Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata – 05

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Tomoya’s promising dating sim circle is in place and hard at work, but progress is slow. Eriri is frustrated by Kato’s noncommittal expressions (noting that if she was expressionless, they could pass her off as an Ayanami Rei-type), while the only things Utaha types are orders for Tomoya to feed her Pocky sticks.

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What ironically (but also very fittingly) gets things going are Tomoya’s off-the-cuff prods to Eriri regarding what she’d do in a “hypothetical” situation where she’d be on a shopping date. Eriri offers advice—very good advice—and when Tomoya says it sounds boring, it’s because she offered advice for an “away game”, that is, an otaku on a date in the normal world.

When Tomoya inadvertently lets on that the date in question isn’t really hypothetical after all, it’s a creative spark for Utaha, borne out of her intolerance of any such non-hypothetical date not involving her. She begins to fill the white space with words.

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But even as Utaha found inspiration in an unexpected place, Eriri notes how difficult a subject Kato is; perhaps her toughest yet. But it’s precisely because she is a challenge that Eriri won’t give up, especially when it’s looking more and more like her beloved Tomoya is taking a liking to this Kato girl.

In a quiet but extremely sweet scene on the rooftop at night, Kato shows that despite the seeming noncommittalness in her words or expressions, she’s as serious as the other two, and practicing to be the best heroine she can be.

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Tomoya betrays something else when Utaha arrives at school with a thick scenario drawn up, the product of an all-nighter for the sake of the circle. When Utaha falls asleep as soon as her head hits the desk, Tomoya gives her a lingering look of pride and affection the other two girls pick up on: Eriri is suspicious, while Kato is bemused.

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The scenario itself is full of exciting twists, turns, and tropes, and it’s presented exquisitely in a slideshow-and-commentary format. I especially liked when Tomoya would periodically call for Kato to pipe up and say the heroine’s lines, which actually don’t sound half-bad even in her dry-run deadpan.

Also note that the handsomest guy Eriri could think of closely resembles Tomoya, but isn’t quite him, while Kato is Kato even in the scenario, because she is the heroine. It’s as if Utaha and Eriri applied their respective crafts to the basic template that was Kato Megumi to create “Kano Meguri”, through which Kato still manages to shine.

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And yet…while he can’t explain why, Tomoya’s not quite satisfied with the draft, to Eriri and Utaha’s consternation. (Eriri: “Subjective, feelings-based criticism like that doesn’t get us anywhere!” That should be RABUJOI’s slogan!) Utaha’s is deeper, seeing this as another case of indecision and inability to give her a straight answer.

On that note, the show helpfully flashes back to a moment still fresh in Utaha and Tomoya’s memory. If what I think happened happened, “no straight answer” is as good (or bad) as “rejection.” But Utaha seems to be hovering around Tomoya to this day, waiting for a straight answer anyway.

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Tomoya actually seems to become rather down by Utaha making that indecision connection to their past, to the point Kato tells him it’s okay if they postpone their date to the mall, but Tomoya isn’t having it; the date is on, and it’s yet another case of Kato really shining once out of the shadow of the other girls.

The huge, unruly crowds of “normals” throw Tomoya off, especially the proportion of couples (even though like it or not, he and Kato are one of them). In a brilliant turnaround, he decides to treat the shopping trip like a visit to Comiket: he plots the most efficient route to Kato’s stores, avoiding the longer-wait ones until things die down. When the crush of people grows thicker, Tomoya keeps Kato from falling and takes her hand without a second thought.

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While his otaku approach is hardly “normal”, it’s actually a boon to the otherwise normal date. Kato is duly impressed with Tomoya’s ingenuity, and decides to buy him a pair of glasses she thinks he looks good in (she thinks). 

Here, with her tender and very girlfriend-like gestures, all pretense of any kind of “practical experiment for research” falls away. This was a date, plain and simple, and a damn good one. Both parties had far more fun than they’d bargained for, and neither had to be anything other than themselves.

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Somewhat distressingly, the episode doesn’t end there, but pulls the plug on the good vibes when Tomoya laments he must ditch Kato without seeing her home, saying “there’s something he has to do” as we see Utaha waiting along, presumably for him. But whatever could he be leaving Kato for Utaha mean here? I think it’s a matter of obligation. It comes back to him not having an answer for her again.

Even in the midst of his lovely date (which he may or may not have gone into as an empirical and dispassionate exercise but definitely ended up falling for Kato’s charms once again…and who the hell wouldn’t?) perhaps Tomoya found an answer. Not to the past question Utaha asked, but to her scenario proposal. He owes her at least that much for her hard work.

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Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – 07 (Take Two)

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Nozaki asks Chiyo out, but that turns out to be a reference gathering and art supply run. Frustrated but hopeful embarrassment ensues. 

During the “date,” Nozaki attempts to get Chiyo to pose in a sailor suit. Failing that, Nozaki tries to model in the sailor suit himself. Hilarious embarrassment and heaven-sent curses for being manly-muscular ensues. 

Mikorin, who is shopping in the same mall, is discovered in the naughty Bishoujo model isle and asked to model the sailor. Double embarrassment and exasperation ensues. (End Act 1)

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Mikorin refuses Chiyo’s request to model for the art club only to accept the request from another girl he doesn’t know. (and accept with great flourish he does) Chiyo is not amused.

