Komi Can’t Communicate – 06 – First Strike

This week Komi’s Got Jokes! Unfortunately, they’re dad jokes, delivered by writing them down on paper. Scurrying away to call Tadano and sheepishly recite such jokes doesn’t improve matters. But what she lacks in comedic ability she makes up for in pure adorability. I’m surprised Tadano couldn’t at least…humor her!

The next segment is Komi’s very first shopping trip with friends, as well as the first time buying her own clothes (something usually left to her mom). Najimi makes it a competition—possibly just so they can see Komi in a cheongsam—but the one who wins with all “10” scores is Tadano, who chooses a simple light summer dress and cute sandals. Despite having never picked out clothes for a girl, he knows what suits Komi best.

Following her new threads, Komi works up the courage to go to the salon to get a haircut. The salon’s newest employee Arai almost  but is understandably in awe of both Komi and her boss Karisu’s beauty. It isn’t until Komi has Arai keep the change as a tip and points at the word “thank you” in a magazine that Arai understands Komi didn’t dislike her at all, but simply doesn’t like chatting at the salon.

Exams are almost here, which means it’s time to hit the library and study. Agari warns Tadano, Najimi, and Komi that if the burly quietude monitor Gorimi-senpai hits any of them with a paper fan three times, they’re ejected from the library. Najimi is obviously the first to be tossed; their third strike coming when the trio’s Jenga tower collapses. Even so, Komi is happy to have played another game and received her “first strike”—as is Tadano.

Finally, with exams out of the way it’s time for summer break. We see Komi bored and desperately wanting to call Tadano to hang out, but just can’t hit the “Call” button, and when she finally works up the courage to do so, quickly panics and hits “End Call” as soon as he answers.

Tadano, by the way, is equally hesitant to call Komi even though he perfectly diagnoses her situation. Fortunately Najimi cleans everything up by arranging for the three to hang out, and both Komi and Tadano are elated to be scoring some summer time together. Maybe she’ll don the outfit he chose for her!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Komi Can’t Communicate – 05 – Ramen, Chuunibyou and Other Inclusions

Summer uniforms are here, and so are fitness tests. After her “tie” last time, Yadano is eager to defeat her rival Komi. Alas, she can’t even manufacture a tie this time, as Komi wins seven out of seven “events”, despite knowing of no rivalry whatsoever.

Yadano holds out her hand to congratulate Komi on a great challenge. But when Komi doesn’t take her hand, Yadano sees it as a rebuke to Yadano giving up. Instead, Yadano “accepts” Komi’s “offer” to continue their “rivalry”. Those quotation marks are doing a lot of work!

Thanks to their pushy presumptuousness, Najimi invites themselves to Komi’s house with Tadano, and they meet Komi’s mom Suko. Initially she looks like a cool quiet, slightly intimidating lady. Then she reveals she communicates just fine. In fact, she’s proud of how she looks “forever seventeen” and her kiddy enthusiasm mortifies her silent daughter.

Najimi tries to find secrets in Komi’s room, but instead finds books on communication (with both humans and cats!) then leaves the room to watch Komi and Tadano alone in the room. For fifteen minutes, the two sit in silence, frustrating Najimi, but it’s never awkward. Komi and Tadano could sit quietly together for hours. Najimi snaps a candid shot, and Komi is so happy with it she ask her mom if she can buy a picture frame.

When Komi meekly expresses her wish to go out for ramen, Agari, a ramen expert, takes charge. When talking about food, Agari becomes a much more confident and talkative person (until people look at her), and obviously knows her stuff, listing off the various “ramen commandments” one must follow. Komi is able to communicate what she wants to the brawny but similarly tiny-voiced ramen chief, and proves a ramen master, waiting patiently and quietly (natch) and finishing and leaving promptly.

A new friend is introduced in the chuunibyou girl Nakanaka Omoharu, who wants to be Komi’s friend but assigns labels that confuse Komi, which cause Nakanaka to get the wrong idea that Komi isn’t interested in being friends. Just as Tadano is a great Komi translator, he is also well-versed in the chuunibyou/”cringe” lifestyle, having lived it himself in junior high, only to swear it off when his crush rejected him for it.

When everybody is trying to be Komi’s partner for stretching, Nakanaka watches everyone else pair up and sits in on the floor alone and morose. She’s startled but ultimately delighted when she notices Komi had declined all other potential partners to make a “blood pact” with her. Nakanaka may play it cool and say that the pact actually made Komi her “vassal”, but it’s just “friend” by any other name.

