Renai Boukun – 09

Not long after the ordeal with Akane and Yuzu’s mothers, Akane and Guri are still going at it, with Guri pushing Akane’s buttons and Akane never failing to fall for the goading. Making matters worse, the mothers have charged Shikimi with monitoring Akane and Seiji, so she transfers to their school, just in time for the cultural festival. Holy anime cliches, Batman!

The love polygon Guri originally wrought continues to cause problems for Yuzu, who has always conditioned herself to love Akane and only Akane but clearly has feelings for Seiji as well; she just doesn’t know how/isn’t ready to deal with them. When opportunity knocks, she kisses Seiji in hopes of confirming she feels nothing, but can’t stop her heart from racing.

The class casts Akane and Guri as love rivals…for the heart of the “princess” played by Shikimi (Seiji plays a tree…which is actually very Seiji). The play is an absolute farce, descending into relationship drama between Akane, Guri, and Yuzu, but with Akane trying to be on her best behavior, since Seiji promised he’d kiss her if she got along with Guri.

At the end of the play, Akane has assured Yuzu that it’s okay to have feelings for others, though doesn’t linger on the fact that her sister’s object of affection is Seiji. Seeing Yuzu give an “I detest you but don’t hate you” spech to Seiji while Seiji is still a tree is a pleasant enough visual gag.

The manic energy is present throughout the episode, but my interest in the multi-sided love polygon, and all the “serious vibes” that come with it, is starting to flag, as it dulls the zany comedy that brought me to the show. Guri’s dilemma in particular, and Shikimi’s attempts to drive a wedge between the girls, just isn’t my thing. Still, with just three episodes left, I’ll power through.

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Renai Boukun – 08

Yuzu and Guri mount a daring rescue of Akane (armed with cosplay and retro dramatic music), only to find she doesn’t want to be rescued… naturally. The story is very standard issue, and on paper sounds like dozens of such rescue episodes. What makes Renai Boukun’s take on it fresh and watchable (if not outstanding) is its commitment to inserting punchy, often self-referential comedy wherever it can.

As the subtitle above demonstrates, Renai Boukun will often go to the trouble of pointing out the cliches it’s using, because characters like Guri are themselves knowledgable students of anime like the one they’re in. Guri’s status as a cupid, with her “love detection” ability, easily cuts through the stoic masks both Akane and her mother are wearing.

Akane’s mom may not ever break her stern, Vulcan calm, but when Akane herself has her blade pressed to Seiji’s neck, and he tells her he’d never be able to hate her no matter what, her eye highlights come back, and then some: shimmer, tears; the lot!

Renai is also shameless in its portrayal of Akane and Yuzu’s moms as aged-up versions of their daughters: they loved the same man, bearing the girls who now both love Seiji. Akane’s mom left her dad when her family calling beckoned, but she has to deal with the fact her daughter might not go down that very same path.

The moms are also even more powerful than their daughters, and their unhinged battle on the roof of Akane’s house surprises Seiji, even though at this point he’s used to getting stabbed (but likes the pain from Akane’s stabbing more than Shikimi’s).

As expected, by the end of the episode everything is back to the way it was, relationship-wise, only now Akane has the implicit approval to “do as she likes”, which is to keep loving Seiji. Seiji also feels closer to her now that he knows the whole truth about Akane and Yuzu’s family.

Akua got to fight some goons in suits. Coraly got to scare Akua shitless. Shikimi got to stab Seiji a bunch. Everybody’s happy! Well, until the very end, when Guri sees how close Seiji and Akane have grown, and no doubt ponders what, if anything, she can do to get Seiji to look at her the way he looks at Akane.

Renai Boukun – 07

After establishing its kooky cast, Love Tyrant has proceeded to explore more and more serious dramatic stuff with the trappings of a quirky comedy. Guri first attempts to test out Akane’s “heartache” theory about love by stabbing herself with one of Akane’s kukris.

But after her desire to go to the festival is rebuffed by Seiji, who already has plans with Akane, she goes off on her own and is approached by The Perfect Guy, who is kind, patient, and respects her interests—the opposite of Seiji, leading her to question whether Seiji’s even worth her time.

A lovely festival date with Mystery Guy leads to a romantic setting in which he leans in for the kiss, only to have his eyes shoved into his brain by Guri; a reflex, she says contritely. Nice Guy is nice, but isn’t Seiji, and kissing him feels wrong.

So when she happens to bump into Seiji, who came to festival as per her original wishes anyway, she kisses him, it feels right, and she proclaims that while Seiji may have his issues—not handsome, stubborn, quick to anger, boring, insensitive—but she doesn’t hate him after all.

It’s good to see Guri and the show point out Seiji’s flaws, but also demonstrate how love is more than an equation of pros and cons. As for Perfect Guy, he was under a spell from Maou as part of his larger plan to recruit Guri, which, sure, fine.

Someone else who loves Seiji deeply in spite of his flaws is Akane, but unlike the cupid Guri, she’s supposed to have no need for love. In fact, giving her heart to Seiji is a serious crime against her family, and her mother Suo soon has her captured and bound, and gives her an ultimatum: break up with Seiji, or else.

