Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 08

daito81

Did the writers of this episode recently watch Whisper of the Heart? Both center on a yearning young lady who worries about being good enough, both begin with that girl checking out all the same books as a guy, and both end on a hilltop at daybreak. But before I lay into those writers for shamelessly lifting from a classic, I must note that the similarities pretty much end there.

daito82

For one thing, Amasawa Seiji didn’t get nearly as much girl time as Kyoutarou this week. Seriously, Kyou’s all over the shop with the ladies, or rather they’re all over him. From getting squeezed between and fought over by Tamamo and Senri in bikinis on stage, to ending up with Tamamo’s bra, to rescuing Kana from the sea, the show wants to make it clear that yes, he will be giving up quite a lot if he becomes a shepherd.

daito83
It’s not what it looks like! Though I wouldn’t be surprised if Senri swung both ways…

Interestingly, the aftermath of Nagi’s kiss-and-run is set aside so that the show can focus on the stakes, one girl at a time, starting with Kana. As we know, Kana is the clown of the group, not counting Ikkei (because Ikkei barely exists). What we didn’t know is that Kana was the clown in her last group of friends…who are no longer friends.

daito85

Then, as now, she didn’t choose to be the clown; it was a role she was given and never challenged it. She put doing what she deemed it took to remain ‘wanted’ in a highly-structured group where everyone had a role to play. After her beach play was a failure, the brittle clown facade is crumbling. She compensates by “trying too hard”, which makes her inner struggle more evident to her new friends, who say “this isn’t like you at all!”, inadvertently goading her into trying even too-harder.

daito84

The club also works to get their client stage time, and, StuCo Veep Takigawa gives no ground in negotiations. They hold out hope they can change her mind (not knowing that she’s trying to destroy their cub!), but for that, they need Kana to write a new script. Only Kana isn’t coming to club.

daito86

One surprising sight was seeing Kyoutarou shadowing Nagi with her trainee shepherd work, with things back to normal; ‘normal’ meaning ‘intermittently awkward and lovey-dovey’. Yet again, Nagi dodges the question of why she wants to be a shepherd so badly, and uses the situation as another opportunity to dissuade Kyoutarou from becoming one. She does that by telling him where to find Kana so he can talk to her, thereby sharing yet another beautiful memory he won’t want to lose.

As payment for her intel, she chokes him with her legs and bites his nose.

daito87

Up on that hill, just before sunrise, he finds Kana, and the discussion turns to books. How Kyoutarou started reading books because he was looking for ways to get along with others, something he’s clearly succeeded out. And if you’ll remember, Kana checked out a lot of those same books, perhaps for the same reason.

I really enjoyed the creativity of the closing scene, whether it’s Kana telling her backstory using Madoka witch-style shadow-puppet visuals, or Kyoutarou turning their talk into a theatrical performance. The sun rising behind the embracing friends as catharsis is reached was also a simple but well-executed visual. Sendai Eri also does her best work of the season here and throughout the episode, demonstrating heretofore untapped range.

daito88

Kana returns to the club feeling much better about herself and her place in it, which she learns need not be in the role of the clown. She’s excited to write the hell out of a new script, and if it flops like the least one, who cares? It’s not the end of the world, and she had fun writing them.

Then Senri embraces Kana once more, imploring her to stop worrying so much about what others think and start worrying about what she wants…lest Senri take him first! Then, things immediately shift to Senri going AWOL on her music instructor. But that’s a story for next week!

Kyoutarou is sure play a role in her redemption as well, but lest we forget: without Nagi’s help, he wouldn’t have reached Kana at that crucial time and place. If he relies on Nagi again, it will further expose the limits to his ability to help others as long as he’s not a shepherd himself.

8_ses

Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 07

daito71

This episode of DnH toyed with my expectations, almost as if it was aware of the fact it’s an underdog on my list (ranked fifth out of my seven shows) and needed to show me something to remind me why I’m watching. Last week it successfully maneuvered a substantial overarching plot and presaged future difficulties and conflicts.