As for Tadano, Komi’s most “normal” friend (at least relative to the others), Komi finds excuses to spend time with him, even though they’re rarely apart. When Najimi steals Tadano’s umbrella and it rains after school, Komi is waiting for him with hers, and they end up sharing. It proves a bit too much for Tadano after grazing her shoulder, and offers to hold it between them—getting his shoulder wet, but keeping Komi dry.

Later at the konbini where Tadano buys another umbrella and towels for them to dry off, he asks if Komi saw Najimi’s note and chose to wait, rather than it being a coincidence of timing. To this, Komi simply looks on in silence, and her very aura parts the clouds. For all the various terms Komi’s friends use to describe their association, Komi is clearly Tadano’s sun—and vice versa!

Komi Can’t Communicate – 04 – Yamai Ren is Obsessed

This week’s first segment centers on Yadano Makeru, an extremely competitive girl who tries to “beat” Komi at the school physicals. She loses to Komi in height and vision tests, but wins in weight and “seated height”, which seems like an odd thing to measure, but whatever! In any case, Makeru’s mild eccentricity doesn’t prepares us for the horrors to come.

That’s because the rest of the episode is pretty much All Yamai Ren, All The Time. Ren doesn’t want to compete with Komi…she wants her. It’s all she can do to prevent herself from shouting in ecstacy as her body contorts in excitement at the mere sight of Komi walking down the hall. The girl is straight-up obsessed, wants to get closer, and will do so by any means necessary.

At first things seem innocent enough, as she makes too much Hamburg steak (albeit purposefully) as an excuse to share some with Komi at lunch time. Ren is sitting in Tadano’s seat when she asks Komi if she wants to eat with her, and Komi, seeing a vision of an encouraging miniature Tadano in his desk, gives the slightest of nods, and it’s off to the races, with Ren absolute heaven.

But this begs the question: Where is Tadano? Turns out Ren has taken him out of the picture, tying him to a chair with a lot of rope (her knot game is suspiciously elite) in her room, the walls of which are plastered with candid photos of Komi, some of them combined via collage with pictures of her in romantic (or lewd) positions.

Najimi, who is just trying to give Komi another nudge in her quest for 100 friends, invites themselves and Komi to Ren’s place, and Ren can’t resist the prospect of Komi rubbing her scent on her bed or leaving stray hairs around, so she agrees. She stuffs Tadano in her closet, promising she won’t bury him if he doesn’t scream, but eventually Najimi discovers him, and Ren drops the cute innocent act and goes Full Yandere.

It backfires spectacularly, as the moment Komi sees Tadano tied up, she’s ready to leave. She writes a polite “Thanks for having us” note, then leaves with Tadano. When Ren tells her that she was trying to do her a favor by getting rid of the trashboy so totally unworthy of her attention. Komi’s note in response is suitably devastating: “I choose my own friends.”

That said, the next day Komi is distraught and shaken by the experience, and asks Tadano to join her somewhere private to “talk”. She writes in her notebook how it might be best if they weren’t friends. Of course, this isn’t because she doesn’t like Tadano or thinks he’s beneath him; quite the contrary. She fears for his safety. What if something like yesterday happens again, and they don’t find him in time?

To this, Tadano responds that he also chooses his friends. Getting tied up and threatened by a yandere is a small price to pay for being Komi’s friend. Heartened by his response, as she definitely didn’t want their friendship to end, Komi voices it to him…literally…by saying she wants to be his friend in her teeny tiny adorable voice.

In the drama of Komi and Tadano leaving Ren’s, they left Najimi behind. Fortunately, Ren didn’t kill them, and instead Najimi assured her that if she apologized properly for what she did, Komi wouldn’t hate her. Ren does just that, apologizing to both Tadano and Komi for her actions (though as Tadano observes, she kinda sucks at apologies!)

Then Tadano and Najimi thoroughly explain how Komi is bad at communicating and wants to make 100 friends, and Ren is even more enamored of her, having now discovered her new cute quality. That’s how Ren becomes Komi’s fourth official—and most demented!—friend. Ren’s seiyu Hidaka Rina gets MVP honors this week for her deliciously shifty and layered performance.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Komi Can’t Communicate – 03 – God’s in Her Classroom, All’s Right in the World

When Agari Himiko, the shy school librarian who is afraid of being looked at, is stared at by Komi, who can’t communicate that she just wants to be friends, she jumps to the wrong conclusion and believes she either offended Komi in some way or is simply being messed with by the popular beauty for sport.

