Tsukimonogatari – 03

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Oh, right…there’s another reason Koyomi probably shouldn’t let himself become a full vampire. As vampires are kind of the head honchos of apparitions, it will fall to Kagenui to destroy him, a duty she will not hesitate in carrying out. Even Ononoki, who considers Koyomi a friend, would be forced to turn on him.

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Ononoki doesn’t want this, and so asks Koyomi to promise he won’t use his vampire powers anymore. Koyomi promises, but Ononoki detects his uncertainty.

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It’s one thing to promise when nothing is on the line, but if Senjougahara or Hanekawa or his sisters were in mortal danger, he wouldn’t hesitate to break that promise and use all his power to save them, consequences be damned. The thing is, Kagenui is making the consequences to this very likely scenario quite clear: she and Ononoki will kill him.

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Shinobu and Kagenui with their ‘bring it on’ faces

 

Shinobu weighs in on the discussion, saying once Koyomi is dead she’ll be fully released, and will waste no time exacting her revenge upon Koyomi’s killer. The two stare each other down, and suddenly, the conversation looks like it’s about to turn into some kind of duel.

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“In the name of the moon…I will punish you!”

 

The cooler heads—Ononoki and Koyomi—talk their partners down. It’s a great way to underline just how tenuously close Koyomi is to the boundary between human and apparition; between friend and target. But, as Ononoki says, they’re not at that point yet; not all is lost.

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Kagenui seems intent on keeping her phone as far away from her as possible, one of her many character quirks

 

After briefly getting into why Kagenui specializes in immortal apparitions, during which time she mentions that there’s at least one other specialist like her who does so, but is a hermit he needn’t concern himself with, when Gaen calls her on the phone. Kagenui relays to Koyomi that he should rush to Kanbaru’s house without delay.

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There, they find Kanbaru and his sisters gone, and a string of paper cranes left as a message, perhaps symbolizing Tsukihi (who was a phoenix). Already, Koyomi is finding it tough to even withstand the environmental extremes of riding Ononoki as she performs Unlimited Rulebook; unable as he is to tap into his vampowers.

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The group ends up somewhere more…abstract, where Kagenui informs Koyomi that the one who took the girls is Tadatsuru Teori (apparently a very trigonometric name in Japanese), a dollmaster and the very hermit she was talking about before Gaen called. However, she doesn’t think the girls are in any particular danger yet, as she believes Tadatsuru is only using them to get to Koyomi and Shinobu. Unlike Kagenui, Tadatsuru isn’t held back by someone like Gaen. He’s operating under a different rulebook.

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Far less static than some other Monogataris, we get a nice incidental snowball battle between Shinobu and Ononoki as the others yap

 

So, just when Koyomi learns that he can no longer use his powers, that hypothetical but highly likely scenario of him using his vampowers instinctively to save those he loves, which would lead to his demise, is quickly becoming a reality. At this point, Koyomi becomes rather resigned to his fate as a matter of the universe ‘calling in all his tabs at once’; something he can accept without complaint considering how much he used his vampowers in the past. Regardless of intentions, he knew was always going to exact some kind of price for that power.

Kagenui, in almost a supporting tone, warns him not to get ‘drowned’ in the why of what is happening. Forget divine punishment; maybe Tadatsuru just planned the whole thing to get his hands on him and Shinobu, and chose this specific because he knew Koyomi would be neutralized. Thus, Koyomi must rely on Kagenui and Ononoki a bit more than he usually would in order to save the girls.

Perhaps it is possible after all for a powerless, reliant Koyomi to exist. Never mind; knowing the alternative, it has to be possible…or he’s a goner. We’ll find out in the final installment.

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Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – 12 (Fin)

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InoBato delivers a crisp, clever, neatly-paced finale that is an admirable study in ‘less is more’ where superpower action is concerned, and despite Jurai not making a decision about which girl to choose, the romantic/emotional side of the show is still brought to a satisfying stopping point.

The episode wastes no time picking up from last week, where Hatoko looks to be in some serious trouble. But in the space of a few moments, Chifuyu erects a wall to protect her while Tomoyo transports everyone to a different time and space. The gang hasn’t used their powers much, but when they do use them they make it count. 

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Furthermore, Jurai’s chuunibyou compelled him to formulate countermeasures in case someone with Mirei’s powers was to fight them seriously again. He may not have a useful power himself, but he spearheaded the whole three-second maneuvers that saved everyone.

As the gang hides in a karaoke bar (worried they’re taking things too lightly) their attacker, “F” remnant Hagiura Naoe, who has stolen Mirei’s body and powers (along with Hatoko and Chifuyu’s), confers with Sagami, apparently eager to prove her mettle by knocking off “Virgin Child.”

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Without any better ideas from the others, Jurai decides to call Hagiura and arrange a meet-up in the clubroom, where she’s created a portal to an otherworld. Hagiura is disappointed Jurai didn’t bring the others, and inflicts various kinds of pain to try to get him to cooperate, warning that he only invites a lingering, lonely death.

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Far from yielding, Jurai breaks out his secret weapon: a bluff. Well, a sort of bluff. He makes “Dark and Dark Stage Two” out to be the Best Power EVAH, even though it’s just as useless as it was…

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…Which Hagiura doesn’t realize until she’s stolen and replicated it. But here’s the thing: in this particular case, Stage Two is not only useful, but crucial to him having a chance at victory. It’s useful not in any conventional GIGA DRILL uber-power kind of way, but because once the flames are summoned, they’ll burn eternally.

