Tsuki ga Kirei – 11

Sooo…this episode was just about perfect, which doesn’t really surprise me at this point. Kotarou and Akane are on splendid terms, so Kotarou faces two new conflicts this week, which prove more complex and challenging than winning Akane’s heart. Gaining the approval of his parents, and being accepted into Koumei.

We know Akane’s grades are great and her family is the reason she’s changing schools, so there’s not much tension on her end; just whether or not Kotarou will like her hand-knit scarf (which…DUH of course he will).  So instead we delve deep into Kotarou’s small, quiet family, and navigate the treacherous waters with him.

Like Kotarou and Akane’s romance, Kotarou’s problems with his folks are portrayed with a heightened sense of realism and equilibrium. His mom may sound worse than nails on a chalkboard when nagging Kotarou, but she’s only nagging because she cares so fiercely about her son’s future.

That being said, I don’t decry Kotarou pushing back against the path she’s already laid out in her head for him. It is HIS future, after all. But just as Kotarou was initially so bad at communicating his feelings (or anything else) with Akane, he’s equally bad at explaining why he’s so hellbent on attending Koumei.

Hell, he never even seems to try, which works against him early on as his mother quickly dismisses his intention to follow a “girl he likes” as teenage caprice. We know better—Kotarou near-as-makes-no-difference loves Akane, and she loves him, but his folks have no choice but to work with the information they have, which is scanty.

Rather than hearing it from him, Kotarou’s mother comes to gather more information on her own, as she watches her son furiously studying late into the night. She can tell he’s working hard for something he believes in, so obviously she’s not going to come in and crush his dreams by forcing him into a municipal school. Instead, she adopts a wait-and-see approach, putting her faith in her son by letting him hold the keys to his future.

The constant studying wears Kotarou down, and his mock exams are, uh, nothing special, so it’s great to see Akane spearhead a Christmas meetup that serves as a much-needed break for both of them, as well as an opportunity to exchange presents.

It’s lovely to watch the couple so comfortable and warm around each other, especially the lack of hesitation when they lean in for another kiss. You really get the feeling, both here and after all we’ve seen, that this isn’t mere puppy love; these kids have a future together…even if they don’t end up in the same school.

One night, Kotarou’s father lays it out: they’ll let him apply for Koumei, but if he fails, he’s going to a public school. Kotarou accepts the fair conditions, then stands slack-jawed when his dad tells him when his homeroom teacher told his mom Koumei wasn’t a realistic choice for Kotarou, she fought back, leading to an awesome thunderbolt of a quintessential Dad Line: “She can be naggy, but…Well, there you have it.”

Sure enough, when heading downstairs at 1 am for a snack, Kotarou finds his mother there, making some fresh onigiri; forming the balls with love, care, and gentleness before heading off to bed. His mom is no longer an impediment to his dreams of attending school with Akane. She never was. She saw the effort he was putting in, and decided to support and even fight for him.

The morning of his big, decisive exam—the last true impediment to his happiness (though not really since as I said their love seems likely to endure the lengthy but non-permanent distance)—both Kotarou’s mom and dad are up to make sure he has everything he needs, to wish him luck, and to see him off. And Kotarou does something he hadn’t done all episode, but sorely needed to do: he thanks his mom.

These family interactions are so understated and relatable, and really form a nice little arc within the episode as understanding is achieved between the parties and the conflict is revealed only as a measure of concern. Kotarou puts in the work to assure them they needn’t worry, and they show him that they are and always will be on his side.

Now he just needs to pass that goddamn exam!

Tsuki ga Kirei – 10

Akane’s text about moving is such a shock to Kotarou, he actually calls her on the phone (!) in what is known as a “phone call” for all of you born after the iPhone. Both seem terribly down about the idea of being apart, but also agree that they’ll make it work somehow.

That, despite the dubious success of long-distance relationships throughout history they can’t and shouldn’t think about, lest they get way too depressed. Kotarou also considers applying for the same school in Chiba she’ll be transferring to, which would obviously allow them to see each other regularly.

The festival that follows their talk will be the last one Akane attends as a resident of Kawagoe, so it too has a pall of sadness over it, even though the presence of Kotarou in full fox regalia performing the Hayashi dance on the mobile stage in the streets combines that sadness with a sense of awe and venerability.

But since Akane attends the festival with the track team, she inevitably ends up alone with Hira again, and at the worst possible time – when Akane is about to meet Kotarou on his break. Worse still, Kotarou happens to see the two together. Hira confesses to Akane, who promptly turns him down, but when she sees Kotarou, he can’t hide his annoyance and, yes, his anger; he can deny it all he wants!