That said, Himiko’s fear of Komi staring at her helps her overcome her lesser fear of talking to the class, as she’s able to bravely relay to them where gym class is being held. She thanks Komi on the steps for scaring her into being brave. Tadano proposes the two become friends, but Himiko settles rather quickly for being Komi’s “dog.”

With Komi making friends left and right, she asks for and receives a cell phone from her folks—an old-style flip phone from simpler times. Now she can text her friends…if she had their number. She manages to get both Himiko and Najimi’s, but pointedly has them write them down on paper, because she wants to enter Tadano’s number first.

When it comes time to decide who will be class president, everyone nominates Komi, who seems poised for a position way beyond her current communication abilities. Najimi bails her out by opposing her, but when they’re surrounded by roughs, they declare that “president” is far too puny a title for someone like Komi! So everyone declares her Class God, and leave the thankless presidency to Tadano.

That night, Komi is giddily futzing around with her new phone when she accidentally calls Tadano (falling victim to a horrifying feature where simply putting your ear to the phone calls someone). As a result, both we and Tadano hear Komi talk more in a few moments than she has in the entire preivious two and three-fifths episodes. Koga Aoi, so expressive as Kaguya-sama, shows how much she can do with so little, from her little squeaks and screams to fractured sentences.

Finally, Komi is feeling bold, and wants to join the Cool Kids for some pre-class traditional games which go as completely over my head as they do her. Of course, I have an excuse having not grown up in Japan; Komi has never played any of the games the others grew up with because she could never communicate.

But that’s primed to change, as baby step by baby step she gets better at interacting with people and letting her will be known. The words will come in time…and even if they don’t, everyone will still worship her and the ground she stands on.

Komi Can’t Communicate – 02 – Everyone’s Old Friend

Komi is the kind of popular in her class where everyone will put her on a pedestal and admire her from afar (and snap photos), but are too much in awe of her to approach her. If she wants to make friends with any of them, she’ll either have to approach them, or Tadano will have to introduce her to some.

We soon learn this isn’t so easy, since Tadano himself is not exactly popular. In this school full of strong personalities, Tadano is an eyesore to some. Take the normally sweet and cheerful Yamai, who clutches Tadano’s shoulders when he approaches her and utters curses through his ears for daring to speak Komi’s name with his scummy mouth.

Tadano had hoped he didn’t have to resort to her, but he approaches his friend from middle school, Osana Najimi (a play on words, as osananajimi means “childhood friend”). Not only is Najimi of indeterminate gender (she typically goes by “she” but occasionally says she’s male), she’s also childhood friends with everyone. She’s voiced by Murakawa Rie, perhaps best known to me as the voice of Re:Zero’s Ram.

Everyone, that is, but Komi, whom she also knew from second grade. Najimi was always a gregarious sort, but when she first approached Komi, she took her lack of communication as ignoring what she was saying, or acting cold and aloof. Not being able to make friends with Komi actually traumatized Najimi, to the point she’s not sure she can be friends with her now.

Even so, Tadano’s Serious Look at Najimi convinces her to at least give it another shot for her old friend’s sake. So she and Komi walk home together. Komi’s usual nervousness and Najimi’s unusual nervousness make things awkward from the start.

We then get two different perspectives of the same interaction: first Najimi’s, then Tadano’s. To Najimi, Komi is doing all the same things that put her off trying to be friends with her years ago, while Tadano is able to interpret Komi’s reactions properly from his stalkery hiding spot.

Najimi is ready to throw in the towel when two more old friends of hers interrupt the experiment. The much larger, burlier of the two has come to ask her out, and even her saying she’s a guy doesn’t dissuade him. When he removes his jacket in a dramatic flourish, his house key flies out of a pocket. He grabs Najimi, not taking no for an answer, but Komi basically rescues her by approaching the brute with the key he dropped.

She actually talks to him, but so softly and in such broken rhythm, he thinks she’s saying she’s going to kill him with the key, which combined with her focused stare causes him to beat a hasty retreat with his toady. Najimi decides to befriend Komi on the spot, and Komi, adorable lass that she is, expresses her elation with a giddy bunny hop.

