Fruits Basket – 48 – Love is In the Air…and On the Stage

Just like that, it’s the day of the festival and the class play, totally reworked into something “Cinderella-ish”. After Kisa and Hiro arrive to join Momiji and Haruhatsu in the crowd, the first two-thirds of the episode is given over to the play…and it’s wonderful.

The scriptwriter did a masterful job rewriting the script to complement the cast, from making Tooru kind and meek stepsister to letting Saki just be “Sakirella”, regarded by the crowd as “sassy” and “a boss”. The crowd favorite is Yuki, who is resplendent as the Fairy Godmother—Ayame and Mine knocked it out of the park with the costumes.

By the time the big ball scene arrives, Saki is far more interested in Yakiniku than dancing with the prince (her first wish was to burn the castle down, but she settled for Yuki making her dresses for her stepsister and mother). As for Prince Kyou, the actor’s general reluctance to participate is used in the story, making the prince reluctant to find a princess despite his fellow prince (Arisa) helping him out.

Midnight comes, and Black Cinderella must flee, leaving a glass slipper behind and wishing she’d eaten more. At Arisa’s urging, Kyou visits every house in the kingdom until she comes to Cinderella’s house. Saki asks if he’s there to marry her sister (Tooru), which causes Kyou to explode. This works in the context of the play, but is another among many instances of reality seeping into the play.

When Saki launches into a dark monologue about the prince continuing to deceive himself and lock himself away in the castle forever, Tooru is compelled to speak out of turn, yelling “I don’t want….!” Of course, it’s not just her character who doesn’t want the prince to be lonely. This is Tooru expressing her objection to Kyou being locked away by Akito just for being the Cat…as well as her objection to Kyou being okay with it. Their dialogue’s close proximity to their real-life situation isn’t lost on either Tooru or Kyou.

After a deliciously feminist ending to the play (Cinderella doesn’t marry anyone and opens a yakiniku business with Tooru), the play is over, and Kyou couldn’t be happier…only to find that his Shisho is there, but Saki is flirting with him hard, using her sweetest demeanor and most dignified diction while around him.

Tooru meets up with Kisa, Hiro, Haru and Momiji, the last of whom capture the play on his camcorder. Tooru is glad for this, because it means Kureno will get to watch the DVD of Arisa. However, when Hiro lashes out at Haru (despite his efforts not to lose his temper), Kisa gets the wrong impression that Hiro likes Rin (Isuzu).

Released from his acting duties, Yuki checks in on the StuCo and is placed on patrol duty by an angrier-than-usual Nao. He overhears Machi being hassled by members of his fan club for her comments about Yuki not being a prince. He’s about to intervene, but Kanabe wisely restrains him; this is something Machi needs to work out for herself.

Eventually she does speak up for herself, first offering a curt apology when it is demanded, then elaborating on her read on Yuki, which is not only far deeper than the fans’ shallow infatuation, but also resonates with Yuki a great deal. She alone can tell that despite being around so many people, Yuki seems lonely. She can tell because she’s lonely too. Yuki blushes in the way a man blushes over a woman.

Kyou ends up joining Tooru with the others, but before they do, they share a quiet moment with each other, with that scene in the play still vivid in both their memories. But right at the edge of acknowledging their mutual feelings for one another, the two withdraw, neither allowing themselves to think about “it.”

If this were a one or two-cour romance, I’d say they were spinning their wheels, but Fruits Basket will continue for at least an entire third season and I’ve heard it could even extend into a fourth. So it’s so far so good with these two with two episodes left in the second season. I also continue to be intrigued with the Yuki-Machi connection, though I do hope they get to actually interact more down the road.

Check out Crow’s thoughts on the episode here!

Cardcaptor Sakura – 42 – A Light in Dark Places

It’s the big day of the performance, and Tomoyo pulls a double all-nighter to make the perfect Prince and Princess costumes for Sakura and Syaoran. I have to admit Tomoyo really outdid herself—Sakura looks outstanding—but for gosh sakes, get some SLEEP, girl! The play commences without a hitch, with the sleep-deprived but resolute Tomoyo providing narration.