This week initially seemed to change gears completely, starting with the four girls of the library club assembled at the table, each giving their argument for why they’re Kakei’s type. Everyone’s cordial — even clinical — but one can definitely sense conviction for their respective positions in all their voices and expressions.

daito72

When Kakei himself pops into the clubroom, Tsugumi abruptly asks him to go on a date…with all of them. At this point I’m pleasantly bemused — is the show going to be this ridiculous with the harem scenario? — but Kakei doesn’t take Tsugumi seriously, as he reads all night and sleeps in, making him late for the date and giving the girls an excuse to invade his flat, where they each act according to the archetypes they defended in the club meeting.

daito73

Nagi barges in unannounced, further angering the girls (who already suspect something is going on, which they’d be right about, but it’s not quite what they think!) and decides to tag along as a sixth wheel, and the 6×6 Gelandewagen of Love rolls off to the mall. At this point, I was tipping my hat to DnH for apparently making an honest attempt to make this harem thing work; a seeming fool’s errand. I should have been tipped off by the looks the girls had as they walked in formation.

daito74

Also bemusing to the point of suspicion: how civil everyone is throughout this date. While ostensibly competitors for Kakei’s attention and affection, the four girls eschew sniping and instead encourage and assist one another in turn, sticking to their archetypes and carrying them out to their natural conclusions.

daito75

As one girl is engaged with Kakei (they each get a scene of alone time with him), the others analyze their chemistry, first with Tamamo, then Senri, then Kana. As they cycle through these interactions, and interesting thing happened: I the viewer began thinking about the type I go for. Rather than resent or envy Kakei, I became Kakei. And part of what makes a successful harem is being able to see yourself in the guy’s shoes…not having a target on the guy’s back.

daito76

The sequences of mini-dates-within-the-date, also showed me that it’s not really as simple as what type to choose. Sure, I’ve somewhat gravitated towards him and Senri (among the four club girls), but the fact is all four exhibit desirable qualities, to the point that the date is essentially one long pleasant stalemate.

daito77

Oh yeah, the date also bent time, becaue I was sure the episode was four-fifths over when Nagi took Kakei aside to tell him they had Shepherd’s work to do. Instead, that was the halfway point. Not that the date of the first half felt long, but it did feel like it was building towards completion. Little did I know the show had far more in store for us!

daito78

But first of all, the Shepherd mission: having to stop a creepy guy from getting a good look at Tsugumi so he won’t develop a wildly popular love doll in her image is a hilariously awesome job. Better still is the fact that Kakei has to suddenly embrace Tsugumi like a lover to do so — knowing full well it could throw off the Utopian balance of the group date. But he doesn’t want Tsugumi to have to live her life being famous for being the ‘love doll girl’ and so does what he must.

daito78a

He’s able to explain away his behavior as an ‘experiment’ he and Nagi were performing to test the girls’ reactions. This in tern gives the girls leave to come clean: the group date was a means of researching and considering their response to a question submitted to the club asking what kind of girl Kakei likes.

Therefore the group date works on two levels: one, as a straightforward if slightly empirical harem date, and as a legitimate social experiment and service…that just happened to also satisfy the girls’ own curiosity regarding Kakei’s preferences, as well as their own latent desire to experience dating him firsthand, rather than just in their heads.

But wait, there’s yet another level to come out of this group date, because Who submitted that request in the first place?

daito78b

The answer, of course, is Nagi. The request wasn’t merely a prank (though it was partly that) but a carefully-designed gambit in the fight for the open Shepherd position. Kakei would be the first to admit he’s uncertain about becoming a Shepherd, and Nagi wants to maneuver him out of the running altogether.

Witnessing the girls blanking about the Shepherd research is very disquieting for Kakei, and Nagi warns him that if he were to become one his “book” would be erased; everyone would forget he ever existed. Dates like the one he just experienced would be impossible, as would remaining friends with any of the club girls…or anyone, for that matter.