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Not only that, they really burn their user, and can’t be put out, something Jurai learns when they first awakened; a scene InoBato artfully skipped over so it could show us here. The only way the gang put them out last time is by Chifuyu summoning a guillotine, slicing his hand off, and then repairing it with Sayumi’s healing powers. NOW we know why they insisted he never use his powers again.

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When Hagiura realizes she’s been played, she leaves Mirei’s body, leaving Mirei and Jurai with eternally burning hands. Fortunately, Sayumi, Tomoyo and Chifuyu are standing by….

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…And then, as they go through that horrifying ordeal again, only this time with two ‘patients’, I’m not surprised everyone is crying, even though everything goes according to plan, it’s still traumatic chopping friends’ damn hands off! Hagiura fumes, but she and Sagami are found out by Hajime, who isn’t too happy they tried to involve Virgin Child.

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The gang got a great brush with danger, but pulled out of it with no harm done, thanks mostly to Jurai’s planning, quick-thinking, and, well, there’s no other word for it: recklessness. Sayumi cannot believe she let him go through with such a crazy, dangerous plan, and yet if given the choice, she’d go along with it again. Mirei can relate; both girls strive to be paragons of perfection, but when it comes to the man they both fell in love with, all bets are off…which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

On a day out together, Tomoyo buys Hatoko a light novel she can understand (unlike most of the stuff Jurai gives her). Tomoyo remarks how she’s now come to understand what someone (her bro) once said to her about “all outcomes are predetermined”, and people seek “ways they can accept to explain it.” In Tomoyo’s case, she knew she loved Jurai, and now is finally able to say it to Hatoko.

Hatoko also now knows what Jurai meant by a reading of a character being both “friend” and “rival”, because that’s what Tomoyo is. Far from giving up in Jurai, Hatoko promises her friendrival that she won’t lose; Tomoyo promises the same.

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Their target, meanwhile, is being ‘charmed’ by Chifuyu, who he’s worried about being caught up in another battle, in addition to being out in the sun too long. Chifuyu assures him in her usual adorable lilt, “she’s surprisingly tough”, and will continue to stay by his side, protecting him. Jurai consents, but only if she promises not to use her powers to hurt people, or to make people happy.

Superpowers are cool, but that’s all they need to be. It’s a sentiment in keeping with the show thus far, which has strived to underplay the importance of the powers with only a few exceptions. The friendships formed and love grown as a result of them having powers has always been more important.

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In making his point, Jurai activates Dark and Dark (though not Stage Two), just as Tomoyo and the others arrive. Tomoyo is understandably angry, not just that he’s ’embarrassing’ her, but more likely because she’s worried he’ll hurt himself again. The two start fighting in their usual way, because when two people get along and just work, it means they’re able to fight like that. And honestly, I could watch them fight all day! I’ll miss you, Virgin Child. I’ll miss InoBato too.

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Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – 11

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InoBato surprises us this (or at least me) this week by showing us a flashback of the day Jurai crossed paths with Tomoyo, and we see that there was a precedent to her placing her fist against his heart as she did during the Hatoko crisis. She convinced him in their brief encounter not to give up on Chuuni. To this day he doesn’t know it was Tomoyo.

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We go from that flashback to the present and the family vacation. Hatoko has studied her love manuals thoroughly and is making a concerted play for Jurai, determined not to let this perfect chansu slip away.

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Unfortunately, she ends up hewing a bit too close to said manuals and overdoes things, resulting in her nearly passing out from sunstroke/exhaustion. The beach scenes are a vivid showcase for the tendency of InoBato’s character design to be both sexy and goofy as conditions dictate. Last week, Sayumi was definitely a knockout, but Hatoko’s no slouch either.

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Knowing where Jurai is, who he’s with, and how Hatoko feels, the same day is a bit of an ordeal for Tomoyo. After dreaming about how she first met Jurai, she decides not to waste both tickets and go to Sealand alone; a decision she almost immediately regrets, but goes through with it anyway. Her scenes are steeped with lonelieness and longing; a kind of lost daze.

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When Hatoko recovers she gets another golden opportunity to confess her feelings, but decides instead to come at it from another angle, semantically…something InoBato is certainly no stranger to exploring how wording and phrasing affects understanding.

Jurai remains grateful she ‘saved’ him, and considers her ‘more than friends’ and ‘special’. While I would have liked a straight confession out of her, Hatoko’s wistful looks at the stars indicate that his words constitute a sufficient rejection in terms of romantic love.

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That assessment looks even more accurate considering Jurai calls Tomoyo and asks her out on a date right after talking with Hatoko. From there, Tomoyo begins her clinic of cute/bashful/happy facial expressions, as she’s not only clearly over the moon that Jurai called, but that he seemed just as in a hurry to see him again as she was.

It’s a cute date too, as Tomoyo, feeling bad about him offering to treat her again, suggest they decide who will pay fair and square with a shooting game. She kicks his ass and he has to pay anyway, but it was a nice gesture, along with a way to impress him with her marksmanship.

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When Jurai leads Tomoyo to a secluded spot to talk, Tomoyo gets a little excited, but it turns out Jurai wanted to create a situation in which she was free to talk to him, after he heard how Hatoko said she was ‘mean’ to her. Tomoyo doesn’t get into that, but does tell him about her light novel failure.

