Senryuu Shoujo – 11 – Peonies in the Sky, I Can Go Twice as High

It’s summer festival time, and both Nanako and Amane are resplendent in their yukata; the proverbial garden peonies while standing, tree peonies while sitting, and lilies while walking. Eiji looks pretty good too!

But Amane soon detects a problem: she’s definitely a third wheel, even if Eiji’s the kid of dude who spends entire days catching bugs like a five-year-old (he makes Takumi in Ao-chan look like Gene Simmons).

Even so, sometimes he’ll surprise you, like when he tenderly slips a glow ring he won on Nanako’s dainty finger. It’s like he’s already proposing! When Amane and Eiji go to the bathroom, Nanako stays behind and gets snatched up by three classmates who saved a spot for the fireworks.

The thing is, Nanako’s one wish on this night was to see the firworks alone with Eiji. Eiji knows this, so when the two are separated and fireworks time draws near, he starts searching for her.

While doing so, he leaves Amane and the bulky “Famistation” she won behind, but fortunately she runs into Eiji’s family and thus isn’t alone. Eiji manages to find Nanako thanks to the glow ring, and takes her hand just as she’s tearing up from having to watch the fireworks without him.

It’s a very well-orchestrated, powerful moment when the two lovebirds finally reunite at just the right time. I’ve maybe witnessed dozens of this kind of scene before, but it gets me every time when executed well, and it couldn’t happen to a nicer pair of kids here.

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Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 12 (Fin) – The War Continues

Last week ended on a hopeful note, but there was still a lot that could go wrong with Kaguya and Miyuki’s big night at the fireworks festival. And what do you know, it does! Just as she’s ready to head out, one of the butlers not named Hayasaka vetoes her outing as too dangerous, so she has to text Chika that she can’t go, and she’s sorry.

Kaguya enters heretofore unplumbed depths of dejection, but Hayasaka tells her to regain her Kaguya attitude that would have normally had her trying to sneak out by now. Hayasaka aids in all the ways she can by posting a tweet to Kaguya’s feed that Miyuki picks up on, then disguising herself as Kaguya so she can swing Tarzan’s Jane-style over the wall and to a waiting taxi.

While getting out of bed and sneaking out of the house was a big win, Kaguya still has to get to the fireworks before they’re over…and she isn’t able to succeed. The taxi is stuck in traffic, and there’s only so much ground she can cover in yukata and geta. She’s able to glimpse the fireworks closer than ever before—between buildings—but by the time she reaches the meeting spot, the display has concluded and the crowds are cleaning up after themselves (what a concept!) and heading home.

Of course, all this time, we know that Miyuki has been racing around on his bike, attempting to intercept Kaguya on her ill-fated solo mission to reach the fireworks. He manages to pick the right alley where she’s chosen to cry, then takes her by the arm and tells her he’s going to make sure she sees some fireworks. He accomplishes this with help from Yuu and Chika, who are waiting with the same taxi  Kaguya took before, driven by one of the Four Ramen Kings.

The driver takes liberties with the speed limit and gets them under the Aqua Line towards Umihotaru, where the fireworks display will still be going on for another twenty minutes. There’s an action thriller flavor to their undersea tunnel trip, and an ultimate feeling of triumph when they emerge at the other side to a sky full of gorgeous fireworks. Only now, that she’s closer than ever to those fireworks, all Kaguya can watch is Miyuki’s face, and all she can hear is the beating of her own heart. Daaaaaw.

While the fireworks night turned out to be a great victory for everyone, pulled from the jaws of defeat numerous times, the real proof in the pudding of whether Kaguya and Miyuki’s relationship has grown would come in the aftermath. We get a glimpse of that as the new school term begins, and both of them are so bashful and self-conscious that every time they try to approach each other, they end up sailing by like ships in the night—or two dogfighting planes.

Again and again they swoop by, with Chika eventually getting into the spirit of things with an “asterisk” before Yuu arrives and unwittingly makes it a “triangle.” Kaguya and Miyuki then banish both Yuu and Chika (“shooting them down”, as it were) in order to get the privacy they need to finally confront each other about last night.

Kaguya just wants to thank him for everything he did, but as they finally meet and end up bumping into a kind of half-hug, her broomstick juts into his chest, and she says the very words he feared she’d say as an appraisal of his “egotistical” behavior and “cringeworthy lines” the other night: “it must be painful.” Of course, she was talking about the broomstick, not his behavior. But he runs off anyway, and Kaguya gives chase, and henceforth everything is pretty much back to normal.