Najimi wants to help Komi communicate better, so sends her off on an errand, which is more of an ultimatum: Go to Starbucks Standbakes and order a Non-fat milk Pistachio Deep Mocha Dipped Cream Frappaccino with chocolate drizzle and lots of whipped cream…or they won’t be friends anymore. Terrified of losing her second-ever friend so soon, Komi gives it a college try, but is ultimately unable to speak to the barista.

The barista, an elite “Black Apron”, tries to divine from her silence exactly what she wants, but ends up making a Noir Fantastique Valencia Orange Bitter Chocolate Brownie with Nutty Flavor Pistachio Sauce on Walnut Chip Chocolate Chip Cookie Chip Soy Milk Creamy Frappaccino with lots of sauce and lots of whipped Cream and lots of chips…which is not right.

When she delivers the accursed drink, Najimi says it’s not right, and Komi starts to cry. Najimi realizes the difficulty level of her test was way too high (just ordering a coffee would have ben tough enough!), and she and Tadano prostrate themselves before her, then marvel at how cute Komi is when she’s mad.

While overly complex Starbucks drink jokes are a tad old-hat, I found Najimi immediately charming and likable, just like Komi and Tadano, only a completely different personality in terms of her immense popularity and tremendous knack for befriending. No doubt her skills and experience (combined with Tadano’s Komitranslation skills) should help Komi make 98 more friends.

Komi Can’t Communicate – 01 (First Impressions) – [……hic……]

Komi Can’t Communicate is a dazzlingly fresh and new high school comedy in the best tradition Kaguya-sama: Love is War. Instead of two hyperachievers, we have the Most Ordinary Kid Ever in Tadano Hitohito and the Class Princess Komi Shouko, who is so popular in her class that nobody realizes she never talks.

Nobody, that is, except for Tadano, who ends up sitting next to Komi in class, and is knocked out during what must be ordinary break time class horseplay. Komi ditches gym in order to stay beside him until he comes to, which occurs just as she meows to her black cat doll. In what is a pretty fun habit, Komi ends up dashing away at top speed.

But Tadano alone, ordinary kid that he is, comes out and asks Komi if she has trouble communicating. Komi, amazed with his insight despite how blatantly obvious it is, wants to respond verbally, but gets simply too nervous and self-conscious.

But give her some chalk, and she’ll fill a chalkboard with her thoughts. Tanado joins in, and a silent conversation ensues that’s thrilling in its presentation (and ASMR cred!) and ends with Tadano saying he’ll be her first friend and help her get 99 more.

I freakin’ loved this show, and if you have Netflix, you should check it out. It’s a thing of astonishing beauty and quirkiness. The episode drops a bombshell by indicating that making 99 friends is not going to be easy in a school that’s apparently full of unique weirdos, which I guess actually makes Tadano special, since he’s the only “normal” one.

But that’s the fallacy of his assumption of ordinariness: if it were so ordinary to empathize with and reach out to someone struggling to communicate, maybe she wouldn’t have this problem. But in a school of kids either gawking or being gawked at, Tadano actually observed his desk neighbor’s issue and offered to help. This looks to be something special.

Mieruko-chan – 02 – Wrong Line

This week’s Mieruko-chan starts with Miko and Hana changing. Hana overhears other girls talking about a TV show featuring a severed head, and is scared there might be a head in her locker. Miko checks, and it looks clear…until she looks up at the top shelf, where there’s a severed ghost head only she can see. It’s all she can do not to react to it.

In the next segment Miko has to watch in horror as her airheaded friend Hana is slowly enveloped by pervy ghost limbs she can neither see nor feel. They don’t seem to be hurting Hana, but Miko still tries to get them off of her, even going so far as to douse Hana’s blouse in hand sanitizer. Ultimately, the ghoul shifts to their buxom teacher, spurning the slighter-chested Miko.

The next segment is a quick one involving a long line for half-off donuts. Miko, distracted by the menu on her phone, steps into what she thinks is the right line, but it’s actually a line of dead people waiting to get devoured by a larger ghoul. Hana grabs her and puts her in the right line. Miko is eternally grateful.

In the most heartwarming segment of the series yet, Miko and Hana find an abandoned kitten in a box on the street, but both live where pets aren’t allowed, so they put an announcement on social media. The handsome young man who responds is rejected by Miko, since he’s surrounded by what look like evil cat spirits and God knows what else.

Rather, it’s the huge, super-scary looking yakuza who gets the kitten. He may look scarier than the handsome guy to Hana, but Miko can see good cat spirits on the yakuza’s shoulders. After the credits they’re joined by the spirit of his dearly departed loved one.

