Tsurezure Children – 12 (Fin)

Tsurezure Children’s finale starts with Sports Day and a soccer tournament, during which time Kurihara cheers for Yamane, Kanda wonders if it’s okay to cheer Takase, Takase wonders if it’s okay to look her way, Kana and Chiaki are still cool to each other, and Patricia joins the boys.

Chiaki gets the opportunity to save Kana from getting hit by the ball, and as thanks, Kana starts cheering for Chiaki—in her own way, telling the idiot to impress her. Chiaki can’t help but oblige, and comes this close to scoring (a goal) when his run is blocked by Noro, who, not having a girlfriend, resents the guys who do. Patricia then swoops in and scores, ruining Chiaki’s chance to be cool for Kana.

On the last day of school before Summer Break, plans for a beach trip crop up. Takano’s friend tells her Sugawara may come, and Sugawara’s friend (Chiaki) tells him Takano will. But neither believe the other cares whether they go or not, and so remain noncommittal.

However, this is only the beginning of an apparent conspiracy between their friends to get the two alone together, and in the process, Kana ends up alone with Chiaki, even though he didn’t get her message because his phone battery died.

Chiaki concedes that they’re broken up, but he realizes the error of his ways in being so comfortable in a relationship with Kana he thought he could do no wrong. He asks that the existing breakup stand, but that Kana allow him to confess to her once more, because he doesn’t want to lose her again. When he asks her out, Kana, who never truly wanted to break up in the first place, quickly says yes, her face drenched with tears of joy.

In the classroom, it’s Takano who takes the initiative, first asking Sugawara in a voice well above her usual volume whether he’s going to the beach, and then, when he’s ready to sheepishly leave, telling him it won’t be fun without him. Just like that, the two are able to connect and move forward. It’s a happy ending and smiles all ’round for two couples who had suffered so much, as we suffered with them, and a sweet place to end.

Tsurezure Children stuck to a simple formula and executed it admirably, utilizing the variety, realism, relatability and rootability of its sprawling ensemble cast. Of course, not every relationship has been resolved; I wouldn’t mind another go.

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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.

Masamune-kun no Revenge – 08

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I was right at the edge with Masamune-kun no Revenge, and with the gang planning to hang at the pool, it looked like we were in for another color-by-numbers harem outing. Instead, things got a little more serious…all because Masamune’s photo is gone, and he suspects Neko of taking it—which she did.

While meeting Akagaki at a family restaurant so she can give him back luggage he left at her villa, the photo distracts Masamune to the point where Adagaki is insulted by his distance and leaves. The minute she leaves (without paying for the four sundaes she ate) Masamune gets a call from Neko, which leads to him asking if they can meet so he can somehow bring up the photo she stole.

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It’s here where things get hot and heavy in a hurry, and very unexpectedly so. Neko doesn’t jump his bones like a cat in heat, no; in fact, it’s Masamune who sneaks into her room to look for the photo, then comes across the same romance novel she saw at his house.

Neko catches him snooping, but thinks nothing of it, and before long owns up to the theft of the photo, saying the young him—not the young Adagaki—was just too cute for her to resist. His self-image poisoned by his interactions with Adagaki and others, Masamune never once considered himself cute, but Neko means it.

So what if he was fat? Well, the fact he was once fat means everything to Masamune, both in terms of his present obsession with fitness and his vendetta with Adagaki.

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Masamune is so messed up, to the end he believes Neko is working some other angle, some ulterior motive he’s on the cusp of discovering. So when she advances on him, he questions whether she really likes him, then takes the photo and leaves, telling her choosing Adagaki is his…revenge.

After he leaves, Neko doesn’t seem like her plan had failed. She looks heartbroken, and says as much. For his part, Masamune is pretty messed up too – he just had his first kiss with a girl, and having rejected her out of hand, his stomach hurts something fierce. He’s just not sure whether he did the right thing, only that he can’t get Adagaki off his mind.

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The pool party is an afterthought, both narratively (because the Neko incident takes precedence) and practically (there’s no animation, just a bunch of panning stills). But that’s okay; what matters isn’t what happened at the pool, but who didn’t attend: Neko told Futaba she wasn’t feeling well. And again, Masamune feels frustratingly far away to Adagaki.

