BokuBen – 03 – Acts of Defiance

In direct and efficient 78-second cold open, Yuiga’s mission is suddenly made tougher: Furuhashi and Ogata must receive an average score or higher on the upcoming midterms. Both the headmaster and their former tutor (pink hair) believe its in the best general interest to steer the girls towards the fields of study in which they excel, believing their desire to study elsewhere frivolous.

The ex-tutor even considers it negligent not to press more strongly for the girls to get in their lane. The adults aren’t factoring Furuhashi or Ogata’s dreams or happiness into the equation. But Yuiga has been here before himself, and so he’s uniquely equipped to empathize with and fully support them in their bold endeavor to forge their own paths based on their passions, not their natural gifts.

Of course, only Furuhashi and Ogata overhear the headmaster and tutor, and now feel the pressure to succeed lest another tutor—and their favorite by far—be relieved of his duties (though I can’t imagine that would have stopped him from tutoring them anyway). Takemoto wonders why they look so down; she can sense the sudden heightened pressure now on their shoulders, and Ogata’s commitment to get results.

Now that all parties (save Takemoto) are aware of the raised bar for those results, Ogata, whose Japanese midterms come first, asks Yuiga to come to her house to supervise her studying. The fact she’s so comfortable not only inviting him, but also interacting with him at her family’s udon restaurant, speaks to the evolution of their relationship from adversarial and suspicious to something far more like a real friendship.

Meanwhile Yuiga isn’t just doing this so he’ll get a free ride; he has a philosophical horse in this race, plus he just likes these girls and wants to help if he can…not to mention Ogata looks fantastic in her restaurant outfit. He doesn’t know he’ll be fired if they fail, so Ogata simply asks the rhetorical question of what will happen if she fails. His answer—they’ll just keep studying for the next test—is comforting…as is his patting of her head.

When the day of the test comes, Ogata is immediately fearful when she sees parts of the test are areas she didn’t study as thoroughly, but resolves to do her best, and lo and behold, she scores an above-class-average 71, to her own bewilderment and Yuiga and Takemoto’s delight. Ogata refrains from mentioning out loud that a little bit of dumb luck factored into that score, but that’s just another reason to keep at it.

That means it’s up to Furuhashi. Only problem is, she has a cough and a high fever. Yuiga suggests she delay and take the make-up test; she declines, as it would mean an automatic 20% deduction in score (which hardly seems fair). To prepare, she invites Yuiga and Takemoto to her house…which turns out to be huge, with a genkan with more square footage than Yuiga’s living room.

Being unaccustomed to visiting female classmates at home, Yuiga takes Furuhashi’s “just come on in” too literally and walks in when she’s topless. Yuiga realizes the error of his ways and stays out until needed.

Just like he saw Ogata in a new light at her home, Yuiga learns something new about his old pal Takemoto: she’s a superb cook. When he likens her appearance to that a new wife, Takemoto’s imagination conjures a scene of domestic bliss between her and a salaryman Yuiga.

Turns out Takemoto was right: some hot food and rest were just what Furuhashi needed, and she feels ready for the midterms. Like Ogata, she voices her hope that he’ll keep tutoring her, and that she trusts she’ll reach her dreams if she sticks with him. Yuiga is flattered, but urges Furuhashi, whos pajamas a a little see-through, return to bed.

Furuhashi manages a score higher than average as well, impressing the headmaster and further irking the former tutor. Yuiga and the three girls celebrate at a family restaurant. Yuiga may not know that his tutoring job and VIP consideration was just saved.

With Ogata and Furuhashi out of the woods, the second half of the episode focuses on Takemoto Uruka, and IMO reinforces her standing as Best Girl. Her swim club friends, impatient with her pureness and lack of progress in nabbing Yuiga, take matters into their own hands by taking her to a hip clothier and dressing her up all adorable-like; a way in which she can’t help but feel extremely self-conscious.

In this suddenly out-of-sorts state achieved by her caring friends, Takemoto has no idea how she’d act around Yuiga, but immediately gets her chance as the two cross paths in town. Since she’s right next to the bookstore, she tells him she’s going to buy some textbooks; he decides to join her, while failing to remark on her very different and extremely cute new look.

