Barakamon – 10

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Being the audience this week is tough, because only we know it’s Seishuu’s last day on the island. No one, not even Naru, sees it coming from the way he acts on that last day, and maybe that’s the point. After helping Naru’s grandpa build a wall, he attends the village festival with Naru and Hina, and seems committed to not spoiling the little time he has left with them.

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He does, in fact, try to tell everyone (everyone being Naru, Miwa, Tama, Naru, Hina, and Hiro), but it’s just when the awesome fireworks are about to begin. He can’t very well say it then, now can he? The reaction would be predictable, with Naru likely having a fit and running off, possibly into danger. All episode I was waiting for that kind of confrontation.

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But nothing of the kind came; in the end, Seishuu chose not to mar another happy, fun day with the villagers that just happens to be his last. Instead, he lives that day to the fullest, and doesn’t so much as betray a hint that he’s out of there the next day. He disappears from the island as quickly as he appeared, but his absence is sure to lead to despair.

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Part of me is afraid of the possibility that Seishuu always meant to leave suddenly ike this, like ripping a band-aid from a wound, and that his connection to the island was never as strong as it seemed; that he was merely here to figure out his calligraphy, and once he had, had no further reason to be there. For the record, I don’t think (or rather, don’t want to think) that’s true, but it’s hard not to think like that considering how suddenly he peaced out.

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Barakamon – 09

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Seishuu may have acclimated somewhat to his remote island village home, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s a city boy, and there’s still a lot he has yet to experience. Case in point, when his gas-fueled bath heater packs it in, he must resort to foraging for twigs and building a fire in the old wood heater. The village chief makes the point that if Seishuu had a wife, she’d tend the fire for him.

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Seishuu has never bothered with romance, pouring everything he has into his art, reasonably certain he’ll die alone, but not necessarily happy about it. He emerges from the bath and is surprised to find Hiro in the kitchen making his food (his mom was busy). Hiro often seems more mature than Seishuu despite the fact the latter is older, and that’s exhibited when Seishuu tries to “out-prepare” a bowl of miso cucumber rice. Suffice it to say, Seishuu can’t cook…but he’s too proud to admit it.

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Next, Seishuu finds himself in the middle of deep-seeded island politics when Hina tells him Naru is being bullied by kids from the neighboring village. Seishuu and Hiro try their best to reason with, and later intimidate the little punks, but they’re at a distinct disadvantage in that said punks know the adults can’t really hit them, or they’ll be arrested. Turns out the punks are friends with Akki, who resolves the situation simply by passing by. If anything, this segment reminds me of the best strategy for dealing with combative kids: Don’t. Just avoid them if you can.

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Finally, with just over two weeks left until the Naruka Exhibition, Seishuu’s sparks of drawing inspiration in response to his new living situation have grown more infrequent, to the point where he questions the efficacy of simply waiting for inspiration to show up, even though that’s really the only way. After a day of playing Tarzan with the kids, he gets one in the form of a truly awesome sunset. He makes a move back for home, but slips and falls off a ledge.

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Reverting to full City Boy mode, being isolated, alone, and lost in the dark terrifies him, until he sees a glint in the grass and finds the key to his house Miwa had lost. Then he gets his second flash of inspiration of the day: a majestic star field. His resulting drawing, with white writing on a black background, is another fun, striking, inventive piece he never would’ve attempted before coming to the island. Which begs the question: what is said to him on the phone that makes him so quickly and easily agree to leave?

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Barakamon – 08

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This week offers two slice-of-life stories that reinforce how nicely Seishuu has fit into the village, and how close his bond with Naru has gotten without him knowing it. In the first story, it’s Naru’s seventh birthday. After Miwa and Tama get ¥1000 out of Seishuu for a cake, he realizes he must also get her a suitable gift for Naru.

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Unsurprisingly, most gifts deemed “suitable” for a seven-year-old girl aren’t going to cut it for the precocious tomboy. His first thought is bugs, sending him on a bug-hunting adventure with the three village boys her age. This exercise backfires, since in addition to the fact the boys have already chosen to give her bugs, Seishuu is completely inept at catching them, and even when he manages to do so, falls off a ladder and kills it.

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The evening of the party arrives, and Seishuu’s last-minute half-assed gift—a hand-written, one-time “do whatever you say” ticket—ends up thrilling her immensely, to everyone else’s surprise. It just goes to show that Seishuu cares enough for Naru to want to give her a good gift, and knows her a lot better than he gives himself credit for.

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In the second story, it’s Obon, and Naru’s grandpa asks Seishuu to keep Naru company as she holds vigil over her grandma. It’s another new world for Seishuu, as he’s not used to a graveyard in the evening, lighting lanterns and setting off fireworks. He’s also mesmerized by the Onde dance performed for the recently deceased.

