Fire Force – 11 – Flowers of Edo

On Captain Oubi’s order, Hinawa regales the newer members of the 8th with the tale of how the 8th got started. Hinawa was a sergeant in the Imperial army at the time (as was Maki, a general’s daughter), and his lieutenant was a kind fellow named Tojo who had his sidearm “baptized” in case he has to put an Infernal to rest.

Well, Tojo is the one to be infernalized, and when the time comes to put him down, Hinawa can’t pull the trigger because his gun isn’t baptized. While off duty, he comes upon the scene of a fire where Oubi, head of the amateur firefighters, takes exception to the Fire Force soldiers who delay putting a docile Infernal to rest because it won’t “score enough points.”

Hinawa and Oubi decide to team up and put the docile Infernal to rest, and Oubi eventually starts the 8th Company as a different kind of Fire Force, one primarily concerned with putting Infernals to rest as respectfully and properly as possible while ensuring the safety of the living.

The company starts with just the two of them, but Hinawa urges Oubi to recruit Maki, whose work ethic, compassion and dedication to her duty make her the perfect match for the company they want to create. When Maki hears this in the present, she’s overcome with happiness, as she initially thought she was just brought in as a “meat shield.”

The reason for all this reminiscing? Aside from the fact it’s fun to learn about how the 8th got started, it was their first call that brings them to the present matter at hand, as it’s likely that the first Infernal they put to rest was artificially created by the Evangelist.

The location of that first call was Asakusa, the jurisdiction of the 7th Company, headed up by Captain Shinmon Benimaru. Beni does things a bit differently too, as his company doesn’t officially answer to the empire, and they dwell and work with traditional technology.

Oubi and the 8th visit the 7th’s HQ unannounced, and meet Benimaru, his lieutenant Sagamiya and two tiny twin fire soldiers Hinata and Hikage. But Beni doesn’t like another company stepping on his turf, and won’t hear them out. Just as Shinra is challenging him to a fight he’ll likely lose, fire bells sound outside—an Infernal has been spotted.

Shinra and the 8th then bear witness to the way Beni does things, as well as demonstrates his compound 2nd/3rd-gen abilities to both create and manipulate flames. He uses them in much the same way firefighters of the hikeshi system of old Edo: to demolish buildings and even entire blocks in order to stop the spread of the fire. His ability just enables him to do it on his own and with great efficiency (not to mention style).

The people in his jurisdiction, much like the people of Edo during those fires, aren’t outraged by the apparent wanton destruction. On the contrary, they know Benimaru is doing what must be done to protect the city, and hope that if they ever Infernalize, he’ll be the one to put them to rest. Fires and the destruction caused to stop them are a fact of life for them. For as the saying goes, “Fires and quarrels are the flowers of Edo.

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Fire Force – 10 – Promises, Promises

With Arthur back, Hibana hanging around feeding Shinra, and Tamaki joining the 8th, the company has never seemed livelier, as noted by both Captain Oubi and Lt. Hinawa. Shinra and Tamaki join those to for a meeting of all eight company Captains before the Emperor of Tokyo.

This is made out to be such a big deal that there hasn’t even been such a meeting the whole time Oubi has been a captain, but like Rail Zeppelin’s Mystic Eyes auction in another show, the actual event itself is pretty underwhelming.

We get a quick peek at all the captains we’ve seen before, but nothing that’s discussed in the meeting couldn’t have been said in a phone conference or email thread. Basically, the emperor wants all the companies working together to find and stop the Evangelist.

What of Shinra? One thing Hoshimiya wasn’t lying about is that Shinra’s flames are what’s called an Adolla Burst, an extremely pure form of flame identical to the ones that power the Amaterasu power plant, as well as those that created the world in which they live (how flames create things, I do not know).

In any case, the captain of the 3rd Company wants to “secure” Shinra (i.e. make him a test subject) since the Evangelist is likely after Adolla Bursts like his. Oubi manages to assure everyone the 8th will continue to keep him safe, though right after saying that he leaves Shinra on his own.

The Joker shows up, but not for a fight. He tells Shinra that his brother Shou is not only still alive, but is the commander of the “white-clad” Knights of the Ashen Flame, who serve the Evangelist. After acting sullen and awkward for most of the day back at the station, he finally tells the rest of his company mates after a family meal.