Surely other situations will come in the future where the two will be able to hang out and do fun stuff and experience moments of beauty and honesty together—but due to their stubborn pride and persistent self-consciousness, any such interactions will only come after much hand-wringing and hesitation. Perhaps, given enough time, it will get easier. But as long as they think something that manifestly isn’t a war is, it’ll remain akin to pulling teeth. But hey, a romantic can hope!

Domestic na Kanojo – 11 – There’s Always Someone Better

After lying and keeping secrets for so long, Natsuo finally tells Rui everything, from his long time love of Hina to his determination to be with her in the future. But just because it’s the truth doesn’t make the words sting any less. After sharing one last kiss and an evening of private sobbing, Rui is also determined to move on from Natsuo.

Of course, since it’s impossible for Rui to not handle such things in an odd way, she announces to Natsuo the next morning that she’s decided to “start disliking him.” I can’t say I blame her, as Natsuo has grown more selfish and insufferable with each passing week, but in her case it’s a defense mechanism. She’ll still treat him like family, but otherwise, she’s done.

At least Natsuo gets to talk to Rui; Rui freezes out Hina both on LINE and at school, where Natsuo and Hina misguidedly meet up once again to discuss it. The episode suddenly makes a hard right turn from the love triangle to…the “Natsuo Striving to be an Author” plot, when Rui wins an award instead of him (or Miu, for that matter).

This shakes Natsuo to his core, despite the fact, if he’s honest, he’s spent far more time lately being a horndog with Hina than he has crafting brilliant narratives. Still, he believes the solution is to go to Akari’s house announced and beg him to make him his apprentice. It’s not any more pleasant than Natsuo begging for sex.

His sensei turns him down in this case, because becoming his apprentice is not the way to go about becoming a good author; it takes actual struggle and hard work, not just connections. Natsuo takes this to mean writing one short story per week. Then, in another bit of whiplash, the episode makes another hard turn to School Beach Trip territory.

This means not only Rui and Miu and Momo in swimsuits, but Hina as well, and as she plays volleyball with the students, she looks more like a teacher than a student. Rui takes her aside to remark on the inappropriateness of her swimsuit, but Hina is so happy she’s not ignoring her anymore, that it leads to the two making up.

Rui isn’t interested in Hina breaking up with Natsuo if she still has real feelings for him; instead, she’s prepared to concede him to her and pursue other options. Honestly it’s probably a good move by Rui…if she can stick the landing. But Rui’s assurances don’t dissuade Hina from deciding to break up with Natsuo anyway, since it’s just not a tenable relationship.

It’s disappointing to see Hina’s position so callously overruled by Natsuo thanks to a cheap ring and a promise that he’ll make an honest woman of her for sure, even proposing marriage. Their two positions couldn’t be further apart, but there’s no compromise, Natsuo simply gets what he wants, again. 

While he may talk about caring about the future, it’s Hina who was looking out for both of them by suggesting they end things while they still can. Instead, they make out in front of an open window during a fireworks display, then have sex and apparently spend the night together.

These are not good decisions, as Hina learns on the first day back at school, when she’s summoned by the principal, who presents her a photo of her, and Natsuo, kissing by the open window, during the fireworks display.

She and Natsuo were so caught up in being together that they got sloppy, never stopping to think how others (who weren’t Rui) mind think and feel about them together. In the school’s case, it’s likely a fireable offense, and certainly a black mark on its reputation. Suffice it to say Hina is well and truly fucked.

Iroduku: The World in Colors – 13 (Fin) – Back to the Future…In Color!

The structure of the Irodoku finale is simple: Everyone says their goodbyes before Hitomi heads off back to her proper time. Shou (“I loved…your photos”), Chigusa (“Uhh…Smile more, I guess?”), Kurumi (“Don’t make me cry!”), Asagi (“I don’t care, I’m crying!”), and Kohaku (“See you in 60 years!”) each get their turn as the star sand matures, but when it’s time for Yuito, both he and Hitomi hesitate to say everything the want to say, despite the fact this may be the last time they see each other.

Turns out Hitomi, or rather Hitomi’s unconscious magic, isn’t going to be satisfied with their sedate, half-assed goodbyes. The magical device starts to malfunction, and Hitomi is swallowed up into another full-dive illusion. Only Yuito jumps into the stream and ends up in the same place. He rushes about looking and finally finds her, devoid of color, and they embrace.

They thank each other for having such profound effects on each other’s lives before confessing their love to each other, saying all the things left unsaid before. Yuito was all but done drawing before she showed up, and Hitomi couldn’t see colors. Both had shut themselves into dark, gray corners, but now the walls of those corners have shattered and given way to brilliant colors.

But as I predicted, love is the answer here. Saying she loves Yuito and hearing that he loves her back is enough to restore color to her world; this time, permanently. In the moments before she’s sent back to the future, she can see everyone and the town in color for the first time.