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Hanging out in the graveyard, and more to the point, being totally welcome there despite being an outsider, again drives home the fact that this village is becoming a home to Seishuu. Being there also makes him wonder where Naru’s parents are, and realizes that despite almost constantly being surrounded by people, Naru gets lonely too.

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In the beginning of the episode, he waters sunflowers despite not knowing who grew them and the fact they could well grow just fine without his care. Later they become a metaphor for Naru. She too could grow up just fine without him, but he wants to be there for her anyway. In an omake dream, the shopkeep’s dog joins him forfishing and asks him why he doesn’t simply settle down here. It’s a good question.

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Barakamon – 07

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On Kawafuji and Kousuke’s last day on the island, everyone Goes Fishin’ (well, almost everybody; Tama isn’t around…perhaps she’s still recovering from seeing all those men together?). Miwa teaches the city boys how to catch horse mackerel. Kousuke turns it into another competition in which he’s the best, but he only catches the shoal.

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When Kawafuji hears that Kousuke bashed Seishuu’s new work, that’s when the truth comes out: Kousuke is the one in a slump. Having virtually copied Seishuu’s old, “fundamentals-first” style, when Seishuu changed style, it was as if his fish had dropped the hook and sploshed back into the sea, leaving him with an empty line.

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Kawafuji brought Kousuke to the island not to light a fire under Seishuu’s ass, but to try to get him to look at things from a perspective other than his own. Like the Seishuu of old, he think’s he’s the best and if anyone disagrees, they’re wrong. That attitude stifles artistic growth, and Kousuke is too young to be settling into anything.

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The message coming out of this episode is that it’s up to youth not just to carry on their elders’ traditions, but to come up with some of their own, sometimes out of the most unlikely places. But one can only come up with stuff if you’re out there living and experiencing new things, meeting new people.

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Naru gets things started by creating an avant-garde line made up of dozens of hooks, which looks comical but does end up snagging a rock snapper, which is what Hiro was after all along. It breaks up in mid-air and the big catch escapes, but that’s just another symbol of how innovation doesn’t always net concrete results, but the attempt, and the momentary flash of success, still has value. “Lose the battle, win the war,” and all that.

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After five days of clashing with Kousuke, now that he knows what’s really up with him, Seishuu is no longer threatened or annoyed. When the day of fishing is over, he reports to Kousuke the periodic flashes of inspiration he’s gotten ever since coming to the island. This culminates in writing calligraphy using a mackerel as a brush, his most “unconventional” piece yet.

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Not surprisingly, Miwa and Naru think its also his best. It’s probably not exhibition-worthy, but for someone once so firmly stuck in convention, it’s another huge leap forward in his artistic growth. When Kawafuji and Kousuke leave, merely being on that plane gets Hiro and Miwa thinking about how one day that could be them; the older inspiring the younger to go forth and find their own way in the world.

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Kami-sama no Memo-cho 12

After following a hunch and Major analyzes Angel Fix, it’s determined that one has to take the drug in order to find a source. Narumi volunteers, and has a bad trip as he lurches through downtown, but he finds the hideout where Hakamizaka and a group of junkies congregate. Sou and his soldiers pacify the area, while Alice messes with Hakamizaka right until he keels over from overdose. Narumi then gives Toshi a beating. He continues to visit Ayaka, but she won’t wake up. Alice concludes she didn’t jump because of the drug, but because she didn’t want the school festival to invade the garden she and Narumi had made.

They say you should never get high on your own supply. I thought Hakamizaka was smart, but it turns out he’s just another junkie, who starts to believe his own drug-induced babbling. It was very satisfying to see Alice give him a very buzz-killing dressing down, and even a little cruel, but the guy had it coming. As for Ayaka, the fact that the AF amplified the negative emotions she felt about letting the festuval invade her garden was a good touch. It doesn’t let Narumi off the hook for never noticing trouble, nor does it make Hakamizaka the lone culprit in her demise. She also doesn’t wake up, which is kind of a downer, but works for dramatic purposes. It’s a wonder she’s alive at all, but the hope of her waking up continues to haunt Narumi.

So I believe this just about wraps it up for Kamisama no Memo-cho. I really enjoyed it, and it started and ended strong, and fielded a strong cast in a believable and richly-rendered setting in the heart of Tokyo. As a J.C.Staff piece, this was far better than either Index II (which got buried in its religious mumbo-jumbo) and Ookami-san (the fairy-tail gimmick was half-baked). Neither of those shows had nearly as likeable and original characters as the onese here, and as lolis go, Alice was not just tolerable, but downright solid. I was always wondering exactly how this eleven(?) year-old girl got into the position of bossing a bunch of people around, but hey, sometimes special people are born who just can’t wait until puberty to accomplish great things.