While initially weary, Takemoto soon finds comfort and joy in being so close to Yuiga; feeling the warmth of his shoulder and feeling his breath in her ear as he talks. A little boy points at them and declares them a couple, and when a kid does that you know you look like one.

Outside the store, they come across a store selling an accessory Yuiga’s sister wants; but the competition to win it is couples-only. Sensing another opportunity, Takemoto seizes Yuiga by the arm and leads the way.

The competition turns out to be a “princess carry” endurance contest, and Takemoto is worried she’s too heavy because she’s recently gained a lot of muscle in swim club. She soon tears up about the prospect of being too heavy for Yuiga, but he interprets those tears as abject embarrassment over having to be held by him, and he commits himself to winning the contest, which they do.

Takemoto is happy beyond words. Her friends dressed her up cute so she’d more easily “attack” Yuiga, but the fact is she’s always wanted to be a princess; people have just noted her athleticism and placed her in the “tomboy” mold, and inertia has kept her there.

It was immensely fun to watch Takemoto’s girly side openly expressed. She was the third of three girls this week defiantly moving against the grain set for them by others, and her resulting glee really emanated through the screen. She may not have confessed—and perhaps never will!—but spending a day as a couple was at least something, and seemingly enough for her for now.

Bloom Into You – 05 – Nice to Be Chosen; Nicer to Choose

Yuu likes working at her family’s bookstore, because it lends her some insight into her friends via the kid of literature they purchase. She’s primed to excoriate Touko when she shows up during her shift to buy a raunchy yuri novel, but it turns out she doesn’t know the story takes such a turn until later, and then she’s contrite.

I was mistaken about what Koyomi was working on; it wasn’t a love letter, but a novel, something she took on and didn’t let things like fatigue or looming midterms to keep her from finishing it. She lends it to Yuu to read, but Yuu is focused on midterms first and foremost. She’s also constantly telling herself that Maki is wrong. He must be.

He may claim to see affection for Touko in Yuu’s behavior, but she’d insist she’d worry about anyone she deemed fragile and in need of someone for support—even if it wasn’t Touko. She’d be “happy with anyone,” to which I say, isn’t she assuming a lot, not tomention missing the forest for the trees?

When Maki slickly declines studying with Yuu in the library the moment Touko comes up from behind her, Yuu ends up in a series of study sessions with a senpai with a crush on her, and that crush is only intensifying. The first time, Yuu isn’t sure how to repay Touko for tutoring her, but Touko simply says she did it because she wanted to, and Yuu will “just have get used to it”.

Again, Yuu insists to herself (and us) that she’d be happy studying with anyone; that she didn’t choose Touko. Still, she admits she doesn’t hate being chosen. There’s anyone, and there’s the person in front of you. Yuu may say she’d be fine with anyone, but the fact remains, she’s fine with Touko, and so not opposed at all to “getting used” to being around her.

To that end, when the library is completely full, it is Yuu who invites Touko to her place to study, not t’other way round. Indeed, of the two of them only Yuu is clear-headed (and bold) enough to suggest they continue their studying in private.

This is not, then, a matter of will, only intensity for Yuu. Touko is desperately and adorably nervous alone in Yuu’s room as she prepares tea. She’s delighted to meet Yuu’s mom, older sister Rei, and Rei’s boyfriend (who “jokes” that Touko might be Yuu’s girlfriend). She’s elated to learn more about Yuu, who talks about herself so infrequently at school.

It isn’t until Touko’s longing eyes meet Yuu’s that Yuu asks her if anything’s wrong or if she’s not feeling well or too hot. Reading Touko’s blushing face finally clues Yuu in on what’s going on, and she confirms it by taking Touko’s hand and reading her very quick pulse. Touko is taken aback by Yuu’s boldness, but that boldness is tempered by the fact she’s not acting out of lust, but pure logic.

And that logic is the barrier Yuu must cross. If she “waits for her heart” to tell her she likes Touko, she’ll be waiting forever. She has to move beyond the probability that someone, anyone else could make her happy when there’s already someone right there, and their being there isn’t just a matter of coincidence or convenience. Yuu is overthinking and over-analyzing things. She was alone. Now she’s not. Go with that.

