Arte – 08 – Finding Her Footing

After assuring Angelo and Darcia that she’ll be back, Arte prepares to step into Yuri’s wagon and the next chapter of her life. Before she does, Leo impresses upon her the importance of using that chapter to think more seriously on how she wants to make her way in the world, and whether that aligns with her continued apprenticeship with him.

Arte is certainly excited by her impending adventure, but can’t hide the worry in her face. Was she only ever holding Leo back from his work? Would he prefer if she didn’t return? Matters aren’t helped when Yuri presents her a portable altarpiece Leo told him to give to her, and she can’t help but see it as a parting gift.

One little check back on Leo sitting alone in his workshop makes it clear he’s become accustomed enough to Arte that’s it’s suddenly “too quiet” for him. Once on a boat to Venice, Arte is impressed by everyone else’s ability to not only stand and walk steadily on the heaving deck, but spar on it as well.

Alas, Arte finds herself on unsteady footing both physically and emotionally, as she can’t stop thinking in circles about Leo. That’s when she forgets she’s on a boat, where everyone must be responsible for their personal safety, gets up too fast, gets woozy, and falls overboard.

She wakes up warm and dry, in new clothes Yuri and his servant put on her (though Yuri assures her he has “no interest” of that kind young girls like her), and Yuri reveals he’s known Arte has been worried about having been a burden to Leo, but finds her so fascinating to watch that he let her be.

While that almost resulted in her accidental drowning, Yuri tells Arte that she worries needlessly. Leo didn’t discourage her from returning beacause she’s in his way, but because he might be in her way. As a noblewoman, she’ll have more opportunities (like this one) that he didn’t as a former beggar, and that she shouldn’t overlook them out of deference to him.

When the boat arrives in Venice, Arte is overwhelmed and delighted by all the new sights and sounds, the diversity of people all over the world—and how good Venetians are at balancing on boats! She’s also wowed by Yuri’s impressive collection of Oriental objets d’arte

While there’s a lot of exciting new things for her to see, Arte shows Venice some new things too, like a noblewoman carrying a heavy chest up four flights, or shaking the hand of a handmaiden while politely declining her service. She projects modernity and confidence even a former tutor warns her that Yuri’s niece is “unmanagable.”

When Arte finally meets Yuri’s sister-in-law Sofia, she can’t help but agree with his belief that she’s one of the most beautiful women in the world. Her daughter Katarina is equally striking, like a delicate shy fine doll hiding behind her mother’s skirt. But she’s only shy when Sofia and Yuri are around.

Once it’s just her and Arte, Katarina reveals her true willful nature, haughtily reproaching Arte for her unrefined activities since arriving and expressing much doubt she’ll be any different from the previous tutors. Having heard all she cares to know about Arte, Katarina curls up for a nap, warning Arte not to wake her.

Looks like her usual method of simply being nice and friendly ain’t gonna cut it for Arte. She may now be on (relatively) dry land, but finding her footing with this young lady may prove far tougher than lugging heavy loads up four flights!

Arte – 07 – Opportunity Knocks

Despite the fact she’s surely busy with her apprenticing duties, Arte still finds the time to teach Darcia, a young woman she recently met, how to read and write. It’s an example of how Arte is paying forward the advantages she has as a woman of noble birth.

The other side of that is that noblemen like Yuri Falier from Venice are quick to kiss her on the hand to introduce himself. Yuri has a proposal for her: he wants her to travel back to Venice, become his family’s official portrait artist, and become a tutor for his niece, who is also an independent woman.

After sleeping on it, Arte decides to respectfully refuse Yuri’s offer. She’s simply not sure she’s learned enough to jump right into being a full-time artisan and tutor, and more to the point doesn’t feel right leaving Leo alone (Leo for his part, says it’s Arte’s choice to make).

Arte also meets Ruthanna, the daughter of Leo’s master who is very pregnant, but whose husband recently died, and his family won’t return her dowry, leaving her in serious financial trouble. After a cordial reunion with Leo, she doesn’t tell Leo the truth, but she does tell Arte.

Since legal matters are hardly her forte, Arte comes to Veronica for advice.  Veronica basically tells her that in lieu of her husband, Ruthanna needs someone of sufficient status and authority to serve as a proxy and pursue her interests.

Being a widow, Ruthanna has no leverage with her late husband’s family, who don’t care what happens to her or her child. Fortunately, she has Arte, who recently turned down work from someone with ample status and authority!