While one could say he’s been over-possessive here (especially since Hira has no chance against him), let’s not forget how young and inexperienced in the relationship arts this kid is. He’s never been in a true “fight” with Akane until now; with “fight” meaning a failure to properly communicate at the proper time and place.

Both are miserable and still unable to talk to one another the next day, but by the time that day is at an end and Akane and Kotarou are done cram school, Akane notices a book on Koumei high schools was requested at the municipal-office-thingy-place, and Akane uses her mad running skillz to track down Kotarou.

He’s not coy; he was the one who requested the book. He’s seriously applying to her school, and was going to tell her once he told his parents (who still don’t know and at least one of whom, his mother, will be hard to convince).

Their silly row at the festival quickly fades away as a rush of happiness comes over Akane, after hearing Kotarou tell her whatever shape his future takes, he wants them to be together in it. That’s what Akane wants too, and after rushing into Kotarou’s arms, crying tears not of frustration, but joy, she quickly dries her raw eyes and leans in to kiss him.

Their road ahead will have more bumps, but I’m pretty dang confident in the staying power of this couple’s love…and confident the show isn’t about to break their—and our—hearts in the home stretch. They’re going to be just fine. I take comfort in that.

Tsuki ga Kirei – 09

Now that Kotarou and Akane have (mostly) overcome the largest impediment to their relationship with each other—their timidity—we see them hanging out alone together a lot more often and more comfortably, even discussing the ideal situation for the future: attending the same high school.

But no sooner do they swap first names and share a kiss does another obstacle come along; this one isn’t either of their faults, but an external factor.

Whenever a dad in an anime has to make an announcement, it’s probably because he’s being transferred and will be moving the whole family with him. That would be fine…if Akane didn’t have a boyfriend and had no interest in being uprooted. Alas, her dad’s gotta go where the bacon is.

It isn’t a sure thing, so Akane keeps it a secret as long as she can. She has her final junior high track meet approaching, after all, and has to keep her head in the game. Incidentally, that also means keeping Kotarou away when he asks if he can watch her run; it would be to embarrassing to her.

But Kotarou attends anyway, keeping a secret of his own, for the best of reasons: wanting to cheer his girlfriend on without distracting him. I honestly thought Akane would look up at the stands and catch a glimpse of Kotaoru there, but she doesn’t, and instead sets a personal best which she’s quick to snap with her camera and send to Kotarou, not knowing he saw her be awesome.

While Kotarou gets the slip on Akane, Chinatsu sees him, and because she’s still not quite over him, she doesn’t let Akane know she saw him. Hira asks Akane if she’ll still pursue track at high school, and she lets slip to Hira that she might be moving to Chiba.

Chinatsu, like Hira, is still stinging from her recent romantic defeat, but Hira seems to instill her with a glimmer of hope; after all, neither of them have actually taken a proper shot at getting the object of their affection to look their way; they’ve only dealt with the other member of the couple; with Kotarou being firm with Hira and Akane making her feelings for Kotarou plain to Chinatsu.

Whether Hira or Chinatsu give up may ultimately become moot if Akane moves, and when Kotarou confesses he watched Akane, Akane tells him about the possibility, and he’s suitably devastated. That being said, Kotarou has an awesome, progressive dad who wants his son to put happiness above fulfilling some kind of obligation; to “take it easy” and live his life doing what he loves.

With that in mind, if Kotarou decides to take a creative pivot towards light novels, he may find himself living in Tokyo before long, and Tokyo is not far at all from Ichikawa, where Akane and her family might move. If not, and the two end up being broken apart do to something as silly as a parent’s transfer, well, that’ll suck!

Sagrada Reset – 10

We are made to hear the Witch’s parting words to Kei one last time so we can see his reaction later on: tears of joy. In the last two years, the one thing that has driven Kei is the hope that some day, in a city full of what would be considered miracles in the outside world, he would find the means to bring Souma Sumire back to life.

The Witch essentially confirms that this was the right and proper course all along, because he is destined to meet Souma again, and Souma runs a test to see if he can bring something from a photo world into the real world without that thing vanishing.

The test is a success; a cherry petal from the photo remains even after ten minutes—ironic, considering the nature of sakura. They are something both joyful (because of their stirring beauty) and morose (because they are ephemeral).


But before we get that confirmation the test worked, we’re taken back to the past once more; this time, to when Kei was in the sixth grade and a relative newbie to Sakurada. Even as a little kid he’s a smart cookie, determining before the Bureau rep has to say it that his memory retention ability would work even outside of Sakurada.

Because of this, the Bureau offers him a comfortable life and livelihood in Sakurada…but he can never leave. In effect, Asai Kei is the one ability-user (aside from those who could copy or steal his ability) who could most threaten the city’s very existence by exposing it to the outside world, breaking its Shrödinger’s Cat-like status.