Meiling steals the show as the villainous witch, despite the fact she didn’t want to play the villain! The crowd has a great reaction to Syaoran as the princess, but his performance suffers once he spots Yukito in the audience. Sakura, less so, since she mostly relies on her athletic ability in the fight scenes.

After defeating the witch and being told by the three faeries (played by Sakura’s three girlfriends) she can wake the princess with a kiss, Sakura gets right down to it. Her lips draw so close to Syaoran’s, neither he nor Touya in the audience can bear it. Syaoran pushes Sakura away, and just then a great inky blackness swallows everything whole…leaving the two of them in a void.

Syaoran soon vanishes too, leaving Sakura all alone. Not knowing what’s going on, she starts to cry, then realizes this could be the DARK Clow Card, in which case she can do something. When her magic doesn’t work she again despairs, but soon realizes that despite being surrounded by darkness, she continues to glow. Sure enough, the LIGHT Clow Card has resided in her heart since the first time she opened Clow’s book.

Because LIGHT and DARK are two sides of the same coin, they are portrayed as either sisters or lovers—I lean toward the latter. LIGHT mentions the name Yue to Sakura before she seals them both for a twofer, leaving Sakura to wonder who Yue is. The show seems to be indicating that Yue is Mizuki Kaho—or that Mizuki is Yue’s vessel. With four episodes remaining in this 11-episode second season, Sakura is sure to find out soon!

Cardcaptor Sakura – 41 – Dress Rehearsal

The Arts Festival is upon us, and Sakura’s class will be performing a play; specifically, Sleeping Beauty. Mizuki-sensei employs amidakuji in order to determine who plays what role. As a result of this method, Sakura ends up getting the role of the Prince, while Syaoran will be the Princess. AS IT SHOULD BE.

Sakura and Syaoran, being hardworking determined youths, take their roles very seriously; Sakura is heartened to find Syaoran practicing his lines in a tree, and even hopes that he’ll regale her with a song from one of his Hong Kong school arts festival plays. They’re both further motivated by the knowledge that Yukito will be in the audience.

Syaoran may still have a crush on Yukito, but there’s nothing saying he can’t have a crush on two people at once. He and Sakura agree to meet at school early to rehearse, and to Sakura’s surprise, Touya is up when she is, and even made her pancakes!

Bringing up when she had the fever (and used Mirror to make a double of herself that didn’t fool her big bro), he urges her not to act recklessly. If he knows about her cardcapturing, does he also know Kaho is somehow involved as well?

Sakura shows up to school early (even though she does pause outside the shrine where Mizuki lives), but Syaoran is even earlier, and they practice their lines, culminating in their first almost-kiss. But just when things are starting to heat up, a circle of sand appears arond them and threatens to swallow them up!

Syaoran grabs hold of Sakura and uses his sword to summon wind to dodge the sand. Then Sakura uses Fly to continue dodging the sand, but it eventually slams into them, and the two are separated. Syaroan suggests Sakura use Watery to make the sand wet, which works much better than she thought, then Syaoran uses Freeze to, uh, freeze the wet sand.

Sakura seals the card, which then hovers between the two, and they both grab it at once, their hands touching. Syaoran draws back, but Sakura gives it to him, both because he came up with the plan to seal it, and as thanks for giving her Cloud when she was sick.

While they may technically be rivals for the Clow Cards, it’s clear these two have come a long way in their friendship, and the Sleeping Beauty play can only bring them closer together. As for Mizuki, she’s not coy about whatever is about to go down happening very soon. I hope it doesn’t end up being as simplistic as her being the Bad Guy—but something more satisfyingly nuanced.

Chuubyou Gekihatsu Boy – 08 – God is in…The Horse?

When no new requests for help were coming into the Hero Club, I assumed that the StuCo had finally commenced implementation of their plan to bring the club down. But then the Drama Club bursts in and begs the club for help so that their club won’t get shuttered by the StuCo.

