Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san – 09

You’d hope Nishikata getting a cell phone would be a chance for him to grow up a little, but he only sees it as the trump card in his futile quest to successfully tease Takagi.

Perhaps he grew up a bit in spite of his intentions, since it doesn’t take long for him to cave and spout his whole plan to Takagi, who saw it coming from miles away. In any case, Takagi wants his contact info anyway, so they exchange it, and she promises to use it.

For calling him out on his attempted tease, Takagi appeals to Nishikata’s general honor by telling him he should make it up to her by helping her with classroom day duty; Nishikata does not resist. He’s tired because he couldn’t sleep after watching a scary video on his phone.

When he sends it to Takagi, she first teases him by showing him a picture of a woman in a bikini, asking if that’s what he sent, then watches the video, only to not be that scared at all because it’s not nighttime (and because let’s face it, it’s a dumb video).

That night, at the same time Nishikata is about to send her another scary video, she calls him to head it off, again correctly predicting his behavior (though that isn’t that hard at this point).

What results is what she wanted all along: to simply talk on the phone with Nishikata, for the first time at night, even saying it makes her heart flutter. Because of that, Nishikata can’t sleep a second straight night, though for a totally different reason!

Nishikata’s efforts to take a phone photo that will beat his friends’ lead him to beg Takagi to do her patented funny face so he can snap it; Takagi’s cost is high: he’ll have to do “whatever she says.” When she finally does the face, Nishikata isn’t ready. Then Takagi pulls out a toy snake and snaps three pictures of his reactions.

While she’s laughing at those pics she’s so happy to have taken, Nishikata tries to take her picture, but she snaps immediately into a normal peace-sign pose. Nishikata proposes they each delete the photos of one another, but Takagi refuses, and tells him not to delete her picture off his phone, though also asks him not to show it to anyone else, as it’s “embarrassing.”

While he may have thought he’d have a new weapon to even the odds in his cell phone, the truth is Takagi is far more adept in its use. It’s a tool, after all; it’s all about the talent of the person wielding it. So he’s merely given her another avenue to “tease” him, though it’s mainly a means for them to get a little closer.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san – 08

This episode is bookended by instances of Takagi making physical contact with Nishikata and Nishikata having to deal with it. He seems to be mostly fine with her holding onto him while they bike, but it was a long, tough road, and his ribs are ticklish.

Now that they’ve mastered the skill, Takagi says they won’t have to practice anymore, and gets Nishikata to say he’s both relieved and bummed out (though in truth its probably mostly the latter).

The second term starts in a typhoon, and Nishikata stands in the wind and spouts giddy shonen lines like a chuuni. Naturally Takagi spots him doing this, and gives him a chance to win her silence. He fails, yet again because he dismissed his first, correct guess as to why she didn’t have her bike.

The marathon segment is an apparent test of wills, as the two have stakes on winning – having to do what the other says, as usual. When Nishikata’s classmates ask if he’s going out with Takagi, his reaction is Pure Girl-from-100%UL.

He’s also been training extensively in order to be good at long distance, and initially employs a “mind emptying” running mentality, but emptying his mind only makes it easier for him to fill that space up with Takagi.

He gets trapped in a mind game in which he tries to run far enough ahead to spook Takagi, only for her to pull the very same trick on him, only successfully. And again, she gave him an honest chance for him to win (he merely had to touch her) which he simply did not take.

On another trip to/from school, the touching theme continues, with Takagi taking the initiative (of course) by starting a habit of poking Nishikata in the ribs, with the very clear implication that he is welcome to poke her back.

When he doesn’t, she beats him in another match (making a funny face to make him laugh), and rather than forbid him from eating rice or reading 100%UL, she has a simple punishment: all he has to do is poke her ribs.

He gives one half-hearted tap against Takagi’s side after much hemming and hawing, and Takagi reveals that while she’s not ticklish in the ribs, she is ticklish in the armpits. Again, Nishikata is welcome to test her claim, but he’s too embarrassed.