Kei loves this city, so he quickly agrees—discarding his past in the process. Then he experiences a Reset for the first time, and if anything, he’s more excited than ever to be in such a place and such a position. He’s won the lottery, basically.

As Kei sets up the Save Point in the same place where Souma appears in the photo, Haruki resigns herself to the fact Kei will make her and the others forget everything henceforth. As she’s dedicated herself to following his lead, she’s fine with everything, but does wonder if, like Mari, the Souma they save will be the “real” one.

It doesn’t really matter to Kei, but he knows that whoever he revives may not enjoy a “peaceful” life due to her ability. Even so, he must bring her back; follow the script Souma laid out for everyone. He sees the MacGuffin as proof of this: the one who holds it (i.e. Kei, now) will have “all the abilities in Sakurada.”

It was the object whose power was created through rumor and never was anything other than an ordinary stone, and yet it drove Kei to become the protagonist of this story by gathering the ability-users he needed to bring Souma back from the dead.

When the time comes to actually do that, the tension is palpable, and all the tiny hairs on the back of my neck stood up, as the feeling that something momentous was about to take place washed over me. (The show grossly underestimates how hard it is to tear a Polaroid, but no matter.)

Once in the photo, everything happens with a quiet but purposeful haste. Kei doesn’t even run over to Souma, but waits for Sakagami and Murase to do their stuff, then tells Haruki to reset. He’s that sure this will work, even though I wasn’t.

And so it does: by utilizing the abilities of the others, Kei wielded the MacGuffin, rose to become the protagonist of the story, and brought Souma back to life, just as she was sure he would—she shows no surprise in seeing him. Kei hides his delight at having succeeded, in part because he’s a reserved guy and in part because he doesn’t know how the future will progress past this point.

For now, it’s enough that Souma is back. She comments on how he’s grown, both in stature, ability, and in his friendship with Haruki. He also reports how much Haruki has grown, and that he’s come to want her to keep making progress on the road to finding a sense of self, even if it breaks the “pure goodness” he may have fell for earlier.

Souma even set things up with Tomoki so that if she was really Souma and not some kind of copy, she’d receive a voice message meant for her two years in the future. She receives that message, then asks Kei which Souma he’d like to meet, confident he’ll make the correct choice. He is the protagonist, after all. She made him so.

Sagrada Reset – 09


Sakurada Reset pulled off quite a lot last week, and got particularly exciting when things started coming together, but there’s still something unsatisfying about following it up with another flashback. Momentum had been built up, but this episode killed it, by valuing context-through-lengthy explanation over progress.

Mind you, I’m not mad about learning more about what happened just after Souma Sumire died—the two-year jump was pretty dang abrupt! It’s more a matter of timing, and the fact that I’d grown accustomed to being in the “present” of two years later.

With that said, this is an opportunity to see Kei and Haruki before they figured out how to be a well-oiled reset/recall machine. After Souma dies, both of them suspect the reset ability: Haruki, the ability itself, and Kei, the fact he used it so “thoughtlessly”—and in doing so sealing Souma’s fate.

While Haruki tries in vain over and over to reset on her own, Kei visits the spot where Souma fell, and meets a young Kit-Kat-loving woman named Ukawa Sasane (Koshimizu Ami) who thinks he’s Souma’s boyfriend thinking of offing himself.

She’s wrong about him being a boyfriend, or being suicidal, but Ukawa’s assumption is couched in her desire to save others from dangerous places like the bridge, be it with a Kit-Kat (an invitation to “take a break” and chill out) or with her “fence-making” ability.

A call to the Bureau for answers (and a request to save Souma) goes nowhere, and Kei eventually decides his choice to reset wasn’t what killed Souma, while Haruki realizes she can’t reset on her own because a part of her is scared of being hated by Kei.

Ultimately, the two come together and agree that the people they can help with their combined abilities outweighs the possible suffering resetting might cause. Kei tells Haruki to reset, it works, and they complete their actual first job in the Service Club.

Kei, however, isn’t done trying to find a way to bring Souma back. Her death and his inability to prevent it clearly still haunt him, and he believes if there’s a place where someone can be brought back from the dead, it’s Sakurada.

It would seem that he’ll eventually be proven right, since two years later the “Witch” considers Souma her successor, and assures Asai he’ll see her again. One can’t succeed anyone unless they’re alive, after all.

But this week, at least, is just more fuel for the fire of the show’s detractors. It lent more context to later events and positions, and introduced a new character, but even by Sagrada standards it was a dull trudge, not helped by the fact it took place entirely in a tension-sapping flashback.