They present their request as you’d expect a drama club to do so: dramatically, demonstrating a lot of shared qualities with the Hero Club members. The Drama nerds clearly see that potential too, and so have big plans for them.

While the Drama Club runs into a few snags—Kazuhiro won’t run, Yamato can’t remember his lines, and Futaba refuses to take the stage—they mitigate these problems as they come, and before long the operation is a well-oiled machine.

The Drama Club prez even manages to get Rei to believe the “prince’s horse” is an absolutely vital role! Mizuki also discovers that Futaba may have a side-hobby of posting videos in which he performs songs…rather uniquely, but doesn’t immediately put two and two together (another sign of anime-vision).

Throughout all of this, I was wondering where the StuCo was…they’ve been stalking the Hero Club all this time. Were they the ones who created this situation for the Drama Club; in order to keep the Hero Club busy on campus so they’d do less damage off it? We will see.

Then there’s the odd emergency of the wrecked scenery with one day left. A group of cats is blamed for the damage, and Futaba pulls everyone together and makes new scenery, so I’m not sure what the point of the emergency was! With three episodes left, I imagine the final showdown with StuCo will take place in the final episode or two. Until then, there’s a show to put on!

Dororo – 11 – A Family Reunion

The two sons of Daigo may be meeting face to face for the very first time, but of course neither of them knows that, so their interactions don’t go too far beyond Dororo and Hyakkimaru’s usual dealings with people: kill a demon, collect a reward (and a handsome one at that). Hyakkimaru does, however, take an extra-long look at Tahoumaru’s soul: it’s “clean”, with no hints of red people get when they’ve killed another human.

Dororo and Hyakkimaru enter Daigo’s prosperous trading town and, after travelling around the sticks for so long, are positively overwhelmed by the sheer amount of sights, products, and activities. But someone spots them: a very disheveled woman who despite appearing like a lunatic to everyone around her actually has it exactly right: the “demon child” is alive.

While watching a play depicting Lord Daigo’s victory over the demons (ironic considering he actually struck a deal with them) Dororo spots Biwamaru, who sad to hear the news of what happened to Mio and the orphans. He’s there to check out what we know of as the Hall of Hell, where the Demons Daigo is believed to have defeated dwell.

Hyakkimaru overhears (now that he hears and all) rumors about the “curse of Banmon” being to blame for the lack of rain lately (little do the townsfolk know the reason is actually Hyakkimaru). Meanwhile, Hyougou and Mutsu report their encounter with a young lad with prosthetics and a small boy boasting that they’re high-level demon hunters. Needless to say, Daigo is concerned.

Dororo and Hyakkimaru pay a visit to the “Banmon”, the last survivng segment of a wall that was breached and destroyed by Daigo’s armies in his victory over Asakura. A young lad named Sukeroku is trapped on the wrong side of the border between the warring clans, and just wants to get back to his fam. He feeds Dororo and Hyakkimaru, so they agree to help him out.

Daigo informs his wife Nuinokata that their firstborn has most likely returned to their lands. He’s determined not to let anything, including him, spoil his prosperity. When Nuinokata voices her concerns that the two of them are going to properly pay for what they (really he) did to their son, Daigo dismisses her, making a remark about women “not knowing anything about politics.” Tahoumaru overhears everything, only increasing his curiosity.

Once the Asakura sentries call it a night, the site of the Banmon becomes a battlefield between Hyakkimaru and an ever-replenishing number of angry fox spirits, who eventually combine into one massive demon fox, or kyubi. He’s about to be overwhelmed when a volley of arrows hastens its retreat.

Just as Tahoumaru and his aides find the “crazy” woman in town, who is one of the midwives present for Hyakkimaru’s birth and knows what they did to him, Hyakkimaru is confronted by those who fired the arrows: the entourage of no less a person than Lord Kagemitsu Daigo himself.