Jurai basically says all the right things in response to hearing about that, and leads Tomoyo to bury her face into his chest just as the fireworks launch right above them.

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It really couldn’t get any more romantic, and Tomoyo is again reminded of meeting him, along with a quick montage of all the close moments they’ve had. But Tomoyo still doesn’t say “I love you.” She says “I love this”. It would seem Tomoyo remains the frontrunner after all, and while I really wish she’d said the magic words (as I wished Hatoko had), that’s just not InoBato’s style.

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That brings us to the abridged final act, which is…a bit maddening. Here we’ve had a show that’s been 99% about characters and relationships, with neary a hint of superpowers or the war going on outside the sphere of the lit club. Then it decided to suddenly dump a steaming load of plot and peril at the very end.

The woman Hajime’s associates caught on camera does something to Mirei (who we haven’t seen in ages); Mirei calls the club to school, pretends her arm is burning, and when Hatoko uses her power to summon water, Mirei steals her superpower, summons flame, and launches it at Hatoko.

Sorry, but hWAAAAH? What the heck am I suppsed to do with that? Is Hatoko going to be incinerated? The preview clearly indicated next week is the final episode. I’m wondering how the heck the show is going to resolve this crisis and give us a satisfying conclusion to the harem plot.

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Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – 10

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After staking (or not staking) their claim on Jurai, this week the girls start to press those claims (or non-claims). We start with Tomoyo, who we’d thought was at the top of the running despite her average test scores, but suffers a triple defeat in the first couple minutes: she’s eliminated from the novel competition, she loses an excuse to hang out with Jurai more, and she ends up being the last one to ask him out.

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The one who gets first dibs on Jurai is Chifuyu, of course, but we watch those two interact through the suspicious eyes of her friend Cookie, who tagged along as a chaperone. She decides to make the day all about trying to sabotage Jurai’s standing with Chifuyu, but he only ends up making Cookie into another admirer.

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Jurai shows Cookie he isn’t the creepy pervert she thought he was. Far from being ‘interested’ in Chifuyu (or her for that matter), he wants to make sure Chifuyu has a friend after he and the others graduate and part ways. He comes right out and says he doesn’t think he’ll be by Chifuyu’s side forever. It’s good that Chifuyu is fast asleep, because if she heard him say that, it would have probably broken her heart. But hey, Jurai just doesn’t see her that way, so that’s that.

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Next up is Sayumi, who is actually operating under the tutelage of Sagami, whose true motives remain unknown. I like the look Jurai makes when he realizes Sayumi brought him to the same place Chifuyu did the day(?) before, but he can hardly complain now that he has a gorgeous, perfect date his own age.

Sagami messes with her by giving her a revealing white bikini than claiming it will become see-through if it gets wet. This leads to a phenomenal athletic performance by Sayumi, who clears every aquatic obstacle course in the park without getting wet, before finding out it doesn’t become see-through after all.

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But the bikini, and the rest of Sagami’s proposed tactics, are all based upon the idea that she isn’t going to win the Jurai sweepstakes by playing clean and fair. Sayumi rejects his suggestion she devalue herself and washes her hands of him. Sagami isn’t that miffed, as he contacts a former member of “F” right after Sayumi leaves.

But like his day with Chifuyu, there isn’t anything to suggest the girl made any progress whatsoever with Jurai. He may be aware she totally rocks her bikini and has a great figure and even recognizes when she’s acting under the influence of someone else…but he doesn’t seem into her. He treats her like a platonic friend.

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That brings us to Tomoyo, who finally gathers the courage to call Jurai up and ask him out…but she’s far too late. The days she could have spent with him, he spent with Chifuyu and Sayumi. And even if they proved not to be that much of a threat, she still has Hatoko to deal with, and Hatoko has Jurai for the next couple days (and one night!) as their two families go on their annual vacation.

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So, ‘oh no,’ Tomoyo’s in trouble, right? Hatoko could do all manner of things to him in that stretch of time. Well…not necessarily. Hatoko may well use her opportunity well, but that doesn’t mean Jurai sees her or will suddenly come to see Hatoko as a potential love interest.

Even though he only had that one somewhat distant phone call with Tomoyo, he still thought of buying a book for her. Tomoyo’s down, but definitely not out. Still, that phone call was rough. I felt so bad for her!

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Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – 09

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Hajime’s crew and the wider world of people with superpowers were revealed last week, but the Lit Club was successfully kept out of the fighting, which is probably for the best this late in the game. Instead, we return to the Lit Club’s own internal struggle: the initially friendly, but increasingly heated battle for the tainted heart of Andou Jurai.

Things start when Jurai reveals to Tomoyo that when he was in the eighth grade, he considered retiring from Chuunidom, after meeting a “really crazy girl who referred to herself by an archaic expression”, who was, of course, Tomoyo. Even then, they had that connection and shared understanding of Chuuni.

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Interestingly enough, during a study session when the exam score rankings are revealed, we essentially see a list that’s the opposite of the Jurai Heart picture. While Mirei and Sayumi are at the very top, they’re the furthest from contention, while Tomoyo is at the bottom despite being the frontrunner. Hatoko, not surprisingly, is the closest in score to Jurai, as she’s been the closest to him period.