Sagrada Reset – 08

After this week’s first act, I’m convinced this show excels at getting us to underestimate Asai Kei, at least as much as his adversaries do. Last week Eri Oka seemed to be holding all the cards, but it turns out Asai isn’t trapped in the photo for more than a few minutes.

Even though that buys time for Eri to mess with Haruki, Asai has Murase in place to mount a rescue. A rescue that occurs after Eri tries to plant false memories in Haruki, which not only doesn’t work (thanks to a little device in Haruki’s ear with Asai’s voice) but restores Haruki’s Reset ability.

It’s a great little turnaround, flummoxing Eri, who retreats for the time being. And having Asai and Haruki back together underscored how much anxiety I felt when they were apart. Of course, I’ve seen all their interactions thus far, but it’s important to remember Haruki doesn’t remember a lot of them.

That’s why she’s not keen to immediately reset; she wants to remember what Asai did for her. So instead of resetting, she saves, and Asai returns to the Sasano case, apparently confident Eri won’t be bothering them for a while.

The next morning, Asai receives a message to “come see someone”, and three photos, one of a woman on the beach, another of a blossoming cherry tree, and the third, Souma Sumire at sunset. Asai assumes it’s the “Witch” who is summoning him, so he goes to the beach.

There, he takes what he learned from his encounter with Eri, enters the photo, and converses with the Witch in her younger form. Because her ability is knowledge of the future, she knows what she’s going to do, and when she’s going to die, and wants to escape the bureau to see Sasano before that happens.

To that end, she used both Asai and Eri, but presents Asai with a choice: he can stop Eri, possibly leaving the Witch to die in confinement, or save the Witch another way (a way she may already know he’ll implement, mind you).

Asai gathers Sasano, Haruki and Murase, and head to the Bureau, Scooby-gang-style, and wait for Eri to get them inside. Sasano, armed with a Polaroid, takes photos of the building’s interior, one of which proves useful in getting one of the Bureau guards “out of the picture.”

This infiltration of the Bureau is only preparation for the next infiltration, when the actual rescue of the Witch is to take place. Asai has Haruki reset, sending him back to when they saved on the beach. He then jumps into one of the photos they took of the Witch’s room and asks her to call him.

The photos are still around because Murase had them, and her power negates reset, while his communication with the Witch of the past reaches the Witch of the present because she knows the future. It’s a complicated metaphysical labyrinth, but it checks out.

Before pulling it all off, Asai meets with a surprisingly chipper Eri, who accepts her loss but isn’t ready to give up on beating him, thus proving he’s weaker. Asai, meanwhile, knows that she won’t hurt him as long as he’s “defenseless.” Considering this is a long show, Eri is sure to be back; we’ll see whether she poses a greater threat at that point.

As expected, Asai gets a call from the Bureau, who bring him to the Witch, who asks him the same questions about “loving a stone” she asked Haruki, to which Asai answers he’d still love the stone if it was the girl he liked. But is that girl Asai…or Souma?

Regardless, Asai gives the Witch the photos she needs to escape and knock on the window of her boyfriend, just like the story Sasano told her when they were far younger. All these years, the Bureau has kept her under lock and key, fearful of her power. But after a time, or maybe all along, it was a power she never seemed all that interested in having, let alone using.

That’s why she decides she’ll leave Sakurada, forget about her power altogether, and live out the rest of her days—all seven of them, by her reckoning. But before she does, she indulges Asai by telling him his future: he will be involved in “something big”, something involving her “successor”, whom Asai correctly identifies as Souma. The Witch tells him he’ll run into her again. I certainly hope so!

Whew, what a ride. This mini-arc contained the most complicated ability machinations yet, and it was downright exhilarating watching all the pieces be carefully maneuvered into place before being set into quick, decisive motion. On top of that, we got confirmation Souma isn’t totally dead (though whether she’ll merely exist in that photo or not, who can say).

By not forgetting what Asai did for her, Haruki’s affection for him continues to grow. Murase is proving to be useful as “muscle” (i.e. putting holes in things or neutralizing abilities) while Eri has vowed to come back at Asai, insisting he should “be afraid.” One thing I’m not afraid of: losing interest in this unapologetically bizarre, engrossing show.

Sagrada Reset – 07

“Things seem to be getting rather complicated, huh?”

I could not have said it better than Tsushima myself: Things are getting complicated, and for once, Asai has a worthy adversary who manages to stay a step ahead of him the entire time, leading to even higher stakes by episode’s end.

But let’s go back to the beginning, and the photo by Sasano that entices Asai so. It’s indeed a photo of Souma Sumire, on the same beach where they first met and promised to meet again. And I suppose he could, in a way, by entering the photo as Sasano does.