While everyone is leaving the pool, Neko’s attendant pulls up, asking what Masamue did to her, as she’s now missing and without her meds. That’s right: Neko isn’t just some vitamin junkie; she’s a very sickly young woman and a seizure risk. Masamune was wrong. So he tells the truth – he went to Neko’s to tell her he couldn’t go out with her because he was choosing Adagaki.

The episode ends there, with us wondering how much those words may have affected Adagaki, and knowing that with Neko who-knows-where without vital meds, this isn’t a game or test of courage. They’ve gotta find her first, then deal with the romantic ramifications.

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Masamune-kun no Revenge – 07

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Masamune-kun no Revenge got off to a halfway clever start, but in the last few weeks has been leaning heavily on overused rom-com tropes. This episode is no different, combining three such tropes: The Beach Trip, The Test of Courage, and the Man-Hating Older Woman (MHOW). As such, it’s an adequate but unexceptional outing.

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In an attempt to add stakes, while on the yacht to the island where the Adagaki beach manse is located Koiwai warns Masamune that if he doesn’t make progress on this trip, she’ll spill the beans to her master – all of them.

It spooks Masamune into taking risks, like telling the trip chaperone—Adagaki’s dad’s secretary Yuisaki Midori (the MHOW)—that he’s Adagaki’s boyfriend. He knows Adagaki cares greatly about appearances where other women are concerned, and it pays off…just.

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We know the reason why: on some level, Adagaki wouldn’t mind actually dating Masamune. She’s keeping up appearances, both by allowing the lie and making sure Neko stays away from her man, but also because she doesn’t want Neko sniffing around Masamune anyway.

Masamune later goes to Yuisaki for suggestions on what to do that’s good for a dating pair, and she suggests the dreaded Test of Courage (I like how she considers it childish, but the still pretty childish Masamune is fine with it).

He rigs it so he’ll have to save Adagaki when she’s trembling in fear, and we get another one of his far-fetched fantasies where she says and does things the really Adagaki never would, at least not yet.

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But because Yusaki hates men, and wants Adagaki to become like her, she tries to dispose of Masamune by trying to scare him. Instead, Koiwai (whom Masamune sent in first so she could brandish a chainsaw) ends up scaring Yuisaki, who hits her head and has to be carried home by Masamune. Yuisaki learns that the dating is a lie, but also learns that Masamune is actually a good guy and she feels bad for prejudging him.

I never thought for a second Koiwai was going to spill the beans, so there wasn’t really much in the way of stakes this week. He doesn’t make much in the way of progress, nor do we learn anything more of Neko (oddly we now know more about Yuisaki than her). Here’s hoping the show is troped out and will do something a little more interesting next week.

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Masamune-kun no Revenge – 06

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That Masamune-kun’s big grand scheme to destroy Adagaki is put in jeopardy by the mere offer of a kiss is yet another indication that he simply hasn’t thought this through that much, that he’s better at losing weight and keeping it off than relationship stuff, and that he’s very lucky to have Yoshino on his side; otherwise he’d be toast.

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Masamune’s outer timidity around Adagaki belies his tougher inner revenge plotter, and Adagaki seems to make it clear: if he can’t kiss her, he must not really like her.

Watching his plan’s life flash before his eyes, he quickly envisions Adagaki as a piece of meat and goes in for a bite, only for a flustered Adagaki to recoil and delivering unto him a crushing (and physics-defying) uppercut.

This is two people inexperienced in love and romance fumbling around, unable to read or predict one another because they can scarcely predict themselves.

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After an awkward scene in the school courtyard, Yoshino decides Neko needs to be tailed, lest she be up to something that will disrupt her accord with Masamune regarding her master. When Neko ends up at Masamune’s house, both she and Yoshino are snatched up by Masamune’s tiny loli mom.

I’m all for representation of little people in anime, but I’m not sure that’s what his mom is, and it’s kind of irritating that her character design is indistinguishable from that of a grade schooler. It was less of a concern when she was a background, but we see a lot more of her this week.