Even if I’m not super-excited about Shinra having to go up against the brother he once thought to be dead (this kinda angle is done to death), what I did like about this episode is that it re-established the 8th as one big family, and I liked the warm quiet scenes where they’re all just working or eating.

I’m also glad Shinra didn’t keep the news about Shou secret, due in large part to the sense of family and trust he feels from everyone…even Arthur.  As for how Tamaki suddenly ended up naked but for a pink apron when she and Maki tried (and failed) to start dinner…I’ve got nothin’.

Carole & Tuesday – 03 – ASCENSION!

After a rough first impression (I believe accusations of cyberstalking are leveled), Gus Goldman introduces himself to Carole & Tuesday, dropping names left and right. Unfortunately, the pair is #notimpressed because they don’t remember Bruno, Justin, or Brian Epstein—being from a much younger generation.

Brass tacks: Gus knows talent when he hearts it, and if they want to do what they do for more than just fun, he wants to be there to help them. His enthusiasm and earnestness make up for his underwhelming Wikipedia page. But since nobody’s become a commercial hit quite yet Gus has to insist his talent pay for their own Margherita.

Meanwhile, Tuesday’s mother leaves getting her back to her son—lest police involement sully her campaign—then (presumably) retires to the boudoir with her toyboy. How I hope Tuesday’s bro doesn’t try to drag her back to this horrid gilded cage.

As Angela is asked 37 questions on some kind of vlog of her life (and introduces her extremely annoying AI pet rabbit Aladdin), C&T are at the laundromat waiting for their clothes to be done.

Tuesday likens the still, then suddenly-spinning clothes as mirroring the two of them, and Carole starts stomping and clapping out a beat, with Tuesday joining in and the two starting to sing an impromptu song (albeit one that is not clandestinely recorded).

Just messin’ around in the laundromat is a kernal that germinates as the two refine the music and lyrics, and their song is the soundtrack for a montage of their day in the life in Alba City, all gorgeously rendered and adding to the lush textures of both the sprawling city and their digs.

As for Gus, he vows to lay off the sauce now that he has a new client. Whatever his reasons for copying Motörhead in the past, he seems genuinely determined to put a human musical duo on the map—no small feat in a Martian cultural continuum in which AI has taken over so much of the creating.

What was billed as a trip to a voice coach friend of Gus’ turns out to be…something else entirely: a SPACE YOGA session so bizarre to Tuesday’s sheltered psyche she fears she’ll have nightmares about the experience.

Angela’s experienced at Artience is no less nightmarish. When she can’t hit a high note, Tao activates her restraints and deploys all manner of nasty-looking torture instruments, all an elaborate artifice in order to goad Angela into screaming…and hitting that high note she thought impossible.

She still voices her complaints to her mother, a former child star herself. But her mom insists she keep at it, lest she become as forgotten as she now is due to people moving on and her career not moving on with it. This looks like a classic vicarious parent situation. I hope Angela actually wants to continue as Tao’s guinea pig for her own sake, not just Mom’s.

Thanks to Roddy, C&T score a meet with the famous celebrity DJ Ertegun, whose sold-out megashows are the toast of the town. When they arrive at his waterfront mansion, Gus is prepared to make the pitch, but he’s held back by Ertegun’s security, leaving C&T on their own among the tacky pop art, including Banksy’s self-destructing painting!

Ertegun makes them wait as he talks on the phone by the woman-filled pool, but when he finally comes in, he initially scares the shit out of them by seemingly stripping in front of them; mercifully, he’s got boxer briefs on, and merely shed the robe so he could do some push-ups while he raps with them.

Either Roddy didn’t explain why C&T wanted to meet with Ertegun, or Ertegun didn’t listen to him (probably the latter), because Ertegun doesn’t know why C&T are there: he assumes they want autographs, selfies, or…him (Gus warned earlier them not to give him a leg massage).

When he learns it’s a pitch, he immediately shuts them down, rejecting them without so much as listening to a single bar. Why is he so confident they’re boring generic trash? Well, for one thing, “he’s DJ Ertegun,” which is apparently sufficient explanation. But for another? Because they’re not AI. Like Tao, Ertegun doesn’t trust humans to make good music, except through technology.

