In the first half, Ichiko and Momiji have a duel in doubles tennis. Their respective male partners – the prince-like Adenokouji Shion and the gorilla-like Gorihara, are quickly taken out of the game of increasing magic and firepower wielded by the girls. The match ends in a tie and a destroyed tennis court. In the second half, Ichiko tries her hand at cooking, but fails miserably each time. Her experimentation is interrupted when Momiji appears with her rival and colleague Kuroyuri, a fellow god of misfortune. Their pincer attack fails, and when they hold a cooking duel with Kuroyuri as the judge, Ichiko’s attempt meat and potato stew sends her into a vomiting fit and she books it back to base, defeated.
We must warn you: if you can’t stand episodes in which almost everyone is yelling at or near the top of their lungs pretty much constantly, you probably won’t enjoy this episode. Having watched 71+ episodes of Sket Dance, we consider ourselves inoculated against high-decibel hijinx. This is an episode of fierce competition between Ichiko and Momiji, in which mundane activities like tennis and cooking are ratcheted up to absurd levels of aggression.
A lesser series would have spend the whole 20 minutes and change on one challenge, but this one made the correct choice of presenting at least two, while introducing new characters in each segment who will likely show up in the final episodes…though we hope those episodes don’t feature a lot of them because they’re not very interesting. Adenokouji Shion is your standard big-haired bishie, while Kuroyuri is a yuri cliche…though her monocle is kind of cool, she poses no threat to Ichiko. Other notable guests included Ichiko’s exploding cake and wailing stew. Of course she sucks at cooking.
Rating: 5 (Average)
Taichi apologizes to Inaba, who isn’t ready to return to the clubroom. Taichi and Aoki get in a heated argument about how to deal with Yui; Iori tries to break them up but gets shoved by Taichi. The next day Taichi decides to focus on studying. No one goes to the clubroom after school. The day after that, Class Rep Fujishima announces a class field trip, and puts herself in a group with Nagase, Inaba, Taichi and Watase. Nagase waits for Taichi in the clubroom, but he is recruited by Mr. Go to help him grab a new lectern. Afterwards, Fujishima advises him to keep talking with his friends. He arrives at the clubroom, but Nagase is gone, having left a friendly note on the chalkboard about visitng Yui.
When Fujishima (far less annoying this week) tells Taichi that she belives humans were meant to hurt each other, she didn’t mean they were meant to constantly slam each other into tables with our backpacks. She meant that solid bonds of friendship aren’t merely forged in times of mutual fun, but in the crucible of conflict and pain. Sometimes friends hurt each other – sometimes deeply – but they make up and keep moving, growing closer in the process. This is her advice to someone who’s seen the bonds of his four friends fraying and on the verge of destruction thanks to the episodes that have stemmed from their unleashed desires. Fearing they’ll hurt each other even worse, they are all following the same path as Yui; removing themselves from proximity to one another.
About Yui: this is the first episode where we don’t even see her once, underlining the dire straits the group of friends is in. She is the subject that leads to Taichi’s row with Aoki, and the interesting thing is, he wasn’t having an episode at all until right before he Chris Browned Iori. Poor Iori is again a pillar of strength, continually trying to reach out to everyone else, but it’s no use. Will Fujishima’s field trip tactics lead to relief, or only exacerbate things? All we know is, if everyone does what Yui does and stops interacting with each other, Heartseed will punish them, because that’s not entertaining. The only way is forward: mending their friendships by keeping in contact and working things out…even if it means hurting each other.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)
Rindou reaches out to Ichiko in friendship, but Ichiko repeatedly rebukes her. Ichiko’s main detractor Tange Akane takes advantage of Ichiko’s distraction to lure her into an ambush using a gang of guys. Rindou saves Ichiko from the gang, but the abandoned school building they’re all in starts to collapse. Safe outside, Ichiko weighs saving Rindou, afraid she’ll still want friendship. Because Ichiko had a traumatic experience with her last friend Kurumi, she doesn’t feel she can trust anyone. Momiji prods her into action, and afterwards, Rindou promises she’ll never use or betray her the was Kurumi did.
Beneath her brash, beautiful, arrogant veneer, Sakura Ichiko is a unsociable misanthrope who is afraid of getting close to anyone. The unbridled friendliness of Rindou puts her off; it doesn’t even occur to her that she could have a real friendship with her or anyone else. Why? Because she was used and betrayed by a so-called friend in the past (this friend is guest-voiced by Rie Kugimiya in full Two-Faced Bitch Mode). Rather than take a chance at making friends again and getting hurt again, Ichiko keeps to herself, and dedicates each day to projecting pride, confidence, and cynicism for her fellow man.
But both Momiji and Rindou have seen other sides of Ichiko. The tender side; the vulnerable side; the side who stood up to Rindou’s father, not just – as she insisted – because he pissed her off, but for Rindou’s sake. Not only does Rindou repay her by risking her life to save hers, she outright refuse’s Ichiko’s rejection of her, wearing her down with her assurances she’ll never hurt Ichiko. Whether Ichiko likes it or not, she has herself a friend. She’ll survive.