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In fact, the whole episode kinda grinds to a halt at Masamune’s house when he comes home to find two members of his harem plus the two female members of his family amicably mingling. All he manages to do is complain that Yoshino and Neko are there, that the food is fattening, and that they dress up in yukata to light fireworks after dinner.

Masamune deems all of this a waste of time he could be spending lifting weights or something, but I can’t say I relate to his displeasure with what seemed by all accounts a warm, pleasant weeknight. As for Neko, she’s happy her obsession with health (through more medicinal means) mirrors Masamune’s obsession with fitness. She also steals his photo of him and Adagaki. Not cool, Neko!

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Masamune-kun no Revenge – 05

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I’ve found that it’s tricky switching gears from Kuzu no Honkai, an R-rated seinen show, with Masamune-kun’s Revenge, a PG-13 rom-com that’s becoming increasingly harem-y. You won’t see a lot of girls posing with airsoft guns in Kuzu.

The two shows, while ostensibly about relationships between people, go about their business in very different ways. Revenge, even at its most serious, is still a much “lighter” show than the leaden Kuzu. I realize I’m not saying anything particularly groundbreaking here, just noting an observation.

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For one thing, Revenge utilizes an array of familiar, well-trodden elements from its genre as it progresses. Masamune truly wants to get Adagaki to fall for him so he can exact his revenge, but he’s unwittingly finding himself flush with women, due partially to his hot guy status, but also his genuine, if sometimes, reluctant, kindness, borne from once being on the other side.

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Put up against Adagaki, Yoshino, and even class-rep Futaba, so far Fujinomiya Neko is the weakest of the girls now in his orbit, for two big reasons. First, she’s less of a character than a collection of odd quirks (elaborate lies, going commando, fake blood) that doesn’t yet add up to anything. Second, like Masamune we know nothing about her, why she truly respects/admires him, and why she transferred.

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Her most interesting moment comes when she spots her competition, Adagaki (which had me thinking of and comparing her to Akane over at Kuzu, which I really shouldn’t do). But again, because we have no idea why she’s going after Masamune specifically, I’m not really invested in her mission to beat Adagaki.

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Masamune, meanwhile, ends up firmly back on Adagaki’s bad side, for, among other reasons not being more forceful in rebuke her advances. Adagaki is still figuring out what she feels about this guy, but it’s clear she really doesn’t like watching another girl get too close to him, or the fact he does next to nothing to stop it. It makes her think he’s shallow to fall under another’s spell so easily.

The two get to have it out, somewhat, when they’re punished for skipping class by having to clean the pool (which is oddly full of water). Because it’s a pool, Adagaki naturally ends up in it, can’t swim, and almost has to be rescued.

When pressed, Masamune admits he can’t help but want to save her, since he likes her so much. Adagaki wants proof: a kiss. Looks like the turbulence caused by Neko didn’t fully snuff out the flame…unless, like last week, another unfortunate interruption ruins the moment…again!

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Masamune-kun no Revenge – 04

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Masamune continues to expose the fact all he knows about courting girls is through shoujo manga. Staring at Adagaki throughout class and then lending her his umbrella, all while spouting canned lines, just ends up kinda creeping her out. Yoshino suggests he cool it, literally, by mixing it up and starting to ignore her.

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That turns out to be a lot more difficult than Masamune could have imagined, as he feels he’s throwing away all the goodwill he’s built up with Adagaki. But, despite how badly he’s flailing, it does actually work: Adagaki doesn’t consider him a bug.

She can’t, not when he’s irritating her this much with all the ignoring. When she confronts him roughly in the hall (not at all what he imagined), Masamune can only say he likes “everything” about her before running off…to see Yoshino again. But because of the camera angles, you know Adagaki followed them, and gets the wrong idea about the two.

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While playing hooky for the first time, Adagaki is approached by Yoshino, and tries to play it cool, but Yoshino comes right out and tells her about all her contact with Masamune. “He only has eyes for you,” she says to Adagaki, getting more and more flustered. Before Yoshino can deny she feels the same, Yoshino vanishes.

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It’s while Adagaki is rushing around aimlessly, stuck in her thoughts, that we learn what she thinks of herself, and why it’s so “inconceivable” that she’d like anyone, or that anyone would like her. The Cruel Princess act is an intentional one, designed to keep others away.