Tuesday wigs out and burns their lyrics with the DJ’s cigar lighter, setting off the sprinklers before running away. Ertegun doesn’t seem particularly miffed that all his goofy art is getting doused, but I imagine T&C left an stronger impression on him!

Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online – 12 – A Place to Have Fun

Last week set up a final, hand-to-hand showdown between LLENN and Pitohui, and after a little friendly ribbing, LLENN manages to strike a nerve and get Pito to let her guard down. The thing is, even cutting her in the leg and throat doesn’t come close to bringing her down, and she has an iron fist waiting for LLENN’s face. She even eyes LLENN’s discarded P-chan, and has no qualms about using it to kill its master.

P-chan self-destructs rather than let that happen, but M is nearby with Fuka as his hostage. Pito’s rationale for killing M before Fuka or LLENN is that he betrayed her by bringing his love into what she wanted to be a true “death game.”

Fuka frees herself with the dagger in her hair, rushes Pito, but doesn’t attack her; instead, she cuts off LLENN’S hands and kicks her just right so she’s able to, essentially, tear out Pito’s throat. Pito admits defeat and agrees to honor the promise they made to meet IRL if LLENN killed her.

Unfortunately, the very distracted LLENN and Fuka are taken out by the last remaining team (T-S) who end up winning SJ2, but LLENN’s primary objective was never to win, but to save Pito, and in that she was successful.

After having tea and sweets with real-life SHINC, Karen and Miyu meet up with Goushi (of whose looks Miyu immediately approves), who has agreed to take them where real-life Pito is.

On the way, he describes how he was once a pathetic fatty who stalked Pito, and ended up being captured, restrained, beaten, and turned into her manservant, all of which he’s fine with, because “M” stands for masochist.

After watching Elsa Kanzaki play guitar and sing at her secret concert, Goushi takes Karen and Miyu backstage to meet the real-life Pito…the club owner. But Karen isn’t fooled; Elsa is the real Pito, because she knew things only someone who read her letter could know about her.

Elsa congratulates Karen for seeing through their admittedly half-assed little ruse, and gives her a big kiss that makes her very uncomfortable (though Karen herself gave her a big hug just before that).

When next we see the two, they are LLENN and Pitohui, only now they’re on the same side, enjoying GGO not as a Death Game, but a place to just have fun. And after her first and only encounter with Elsa IRL, Karen is somewhat reluctant to agree to any future ones.

So ends a usually entertaining, occasionally clever, but ultimately inessential edition to the SAO/GGO saga.

Saekano 2 – 09

After the high spirits attained by watching Tomoya and Megumi finally reconcile last week, the angst and despair prevalent in this latest installment of Saekano presents a stark contrast. It’s a place we know the show is as comfortable with as the goofier comedy, and it’s fairly apparent by the end of the episode that whatever happens, things won’t be the same…or at least they shouldn’t easily revert back there.

After meeting Utaha after her graduation and presenting his proposal, which she reads and gives high marks, Tomoya asks if she’ll be on board for the new game, and Utaha says she can’t. She can’t for precisely the concessions Tomoya offers to persuade her to do it: he will only ask her for as much as she can handle when she has the time.

Essentially, Utaha cannot work for a producer who won’t push her to make sacrifices and challenge herself. Because of Tomoya at its head, Blessing Software is no longer a place where Utaha can feel she’s being the best creative she can be. That realization was probably reached on her own in some form, but it was certainly helped by the meeting she had one month ago.

In that meeting, the famous, ultra-successful and popular Kousaka Akane offers Utaha the task of writing the story for the newest in a celebrated, 20-year-old line of RPGs, Fields Chronicle. Not only that, Kousaka offered Eriri the job as character designer. In fact, she wanted Eriri more than Utaha. And Tomoya is just now hearing about this.

As Tomoya stews in despair and wonders if this is all really happening, we rewind one month. Utaha talks with Eriri about her slump, and about the same issues with Tomoya she brings up with him a month later.

Ever since her art from the winter villa, she hasn’t been able to draw anything as good, but takes comfort in knowing Tomoya will give her all the time she needs, and forgive and stick with her if she never draws anything again.

Utaha can relate – she once “lost herself to a guy” and it negatively affected her ability to be the best creative she could be, but Eriri won’t admit that’s what’s going on, even as she states Tomoya will never be the asshole producer-type he actually needs to be to get the most out of his creatives.

