The aquatope on white sand – 10 – You can’t go home

Only a damn week left in August. A week of Summer Break. Until reopens, the aquarium closes, and Fuuka goes back to Iwate, among other things. After staring at the downtown monstrosity that reminded me of the Olympic Stadium in AKIRA, Kukuru is staring at that damn calendar with only seven days left.

Kai, whose first memory of Kukuru is watching her back tremble as she wept in her front yard, sees that back again. It’s not trembling, but he knows it’s troubled. But he can’t, because he’s just a little too slow and Kukuru is so distracted by her problems she doesn’t even notice Kai is there, and certainly doesn’t see him as a potential source of healing.

Kukuru isn’t really seeing Fuuka either. Fuuka did commit to supporting Kukuru’s dream when her own dream ended, but thanks to the call from Ruka, that dream is suddenly alive again if she wants it: a goddamn starring movie role. Of course she can’t share this news with Kukuru, who has no time or headspace for anything but her beloved Gama Gama. Seeing how Kukuru flails near the finish line really accentuates just how grown up and mature Chiyu was by comparison last week.

Chiyu can see her future and she’s lunging forward and grasping at it with everything she has. Kukuru is trying to keep her past her present and future. She’s so desperate, she resorts to asking Udon-chan’s mom to see if there’s a way to exploit the inscrutable magical realism moments she, Fuuka, and others have experienced. She thinks if she can put it out there on social media that Gama Gama is a “place of miracles” and a “healing power spot”, she can save it.

But just look at everyone’s faces. Kukuru’s desperation is clear to see. Udon-chan is the only one humoring her with a half-hearted, almost patronizing smile. Fuuka is quietly neutral. Karin is like this girl is going off the deep end.

During what was without doubt the most depressing watermelon-eating scene I’ve ever seen committed to the screen, Fuuka can’t hold in what’s bothering her anymore, even if it only adds to Kukuru’s problems. When Fuuka doesn’t enthusiastically say she’ll turning the movie role down, Kukuru cant stomach any more watermelon, or Fuuka’s presence.

In a way, it’s not fair. Fuuka has pretty much had to couch all of her issues while August has worn on and Kukuru’s various ideas to save Gama Gama have come and gone with the same middling success. But Fuuka isn’t sure what she’s doing anymore, which means she’s not committed to helping Kukuru salvage her dream. There’s no point in lying, and I’m glad Fuuka doesn’t, nor does Kukuru hide her disappointment.

Kai, who it’s clear has been working himself way too hard just so Kukuru has an extra strong back at the aquarium, finally gets a chance to spend some time alone with Kukuru, but it’s strictly business: she needs him to be her guinea pig to see if the “illusions” will occur for him. Kukuru’s obsession with saving Gama Gama is flattening all of her relationships. She only noticed Kai when she needed him.

Why she thinks sitting three feet away and leaning towards him with a notebook will put him in the right state to see said illusions…but like I said, Kukuru is desperate…almost as desperate as Kai is to help and console and comfort her. But once again, he’s a little to slow to call her name and reach out, as she buzzes off on her motorbike after their failed illusion session. He keeps getting so close! 

Back home, Kukuru’s Gramps gives her a talking-to about how it was wrong to try to lure supernatural otaku to the aquarium with promises of miracles and illusions. In effect, this week is when Kukuru’s illusory world finally comes into focus. Everyone but her isn’t saying Gama Gama is doomed because they’re being assholes. It’s because Gama Gama is doomed. Barring some serious Kijimunaa divine intervention, of course.

I don’t know of Kijimunaa is directly responsible for the illusions, but the reason for them is made plain (if it wasn’t already) when Kai, distraught over his inability to reach present-day Kukuru, finds himself behind the shoulder of his younger self when he first met her. Audio is added to this scene and it’s brought into context as one of countless times young Kukuru ran out of her grandparents’ house declaring through tears that she’s going home to “mommy and daddy.”

This was, predictably, the point at which I broke down in tears, and basically unconditionally forgave Kukuru for all of her transgressions both this week and in previous episodes. Kukuru lost her parents at a tender age, but not so tender that she was shielded from the weight of the loss. She was old enough to know, but wasn’t ready to accept, that they were gone. The home she knew and loved was gone too.

Past Kai hesitates just like Present Kai did three times prior, but Present Kai is there to give Past Kai a push towards Kukuru. He whips out a big, gorgeous fish he just caught, and Kukuru’s tears stop almost immediately.