She wants to keep others away because, as she says, she ” hurts others to avoid being hurt,” and we see her there dressing down Pig’s Foot. I imagine she did not expect Masamune to leave when he did, and branded him a liar, but also wonders if he left because she drove him away.

To avoid history repeating itself, she’s been aloof and kept her distance from everyone. Whether she’s worshiped or hated, she’s not close enough to anyone to hurt anyone or get hurt.

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But now things are changing. Masamune’s cold shoulder awoke feelings in her, and when he saves her from getting hit by a car, she’s right on the cusp of telling him when the driver of the car gets out…and embraces Masamune.

Apparently, the story of Masamune and Adagaki cannot be so neatly wrapped up so quickly and easily. Whoever this girl is, she’s competition, which is something Adagaki has never had, reigning as she has over all the boys and girls at school. And like class rep Futaba, this girl is someone else threatening to knock Masamune off course.

But what’s the fun of things being too easy? I’m game for the complication New Girl brings.

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Masamune-kun no Revenge – 03

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It should come as no surprise that despite this show having “revenge” in its title, it’s looking less likely all the time that Masamune will actually want to dump Adagaki once they become a going concern. He’s had an idea of her in his head all these years as an object of rueful loathing, but actually getting to know her is gradually rewriting that idea.

Despite gaining the tacit support of Koiwai in his revenge efforts, Masamune comes up with something all on his own: a wager with Masamune concerning test scores. Koiwai seemingly abstains from assisting, and Masamune even thinks she double-crossed him by slipping him laxatives during a test, but it turns out he ate bad eggs.

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When the results of the test wager are inconclusive, Koiwai redeems Masamune’s confidence by arranging for Adagaki to go on a date with him out of concern that he’s an emotional wreck. Koiwai is well aware of the immense trust Adagaki has in her obedient maid, but stops short of telling Masamune exactly why she’s helping him out.

Koiwai’s motives aside, Adagaki is very game for the date, and reveals her inexperience with the practice of courtship by arriving in a costume to “break the ice.” She puts up smug airs, but also hides behind Masamune’s broad back when a creep tries to snap a picture of her, and gets all freaked out by a horror movie.

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Adagaki isn’t just inexperienced in dating, but in interacting with people on equal terms. With a maid and an army of servants at school, she’s used to being waited on hand and foot. But as he watches her argue with a small child about why she’s dressed so weird, it dawns on him he’s been letting her get away with the cosplay thing all day, sparing her the embarrasment. He’s going soft!

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Back when Masamune was a little fat kid, Adagaki called him pathetic and urged him to get stronger…which is exactly what he did. After accidentally walking in on her changing and hitting his head, he wakes up to find his head is in her lap and she’s asleep. After tasting her venom, back then and more recently, the date showed her some of her other facets, including vulnerability and kindness.

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Koiwai knows Masamune is “Pig’s Foot”, which means she knows how much Masamune worked to improve himself physically and academically to become the chick magnet he is today. Now she intends to use him to improve Adagaki, and in true tough love fashion, believes getting dumped might do the trick. The only issue is, will Masamune actually do it? I have my doubts.

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Masamune-kun no Revenge – 02

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Compared to the seinen drama Kuzu no Honkai, Masamune-kun sports a much more vivid palette and a lot more comedy, but the titular character’s problems feel lighter; somehow more petty. After all, he’s still raw after all these years about how Aki treated him? They were snot-nosed little kids; all kids are terrible; his experience is not unique.

But as this second episode progressed—and Masamune thought he was making progress with Adagaki—I began to realize there’s a good reason Masamune is so serious about this revenge plot, even if it isn’t even in his best interests at his age. Being a former “pigs foot”, and the bullying he received as a result, had a profound effect on his emotional development.

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Masamune may be a much sought-after hottie girls are always fawning over, but not too deep inside, he’s still a little kid, not just hung up by the slights he suffered, but being held back by them.

It’s also made him sensitive to the perceived suffering of others, such as Adakagi’s maid Koiwai Yoshino. He buys her the necessary food for her to deliver to Adagaki, but when he teases her and he sees she’s not enjoying it, he stops. In her he sees another victim of Adagaki’s caustic haughtiness – a Cinderella always gettin’ it from the evil stepmother.