Arte revisits Yuri (who was already deep in preparations for an “offensive” to win her over anyway, the rascal), and reverses her decision. She’ll work for him, but only three months (negotiated to six). In exchange, he’ll help Ruthanna with her affairs (and he quickly comes through), and agrees that she’ll be able to return to Leo’s workshop when the period is up (though he won’t rule out an extension).

Similarly, Arte agrees to work not as an independent artisan, but as a representative of Leo’s workshop. After seven weeks in Florence, looks like Arte is headed for the picturesque canals of Venezia, where she’s been given an opportunity few men of her day ever got, as well as the opportunity to educate and possibly befriend a fellow strong-willed young woman in Yuri’s niece. She’s approaching all of this in good faith; here’s hoping Yuri does the same…no funny business!

Arte – 06 – Football and Frescoes

This week’s Arte was heavy on the history lessons, as the episode depicted the funeral of a master, handled by the guild. The guild also finds new masters for his apprentices, settles his various other financial affairs, and chips in for the family who survived him.

After the funeral, Arte witnesses a game of Calcio Florentino, a violent early version of football. One of the players notices Arte and is insulted by her presence, but Angelo defends her, saying she’s one of them. Other men come to Arte’s defense, the game turns into a brawl, and Arte gets smacked in the face with the ball.

Fortunately she’s fine, but it is evident at all levels of society that Florence is in a “slump”. In their post-funeral guild meeting, many masters voice their objection to Leo’s taking in of a female apprentice, fearing that an element such as she that divides the apprentices can’t be good.

When Leo comes home with a large bag, I was worried he was ordered to fire her, and it was severance. Instead, they decided to allow Leo to keep Arte, provided the two participate in a huge fresco-painting project in a grand hall. Arte is excited to be a part of it, but faces the usual sexism.

Leo is intentionally harsh on Arte so none of the men think he’s giving her special treatment because she’s a woman. They watch her toil (and in one instance, has to go vomit from overwork) without complaint—with a smile—despite taking on a workload with which even they confess they’d have trouble.

Arte’s hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. Guild Master Aroldo praises Leo on having found a hardworking apprentice any master would want: someone who believes in them and is always trying to keep up. She reminds him of a young Leo, and later admits he may have been selling her too short.

Arte continues to win hearts and minds, including the apprentice who most objected to her presence. When she asks if she can join a game of calcio, he agrees, and the game is on. It’s not the first sport I would choose to play after several consecutive nights of collapsing from exhaustion…but hey, have at it Arte!

We’re then introduced to the fancy Venetian lord, Yuri Falier, who comes to inspect the frescoes so far. His eyes immediately go to Arte’s practice sketches, and he admires their soft, clean lines in contrast to the rougher sketches of the other apprentices. Looks like Arte might have another new patron waiting in the wings.

Arte – 05 – Art as Capital

This week Arte meets Leo’s oldest patron with whom he shares “an inescapable bond” despite not being able to stand the guy. Ubertino is a hugely wealthy merchant who presents a detailed order to Leo.

With the work and expensive media required there’s no way he’ll make a profit. Not eager to negotiate, Leo accepts Arte’s offer to go in his stead, hoping a pretty young girl might warm the old coot’s frigid heart.

Arte ends up failing completely, but asks Leo to give her another chance. Seeing that this is a valuable opportunity for someone who wants to someday go independent, Leo lets Arte keep trying. She first seeks advice in how to get what you want out of a negotiation from her new friend Veronica.

In normal circumstances an artisan’s apprentice would never dream of seeking help from a courtesan, but as we’ve seen Arte is hardly normal! Veronica’s advice helps Arte in Round Two, even though Ubertino immediately detects a courtesan’s manners in her constant smile, straight posture, and slow, steady manner with him.

The most important advice Veronica offers is for Arte to show Ubertino that’s she’s worth paying a high price for her work. Arte doesn’t use her noble status to demand a higher payout, but cites the crochet skills she learned as a noble as evidence of her value to him as an artisan.

Ubertino claims not to care about art in the least, but understands its value as capital; that is, as gifts to rich business partners or donations to the church. Thus, Arte must come to terms with the fact that not all of her future customers commission work out of a love for art, but out of an appreciation for its monetary value.

Arte also learns Ubertino’s salon is full not just of Leo’s work, but that of his master’s, then learns that Leo was a beggar whose natural talent and hard work was nurtured by that master. When the master passed, Ubertino’s patronage passed to Leo (hence the inescapable bond).