Then Utaha’s editor tells her about the meeting Kousaka wants with her, and Eriri comes along, not because she’ll be willing to hear anything Kousaka wants to say, but to try to stop Utaha from being drawn into Kousaka’s web and agreeing to the RPG project.

But while Eriri ostensibly came to provide a stronger front against the older, more experienced, and more successful (and therefore seductive) Kousaka, neither she nor Utaha come out of the meeting unscathed.

Kousaka may be drunk when they arrive, but she’s perfectly lucid in her no-nonsense approach. She’s makes it clear it’s Kashiwagi Eri she wants more than anything, and if Kasumi Utako can’t bring her on board, she isn’t needed. Eriri tells Kousaka it’s too big a job and she’s in a bad slump, but Kousaka laughs in her face and calls her trash.

While one could easily dismiss Kousaka as a horrible person, there’s no doubting her passion for her work and the work she spearheads, and it’s clear this is a knock-down, drag-out cage-rattling. Eriri’s piddling excuses are of no consequence to her; no doubt she had the same excuses before she came into her own as an artist.

It’s also a big deal that after watching Eriri and Utaha go at each other as near-equals for nearly two seasons, the proven pro Kousaka considers Eriri the superior talent, the end. That’s gotta sting for Utaha, who hasn’t always felt superior but has rarely hesitated to push all of Eriri’s inferiority buttons in their interactions.

So I don’t think she’s wrong in trying to get both Eriri and Utaha to give up on silly little small-potatoes doujin work and really push themselves. That being said, it wasn’t fun watching the two get put through the ringer like that.

As for Tomoya? I can’t say I feel bad for the guy. For one thing, it was presumptuous enough to ask a writer and artist of Utaha and Eriri’s caliber to help him make one game. For another, he doesn’t have the proper producer mentality (in part because they’re all friends) to properly push them.

Even if the final two episodes deal with Tomoya getting them back, I’m not sure it will feel like a victory to me. A second game might be an accomplishment for Tomoya and Megumi, but it would be stagnation for the creatives. They’ve already proven themselves. Time to move on to bigger things…provided that’s what they really want, of course.

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 11

ACCA: Jusan-ku Kansatsu-ka. I hadn’t really read the words until recently, but they roll right off the tongue in a very satisfying, elegant way, like ACCA the show itself.

I daresay ACCA is a sneaky show. It seems a bit slow and dull at first but the details keep you around. Then it becomes something you must watch at all costs. In this way, it’s like no other show airing this Winter, and its quality has been rewarded on MAL, rising from 6.97 on week one to 7.43 today, the biggest climb of any Winter ’17 show.

By the time Jean arrives in lavish, exotic Furawau for the thirteenth of thirteen district audits, nearly all pretense has fallen over his “job” as inspector, as Furawau is the district spearheading the coup.

Yet true to its name (“flower” in katakana), Furawau’s inhabitants are cheerful and elegant, and discreet in their welcoming of Jean for his true purpose.

But while it’s named for its flowers, the gleaming skyscrapers and lush palaces are paid for with oil. 90% of the entire nation of Dowa’s oil is supplied by Furawau. This makes them Arabia on steroids, which makes resource-poor Pranetta the comparatively oil-less Jordan.

When he leaves for his hotel, Jean does not give the Furawau chiefs a direct answer about whether he’ll rise up with them. But fortunately for Jean, Niino was listening in when the Princess’ assassins were loudly discussing their plan for slaying him.

When they draw their appropriately ornate golden revolver from the shadows, Niino is there not only to warn Jean, but take two bullets for him. He survives, but when he wakes up from surgery, he wonders out loud something I’ve wondered for many weeks now: whether Jean is merely being dragged into things by chance, or if he’s “prying into the whole mess” of his own accord.

Before leaving Furawau, Jean tells the chiefs he’s with them. Upon returning to Badon, he doesn’t stop by Mugimaki where Mauve continues to show up and wait. Instead, he visits Lilium as his brothers instructed, and shows him all thirteen cigarettes he’s collected.

I love how each one is  different in color and length, and how Pranetta’s is one of his own. Details that carry symbolism: Dowa is one big happy cigarette case. When Jean says anyone can ascend as long as it’s not him, Lilium counters that only he can protect both ACCA and the people.