Extremely unsettling metaphysical ramifications aside, we also learn something simpler: the evolution of Oka Eri. She was once Fujikawa Eri, before the hair-dye and contacts and rad clothes; the “weak and worthless” daughter who took abuse from her father.

Two years ago, Asai saved Eri by telling her to change her name and use a piece of evidence to blackmail her father if she so chose. Oka Eri was born, and I believe part of her believes that she’s paying Asai back by confirming his weakness, in hopes he’ll return to his former strength; the hero to her villain in this story of life.

Asai has moved on from the person he was two years ago, but meanwhile, Sasano is able to travel to 28 years in the past where a much younger Oracle lives inside one of his photos. The two of them have a plan, and it’s a long-game kind of plan. When Sasano tells her the Bureau is going to try to shut him down, she tells him not to resist, but to give her a certain selection of photos before they come.

Asai all but confirms how soft he’s gotten since meeting Asai by being drawn away from her all too easily by a frantic phone call from Murase Youka. On her own, Haruki does her best to get away from a pursuing Oka, but around five seconds of eye contact are all the villain needs to steal her reset ability.

After confirming she can’t reset, Haruki begs Asai to help her get it back, and he agrees. He’ll accede to Eri’s demand for the MacGuffin in exchange for Haruki’s ability back, then learns more from Tsushima about Eri’s ability and its weaknesses, which will no doubt be pivotal in his counterattack.

However, he doesn’t get to make one this week. Standing his ground on having moved on from the “hero” Eri saw him as two years ago and worshipped, he offers the MacGuffin without any resistance; his only goal to restore Haruki’s ability.

But Eri has another trick up her sleeve, which digs an even deeper hole for Asai and Haruki: she traps him in a photo of the lighthouse balcony they’re on, taken during the day, underscoring how hopelessly cut off he is from the “non-photo” world. And poor Haruki, who trailed after Asai, hoping the plan would work out, is once again vulnerable to Eri’s whims.

All in all, quite a mess Asai and Haruki have found themselves in. A satisfying conclusion would obviously get them out of this mess, but also, as with Murase earlier, convince Eri not to be a villain anymore, not because she’s being forced to quit, but because she wants to. That’s going to take some doing…

…And that’s before we even get into whatever Sasano and Oracle are planning.

Sagrada Reset – 06

Sakurada Reset continues its penchant for whimsically jumping from timeline to timeline by starting four years in the past, with Kei on the train to Sakurada. He encounters a man in a suit who hands him a phone that immediately rings, and a nameless “witch” is on the other end, telling him the “place he belongs” is the town of Sakurada, but warns him he’ll never live a normal life, as the town will “grab on to [him] and never let go.”

Well, we know how he chose, and it leads to his latest assignment: meeting with Sasano, an elderly gentleman whose ability to enter photographs (and thus, relive moments from the past his photos capture) has been taken away. He wants the MacGuffin to get his ability back, but Kei believes there’s a more surefire way: use his and Haruki’s powers to stop whoever sealed his ability before they seal it.

When Sasano insists on repaying Kei once he restores his power, Kei asks if he’ll use his ability for him, after seeing a figure on the beach in a photo that could very well be Souma Sumire, the loss of whom no doubt weighs upon Asai every day. Perhaps seeing and hearing her one last time could assuage that regret. A chat with Hitsuchi-kun reveals that Sasano was one of the founders of the Bureau.

After not getting changed in front of Haruki (who’d have been totes okay with it) and enjoying a lunch she prepared for them, Kei tells Haruki the thought experiment of the “Swampman”, and it leads to Kei assuring Haruki he’d be sad if she died and was replaced by someone who looked exactly like her. Furthermore, he wouldn’t want to go on living without knowing the truth. Both assertions please Haruki.

The two are then summoned, as Tsushima assured them they would be, and they accompany the same suited man who approached Kei on the train years ago. They’re then separated, as only one of them at a time may meet with the person who wants to meet with them.

That person turns out to be another founding member of the Bureau, or at least a facilitator. She has no name, and refers to herself as a “witch” with partial jest and partial wistfulness. In reality, she is an oracle, able to see the future, both of Sakurada, the Bureau, and individuals like Kei and Haruki.

Naturally, she cannot tell them those futures, but only offer riddles, much like the Oracle of The Matrix. Aside from educating Kei on her purpose, and the fact she is near death, the “witch” does not dispense as much knowledge as she likely gains by seeing Kei’s future. She also “apologizes” to him but doesn’t say what for.

As for Haruki, the “witch” presses her on how she feels about Kei and why, talking about a stone with thoughts that can be turned into a human and whatnot. Ultimately, it’s a simple “chat with a girl about love”, and after reading her future, the “witch” has all she needs and bids her farewell.