At home, Mikorin prepares by posing in an S shape (the wrong way) and by mimicking his sexy Bishoujo figures but even he knows this is all wrong. (nicely looping us back to act one) If Chiyo were there, she would not be amused.

At Art Club, Mikorin takes many humorously specific pose requests, is humorously not rescued by Nozaki when he shows up and ultimately flirt-agrees to pose for art club again… next time in the nude. Miserably embarrassed with himself, Mikorin crumples in a terror ball and, again, Chiyo is not amused.

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I’m double-reviewing GSN-k this week in prep for Zane’s hand off next week — and what a week to start reviewing this lovely show! While I giggled like it’s 1493 during Nozaki’s sailor antics and Mikorin’s bedroom confusion, episode 7 is all about the romantic teen drama. Lite-Drama, to be sure, but the confusion and believable frustration felt by the two emotionally present characters is there at every turn.

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Because we view the show largely from Chiyo’s perspective (I could even argue we see Mikorin’s POV scenes as Chiyo would imagine them) we’re only getting her hopes and doubts about Nozaki liking her or not and, since Nozaki is extraordinarily weird AND stoic, it’s impossible for us to tell if he really does like her and is going about it in a Nozaki-be-crazy way, or if he only considers Chiyo a professional ally. Color me less entertained, laughs-wise this week, but I’m gonna stream this show until I get an answer!

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Meanwhile, team Mikorin has to wonder if he’s harboring confused interest in Chiyo as well. I may be reading too much into it, but Chiyo is the only only female Mikorin talks to seriously — the only one he ever show’s his embarrassment to — and he’s come to her for childish emotional support on more than one occasion. He went so far as to panic and tantrum at her after she left him alone in the art room (to get him a drink no less) this week. Who knows if that clinginess will turn romantic or not but, given GSN-k’s playful jabs at the genre, I expect at least an episode dedicated to the art of tragic romantic triangles.

Or squares.

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What continues to make GSN-k so much fun is how absurd the characters are — sincerely bizarre. Not absurdist plays on modern culture sprinkled with anthro-characters, just people with unusual ways of looking at the world and unexpected ways of behaving. It’s great and very effective at keeping us in the dark over what they all want (in relation to Chiyo) and, usually, keeps an amused smirk on my face while doing it.

GSN-k is taking it slow but, sometimes, slow is a good thing. If this were Love Stage!!, Chiyo would have raped Nozaki by episode 3 and I’d be all make the bad bad dreams go away mommy by now. And that’s something I can do without.

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Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – 07

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Besides the fact they’re now friends and she helps him with his manga, one of the reasons Chiyo hangs around Nozaki so much is that she hasn’t let go of the hope that one day he’ll notice her as a romantic interest; even requite her feelings for him. It’s gestures like agreeing to hang out with her on his off day that lend fuel to the long-burning flame she carries for him.

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Unfortunately, in every such instance Chiyo is ultimately disappointed, and part one of this episode is no exception. He picks the movie they go to so he can see a school building from multiple angles; he picks out clothes for her to wear so he can use her as a reference for Mamiko; he picks out a resin doll to be a Suzuki reference; and he makes an art supply run.

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This isn’t the date Chiyo wanted; it’s errands, and she’s not his companion, she’s his assistant. We watch much of this show from Chiyo’s perspective, and she has an idealized version of Nozaki whose thoughts and actions are motivated by things other than shoujo manga, but episodes like this make me wonder if that vision of Nozaki is just her mirage. The last nail in the coffin is when he invites her to his place…because he has too much food.

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There’s always a practical reason for Chiyo in Nozaki’s life, but never an emotional one, aside from acknowledgement of and gratitude for her hard work, never realizing she’s doing all this because she likes him. In a comedy that purports to satirize shoujo manga, I’m actually okay with Nozaki being so single-minded and unromantic; it subverts that genre’s usual formula. But it also makes me feel a little bad for Chiyo.

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Unfortunately it is also hamstringing Nozaki as a character. Chiyo and Mikorin have many sides to them, but while Nozaki sometimes reveals strange tastes, he remains stubbornly static. Happily, the show seems to be aware of this as well, and chooses to put Mikorin at the center of the second part. An ironic indication Chiyo and Mikorin are good friends is how easily he refuses her request.

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Were she any other girl, he’d have put on the playboy charm and accepted, which is exactly what happens with the other art club members, much to his dismay. During the session each member of the club gives him a pose to do, and they’re all hilariously specific, including Chiyo’s request for him to pose like Nozaki writing a manuscript.

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When the real Nozaki pops in, he ends up drawing what he wants, then takes over the club by making everyone else pose for him. In the end, Mikorin has fun, and the club members, mostly girls, are very appreciative. He gets more comfortable and confident around them, but goes too far, offering to be a nude model for them next time. Godspeed, Mikorin!

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Stray Observations:

  • It was pretty adorable watching Chiyo try in vain to keep up with Nozaki’s massive gait!
  • Nozaki over-thinking: planning to break the arm off a resin bishoujo model because it’s covering her ear. Just buy a different pose, dude!
  • I don’t know why, but I feel a bit cheated that Chiyo never dressed up in that sailor suit. I guess Nozaki was a little too enthusiastic about snapping photos of her in it. Also, through his eyes/lens she’d only be Mamiko.