What he isn’t telling Jean…could fill volumes. Like the fact he needs to present at least the air of proper succession, and probably needs the ACCA angle to strengthen their case. Lotta can’t fulfill either of those conditions…nor can Lilium himself.

When Rail first heard of him, he assumed Jean was an upper class snob who thought his own excrement did not emit odor. Turns out he was right about the “upper class” bit, but now that Rail knows who Jean is for sure, he thinks he’d probably be a better King than Schwan.

Rail tells Jean this while they smoke in the city night, after Jean thanks him for watching Lotta while he was away. And Jean appears to take Rail’s subtle endorsement to heart…maybe he will be better.

The next day, people from all thirteen districts start pouring into Badon for the upcoming ACCA centennial ceremony. This means we get all the ACCA agents Jean met on his travels in the same room, and of course they all know each other.

It’s a nice “lower decks” scene, watching subordinates shoot the breeze. The girls badger Eidar about her feelings for Jean, only to learn she’s dating Grus. One agent brings up the coup, and silence fills the room.

Every one of them seems generally on board with the plan…except Warbler, who, being stationed in Suitsu, is naturally the last agent to be informed of the coup. And while it’s easy to get all swept up in the excitement of dumping a harmful king for a better one, Warbler provides a much-needed voice of concern and reason.

He makes very good points about the risk ACCA’s leadership is taking by arranging such a coup. He also questions if the young, inexperienced Schwan would actually follow through on his threat to dissolve ACCA. He believes the royal family is aware that tipping the scales of power too far in their favor could break the whole system, and trusts them to be more pragmatic once Schwan ascends.

But no one can be certain Schwan won’t dissolve ACCA, and in any case, the decision has already been made by the brass, so Warbler’s protests go acknowledged but not acted upon. After Jean leaves a brief, almost curt meeting with Mauve (which has the air of a breakup), Warbler tries to tell him that this coup idea is ludicrous.

Jean responds by saying he’d really like Warbler to take his job, after “one final push”, then calls the prince a “real headache.” Could Jean be starting to get the feel for the power he’s about to attain?

Cut to the prince being a huge headache, acting petulant aboard his ornate royal plane, dismissing Magie’s advice to meet with his cousin (Jean) or get to know the people more. He’s only going to Badon to attend the ACCA ceremony, then leave.

Warbler might think Schwan’s position on ACCA is open to interpretation or subject to review by the rest of the royal family or the privy council. But Schwan probably doesn’t think any of that. When he’s king—and he’s going to be king, he tells himself—he can do as he pleases.

Lilium continues to uncork bottle after bottle of champagne in celebration of a total victory that is still yet to come. In another private one-on-one with Grossular, he lays out the plan I expected him and his district to have: install someone he can control, Jean, in order to control the nation. He hopes to act quickly and elegantly enough that by the time people notice what’s up it will be too late to do anything about it.

Now that he knows Lilium’s true intent, will Grossular continue to stand impotently by and let it happen, or is he intentionally appearing weak to lull Lilium into a false sense of security? Does Grossular have his own plans? And as Mauve asked both him and Jean before him: is he all right?

He responds the same way as Jean: with a simple ‘Yes.’ Here’s hoping that’s true, because some big things are going down next week.

Oregairu 2 – 07

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In shopping list she slipped into her brother’s bag, with whom she’s on good terms again, Komachi writes that what she wants most is his happiness (and detergent). But he’s increasingly unsure of how to get that happiness. All he knows is that saving people with his methods hasn’t quite done the trick.

Something is missing: “His responsibility…the answer” he needs. And as much as he doesn’t want to admit it, there may be no more answers in the Service Club, which he now attends increasingly for Yui’s sake, haunted by what would happen if he wouldn’t and Yukino’s “smile of giving up.”

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He may not realize it yet, nor does she, but Hikky’s answer may lie in Iroha, and hers in him. He is someone she can be herself with, after all, and who insists on carrying her bag even though it’s not heavy. I initially thought Iroha’s presence on the show would lead to cliched conflict, but we’ve instead been blessed with a far more complex and satisfying dynamic as the two tentatively circle one another.

The way the camera stays on the other side of the street as they cross and make the bag hand-off had just as much power as past close-ups of said hand-offs, if not more. Hikky isn’t just settling for handling Iroha’s tough stuff; he wants to support her in the little things too.