Kohaku privately remarks that it wasn’t her time magic that sent Hitomi back; it was Hitomi’s own unconscious magic simply wearing off. Shortly after Hitomi disappears, Kohaku gets a text from “Kohaku Level 77” in the year 2078: Hitomi has returned safe and sound.

Her life-changing journey thus at an end, Hitomi finds herself on the same hill where she left her granny, and they embrace tearfully. Kohaku (she insists Hitomi call her that rather than “Granny” since they became such good friends in the past) then presents Hitomi with a time capsule containing all the photos they took together.

It was probably already there, buried in the yard, before Hitomi left; Kohaku always knew she’d become a great enough mage to send Hitomi back. She’s just glad her action led to Hitomi finding happiness. Finally, she shows Kohaku the children’s book she read as a child—the only thing she saw in color. Turns out, it was written by Aoi Yuito.

After leaving flowers at her mother’s grave, Hitomi, brimming with the confidence her time in the past awakened, reconnects with her friends with school and starts an all-new Magic Photography Arts Club. As for where the 70ish-year-old Yuito and the others are…the show does not disclose that, nor does Hitomi seem in a hurry to seek them out.

That seems strange, since one would’ve thought Kohaku would have kept in touch with one if not all of them, and one would think that due to advances in technology people would live longer than they do in 2018. Alas, this finale wasn’t about Hitomi reconnecting with her friends from the past (other than Kohaku), nor her rather uninspiring romance with Yuito.

It was about Hitomi leaving that dark corner where she shut herself off, embracing all of the new colors in her world, and resuming her life in her time. She got what she needed in the past. Now it’s time to build a new happy future for herself.—MagicalChurlSukui

Iroduku: The World in Colors – 12 – The Firework Called Love

Yuito and Hitomi’s embrace late last week felt like a turning point in their romantic development—as scenes  in which two sides of a couple run towards each other in the middle of the night tend to feel. But the aftermath of that embrace is tempered by two factors this week.

The first is the looming dread of Hitomi having to return to her time, despite not wanting to. The second, and possibly most unfortunate, is that as romantic pairings go, Hitomi and Yuito are just a bit dull. The flame of last week’s dramatic gesture was fizzled out rather quickly and anti-climactically, without so much of a hint of the ever-important confession.

But maybe that was the point. After all, what’s the point of confessing your love to someone you may never see again…though considering Kohaku is still around in the future there’s a good chance Yuito could be too—more on that later.

The club has a festival to execute, and despite her issues, Hitomi puts on a brave face and gives it her all. The result is some of her most impressive magic to date; Kokahu notes after the immensely successful first day that it’s the result of Hitomi’s training, not to mention being around people she wants to make happy with her magic, something she didn’t have in the future.

Back home, Kohaku’s folks have prepared a lavish feast to send Hitomi off, but some of their practical logistical talk initially harms the mood until they drop the subject and just let Kohaku enjoy her last night there, while preparing for her last day.

Festival-wise, the second day goes as well as the first; so well that Asagi, having made a mint off her bunny postcards, decides to kick Hitomi and Yuito out of the clubroom to explore the festival together, a sweet gesture on her part that shows how far she’s come.

Asagi later tells Shou people shouldn’t apologize for having liked someone (in his case Hitomi). She respects how Shou was able to put himself out there, and hopes one day she’ll have the courage to do the same. Naturally, she doesn’t specify whom she’d muster the courage to confess to, and even if she did, Shou still might not quite get it.

As for Hitomi and Yuito, they have fun running around the festival, culminating in a visit to what frankly seemed like a pretty lame haunted house—only one thing jumped out at them. Still, the darkness is an opportunity for the oh-so-timid couple to hold hands some more.

When they exit, Hitomi decides to cut their break short, perhaps satisfied with the moments they shared, but possibly also because she doesn’t want to get too deep into anything so close to ZHIEND.

During the festival wrap party, Kohaku and Hitomi join forces once more to create magical fireworks. While watching them burst in the sky, Hitomi describes how she feels, and Kohaku remarks that it sure sounds like it’s “happiness.” In that moment, Hitomi sees color in the fireworks—a huge improvement from when she saw them in black and white back in the future.

Unfortunately, the fireworks are the only thing she sees in color, and when they’re gone, her vision is back to monochrome. Perhaps there’s one thing she needs to do to make the colors permanent: tell Yuito how (I presume) she feels.

Whether she can do that in the past, or track him down in the future (when I imagine he’d recognize and remember her, as would the others), who can say. Maybe she’ll never confess openly at all, or maybe the magic ritual with the clock won’t work. However happily or bittersweetly it’s likely to end, I’m eager to see how this story resolves.