After Kei was dismissed, he is confronted by Eri Oka, the girl who took Sasano’s ability; someone he knows and who knows him, calls him “senpai”, and a “hypocrite” and thinks he used to be “more badass”. She’s there for one thing: to be the villain, causing trouble for people.

Her specific threats: to take the MacGuffin from Kei, then take away Haruki’s Reset ability. She claims to hate Kei, and wants to see him hit rock bottom…and taking Haruki’s power would certainly do that! So when Haruki emerges from the building, he immediately requests she reset, and she does.

Oka Eri likely assumed Kei would get a reset or two in in an attempt to thwart her plans, but the threats have been dispensed. Now Kei and Haruki have to figure out a way to defeat her.

She’s a bit stiff and obvious as a villain, so I’m wondering if she’s truly what she says she is, or merely using her villain persona as a means to test the service club’s dynamic duo like they’ve never been tested before. Either way, it should be an interesting confrontation.

Saekano 2 – 02

Utaha has finished her script, and to celebrate has Tomoya take her out for a day of shopping, dining, and watching films that aren’t poorly-received (i.e. ghosty, shelly) live-action anime adaptations.

It’s a date, no doubt about it, at least as far as Eriri is concerned, observing the couple’s interactions from afar like, well, a stalker, with Megumi forced to tag along for plausible deniability.

But Utaha doesn’t merely toy with Mr. Ethical: she makes it a point to bring up the fact that now that the script is complete, her job with Blessing Software is also done, and she’s looking to the future.

She asks Tomoya his opinion not only on where she should attend university (out in Kansai or fifteen minutes away) as well as to pick which script should be used: she wrote two. She’s basically telling the director to choose a direction; not unreasonable.

When Eriri and Megumi meet with Tomoya (thanks to Megumi having a key to his place!) they see the ending and see Tomoya’s dilemma. Eriri both acknowledges Utaha’s artistry, comparing it to the Metronome of Love series she claims to have never read, while complaining that it’s a lot more work.

Still, she doesn’t automatically reject this new ending, nor does Megumi: they, like Utaha, leave it up to Tomoya. Sorry dude, gotta make some hard choices, and not everyone is going to be happy. Especially with Izumi’s doujin game already out there in demo form, living in the same genre as their game.

Saekano excels when Tomoya is one-on-one, as he is with the lovely Utaha most of this episode. But I also liked how their interactions were shadowed by Eriri and Megumi (especially the difference in Utaha and Eriri’s reactions to the movie, which chose a “childhood friend-friendly”, and thus Eriri-friendly, ending).

I can’t say whether the script of Saekano is cliched per se; all I can say is that it is unafraid of commenting on the very genre and medium it exists in, or of being almost self-back-pattingly self-referential and irreverent of those institutions.

But the dialogue is expertly delivered by the actors, and the character design is strong, so even if this show’s ‘weakness’ is its script (which I’m not saying is the case), it’s more than capable of making up for it in other areas, which makes this show enjoyable to watch on any given week.

But I don’t think it needs a live-action adaptation.

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu 2 – 12 (Fin)

Its first season shows us the past, and most of its second season showed us the present. This week is all about the future, both of the Yakumo and Sukeroku names, the families connected to them, and of rakugo itself. In all cases, that future looks bright, thanks to the inspiration of those who came before.

First, we have a Shin in his late teens or early twenties, and he’s the spitting image of his grandfather Yakumo, even though they’re not related by blood…or are they? The resemblance is uncanny, Konatsu is committed to taking the truth to the grave, as is her prerogative.

In other news, Konatsu has become the first female rakugo performer in history, which is awesome, because it’s something we know she’s always wanted to do, and she’s also very very good at it (sadly though, we don’t get to see her perform).

Interestingly, it doesn’t seem her and Yotaro’s daughter (and Shin’s little sister) Koyuki is interested in following the path the rest of her family has walked, and is content to listen to them work their craft.

As far as Shin is concerned, Yotaro, now the Ninth Generation Yakumo, is his Dad—he helped raise him, after all. That is very clear in a quiet, private scene between the two. As it’s very possible he carries both the blood of Sukeroku and Yakumo, Shin seems to strike a nice balance between their two extreme styles. And the little boy Shin we’re accustomed to comes out when his dad encourages him before one of the biggest performances of his life.

That performance is part of the grand re-opening of the Uchikutei theater, which had burned down years ago but now has been completely rebuilt (only now, no doubt, is up to code). Seeing the new Yakumo IX on the stage with his wife and son (and Master Mangatsu) is a triumphant moment, and the full crowd suggests Yotaro has succeeded in restoring rakugo from the brink it was dangling from when Yakumo VIII died.

Now it’s a more inclusive, less stodgy, and more welcoming place, without sacrificing the things that made it unique. Even Konatsu realizes she was foolish in her earlier thinking that she’d upset some kind of “harmony” by entering the world of rakugo.