What ‘or else’ means, precisely, I don’t know, as Akane is technically immortal. As is Seiji, as demonstrated when a group of thugs try to kill him in broad daylight in the park. He’s rescued by his tough little sister Akua, who is then totally freaked out by Coraly, because who wouldn’t be?

(I for one actually have a soft spot for Coraly because my roommate’s cat looks just like him…without the human face of course.)

Shikimi arrives to tell Seiji and Akua what Suo has done with Akane.  In solitary confinement, Akane remembers not giving a hoot about anyone’s feelings and keeping her heart to herself, as her mother wanted. Until she met Seiji by chance in an alley, and for some reason when he says she’s kind, it resonates, and whether she liked it or not, she fell for him right then and there.

Though it definitely weighs down what had been a lightweight rom-com, I appreciate the show elaborating on Akane’s feelings and showing their origins and how she must choose between love and family. I also like Seiji (and Akua!) teaming up with Shikimi to rescue Akane (even though Shikimi is clearly up to something).

Meanwhile Guri and Yuzu don’t have much time together in the second half but they make the most of it, first with Yuzu’s takedown of the cat maid cafe Guri brought them to, then in planning a sleepover, then ditching that plan to join the fight to save Akane.

Kiznaiver – 12 (Fin)

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Nori has gone over the deep end, driven by the convictions she’s been developing since the Kizuna System was begun. It’s a flawed philosophy that everyone will be hunky-dory if only they shared each others pain, with her specifically.

She’s not going to stop, so it’s up to Katsuhira to stop her by setting the record straight about just what friendship and love are and what causes them (hint: not the Kizuna System). Nico leads the rest of the Kiznaivers in backing up Katsuhira.

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What seemed to be a far larger-scale operation, with the power going out, the bridge retracting, a random explosion, and Nori’s plan to connect everyone, turns out to be a lot smaller in the end: Nori on top of the bridge, Katsuhira climbing up to meet her, and a long and emotionally pitched conversation about why she’s wrong and should let go of the pain.

Whenever Nori counters one of Kacchon’s arguments, either Kacchon or one of his friends has the answer. The Kizuna System didn’t make them friends, or make Kacchon fall in love with Nori; it was merely a facilitation; a nudge in the direction of one another.

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After that, even after they were disconnected, the Kiznaivers cared about each other, what they thought, and even if they didn’t quite understand immediately, sought to understand, even if it caused them emotional pain. Nori doesn’t need Kizuna, and she never did; she just had to learn what it was to truly be friends with someone, something she never had the opportunity to do.

Because she was alone before Kizuna and not alone after, she made the corrolation that Kizuna could cure all the ails of the world. But it’s not that simple. Honoka puts it best: it’s not a constant connection, but a constant cycle of distancing out of frustration and coming together due to new epiphanies about one another. The former Kiznaivers aren’t friends in spite of no longer sharing each other’s physical pain, but because of it.

Once Kacchon reaches Nori, headbutts her (accidentally or not), and they go into the drink, the resulting plunge is a kind of new revelation for Nori. Now, at last, she can start letting go of everyone else’s pain, knowing they won’t disappear.

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Indeed, post pain release, her painless friends start to gradually “wake up” from their catatonia. Thankfully, the episode does not go into excruciating detail abotu the exact mechanism whereby Nori makes all this possible, but suffice it to say she’s on the right track now.

Just as gradual but steady will be the other Kiznaivers and how they interact with one another. Honoka seems willing to give Yuta a try (or at least tease him about it), Chodori has to admit she’s been thinking about Tenga a lot lately (to his delight), and Nico is willing to play the long game against Chidori for Tenga’s heart, cheered on by Hisomu (who likes the sound of that potential fistfight).

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As for Nori, she didn’t get as messed up by the fall off the bridge as Kacchon, but there’s no doubt it was a transformative experience, asking Kacchon what he’s thinking (because she doesn’t know), smiling, and possibly even preparing to lean in for a kiss—until the rest of the gang bursts in.

PDA aside, that gang seems willing to bring Nori into their circle, and it’s Honoka of all people to recover the photo booth photos they took together. Nori notes the add-on special effects that make them look more cartoonish; one could say the same of her now-discontinued Kizuna System and its army of Gomorin.

While such embellishments, be it to social experiments or photos, can be fun, there’s nothing like the genuine article. Genuine faces, genuine emotions, genuine friendships, and genuine love. Nori has gained far more than she lost.

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Kiznaiver – 11

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Noriko and Agata are two individuals whose lives have been dominated by close contact with one another. Agata had seemingly forgotten how much contact until he connected the girl in his dreams to Nori, while Nori herself clearly remembers everything, and how the only one she really needed seemed to be Agata. They were an inseparable pair, until they weren’t. Now, with one episode left they find themselves on potentially opposing ends of the game board.

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Hardly anything in his recent life has ever affected Agata as strongly as seeing his doll-ified friends. But it got him thinking, and he thinks a lot throughout the episode, something he hadn’t done much of before because he was too busy not having emotions and going with the flow.