Meanwhile, as she’s leaving Yuu’s house, Touko is a completely, helplessly open book to Rei and boyfriend. Touko is bashful when Rei tells her to “take care” of Yuu; and Touko is way too eager to learn the recipe for the cheesecake Yuu likes so much. That’s why, in addition to the recipe, Rei sends Touko a photo of Yuu sleeping on the floor.

Classroom of the Elite – 05

Ayanokouji is a very well-studied observer of human behavior. He doubtless knows every one of the quotes that provide the titles for each episode; this one being “Hell is other people”, from Sartre’s “No Exit”.

Ayano observes that other people are indeed hell for his potential star witness Sakura Airi: he notices that while Kushida is able to easily invade people’s personal space, Sakura resists her, nullifying whatever power Kushida has over the vast majority of people.

(Naturally, Horitika is also immune to her charms, while Ayano knows her true identity, so throw in Sakura and Kushida is far from invincible.)

Luck is on Ayano’s side, however, as a trip to the electronics store with Sakura and Kushida ends up providing him the opportunity to show Sakura that not all other people are Hell; or at least that she can trust him.

Because Ayano is simply being Ayano (at least the one we know) and nothing else, Sakura’s intuition doesn’t see deception, while her reticence around Kushida suggests it does detect hers.

All of this is to say that Sakura takes Ayano’s advice to “do what she wants” and agrees to testify in the Sudo case; it shows that despite her (quite sensible) hiding of her secret—a sexy modelling side-gig—Sakura has a strong sense of justice, like Ayano, and her gut is telling her to listen to it, even if it means going through Hell (i.e., other people).

COURTROOM of the Elite  takes over in short order, and has all the makings of a show trial, with the Class C victims and their partially self-inflicted injuries given all the benefit of the doubt because, well, Sudo doesn’t have a scratch on him, and is a short-tempered asshole to boot.

If a summary “guilty” verdict is to be avoided, someone has to come to Sudo’s defense. But because Horikita’s brother the President (her kryptonite) is attending the trial, she freezes, completely losing all composure and confidence, and Ayano has to pinch her in her side in order to restore her to coherence.

It works, and she immediately begins the work of wearing down the credibility of three guys who weren’t looking for a fight all ending up injured. When they simply rebut with the correct assertion that Sudo often defies common sense, she whips out her Sakura Card.

We’ve only just met Sakura Airi, and yet there I was, so proud of her, and hopeful that I’d be as strong and brave in the situation in which she chose to be, exposing her revealing photos in order to establish why she was using her camera, before providing another photo of the fight itself, proving she was there…but not proving who instigated the fight.

Sakura Airi’s boss witnessing got Team Sudo past Level 1, but it doesn’t look like she’ll play a further role in helping to ease the burden of proof where who started it is concerned. But her good work also gave the defense a way out: Class C’s homeroom teacher offers a compromise, which is really more of a plea-out: only a two-week suspension for Sudo and one-week for his students.

But that plea requires that Sudo plead guilty, and we’re at least operating under the assumption that as awful and destructive as he is, he didn’t start the fight. So the offer is rejected. Instead, Horikita doesn’t hold back in her harsh and completely accurate assessment of Sudo’s attitude problems, and posits that Class C aimed to exploit those problems by setting him up.

Her brother, perhaps more impressed than he’d admit by his sister’s performance thus far (after a shaky start he probably thought was par for the course), will allow another day’s time for each party to prove their innocence or the other party’s guilt. He then raises the stakes, as one does in courtroom dramas: if they fail, expulsion is on the table.

This was a dense, thrilling outing of Elite Classroom that made me an immediate fan of Sakura, and a continued fan of Ayanokouji, Kushida, and Horikita. That Sakura won Sudo’s defense team more time makes me confident that they’ll find a way to clear his name and show up Horikita’s brother.

Classroom of the Elite – 04

Oh man, that elevator trip…so awkward…so much going on beneath the surface! To her credit, Kushida doesn’t break from her usual character once, not just there, but for the entire episode. It’s simply a given that she and Ayanokouji have this dark secret, and they have a deal, and he’ll honor it or else. We also never learn where Horitika stabbed him.

