Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – 06

ino61

InoBato’s sixth outing tables the exploration of the potential rift between the girls as a result of their shared feelings for Jurai to take an entirely different Route: the one from Jurai to Sayumi, the tall, proper, raven-haired beauty who hasn’t had an episode devoted to her yet, while also revealing that she tried to use her power to erase everyone’s powers (including her own), ten months prior.

ino62

When she feels under the weather after doing most of the work making a video game for Jurai’s birthday (a very sweet gesture on the part of the whole club, though Jurai’s in-game fantasy can’t touch Chu2Koi delusion for pizazz) Sayumi stays home for the day to rest. Jurai visits and learns she wears glasses and has a little sister nothing like her, and is generally happy to see her home-ier side. Then, while flipping through her middle school yearbook, he asks her why she didn’t try to become StuCo president in high school. She abruptly asks Jurai to leave.

ino63

Combined with flashbacks – ostensibly from Jurai’s POV – of he and Sayumi having a fight over whether she should erase everyone’s powers, it seems clear he struck a nerve. But the fact is, Jurai is mistaken, and spends the entire episode worrying and investigating Sayumi and blaming himself needlessly. Sayumi doesn’t blame Jurai for anything…on the contrary, she’s grateful for the way things turned out.

ino65

Sayumi, you see, strove to be the perfect, “proper woman”, as her strong, stern grandmother told her to. She still does. But in middle school, as StuCo Prez, that obsession made her lose sight of her friends. And when her powers awakened, she was frightened and didn’t know what to do – both natural, imperfect reactions to gaining seemingly boundless powers.

ino66

She’s grateful because Jurai was essentially her hero on both counts. First, she helped put Sayumi’s mind at ease by setting a boundary to her powers. He does so with a daring gamble: fighting an unwinnable physical fight (because he won’t hit a girl) and letting her use her power…and it doesn’t work. She can’t use her powers to erase their powers. They’re stuck with them, but Jurai assures her and the others that he’ll watch over them.

ino67

Sayumi and the others (except maybe Chifuyu) realize he’s likely just blowing smoke…but heck, they have these crazy powers…the possibility isn’t zero Jurai could actually be right. His tireless optimism galvanizes, cheers, and buoys her and the rest of the club. Thanks to him, she has friends she’d never have made had she joined the StuCo for selfish reasons.

ino68

Sayumi is very different from Tomoyo and yet this episode did a great job making her almost as suitable and plausible a love interest for Jurai as the crimson-haired light novel author. The early, rigorous establishment of the Jurai’s distinct bonds with each of the girls is most welcome, and crucial to my being emotionally invested if and when the implied future conflict between said girls is revisited…or should Jurai have to make good on his boasts of being able to stop them should their powers go haywire. Either way, or both — I’m properly on board.

8_ses

Advertisements

Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – 02

ino21

I found it amusing that this episode of a show with “commonplace” or “everyday life” in the title dealt with something not commonplace at all, at least for most in the Western world: the Japanese written language. Heck, even that title means different things depending on how it’s written or read. I’m apparently drawn to shows that playfully explore the complexity plasticity of the language they’re speaking, usually for laughs.

ino22

And laughs were indeed in ample supply in the episode’s first half, when Jurai decides that everyone needs to come up with a Chuuni nickname to go with their powers (Why he didn’t suggest this when they first got their powers, I don’t know, but never mind). Each girl has a different approach, with Hatoko simply slapping colors in front of her name, then settling on “Play-Along Straight Man Hatoko.”

ino22a

Sayumi is next, and has lots of good names, but when Jurai points out that they’re all very cute, like “Powdered-Snow Princess”, she storms out of the room; apparently “cute” is an off-limits subject for her. After her comes Chifuyu, who goes from “Mikan Mikan” to a variety of family-related nicknames, and settling on “Pineapple”, because she likes that part of sweet-and-sour pork.

ino22b

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the girl who seems to know, understand, and care for Jurai the most—Tomoyo—comes up with the most thoughtful and impressive nickname, “Endless Paradox” (Paradox Witch Who Sneers at Twilight). Even I have to admit that’s a pretty good name…and I’m not a Chuuni anymore.

ino23

What follows the selection of nicknames in the second half is another application of the theme of language: that of misunderstanding, which is always a deep font of comedy. In this case, Mirei comes in to “respond to Jurai’s love letter”, which she does by reciprocating her feelings and agreeing to go out with him. Naturally, that sets the rest of the girls off, because wait…Jurai wrote Mirei a love letter?

ino24

This is when the scene gets a little chaotic, but amusingly so: as Mirei reads and deconstructs the letter in great detail, explaining precisely (and not unreasonably) how she interpreted it as a love letter, Jurai confirms what Tomoyo suspected almost immediately: that he simply wrote a letter acknowledging Mirei’s superpower and giving it the name “Grateful Lover”, or rather, “Robber.”