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Predictably, Koiwai still hears it from a very (always?) hangry Adagaki in the storage shed, and as she ducks out for tea, Masamune swoops in and attempts to build upon his heroic act to woo Adagaki. He makes smooth moves and says smooth words, and when he leaves, has convinced himself he’s gaining a “mental advantage” over his adversary.

But is he? Masamune’s no student of human behavior; he isn’t even aware of how ill-equipped he is to carry out his revenge plot. He’s using methods gleaned not from experience courting girls or anything like that, but reading his sister’s shoujo manga.

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His shortcoming are made plain when he’s literally caught in a trap by Koiwai, who first shows Masamune that she’s no Cinderella, but a fiercely loyal servant, as her family has been to the Adagakis for three centuries. The rope, hunting knife, and fact she knows his nickname “Pig’s Foot” indicate she’s a serious threat, and Masamune crumbles almost instantly.

Luckily for him, Koiwai isn’t so loyal as he thought, nor are her actions a threat so much as a demonstration of her skill. She knows Masamune is trying to get back at Adagaki, and she’s all for it. In fact, she offers to help him out. Koiwai is definitely somebody Masamune wants on his side, and it seems like he has a mutual “foe” in the imperious Adagaki.

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In his quest to gain Adagaki’s email address, Masamune volunteers to join the school beautification committee she’s on, which helps get class rep Futuba out of a bind. To Masamune’s dismay, Adagaki isn’t shocked when he shows up, and basically ignores him the same time. This has a profound effect on Masamune, just as her abuse contributed to making him what he is today.

He’s ready to throw in the towel…until a grateful, blushing Futaba, who had been looking distinctly for him, comes in and asks him out to a movie just like that. Again Masamune’s immaturity is laid bare, as he realizes he’s not so worthless after all, but actually quite popular. His confidence is buoyed, but poor Futaba gets rejected, because going out with Futaba, as nice as it sounds, strays from his “main objective.”

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When Adagaki comes in, Masamune assumes she’s jealous he was speaking to Futaba alone. He even thinks he hears it in her voice. He’s riding a high, and ends up going in for the kill way way waaaaay too early, showing that Adagaki isn’t going to be won over so easily.

For his foolishness, Masamune is sent on a wild goose chase of letters that lead him back to where he starts, where Adagaki unfurls—perhaps not for the first time—a large and elegant “I DECLINE” scroll in a semi-public place. Masamune loses his cool and yells out the window, but thankfully for him, Koiwai is now in the classroom, and she’s ready and willing to offer him assistance he’s clearly in dire need of.

This episode revealed the surprising emotional complexity at play in Masamune-kun, showed that his quest to get back at Adagaki won’t be so simple, and most admirably, turned Koiwai into a far more fascinating and intriguing character than last week’s humble maid.

It will be fun to see if Koiwai is serious about helping Masamune or if she’s actually a loyal servant working hard for her master. As she herself says, Masamune is too naive.

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Masamune-kun no Revenge – 01 (First Impressions)

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Summary: Masamune Makabe is a former overweight child who was rejected by the rich, haughty Adagaki Aki. Since then he’s worked tirelessly to become a physically and academically ideal high schooler, irresistible to the opposite sex.

His goal is to make Adagaki (now known as the “Cruel Princess”) fall for him so he can exact his revenge by dumping her. He gets off to a good start by discovering her secret: she eats huge amounts of food alone in the gym storeroom, and by saving her from an attack from another boy she rejected.

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Why You Should Watch: Assuming you’re into rom-coms, this is a choice one, with above-average production values, character design, lighting, pacing, and a very effective score. It’s also an simple yet engaging premise: scorned boy seeks to teach the girl who scorned him a lesson.

While the show presents him as a former victim, it seems to be well on it’s way to demonstrating that two wrongs don’t make a right, and that a rose (i.e. his singular, un-waning interest in Adagaki) by any other name smells just as sweet. He may claim to “despise” her with every fiber of his being, but love and hate are a lot more similar to each other than indifference.