Now he thinks he understands a little more how Chidori saw him, and why she always protected and defended him, and how much pain he caused her by being the way he was. He calls to thank her and apologize, which Chidori sees as a furtherance of his wider rejection of her.

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The mayor is telling (not asking) Yamada and Urushii that Kizuna is kaput, but wants them to soften the blow of the news. Of course, we know Noriko will not accept any news of that nature: The Kizuna System has been, is, and will continue to be her life. Taking Kizuna is like taking that life away.

The two researchers, able to look back and realize their overeagerness to achieve results for a world that needed them desperately, acknowledge the collateral damage done to Nori as a result, and Yamada is determined to make up for that by granting all of her wishes. Urushii seems to agree. Without knowing it, they’ve become more than minders or underlings to Nori; they’re her friends too.

That realization seems to come to the former Kiznaivers as well—that they’ve been friends for some time now, without knowing it. It’s the reason they were able to get through all their trials so easily, and it’s why even though their pain is no longer connected artificially by Kizuna, they still feel pain in their collective hearts when Agata bears his to them on the rooftop.

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That being said, they’re still incredulous, but when Urushii confirms they’re no longer connected, it’s hard to remain in denial: they have empathy for one another. Kizuna simply gave them the nudge in the right direction. Now these people who believed they could never have proper friends have friends.

But that’s not nearly enough for Noriko. After all, the world is full of conflict and rancor, all because people technically bear the pain in their hearts alone. Six people having the same emotions at once isn’t the same as being literally connected, via Kizuna.

Sensing the end of Kizuna is nigh without action, she gives an address to the entire town, announcing her intention to connect all of them, government and corporate interests be damned. This seems selfish on her part, and even paints her in the light of an antagonist, ready to impose her will on the masses.

But she is nothing more or less than what the system made her, and she’s not ready to give up on her ideal of a perfect happy future…whether anyone else wants it or not.

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Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun – 07

Disheartened by Shizuku’s apparent rejection of him, Haru is encouraged not to give up by Oshima and Natsume. School Culture Festival preparations begin, and Haru gives Shizuku tickets. More distant from him, Shizuku’s exam rankings rise. She tells herself she’s doing the right thing. But when Haru bumps into her at night, vows to change her mind, and almost kisses her (stopping himself after remembering Natsume’s advice) all the feelings come roaring back to her.

These past two weeks Shizuku has voiced her intention to purge elements unnecessary to her, which she tries to convince herself is a group that includes Haru. But he isn’t taking no for an answer, even when she says no outright (as in there’s no chance of her falling for him again). Shizuku’s suffering that classic case of Mind vs. Heart, in which the two do not see eye to eye.She’s learns the hard way that “purging” feelings for someone isn’t the same as “burying” them. She’s simply done the latter, and Haru doesn’t need to do much digging to bring them back up. He’s driven by his departed aunt/guardian’s words that humans will wither if left alone, and her belief he’ll one day find someone “whose presence is strong enough to soothe his pain”.

Right now Haru thinks that someone is Shizuku (Oshima doesn’t register to him as anything other than a friendly acquaintance, much to Oshima’s frustration). Yamaken tells Shizuku her relentless pursuit of grades above all else is a “boring way to live”, and she can’t deny that, because her heart is telling her the same thing as her mind is trying desperately to keeping her on a path of monastic study. The second half of this series will continue to explore that inner conflict, but we have no clue which part of Shizuku will ultimately win out. Haru will be on Team Heart; he’s listening to his, which is telling him Shizuku is the one…even if she says otherwise.


Rating: 8 (Great)

 

Sakamichi no Apollon – 05

When Ritsuko turns Kaoru down (because there’s someone else she’s in love with), not even the arrival of his dad can cheer him up. Vowing never to return to the music store, Sentaro sneaks in his room to snap him out of it. Kaoru’s father gives him the address of his mother in Tokyo, and Kaoru decides to take a trip to get over his heartache; Sentaro tags along. After getting drunk with some of Jun’s neighbors, he finally reunites with his mother, who isn’t what he expected, but is kind and helps him get over his lovelornness. Back in Kyushu, Kaoru returns to the music store to practice, and is friendly to Ritsuko, to her relief.

If you’ve never been rejected, the events of this episode may not move you all that much, but with both rejectors and rejectees among us, we can attest that it’s not usually fun for either party. When dealing with a friendship you may have damaged with one-sided romantic feelings, it can feel worse, because it means you’re out a good friend, which Ritsuko most certainly is (she even makes him lunch for his train ride!). What Kaoru needs is to take a brief break from his bleak world. What better way to escape than to visit one of the biggest cities in the world?

We can also attest that Tokyo is a place that can make you feel like a million bucks, and, depending on your feelings about big cities, will either make you feel like you’re merely a hopeless ant in a maze, or a part of something great and amazing. It’s important to have a place to go and a reason to be there, even if that reason is just wandering around, but Kaoru found what he needed: A.), shochu, and B.) the comfort of an estranged but still loving mother, who reminds him he’s in his heydey of youth, far too young to give up on happines. So he doesn’t. He moves forward.


Rating: 8 (Great)