Chihayafuru 3 – 06 – Just Taichi, and Yet Not

Jeez Louise, I thought the last couple episodes were tense. Put Chihaya and Taichi in their first official match together—a finals match, no less—and everything is upped to Eleven. No one dare leave, even Arata, lest he miss watching something he knows deep down he needs to see.

The elders are astonished that not only is the final two high schoolers, but of the same society. They may not be aware of just how close these two are, but it becomes plain once their match shifts into gear.

You can expect the finer points of karuta in Chihayafuru, but don’t sleep on Kana’s mom’s encyclopedic knowledge of traditional Japanese dress, how it makes those who wear it carry themselves differently, and even the symbolic and spiritual significance of the obi.

Very cool stuff…this show is like a cultural bath bomb. I also liked how the nerves of both Chihaya and Taichi were exposed not necessarily in their game, but in the fact they both forgot to gather up their sleeves with the strap thingies called tasuki.

As for the match itself, Chihaya and Taichi demonstrate they’re both at the top of their respective games. Chihaya has more rest…and speed, and is starting to hear words better, but Taichi has a number of strategies to turn her offensive game in on itself, like a placement that seems needlessly reckless and whack-a-doo…until it actually starts working, frustrating Chihaya.

Once she remembers Sakurazawa’s tip about maintaining posture, Chihaya sits up straight and looks at her opponent, who may feel like a stranger in the match, but is still, at the end of the day, Taichi. Neither of them would be there without the other, and here and now, there’s no one either of them want to beat more. It’s a dense, weighty atmosphere, moving some to tears, and it’s absolutely must-watch Chihayafuru.

Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge – 11

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You’d think a pool episode would wear Tanaka out, but he can always float listlessly on the surface. When his normally relaxing, ordinary school life is infected by vigorous preparations for the cultural festival, we learn what is truly anathema to him.

In preparation for the bedlam, he tries to perfect his cloaking device, but to no avail: he has to perform some task, and the final ones available to him and Ohta turn out to be the role of haunted house ghosts.

Of course, initially, Tanaka doesn’t scare Shiraishi so much as surprise her when he so nonchalantly flashes her while switching how he wears his funeral robe (fortunately, he was wearing underwear).

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Ohta and Tanaka also have a sweet moment when they look on proudly as Echizen interacts with people other than the two of them and Miyano (though she resents their pride as somewhat mocking).

The haunted house turns out alright too, with a couple of little issues: Rather than a ghost in a well, Tanaka looks more like a leisurely bathing spa patron.

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As for Ohta, he’s far more scared of the house than anyone else, and so he must be replaced as star ghost. Miyano steps in, but ends up charming patrons rather than scaring them with her adorable demon catgirl get-up, even posing for pictures. Hey, it’s not what they were originally going for in a haunted house, but if the customers come away happy, who cares?

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During Tanaka’s break, he sees class 1-E has a Maid Cafe, and as a girl with very similar long black hair runs off to watch the drama club, I was all but convinced Tanaka would be forced into a maid outfit to substitute, with hilarious results. Instead, we got something even better: Echizen in a maid outfit, complete with bubbly welcome.

Of course, she realizes far too late who she’s welcoming, resulting in the longest—and best—comedic pause of the episode, ending with Echizen reverting to her usual brusque nature, demanding Tanaka go home and forget what he saw.

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Tanaka continues his quest for a refuge from the hustle and bustle of the festival, barging in on a kissing couple and coming up against a sign barring roof access. He settles on a cardboard box near the roof door, where he soon falls asleep. Ohta, who lost sight of him during the break from helping everyone who asked, searches desperately for his friend, stopping at nearly every food and sweet stall on the way—this is a cultural festival, after all, one must sample all they can!

When he does find him, Tanaka is so accidentally scary-looking that Ohta clean passes out. All Tanaka can do is sit by him and wait for him to come to, but of course he dozes off in the process. When they both come to, it’s time to clean up and celebrate a festival well done. But Ohta doesn’t forget the ghoul he spotted, and presents Tanaka with consecrated salt to ward it off…even though “it” was Tanaka himself.

Another wonderfully solid and hilarious Tanaka-kun, adding new life to a well-worn anime theme two weeks in a row with its uniquely bizarre and unexpected yet warm and charming comedy. I hope it gets a second season!