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If only it were that easy. Hikky hasn’t been this earnestly hands-on a “service client” like this before, nor has he faced quite as formidable and opaquely frustrating an opponent as the other school’s talky president, who continues to spew unproductive bullshit as the clock ticks on the Christmas event. Among the elementary kids they’ve recruited to assist is Tsurumi Rumi, whom I think I’ll call “Mini-Yukino” due to her not-at-all-not-coincidental resemblance to Hikky’s emotionally estranged club mate.

The council quagmire is the challenge he’s facing now, but Rumi is a symbol of someone he saved before with non-ideal, imperfect methods: sabotaging the bonds of the peers who bullied her so they’d no longer trust one another or level coordinated attacks on her, while leaving her just as alone in the end.

Later that night Hikky is treated to someone on the other end of the spectrum: Saika, who thinks it’s cool the way Hikky’s always working hard for others without complaint. Saika’s opinion is valid from his point of view, though he’s not in on the whole picture.

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Someone else who doesn’t have the whole picture is Orimoto Kaori, who bumps into Hikky and Iroha on the streets and, perhaps due to her proximity to her classmates, her vague language about her past with Hikky pique Iroha’s interest. Is it just me, but it feels like Yukino and Yui fade out of focus whenever Hikky is with Iroha, and having Kaori around makes a triad—a new triad.

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In fact, when Iroha very overtly puts her hand on Hikky, it looks every bit like a gesture of possession, not idle flirtation, in the presence of another girl Hikky may have had “dealings” with. “This is my man now,” so to speak. She seems happy that such a scenario may have occurred, though, because it reinforces the part of her that sees Hikky as a suitable mate. Whoa, sorry for gettin’ all Discovery Channel there!

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Bag hand-offs and arm-touching aside, in semi-public Iroha still plays her rapid-rejection card when she senses Hikky is flirting with her, but like Hikky, she’s maintaining a facade that doesn’t express her true feelings about the way Hikky is treating her.

That facade always mentions some quality she believes Hikky doesn’t possess or never will, in the process painting the picture of an ideal guy she’s never met, and maybe never will. Meanwhile, here is Hikky, staunchly by her side, worried he may be carrying too much of Iroha’s load with regards to the event, but still feeling responsible for her being there to begin with.

I should also mention that Hikky reaches out to Rumi even though he doesn’t have too, simply sitting with her and helping with decorations so she won’t be alone, then encouraging her to go to the others. If Hikky were the guy his facade less and less convincingly attempts to assure us he is, he’d never bother, but he can’t help it, especially with someone he feels an obligation to be nicer to after providing only an imperfect solution to her problems.

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Which brings us to an understated but ultimately pretty heartbreaking closing scene as Hikky bumps into Yukino. He’s been nothing but submissive, contrite, and polite to her since she’s been able to occupy the same room as him, but he only told her a half-truth about being busy with Komachi’s exams. In reality, he’s busy with Iroha, and enjoying it as well. Yukino knows this, and knows there’s little she could contribute.

She also believes Hikky is only still attending club out of obligation. For Shizuka, who brought them together, but tellingly has been nowhere to be seen of late—maybe the experiment is over, with mixed but still valuable results? For Yui, who not only wants to walk to the club with him, but wants to be seen walking with him by others.

But Yukino, without any hint of bitterness, tells him he doesn’t have to beg her pardon or ask her permission or force himself to attend. Yukino’s analysis may be right—Hikky is certainly deriving happiness from helping Iroha—but she also walks away before Hikky can at least attempt to respond to it. Maybe he just likes attending club. Or maybe it’s time to move on.

8_ses

Oregairu 2 – 06

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Hikky, Yukino and Yui are again in a situation where they can sit in the same room together, stand each other, and even enjoy each other’s company somewhat without threatening to walk out or run for president. But the big question this week is: Now What? The Service Club may still exist…but why?

Shizuka originally paired Hikky and Yukino together to learn from one another, but have they finally reached an impasse? And has the club’s purpose of late only been to maintain the delicate balance of their love triangle with Yui?

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Yui never really feels like one of the “it crowd” despite their acceptance of her, so when Hikky stares at that crowd too long, Yui notices and points it out to him. Of course, after gaining perspective from Komachi, Hikky is a little more aware of how his methods repel others, and seems to be trying not to oppress others as much, even if he’s still quick to judge them in his head.

