Iroduku: The World in Colors – 09 – Shou Breaks the Logjam

Ah, Photography Club: where there are always plenty of photos of the members looking at one another to determine who likes who. Shou can see how good Hitomi and Yuito look together, while Asagi can tell Shou likes Hitomi. Neither of them are particularly happy about that! If only Shou would look Asagi’s way…and neither Hitomi or Yuito existed…

In high school, time moves a lot slower than adult years, making it feel like you have all the time in the world. But Shou, a senior, is out of time, and can’t afford to wallow in indecision. So he offers to take Hitomi on a picture-taking trip around town, just the two of them.

It’s not overtly a “date”, but it’s a big enough deal that Shou feels it only right to inform Yuito of the plans, which of course imply other plans. Yuito, whose mother worries is too aloof like his dad, isn’t one to suddenly ask a girl out. But he takes the “not relevant/doesn’t matter” route with Shou’s pursuit of Hitomi. HE AIN’T MAD, FOLKS.

The trip goes very swimmingly, if platonically by necessity—Hitomi is not under any illusions she’s on anything other than a photo-taking trip with her senpai—though Shou certainly seems to be enjoying the fact that it very well could be a date.

Chigusa and Kurumi (who seem to be spending the day together like NBD, bless ’em) spot the two, but also shrug it off as not a date. Shou and Hitomi even climb to the highest vantage point in the area at sunset and exchange flattering compliments of each others’ personalities.

It’s not until Hitomi turns to walk home that Shou confesses and asks if she’ll go out with him; fortunately the train doesn’t prevent her from hearing him. Unfortunately she’s so shocked and startled from the confession she bolts away, and spends the rest of the night and the next day in a haze.

At first she tells Kohaku nothing, but between skipping meals, putting her shoes in the locker wrong, and running away again when Shou says good morning, Kohaku can tell there’s definitely something off.

Hitomi finally comes clean, by hypothetically asking Kohaku if there’s anyone she likes or if she’s ever been confessed to. She asks these questions in earshot of the whole class—a high school violation if ever there was one—but when they’re alone Kohaku tells her that ultimately the choice is hers to make, based on her feelings for the ‘rhetorical guy.’ For Kohaku’s part, she’d rather be rejected then not given an answer, even if it hurts.

Asagi can tell Shou is being uncharacteristically gloomy as they look at the pictures he took of places they’d been to countless times. When Asagi asks Hitomi if she’s coming to club, Hitomi has the same questions for Asagi she had for Kohaku, and Asagi spots the photo on Hitomi’s camera of the same place Shou was.

The gig thus well and truly up, Hitomi says she doesn’t “deserve” either to be liked or to like someone, something Asagi characteristically rejects. She urges Hitomi to do something lest “that person” get hurt, then storms off to club.

To Hitomi’s credit, she doesn’t let this uncertainty linger, nor allow Shou to suffer longer than this episode. On the roof she formally rejects him, stating there’s someone else (even if she’s unsure of the true nature of those feelings).

It’s clear to Shou about whom she’s talking: Yuito, who joins Shou on the roof and witnesses him shouting at the top of his lungs in a kind of release. Both the confession and the scream amaze Yuito; both are things he can’t imagine doing himself.

Later, Hitomi tracks Asagi back down, but before she can say anything, Asagi tells her that the person she liked (past tense) was Shou, the person Hitomi just rejected. Then she runs off and crumples into a little ball on a playground. What a fine mess we have here!

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Just Because! – 02

Izuki reacts the way he does to Souma’s text about Natsume being at the school because, as we learn in another flashback, he liked her in middle school. Unfortunately for him, Natsume liked Souma, something Souma never knew.

Back in the present, Izuki and Natsume reunite in a similar situation, with Souma nearby with another girl, this time Morikawa. He’s unable to properly confess his feelings to her, but instead manages to invite her, along with Izuki and Natsume to the aquarium on the weekend.