Learning about Leo’s modest past excites Arte, since as we’ve discussed, she’s in a similar underdog situation, and like Leo must reach out and take what she wants from life; it will never be given to her. She’s also amused that while Leo and Ubertino claim to not stand each other, they’re a lot alike—especially when it comes to never spending money on themselves.

Arte – 04 – The First Step to Hell

When Arte first experiences heartache, she has no idea what it is, just that it is negatively affecting her work and making her absent-minded. All of that makes Leo annoyed with her. Fortunately, his regular patron Veronica, who requests that Arte paint her portrait, is a font of wisdom in matters of love.

Arte comes right out and says she doesn’t necessarily respect Veronica’s profession, but does respect the hard work and resolve Veronica puts into it. Veronica is flattered, but makes it clear that her job and success is only possible because she avoids falling in love. If she falls for one of the men she entertains, she could end up ruined and in the gutter like one of her former contemporaries.

When Arte learn part of Veronica’s routine with men is to play hard-to-get and intentionally make them wait for days so they’ll be more devoted when they do see her. This angers Arte because she knows what heartache feels like and can’t imagine someone being okay with causing suffering on purpose.

While Arte was initially smitten with Veronica’s smile and charms, she soon see’s it’s to a large degree by design. Veronica and her manner is a brand, and the portrait is part of that—posing in a library with a book to evoke intellectualism). But Arte’s condemnation of how she manipulates men doesn’t preclude their becoming friends who can talk to one another anytime.

As for avoiding love, Arte tries to bury herself in her work and not let Leo distract her. It may seem like cynical advice from Veronica, but in their day and age women who want to live by their own power must fiercely maintain that power, and not cede it to others. Of course, in Leo’s case, maybe clearing the air could be advantageous?

Arte – 03 – Different Kind of Animal

It’s Carnival in Florence, and Leo has Arte dress like a boy so they can sit in on a hospital dissection. On the way, Arte meets one of Leo’s patrons—a courtesan—and sees him smiling in a way she’s never seen before. While normally forbidden by the church, Carnival time is an exception. Some guys go pale or faint from the sight of a cadaver being carved up, but Arte is just fine…she truly has the guts to draw guts!

What the church apparently will not abide is to have a woman at a dissection, so when Arte loses her hat and lets out a very feminine yelp, Leo has to get them both out of there lest they get into some serious legal trouble. It ain’t fair, but that was the time. In the process of running and hiding from their pursuers, Leo draws Arte so close that she notices for the first time how a man’s bone structure and skin differ greatly from a woman’s. She also feels an unpleasant pain in her chest that she’s never felt before. Hmmmmm…I wonder what that could be?????

Arte dismisses such sensations as temporary illness and moves on. She also moves up, as Leo is willing to accelerate her progression through the artisan ranks by assigning her the task of a journeyman: creating a background for a real commissioned painting. Arte sets out and braves the cold, comes back with a fine sketch of a cityscape, and it’s rejected.

She goes back out and does it again, and again…and many more times before Leo has her look at the painting and discern what it is the client truly wants. The woman subject should be the focus, which means the background should have less detail.

That Leo doesn’t spell it out for her, but lets things dawn on her naturally, speaks to his growing respect not just for her work ethic, but artistic instincts. It’s why he’s drawn up a new contract that gives her both a promotion and a raise, and why he rejects her feeling that in obsessing with art she neglected her womanlike charms. Like her father, Leo is one who prefers an independent woman with a strong will and drive to the period’s ideal of a woman: quiet, complacent, and above all idle.

That’s why I’m not the most enthusiastic about Arte suddenly developing a crush on Leo. In her defense, she’s been so absorbed in art in her life she’d never felt romantic feelings for anyone before. The only other person who didn’t look at her like something was wrong with her was her dad. It makes sense that the first man not related to her not to treat her like “just a woman” would make her heart beat a little faster.

Arte – 02 – Put Your Back Into It!

This week Leo gives Arte a sack of money to go out and purchase the materials needed to fix her rooftop shed. Seems simple enough, except that Arte has never had to do any of this before. Every man she interacts with treats her coldly as she goes about business they wouldn’t give a second thought to if she were male.

This kind of misogyny is nothing new to Arte: most men around her assume she’s less than (or biologically unsuited) to do the work they do, and hence they treat her with aversion. The other side of the coin is someone like Angelo Parker. Unlike most of the other men, he treats women with kindness and is eager to help them. That’s nice and all, but it comes out of a sense that women are weak and unsuited to most tasks, and require his help.