For the first time since his birth, the firstborn and his father are finally face-to-face. I wonder if Tahoumaru will have something to say about what should be done with Hyakkimaru; considering what we’ve seen of him, it doesn’t seem like he’d hold his brother’s very existence against him considering what was done to him. But if he’s to adopt a sympathetic position regarding Hyakkimaru, he’ll be defying his lord father.

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – 06

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The play was a sensation, sure enough, but it also awoke something in Kikuhiko; he really liked the reaction of the audience, and wants nothing more than to get that same feeling while performing his rakugo. But at the start of this week, he’s still lacking certitude and confidence, despite the fact he has his own little fan club at the cafe where he works, not to mention the persistent attention of the lovely Miyokichi, who seems to want to be someone whom he can lean on for support.

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Kikuhiko’s latest interactions with Sukeroku involve a lot of the latter stumbling into their apartment late at night wasted, then laying down some uncharacteristic wisdom before passing out. By doing so, Sukeroku inadvertently reinforces Kiku’s frustration with sharing his home and his calling with someone so different from him, who found out who his rakugo was for and how to do it in a way that played to his strengths.

Kiku has had to work hard and struggle and worry his entire life, whether it was when he was struggling to dance before being “gracefully expelled” (with women lamenting he wasn’t born a woman), or struggling to discover who his rakugo is now, when it’s too late to go back, with no other way to survive but rakugo.

Just as Sukeroku sometimes voices characters who seem like him – one bad move away from a sticky end – when Kiku begins a story about a “lover’s suicide” there’s a distinctly personal and dark subtext.

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But one night, with both his fan club, Miyokichi, Sukeroku and a decent crowd watching (and already warmed up by Sukeroku’s energetic performance), Kiku finally figures it out, building on what he learned during the play, but also gaining new insights while he’s performing. As his performance changes – and improves greatly – the audience changes in turn, and he notices it.

Mind you, his method of rakugo is totally different from Sukeroku. Kiku doesn’t try to use a big booming voice. Instead, he plays to his strengths: his femininity, grace, and sex appeal. He makes the crowd laugh, but also has them feeling worried for the would-be suicidal woman, finally rewarding them for following along by releasing the tension at the end, revealing no one died after all.

In his “eureka” performance, we see glimmers of the venerable Yakumo in the young Kikuhiko, finally able to shrug off his inferiority, relax on the stage, and command a crowd with a firm but elegant touch. When he leaves the theater for home, he’s practically giddy.

As a boy he heard words of pity from those who believed he couldn’t cut it. Now, nearly everywhere he looks there are admirers eager to praise him. And this is only the beginning.

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Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – 05

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As we return to Yakumo’s saga, which is already suffused with a constant underlying melancholy borne from the knowledge these events have long since passed, a young Yakumo is desperate to be good at whatever it is he’s doing, be it rakugo or a more straightforward play.

To that end, he’s far more concerned with practicing than women, who a drunk Sukeroku brings home one night. It’s just the latest iteration of something Sukeroku has done since he and Yakumo first met as boys: trying to get him to loosen up.

Sukeroku believes you have to be “a little stupid” in order to survive in rakugo, something Yakumo is not only virtually incapable of being, but would be betraying who he is if he tried. The audience will always know if his heart isn’t in it. We’ve seen how bad that can go!

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Speaking of his heart, it’s in a state of turmoil over the prospect of not being “cut out” for rakugo, turning an intimate little make-out session with Miyokichi into a pity party. For her part, Miyo loves Yakumo’s rakugo, which should tell him it’s worth pursuing.

Yakumo remains depressed, but puts his head on Miyo’s shoulder when she offers it. It’s notable that things don’t ever seem to go anywhere sexually between the two, something Miyo herself might’ve confirmed by telling her senpai essentially “it’s not like that;” in other words, platonic.

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Nevertheless, it’s a strong, warm friendship, and Miyo is excited for the lovely, elegant Yakumo to be portraying a man disguised as a woman for the play, and offers her services as makeup artist gratis. She does good work; the transformation is striking.