Rating: 6 (Good)
As Ueno waxes about the imminent joy of seeing his girlfriend Oka in her summer P.E. uniform, Oka shares her lunch with Urabe. Surprised she’s interacting with another girl, Tsubaki tells her he’s happy, but she maintains she needs no friends as long as she has him. When running in a relay, Urabe scrapes her knee, and Oka takes her to the nurse’s office to bandage it. After they share a drink, Oka’s knee becomes cut. Urabe confirms it by cutting her palm; her drool transferred the wounds to Oka, who knows about her and Tsubaki. Urabe declines the offer of friendship, but Oka still wants to get along. The next day she gives Urabe her drool, and learns Urabe and Tsubaki have not yet kissed.
We’re fans of economical casts; series that belt out dozens of people to keep track of can be overwhelming. Which is why we’re glad Nazo no Kanojo X is focusing on a relatively small cast. This week formally introduces Oka, who is immediately a more interesting and dynamic character than her boyfriend Ueno, who’s your pretty standard horny school chum hanging on Tsubaki’s shoulder. Like Tsubaki, and the other guy last week (we already forgot his name), Oka is simply fascinated by Urabe, and wants to be her friend; after having seen her and Tsubaki together, and knowing approaching Tsubaki would be “troublesome”.
Urabe’s refrain is “I don’t need friends”, but after what happens in P.E., perhaps a better way to phrase it is “it’s best if I don’t have too many friends,” after Oka gets her wounds. Being friends means sometimes sharing feelings and sometimes pain; in this case, literal physical ailments – which is a crazy supernatural power that the series presents in a surprisingly low-key manner. Both Urabe and Oka (and Tsubaki for that matter) simply accept that this is how drool works. What surprised us most of all was Oka using a drool test to determine how far Urabe’s gotten with Tsubaki, proving that Urabe isn’t the only one who can administer such a test.
Rating: 8 (Great)
In the first half, Yozora looks back on when Kodaka first transferred. She recognized him instantly, but he never remembered her, and she was scared to be the one to bring it up. It wasn’t until her hair was singed and she had to have it cut short that he recognizes her, and even then, they can’t just go back to the way things were ten years ago, when he thought she was a boy. While they aren’t the friends they were, they’re still…something.
Haganai resists the urge to close with yet another beach episode. We can be thankful for that, at least. But we’re still a little disappointed that everything basically went back to the way it was. We should have expected as such; ten years is a long time, and considering Kodaka never knew Sora was a girl, it’s understandable it wouldn’t even occur to him that Yozora is Sora. All I know is, I was never in doubt as to the gender of my childhood friends, so I can’t say whether I wouldn’t be just as clueless as Kodaka in his situation.
Of course, this episode had to include everyone else, and unfortunately that meant one last unfunny Rikagasm and forced cosplay, because now the club can’t recognize Yozora with short hair. Sorry, but that’s ridiculous. She looks exactly the same aside from the hair; in the real world, it would be impossible to mistake her for a boy. They don’t have the ten-year excuse. The series is left very open-ended, with Yozora continuing to run the club, and her and Kodaka’s future together left ambiguous. Which pretty much sums up our feelings for this series as a whole.
After defeating Arisa’s gang, Himeko gains reknown and more roughs challenge her. As she wastes them all, fear of her grows, but they keep coming, so she moves to a new school. Even there the rumor exists, but no one knows what Onihime looks like. Here she meets both softball captain Chiaki and Fujisaki, who is interested in her Popman cap. She is loath to make friends after how Arisa betrayed her. When Chiaki is cornered by punks, Fujisaki convinces Himeko to join him to save her. Himeko beats him there, but runs into trouble, Fujisaki saves her, and she is revealed as the Onihime of the rumors. Chiaki and Fujisaki don’t care though; they want to be her friends, and the Fujisaki wants her to join the club he’s starting…
The usual shallow silliness of Sket Dance has periodically been given much-appreciated dramatic heft with serious arcs, and this story of how Himeko and Bossun became friends is one of the best. The birth of said friendship was a rough one, frought by Himeko’s reluctance to form any friends at her new school; preferring lonliness to infamy. Her first impression of Fujisaki isn’t so great; the guy is a Popman otaku and really annoying to boot, but once he shows his true, noble colors to her, Himeko can’t refuse his offer of friendship.
Now, whenever I see the two bickering about some innane thing, I’ll remember the depth of their bond forged in this episode. It’s interesting how neither Bossun or Switch were actually her first friends at school. Chiaki isn’t someone we’ve seen a lot of, but she had a nice supporting role this week, and she exhibited good chemistry with the two Sket-dan members. Switch’s brother has a cameo, and we even return to the present, where Arisa meets Himeko to prostrate herself. Showing how she’s grown, Hime forgives her for her past transgression, terrible though it was.