Everyone seems to be hiding the truth, both from others and from themselves. The truth seems like such a distant, unattainable thing now. And yet they must press on, and put one foot in front of the other. That pressing-on includes Ayanokouji moonlighting as reluctant romantic adviser to Class B’s idol, Ichinose Honami.

Still, the kid knows what he’s talking about, and talks to Ichinose about how someone in love suffers with trying to get the words out. Is he speaking from experience? In any case, he rejects her plan to make him her fake boyfriend (rightly so considering what an old cliche that is) and tells her The Truth is best. The girl who likes her is able to come out and confess, and Ichinose is able to gently reject her so that girl can move on.

That’s the end of act one, and while it may feel like a self-contained “mission” for Ayanokouji, in addition to the themes about hidden truths resonating in act two, Ichinose also incurs a debt to Ayanokouji that she intends to pay back. That will come in handy in act two, in which Sudou fucks up again, exposing the class to forfeiture of points.

The latest incident is another hidden truth: we don’t know what happened, just that Sudou was confronted by three Class C basketball players, and a fight ensued. He claims self-defense. Meanwhile, the incident has piqued Horikita’s brother’s interest, while at the club, one of Sudou’s accusers, Ryuen Kakeru, has an underling beaten up to help their case.

(I hasten to point out here that if Kushida was prepared to rely on fingerprint evidence to accuse Ayanokouji of raping her, I was left wondering later if a similar method could prove that Sudou didn’t beat up Ryuen’s co-conspirator).

Hirata, essentially Class 1-D’s male Kushida (only not secretly evil), decides to believe Sudou’s self-defense claim and an investigation ensues, with the class banding together to find witnesses and evidence. In this venture, Kushida teams up with Ayanokouji without any reservations, while Horikita is reluctant to participate.

They aren’t making much progress until Ichinose Honami hears about the investigation and offers to help out, citing that she owes Ayanokouji one. She even arranges an online venue where people can post information in exchange for rewards.

When someone posts anonymously, she isn’t sure how to transfer her points to the guy, so enlists Ayanokouji’s technical know-how…in the process, showing him her personal points balance to be in excess of 2.6 million yen ($23,000) immediately setting off alarms in both his head and mine.

Ayanokouji’s dorm room has apparently become the meeting spot for the three misfits, including Sudou, as well as Kushida. When Horikita stops by with info on a witness—one Sakura Airi, based on her body language in class—she’s quick to retreat once she sees Kushida there. (Now, of course, I totally understand why she’d rather interact with Kushida as little as possible!)

The case wears on Kushida, who visits Ayanokouji in the evening. They go on a walk and discuss it, leaving their own personal issues totally aside. Ayanokouji thinks he knows why Horikita is reluctant to help Sudou: because he never learns his frikkin’ lesson and keeps getting into trouble immediately after being bailed out of it. In a case with so little to go on, Sudou’s character makeup is a huge liability, and he can’t go on like this.

That leaves the very skittish Miss Pink Hair, Pink Camera, Sakura Airi. Kushida tries to gently ask to speak with her about what she might’ve seen, but Sakura panics and tries to run off, dropping and breaking her camera. While I’m sure the data chip containing potentially conclusive photographic evidence wasn’t lost, I still know far too little about her to know what she intends to do with it, if anything.

Was Sakura, for instance, the girl who cried out at the club before that guy got beat up for suggesting there was a witness? Horikita’s bro is clearly trying to sabotage Class D (and by extension his sister); will Ayanokouji’s suspicions about the cash-flush Ichinose prove to be justified?

A lot of truth has yet to be found, and many not only like it that way but are actively trying to distort it. And now I’m out of new episodes to watch…drat.

Classroom of the Elite – 03

“Man is an animal that makes bargains: no other animal does this – no dog exchanges bones with another.” So said Adam Smith, famed Scottish economist and philosopher. It’s a lengthy, inefficient quote, as befits the times he lived in, but I like how he extends the concept out for added emphasis.