Sukeroku laughs his ass off when he first sees Yakumo’s somehow even foxier fox face, when he sees how terribly nervous his bro is (to the point of threatening to flee), he tells him to steel himself, knowing full well with his looks and talent he’ll have the audience eating out of his hand.

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Sukeroku turns out to be exactly right, which shocks Yakumo. When he starts feeling the rapt audience following his every move, his confidence builds more and more. His progression from initially jittery suits his role as meek ‘wife’ to the more boisterous Sukeroku’s ‘husband’, and makes it that much more of a shock when the time comes for him to reveal he’s a guy. His change in voice, posture, and level of dress; it’s all pretty much perfect.

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He leaves the stage to enthusiastic applause, a very different man than the one he walked onto it as. He was depressed, but now he’s seen with his own eyes and by his own efforts that there is hope after all, not only in theater but in rakugo as well. His performance showed everyone out there what he’s capable of, and the elegant “racy stuff” he can do so well; as effortlessly as Sukeroku pull of his unwashed galoot bit.

Finally, to once again remind us we’re only looking into the past, of two people who were still so close but whom we know will one day be separated once more and for good, the theater manager takes some candid black-and-white photographs of the two brothers, preserving the joy and victory of that night for posterity.

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Sket Dance – 42

In part one, the Sket-dan hangs out with Momoka, who is worried about her impending role in a stage play. The script contains extremely simple dialogue, leaving the actors to interpret it how they choose. Practicing with Bossun, they play the proposal scene straight, then Switch makes the character her hulk-like father in a postapocalyptic setting; then Bossun and Momoka pretend to be Americans, saying whatever English phrases sound vaguely like the Japanese dialog. At her rehersal, Momoka sings her lines, impressing her director.

This part was all about taking a simple idea – like the sparse script – and coming up with several very different interpretations. It succeeds giving Bossun and Switch different personas for Momoka to bounce off of. We like the idea that Bossun is a good actor in his own right, and here he even throws off his coyness and embraces Momoka. He ceases to be Bossun and becomes the dull character. Bossun is the kind of guy who could well be good at everything – as long as he puts in the effort. Both the opening scene at the karaoke and the rehersal with the director prove that Momoka can do no wrong; she’ll always find success no matter what she does.

In part two, Himeko is contemplating what she wants to do in the future when Roman busts in with news: her manga has won a prize and has been published in Margerine magazine. It’s a poorly-drawn, rambling affair, but the Sket-dan agrees it is at least fun. Momoka’s protege Fumi shows her her own manga. Momoka is very impressed, and suggests they work together to get more of their work published.

Roman is an interesting character in that she more than any other non-core character manipulates and changes the rules of the episodes in which she appears. She is a master of time, space, and matter, able to create scenery and transitions like some kind of sorcery. The sket-dan can even inexplicably hear her inner voice. Like Momoka, Roman has managed to find success despite not having the best technical skills – her drawing is shaky and the story is a random mess, but the editors chose it for its sheer audacity. As usual, the sket-dan’s commentary during her manga presentation provided ample laughs.


Rating: 3

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Sket Dance continues to be silly and slapsticky without getting too obvious or boring or idiotic. This week, in which the Student Council confronts Sket-dan and threatens its existence, was a very richly-told and thoughtful episode. Tsubaki and the other council members aren’t simply evil; their personalities are more complex. I particularly like how the president is so laid-back and pragmatic, indulging his subordinate so that he’d learn a lesson.

Tsubaki is not a very flexible guy, but he definitely develops a bit in the course of the episode. As for the Sket-dan core, they’re as spot-on as ever, with their usual excellent chemistry and immediate retorts, and the play premise was a great way to bring in all the misfit characters they had helped in usual episodes – the samurai, the occult girl, and the cliche’d manga girl. It’s good to see the show hadn’t just forgot about these characters.

Even Momoka and her gang are conscripted, and the performance the group puts on ultimately follows the story of Momoka’s character’s development just a couple episodes ago. It’s clever, and as I said, well-executed. Above all, it’s entertaining. Rating: 3.5