Itsudatte Bokura no Koi wa 10 cm Datta. – 02

“Summer, Fireworks, Color of Love” is this week’s title, and it pretty succinctly sums up what we get. If you’ve heard of these themes in romance anime before well…you’re not alone! But what this show lacks in original themes, it makes up for in solid execution and attention to detail, and variety.

We get looks not just into the budding romance of Miou and Haruki, but see how close Yuu and Natsuki are without officially dating, as well as Souta’s attentions towards Akari. The plot of making one last film together, starring a character who is an art student in love, is pretty hoaky, but super-charming if you can switch off the cynicism.

In her desire for her art (and not Akari’s) to be chosen by Haruki, Miou puts undue pressure on painting the perfect canvas, and ends up unable to paint anything at all. Haruki seems to get a bit jealous when he overhears that Miou will soon meet the man who saved her from drowning.

But they largely set aside those issue when the six friends gather for a fireworks festival. Natsuki sets things up so Miou and Haruki are alone, while Souta’s in the right position to catch a stumbling Akari, breaking the ice. All three couples have great chemistry and it’s fun to watch them interact.

Everything seems to be ruined when Miou faints and she and Haruki end up with an obstructed view of the fireworks, but they find a platform to get a better view. Haruki tells Miou he’s looking forward to seeing what art she comes up with (adding to the already high pressure of that project).

When he awkwardly offers to grab something for them to eat, Miou bravely, finally closes the 10cm distance by grasping his shirt. The two come this close to kissing, but are lamely interrupted by a couple of yappy dogs. LAME, I say. At least they can laugh about it.

Then the next day the thing I knew was coming came: Miou learns the man who saved her life is dead. Not only that, he’s Haruki’s big brother, Chiaki. She goes home, and rather than paint what love looks like for Haruki, she defaces the painting of her memory of being saved, ashamed that he lost his life, and Haruki lost his brother, all for her sake.

Eromanga-sensei – 08

Whether she likes it or not, Sagiri can’t have Masamune all to herself, not matter how adorably she dresses. And though he technically rejected her, the fact Masamune compares Sagiri’s yukata to Muramasa means she’s still in his thoughts, because she was the first person to say what she said about his novels.

Elf also tries to nab her share of Masamune’s attention by dressing like Muramasa; in her case, a school uniform. But despite the fact she and Muramasa are rivals in love and novels, Elf offers the advice she’d offer Masamune even if she didn’t like him: stop worrying about what may or may not be, and have one little chat that settles it all. Of course, she’s clearly not happy at all when he says he wishes she was his big sister.

She is, right, however, that being direct with Muramasa is the best strategy, as her feelings for him haven’t changed since he turned her down, nor is she too uncomfortable to attend the short story competition wrap party he’ll be hosting. They also both acknowledge that they’ve only met each other three times—not enough to get to know each other—and so would both welcome a fourth, fifth, and more.

The fifth wheel, Shidou, arrives first, and has no idea what he’s walking into until Elf and Muramasa arrive at the same time and start immediately fighting over Masamune until Sagiri starts pounding on the floor above them. Elf is also sporting her most ridiculous outfit yet – a frilly lolita-style yukata and flamboyant hairstyle.

The initial awkwardness of the party eventually smooths out, especially when Masamune breaks out all the festival themed food, hoping to create a festival-like atmosphere for Sagiri, who can’t go outside. Everyone shares their ultimate dreams, including “Eromanga-sensei”, who says she wants to be the bride of the one she loves. Oh, girl…

After everyone else files out to go see the fireworks, Masamune stays with Sagiri, and confesses that he’s always been afraid of being alone ever since his birth mother died in an accident. He’s also truly thankful for Sagiri, his new family, for putting up with such a pathetic brother, but she feels no less pathetic for losing the will to leave the house.

As they watch the fireworks from the window of her room, Sagiri reiterates that she never considered Masamune family or her brother; her love has always leaned more towards romance, insomuch as she knows what that is.

Still, if Masamune wants or needs her to just be his little sister, she thinks she can “pretend…for a bit”, only to later remark somewhat ruefully to herself while lying in bed how she’s “gotten much further away”, presumably from her dream of being the bride of the one she loves.

I dunno if that’s a bad thing, Sags! Get over him, get out of that bed, that room, that house; go to school, meet someone whose father didn’t marry your mother. Is that so much to ask?

P.S. Kuroneko Sighting. Repeat: Kuroneko Sighting!!! With her adorable sisters too. That confirms Masamune, Sagiri, & Co. live in the same world as Oreimo, whose MC also had to grow a spine and pick someone, anyone, as long as it wasn’t his damn sister. Obviously, Kuroneko was his best choice.