Morikawa accedes to the wishes of her two little brothers and brings them along, further muddying the “date” waters for Souma, but he comports himself well, even earning the brothers’ trust and showing Morikawa he’s good with kids, which is definitely something she’d look for in a man…were she looking.

It’s a pleasant, cozy trip to the aquarium, and by the end Morikawa and Souma are virtually exuding warmth. As for Izumi and Natsume, well…they’re less warm together, even if I got the sneaking suspicion that Izumi still likes Natsume despite his aloof manner with her.

Similarly, the more time she spends with Izumi, the more comfortable she seems interacting with him. It’s far from lovey-dovey, but it’s a nice low-key resumption of their relationship.

While Souma and Morikawa have a kind of “talent anchor” (baseball and trumpet, respectively), I appreciate how Izumi nor Natsume don’t really have those anchors, and are also alike in being on the wrong side of an unrequited love.

With the benefit of future episodes—as well as the flashbacks they’ll likely contain—we’re sure to learn more about these kids and who likes whom, and what Komiya plans to do with Izumi now that she literally has him in her grasp. I like that JB! is taking the time to flesh out the various characters and not rushing things.

Just Because! – 01 (First Impressions)

With a rookie director, two rookie seiyuus in the lead roles and a super-vague synopsis, I had no idea what to expect from Just Because! —all I had to work with was a script by the guy who wrote seven scripts for Gundam IBO. What I did know was that Just Because! is a pretty nifty title.

We begin with an extended introduction to the neck-of-the-woods where we’ll presumably be spending time, and the show seemingly blows its entire suspended monorail budget in those first few minutes. Still, it’s a nice slow, but not flashy, establishment of this world.

The slow unflashiness continues at school, where there seems to be a dreary atmosphere; a malaise waiting to be snuffed out. Like the transfer student we eventually meet, we’re thrust into this school without knowing quite who to follow or what to do. That lack of bearing is essential to putting us in the mindspace of the protagonist, before he’s even anywhere near the center of the frame.

I’ll admit, I was dubious when terms like “transfer student” and “disbanding tiny club” came up; I consider myself just about clubbed out (both dance clubs and tiny school clubs in anime) and combined with the leisurely pace, I was starting to get a bit bored and depressed with this place. Especially when there’s no one or two people in focus for most of the episode. Even the camera feels afraid of showing us the players in this story.

Then Izumi Eita and Souma Haruto unexpectedly reunite on a baseball field after not contacting each other for the better part of four years (after Izumi moved away). He’s back for one semester, and while he and Haruto are initially a bit cool to each other, they manage to reconnect via baseball, with Izumi pitching and Haruto eager to hit a home run (I speak literally here, not in sexual euphemisms, BTW).

As their pitch-and-hit session heats up (hehe), it gradually garners the attention of the three other protagonists: the girl who is angry the photo club could be disbanded (the fiery Komiya Ena), the girl who plays the trumpet (Morikawa Hatsuki, providing the incidental score to the final act), and the former student council president who seems both jealous and part okay with the fact her friends went off to have fun without her (Natsume Mio).

Izumi and Souma are the magnets that draw the others together, though their individual vantage points keep them from realizing they’re all watching the same thing. This drawing together of disparate gazes also brings the show into focus. Finally, at the very end, we see people having fun, smiling, and laughing, after three quarters of an episode of somberness and ennui approaching existential dread.

Having hit a home run like he intended (but never thought he’d actually do), Souma goes off to ask Morikawa out, but he and Izumi exchange texts, and Izumi learns that Natsume, whom he also knows from the past, is also attending this school. Neither Izumi nor Natsume seem particularly happy at the start of this episode, but perhaps that will change when they reunite.

GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 11

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One could say the Makai Council created a monster when they marked Mendoza for life. They should have just killed him and saved a lot of trouble (and lives). Mendoza then went on to create a monster of his own with Bernardo. This week we get the rest of the story of what happened to Bernie as he fights Herman in the present, which is a much more interesting and satisfying story than Mendoza, who was pretty much always an irredeemable shit.