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Still, Tomoyo is embarrassed by her low test score, and when Hatoko offers to give her personal tutoring, she doesn’t refuse. It also gives Hatoko an opportunity to probe her rival (Tomoyo really does seem to “understand” Jurai more than her) while starting what will be a trend this week of Hatoko making things sparkling clear and unmuddied by verbal embellishment, code, or white lies.

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As Summer vacation approaches and Sayumi goes through mountains of paperwork so fast she’s seemingly borrowed Closed Clock, she finds Jurai’s original application form to join the club. Everyone gathers ’round Jurai and Tomoyo has a good laugh at his colorful language.

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One thing that sticks out for Chifuyu is the claim on his form that he has “no emotion”, which she rightly points out is a lie, because he admits to liking her. If nothing else, it’s cute having this grade schooler back him into a logical corner…though the lightning strike at the end is confusing, in that I thought Hatoko was the element user? At the same time, there’s nothing saying Chifuyu can’t summon whatever she wants out of the either, including the elements.

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While joining him to take out the trash, Chifuyu has an odd question for Jurai about what the nature of curry is. She opines that it’s only a liquid, and that it requires rice to become a meal. Unlike Jurai, I can kinda see where she’s getting at, since they just had a conversation in which he confessed to liking her. But ‘like’ is like curry, it needs something to make it ‘a meal’; in this case, hanging out with her over the Summer.

When she reports symptoms similar to arrythmia to Cookie, Cookie is understandably concerned, until Chifuyu tells her she only feels this way when around Jurai. So yeah, Chifuyu is in love with the guy. After all, puberty does seem to be arriving earlier for girls these days.

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Meanwhile, Sagami Shimizu barges into the ladies’ room and snatches away Sayumi’s glasses. Wait, WTF? Sayumi should have claimed two or three of his ribs for such a brazen offense, but she’s not able to before he opens his mouth, confirming that she’s in the back of the pack in the running for Jurai, and offering to help her grab the inside line. Why? I’m not sure, other than the fact Sagami likes an underdog story.

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It occurs to me I don’t even remember the last time Hatoko used her elemental powers, but that’s not really a concern, because far more useful, at least in terms of moving things forward in the Jurai competition, are her powers to tell things like they are, which is exactly what she does with Tomoyo.

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Hatoko asks Tomoyo a straight question: “Is there anyone you’re in love with?”, to which Tomoyo responds with an equally straight but still untrue answer: “no one.” Hatoko then answers her own question, both clearly and truthfully: She loves Jurai. She wants to know more about him and go out with him, all of it.

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Hatoko gives her the chance to revise her answer, because not acknowledging she loves Jurai isn’t fair to Hatoko, or Jurai, or herself. Before we get Tomoyo’s answer (Damn!), we cut to Jurai sneezing because people are talking about him…but naturally he has a chuuni way of describing that particular phenomenon.

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Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – 08

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My goal isn’t to go overseas, or to play in the Chopin competition. My goal is Arima Kousei.

Aiza’s instructor Takayanagi bristles when he says this — Kousei never shows up, and Aiza’s ready for bigger better venues — but he understands well where Aiza is coming from. Kousei is what has driven Aiza to work tirelessly to catch up to and even surpass Kousei. Kousei is a rival, and squaring off with a rival, even if Kousei is neither present or aware of that rivalry, has made him grow faster than any teaching Takayanagi could have done.

A strong will enabling him to stand up to his fears. An unswerving fortitude at his core.

Aiza Takeshi possesses these things, but he must first throw up before the performance, and he’s almost giddy with relief when it’s over; his hands tremble afterwards. But when seated at the piano, remembering Kousei is here, today, and watching him, is all the motivation he needs to turn out a brilliant, crowd-hooking performance that puts everyone before him to shame.

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Kousei does watch (from monitors in the waiting room with Emi, who makes it clear to Kousei that Takeshi is here, and he played as wonderfully as he did, because of him. When Kousei asks if she feels the same way about him, she tells him not to make her laugh, but she’s not being honest with Kousei. Takeshi, on the other hand, is super-stoked by Kousei’s praise. It’s not so much that he knows he beat Kousei or even caught up to him; the fact that he moved him is the most important thing.

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Now that he’s admired Kaori in a similar way, Kousei understands a little more about the influence his mere existence had over Takeshi and Emi since they were little squirts. Meanwhile, Takayanagi is glad he indulged his student’s desire to face his rival; so glad, in fact, he gloats about how good he was to Emi’s instructor Ochiai, and remarks how far Emi has fallen recently and how she has no chance against the performance they just witnessed.

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Frankly, I myself was a little skeptical it could be topped, but that was me being a FOOL, as Takayanagi was being. While he carelessly threw down the gauntlet, Ochiai accepts his challenge. It’s true: Emi can be erratic and hard to motivate, and the littlest thing in the world could throw her off her game. But things are different today. She has all the motivation she needs: Kousei.

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Emi plays her cards close in her dealings with Kousei this week, but when she takes the stage, there can be no doubt about how much he means to her. Kousei is her goal, too. Emi first encountered Kousei when she was in the audience of his very first performance in front of a crowd. He was a bundle of nerves, but the performance caused an explosion of emotions in the young Emi, and she decided to become a pianist right then and there.