These two outwardly perfect people with inner quirks seem perfect for one another, much like the couple in Kare Kano, my favorite rom-com, which was a great show that unfortunately didn’t really have…and ending. I suspect this will be a more well-organized show; whether its end is something I’ll like, I’ll just have to wait and see.

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Why You Shouldn’t Watch: While I knew eventually that revenge would come up (it’s in the dang title), it was still a little jarring when Masamune, alone in his dark room, suddenly announced his master plan for…what—making Adagaki feel like shit?—while laughing maniacally.

My feeling so far is that their mutual disdain for each other has unconsciously evolved into something else, and Masamune is needlessly clinging to old baggage. He’s much closer to adulthood than that dramatic rejection years ago. Surely he can talk it out with Adagaki and let her know that what she did wasn’t cool….right? Maybe not.

Verdict: MkR is a great-looking, great-sounding rom-com that just pops. It’s got “it”; that being some inscrutable quality that makes me want to keep watching and seeing where this goes. It might not be immediately to a place I might like, but I liked enough of what I’ve seen so far to take that risk. So should you if you’re looking for something in this genre this Winter.

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Orange – 04

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I’ve mentioned how cold and bleak and dreary things look in Naho’s “bad future.” With Kakeru dating Ueda, it’s like that coldness has seeped into present-day Naho’s world. Heck, the first image in the present is of a futuristic—and somewhat frightening—looking interior of an automatic ice cream cone-serving machine.

In it, two cones are stuck in their stands, so close together and yet inexorably separate, being pushed and pulled by outside forces ever further away. One is filled with pink ice cream – which I saw as a symbol of the aggressive redhead Ueda’s new regime in Kakeru’s life.

The workings of the ice cream machine seem unchangeable, but that’s just an illusion brought on by its cold, intimidating, mechanical nature. In order to prevent the same thing happening this time, the machine has to be unplugged and reprogrammed. And Naho is the only technician who can do it.

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Kakeru is most definitely dating Ueda-senpai. He is also most definitely miserable, because of the note he got from Naho a hair too late. Now he’s trapped, and Ueda will not leave him alone. She’s hot, but she’s also clingy, monopolizing, and singleminded. She’s also not a fool, so she sees the glances between Naho and Kakeru, and doesn’t like them one bit.

There’s already tension—like Weyoun and Dukat when DS9 was occupied—that Naho could capitalize on if only she had the nerve to. Alas, she still doesn’t. Letters that tell her she can’t keep ignoring Kakeru, even when he calls you to her and Ueda is nearby (as she always is) seem all well and good to Naho, but her future self is looking back; she’s not in the moment, trying the best she can but coming up a few seconds or a few inches too short.

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What present Naho doesn’t realize is that those seconds and inches become the years and miles that end up dooming Kakeru. Ueda will be the death of him if Naho doesn’t stop running away.

When Kakeru says “bye” to Naho, and Naho calls out his name, Ueda hears it all and takes her revenge by knocking Naho over on her way to her boyfriend. But it backfires: Kakeru doesn’t take the side of his current girlfriend—who just demonstrated that one should never pick someone based on looks alone—but Naho’s side, angering Ueda, who storms off in a snit. Smell ya later, missy.

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Back to the subject of color temperature: what had been a cold and bleak episode got much warmer and more comfortable, starting with the Ueda fight and continuing throughout the remainder of the episode, as things start to turn around for Naho, her colors of green and yellow (or, ya know, orange) start to replace the blues and reds.

Naho alone may not have the strength to do what her future self asks of her, but her friends lend her some of theirs, including Suwa, who is putting Naho’s happiness ahead of his own feelings. He, Azusa and Takako have plainly seen what Ueda (whom they loathe) has done to their Naho and Kakeru. They want Naho to know it’s okay to talk to Kakeru; after all, he wants to talk to her too.

Interestingly, Suwa’s mini-intervention wasn’t in future Naho’s letter; Naho takes it as a sign that the positive change she’s affected so far has already started to change the timeline. She can’t very well stop now.

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She doesn’t, and we finally get to end an episode NOT in the depths of despair. Yay! Naho speaks up, from across the street (then crosses after looking both ways. Good Naho!), and she and Kakeru reopen a very enlightening dialogue.