It’s paternalism, which he learned from his father (obviously). Angelo has many sisters and as soon as he arrive home they line up to be pampered by him, and he’s all to willing to do so. Now I’m not saying Angelo is a bad guy or a bad brother and son—he’s neither. But he has the wrong mindset for anyone who might want to get involved in Arte.

Compare how Angelo treats Arte throughout this episode to Leo. Thus far, Leo hasn’t made an issue of Arte’s gender, only her worthiness as a person to be his apprentice and an artisan. Arte may be clumsy at times, but at no point has she slacked off given Leo any reason to doubt her commitment. He works her hard, but it’s because he’s setting challenges so she can prove to herself what she’s capable of.

A concept like this is foreign to Angelo, not because he hates women, but because he sees them as too different to be capable of what men are capable of. It explains his quizzical looks when Arte reacts negatively to his gestures of goodwill. Case in point: his master refuses to let Arte sketch a sculpture in his studio, Angelo offers to sneak her in.

But that defeats the whole purpose of striking out as her own independent person. Sure, you’ll need helping hands from people now and again. But Arte is determined to change the master’s mind on her own, and sketch his sculpture with his knowledge and approval. Even if that means lifting ten of what look like 60-pound bags of clay all by herself. Sure enough, watching “a girl do it” in practice convinces the master, as well as endears her to him.

Arte likes Angelo, but doesn’t need him to save her or spoil her. Instead of confused or quizzical, his parting look after Arte explains this is one of revelation. He realizes he doesn’t have to do everything for his sisters, and more importantly they shouldn’t want him to. When he comes home, he asks them to try doing things for themselves, something that might not have ever occured to them. I look forward to Angelo’s feminist conversion!

This week’s Arte can come off a bit preachy at times, but at the end of the day the messages it’s conveying shouldn’t be construed as special or strange, any more than Arte should be considered weird for being an apprentice. Of course, in 16th century Florence seeing a well-dressed young woman hiking up her skirt and pulling a cart full of lumber is an incredible sight because it’s such a rare one.

For Arte and pioneering women like her, there’s no blueprint for how to do this. In addition to working her ass off, Arte also has to endure the reactions of a society that has yet to embrace the idea that men and women are equal. The fact that the battle for equality is still being waged half a millennium later speaks to the sheer weight of Arte’s burden. But like the cart and the bags of clay, she’s putting her back into that ongoing fight.

Arte – 01 (First Impressions) – Her Own Power

Arte, an artistic girl approaching marriageable age in sixteenth century Florence, loves nothing more than capturing the world around around her on paper. The “caged bird” metaphor is immediately put into play: with her father deceased and her noble family barely clinging to solvency, she’ll have to work hard to make a man like her enough to accept a modest dowry. Just one issue: Arte doesn’t want to marry and be caged for life. She wants to be an artisan.

As is the case of oppressed groups throughout history, Arte has to work twice as hard to be noticed half as much, if at all. The sheer difficulty of her task becomes clear when all eighteen of the workshops angrily dismiss her without so much as glancing at her drawings. She’s so frustrated she cuts her hair and threatens to cut off her breasts, but she’s stopped by Leo, who ends up being the first and only man to take a look at her art.

Leo miraculously agrees to let Arte be his apprentice (he currently has none), but sets her on a seemingly impossible task: cleaning, sanding, and priming a huge stack of wooden boards by tomorrow morning, something even he and his fellow masters would be hard pressed to pull off. Yet Arte doesn’t see it as an intentionally undoable feat, and spends all night doing the undoable, ruined noble hands be damned.

Leo, returning home from a bender, is shocked she actually finished the boards, and admits he never intended to give her a real chance. But rather than overt sexism, it’s classism that drives his dubiousness and resentment towards Arte. He became an artisan to avoid a live of begging on the streets, while this rich girl initially tells him she wants to become one because she “loves drawing.”

Then Arte comes clean and tells him that was just putting on airs. In truth, she wants to live through her own power—not just some rich dude’s—Leo realizes he read the girl wrong. After all, even a former beggar like him had a better chance of becoming an apprentice than even the richest girl in Florence. He decides to give her a chance.

With that, Arte moves out of her family’s estate, against her mother’s explicit wishes (we’ll see if there are consequences for that) and into a decided fixer-upper of a shed atop Leo’s workshop. She initially finds the level of repairs and cleanup needed daunting and draws herself to sleep as the walls barely keep out the cold night rain. But in the morning the rising sun peeks through the cracks in those walls and she opens the shutters to reveal a glorious view of the Duomo that would make any master jealous.