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Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge – 10

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I never though it would be possible: a pool scene with no girls in bikinis flitting about! Just a shirtless Ohta and Tanaka, surveying a very nice public pool filled mostly with kids.

A couple of said kids discover Tanaka can’t swim, try to tease him, and incur the wrath of Ohta. They make peace, however, and Tanaka inadvertently teaches them how to float perfectly along the water, a talent he owes to his listlessness.

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It was fun to see Miss Wac at her other part-time job as pool lifeguard, criticizing Tanaka and Ohta from a place of ignorance, this time in aquatics.

It’s left to out imagination how exactly Tanaka gets home when Ohta reports he’s too tired and listless to carry him, but I loved the fact Tanaka’s floating method became a trend with grade schoolers, much to the dismay of their swim teacher.

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The second half is all about girls in yukatas, making up, if you will for a first half that was mostly ‘beefcake’. Miyano wants to attend the fireworks festival with Ecchan in a sexy yukata, but thinks she needs to grow 10cm to do so.

Tanaka and Ohta decide to help Miyano out: not with rapid growth, which ain’t gonna happen, but by helping her choose a cute yukata. Shiraishi also joins them, and we learn that, just like Tanaka, she’s more used to watching the fireworks on TV in an air-conditioned room. Frankly, part of me wanted to see these two doing just that at episode’s end.

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Instead, Shiraishi regrets to inform the others that her two girlfriends already invited her, but it’s no big deal. Shiraishi gets all the joy and satisfaction she desires when Tanaka heartily endorses her yukata.

Miyano…is a different story: even the smallest-size yukata off the rack fits…poorly. So Shiraishi, reciprocating all the good Miyano did for her, decides to dust off another one of her wrecklessly-perfected skills, in this case sewing, to make a custom yukata that wil fit Miyano properly.

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The result is…well, adorable, but also with an air of maturity. It’s a complete success, and Echizen is so charmed by the sight of her cute friend, she allows Tanaka and Ohta to join them.

Not moments after Echizen internally remembers when she and Ohta used to go see fireworks in matching yukatas, Ohta asks her if she remembers that very memory; and when she denies, he’s suspicious.

Ohta starts off well by properly complimenting Echizen’s yukata, which isn’t what he or Tanaka expected. But things take a turn for the worse when, in the middle of Echizen working up the courage to compliment his yukata, Ohta runs off at the mention of unlimited syrup at the water ice stall. But then, I guess we always knew Ohta’s priorities.

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Tensions lesson once the fireworks start, and we see Shiraishi with her two friends enjoying them in one spot, and Echizen, Ohta and Tanaka in another, united in their awe of the fireworks’ magnificence.

But wait…where’s Miyano? She’s so short she can barely see the fireworks over the taller masses around her. Someone put her on your shoulders, already!

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Hyouka – 20

Chitanda invites Oreki to a shrine for New Years to show off her kimono and deliver a bottle of sake to its owners on her father’s behalf. They also visit Mayaka, who is helping out as a shrine maiden. She is in charge of lost and found and selling fortunes. Oreki gets a “misfortune”, and he and Chitanda end up trapped in a storage shed. Not wanting her father’s friends to get the wrong idea, they throw personal items out of a hole in the shed so they’ll be taken to Mayaka. Satoshi arrives when Mayaka receives Chitanda’s purse with a string around it, which Satoshi recognizes. He races to the shed and frees them.

Oreki Houtarou would argue even now that his investigative and deductive skills are simply a matter of good luck, but an ominous mis-fortune spells trouble, and this week he has none of his usual luck. Don’t get us wrong: Oreki is not unlucky because he’s trapped in a dark, cold shed with Chitanda Eru in a kimono that makes her look like a perfect doll. He’s unlucky because he’s locked with her in a shed on the grounds of a shrine whose owners are friends of the Chitandas. Oreki gets a little bit of how rich people interact, and if one’s young, attractive daughter were found locked in a shed with a peasant like Oreki, Chitanda may not have to commit seppuku or anything, but it wouldn’t look good. One gets the feeling Chitanda wouldn’t even mind if this situation had happened elsewhere, and if it wasn’t cold.

