they’ve had yet. But this show has always been about what people aren’t saying, or in Touma’s case what she “jokes” about. Then there’s Haruki the narrator, speaking from the future, who knows how this all ends, and knows that concert was the apex of the trio’s happiness.

We still find it sad that he’s looking back at the Christmas adventure with a degree of regret and/or anguish, because by all rights, they really do seem to enjoy themselves, whether in the car together (which Kazusa drives with increasing efficacy), to getting stranded on a snowy road, to even being comfortable being naked together in a hot spring (major kudos to this show for not taking the cliched anime route here), everything seems to be fine between them. But it’s not just Touma’s jokes, Haruki’s voiceovers, or the cautious whispers of their outer circle of friends, but also the fact we’ve got five more episodes that tell us that the trio’s troubles aren’t over.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Sket Dance – 60

In the first half Himeko auditions and wins the role of new Pelocan girl, but she gets extremely nervous on the day of the shoot, injures the mascots so Bossun and Switch have to participate, and due to time and budget constraints, the final commercial is a horrible farce in which her face is covered by a demon mask. In the second half, practice exams loom, and desperate to pass and avoid extra lessons, Himeko and Bossun agree to study together with Switch. They do it at Himeko’s house, where her mother, initially friendly and charming, snaps when she sees them goofing off and forces them to study till dawn, resulting in high grades for everyone.

Himeko has always been a fun and entertaining character, but when she’s on the spot to advertise something so near and dear to her, she kind of falls apart. Speaking for the candy she loves seemed like a good idea at the time, but even in the club room she hesitates to follow through with auditioning. Switch and Bossun prod her to do it, but her instincts were correct; the commercial that’s ultimately produced is so terrible, no one has any words and the show simply cuts to commercial without comment. It really was that bad; but at least once they got into it they had fun, right?

After appearing in a commercial that may end up ruining Pelocan Corp., Bossun starts to stress out about exams, as does Himeko, who describes herself as an idiot. The two of them can’t focus when studying alone, so Yagi and Kura suggest they study as a group to stay on point. But since these three spend so much time with each other doing nothing, the initial discomfort evaporates and the ‘studying’ part of the study session devolved into lounging around snacking and reading manga (including Kimi ni Todoke!) That is, until Himeko’s mother “Oniyome” puts a stop to it right quick. We learn she’s truly her mother’s daughter, only preferring an ice hockey stick over field. It gives us hope that despite Himeko’s tomboyish tendencies, there’s a man out there to slap shots off of.


Rating: 3.5