Mieruko-chan – 01 (First Impressions) – I Don’t See Dead People

Mieruko-chan’s premiere featured, by my count, twenty shots of fanservice: two busts, two butts, and twelve legs/thighs. I won’t say they didn’t distract me, but not in a necessarily bad way. This is a show that is very good at building up tension and then releasing it, and in creating patterns that lull us into a sense of security. Those shots are part of that.

The premise is wonderfully, beautifully simple: Yotsuya Miko can see ghosts and ghouls, but tries to act like she can’t. She doesn’t do this out of genuine indifference; she is actually very afraid of them, just as I’m sure I would be. She’s just worried that letting them know she can see them will only make things worse. It probably would!

Throughout the episode, Miko goes through things no one wants to go through, and reacts the way you’d expect someone to react. This makes her very relatable, as well as someone to admire. I can only hope I wouldn’t just scream my goddamn lungs out if one of these creepy ghouls suddenly crept into my vision or invaded my personal space.

Other than ghosts, Miko’s life consists of her busty best friend Miko, a third girl who is aloof this week but looks to become another friend, and her little brother. But mostly ghosts. Studio Passione takes a simple premise and really goes out with the execution, featuring suitably creepy ghosts designs that are thankfully CGI-minimal, crisp, clean character designs, and if the fanservice is frequent and in-your-face, at least it’s competently done. Overall a good, spooky start, just in time for October!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

NIGHT HEAD 2041 – 03 – Taking a Turn

Fresh off their narrow escape from the diner and SWE, Naoto and Naoya  decide to pay a visit to their dear old parents who drugged them and sent them away to the lab when they were kids, because there might not have been any choice considering the powers they possessed. Predictably, not only are the parents gone, but so is the very house they grew up in.

The balance of the episode is focused on a high school, where a circle of friends are apparently suffering the effects of a black magic spell that backfired. They intended to get revenge on someone, but their “spell” seemingly results in a string of gruesome suicides at school, all of which are worth a solid trigger warning.

The SWE squad is dispatched to the school to investigate, with Takuya driving while Kimie rides shotgun and tries to relate to him as a fellow Psychic. They raid the club room and find a treasure trove of fiction and occult contraband, any one item of which carries the death penalty.

I’m sorry, but I don’t understand how this society…works. The SWE can’t be everywhere all the time, so I imagine bastions of lawbreaking are quite prevalent—especially in schools! In any case, Mikie can sense a powerful psychic at work, controlling the minds of people, including Michio and Reika, who shoot wildly at their Kuroki brother comrades like brainwashed zombies.

The one survivng high schooler ends up crossing paths with the Kiriharas at their dad’s old factory, where they also encounter the time-traveling Futami Shouko, who ties her hair…with her hair, which is…unsettling, somehow. I guess that’s the point; she’s an inscrutable person.

Before Shouko blips out (returning to several years in the past), Naoya’s clairvoyance senses a voice telling them to go to a certain place. That place happens to be where the culprit behind the mind control murders lives. He’s just a little boy, but he’s a powerful Psychic whose puppy the high schooler who spearheaded the black magic ritual slaughtered for its blood…hence the desire for revenge.

Mikie and Reika roll in and neutralize the boy, ending the immediate threat, while Naoto uses his psychokinesis to shove the ladies aside so he and his brother can escape. They’re met outside by Takuya and Yuuya and the two pairs of brothers recognize each other from their strange visions. It’s like that Spider-Man pointing at Spider-Man meme.

Thankfully, the Kirihara brothers have an ally in the shadows, who reveals himself to knock out the Kuroki’s and tells them to come with him. He doesn’t add “if they want to live”, Sarah Connor style, however. I can’t say I’m the most engaged with these characters, but it’s a very slick looking show and the music is great, so I can’t complain that much.

The Detective Is Already Dead – 02 – Heart of the Matter

Sometimes I pick up on the mystery at the beginning. From the moment Natsunagi Nagisa told Kimihiko she was the recipient of a heart transplant a year ago—the same year Siesta died—I knew it was Siesta’s heart she had. It’s, as Nagisa later remarks, why she’s so forward with him at first, and also so weird, sticking her hand in his mouth and threatening to touch his uvula before giving him a comforting hug.

It’s partly so he can hear the heart, but also because it’s the closest he can get to Siesta now that she’s gone. Never mind that “memory transference” is pseudoscience. I believe there are documented instances of people suddenly yearning for things or people connected to the donor. There’s a reason for the popular belief the heart is the domain of the soul and not the brain.