ino25 ino26

It doesn’t get through to Mirei, however, and the letter seems to have had the unfortunate effect of at least making her feel like she’s very much in love with Jurai. As a result, she follows him around, flirts and clings to him, and turns into a viscous solid of affection. Jurai is understandably flattered—Mirei is adorable, after all. And yet…

ino27ino29

And yet. When he arrives in the clubroom, his four club-mates are all quite pissed, and try to ignore him/take it out on him with varying degrees of success. It’s ultimately Sayumi who is upfront and tells him the understanding between him and Mirei needs to be cleared up. But there’s no superpower to make that easy, so that’s when we get our first taste of actual drama in InoBato, and I have to say, it worked pretty well.

ino210

In the hallway at sunset and bowing deeply in apology, Jurai explains what he explained to Tomoyo: that it wasn’t a love letter and he wasn’t trying to go out with her. Mirei is devastated but tries to apologize herself for jumping to conclusions and keep her composure, but simply can’t. It’s a tough and surprisingly moving scene, even if it is meant to restore the status quo. The lighting, the close-ups, and the voicework all contribute to sell it; now we know, InoBato can do serious.

ino211a

What really validates it is when Tomoyo appears to cheer Jurai up, who is mostly angry at himself for having hurt someone so deeply without intending to. For a good while there, Tomoyo drops the tsundere act and sits with Jurai as a friend while he explains that he chose the potentially confusing “robber” to match the character count of his and everyone else’s powers, as a symbol of unity – again, tapping into the written language and its ability to symbolize many things at once. See, he’s actually a very thoughtful, caring guy! Like his letter, Mirei could have interpreted that as affection, too.

ino211

Ultimately, Mirei shoots Jurai an email—they exchanged emails during their short-lived romance—voicing her hope they can still be friends, and her intention to use the name he gave her power. And that’s perhaps the most surprising part of this episode: there was only one use of powers in the whole episode: When Mirei very briefly stole Closed Clock from Tomoyo (and obliged Jurai by giving them right back)…and that’s it.

ino212

And yet this was on some levels a stronger episode than the first, because it didn’t just define its cast by their powers, but really tapped into their personalities through their use of language and their reactions to Jurai’s fling with Mirei, as well as Mirei’s interpretation of Jurai’s language. In the end, the “battle” this week was fought not with elements or matter or time, but with “commonplace” words. And it was a damn good one.

9_sestop_ses

Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – 01

ino11

It’s Chu2Koi, but for real, baby. In a nutshell, that’s Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de, or InoBato for short, AKA When Supernatural Battles Become Commonplace. We have a group of mostly girls and a guy, only here the guy is the Chuuni, Andou Jurai, who is messing around one day when he suddenly produces a real ball of magical flame from his palm, and nothing is the same.

ino12

But six months later, aside from a monthly “supernatural checkup” the club undergoes, everything is the same. Everything, except that now Himeki Chifuyu can conjure matter and teleport, Kishikwa Hatoko can control the elements, Kanzaki Tomoyo can manipulate time, and Takanashi Sayumi can restore things to a previous state. Ironically, the true Chuuni just has his little dark flame, which is pretty, but otherwise totally useless; apparently a sore subject.

ino13

The strength of this show, and something that elevates it from being merely another Chu2Koi or Haruhi knockoff, is that Studio Trigger is behind it, which means most of the time, it looks totally badass, but in a more boisterous aesthetic than the more quiet realism of KyoAni. It excels both at rendering the ordinary lives of the students, as well as the awesome magic they periodically break out, because, well, they can.

ino14

The show also moves briskly and confidently, from the way things were before (the only magic was in Jurai’s head) to the way things are (everyone using powers like it ain’t no thang) to their first interaction with someone outside the club, Student Council President Kudou Mirei (who has the Lancet ability), and by the end raises a key question moving forward: why did they receive these powers? What, if anything, are they supposed to do with them?

ino15

That mystery looms over the otherwise playful and fun proceedings, giving the show a measure of gravitas. But I’m not under any illusions that this is a moe showcase of epic proportions, with a diverse sampling of very meticulously-rendered, adorable characters. The show also benefits from Okamoto Nobuhiko’s spirited, sometimes manic voice anchoring the cast of ladies, which includes the warm Hayami Saori (Hatoko) and delicately strict Taneda Risa (Sayumi).

ino16

It’s bold, sharp-witted, pretty, and well-executed. Most of all, it’s just plain fun. You can glimpse that Trigger goodness and infectious joie de vivre that made Kill la Kill along with greats like Gurren Lagann...just way less insane and more moe. And along with the completely different Ushinawareta Mirai o Motomete, I am proud to add it to my Fall 2014 watchlist.

9_sesrev_ses