Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – 05 – He’s with Me, and She’s with Him

Hirotaka and Narumi are not kids anymore, and the former is far removed from his “bad boy” days when he thought getting an earring and acting like an adult would help him become one quicker. In hindsight, he wondered what his past self’s big rush was; he’d much rather stay a kid. Being surrounded by games and toys from childhood certainly helps.

That philosophy works against Hirotaka the adult when he stays up playing games all night on a weekday, making him a virtual corpse at the office. It’s a downside, but at the end of the day a small price to pay for You Doing You.

Still, an unconscious Hirotaka is hardly interesting, so Narumi heads to the Starbucks for a grotesquely elaborate frappé she orders entirely in English, and the barista is a super cute! Not only that, they soon realize they actually know each other.

Kabakura and Koyanagi are also there. Kabakura, who’s always carried a torch for Narumi, is stunned by Koyanagi’s assertion that the blond kid is likely an exe. But while Koyanagi tries to take the high road and stay out of it, her and Kabakura start feeding off each other with increasingly hypothetical theories.

Then Koyanagi texts Hirotaka to come, and she and Kabakura learn the truth is somewhat more mundane: the blond kid, Naoya, is Hirotaka’s 19-year-old little brother.

Naoya asks to stay at Hirotaka’s (it’s closer to his college), and Narumi extends the invitation to the whole gang. Soon, the core quartet has dropped its guard and starts talking about obscure things Naoya doesn’t quite understand because he’s a normie.

That normie-ness is borne out by an evening of complete gaming ineptitude (while Hirotaka, ever the big brother, simply plays as though Nao isn’t his partner and wins anyway, before passing out again).

When the time comes for everyone to head home, Nao offers to walk Narumi to the station, and Kabakura springs to attention, warning him she already has a girlfriend. Even I slightly suspected that Nao was using a pure-and-innocent act as a front for his playboy-ness, especially when he acted dumb about what he was doing.

However, after Koyanagi leans in to kiss Kabakura and explains the relationships in the room, Nao demonstrates he really is that pure and innocent. He breaks into tears not because he’s lost Narumi to his brother, but because he’s so happy his brother has somebody, and always hoped that somebody would be Narumi.

One Punch Man – 04

opm41

This action-packed, side-splitting OPM comments on the severe wealth gap, the rise of individuals with no motivation to work, the concept of what I’ll call “power relativity”, and the necessity of jumping through bureaucratic hoops in order to receive due recognition for one’s heroic efforts. Also, a bunch of people get beheaded and someone gets punched in the Gentleman’s Vegetables.

Saitama catchphrase is “I’m just a guy who’s a hero for fun.” For fun, not for fame. So why is Saitama so hurt that no one knows who he is? Well, for one thing, when an army of stolen battle suit-wearing baldies start tearing down buildings (the first one by accident) and the news warns the public to look out for bald people, then it becomes a problem!

opm42

That army calls themselves the Paradisers, they’re led by a giant fellow Hammerhead, and they all share a kind of lazy Robin-Hood philosophy of taking from the rich and giving to, well, not just the poor; the poor who don’t feel like working.

Their chief target is the richest man in town, Zeniru, who resides in a skyscraper topped with a golden turd. Unfortunately for the Paradisers, Zeniru has a cocky, smirking ninja named Sonic under his employ.

opm43

Battle suits or no, the Paradisers are lower on the food chain than Sonic, who has no trouble lopping the heads off of all of Hammerhead’s comrades, before dodging all of Hammy’s rock and tree-based attacks and throwing a kunai in the back of his head. While

Sonic calls his boss to report his success, Hammy disappears; turns out he has a really really thick skull. And that darned kunai stays lodged in the back that skull for the rest of the episode!

opm44

This is not Hammerhead’s day, because he almost immediately comes afoul of Saitama, who is rather pissed off that his “look” has been stolen. Hammy powers up his suit and starts throwing dual paddlewheel attacks, but obviously nothing works against the OPM.

Here’s the thing: Hammy reminds Saitama enough about his past self that he goes easy on him, which means destroying his battle suit with a glancing blow and letting him escape without clothes or his pride, but with his life.

opm45

Then Saitama encounters Sonic, who is stronger than Hammerhead, and believes himself the fastest, strongest sonofabitch around who has trained in ninjutsu his entire life…he’s just not as fast or strong as OPM.