Kakeru is thinking about dumping Ueda, and not just because of the little public fight they had. Naho’s “no”, which she assumed he’d forgotten or ignored, has weighed heavily on him ever since he said yes to Ueda. It’s never felt right as a result, because he only chose Ueda because, at the time, he didn’t know Naho’s position, and Naho’s position is far more important to him than arm candy.

What Kakeru won’t reveal to Naho is the person he likes more than Ueda, even though it would be clear to anyone who wasn’t Naho that he’s talking about her, and like her is too afraid to just come out and say it. But never mind; just the fact he’s considering dumping Ueda makes this a small but crucial victory for Naho.

She realized that her future self doesn’t  have it easy. She’s dealt with ten years of regret of not doing what she’s telling her to do; Naho’s only dealt with a few weeks. And while future Naho can do nothing about any of it because Kakeru is gone, Naho doesn’t have that problem. Kakeru is right there. She has to keep her chin up, and think warm thoughts.

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Orange – 03

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Mother of God…this show. The emotional hold it has over me was maintained this week; in fact, it only tightened and intensified its formidable grip on my heart. I have to tip my cap to any show that is able to make such an relatively small, personal drama and tragedy feel like a world-reaching epic.

Naho seemed so confident and resolved to change the future, and so convince it was happening, and so happy that her efforts were bearing results.

And then Ueda-senpai happened. I know, right? A “prettier” love interest moving in on the heroine’s man…Naho will surely prevail, because it’s true love between her and Kakeru, right?

This shouldn’t be such a big deal, and yet it is. It’s a huge deal, because Kakeru has no future if he dates Ueda. The two things are firmly intertwined.

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This isn’t just about Naho getting the guy. It’s about saving him from oblivion.

Sure, I care far more for Naho’s happiness than anyone else’s (which is as it should be), but the specter of that increasingly bleak, almost nightmarish future considerably raises the stakes for Naho to win the Kakeru Sweepstakes.

Naho’s fatal flaw now—and in her future self’s original past—was that she cares for others before herself. She questions whether it’s right to trample on Ueda’s feelings to satisfy her own desire. She hesitates, and before she knows it, what had been an iron resolve to save him last week starts to rust and bend.

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What’s so impressive is just how goshdarned fast just a little bit of hesitation can get Naho into such serious trouble. Kakeru asked her flat out if she likes anyone; she couldn’t answer. He asks her “what she wants” before going to get drinks; all she can say is “orange juice.” In both cases, Kakeru is, consciously or not, reaching out to Naho, and it’s either not the appropriate time, or she just can’t muster the words she needs to.

So she ends up behind the curve, and Ueda steals a march on her with the tools Naho desperately needs to develop in a hurry: Directness. Persistence. Initiative Guts. She gets his hidden eraser note too late. She writes her reply to the question of whether it’s okay if he dates Ueda (Hell No) and sticks it in his shoe locker, instead of running to Kakeru herself and yelling “NO!” at the top of her lungs in front of him and Ueda.

Instead, Ueda corners Kakeru, and both overwhelmed by Ueda and absent a clear answer from Naho, Kakeru says yes, he’ll date Ueda, and go out during the break. I was so devastated by this development, even though it was sure to come along, I had to pause the TV and pour a glass of water to calm myself. It wrecked me.

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The only, and I mean only faint glimmer of hope comes when Kakeru finds her “No.” But I imagine he’s too nice a guy to dump someone so enthusiastic about dating him so soon after saying yes, so it could well be that Naho’s response was too little, a hair too late.

As expected, Naho is so crestfallen by the events of the day, she can’t eat, let alone pretend to hide her feelings to her mom. She goes up to the bed, pulls out the juice box Kakeru bought her before everything turned to shit, and drinks it as tears fall from her eyes. Sweet, sour, sorrowful…and utterly devoid of solace (Sorry, Suwa…)

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There are a couple of “post-apocalyptic” shows out this Summer, but none of their dystopias have been as and desolate and dismal as Naho’s future in Orange. It’s still, cold, desaturated, and the trees are leafless. Kakeru’s friends find that his note isn’t to himself, but to all of them.