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Bernie wasn’t. He just got seduced by the Dark Side, so to speak. As a Makai Knight he swore to protect the people, but all he got for his duty was persecution by those very people. Anna insisted that turning the other cheek was also their duty, but cornered in the city, with Anna and Roberto still in trouble, Bernie chooses to protect them. He won’t sacrifice his friends, and especially Anna, whom he always seemed to have a thing for, just to protect the scum before him.

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He kills dozens of guardsmen, but ends up pretty gravely hurt himself, and probably should have died right then and there, having disgraced his oath, even if for a good cause. But Mendoza watched him fight, and restored his body with dark magic, and told him to join him, with the philosophy that people shouldn’t be protected; they should be ruled.

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Herman’s repsonse to all this is to call Bernie a “stupid idiot”, though perhaps that’s not quite harsh enough an insult; Herm could learn a lot from Captain Haddock! In any case, he agrees with me that Bernie should have died on that night and not lived on in darkness and disgrace, and so they go at in in one hell of a quick but visually impressive knight-on-knigh battle.

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They eventually fight each other into exhaustion, losing their armor and ending up in heaps on the ground. Bernie uses one of many dirty tricks to stab Herm in the chest, but that’s after Herm threw a knife a long way away, which makes its way back…into Bernie’s back. The mortal wound seems to bring the old Bernie back, who is glad Herman survived that awful night, and asks about Anna. Herm tells his old friend she’s safe, which I suppose is true if the afterlife is safe!

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It’s a pretty good death with an air of redemption and forgiveness to it; an end I’m practically certain is not in store for our low-pitched pal Mendoza. As Herm and Bernie were fighting, Leon and Alfie infiltrated Mendoza’s underground lair. I didn’t say anything about it because it wasn’t that interesting. But once they find him, he’s summoning a particularly nasty looking horror from Makai.

Insufferable bastard that he is, Mendoza is still an immensely powerful fellow, and far more experienced than these two kids. But then again, as the face of the Makai Order’s future, this is their time to prove they’re worthy of their armor. They’ve got to get it done.

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Sora no Method – 05

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With help from Koharu and Noel, Nonoka starts to implement her plan to bring everyone back together and apologize for breaking her promise, by making a new promise to Yuzuki: that they’ll launch fireworks from the lake in a week’s time.

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Yuzuki is dubious and quick to run away from Nonoka, Koharu, and Souta, an action that’s grown somewhat repetitive these last two episodes, to the point that if you took a shot every time she ran away in a huff, you’d be pretty boiled. But Nonoka and Koharu’s concerted efforts to make the fireworks happen ultimately manage to draw out what’s been eating Yuzuki all along.

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Even Shione agrees to come in a week…if Nonoka can make the fireworks happen, which she doubts, meaning she thinks Nonoka is lying again, because she’s a liar. Shione has been feeling lied to an abandoned for so long, it’s formed a cold, hard, cynical crust. But we learn her and Yuzuki are not angry for the same reasons at all.

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Yuzuki has really been angry at herself, ever since she ran away from home with fireworks and Souta rode off, desperately looking for her. In the process, he crashes his bike and badly hurts his leg, ending up in the hospital. Yet when their parents ask what he was doing, he protects Yuzuki and shoulders the blame himself.

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Even before that, when the five friends were to meet at the pier for fireworks, nobody was able to make it. Yuzuki and Souta got separated at the festival, while Shione and Koharu stayed home. The only one who actually got to the pier was Nonoka, who was at the waterfront with her mom. When Yuzuki sees the dated photo proving she was there, she’s compelled to apologize to her too.

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I for one am glad Yuzuki figured stuff out and there was finally a cathartic reunion. Even more significant, the four friends together (minus Shione, who’s still loitering around nearby, ever at a distance) actually get to see fireworks courtesy of Noel, who projects them off the saucer. This time, Nonoka was able to keep her promise. She’s made up with Yuzuki; but is that enough to move Shione?