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Just as Emi made clear to Kousei what Takeshi meant to him, Takeshi tells Kousei that Emi, despite her hard edge, has actually ‘had a thing for him’ for a long while. And while Takeshi stood up to his inherent fear of performing, an act of pushing in, Emi’s situation is a little different: she must organize and redirect the storms of emotions flowing out of her upon those 88 blacks and whites.

She had a tasty scone that morning, she looks fantastic in her dress, she’s having a good hair day, and Kousei is listening, so the conditions are perfect for her to belt out the most gorgeous and enthralling piano performances of the show, easily surpassing the one Takeshi just played. (The piece is Etude Op. 25 No. 11 in A minor, “Winter Wind.” by Chopin, which…seems kinda hard to play.)

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Like Kaori, she pours those powerful emotions — her soul — into the notes, moving everyone listening and even creating an otherworldly synesthesic environment where her emotions take on color: red for anger, but also yellow for loneliness. She fashions a horn of her piano: a horn she compels to ring out. Not simply in anger or rejection, but in hope of reaching the Kousei who made her a pianist and compel him to come back.

Like Takeshi, she’s only there for him. It’s not about winning or besting him, it’s about using their music to bring him back. Even if Kousei ends up besting them both (which I maintain is doubtful this early in the run, but hardly impossible), it will be a victory for them as well. It will mean an injustice has been righted, and mark Arima Kousei’s official return to Music with a capital M.

What else starts with M? Masterpiece. This was another one. Your turn, Kousei!

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Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – 08

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Whoa…now that was one roundabout, unexpected, novel way to propel the story forward! This was a very tricky episode that, at first, made me think the show was going to forget all about Hatoko in lieu of introducing an entirely new group of young people with superpowers, led by Hajime…which is exactly, what it did…at first. This was an episode that asked for our patience, and then rewarded it handsomely.

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First…Fallen Black, Hajime’s “gang”, is much like the literary club, only they’ve been on the front lines of a war for some time; a war between humans with superpowers, ostensibly fought for the enjoyment of…fairies. That’s right, fairies are responsible for giving everone powers.

That…well, was definitely unexpected, and more than a little ridiculous, but there it is. I’m willing to accept it, if only because it makes Hajime’s baffling phone call back when he had lunch with Jurai make perfect sense! Nice bit of continuity there, and demonstrate’s the show’s willingness to veer from a linear timeline when it’s called for.

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Ultimately it doesn’t really matter how these people got their powers or why. What matters is that Jurai and the others aren’t alone in possessing superpowers, and this episode greatly expands the show’s world. Those others with powers aren’t simply sitting on their hands worried about why they have them or what to do next; they’re using them in furtherance of this war against “F”.

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We also see Hajime in his element as Fallen Black’s leader, and there’s a lot of similarities between him and Jurai, including the fact his powers aren’t necessarily the most powerful, but he’s definitely the most charismatic and the others feed off of that. Just take Hajime’s second-in-command Hitomi (kind of a green-haired Tomoyo), who rushes into a situation without fully assessing things, and almost gets into big trouble with a feral urchin, when all she needed to be pacified was some candy!

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But what the heck does this have to do with Hajime and his cohorts suddenly accosting Hatoko last week, do you say? What evil plans did they have in store fore her? Well, that’s pretty cleverly weaved into this Fallen Black story, as the attack from the little girl actually does injure Hajime.

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Knowing that one of the members of the heretofore ‘unblooded’ (i.e., non-participants in the war) literature club, which he refers to as “Virgin Child” has a healing power, he asks Hitomi to use her power of hypnosis to let him avail himself of that power.

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Only…they get the wrong girl: Hatoko rather than Sayumi. That’s right, there was never any ill intent; that was all our conjecture. So yeah, these guys may have a few battles behind their belts, but they’re not perfect!

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What is perfect — maybe too perfect, verging on overly tidy, considering the weight of last week’s conflict — is how the Hatoko dilemma is resolved. As promised, Sayumi awakens the next stage of her power, interestingly enough starting by taking roll. With Hatoko missing, the club is not complete, so she uses Route of Origin, Ouroboros Circle to restore the club to wholeness, meaning Hatoko teleports back into the club room safe and sound.

Hatoko is woozy, but it’s not as if she forgot everything that happened. Still, she’s much like the Hatoko we’d known before that rant, which isn’t surprising since she’s the kind of person who suddenly blows up and then is all better again. Her frustration did boil over as a result of her feat that Jurai was being taken away from her.

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Tomoyo senses this and fesses up to having started writing light novels, and had been asking for Jurai’s advice. Not that that was all it was, but for the purposes of appeasing Hatoko and avoiding another incident like last week, she’s going to say that’s all it was!

Jurai also apologizes to Hatoko, who apologizes to Jurai, who apologizes back, etc., and voices his gratitiude for her always listening. As far as he’s concerned, she’s always ‘understood’ him, with ‘understanding’ in this case meaning more than just getting what his word salad means.

In any case, a lovely example is offered when Hatoko takes Jurai’s hand into hers and notes that it’s warm. Jurai has a very chuuni explanation for that warmth, but Hatoko corrects him/translates: it’s warm because he’s Ju-kun. Bawww.

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This episode started out in Bizarro-InoBato Land, in an entirely different time and place and people than the previous seven episodes, but gradually eased back into the show we knew. Of course, last week was also totally different in that it suddenly created what looked like a potentially very serious rift in the group and a new external threat.