Arte is as straightforward and earnest as its heroine. Her situation isn’t sugar-coated; most artisans in Florence are insulted by the mere idea of a woman in their line of work. But nor is it punishingly bleak. It simply took one person giving her a chance…her relentlessly working her ass off, but she’s on her way.

Arte’s dogged determination and optimism is both compelling and inspiring. Komatsu Mikako is well-cast for the role. That her character is loosely based on the real-life female artisan Artemisia Gentileschi lends the show a measure of historical legitimacy. I’m looking forward to watching her tough but rewarding journey towards self-actualization and independence.

Sousei no Onmyouji – 24

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SnO continues its episodic format as Roku, Benio, and Sae continue their “country tour” across the country, sealing dragon spots as they go. Last week was a bit of a drag, but this week presents us with Lio, not yet a Basara but by far the least hostile Kegare we’ve yet encountered.

The “non-evil enemy” is a fairly common convention, but it’s well-executed here, as Sae becomes the non-hostile go-between that allows for a moment of peace between warring species, however brief.

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I like how Roku and Benio’s instincts have them shooting Leo on sight, especially when they find Sae with her. But all it takes is a word from Sae, and Leo won’t fight with the exorcists anymore. All he wants is to “see something beautiful”; indeed, it seems to be his only purpose in life. We’ve never seen a Basara just before they became a Basara, so this is new and fresh territory in terms of building the (other)world of the show.

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Roku even ceases charging Leo on sight when he sees tears in the Kegare’s eyes. Somehow, right on cue, the amusement park comes to life, and the seed Roku planted in Sae’s head (and Sae planted in Leo’s) of a “sparkly, beautiful” place comes to fruition…just in time for Leo to get pierced through the chest by an arrow of light.

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That arrow was fired by Sada Sakura, who along with Zeze Miku are members of the 12 Guardians, who don’t know why Roku and Benio are just standing around with a near-Basara. They’re very far away, and allow no time for explanations, shooting first like the Twins, but with far deadlier attacks.

Zeze could be fun if she wasn’t just a deadpan foil for the manic Sada, whose yelling and passion for RULUSU wears thin fast. As for Sae, she flashes a look we see, but Roku and Benio don’t: a knowing expression that, like her ability to learn and make things so easily, is far beyond her years (if she is indeed a little kid and not…something else).

R.I.P. Leo. You were threatening at first, but in the end you were an ‘ol softie, and you were okay by me. Glad you got to see something beautiful before you were taken out.

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Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 08

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*Note: I realize the couple on the left is Gilgamesh and Saber from Fate, but if you squint, they kinda look like anime Jaime (Janime?) and Cersei…no? Well, Google Image Search seemed to think so…

“There are no men like me. Only me.” Sorry to open with a Jaime Lannister quote of all things, but there are often times when the very close Shiba siblings remind me of Jaime and Cersei in better times, only without the overt incest. Not only that, Jaime’s quote could also be used to describe Tatsuya: in his present world, there are no men like him…only him.

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First he became the first Weed in the disciplinary committee, and made an instant and substantial impact, foiling a terrorist plot. In this heavily process-oriented episode, the Magic High equivalent of an interscholastic sports festival approaches, and he becomes the first weed and first first year voted onto First High’s technical staff. His process in coding Kirihara’s CAD irks his skeptics, but they can’t deny he did some extremely advanced work.

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Tatsuya’s unique indispensability extends beyond school, to his duties as a “special officer” in some secret military unit in which he operates, as well as a contributor to the family business (FLT). In short, there may be no men like him, but he himself is many men to many people, and very few others aside from his sister, know about these other Tatsuyas.

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So badass is Tatsuya, he spends the waning hours of the night not watching anime (or HBO), but working in the clinical basement of the mansion he and Miyuki share on a flying magic problem that stumped teams of scientists elsewhere in the world. When Miyuki pops in to show off an adorable outfit she’ll be wearing for the games, the show casually reveals he’s floating, having made a breakthrough. Even his leisure is work.

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The Nine Schools Competition will expand the world we know about further, threatening his sui generis nature. One thing about Jaime’s “no men like me” quote is the fact it’s not quite correct: plenty of other men have risen fast, fight well, slain their kings and loved their sisters a bit too much. And as the end of last week’s episode gave us a glimpse of the lad who appears as Tatsuya’s mirror image in the OP (above), it would appear there are men like Tatsuya too!

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P.S.: I fully support Erika’s staunch decision to wear bloomers for athletics.