Rating: 4

Kami-sama no Memo-cho 7

This week was a very talky episode, but a lot was revealed about Sou and Renji’s past, and the question floated: what’s more important, friendship or truth? Narumi is running every which way, carefully extracting tidbits of information, risking dire bodily harm, and trying to piece together exactly what their beef is, and why Renji wants to destroy Sou so badly. All this while checking in intermittently with Alice and arranging all the PR for Mika’s upcoming concert, which hasn’t been cancelled.

Turns out they used to live together with a third roommate, an illegal immigrant named Hison. They both loved and protected her – you could say she was the glue that held them together – but she was no saint herself, working at the bar of a rival gang, and was its leader’s mistress. When the leader’s wife found out, she ordered her killed – even though she was with child. Sou tried to stop it, but couldn’t. These very crucial blanks were filled in by none other than one of Hiro’s conquests, an eyewitness to the incident.

All these years, Sou has been content to keep the truth buried, and loathed anyone digging into it. Renji believed Sou used Hison as a human shield, knowing nothing about the mistress or pregnancy angle. Renji has a gang of misfits working for him and many years of rage for Sou stewing. But whether he think Renji killed her or simply didn’t stop her from being killed, it will be hard to dissuade him from his vengence. In fact, in the episode’s cliffhanger (long arc, this), Narumi gets the message that “Sou is down”, signalling that it may be too late for peace negotiations – the war may have already begun.


Rating: 3.5

Kami-sama no Memo-cho 2

This week Narumi settles into his role as Alice’s manservant. As I mentioned last week, he’s surprisingly gung-ho about it, considering how it disrupts the ordinary life he was having. But unlike Huey and Dalian, this isn’t even close to a relationship of equals. Alice’s powers of observation and deduction are vastly superior to Narumi’s.

Narumi’s strength is his heart, his kindness, his courage, and his inoffensive and harmless presence. All of these skills serve him well as Alice’s assistant. He even surprises himself when he ignores Souchiro’s warning to stay out of what could end up a very bloody Yakuza case. He can’t, because he promised the client – Meo – he’d help her find her father.

Everyone has something to do this week, and despite the serious case involving the rogue money launderer and his unwitting Yakuza-bait daughter, there are still moments of levity. Ayaka and Meo invade Alice’s “cave” to wash her hair, while the reason Narumi ends up at Souchiro’s is to fix the PC his underlings filled with pr0n and malware. Hiro, Major, and Tetsu all do their jobs.

They aren’t bothered that their lives are on the line – and, Narumi has learned, that’s the case with him too. The client comes first. Rating: 4

Kami-sama no Memo-cho 1, Parts A & B – First Impressions

Forgive the pun, but “Memo Pad of the Gods” makes a very good case for itself. It some ways, it picks up in Sibuya where Durarara left off in Ikebukuro by instantly painting a picture of a well-lived in world full of oddballs and secret lives. Narumi Fujishima is our avatar in this rich painting, and for once in his life he feels like a part of something bigger, rather than simply the kid who floats around pretending he belongs.

The new life he fell into fits him like a glove. This first, hourlong episode chronicles his addition to a team of “NEET Detectives” led by the enigmatic Alice, a 12-or-so year-old who possesses detective skills and wisdom far beyond her years, but also gets all weepy. if one of her many teddy bear’s ears gets torn. I also like her calm, logical, curt demeanor. She isn’t a squeaky menace.

But she’s just one of many interesting and promising characters. This agency has a crack team of specialists in diverse fields: Hiro is a suave ‘gigalo’, brother of a yakuza boss, and expert in women. ‘Major’ is a military spy freak who likes to stick rifles in people’s faces. Tetsu is the polic snoop. Min runs and Ayaka works at the ramen/ice cream shop above which Alice resides, in her Lain-like cocoon.

The core cast is plenty interesting, but this series doesn’t fall into the same traps of the latest J.C. Staff series like Yumekui Merry, Ookami-san, and Index II, all of which kinda fizzled. This series feels more honest, and its characters and themes are suitably adult and mature. High school girls losing it and entering the world of vice is not the kind of thing those series would touch upon, but such things can and do happen in the real world, which is what this series feels like.

The first case we’re presented with is nicely opened, investigated, solved, and shut within the hourlong period. Whether future episodes are two-parters like this remains to be seen, but it’s definitely not a bad thing if they are; the story never felt dragged out here, and on half-hour simply wouldn’t be enough to tell it properly.

The people involved in the specific case – Miku, Teraoka, and Shoko, served their roles well, and didn’t feel like throwaway characters. The case itself even had a macabre twist, in which Shoko “froze time” like she had wanted to, by committing suicide in a tub of ice. Yikes, you may say, but horrible things can happen, and it’s Alice and her agency’s jobs as detectives to either ‘tarnish the living to maintain the honor of the dead’, or ‘tarnish the dead to comfort the living.’ I look forward to their next case. Rating: 4