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu 2 – 05

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Yota is stoked. He’s flying high. He’s learned how to command a crowd, the theaters are full, his material is killing. He owes much of this to a lifting of a weight of uncertainty since Yakumo performed “Inokori” for him. Yakumo maintains that mastering that—and in just they way he instructs, by summoning one’s ego—is Yota’s next step.

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But Yakumo is no longer Yota’s sole source of instruction or inspiration. Whether he knows it or not, Yota has also fallen under the influence of Higuchi Eisuke, the outsider who shows Yota the wider world of rakugo, not just the venerable but narrow Yuuakutei canon.

The implication is obvious: like a smattering of gutted clans in days of yore, an alliance must be formed – a new rakugo – in order to survive modern times, and Yakumo’s death.

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Yota seems to rarely leave the open entrance to his home, sitting their first listening to his predecessor Sukeroku, then to all the myriad versions of Inokori provided by Higuchi, no two of them alike. It’s strong enough stuff for him to laugh and react loudly deep into the night. He’s so immersed, Konatsu has to snap him out of it so he can get some sleep for the family performance.

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And it is truly a family performance, as Konatsu will be at the shamisen per her father’s bidding. Of the three family members, she’s by far the most nervous. Performing rakugo for a bunch of kindergartners and a smattering of their parents is one thing: playing pros at the very top of the game in and out to a giant packed theater is another. But Yota (and indirectly, Yakumo) know she’ll be fine.

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Damn…when Yota offered to give Mangetsu an pregame audience with Yakumo and I saw that loooong foreboding hallway, for a few moments I feared for the worst: that Yakumo was keeled over dead in his dressing room, just like that. Blame the seductively creepy OP in which the ghost Sukeroku opens Yakumo’s cloak to reveal nothing but dry bones, and the earlier mention by someone that his voice has lost something.

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Thankfully, Yakumo is fine, but everything I mentioned before still casts a pall on him. Yota’s meeting with him is another great one, as Yota proudly shows what he’s really been up to in the red light districts: getting his carp tattoo finished. This is Yota literally not letting things go unfinished; not apologizing for who he was and who he is.

Yakumo may think rakugo is finished once he dies, but he’s wrong. His rakugo won’t even be finished; it’s not his call, but history’s. So even though he’s pissy about the fact Yota is taking into account other methods for “Inokori” (likely aware this is Higuchi’s influence), you can’t expect someone who claims, and is pretty certain, they don’t have an ego to use that ego.

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Yota warms up the crowd, getting them “laughing like fools”, which might be fine in a solo show, but Yakumo needs to put them in a different, more nuanced mood; Yota’s winding them up makes it tougher. Still, he’s more than up to the challenge, and performs “Hangon-ko” with both musical accompaniment from Konatsu (who he says he’s counting on, and who doesn’t let him down despite her nerves) and an extra prop: streams of incense.

The significance of the titular incense to the story—that it brings back the soul of a dead loved one—is all too apropos for Yakumo’s darkening state of mind as the days ahead of him dwindle. And even though at this part in the story he tells, the widower buys the wrong incense and burns way too much of it, the incense still has the effect of summoning the ghost of Miyokishi before Yakumo, in one of the most chilling and intense moments of the show’s entire run.

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Yakumo manages to finish the story to polite but not raucous applause, and Yota quickly orders the curtains dropped. Yakumo collapses and enters what must seem like the afterlife. Miyokichi is nowhere to be found. Instead there are off-kilter shelves after shelves of countless burning candles – no doubt signifying lives.

Like the end of the deliciously haunting OP, Yakumo’s candle must be burning very low indeed, flickering, and threatening to be snuffed out. Sukeroku also comes before him, as young and vital as the day he was killed. He asked him why he’s there, ignores his questions of whether he’s in paradise or hell, and starts to choke him.

As we ponder what medical malady struck Yakumo on that stage, an attack that will most likely result in the cancelling of the remainder of the family performance, including Yota’s “Inokori”, but more importantly, may mark the commencement of the trial of Yakumo’s soul.

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Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu 2 – 04

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After each episode, and after announcing the next, a character thanks us for our “continued support,” and my continued support of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu has never gone unrewarded.

Case in point: another absolute gem, combining lovely family slice-of-life (with a very unique and cool family), the clouds hanging over Yakumo’s head, and Konatsu getting to do something, out of the blue, she never dreamed of actually doing.

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That adorable little kid up there is Konatsu and Yota’s kid. Some time has passed, but not too much: he’s only in kindergarten, and yet, he’s already surprising and delighting all, even his parents, with his nascent rakugo skills. They may have a genius on their hands.