Summer may have given Takagi a few new opportunities to tease Nishikata, but it also brought the two much closer together. We’ll see what the new term will bring.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san – 07

Nishikata may not be able to fully appreciate it because of all the stress he assigns to his interactions with Takagi, but he’s having the best summer vacation of his life. And he’s simply not being honest with himself if he privately enjoys manga like 100% Unrequited Love but can’t see the requited love right in front of his face. When Takagi leaves her mom’s side at the mall to buy a bathing suit, her first thought is what kind would Nishikata like?

She doesn’t have to see Nishikata buy the latest volume of 100%, since he’s already established he’s a fan of it. She plows through all of his lame obfuscating and happily takes the bet that what she believes he bought is what he actually bought. Not sure what he was going for with his futile bluff; he should know by now he simply can’t fool Takagi. He’s “punished” by being “forced” to pick out a swimsuit with her.

Now I get it; Nishikata’s right in that awkward phase between thinking girls have cooties and actually liking them. Those conflicting feelings are constantly swirling chaotically, while Takagi is an island of tranquility. He can’t hide his embarrassment at the situation, but she lets him call it “being hot”—as long as he helps her pick out a bathing suit she looks good in.

Nishikata is simultaneously thrilled at the prospect that Takagi is a mere few feet away from him removing her clothes, but also terrified of being seen, worried about what his classmates might think. Well, two of his classmates actually do appear, but they’re a couple, and they’re there for the exact same reason he and Takagi are there.

Finally, Takagi takes advantage of Nishikata’s automatic “yeahs” in response to the suits she shows him by slipping in a swimming date proposal, knowing once he says “yeah”, he won’t go back on that “yeah,” because going swimming with her is hardly the end of the world.

After the girl trio heads to the beach, we’re back with Nishikata and Takagi, and the latter proposes they do some of their summer homework together. The most logical place to do it turns out to be Nishikata’s house, and suddenly, like some kind of surreal dream, Takagi is in his house, in his room, and doing homework on his bed.

While watching the lovely Takagi right beside him writing lovely kanji, Nishikata makes a mistake in his book and reaches for the eraser…at the same time she does. Their hands touch and linger.

He’s reminded of an identical scene in 100% where the guy doesn’t let go and draws the girl in for a kiss…but he’s currently incapable of doing such a thing, preferring to live through the guy vicariously…despite the fact he’s far more similar to the girl in that manga than the guy!

In any case, while Takagi’s visit is stressful as all interactions with her are, he doesn’t not enjoy himself, and when she leaves for the day, saying she’ll be back soon, he decides it’s only proper to clean his room for that future occasion. Maybe, just maybe, Nishikata is getting into the swing of things.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san – 06

It’s Summer Vacation, which means, presumably, that Nishikata won’t have to deal with Takagi’s teasing. But one can never presume when it comes to young love, as Takagi and Nishikata end up spending a lot of time together despite not being beholden to it by school schedules.

When Takagi proposes the two of them practice tandem riding during the summer, Takagi might bristle, but he doesn’t refuse. After all, while he’d probably never admit it he enjoys her company, and not just for the challenge of trying to best her.

Because Nishikata can’t pull off the tandem riding on the first day, he owes Takagi a juice, but can’t afford one of his own. Takagi first offers a sip from her can, which would be an indirect kiss, but then buys him a juice with her own change, because more than wanting to tease him, she wants him to be hydrated.

After a rainy day during which only the class president does her homework, Nishikata is late for his “appointment” with Takagi, and when she arrives, she’s in such a cute summer outfit he hardly recognizes her, so used he is to seeing her in her sailor fuku.

But there are too many puddles in their practice lot, so Takagi proposes they hang out anyway by doing a test of courage in a nearby “haunted” tunnel. Predictably, Nishikata falls for a number of pranks Takagi all too easily executes, capitalizing on the fact he’s scared even though he insists he isn’t.

Once they emerge on the other end, two young siblings passing by spot them and the sister deduces Nishikata and Takagi are another couple having a date. Which, sorry Nishikata, you kinda are. Sucks to be you! Oh wait, no it doesn’t.

The next day Nishikata doesn’t expect to see Takagi, who is on a family vacation. But when he spots her in the road (in another adorable outfit) he attempts to follow and surprise her, only for her to spot him first and devise a countermeasure.

