Classroom of the Elite – 10

How could a show that started out so fresh, slick, clever, and cerebral feel so stale, dull, dumb now? The first mistake seemed to be taking the classes out of the proverbial classroom and onto an island…then proceeding to do basically nothing for five days.

Horikita conducts recon of Classes A and B, both times having unpleasant encounters with their respective leaders, both of whom are drawn as if they were in their thirties. Fine, I’ll forgive the disappointingly goofy character design—this is Lerche, after all—but I won’t forgive the obvious holes in logic that keep creeping up this week, even if the sexism subsides.

Remember how I said Horikita came into contact with the leaders of Classes A and B? Isn’t there a 50-S-Point bonus to anyone who correctly guesses the leader of another class—an a 50-point  deduction from the leader correctly ID’d? Am I missing something here? Katsuragi and Ryuuen aren’t exactly being subtle in their leaderliness—nor is Horikita herself.

Days 2 thru 4 breeze by without any incident…or any meaningful developments whatsoever, aside from more of Sakura flirting with Ayanokouji (who has never been portrayed as anything other than an unromantic, assexual character, making her flirtation seem like a futile waste of time), a mysterious scene in which a mystery student of unknown gender steals a girl’s bag from the tent, and Sudou suspecting Class C exile Ibuki of some kind of treachery.

I suppose I should look to the episode’s title for guidance, a Kierkegaard quote: “Every man has in himself the most dangerous traitor of all.” I’m no philosophy major, but off the top of my head, this seems to have dual meaning: everyone has the potential for treachery, but no other person is capable of betraying you more than you can betray yourself.

It could also just mean there’s a traitor in Class D’s midst, which Sudo believes is Ibuki, so I gravitated to her as well. Then, on the morning of Day 5, the girls are united in their outrage that Karuizawa’s underwear was stolen in the night. The rest of the episode deals with the investigation of this panty heist. See what I said about feeling a bit dumb and rote?

Despite that feeling, things to sharpen up a bit when Ike finds the panties in his bag. Clearly they were planted there, but by whom? What the heck would Ibuki have to gain by sowing discord, when her own Class spent all their points and headed back to the boat to party?

By the way, I’m happy Class C’s strategy was not immediately dismissed as the wrong one; none of the remaining classes are guaranteed to earn enough points to make all the trouble they’ve been through worth it. It’s almost as if the show is saying “yes, this whole island survival premise is indeed dumb, but only Class C and Koenji decided to reject it.”

Ike gives the panties to Ayano, and Hirata finds them when giving the boys pat-downs at the girls’ demand. But Hirata doesn’t turn in Ayano, because he understands the distinction of Ayano having the panties and Ayano stealing them.

Hirata takes the panties from Ayano, supposedly to protect his classmate, as Karuizawa’s boyfriend is the one the girls suspect the least to have them, but despite the fact it’s (I’m assuming) to prevent further discord from compromising the class, Hirata is betraying himself here, by lying.

And the fact he’s able to be dishonest here makes me start to think that maybe his whole upstanding, “Everybody Loves Hirata” act is merely cover for…more sinister designs.

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Fuuka – 11

Ay Caramba was that a jumbled mess of an episode, full of people being selfish and awful, other people being pushed and pulled around like ragdolls, people saying things no normal people would ever say out loud, and peppered with seemingly even more superfluous fanservice than usual.

First up, Fuuka, who leaves the band she forced everyone into to begin with to sign a contract with a studio. You know she’s leaving the band because it’s too painful to be around Yuu, and I know that too, but Yuu doesn’t, because he’s an idiot.

This isn’t about pursuing her dreams. You can tell because throughout this episode she’s sad and saying out loud “I AM MAKING THE RIGHT CHOICE HERE,” as if trying in vain to convince herself.

As for the other girl whose feelings for him Yuu is totally unaware, Koyuki surprises him when he’s moping in the dark his bedroom, presumably a few days later. When Koyuki learns why he’s blue, she tells him it’s for the best, how she wants to be on stage with him, no matter how much he sucks at bass, then opens her blouse and pounces on him.

Yuu is just not feelin’ it, and Koyuki starts to sob, talking about how she knew she wasn’t the one, how she knew about the feelings he doesn’t know he has, and how he needs to “be honest with himself” before leaving the site of her almost comically brief and awkward attempt at seduction. I feel bad for Koyuki, not because she was rejected so utterly, but that she likes a schlub like Yuu in the first place.