He’s every bit as charismatic as Konatsu was. Even Yakumo can’t stay mad, going quickly into Grandpa Mode. By the way, how often does a show come around where so much time passes, we get to watch both Konatsu and her son at the same age? It’s a generational show.

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It’s generations that Higuchi Eisuke wishes to discuss with Yakumo, who grudgingly gives him a ride home and his ear for the five or so minutes. Eisuke doesn’t waste them, almost going too far in proclaiming he won’t let Yakumo kill rakugo off, or even define it as something dead or dying. With Yota, Eisuke aims to keep it alive, changing to suit the mood of a generation, just as it always has.

Ever the rigid bamboo, Yakumo won’t hear of any of that, nor will he have any part in Eisuke’s project. And when Yakumo says rakugo is dead, he’s not just talking about how it would die with him, but perhaps how it already died with Sukeroku, someone Yakumo has always believed to be better than him.

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Yota is very much the progressive, without even being that aware of it, because he knows how good “Sis” is at rakugo and thinks if she loves it so much she should just do it. What’s the harm in going out there and trying it? Such an idea is unspeakable to Konatsu, however, and considering the man who raised her, her attitude is hardly surprising. Instead, she’s being trained in shamisen, so she can play her husband and others in and out.

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But when they both go to their kid’s school to perform, Yota gets inspired by the scenario, warms the crowd of mostly little kids up, and then…hands the show over to Konatsu. All of a sudden, she’s doing something she hasn’t done since she was a pint-sized urchin, living with her father.

While initially flustered and overwhelmed, a switch flips and all of a sudden Konatsu us that urchin in the bar, without skipping a beat. Scratch that; after years with Yakumo as a father, she’s gotten better, despite having never performed in public. She’s also, in my opinion, better than Yota, at least in terms of better differentiating between the characters she voices (all kudos to the great Kobayashi Yuu here).

“Jugemu” is a simple story that’s not too raunchy or complicated for the kids, and it involves quite a bit of linguistic limberness to repeat the overly-long name of the titular child over and over at increasingly faster speeds. But it’s a cakewalk for Konatsu. She’d have brought down the house no matter what the makeup of the crowd was.

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And holy crap, the surging of emotions going through Konatsu before, during and after her impromptu performance were just a delight to behold, right up until she embraces her hubby with tears of relief and joy, and he essentially says “See? Rakugo’s hella fun, right?”

The next morning, Konatsu’s back to “usual”, and despite Yota’s protests, she still won’t commit to ever doing rakugo again. It just doesn’t seem right to her to crash something that’s been a “boy’s-only” affair for so long.

It’s an old-fashioned view of a very old-fashioned art, but par for the course for someone with her upbringing, which may have been laissez-faire with Sukeroku, but got real conservative real fast with Yakumo. So while, like Yota, I’m disappointed, and think it’s a waste, I understand why she feels the way she does.

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Yakumo, meanwhile, holds Sukeroku’s fan – old Sukeroku’s; not Yota’s. And as he holds it, a figure appears behind him – Sukeroku’s ghost, I presume. There’s no hint of arrogance or superiority in this moment, as Yakumo seems haunted by the fact a someone as loathsome and untalented as he is “all that’s left” of rakugo.

Yota will probably never be able to impress him, just as he won’t be able to impress himself. Eisuke may be right that rakugo needs to evolve, and Yota may be right that someone of Konatsu’s talent should be a part of that evolution. But you’ll never convince Yakumo of that, and Konatsu will never think it’s appropriate to be anything but musical accompaniment.

That leaves the youngin’. Who knows what future he’ll see that no one else will be around to see. What I hope we do see is Yota’s rakugo continuing to be popular, and that rakugo continuing to grow into something his son can inherit. But Yakumo’s warning about how quickly a fall can come makes me weary of too many good times to come.

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Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu 2 – 03

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The fireworks fly in this episode of SGRS2, both in the night sky and later, in the private room of a restaruant where Konatsu worked before she went on maternity leave, run by a friend of her mother Miyokichi.

But first, we get to soak up a gorgeous, festive night, with Konatsu, the baby, and the mistress relaxing on a bench while Yota practices his ranting on a boat with his patron.

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When the mistress and Konatsu rush to the restaurant Yota follows—as does Eisuke, hungry for details about rakugo life, which he learns is surprisingly similar to thug life. Yota finds his old mob boss, as well as that boss’ boss, who happens to be close to the mistress.

Yota decides to intrude, and after making courteous, verbose apologies, kinda lays into the old man, seemingly unconcerned that he has the power to kill him if he doesn’t like him.