So yeah, even if something was going to happen, or if it would be construed that way by a third party, nothing can happen. In this regard, there was a little less romantic tension between Chitanda and Oreki this week than last. After exhausting escape plans that would draw attention and/or destroy the shed, they must rely on the very efficient lost-and-found network of the shrine, in which lost items are sent straight to Mayaka without delay. When subtle items don’t work, Oreki gets lucky again, in that Fukobe recently watched the same Nabunaga historical TV drama he did, and will understand when Chitanda’s purse is sent with a string around it, it indicates they’re “trapped like rats.” Another fine standalone episode with a beautiful setting (when not in the shed) and festive atmosphere.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 6

Croisée VI: The Return of Alice. Alice is not the most annoying character I’ve known – not by a long shot – but she is edging towards most annoying of the season, and isn’t helped by the fact there’s a much better, more tolerable Alice doing duty on the S.S. Kamisama no Memo-cho. This one treats Yune like a doll with no free will to play dress-up with and have photos taken for her facebook (which, in these days, was just a book.)

Still, despite the fact Alice has a lot of screentime this week, it was still an enjoyable episode, with Yune learning the tribulations and sheer lunacy of Western aristocratic garb. She likens the carilion, for example, to a birdcage, which it is to an extent, as it limits the movement of birds (ladies). Alice is  just as astonished by how expertly Yune folds initially massive kimonos into the neat, compact outfits she wears daily.

It’s a shame though that Alice’s older sister Camille didn’t have more to say or do, she struck me as immediately more interesting than the tiringly hyper Alice. She looks very much the caged bird, extremely well-bred and well-trained, but there’s always a little melancholy in her face and few words, and when she looks at the corsetless Yune – whose future can be whatever she wants – she almost seems a little envious.


Rating: 3

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 4

Ah, it’s time for our weekly fix of period clash-of-cultures slice-of-life, with this episode bringing the blonde and annoying Alice Blanche into the picture. She’s an aristocratic fanatic of all things Oriental; though I couldn’t call her a Japonophile like myself because she’s simply too ignorant about Japanese culture to make a determination either way.

Anyway, I may have been too harsh on Claude’s manner with Yune; at least he treats her like a human. Upon laying eyes on her, Alice treats poor Yune like a cute pet, or a doll come to life. She also treats her like a slave to be purchased, and later tries to bribe her into living at her mansion. She almost succeeds, as the deal includes her prized kimono and a private bath, something Yune has been missing since she arrived in Paris. Baths were only a daily thing for the very rich in France. They still are, too…haha I kid. Sumimasen!

Anyway I’m not that optimistic about Alice as she seems almost to selfish and stupid to live, but I still enjoyed this episode. It contained a lot more comedy than before, and also chibi cuts, which were employed liberally, though not ad nauseum. I also continue to enjoy the rich Parisian scenery, and hope that Yune – and we along with her – gets to explore more of the grand city. And Claude learns to enjoy Japanese cuisine…’cause he’s really missing out!


Rating: 3.5

Ao no Exorcist 12

The gang of esquires is given a seemingly innocuous mission to extract a harmless ghost from the ridiculous “MepphyLand” amusement park, in which the most dramatic development could be Shiemi switching from her bulky kimono to an ordinary school uniform, complete with short skirt; but it turns into far more than that quite quickly. One of Mephisto’s brothers, Amaimon, shows up, takes Rin’s sword, and unsheaths it, releasing Rin’s demon side. Then he proceeds to mop the floor with him.

This underscores just how vulnerable not only Rin is, but also how fragile his grip on (relatively) ordinary life is. One minute, he’s arranging a date with Shiemi, the next, he’s transformed into a vicious monster through no fault of his own, and almost loses himself in the process. It’s only through the intervention of Shura – a “High Inspector, Upper First Class Exorcist” – that he’s able regain his humanity. Shura was disguised as the member of the gang always obscured by his hoodie. “He” is also a she.

My immediate first impression of Shura is, sadly, “stupid-looking”; Yoruichi-san looked sexy enough in a glorified tracksuit; why this person has to walk around in a tiny bikini top is beyond me. Still, it opens up a new can of worms regarding Rin: his identity as a son of satan is revealed to a very high-ranking exorcist, and that can’t be good. Not only that, but Amaimon will be back, and he may not be as playful next time. Are Rin’s hopes of living a normal life as a human exorcist toast? Rating: 3.5