Can the wrong in a lifetime’s worth of indifference and passivity be righted in one glorious moment? It kinda is this week, the final episode of Denpa to air on TV. Makoto has been dreading the day of the big game, but Yashiro’s words moved him; he takes a stand and makes his big entrance as the hero for once. And he does a fairly nice job.
I like baseball settings, so I’m not annoyed in the slightest that this episode was all about baseball on the surface. But baseball can be a metaphor for countless things. Baseball is a sport with roles. There are background roles, temp roles, and lead roles. It’s all about specialization. But sometimes, one player has it all on their shoulders. The stress of this leads the ace pitcher of the market district, Maekawa’s dad, to go AWOL.
Sent by his aunt to look for him, Makoto finds him and finds a kindred spirit in terms of how he sees himself, the world, and his role in it. After he convinces him to come back with him, there’s a priceless and extremely hilarious scene where Mr. Maekawa, who has to sit behind Makoto on his bike, sternly interrogates him on his intentions with his daughter. Makoto just has to carrry everyone on his bike…
So yeah, Makoto gets out of his funk and steps out of the shadow of his doubt and fear and just goes for it. He manages to hit Hanazawa’s pitch, but it’s a pop fly until Yashiro apparently changes the wind to carry the ball all the way into the drink for a home run. Unfortunately for him, the only kiss he gets is from his aunt. It would seem that while he may have learned to be more assertive, Makoto still needs a lot of adolescence points before attaining his ultimate goal. The true conclusion will come in a few months. Rating: 3.5
This episode is a turning point for Makoto, in which he actually openly reveals truths about himself to others. Since he was a youngin, he’d always been okay with giving up on things if he percieved them as too hard. We haven’t seen a lot of that, of course, because everything in the series has come to him very easily and with little or no effort.
Most of the episode is a series of conversations with all of the girls in his life. He’s kind of become a player of sorts without having done anything. Maekawa invites him to her house and makes him lunch, and then they play Mario Kart. How awesome an afternoon is that? Then a phone call with Ryuushi, that’s interrupted by an attention-starved Erio. His encounters are also sprinkled with the blindingly-white-haired space cadet Yashiro, who acts as a guru of sorts – with wisdom beyond her years.
As Makoto, Yashiro, Nakajima and Hanazawa (the latter two on a date) watch Ryuushi play basketball, Makoto recalls how he handled his apparent athletic inadequacies. He simply prevered observing. Playing the onlooker. This harkens back to something Maekawa said verbatim; she may be growing weary of being the onlooker. Makoto innocently thought she was talking more generally, but she was talking about her role in the show, watching Makoto progress with Ryuushi. She may not want to give up on him after all.
Ryuushi isn’t the best basketball player, but Yashiro blabbers on about her esper potential. Everything Makoto has heard thus far is stewing in his head and finally erupts in a “cheer” to Ryuushi that’s actually the most personal, heartfelt commentary he’s delivered yet…including his narration. It’s just the ticket for Ryuushi, and Yashiro has a look of knowing satisfaction. Well done, grasshopper. Makoto still faces tough choices. Will he give up and simply observe, or get off the sidelines and act? Rating: 4
In the midst of summer, Makoto continues to juggle all the various idiosyncratic women in his life. The one with who seems the most natural, obvious choice to be his girlfriend would be Ryuushi, obviously. They exchange phone numbers, and she starts texting him immediately. She also wants him to support her in sports. Her flirting is also the most intentional and most blatant out of everyone (well, except Meme, but Makoto has no designs on her).
Despite all her odd costumes, Maekawa seems far more mature and sly with her words than Ryuushi. She also seems to relish being a rival to Ryuushi for Makoto’s heart, although we don’t really know if her intention is to win it. Ryuushi’s mostly an open book; Maekawa’s murkier; an enigma. And then there’s the family: Meme annoys and even disturbs him most of the time, but there’s no disputing she is drop-dead gorgeous. His cousin Erio continues to cast an otherworldly spell on him.
This week, with its morning baseball game by the river played amongst people in business suits, space suits, and mackerel suits, aesthetic echoes of Arakawa Under the Bridge abound. It also contained lots of tongue-in-cheeck wordplay and jokes; I particularly liked Maekawa’s comment about “sports fishing.” She also calls the ace pitcher for the opposing team “Hanazawa-san” – before we learn that the short-skirted girl is indeed voiced by Kana Hanazawa. Man, that girl’s everywhere…not that I’m complaining.
So yeah, with three to four very different women around him all vying for his time and attention, Makoto is one busy adolescent. The appeal of this show isn’t just in the charm of the characters, but in reveling in just what a great life Makoto has. Fortunately, he seems to realize this himself, and isn’t constantly moping. Summertime; baseball; a serene town; cuties everywhere – this is the place to be. Rating: 3.5
This week contained the same events as the previous one, but this time completely from Meme’s perspective. as a newly-initiated member of the 40-year-old club, she decides to aid in “Yamamoto’s” bottle rocket campaign, turning it into a counterattack against aliens. This is to appease her grandmother the candy store owner, who’s certain she’ll meet the same fate as all that cattle that got mutilated by aliens.