Such is the price of the power to change peoples’ fates a Shepherd gains. It’s not really an unfair price, but having gone from detached loner to a treasurer of friends since joining the Happy Project, it is a steep price for Kakei. Nagi drove that point home by arranging the date.

daito79

Kakei’s never been more unsure of what to do after the weight of that price comes down on him, but Nagi’s plan doesn’t go as smoothly as she’d like, because he doesn’t drop out right then and there. Instead, he asks her if she’s okay paying the price. When she says she is, he laments that he’d forget her, causing her to drop her armor of resolve and steal a kiss she’s wanted so badly for so long.

At this point I imagine the Shepherd remembers their past life even if no one remembers them, and in that regard, this kiss is particularly tragic and poignant, because Kakei won’t remember it or anything about Kodachi Nagi if she’s successful. As she skulks away, she insists she’s “given up everything already”, but it sure seems like she’s trying to convince herself of that rather than it being a done deal.

The two people who seem most suitable for each other are the two contemplating erasing themselves from each others’ lives, which is both tragic and compelling. At this point an unhappy ending for both seems certain. Will that turn around, and if so, how? You have my full attention, DnH.

9_ses

Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 06

daito61

This week’s DnH took huge leaps forward in its overarching story by finally revealing exactly what it was Nagi was involved in, and why she’s been so interested in Kyoutarou. While it had a lot of serious plot to go over, it managed to avoid getting too dry or tedious by blending it with well-timed comedy, mischief, and would-be romance.

daito62

First of all, the library is fairly impressive, if a relatively simple design: a massive cylindrical shaft lined with billions of books. The Beast’s library ain’t got nothing on this place. It’s part The Matrix’s Zion, part Laputa’s Core, and all awesome; just the kind of place a big book reader like Kyoutarou would imagine in a dream…and he did!

daito63

They mysterious man turns out to be the same one who met with him ten years ago. He likes the progress Kyou’s made with the Happy Project; he’s already passed one of the two tests required to become a Trainee Shepherd, which is what Nagi is. The thing is, Kyoutarou isn’t so sure he wants to devote the rest of his life to helping others realize their happiest possible lives. The Happy Project is a means for him to explore the new feelings he’s developed, but that’s a highly personal thing. Becoming a Shepherd means throwing the self away for the sake of others.

daito64

Nagi is determined to become a Shepherd and “leave the world (and presumably a painful past that likely involves Kyoutarou) behind,” but her Supervisor seems far more keen on Kyoutarou getting the job than Nagi, even though Nagi was there first and at least thinks she wants this (Kyoutarou has to think about it). And here’s what puts an intriguing twist on an otherwise ordinary harem: dating and/or falling for someone disqualifies you from consideration. A shepherd must radiate their love out to all who may need their guidance; focusing that love on one person undermines their duties.

daito65

Even if Senri knew anything about this, she wouldn’t care. She’s at a point in her life when she’s tired of doing what’s expected of her — which doesn’t make her happy — and is doing what she wants, like putting the moves on Kyoutarou. I appreciated this bold, assertive side of Senri coming out when the opportunity presented itself; even if Kyou is more flustered than anything else, it’s a good demonstration of what he’d be giving up if he chose Shepherdom. In any case, Senri’s advances are interrupted by Nagi, whom Kyou has to shadow in order to learn the ropes.

daito66

Their “client”, so to speak, turns out to be Sayumi, whom they have to save from a gruesome freak accident that would keep her from realizing her ideal future as a gifted programmer. It’s a pretty clear-cut job, but perhaps in her haste to either show off or because his very presence took her off her game, Nagi makes a critical error, and Kyoutarou has to bail her out in the most dangerous and embarrassing way he can. Why does Sayumi have a machine gun? WHY NOT?!