The thing is, it didn’t matter that I immediately figured out the “mystery”, because that wasn’t the point. The point was the emotional fallout of such a reunion. Kimihiko had returned to his lukewarm ordinary life of high school and was fine with it, but he later admits he “couldn’t go on” without some form of closure.

Of course, that’s before he himself figures out what the heck is going on. I’m sure he had some suspicions—you’re not a legendary detective’s sidekick for three years without absorbing some deductive wisdom—prior to taking Nagisa to meet the very person who could not cannot under any circumstances harm Siesta, and so cannot harm Nagisa, the new owner of her heart.

While lacking anything in the way of action like the first episode (which feels more like a prologue to this series), the fact this second outing half the length means a more satisfyingly taut story can be told. It doesn’t waste any time, yet doesn’t feel rushed. Your mileage may vary, but I derived a great deal of emotional impact from the reunion of Siesta’s heart and her clearly bored and listless assistant.

A lot of the resonance is due to some particularly decent dialogue towards the end, when Kimihiko realizes that Siesta’s heart (and Nagisa along with it) needs both a hug and reassurance. Taketatsu Ayana, one of the best in the business, voices Nagisa pitch-perfect with a cool effortlessness.

Even if Siesta is no longer in Kimihiko’s life, I hope we get more Nagisa. As for the Chuunibyou-looking girl who shows up at the very end looking for the Legendary Detective, well…we’ll see, won’t we?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Crow’s watching this too! Read his review here.

The Detective Is Already Dead – 01 (First Impressions) – To Have and to Hold

Kimihiko Kimizuka just wants to live a normal dull life. But like Kamijou Touma’s tendency towards misfortune (if being surrounded by poweful cute girls all the time is somehow unfortunate) Kimi is a trouble magnet. It’s how he found himself being forced to carry a mysterious attaché case on a jumbo jet flight carrying 600 passengers.

Then a flight attendant asks not if there’s a doctor on the plane, but a detective, and the blue-eyed, silver-haired young woman sitting next to him not only declares that she’s a detective, but that Kimi (which in Japanese also means “you”) is her sidekick. Her name is Siesta—Spanish for a midday nap—and she’s the best trouble Kimi could as for.

He joins Siesta in the cockpit where a battle of wits with a hijacker ensues. Siesta manages to provoke him into revealing his identity as part-“android” created by the secret organization SPES. She also reveals she was the one who arranged for Kimi to board the plane with an attaché case, which contains a silver rifle loaded with bullets containing her blood. When the hijacker is shot, he can no longer do her any harm.

With their first “case” closed, Siesta suddenly disappears from Kimi’s life as soon as she enters it, only to show back up in his apartment, making herself at home by wearing his leisurewear, ordering pizza, and even walking in on him while bathing. Since Kimi’s dream is to live a life that’s the equivalent of a relaxing warm bath, this is particularly egregious to him.

But Kimi can complain all he wants about Siesta; the fact of the matter is she’s effortlessly capable, charming, beautiful, and assertive. Kimi spends so much of the episode profusely rejecting Siesta’s assertions he is her sidekick, when he should really be asking himself why living a life with her would really be so bad?

His regular life and “Siesta Life” cross over at his cultural festival, the preparations for which he completely missed owing to the many past incidents into which he’s gotten tangled. Siesta shows up in his school’s uniform, and the two proceed to go on a date. All the while, Siesta is also investigating the Toilet-bound Hanako-san case, which she discovers to be a performance-enhancing drug dealing ring using the urban legend (and the festival) as cover.

She solves that case too, though the last we see of it is her jumping out a window carrying Kimi in her arms, both of them in wedding cosplay. She can survive for the same reason she was able to neutralize the hijacker: she possesses seven special items (you could call them magical) that enable her to achieve similarly special feats; in this case shoes with the ability to fly.

Kimi eventually deduces that Siesta doesn’t so much want a sidekick, but someone with his inscrutable ability to attract trouble, which she can then investigate and resolve. But he still gives in and agrees to become her “assistant” when she gives him a forthright pledge to protect him with her life whenever the trouble he attracts threatens him.

From what we’ve seen so far from Siesta, that sounds like a promise she can keep. So it’s both intriguing and a little sad when we learn from a final Kimi voiceover that, as the title goes, the Detective is already dead. Does this mean the Siesta we saw died, and is now a ghost? A vampire or other undead entity?