Meme is hard to take seriously as an adult due to the childish manner in which she looks, talks, and acts. Truthfully, hearing her saccharine, sometimes downright shrill voice talk so much this week was a bit of an ordeal. But she’s still an interesting character, and the fact that she lives her life how she wants to is admirable: despite having her second love, Erio with her first love, Elliot, she never married, and never plans to.
Whenever the same story is told twice, there are pitfalls; the second telling can get boring. While it lagged at times, the fresh perspective of Meme and the flashbacks of her life in the town when Elliot was still around break up that repetition. That said, this series works best with its core taking center stage: Makoto, Erio, and Ryuushi. But the occasional reminiscing slice-of-life episode isn’t unwelcome. Rating: 3
This week, Mako gets his adolescence on, by sharing awkward silences with Erio and Ryuushi; enjoying girls’ home cooking; having an impromptu sleepover with Ryuushi, Maekawa, and Erio; seeing Ryuushi and Maekawa in bathtowels; talking with Ryuushi alone under the stars; and helping someone else with their adolescence points. What I thought would be a Maekawacentric episode (it was at first, at least) incorporated everyone except Meme, including the businessman with the odd ear tag, who is so into bottle rockets.
Ryuushi is also quite active, believing she needs to compete with Maekawa and Erio for Mako’s affections. While Maekawa seems pretty content and uninterested in being a rival, Erio is more competitive, in her own passive, sheepish way. As for Mako, he’s just going with the flow. It’s worked so far and there’s no reason to believe it won’t keep working out. He’s fine with letting life sweep him along for the ride; after all, it’s how he came to be in a new town in a new home with a new family in the first place. Rating: 3.5
This week could have been a really big mess: all the women in Makoto’s life end up under one roof, but he’s able to handle it, and they don’t all start grabbing at his limbs. I didn’t think it would descend to that; the relationships at play here are a lot more nuanced. Meme, Erio, Ryuushi and Maekawa all seem to like Makoto, but in different ways. Furthermore, Meme and Maekawa are willing to let Ryuushi right of first refusal where Makoto is concerned.
Of all the females, Ryuushi does seem the most realistic match for Makoto, but (of course) she considers herself a bad person for letting her friends badmouth Erio. Most everyone at school apparently still remember’s Erio; she probably wasn’t any less odd than she is now, and the whole cycling into the sea and dropping out of school doesn’t help matters. Erio also still needs a futon – anyone’s futon – in times when she’s feeling particularly insecure or anxious about the social situation.
Still, despite his lack of experience with girls (which he makes clear he’s well aware of in his narration), Makoto shows poise, if a little denseness where Ryuushi is concerned. The time might come for him to not worry about all the points to be scored from actions he takes, and rather focus on the actions of others, particularly Ryuushi. I don’t think she wants to be “just friends”. An aside: as in most SHAFT series, the close-ups are bangin’. Rating: 3.5
Mako is definitely overthinking things with his obsessive calculations of adolescence. The points system he’s devised (or simply inferred from his experiences) makes sense, but when someone is constantly analyzing rating their experiences, one cannot truly enjoy them. Sure, his cousin is strange, and his aunt is an embarassing tease. But at least two girls in his class are interested in him, and will probably clash for his favor in the future, if how they interact while visiting him in the hospital is any indication.
Ryuushi and Maekawa are both quite strange too, but Mako can enjoy their weirdness because he isn’t related to them. His post-accident convalescence is a good opportunity for the characters to simply chat with one another. But back to that overanlyzing – perhaps it changes experiences, but I shouldn’t say it detracts from them. After all, we here at RABUJOI tend to analyze and rate an episode right after watching it. To our knowledge, our enjoyment of those episodes isn’t compromised by our almost compulsive desire to assign statistics to them and compare them to other works. End digression.
Most importantly, it seems like Erio is going to be okay. Mako certainly ripped the bandage off, but it did more good than harm. It seems like Erio will accept the fact she’s an ordinary earthling, just as Mako wonders whether aliens do exist, and they may have helped speed up the bike so they’d fly rather than fall straight down to more serious injury or worse. Maybe Ryuushi and Maekawa are aliens; they just aren’t going out of their way to announce it like Erio did. Or maybe they’re just eccentric kids. Rating: 3.5
Makoto wants to make the most of his new start in a new home and school, and he seems to be off to a good one so far. After all, he is in the “springtime of his life”. Meeting and hanging out with pretty girls is his priority, and its not a bad one. While Erio is his cousin, the next two ladies he meets – Ryuushi and Maekawa, aren’t. Ryuushi strikes me as a “Minorin” type (from Toradora): super-optimistic on the surface, perhaps hiding something deeper in; while Maekawa is a more demure, Senjogahara-type. Both are as weird as they are beautiful, and both are fine additions to the cast.
As for Erio, she keeps spouting apparent nonsense about alien abductions and whatnot, and Makoto humors her by listening and not being too judgmental. Maekawa professes to have known Erio, who is “famous” for having dropped out of school, claiming abduction at first, then changing her story to becoming an observer. When her mom comes home and Makoto asks her about it, she tells him Erio has a half-year gap in her memory. We don’t know which is true…yet. But the truth will be verrry interesting. Rating: 3.5