Walking to club together with Hikky makes Yui both excited and nervous, because it does upset that status quo she seems so intent on maintaining, even as the other two are wondering what comes next.

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When newly elected President Isshiki rolls in in a panic, it’s almost like the universe trying to throw the club a bone: Another job! Validation for existing! But Hikky doesn’t see her latest problem as something for the Service Club, and instead takes it on as a “personal” project. He’s taking responsibility for the situation he himself facilitated: Iroha is president even though she didn’t really want to be at first.

Hikky and Iroha’s conversation in the hall is very interesting, because this is something new for him: rather than two-on-one, he’s dealing with a single girl, who he’s starting to understand the more he interacts with her.

He notices the “sneaky” side of her, but it’s clear she’s being sneaky with herself as well: She gives the excuse that she didn’t go to her beloved Hayama with her problem because she didn’t want to bother him; but in reality, she doubts his competence, especially compared to Hikky, who has already proven himself capable of making things happen for her. Her agreement to work personally with him on this new problem is a ringing endorsement.

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Of course, by going it alone with Iroha, Hikky is further muddling or undermining the club’s reason for being…or maybe he’s clarifying it: the Service Club isn’t a “jack of all trades” operation, as he puts it: meaning he doesn’t want to include “regular student council consultation” in the clubs repertoire.

But the result of keeping these two things separate is that Yukino continues to maintain a “fine, whatever” attitude, even remarking that perhaps it’s better if the club doesn’t take on any more requests. She’s still dug into her “doing nothing” position, something her sister mocked her for. Is she content with this limbo of an outwardly-functioning but internally rotting club, even though on its present course it will surely die?

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Hikky is certainly invested enough in Iroha that he has a pretty wide berth in which to compartmentalize the existential issues of the club in favor of helping the prez on his own. And while Iroha strongly rejects him again without a hint of nuance, even in her rejection spiel she admits her heart “fluttered for a moment”. When Hikky is with Iroha, he’s focused on Iroha, and the larger problems in his social life fade away. They’re dancing a delicate dance.

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As for Iroha’s problem: partnering with another high school for a Christmas Event? It’s a vehicle for hilarious comedy, as the other school fancies themselves a corporate board, whose discussion sounds good and thoughtful on the surface, but is mostly…no, entirely meaningless double-talk, accompanied by overly zealous hand gestures. Never has so much been said without anything beind said! SO many absurd quotes. What’s scary is that this is how people actually talk in the corporate world.

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And yet, Hikky not only sticks with Iroha, but comes back for another round the next day. Each time, he takes the grocery bags Iroha is carrying; a classic gesture of easy chivalry that both he and Iroha acknowledge…and yet she still seems moved by it, and with Hikky’s devotion to her in general. He probably isn’t the guy she saw herself someday falling for, but she can’t argue that he’s coming through for her. He’s just as “sneaky” as she is to him.

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Hikky can’t help but be drawn in and try to play by their rules. He ends up impressing the other school officials with his word salad, but confusing both Iroha—and himself! Meanwhile, Iroha’s Veep and underlings seem to have a problem with Iroha, but it’s not being communicated, so the council’s rot festers as the other school fizzes and pops with vapid enthusiasm.

In an interesting move, his old crush Kaori just happens to have tagged along with the council as he did with Iroha, being a student at the school they’ve partnered with. Kaori’s interactions are always eye-opening and a little uncomfortable, but they’re also unique, like Hikky’s interactions with Iroha, Komachi, Haruno, and Yui. And unique is always good!

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It’s refreshing and not even that surprising that someone like Kaori let the unpleasantness of their last encounter slide off so easily and she’s back to interacting cordially with him like nothing happened, because nothing that did happen really affected her or her friend that much.

It’s also interesting that as teflon-y as Kaori is, she’s still perceptive enough to see what’s going on with Hikky and Iroha, even if they don’t quite see it yet: she assumed he’d moved on from Yukino or Yui and is now going after Iroha. And you know what? Maybe he has! And when he mentions he’s in the “Service Club”, Kaori LOLs at the wishy-washy absurdity of such an organization, even breaking out her first “seriously!” of the day.

Hikky understands Kaori’s reaction, and can’t blame her for it…but for him it’s no laughing matter—It’s his life.

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