Class D may be “defective garbage” but they’re still human, and so this episode is full of those deals only humans can make. The first deals Ayanokouji makes this week involve securing test questions from a destitute upperclassman, then using the universally trusted and liked Kushida to distribute them.

As Ayanokouji tells Horitika when the class gets all high scores, Kushida is “well-suited to the role” of class hero, unlike the two of them. The flashback that covers three days before the test were, like Smith’s quote, lengthier than it had to be, but still provided more welcome texture, like Horitika’s one-on-one talk with Sudo trying to appeal to his love of basketball to get him to shape up—or Kushida telling Ayanokouji he’s sharper than she thought.

Alas, only two of the three misfits pass the exams – Sudo fails one, by less than one point against the average score (which was heightened due to so many 100s and high 90s). Ayanokouji’s gambit would seem to have failed, but he doesn’t let things stand there: he follows Chabashira-sensei to the roof to make another one of those human deals.

Chabashira’s inflexibility on Sudo’s expulsion is out of a regard for the rules. Ayanokouji appeals to what both he and his teacher know to be the truth: society is not truly equal, but rules require “at least the appearance of equal application.” To that end, he recites another rule from the first day of school: points can be used to buy anything. Anything…including one test point so Sudo passes.

Chabashira, impressed he’s been paying such close attention and that he’d bring such a bargain to hers, agrees, but for a price of 10,000, to an Ayanokouji who already spent 15,000 on the test answers. To his surprise, Horitika appears on he rooftop to pay Chabashira, citing the threat of unknown consequences to the class if Sudo or anyone else were to get kicked out.

While Chabashira is impressed, she warns these two Adam Smiths that no Class D has ever advanced to a higher tier. Now we know Horitika’s goal of Class A isn’t just a long shot—it’s unprecedented.

Nevertheless, Horitika won’t give up. Thanks to her, Sudo stays and Class D earns 87 points without Ayanokouji dipping into his dwindling point reserves. He tries to thank her, but she says everything she’s done is for her sake—even artificially lowering her score to drop the class average to something Sudo could more realistically manage. When he points this out, Horitika stabs him with a compass.

She’s signaling to him in about as visceral a way as possible that she’s no altruist, and she may have a case, as intent matters. But it cannot be denied that she has done and said things that weren’t to her immediate personal benefit in order to benefit the greater good, and made specific choices that she didn’t have to make to get the same result. In a vacuum, she was being nice to Sudo.

At a party in Ayanokouji’s dorm room, he spins a story to the others that Sudo’s expulsion was canceled by a passionate appeal to the teachers by Horitika. Is Ayanokouji just getting her back for stabbing him, or is he trying, in spite of her efforts to the contrary, to rehabilitate and burnish her reputation as someone the other students can trust and respect?

 

Whatever anyone’s intentions, the effect is the same: Kushida is pissed. So pissed, she forgets her phone, and Ayanokouji follows her to the waterfront, he’s introduced to Kushida’s other side, a bitter, fuming ball of rage. When she gets a text, Ayanokouji’s cover is blown, and he finds himself face to face with this new and frightening side.

She doesn’t mince any words. Instead, she makes a deal: he’ll tell no one what he saw there, and she won’t falsely accuse him of raping her, thrusting his hand on her chest so his fingerprints can be used as evidence. To think Kushida would stoop to such horrible tactics is a testament to her devotion to achieving her goals, which is just as intense as Horitika’s.

I’m impressed by how invested I’ve become in these three characters in just three episodes. Each week a new layer and wrinkle is added that completely flips the script. At this point, I’m not even sure Kushida didn’t plant the phone so Ayanokouji would follow her, discover her, and be forced to share another secret with her.

The question may be who is the real Kushida, but the answer could be all of them. Which brings us to the ultimate deal in Classroom of the Elite: if we the audience watch it, and keep watching, the show will keep us in rapt attention with solid stories and characterization.

Classroom of the Elite – 02

I’m liking the uneasy rapport that has developed between Ayanokouji and Horitika; coincidence after coincidence brought them “together” in the opener, but they’ve consciously chosen to stay together, despite his surface apathy and her surface hostility—providing a nice contrast to Kushida’s saccharine affability.