It must be that much more encouraging for Matsuda, the only character to inhabit all three timelines. He’s 95 and wheelchair-bound, but seems as warm and cheerful as ever.

After Shin opens with a very good performance that demonstrates why he will be an excellent Sukeroku and/or Yakumo one day, Yotaro performs “Shinigami”, a Yakumo VIII original, as a tribute. And what do you know, the old man visits him at the climax of his performance, leading me wondering momentarily if Yotaro had been taken to the far shore himself!

Thankfully, Yotaro is fine, and he and his family and friends celebrate after the show with a flower viewing by the riverside. Matsuda mentions how he saw his master to the far shore (apparently during a near-death experience of his own back then), and Higuchi waxes poetic on Yotaro’s contributions to helping prevent rakugo from dying with Yakumo.

Yotaro, however was never concerned that rakugo would go anywhere, with or without his help. It’s too good for that. And I tend to agree: various humans can argue over whether the art of rakugo is something that must be vigilantly protected from disappearing, like tending a delicate fire.

But fires can be rebuilt and reignited, and there will always be those who want to sit in an old theater (or a newly rebuilt theater) and hear someone tell a funny, raunchy, or moving story that will transport them somewhere else. Rakugo is eternal.

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While there are certainly important stories to be told, the true genius of SGRS is the realism and intensity of the world in which those stories take place. While there was a soapy vibe to Yakumo’s inadvertent arson, this week grounds the even for what it was: something that was likely to happen to the tinderboxy theater sooner or later, regardless of who or what started it.

Even if Yakumo was trying to deal a blow to rakugo by sending the place up, the fact is, the theater is just a thing. You don’t really need it to perform rakugo. All you need is people to perform, people to support those performers, and an audience. And those things can be found anywhere. They’ll be okay…even the kid who worked at the theater to try to get closer to rakugo.

When we see Yakumo in the hospital, Shin and Matsuda are crying by his side, but Konatsu is sitting off at a distance, with a look that conveys both suspicion (both she and Yota had to stop him from jumping off a bridge, after all) and uneasiness.

As much as she has always hated her adoptive father for killing her birth parents, the window for hashing things out with him once and for all is quickly closing. Sooner or later Yakumo, like the theater, is going to go up-either by his own hand or by nature.

Still, even as Yakumo lies there in bed with a hell of a face burn, we know that when it came down to it, he’s terrified and not at all interested in dying. He’s not ready to leave the family he’s made, which we learn is about to get larger: Konatsu is pregnant again, and this time it’s Yota’s.

Since Yota is always calling Konatsu “nee-san”, its easy to forget that these two are married, let alone sleeping together. But I loved the way Konatsu drops the news—by mentioning how she craves sweet things when she’s expecting. I also loved Yota’s total obliviousness until she actually spells it out for him too.

You can feel the love and joy in this little scene. The RABUJOI, if you will ;)

As for her scene with Yakumo, it’s steeped in a combination of loathing and tenderness. It’s not the same love that she has for Yota at all, but it’s still love, and arguably a deeper one. As she helps him into the sun and combs his hair, he tells her how his mind wanders to things he never thought about when rakugo was his life, like how he never planted a cherry tree in his garden, or all he missed out on for rakugo.

Konatsu doesn’t let the opportunity to ask him why he never followed her parents to the grave, and there’s no need for any more pretense: Yakumo was too busy raising her to think about killing himself, and in any case, being a parent has a way of simultaneously overwhelming and soothing you. Raising Konatsu kept his regret at bay, and made it possible to live as long as he did.

Upon hearing all this, Konatsu softens, her eyes well up, and she does something it’s probably been very hard for her to consider doing: thank Yakumo, for not abandoning her.

Of course, she’s very welcome, and doesn’t even have to thank Yakumo, since she did as much for him as he did for her by being in his life. It’s a marvelously executed and acted scene; the epitome of bittersweet-ness.

Then Yota comes on the radio, Shin pops out of the bushes and recites the story Yota is telling (while tossing sakura petals in the air), Konatsu asks Yakumo if she can be his apprentice, and he says “yes” without any pushback whatsoever.

Yota and Shin’s story is accompanied by a montage of imagery that matches their words, though that imagery is coming not from the imaginations of the listeners, but in the city and world living and breathing around them during a warm, pleasant sunset. It looks like a moment of almost perfect contentment for Yakumo…

Which also makes it the perfect time to leave that world, if he was going to do so. When petals on the floor are suddenly picked up by a sudden wind and dipped into darkness, Yakumo wakes up on the planks of zig-zagging, seemingly endless boardwalk flanked on either side by countless candles. Sukeroku greets him, and this time welcomes him to the land of the dead.