Saitama doesn’t really have to exert any effort to neutralize Sonic, and he only neutralizes him accidentally, when Sonic’s junk comes down on his fist (the slow motion shot is priceless). Frankly, Sonic got off easy, as Saitama didn’t put anything into that fist. Yet he considers this encounter a motivator to train harder so that next time they meet, he’ll beat him.

opm46

That brings us to Saitama having tea at his place with a recently-repaired Genos, where Saitama expresses his frustration that even after three years of saving various cities from evil villains, no one in either the hero community or the general public know who he is. He doesn’t have a fan club of well-dressed blushing maidens, either.

So Genos brings up Hero Registration, something Saitama didn’t know was a thing, but which he sees as his ticket to recognition. Going online, filling out forms, and showing up to morning exams: it’s the life of a professional, officially recognized hero. Doesn’t sound very fun though, does it?

9_brav2

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – 08

uso81

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

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

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

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

uso82

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

uso83

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

uso84

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

uso85

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

uso86

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

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

uso87

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

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

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

10_ses

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – 07

uso71

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

uso72

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

uso73

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

uso74

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

uso75

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

uso76

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

uso77

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

uso78

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

uso79

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

uso710

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

uso710a

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

9_ses

Noragami – 07

nora71

Usually we like our anime series’ mythologies to be kept as simple and un-embellished as possible, but Noragami is a notable exception, where the more we (along with Hiyori) learn about the whys and wherefores of the divine world, the more rich and immersive the experience becomes. After bowing in respect to Yato last week, Bishamon’s right-hand (or to be precise right-ear) shinki Kazuma and Lord Tenjin expand our understanding of the situation quite a bit.

In short, Tenjin cannot take Yukine on as one of his regalia because that would make Yukine a “Nora”—shinki with many names akin to a stray cat. Such agents are apparently a necessary evil, as they essentially do dirty work gods don’t want to sully their own regalia with. Like Hiyori, we’d thought Nora was just Yato’s on-and-off shinki’s name, but it actually describes what she is: trouble. But even if Tenjin agreed to take Yukine in, there are other issues.

nora72

Far more dangerous than Nora pestering Yato is Yukine continuing to think impure thoughts and commit misdeeds, forming the defilement covering Yato’s body that will ultimately kill him. The logical, pragmatic, and honorable Kazuma owes Yato a debt, so far from harming Hiyori when they cross paths, he lets her in on this truth, and how something must be done to prevent Yato’s demise. Kazuma believes killing Yukine is the best way, but when Hiyori saw the chemistry and teamwork of Bishamon’s regalia, she glimpsed another, less killy way.

Yato isn’t ready to give up on Yukine either, even after he attempts to steal the disaster charity donation box from the convenience store where Yato works the night shift. Before he and Hiyori find him for a phantom battle, Nora gives Yukine the “You’re Useless” talk that always proves so devastating to kids in his emotional state. But Yato chooses a dull, uncooperative Sekki to running back into Nora’s sinister clutches, and as Hiyori begs him, he looks poised to adjusting his behavior towards Yukine, treating him not like a tool or object, but as the person he is.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • We could say this about every Noragami, but this was a beautiful episode, especially the diverse use of lighting: Bishamon’s ethereal bath; the fluorescents of the convenience store; the robust sunsets; the pale city lights; the stark shadow in Yukine’s room.
  • We liked the episode opening with Bishamon, who is far from an overbearing tyrant, and Kuzama, whose scolding advice she actually takes to heart.
  • After hearing her sweet voice in Kyousogiga, it’s more than a little unsettling to hear Kugimiya Rie spewing such awful, if poetic things. She definitely evokes a healthy fear.
  • It’s been a Kaji Yuki-heavy week. He plays an angsty Yukine here we’ve heard a lot of him as Hope Estheim in Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII—the first (and hopefully not last) U.S. FF release with an available Japanese language track (and yes, that track makes the game infinitely more enjoyable; the English dubs are abysmal). On top of that, Kaji voices Shuu in Nisekoi and the Prince in the latest Space Dandy.