Horitika isn’t interested in jumping up a level to Class C. She wants to be in Class A as soon as possible. If that means gathering a study group of the three most egregious misfits, so be it. She assigns Ayanokouji to the thankless task of gathering said misfits…and he immediately fails.

So he calls Kushida, who is all too happy to convince the three guys to attend the study group…if she can be in it as well. That caveat proves too repugnant to Horitika, who is awesomely resplendent in her text-and-voice-based petulance upon reacting to Ayanokouji’s method of completing the task she gave him.

Nevertheless, the group is assembled, with Kushida…and Horikita blows it up almost as quickly as Ayanokouji failed to assemble them in the first place. Unable to temper her aloof manner with people, and so focused on her goal of Class A, she doesn’t bother adapting to the various personalities she has to deal with, and so they all bail. She then accuses Kushida of “sabotage”, and Kushida runs off on the verge of tears.

And so, Ayanokouji finds himself with the contact info of not one but two comely lasses, and hasn’t the words, written or spoken, for either of them. So he goes out to the vending machines…and sees something he shouldn’t.

That something is the Student Council President verbally abusing his little sister…Horikita. Ayanokouji hears a tone of voice from his classmate he never had before, as she pleads for her brother to give her a chance…but all she is to the guy is a manifestation of shame; a black mark; a Class D sister.

Then he puts his hands on her and Ayanokouji has seen an heard enough, finally taking action by making use the strength Horikita noticed in his physique at poolside. He claims he acquired it and his fighting skills through “piano, calligraphy, tea ceremony”. It would be most impressive if that were true, but it’s clear he’s hiding something (We also learn he scored exactly 50 in all subjects on his entrance exam).

Like the first, this episode explored the theme announced in the episode title, a quote from some old dead guy, in this case, how “it takes a great talent and skill to conceal one’s talent and skill.” That certainly seems refer to our boy Ayanokouji as well as Kushida, who also comes off as someone holding their cards close.

As for Horikita, her natural tendency to keep people away, assuming they’ll hold her back, seems doomed to backfire on her every time. Just as the class had to come together to attain high enough scores to stave off expulsions for another week and possibly gain points back, Horikita will find more success on her path to Class A by learning to work with others, utilizing their hidden skills talents, and possibly discovering a few of her own in the process.

Girl Friend BETA – 04

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GF Beta is a pleasant, ultra-lightweight show, but it’s also oddly ambitious; never more so than this week. Cutting us loose in a universe of roughly fourteen million characters, it appears to clearly favor quantity over quality. And yet, there’s still a quality about that quantity; with such a big, diverse cast, the possibilities for storytelling are almost endless. So far, despite pretty much switching up the order and hierarchy of the focus cast each week, its fresh stories have consistently held my interest.

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Our “anchor” this week is the school radio emcee Sakurai Akane (Satou Rina, who also voices Misaka in Railgun), who finds Shiranui Isuzu (Yuuki Aoi, also Madoka in Madoka) looking over five abandoned kittens. She decides to help Isuzu find them homes, but the students who volunteer need to get good midterm grades to earn their new pets. This is a collection of students whose lives are already packed with extracurricular activities, jobs, and housework; so their grades suffer accordingly. Only the night before do they manage to arrange an all-night study session; Isuzu offers her sprawling home to host it.

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That night, the girls do, well…pretty much everything but study. They’e in awe of their classy traditional surroundings, spend lots of time on introductions, cook dinner, go out to buy snacks, get stuck in the rain, go to a bath house, and return to Isuzu’s home to tell ghost stories.

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When Isuzu comes in to see what the screaming is about, they see the cat on her obi and are reminded of why they’re really there: For the Kittens. The studying then commences in earnest. The night is a fine depiction of the myriad forms of procrastination that can transpire in such scenarios. There’s an epic quality to it that often accompanies all-night scenes where a deadline is nigh.

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The study session proves to be more than just a means of raising the girls’ scores to win kittens (which they do); the group also gained friendships (including the shy Isuzu), and making friends (or exploring why people are friends) is what this show is all about. And everyone was united by Akane, who, wishing to help both the kittens and Isuzu, made the radio announcement.

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