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Fortunately, the big boss is not only a fan of rakugo, but Yota’s rakugo in particular. Even when Yota picks a fight, and even wonders out loud whether the boss is the father of Konatsu’s child, the boss merely tosses him into a koi pond to “cool off”; he doesn’t rough him up.

Yota doesn’t back down, instead belting out an elaborate rant he was practicing before, only customized for the boss, who is entranced and charmed. Yota is starting to realize he’s not just some punk anymore; he’s a shin’uchi…and he’s a father.

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After a night where some doubted if Yota was going to be able to keep his promise to outlive his master, and some goldfish scooping with Eisuke, he returns home, having quite accidentally found “his rakugo” with his elaborate, animated ranting style.

Mind you, Yakumo hasn’t heard it yet,  but agrees to do a family performance, if Yota learns and masters “Inokori,” a Sukeroku classic. To inspire him, Yakumo performs it himself, seemingly flipping a switch and channeling Sukeroku. Yota is spellbound. When he’s finished, Yakumo looks like he’d just climbed twenty flights.

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Yota scared the crap out of Konatsu by confronting the father of her child, but everything worked out for the best. The episode’s parting shot is what Konatsu wants in a nutshell: to live in a comfortable house, to hear Yota’s/Sukeroku’s rakugo, and to have her son hear it as well.

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Hibike! Euphonium 2 – 01

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Ah, no more messing around. Here comes a properly good Autumn hump day show that immerses you in its gloriously naturalistic and precise world. Granted, I was pre-immersed last year, but it takes no time at all in this sprawling-yet-measured 47-minute season premiere to fall back under the spell of Sound!

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Oumae Kumiko and Kousaka Reina have never been closer, literally or figuratively. Perhaps it’s a factor of Reina being satisfying with their level of success: they placed first in Kyoto and are representatives at the Kansai competition, the next step to the Nationals she dreams of winning someday. Right there with her, kind of in her wake, is Kumiko, who is more open and affectionate to Reina than anyone else, even, no especially her mom and big sister.

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Kumiko and Reina are relatively steady variables in this opener: all of the conflict comes from the uneasy atmosphere being created by still-open wounds among the upperclassmen.

Specifically, one former member who quit in the great second-year purge wants back in, but Asuka won’t budge. The first years are kept out of the loop, and it hurts their focus. As usual, KyoAni is impeccable at not just telling but showing the subtle but increasingly assertive effect of the senpai drama.

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Kumiko is a great protagonist because she’s so good at being in the middle of things while not dominating those events with her personality. She’s a deceptively very “normal” girl hiding multitudes beneath her exterior, brough to life with a skilled performance by Kurosawa Tomoyo (in a total 180 from her character of Sylphy in Amaburi). I love how drastically Kumiko’s tone changes when she’s talking to her fam, as if it’s a huge imposition to do so, which makes perfect sense since she’s a teenager.

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But most gratifying in a sea of senpai uncertainty and a looming life-altering competition is to see the collective rock that is Kumiko and Reina. They’re far past their troubles of past years, and both value one another’s company and conversation above all others.

They are proof that previous bad blood can not only be corrected, but flourish into a beautiful friendship. As the assistant instructor (a pro in the music industry) says to the band: be more imposing. Make more of an impact. Don’t be reticent, because it all comes through in their music.

Everyone has to be more open with one another to succeed and become the best band they can be, as well as the best people. Unpleasant things like resentments and grudges and infamous incidents can’t be allowed to fester. And most importantly, life shouldn’t be a constant struggle. You gotta stop and ogle the fireworks in rapt awe once in a while.

This was a baller premiere that reminded me why KyoAni is so good with such regularity. It doesn’t just nail the fundamentals, but sweats the details to the extent there are gestures and tones you won’t see anywhere else, to say nothing of the complexity of the emotions in play. A very solid and confident start.

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Orange – 06

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This week, as Naho and Kakeru grow closer and Naho learns more about the future, the enormity of her “mission” begins to weigh on her once more, and she again starts to doubt her ability to make the changes that needs to be made to save Kakeru. After all, she’s already failed the letters twice: when she invited Kakeru to hang out the day his mother died, and when she let him start dating Ueda-senpai.

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Since those failures, and the extra problems they created, Naho has been careful to carefully follow the bullet points in the letters. They are saying she has to watch the fireworks with Kakeru alone by the pool, and so that’s what she aims to do.

Knowing that these two are gradually becoming a couple and eager to help them out when they can, Azu, Tako, Hagita and Suwa all work to assist the two in getting together in the ideal time and place. Kakeru brings up his past regrets when asking Suwa if it’s really okay to be in love with Naho and to pursue her.

Suwa’s answer is that it has to be, because being in love isn’t a choice (and also because he has a pretty good idea how Naho feels).