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Sora no Method – 04

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Having everyone back together in the spot where they once played doesn’t have quite the effect Noel was expecting, and Nonoka suddenly remembering calling the saucer with everyone and leaving without saying goodbye doesn’t suddenly make Shione or Yuzuki. In fact, Yuzuki is so pissed off, she slaps Nonoka in the face and storms off.

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But this episode isn’t primarily about Nonoka, our ostensible protagonist. It’s mostly about Yuzuki, with a hearty helping of Koharu, whom hasn’t had much to do until now. The truth that Nonoka is that Nonoka sends her into a bitter rage, suggesting her problem with the Saucer is about far more than fireworks. It’s about something more painful…something in a hospital.

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We don’t know the details, nor does Nonoka. But whatever the saucer did to Yuzuki, it’s haunted her incessantly ever since. She’s worked tirelessly to try to dissuade tourists from visiting the saucer — and in vain. And since every other business has banned her, her last outpost of Quixotic anti-saucer protest is Koharu’s family’s store. When customers complain, Koharu has no choice to shut her friend down.

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Meanwhile, mindful that she’ll need to learn more before approaching Yuzuki again, Nonoka meets with her very different twin brother Souta, to try to get some perspective. If he knows what’s really eating away at Yuzuki, he doesn’t let on, but he tells Nonoka not to worry about her; it’ll only cause her trouble.

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He said practically the same exact thing to Koharu, who tried for a long time to stand beside Yuzuki and support her as she tilted at windmills. Yuzuki was in earshot when Koharu couldn’t say with certainty that she didn’t think Yuzuki’s efforts were pointless. Since then, Yuzuki has harbored that non-answer as evidence Koharu may only be on her side to be nice and avoid confrontation.

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After Yuzuki happens to spot Nonoka talking with Souta, she races back to the tourist area and physically blocks a road full of buses, and Koharu is again forced to choose between her friend and the reality of the situation. Yuzuki brings up Koharu’s talk with Souta, and Koharu finally admits to her face that her actions serve no purpose. Yuzuki declares her hate and storms off again. It’s rough.

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Yuzuki hates Nonoka Koharu, and Souta; while Shione hates Nonoka and she and Souta would rather not be wrangled back into this hot mess; they’ve moved on with life. That leaves the two subjects of the others’ hate: Nonoka and Koharu. Neither of them want things to stay the way they are, but neither is strong enough to change anything alone. Maybe working together they can make something happen.

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Sora no Method – 03

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Loved this long-distance relay conversation between the scattered group members.

Everyone in this circle of past friends is missing a piece of the puzzle, which informs how they treat Nonoka. When they’re all brought together again for a sprawling orienteering trip, those pieces start to match and fall into place, resulting in a different kind of re-orienting: that of their immediate attitudes towards the transfer student. At the same time, Man, was this a gorgeous episode, packed camerawork that really accentuates the scale grandeur of the surroundings.

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Our first perspective comes from Togawa Shione, who’d been glaring in the background till now. Komatsu Mikako is one of the best in the business when it comes to coldness and barely restrained contempt in an otherwise sweet and innocent voice, and she’s perfect as the bitter Shione, who is convinced Nonoka is trying to play her and the others for fools.

"Here's a 'promise' for ya!"
“Here’s a ‘promise’ for ya!”

So convinced is she that Nonoka is being glib and coy, it doesn’t take much interaction with her at all to make her slap her in the face. Shione is upset because seven years ago, it was Nonoka’s idea to “call for the saucer,” and yet after they called it, she split for Tokyo without a word, abandoning her friends and the responsibility for the Saucer they all shared. Shione’s missing piece? Nonoka genuinely doesn’t remember those days…be that only makes Shione feel even more devalued.

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Next up is Yuzuki, who we learn is twins with her bro Souta, as he was also in the group (the guy is notably not the focus in a group of mostly girls). She hates the saucer, in part, because it’s the constant reminder of Nonoka’s betrayal. She’s just as angry at Nonoka as Shione, but is nice to Present Nonoka because of her missing piece: she didn’t know this was the same Nonoka, a position also shared by Koharu and Souta, until Nonoka gets separated from them and Shione educates them.