It’s the kind of WTF twist that was hanging out in plain sight (in the title) the whole time, but even in forty-six minutes, there’s no explicit answer to what that title means…only clues and theories. And after all those affable interactions between Kimi and Siesta, I am fully invested in learning what’s become of her. I’m also hoping this isn’t the last we’ll see her for a while.

At any rate, if you liked In/Spectre, you’ll probably like this too.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Crow’s watching this too! Read his review here.

Those Snow White Notes – 05 – Chemical Reaction

The Tsugaru Shamisen Appreciation Club’s first meeting begins with Koyabu-sensei presenting everyone with rented instruments as well as a flyer for the “Matsugorou Cup” suspiciously funded by Setsu’s mom’s cosmetics company. Of course, his classmates aren’t aware of who his mother is or even that the competition is named after his gramps.

Koyabu also introduces the rest of the club to its fifth member (necessary to compete in the group division): Nagamori Rai, Setsu’s neighbor who was taught by his mother and has already played for his dad’s rakugo performances. Still, as the most experienced shamisen player, Setsu leads the instruction.

Despite Wakana urging him to have patience with novices, watching the others continue to struggle mightily and not sure where to start helping them to improve only adds to his own personal musical frustration. He lashes out by saying he’ll refuse to “lower himself” to their level and it will be impossible to get them in playing shape for the competition. But while he comes off as a haughty jackass here, he’s actually not angry at any of them, but at himself for not being able to help them.

Then Umeko shows up in Setsu’s room unannounced, and while she doesn’t cop to putting him in high school just so she can devise the Matsugoro Cup and make him enter, she’s dead serious about using her authority as his mother to ensure that his talent won’t “smolder in obscurity” like her father’s did. She couldn’t force him into the spotlight he deserved, but she’ll drag her child into it—kicking and screaming if necessary.

When Shuri finds Setsu sulking on the school rooftop, he surprises her by apologizing for being a jerk, admitting he’s more frustrated than anything by being unable to achieve his gramps’ sound. That’s when Shuri passionately defends Setsu’s own sound, as her grandmother described. That gentle sound healed her as well as her gran, and inspired her to try to get a little closer to it by continuing to practice.

Shuri, Setsu, and the whole Shamisen Club is bowled over to find Koyabu-sensei has brought Kamiki Seiryuuu to offer some pointers. She had reached out to him via email with a recording of Setsu playing “Shinbushi” fiercely and wildly with picking all over the place. This second listen is all Kamiki needs to accept Koyabu’s request.

Even if it would create competition for him—maybe because it would—Kamiki is desperate to hear Setsu’s true sound unleashed. So when he arrives, the first thing he asks is that Setsu play “Shinbushi” for him again. Setsu agrees, and his performance is so much softer and more nuanced than the recording that it almost sounds like a different piece to the novice ears.

But Kamiki sees that it’s more than that: Setsu is unable to filter out his mood in the now when he performs, so however he happens to feel, that’s how he’ll sound. That’s why he’s so “all over the place”, and why Kamiki whips out his own shamisen and starts to play—not over Setsu, but with him.

A musical dance ensues, with Kamiki leading with his sprawling sound, letting Setsu dance and skip over it like a rock over water. Setsu’s feeling changes within the performance as he realizes that Kamiki’s sound is supporting his, focusing his emotions and thus his performance. When the two reach an equilibrium playing together, Shuri likens it to a chemical reaction. Considering emotions are chemical signals in the brain, she’s not wrong!

If I could be a little gross for a moment to create a metaphor: Setsu was musically constipated (he calls it “shackled”), while Kamiki’s instructive play was the Metamucil Setsu needed to “loosen things up”. It’s probably a coincidence that after Kamiki leaves, Setsu heads straight to the bathroom, but as he heads there, everyone notices how light Setsu looks as he walks…he even starts to skip!

Setsu knows what Kamiki pulled, and while it “irked” him, it was also a lot of fun, leaving him feeling happier than he’s felt in a good long while. Kamiki’s playing also used the most basic phrasing, meaning the whole club could learn it. So there’s hope for them yet. As for the individual tournament, I imagine he’s not far from committing to that. Umeko, Kamiki, and the Tanuma siblings are only a few of those who’ll be bitterly disappointed if he doesn’t!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Those Snow White Notes – 04 – New Guide, New Goal, New Sound

It’s all thanks to Sakura’s onigiri. When she greets Setsu and he enters the boarding house without responding, she can tell he’s out of sorts, and the only thing for that is food. When she delivers it, he’s on the phone with Wakana, and she gets the idea he’s talking about a girl he likes.