Turns out the rift wasn’t that big of a deal and mostly repaired once everyone, you know, actually talked with one another openly and honestly. And while the ‘threat’ wasn’t quite that, Fallen Black’s actions led to Jurai and Hatoko making up.

All’s well that ends well, and this episode ends with the next stage of Jurai’s power awakening after exerting himself trying to open a bag of chips of all things. Sooo random.

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Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – 07

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Kaori loses her violin competition. Tsubaki loses her softball game. Even the chick-magnet-“nice jock” Ryouta loses his soccer game. None of the three are happy about it. After all, they gave it everything they had and still came up short. It wasn’t the first time they lost, and it won’t be the last. But, hey, it would be nice if someone in the quartet achieved victory, which the other three could relish vicariously. The only someone that can be at this point…is Kousei.

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Kousei isn’t certain that he can win. It doesn’t help that there’s a pushy cat with a familiar voice in his mind’s eye asking him deep questions like “Who are you?” and “Where are you?” and when Kousei doesn’t have an answer, is all like “See? You suck.” Still, Kousei studies the music and practices tirelessly, getting so immersed he skips meals and collapses in P.E.

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After being supplied with ample egg sandwiches by Tsubaki, Kousei is visited in the infirmary by Kaori. As they walk home, they come upon a stray black cat not unlike the one in his mind. For he once had a cat, Chelsea. One day the cat scratched his hand, He stood there in his mother’s shadow as she took Chelsea away and abandoned her, which was the pragmatic but hardly humane thing to do, for either the cat or Kousei.

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Kousei’s doubts about who he is and why anything matters is put to rest by Kaori, his dazzling sun, who tells him to relax; she knows who he is…he’s Arima Fucking Kousei. She also tosses out an apt quote from Charlie Brown of all people, then joins her delicate hand with his knobby pianist’s, and notes how she can feel just how much that hand is itching to play piano. That hand was frikkin’ born to play the piano…as was the boy it’s attached to. That’s who he is.

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Whoa there, Kaori. You don’t want to be telescoping your spine!

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The day of the competition arrives, and the four arrive at the fancy glass concert venue. Little does Kousei know he’s walking into an ambush: Aiza Takeshi (Kaji Yuki) and Igawa Emi (the excellent Hayami Saori) are there for blood, and we learn why as the episode gives us more of their story.

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For more than two years, Takeshi and Emi have worked to become better pianists, motivated, if you will, by Kousei. It isn’t quite right to call them rivals as Kousei wasn’t even aware of their existence at the time. A human metronome has no use for human relationships, after all. And even though Takeshi and Emi somewhat pitied Kousei, the fact remains they felt scorned and are now seeking revenge.

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As the other three settle into their seats, Kaori remarks about how Kousei’s fame is more of an infamy. Playing a piece exactly the way it was written is a skill to envy, but that was all Kousei did, and it was, to Kaori and many others, a dead end. Kousei had and has the skill to take the music further, but didn’t. Instead, he arrived at the competitions, beat the everloving stuffing out of everyone, and left without a word or a glance at the results. Why look at the results? There’s no way he’d ever not win!

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One look at Kousei from Emi, and Kousei’s somewhat guilty confession he doesn’t quite remember her or Aiza, convinces her that “he hasn’t changed a bit”, and she’s resolved to destroy him. But having been around him and witnessed his past and present suffering, we know he has changed. He’s not someone who’s sure to win, for one thing, but he’s also not someone to put in a soulless, non-resonant performance. Not after seeing Kaori play.

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Also, he seemed to be too far under his mother’s heel to worry about human emotions like fear, but now he has fear in spades and feels it, because everyone is scared to take that stage (or that diamond, or that pitch), and lose. Just like Takeshi, who wretches in the bathroom prior to his turn even though he won last year. Last year means nothing to him; he’ll prove he deserved to win last year by beating Kousei this year.

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I’ll be honest: the music I heard Kousei playing in the practice room probably isn’t going to cut it against the likes of Takeshi and Emi, and it seems a little early in this 22-episode run to give Kousei a legitimate win…but who knows? Maybe Kousei won’t embarrass himself! This episode ends on a freeze-frame of Takeshi about to hit the ivories; so…To Be Continued.