daito67

When all is well that ends well, Nagi kicks herself for messing up, Kyoutarou comforts her and tells her to keep working hard, as she is his senpai in this situation. His kindness makes Nagi get all the feels, but now we know what a tricky situation she’s in: She’s close to falling for the guy who she has to fight for the Shepherd’s job, which has no room for love. The sooner she can become a Shepherd, the better…but Kyoutarou is learning quickly, and in any case, has been essentially carrying out the actions of a Shepherd already with the Happy Project.

daito68

After returning the club room and finding Tsugumi waiting for him to share a heart cookie (which he eats all by himself out of ignorance), Kyoutarou is no closer to knowing what he wants to do. But as thanks for his bailing her out, Nagi gets the Library Club officially recognized. As Nagi sees it, if the club continues with Kyoutarou in it, eventually one of the girls will snag him, and he’ll drop out of the running. None of them have the slightest sliver of interest in Ikkei, after all. This fact, and his consoling sessions with Gizaemon, are a pretty funny running gag.

daito69

In addition to the revealing of Kyoutarou’s calling and the continuing battle for his heart, we also got a couple C-plots in Senri’s ongoing rift with her former friend Miyu, as well as the Student Council Vice President Takigawa Aoi plotting to “crush” the Library Club. Even as some light has been shed on the central mystery, several smaller ones remain.

8_ses

 

And now, your Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai Moment of Zen:daito6x

Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 05

daito51

DnH is doing a good job balancing all the simultaneous relationships Kyoutarou is cultivating with the various girls in his life. Last week he got a little bit of time with Kana, then made Tsugumi’s year by agreeing to stick with the Happy Project. He spends the first third of this episode with Tamamo, who he noticed is working extra hard for the very, popular and successful club. I wonder if Sayumi realized just how big a favor dressing the club up in cosplay was going to be.

daito52

Anyway, it’s a cute little segment, which like the others, has a way of making one feel like Tamamo is the only girl he’s having these kinds of segments with, even though as I said, all these dealings with these girls is happening concurrently. Not that he’s being a man-whore or anything; it’s the girls, after all, that seem to be interpreting his kindness as a sign he’s interested in romance. And hey, he catches Tamamo clean: no boob or crotch grabs!

daito53daito53a

Another girl whose gotten a fair share of Kyoutarou’s personal attention of late is Nagi, who is a suspicious as ever standing in the shadows observing Kyoutarou. We then find out that observing Kyoutarou with the aim of assessing his fitness to be a (The?) Shepherd is her job, handed down by a mysterious suited fellow.

daito54 daito54a

The buxom Nagi is simultaneously jealous of all the attention her boss is giving Kyoutarou and resentful that he’s seen as having more potential. She’s taken her duty to the extreme by moving next door to him and coming to his house all the time. Things get closer than ever before, and Kyoutarou even whips out the pre-cog power we’ve not seen since he saved Tsugumi to try to see Nagi’s future. Disturbingly, he finds nothing there but a white void and an invisible wall.

daito55 daito55a

It vexes him, and when he confronts Nagi at school, a chase ensues. Kana and Senri hear him yell something about “last night”, and the rumor mill springs into action. Poor Ikkei and Gizaemon can only sit in the corner, unable to contribute to what is essentially the girls wondering what the heck Kyoutarou is up to. But Kyoutarou has problems that circumvent whatever awkwardness may be brewing in the club room.

daito56

Something’s just not quite right about Nagi, and he finally pays her a visit in her apartment — her dark, empty apartment where she clearly doesn’t really live. She’s got her: she’s the Shepherd who’s been emailing him (though that doesn’t mean she’s The Shepherd; clever wording on her part). And there’s that same Man in Black waiting for him, saying he’s cleared preliminary examination and inviting him to come to the “Magic Library” he’s seen flashes of in his premonitions. Nurturing romances while propelling the mystery forward: this episode was firing on all cylinders.

8_ses