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This is, again, the first time we see the friends talking about seven years ago, so none of them have failed to remember, but have dealt with it in different ways. There’s a interesting bit of intrigue in this scene devoid of Nonoka, who is the one who is bringing everyone back together…some without knowing it, some against their will!

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Even if Yuzuki isn’t entirely convinced yet, now that she’s aware of the possibility, it’s going to change her interactions with Nonoka. That’s made even more abundant in Nonoka’s ultimately very fruitful lone journey to a decaying and abandoned Kindergarten, most likely the very one the circle of friends attended. It’s a quiet, sadly beautiful, wordless scene where Nonoka simply sits by herself and starts to hum, and is joined by Noel.

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Here, in this place, her missing piece comes back to her: her friendships with the others and the wish they made seven years ago. This happens sooner than I thought it would, which is a good thing, but it’s only the beginning. The flashback shows how similar or different the friends are now, and underlines just how blindsided they all were by her moving away. But she just…couldn’t find the time or place to tell them.

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Up to this point, Nonoka had the most missing pieces, not even knowing how the Saucer got up there, let alone the fact her present peers were not only already her friends in the past, but didn’t appreciate her sudden departure.

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But that’s all changed now: Nonoka remembers now, and she still has what she had ever since she returned to town: Noel, who tells her she’s not just from the Saucer or of the Saucer; she IS the Saucer. Without knowing it, Nonoka got what she wanted seven years ago. So…what now?

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Sora no Method – 02

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“We’re continuing this?”Nonoka to Yuzuki

The town seems to have gotten used to the fact there’s a giant shimmering saucer floating above it, as have most of the girls who presumably put it up there in the first place seven years ago. At least, outwardly they seem to have moved beyond it as something outside of their control. Even Nonoka, who only remembers bits and pieces of her past there, doesn’t seem that unnerved by its presence. There’s one girl who thinks differently: Mizusaka Yuzuki.

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—”Why are we running?”
—”Because we didn’t do anything wrong!”
– Nonoka and Yuzuki

Yuzuki, voiced with equal measures fiery, impulsive gusto and delicate vulnerability by the lovely Toyosaki Aki, wants the Saucer gone, period. As Nonoka is a new student at school (which starts far sooner than she thought), Yuzuki immediately tries to recruit her to her cause, and comes on a bit strong. She’s passionate in her distrust of it. While it’s played up as something akin to a UFO nut, and Nonoka reacts appropriately, with polite bemusement and a whiff of “Why me?”

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“You can’t call for the leaders at  a reception desk.” – Nonoka

After Yuzuki tells off her brother Souta, she rushes off with a backpack full of fireworks to take a boat to the island over which the Saucer floats (and is now off-limits to the public). This is dangerous and illegal, and the former underlined when Yuzuki loses her balance and falls into the drink, taking Nonoka with her. As they dry off Nonoka learns why getting rid of the saucer is so important.

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That reason has less to do with Yuzuki’s assertion that there are still many things in the town that won’t truly go back to the way they were until the Saucer is gone, like being able to go to the island to launch fireworks. It has more to do with the fact that after being led around and participating in anti-saucer activities, Nonoka has had a lot of fun with a new friend, and she wants to support that friend so she won’t feel sad and alone, something she can relate to.

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She says as much to Noel, and that she has nothing in particular against the Saucer herself. Despite the fact Noel’s presence is directly related to the Saucer’s, Noel seems receptive to helping Nonoka, as Nonoka wants to help Yuzuki. Ultimately, getting rid of the saucer may be a matter of all the former friends from seven years ago coming back together…though the cynical Souta and cold, perpetually headphoned Togawa Shione will pose a challenge.

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A shout-out to Franklin for passing this on to me: not only is this a pleasant, charming show, but it’s also getting more intriguing as long-separated friends re-forge their bonds. It looks great, too…even if the character designs border on the over-cutesy. And the dialogue is peppered fun, witty little lines like the ones that dot this review.

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