She succeeds in scaring him, but more importantly, she wants to know what he’s up to, and since they’re both going shopping, she makes it another “date.” However, she did not expect a cicada to be under her hat, and almost falls backwards; Nishikata tries reflexively to catch her, but trips and falls himself, skinning his knee, while Takagi managed to regain her balance.

The caring Takagi comes out once more, insisting Nishikata wash the wound at a water tap. She gives him her personalized handkerchief to tie around his knee (thereby literally marking him as hers), then slips off her sandals and soaks her feet in the tap, inviting Nishikata to join her.

Nishikata had been having the “worst summer vacation day”, but Takagi counters his assertion by saying she’s having a good one because she got to see “a certain someone.” Lady, just tell him you got to see him. Either that, or fall for someone less dense!

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.

Hibike! Euphonium 2 – 09

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Kumiko isn’t able to wallow in helplessness over solving her family’s problems for long: her band-mates have a new project for her! Why are Natsuki, Nozomi, Mizore and Kaori all going to her? Why else: Kumiko has proven to have a knack for stealthily helping people with their issues. She can act as coy as she likes: the results of her work are clear for all to see, and this week she’s celebrated for it whether she likes it or not.

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“You’ve always done well.” “There’s something about you.” “You see through people.” “You act like you don’t notice things, but you do…and when it matters most, you always have the right words.” All meant as praise, all of it well-earned. There’s no pretending she isn’t something she is. Kumiko facilitates. She connects. She breaks through to the heart of matters, often forcefully if need be. And she inspires the likes of Reina to want to just as forcefully “peel off” her mask.

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Reina has a lot of choice moments this week, not only when she’s so lovingly and earnestly describing Kumiko, to getting adorably flustered when Taki-sensei rises and shines before her eyes. But she also sees the photo on Taki’s desk, of him with another woman. As talkative as Reina was with Kumiko before seeing that photo, the silence on the train ride home afterwards is deafening.

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Kumiko can’t help Reina on this right now, she’s faced with her toughest challenge yet: Tanaka Asuka. Fortunately for her, Asuka wants to talk, perhaps because she too has witnessed what Kumiko can do. The close-ups of Asuka when Kaori ties her shoe then walks off are downright scary, while the tension in the early parts of Kumiko’s visit to her home is palpable.

But when it comes down to it, Kumiko isn’t there to be tutored, and Asuka isn’t there to tutor her. Instead, Asuka finally opens up to Kumiko, telling her how Masakazu Shindo “was” her father before he and her mom divorced when she was two. She tells her how her determination to make the nationals was borne out of a “selfish” desire to get her father to hear her play. How she hates her mother, but can’t do anything about it.

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It’s here where we see Kumiko, who had entered this mission utterly lacking any semblance of confidence or certainty, goes into, well, shall we say “Euphonium Mode”? She sees through Asuka’s misdirection. She notices her feints and her subtle leadings. And she even has the right words to say at the right time…not because she knows what to say in this situation, but because it’s what she truly believes.

We know from her inner monologue, she wants to hear Asuka play. And so Asuka plays us out, during the end credits. And Kumiko demonstrates another ability we know she’s getting pretty good at: bringing out genuine smiles. The fight to get Asuka back is far from over, but it’s off to a promising start.

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Divine Gate – 03

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As Arthur summons Oz (that’s right: the Wizard of Oz…oh my) along with Loki, not necessarily for their aid but to at least bear witness to the impending discovery of the Divine Gate, the show takes a closer look at the cheerful, energetic Midori, who not surprisingly is dealing with demons just like Aoto, which affects her focus and performance in a sparring exercise, and may prove more of a crippling liability as the quest to find the gate heats up.

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We haven’t even been formally introduced to three of the six kids in the core group, but as Akane talks with them, one makes clear that Midori’s intense belief in the Gate, or something related to it, could be hampering her development, like an anchor holding back a boat (not the most flattering metaphor, I’ll admit).

As Aoto is initiated into the academy, he still declines warm food and has trouble putting into words why exactly he’s there (as opposed to how he came to be there). But it’s a brief outburst by Midori about “being number one” that shifts Akane’s attention to her later.