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The consequences of Naho’s second failure almost derail the entire op, but Azu and Tako thankfully find Naho on the steps lugging Ueda’s contest prizes and take over the task, while Suwa and Nagita keep Ueda away from the pool in a way that will surely mean Ueda isn’t done fighting with the group. If she can’t have Kakeru and be happy, no one can. That could prove deadly to Kakeru later on.

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But we’re allowed to forget about Ueda and all her bullshit for a few wonderful, beautiful moments, as Naho and Kakeru are united before the fireworks end. In the courageous mood her future self told her she’d be in, she answers his question about which boy she’d most want to as her out (him), and he in turn answers hers (via Azu): that he’d want her to ask him out. The night ends as one neither will forget for the rest of their lives.

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Future Naho asserts that Kakeru’s regret stems from being unable to save his mother, while her regret comes from not being able to save him from the accident. Wondering why she can’t simply save Kakeru on the day of the accident, Naho reads ahead, and learns it wasn’t an accident – Kakeru rode his bike into a speeding truck on purpose, so he could go to where his mother was and apologize.

Knowing when it happens is irrelevant. Naho can’t save him from something his mind is set on anyway. Her true mission is to save his heart. That means learning more about his regret, which means asking about his mother. When Naho and Kakeru’s friends again arrange it so the two are alone for the Matsumoto Bon Bon, she gets plenty of opportunities, while also enjoying each other’s company.

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Despite their ongoing denial about not being a couple (at least not yet), the two look the part, and the camera captures them in a number of gorgeous isolated shots. Most affecting is when they pray to the shrine, which gives Naho her in.

After he evades her question of what he said to his mother at the shrine, Naho resolves to get him to answer her properly, even if he ends up hating her. Saving his heart is more important than preserving their romance, underscoring Naho’s role as a reluctant heroine.

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Turns out, Kakeru doesn’t hate her for pressing, though it’s clearly a painful subject to discuss. Indeed, he was worried she’d hate him if he told her the truth: that his mother, psychologically unstable, committed suicide the day he blew her off to hang out with Naho. That makes Naho’s first failure the reason Kakeru carries the regret that will ultimately destroy him if unchecked.

It’s an overwhelming blow for Naho, who can’t muster the words to comfort him. Suddenly, saving Kakeru’s heart seems like an impossible feat, especially all on her own. So she boldly reaches out to Suwa about her mission, and he seems to already be in the loop. You see, he also got a letter. BOOM.

That’s an explosive revelation right there, delivered with impeccable timing right at episode’s end. But it’s not so shocking, because we’ve seen Suwa and the others working so hard for Naho and Kakeru’s sakes.

I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone had letters, but it stands to reason if Naho could write a letter to her past self, she’d also write one to her future husband. It also explains why Suwa isn’t challenging Kakeru. In any case, now Naho knows his isn’t a mission she has to undertake all on her own. Everyone wants to save Kakeru’s heart.

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Momokuri – 11 + 12

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Another week, another familiar rom-com scenario: the Summer Festival. While Momokuri’s didn’t come close to the heights of, say, ReLIFE’s festival, it was still Momokuri’s best episode to date, because it progressed, and characters came in contact with one another, so naturally and effortlessly. Not only was it a fine bit of slice-of-life, it also developed Rio’s relationship with Yuki.

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Momo and Yuki are having a fine time as a couple at the festival until they become separated, and Momo’s phone dies. Momokuri subverts the typical instance of a cute girl left alone falling prey to some wolves. In this case, the wolves are older women, and it’s diminutive-for-his-age Momo who is the prey.

Not only that, it’s “Prince” Rio who swoops in to save him from the “panthers”—more androgynous than ever due to her tan and boy’s clothes (provided so she could serve as protection for Ikue and Yuzuki.

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Despite looking like most like a boy (and a delinquent at that), Momo remarks how he’d rather see Rio in a yukata. Rio has spent much of her most recent years enduring those who say she could pass a a boy, so she’s heartened by Momo treating her like the girl she is.

Rio heads off on her own to look for Yuki, because a part of her wants to be one-on-one with her. It’s just as good, because when being with Yuki, Rio learns a little more about her rival-in-love, and determines maybe she’s not as weird as she thought. Indeed, she helps Yuki come to grips with feelings she’s not able to understand all on her own.

Like Momo and Yuki, she too was a bit lost early this week. But by the end, her stated desire for Momo to be happy above all else is evidence enough for Yuki that what Rio has isn’t just a like for someone, but love. Of course, Yuki isn’t aware that it’s Momo Rio likes. I doubt she’ll ever find out, either; this isn’t a drama, after all!

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