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Hatoko’s Rant

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“I don’t understand. I don’t understand! I don’t understand a single word you say, Ju-kun! I don’t understand what’s good about the things you call good! I don’t understand! I can’t understand! What’s so cool about “Bloody”? I don’t like blood. Bleeding just hurts! What’s so cool about “madness”? I don’t understand what’s good about being crazy! What do you mean by “sinful”? What’s so good about having sin? Is it cool being a criminal? And what’s with “chaos,” anyway? Chaos? What about it? What about “darkness”? You want it to be dark? Between justice and evil, why is evil better? Why do you prefer evil? Isn’t it evil because it’s wrong? What’s so cool about your right arm aching? “I love the feeling of being unable to control my power”? What’s that? That just makes you a fool! It’s much cooler when you have control! THAT’S worthy of respect! What’s so awesome about hiding your power all the time? That’s just slacking off! It’s much cooler to face things head-on, at full strength, without hiding anything! Why do you give everything nicknames and aliases? Having so many different names only makes them hard to keep up with! Don’t use English or Katakana for everything! I can’t remember those! Don’t write “elegy” and read it “requiem”! Don’t write “forbidden” and read it “taboo”! Don’t write “holy war” and read it “jihad”! Greek myth, the Bible, Norse myth, Japanese myth…Don’t start talking about them just because you did a little research! If you don’t properly explain it, I can’t understand what you mean! If you’re going to teach me, teach me right! Listening to explanations about mythological weapons is not fun! Gungnir, Longinus, Excalibur, Durandal, and Ama-no-Murakamo-no-Tsurugi all mean nothing to me! I don’t understand what’s cool about them! All your other terminology is confusing, too! Original Sin, Ten Commandments, Book of Genesis, Book of Revelations, Armageddon…What do you mean by “their names are cool”? It’s impossible for me to “feel it by their atmosphere”! Relativity, Schrodinger’s cat, universal gravitation…Don’t act like you understand them because you read a little on the net! I can’t understand them at all if you give half-baked explanations! Don’t quote Nietzsche or Goethe! When you start quoting people I don’t know, I can’t understand what you’re trying to say at all! Talk to me in your own words! I’m begging you, speak so I can understand you! What is “chuuni”? What does “chuuni” mean? I don’t understand, I don’t understand, I don’t understand, I don’t understand! I don’t understand! I don’t understand a single word you’ve ever said at all, Ju-kun!”

[storms out]

RABUJOI World Heritage List

Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – 07

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This week it’s Kushikawa Hatoko’s turn to be the focus, and her story is simple, and very sad: of all the girls in the lit club, she’s known Jurai the longest. As his childhood friend, she’s been by his side almost constantly. And yet, for all that closeness for all that time, she fears she understands “Ju-kun” the least.

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Now in high school and no longer kids, Hatoko is finding it harder to get her share of Ju-kun Time. She thinks she’s gotten just that, at least for a day,  when Jurai invites her to his house to cook for him and his sister. That’s right: despite her agreeing to cook for him, he won’t so much as walk home with her, so concerned is he about Tomoyo’s writer’s block. As he grows closer to Tomoyo, he drifts further from Hatoko…

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But as a couple of flashbacks indicate, as much as she’s been by Jurai’s side, she’s rarely been able to understand all the crazy things he says, or the weird literature he recommended. For years and years she laughed it off, pretending not to care about the lack of connection with him, but each time she did that she bottled up a little more stress.

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Jurai’s increasing attention to Tomoyo, combined with his own refusal to tell her what’s going on because “she wouldn’t understand”, increases that pressure to critical levels, and the sweet, kind, caring Hotoko simply…SNAPS, unleashing a free-wheeling three-minute-long tirade with no breaks about how she’s never understood a single thing he’s ever said to her, before storming out of his house in her slippers and apron, without her cell. I guess she just hit her limit.

Big kudos to her seiyu Hayami Saori for really belting it out; moreso, if she did it in a single take. This was a properly epic rant, and it was even a little meta, for those who may have been a little exhausted by this show’s intricate use of language.

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Jurai is…stunned. He had no idea Hatoko was anything other than nice and happy and stress-free, as bright and cheerful as the sun she cosplayed as a couple episodes back. He doesn’t even realize to the extent he’s ignored and devalued her lately, so immersed has he been with Tomoyo. A chance encounter with Sagami while he’s looking for her doesn’t help matters: he admits it’s always been tough for him and everyone else to watch him and Hatoko, so bad a fit they’ve always been.

Jurai gets depressed and falls down a hill, but Sayumi comes to heal him and help look for Hatoko, and Tomoyo comes too, giving him a slap in the face and telling Guiltia Sin Jurai to get it together, because she doesn’t like seeing him like this. She’s paying him back for helping her out of her light novel funk. I have to say, these two are coming along rather nicely.

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Speaking of chance encounters, Hatoko runs a very long way in those slippers and that apron, and comes upon Hajime of all people by the riverbank. She airs her troubles to him, and he gives her some very good advice, which calls back to his excellent discussion with Jurai about the inherent paradox of being a Chuunibyou. If you can’t understand it, don’t worry; you’re a necessary force in his life precisely for that reason, even if Jurai himself never thought of her that way.

Chuunibyous seek happiness like everyone else, and happiness is more than just love, but being chosen, which Hatoko wasn’t, which is why she’s so upset. But it’s only natural that she, the person who doesn’t understand him, would have an uphill battle against Tomoyo, the person who does.

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Sagami finishes up his lovely Chuuni explanation/pep talk by…oh yeah, knocking Hatoko out with some kind of superpower than calling all his conveniently close-by compatriots to gather round her.

Whoa. So…they all have powers too, right? You gotta hand it to this episode: it wasn’t satisfied with merely exploring Hatoko, but using the escalation of her drama as a catalyst to forward the overarching story, introducing a new force of people with powers…and unknown intentions.

Hatoko may not just need to be found and given a hug and an apology…she may need to be frigging rescued!

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Midweek Music: Mahouka OST: “Miyuki”

At the end of its first cour, I just couldn’t go on with Mahouka. It’s not that it was a terrible show, just a bad fit. But it did have some elements to it I liked quite a bit: one of them was Shiba Miyuki, who while often subservient to her dear brother, was always portrayed as a total badass with impeccable manners and frightening magical power, who could hold her own against practically anyone, her brother included. Hayami Saori was a great choice to voice her.