Tellingly, Sukeroku doesn’t tell him he’s not yet supposed to be there. So is this it for Yakumo? Did that perfect moment signal his exit from the living world? Did he agree to train Konatsu to avoid stirring rancor so close to his end?

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu 2 – 09

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When his former big boss goes away for six years’ hard labor, Yotaro has a notion to do a prison show, which is incidentally how he first heard his master. Yakumo performed “Shinigami” at that show, because he liked the chilly, somewhat hostile atmosphere.

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This time, Yakumo performs “Tachikiri”, and he moves many inmates and guards alike with the sad tale of a geisha who died because the letters from her lover stopped due to incarceration.

Of course, after last week’s outburst, part of me was weary of Yakumo being interrupted once again, perhaps this time by an unruly convict. That doesn’t happen, but the sound of Konatsu’s shamisen and voice remind Yakumo of Miyokichi, and she haunts his own visuals of the story.

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After Yakumo tries to see Yotaro’s big “Inokori” show, but leaves because it just…isn’t very good to him (no matter how entertained the crowd is), the old master clears out the old theater and performs “Shinigami” alone by candlelight, in the creepiest scene in the show since he saw those rows of candles after his collapse.

When he completes his tale, one person claps, or rather, one ghost: Sukeroku himself. It isn’t long before his youthful, vital form gives way to the skeleton, revealing a real shinigami has come for Yakumo, and he may get his wish: to die doing rakugo. “Sukeroku” compels Yakumo to toss a candle into the seats, and the whole theater goes up like a tinderbox.

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This would certainly be the end of Yakumo if it weren’t for Yotaro and good timing, who just happens to come by the theater after his performance. Upon the burning stage, with a death god pressing him down, Yakumo admits he doesn’t want to die, and Yotaro stretches to reach his master’s hand and pull him out of the inferno.

Yakumo may not succeed in “taking rakugo with him” when he dies, but he did manage to claim a theater rich in rakugo history in an attempt. What else will he destroy, whether he wants to or not, prior to exiting the stage for good?

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Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu 2 – 08

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After a taste of Kyoto-style rakugo (which has a lot more props than Tokyo style…not sure I like it) courtesy of Mangetsu, who is trying to make a comeback after ten years out of the game, We see a frail and withered Yakumo showing his grandson one of Sukeroku’s albums.

Higuchi and Matsuda then come in to show Yakumo the veritable bonanza of recordings and memorabilia the professor has collected over the years. Higuchi leaves it up to Yakumo whether the recordings and such were ever to be released to the public, or destroyed. Yakky says he’ll think about it.

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In a really, really lovely scene, we see the happy couple of Yotaro and Konatsu relaxing on a warm night, and Konatsu rests her head on Yotaro’s broad back and asks him to perform some rakugo, and is no doubt soothed by the vibration of Yotaro’s voice as he does so. It’s personal rakugo; not for a crowd, but for someone close.

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Yotaro can’t get far in his story before the couple notices Yakumo walking onto the nearby bridge; he feigns a desire to get out and about and a bout of sickness, but Konatsu knows what he’s up to: he was trying to off himself, something she won’t allow until he “atones.”

Or at least, that’s how she chooses to label her love for the man who brought her in when she lost both her parents and raised her into the fine woman she is. Yakumo concedes that fate may not be ready to let him die.

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Yakumo visits Kido Isao, an old friend and who owes him a “debt that can’t be paid”, knows how to keep quiet, and longs to hear Yakumo perform again. Then, one night, after seeing a play with Matsuda, Yakumo finds himself the victim of his loyal servant and family’s machinations.

To wit: he’s being forced into a performance before a small, select audience of old friends, colleagues, and patrons. When he threatens to leave, the lady of the Yanashima Inn “insists” by hilariously shoving him onto the stage.

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But before Yakumo has to perform, he yields that stage to his “dunce” of a student, who performs “Shibahama” to his master’s shock. When asked how he learned it, Yotaro confesses to having watched the film, though doesn’t go so far as to hear the truth of what happened at that inn so many years ago.

As for his “Shibahama”, Sokuroku’s was, in my opinion, far superior. But to Yotaro’s credit, he uses his tendency to weep easily well here.

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When it’s finally Yakumo’s turn, he introduces himself with an air of “whelp, I guess I can’t rest easy yet, so despite my dry tongue here goes”…only to be rudely interrupted by a police raid that has come to arrest Kido Isao. Have those coppers no decency?! 

One also wonders if, like when his suicide was thwarted by the sudden appearance of Yotaro and Konatsu, if there’s something to the fact that he was so harshly silenced just when he was about to do rakugo again.

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