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Midori decides to open up Akane, telling him about her friendship with Elena, someone who only wanted one friend: her. When Midori, a far more outgoing girl, inevitably made other friends at school, it poisoned the bond between them, culminating in an ultimatum from Elena that Midori simply could not accept. This was a decent, no-nonsense execution of the Obsessive Friend theme.

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Midori fails to make up with Elena, who rather than attend the summer festival as they always do, heads off to find the Divine Gate on her own. Once Midori hears of a girl disappearing in the mountains, she rushes to a police-filled scene, and actually sees the massive gate looming over the mountain.

Ever since that strange, vivid experience, Midori has not only believed in the gate, but believed Elena was already there, waiting for her. She wants Elena to still be alive, but she also wants to repair the bond she broke by rejecting her ultimatum (which wasn’t an unreasonable move, but obviously came at a stiff price).

Aoto hears a little of the story, and it probably shows him that he’s not the only one with issues, but unlike her, he’s also got a little boy in his head telling him how messed up he is all the time. Akane and Midori can see him talking to someone they can’t see, and it worries Midori.

She does some digging online (on a computer with a keyboard that seems way too loud and disruptive for a library), but as soon as she accesses Aoto’s files, a red “Restricted Access” wall goes up, stopping her in her tracks and making her and Akane wonder what the heck Aoto did, or what was done to him.

Another episode that efficiently fleshes out one more character, Midori, without solving all her problems, but making us understand her better. I imagine the show will eventually do this with Akane and the other three prominent kids in the group, parallel to Arthur and the Round Table’s more abstract machinations.

However, I won’t be around to see it, because the mystery of the gate just isn’t doing anything for me, and there’s no indication the revelations (if they ever come, as we’re likely to be strung along for some time beforehand) will be any less half-baked than the characterization of iconic characters like Loki and Oz. So I’m making a discreet exit now; no hard feelings.

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Divine Gate – 02

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Divine Gate’s second episode delves further into both Aoto and Akane’s troubled (if very different) pasts, and there’s some okay character work going on as Aoto discovers a way to start moving forward.

But it paints with awfully broad and familiar strokes, and my initial enthusiasm about Divine Gate being an absorbing if imperfect diversion took a big hit when I was introduced to Loki, another very loaded character name.

The idea of a character who’s neither entirely good nor evil is good in theory, but the execution falls short, thanks to his really dumb clown/jester design.  I don’t particularly want this joker pulling the strings. Also, a name like Loki has inescapable baggage attached to it. Like King Arthur or Leonardo da Vinci, if you’re going to use a name, you’d better do something interesting with it.

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Meanwhile, the refreshingly normally-dressed Akane and Midori visit Aoto again, they see he takes care of alley cats, but not all the time, only “when he feels like it”, something Akane thinks is worst than not feeding them at all. But when the hungry creature in need shifts from cats to a little boy, Akane himself can’t help but help, even if he can’t always be there to do so.

When Loki makes a police robot go berserk and the kid ends up in mortal peril, and the father is too terrified and injured to save him, Aoto has to make a choice; like the one he made on the train last week.

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He chooses to help Akane and Midori, who destroy the robot while he extinguishes the fire. While the saved boy initially hesitates going to his inept father, and Akane curses the dad for doing nothing, Aoto can relate to consciously wanting to do something—like move forward—but being hampered by a subconscious that’s not in sync. The father’s fear overpowered his conscious desire to save his boy.

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I know all this because a little boy with white hair and red eyes in Aoto’s subconscious tells him and us, which is a bit clunky, truth be told, like the clowny Loki, the very sight of whom irritates me. But he apparently staged the whole crisis to shake Aoto off the shelf, and he succeeded.

Aoto goes back to the night his parents were murdered, and we learn it was his brother, the favorite son, who actually did it. When Aoto takes his hand, he briefly sees the Divine Gate, but his subconscious delivers a shock of pain to his brother, who separates their hands and walks off, never to be seen again.

So Aoto isn’t the parent-killer. Yet I felt that absolving him so easily was an overly safe choice that sapped his character of darkness and complexity. Being messed up because you killed your parents, and being messed up because your brother did, are two different things.

But it’s because his brother is still out there, and he wants to see him again, that Aoto joins the academy. Also, because Akane and Midori were “annoying”.

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