When Ayaka’s estranged brother Toshi returns, Narumi has to sit out a case involving a new drug being circulated throughout the city and Toshi’s possible role. His job is to keep Ayaka out of the loop, which strains their friendship. It is repaired when he makes new armbands for the gardening club, and the two work on the roof together the rest of summer. But when fall comes around, the shadows return, and even Narumi cannot stop Ayaka from taking her life.
“Don’t get too close…I just spread pesticide.” When Ayaka says this line, moments before they apologize simultaneously, I immediately thought back (as Narumi had a couple times) to something Toshi said…”God, she’s annoying.” With that in mind, I almost thought she said “I just spread pestilence.” It’s a very sad line, because the ‘don’t get too close’ part is almost a warning not to get too close to her emotionally, even though she said it under the pretence of a physical hazard. But the line is given even more weight once the episode runs it course and delivers the most shocking blow of the series: Ayaka jumps from the roof of the school, which kills her.
Throughout the series, so little has been done with Ayaka, and this episode was almost a recognition of that Ayaka shortfall, and a concerted effort to fix that. I’d say it was successful, as it was one of those episodes that didn’t waste a single minute of airtime telling a rich and ultimately tragic story. Considering last week was a lighthearted baseball episode, and all the other episodes where Ayaka was either marginal or absent, I almost wish we could have had more time with her. But the alacrity of her character’s development this week, as well as her precipitous fall and demise, was expertly done, and provided the best drama since the first episodes.
Part II of “Hangin’ With the Blanches.” Yune has tea ceremony with Alice while Claude reminisces about his past with Camille. The two were good friends despite the difference in status, but whenever Claude wanted to take her out to explore the city, she’d refuse and get all huffy. It turns out her family only let her hang out with him if she didn’t leave the house. That, combined with the fact they’d never be able to marry, makes for uneasiness on both sides in the present.
I didn’t really get the last couple episodes. Sure Yune has fun with Alice, but Claude has just sitting in a dark room for two episodes, and nothing was ever resolved between him and Camille. True enough, it may never be resolved, but his flashbacks with her felt repetitive. We get it; she’s rich, he’s not-so-rich; it could never be. But she still wanted to be friends with him, and I guess it didn’t turn out that way? What of it? What does that have to do with crossroads in a foreign labyrinth?
Camille is more interesting than Alice, but I fear we’ve seen too much of her. At the end of the day she’s just an angsty aristocrat who tacitly complains about her “plight” while doing absolutely nothing to change it. She’s been stuck in a stuffy mansion her whole life and hasn’t experienced anything new or real. She just pouts like a Persian cat. Bring Yune back into the spotlight. She’s everything Camille isn’t.
Konekomaru’s fear of Rin leads him to reluctantly make a deal with a crow-like demon called Gale to kill him. Honestly I didn’t think Koneko had it in him. Frankly I didn’t think he had anything in him, since he is one of the more underused supporting esquires, although not as mysterious as puppet kid.
Here’s hoping there will be no more doubts about Rin’s loyalties. Even after Konekomaru tries to kill him more than once, and makes it look like Rin’s attacking him, all but trashing whatever trust Bon had in him, Rin still comes to Koneko’s rescue, wasting Gale and catching him in mid-air. I’ll admit I’d be pretty annoyed if Rin was my classmate, but deep down he’s a nice guy, and as he says, it isn’t like he got to choose his father.
Heck, Rin even lets Koneko save face when he finds him at a bus stop ready to quit and take off. The bald shrimp fails to realize that fear is necessary in this line of work, and while it can be used to protect you and it can work for you in other ways, it can and should never be totally eliminated. Those without any fear whatsoever are the ones who can’t be trusted.
Literally “a cross in a maze abroad”, this is a very calm and deliberate slice-of-life that takes place in 19th-century Paris. In other words, it’s probably nothing like anything else this season. There isn’t a hint of magic, fantasy, the supernatural, nor any enemies lurking in the shadows. This is about a meeting of two people who are very different on the surface, but once they understand one another, become fast friends.
It’s a very enjoyable introduction, as the setting is a gorgeous Parisian gallery, and the very apologetic, submissive, yet curious girl, Yune, is a very colorful fish out of water. Fortunately, it’s at a time when all things Japanese are gaining in popularity – different isn’t feared so much as admired for the novelty of its different-ness. Claude, form a long line of metalworkers, is a rather inflexible artist who’s keeping his father’s store going, even as the tide of progress (and electric signs) draws near.
There are a few issues: while I realize Japanese people are smaller than the French on average, especially back then, Yune still seems a bit incredibly undersized for a bilingual young woman apparently old enough to travel all the way to France with a much older man (Claude’s kindly grandfather, Oscar). When a customer muses that she looks like a doll, I’m right with him: she looks a little to much like a doll. While kind of a glaring demerit, it’s no’t a dealbreaker. Rating: 3.5