Another element I liked a lot was Iwasaki Taku’s soundtrack, which nails the “futuristic/magical high school” aesthetic. My favorite piece is “Miyuki”, which I believe we first hear when Miyuki visits Tatsuya in his room to show him her Mirage Bat uniform, then suddenly notices he’s floating above his seat, and proceeds to test out his new flying magic. It’s certainly not the most important scene from a plot perspective, but I consider it one of the best of that first cour, and the music that accompanies it is a huge reason why.

“Miyuki” is an ideal theme for Miyuki, as the overlapping female vocals represent her innate beauty, grace, elegance, and gentility, while the sick electronic beats symbolize her strong will and formidable magical power. In hindsight, it was probably Iwasaki’s soundtrack that kept me watching the show as long as I did. Like the OP and ED of DRAMAtical Murder, I simply enjoyed listening to the music.

Oreimo 2 – 12

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All of the girls in Kyousuke’s life attend his moving-in party and eventually start bickering over who is going to take care of him for the rest of the month he’s living on his own. Kirino breaks up the fight and makes the decision for him: Ayase. She does his cooking, cleaning and laundry. Ruri’s sister Hinata stops by and they must explain it’s not what it looks like. One night, Ayase apologizes for mistreating him for so long, knowing that he’s really a good, kind guy. Kyousuke passes his mock exams, and he moves out of the apartment. Ayase stops by once more to confess her love for him, but he rejects her, saying there’s someone else he loves. Ayase eventually accepts, and after a surprise parting kiss, departs.

We’ve always found Ayase a bit troublesome, due to the way she always insulted, mistreated, and physically abused Kyousuke, when we knew she was doing it out of frustration for not having the balls to tell him how she really feels. As a result, after her transformation from the generic sweet cute girl the first time we met her to the more complex, often unhinged, potentially dangerous cute girl, she grew a bit one-note, though Hayami Saori’s velvety voice  was always a pleasure to listen to. Handcuffs, drop-kick, unreasonable accusations of sexual harassment. This Ayase could do well to visit Academy Citythat’s where she’ll find some real harassment (seriously, what is with the roving gangs of would-be rapists? Sorry, wrong show.)

But hey, guess what? After this episode, we like her a hell of a lot more, because she finally did find the courage to say the things she needed to say. There was never anything unreasonable about her fearing rejection, but she took it too far and lashed out at Kyousuke mercilessly, repaying his honey with vinegar every time. No more. She tells him the truth: she loves him, a lot, and wants him to be hers. We both love and hate that Kyousuke is so direct with her; “No”, “Sorry”, “I love someone else”, “I’ve made my decision”...after Ayase’s tearful confession, it’s hard to watch these daggers fly at her one by one, but then, just when you think she’s going to give him one last drop kick, she kisses him. This episode is almost enough for us to wish we hadn’t gotten so invested with just Kyoususke and Kuroneko. Almost.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Wow, that party was some kind of harem nightmare! Even Saori entered the fray. Kyousuke, like us, are like “What? you too? Arrgh!”
  • Amazingly, it’s Kirino who breaks everything up, having not participated in trying to tear limbs from Kyousuke. Their exchanges this week are markedly cordial.
  • So every Japanese kid requires his own apartment and servant to pass a mock exam? Those must be some tough exams.
  • Ruri’s little sister Hinata – what is she, ten, max? – and she’s presumably taken a train (or trains) to Kyousuke’s apartment at night, by herself? What kind of society is this?!

 

 

RDG: Red Data Girl – 01

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One morning, the shy, passive Suzuhara Izumiko decides to cut her bangs. At school, it gets mixed reviews, and when her class must gather info on the net using computers, she ends up using them as a conduit to video-chat with her father in America, then disables power to the whole school with her mind. A helicopter lands and Izumiko is taken away by Sagara, who turns out to be a mountain monk charged with protecting her. She learns that she is the “Himegami”. Sagara orders “reinforcements” in the person of his son Miyuki, who isn’t keen on hanging out with the dull Izumiko.

This episode starts off establishing the beautiful environs of a village in the Kumano mountains. We found out this was directed by Shinohara Toshiya, who also helmed The Book of Bantorra, but while that series was awesome, it was a bit lacking in production values; not so here. Like Tari Tari and the excellent Another, this series not only looks, but sounds and feels fantastic. Despite all the natural beauty, there’s a deep melancholy about the beautiful but unpopular Izumiko (appropriately voiced by Hayami Saori), which stems partially from her never having made a decision for herself. If her life is like the river in her village, she’s never once paddled against the current…until she decides to cut her hair and makes a stand about where she wants to go to high school.

What’s also engrossing about this series so far is that it doesn’t come out and explain exactly what makes her so special. We see an awesome sequence where she finds herself underwater in the computer lab, and then she knocks out the power in said lab when she snaps out of it, and we hear a lot from Sagara, but not too much. Like Izumiko herself, we’re still mostly in the dark about who the Himegami is and why she must be isolated and protected. But we certainly feel her pain. Sure, she has nice friends who defend her from bullying, but they don’t even have her phone number, and she doesn’t even have a phone. She wants to take control of her life, but isn’t sure how. Her dubious “manservant” Miyuki doesn’t have high hopes for her, but who knows: she may just surprise him, herself, and a lot of others when all’s said and done.


Rating: 8 (Great)

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