Setsu is terrified of not being able to live up to Shuri’s grandmother’s memory of gramps’ magnum opus, “Shungyou (Spring Dawn)”. But Wakana reminds him that Shuri didn’t know Gramps, and Setsu doesn’t know her grandmother. It’s impossible to try to exactly copy what she heard so many years ago, so he suggests Setsu rewrite her memory, using his own song.

Kamiki calls Mai to tell her he heard Setsu play, and while he clearly couldn’t show him his “sound”, he still heard the dizzying potential Mai always believed to be there, and so desperately wants to do battle with. Setsu gets a recording of “Shungyou”, but it’s on an ancient cassette tape. No problem; Kaito’s a vintage audiophile!

When Kaito asks why they can’t just play the tape for Shuri’s gram, Setsu says there’s no comparison between a taped performance and a live one. That makes it all the more impressive that even a cassette recording of Setsu’s gramps playing is able to fully transport both him and Kaito into the story of the song, ending with the titular and redemptive spring dawn.

Even a layman like Kaito can tell how God-level Setsu’s gramps was, and Setsu acknowledges he simply doesn’t have hands quick enough to match the picking at the climax of the piece. While he tries to play it, a passing young man declares Setsu’s sound “pinched and sharp”, i.e. frustrated and confined. He hands him a handmade Tamapiyo chick: something simple anyone can make, yet still causes peoples’ hearts to skip a beat.

Speaking of skipping a beat, Shuri’s heart does so as she watches the stream of Setsu playing that Yui first saw. When Kaito learns she had been keeping it from Shuri, he gets angry at Yui, provoking her into kicking him, saying “Shuri’s all you think about!” and storming off, blushing and mad. Clearly there’s a love triangle in play here, and the addition of Setsu makes it a rhombus.

Sakura forms still another vertex, as she welcomes the acerbic young man who told Setsu to simplify. He learns his name is Rai, he plays hosozao shamisen, and is the son of a rakugo performer. They’re also neighbors! Setsu followed his advice and thanks Rai for giving it.

The day arrives, and Setsu is clearly nervous because when he first meets Shuri’s grandmother he asks if she’s dead, then warns her not to die before he finishes playing. That’s gotta be nerves! But then he sits down, begins playing a sparser, more stripped down “Shungyou” that he can actually play, thus demonstrating his own new sound based upon his gramps but no longer an attempted perfect facsimile.

The sound transports Shuri’s grandma back to when she was a six-year-old evacuee shunned by those who took her in. She met a poor and starving boy slightly older than her, and she gave him her ration of potato to play something for her. That boy, Setsu’s grandfather, wept after playing, because he ate a starving girl’s potato. When she says it’s okay for her to die because her parent is dead, he said no, you have to keep living.

As Setsu’s streamlined performance moves everyone to tears, especially Shuri, who witnesses her gran smile for the first time in a long while. Setsu and Kaito saw the Spring Dawn over the mountains that turned a new page in the life of the unnamed subject of the piece—who could be anyone.

Gran’s eyes are also dazzled here by the rising sun over deep blue waves and a purple sky, the night dissolving into darkness. The image of her sitting and listening to Setsu’s gramps playing Shamisen is etched in her mind. It’s a cot-damn tearjerker, I tellsya; a new high watermark for the series in terms of emotional impact.


When it’s over, Shuri’s gran says it sounded different. That’s because the sound she heard back in the day was a very humble sound on a shabby shamisen, and yet it gave her the courage to live. She describes Setsu’s sound as a gentle sound that can heal pain, as it healed hers. She declares that she’ll be able to sleep again without becoming lost in colorless, soundless painful memories.

Setsu’s performance was a great success, and Shuri reminds him, Yui, and Kaito that they’re all in her Shamisen Club going forward. Setsu’s mom, being massaged and pampered by an army of servants, gets word from “the unit keeping an eye on Setsu” that he’s joined the club, and she takes the liberty of entering him into the National High School Tsugaru Shamisen Koshien—the Matsugurou Cup! Looks like Mai might just get her wish of going up against Setsu…

GODDAMN TEARJERKER™ CERTIFIED

This is a re-post from last week’s episode. Episode 5 review coming soon.

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