Kai comes out of his illusion to a Kukuru hopeful she just witnessed him experiencing what she experienced. But to both her dejection and my own, Kai softly shakes his head. It was a beautiful memory, but just a memory. It was the past, and just the illusion of it. He doesn’t want to feed her any more illusions. Instead, rather than gathering her into a big hug, he puts up his hands so she can punch them and yells “Come!”

Kukuru cries as she punches, but Kai tells her to keep punching, as hard as she can, into his palms. I’m sure if he had a big beautiful freshly caught fish, he’d give her one to cheer her up. We later see that Kukuru posted a retraction on social media, so even that last-ditch plan ended in failure.

If I were her, I’d also be grateful for a friend willing to absorb my punches, my failures, my despair—all of it, for my sake. And when my fists (and their palms) were sufficiently red and stinging, I’d feel better, and maybe even be ready to take a step forward.

RABUJOI WORLD HERITAGE LIST

 

How Heavy are the Dumbbells You Lift? – 12 (Fin) – The Friends We Met Among the Weights

The final episode takes most of the cast to Tokyo’s fictional insular island “Nikunoshima” AKA “Muscle Island” where there is an annual contest for bodybuilding and a talent show. Due to the Summery climate the gang gets to show off their new swimsuits in the Spring, though the heat is a bit much for Gina. Hibiki and Akemi only came to see some hot guys and muscles, respectively, so both are crestfallen to learn that part of the contest is cancelled due to lack of participation.

Still, all four girls participate in the talent section, though another Russian steals Gina’s Cossack dance routine, while Ayaka decides to wear to little for her dragon flag demo and gets disqualified. Akemi wows the crowd with perfectly-executed handstand push-ups, while Hibiki demonstrates her superhuman punching power once more.

The two end up in a draw for the win, so they have to face off against one another to break the tie. Akemi relishes the opportunity to compete one-on-one against Hibiki in a bench press-off, but alas, Hibiki is too hungry to attempt even one rep, making Akemi the winner by forfeit.

Jason and Mr. Director had an overarching plan to film the contest “Candid Camera”-style, but the boat they used to try to get their ahead of the girls ends up breaking down, and they end up stranded at sea in a parody of Titanic that, while completely out of left field, is still pretty funny (Barnold ends up rescuing them, though who knows how).

Meanwhile the girls celebrate another successful contest by playing with fireworks on the beach, and Hibiki and Akemi affirm their strong friendship, which for Hibiki meant getting into healthier, better shape, and for Akemi meant meeting new friends who shared her passion for fitness.

Like last week, this episode suffered from a distinct lack of momentum and energy in the storytelling (as opposed to the always-game characters and seiyus) as well as a rehash of elements already used better (Hibiki’s punching, the contest format, swimsuits).

While it didn’t end while at its strongest, Dumbbells was still a fun, unique, quirky, and above all inspiring little show packed with lovable characters. Next month I’ll be joining the gym to try to build a better me. That would not have happened were it not for this show!

Glasslip – 06

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The teen drama is kicking into overdrive on Glasslip, with hardly a moment of interaction between two of the friends that isn’t awkward or discordant. Only Hiro and Machi are above the fray, but they seem to be unwittingly isolating themselves from it. While the methods vary from person to person, the fact remains: the circle is tearing itself apart.

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Of course, making omelettes requires the breakage of some eggs, and if these six people are to enter adulthood as “complete selves”, perhaps drifting apart either peacefully or fitfully, is simply a part of that process. In their first confrontation that ends in the punch that gives this ep its title, Yuki and Kakeru both say they can’t help how they’re acting, it’s just the way they are.

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Of course, because of who’s fallen for whom, some omelettes will land back in the pan when flipped, and others will land to the floor. Kakeru and Yuki both like Touko, but Touko can only choose one of them, while Yana loses either way because she likes Yuki. It’s the kind of predicament that can lead young people to make rash choices.

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At points in the episode both Touko and Kakeru remark on how they basically may be awful people, but I don’t think they’re being fair to themselves. They are who they are, and they like each other; one has to assign an order of precedence, and in the case of finding someone who makes you feel complete and with whom you share future flashes, well…in my book that’s pretty important.

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As I said, the drama and intrigue was laid on thick this week, with heated phone calls and even a duel challenge. But as intense as all this feels to its participants, the episode keeps everything in perspective by making the indifferent surroundings of the town as conspicuous as ever; essentially showing life going on as it always has and always will. No amount of omelette-making can mar its serene constancy.

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