He didn’t write to himself because he knew he didn’t have a future, which obviously insinuates he may have taken similar steps as his mother rather than suffer an accident. At the same time, no one’s dreams for the future came true, even his wish that they were all still close.

Tears well up in everyone. They shed those tears not just for Kakeru, but a bit for themselves, past and present: This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.

Despite all that went awry for Naho and how steep a hill she must climb, I have to believe things can be made right; that a more hopeful future can be made. I may well end up even more disappointed and disheartened than I am now, but so be it.

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Orange – 02

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I never like awarding 10s and RWHL certifications willy-nilly, but I was compelled to give this episode the score it deserved, which was, to me, the highest score possible. This episode was an emotional roller coaster that sucked me in and wouldn’t let go. It contained no less than All The Feels. And it made missing the next episode, or indeed the rest of the run of the show, seem like as big a mistake as Naho not listening to her future letters.

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Naho is a good girl. She has a gentle, generous heart, but she also lacks confidence, and sometimes isn’t able to say or do what she wants. The letters she’s getting say in no uncertain terms that if the behaviors that come naturally to her in the present persist unchanged, Kakeru will be out of her life in ten years. Naho is currently falling in love with Kakeru, so she really doesn’t want that to happen.

So when the letter tells her to make Kakeru a lunch, she plans to do so. She doesn’t tell him when it seems like the best time to do so, hesitating until the latest possible moment in the day, and only after her friends tell Kakeru she makes her own lunches and Kakeru “jokes” about wanting her to make one.

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Saying it was just a joke, and worrying about “bothering” Kakeru by foisting her unworthy slop upon him (well, she’s not that harsh on herself), vex Naho terribly. Interestingly, her thought process mimics her mom’s.

Initially, she casts my heart into the cellar by deciding against making a lunch for him. But thankfully she reconsiders, and gets “fired up” making the best damn lunch Kakeru will ever have tasted.

For a second, I thought she was making lunches for everyone to provide cover and hold back rumors of favoratism. Of course, to all her friends, including Suwa, who likes her, they already know the score with her and Naho.

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But making the lunch is only half the battle for Naho. She must inform Kakeru she’s done so, and deliver the meal to him at the proper time. The time between when she nervously greets him to the lunch bell is tortuously long, as demonstrated by the montage of various teachers giving lectures intercut with quick shots of Naho and the bag containing the lunch.

But when that lunch bell rings…she CHOKES! My heart, having just started back up the stairs, ends up in the sub-basement. I was literally banging my fist on the coffee table, furious by her self-defeating inaction. But then, she waits after school for Kakeru to be done soccer practice with Suwa. And again, Kakeru gives Naho the fresh opening she needs, offering to walk home with her—and only her.

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Naho engages in idle conversation meant to learn more about Naho in basic terms: where she lives; what she does when she gets home, her hobbies. Naho’s truthful answers are nothing flashy, but Kakeru still seems to enjoy them.

Then Naho starts to ask him questions, but gets more specific…like where he was and what he was doing those two weeks he was absent. Because Kakeru has feelings for Naho, he wants her to know, but also clearly exhibits some courage of his own by coming out and saying it:

The very day of their opening ceremony—the day the future letter warned Naho not to invite Kakeru to hang out with them—his mother committed suicide. With that, my heart busted through the floor of the sub-basement and into a subterranean aquifer.

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At this point, even though they were sitting down and Kakeru clearly expressed his hunger, Naho had not yet revealed she had made a lunch for him. But by hearing Kakeru tell her something so intimate and sad, and realizing what not listening to the letters did, Naho finally summons the courage she needs to present the lunch to him.

He accepts it with elation, having hoped she’d followed through on fulfilling his desire, even though he called it a joke at the time. My heart starts another long descent as she finds her footing, promising she’ll make him lunch every day from now on, and give him wake-up calls if he needs them, or any of the other things a parent does until you find someone you love who does them instead.

Returning to her letters, details emerge: Kakeru dies in an accident in the Winter of his seventeenth year, and she and the others always regretted not saving him when, as her future self sees it, they could have. Well, that’s that; Naho WILL save him, no matter what.

GO NAHO. (Sorry, Suwa.)

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