Yuu isn’t just a schlub: he’s also a deeply selfish, destructive person. Mind you, it feels like only a few days have passed, but all the other members of the band have already moved on to other things; Fuuka was the now-absent glue that held them together. Without her, Nachi goes back to focusing on track, Mikasa prepares to move back home and be the finance bro his dad wants him to be, and the talented Sara instantly finds another band to play in.

The wound of the short-lived The Fallen Moon (ugh) is healing nicely for everyone…except Yuu. The band was, apparently, all he had, so he tears it back open, writing a song that “contains all his feelings” (ARRGH) and delivers them to the members one by one in person, totally ignoring their firm yet polite attempts to decline.

Mikasa’s egregiously soapy-yet-oddly robotic monologue to Yuu borders on self-parody:

Sorry, Yuu…I’d moved out of my family’s home as a rebellion against my father, but that’s over now too. I’ve decided to listen to my father. He’s literally promised me a happy future! So I won’t have to suffer or stress myself out chasing pointless dreams anymore!

Who talks like that? Who wrote this drivel??

Yuu doesn’t give a shit what you’re up to now. HE wants the band back together, and he knows if they just hear his song, they’ll come running back to Denny’s. And of course, one by one, the rubes prove Yuu right.

“You’re absolutely right Yuu! How silly of us to move on with our own lives after the most talented, charismatic member of our band quit. Let’s re-form the band on the recommendation of the least talented and charismatic member!” What are these people, lemmings?

The only one he’s not able to immediately bring back is the one who he let leave in the first place without a word of complaint, saying at the time, “if it’s her decision, there’s nothing we can do.” Moping in the dark, getting jumped by Tama-chan, and pouring his feelings into a song have changed him. Now he wants the band back, Fuuka included. Everyone has to do what he says, dammit!

It’s tricky, though, because Fuuka, perhaps not ready to face the band she started then abandoned, is using her mom to screen visitors to her house. She mopes much like Yuu mopes, clutching his feelings-song in her hands, insisting she’s on the right path despite all outward evidence to the contrary, to say nothing of the turmoil in her head.

The insinuation is that, like Yuu had been doing until now, Fuuka isn’t being honest with herself. So go ahead, pursue your dreams as far as your talents will take you…but only until Yuu incessantly hounds you to return to the band. You’re done with the band when he TELLS you you’re done.

I don’t like this show anymore!

Fuuka – 10

Fuuka still hasn’t written the lyrics. Everyone’s hounding her, but it isn’t until Yuu tries to offer some friendly help when she momentarily snaps. She’s sick of feeling the way she feels about Yuu, and seeing him flirt with Koyuki.

Of course, Koyuki isn’t satisfied either, because it’s not as if she and Yuu are really a couple. There something in between, something that just isn’t cutting it, and she can’t go on. So yeah, Yuu’s making precisely no one happy right now.

Fuuka eventually does finish the lyrics, and they’re apparently awesome. Yuu seems to think so. But whether Yuu’s calling her on the phone and being nice, smiling at her, or praising her awesome lyrics, Fuuka continues to feel like shit.

The night of their big gig we get a little slice of all the band members’ lives. Fuuka perches precariously from her roof, but we don’t see her family. Yuu’s sisters promise they’ll be there. Nachi’s grandma sparks some flint for good luck or something. And Makoto? Makoto’s getting disowned by his asshole father for daring to be in a useless band. I wish I cared…but I don’t!

Fuuka’s pink alpaca strap falls off right in the middle of the street, and everything seems to be pointing to Fuuka getting clobbered by the classic “anime truck doing 70 mph in the middle of downtown,” with Fuuka either buying it or ending up in the hospital, probably with a ruined voice on the eve of her big break.

Instead, she avoids the truck (she is pretty athletic), and leaves the alpaca strap behind, which is like a symbol for her attempting to be move beyond the torturous slog of pining for Yuu, something I’m still not quite sure why she’s doing in the first place.

So The Fallen Moon (uuuuuuggggghhhh) performs their Hedgehogs (I’m sick of capitalizing it) cover for the millionth time, followed by a slower number, and then Fuuka’s big number. Throughout the gig, there’s more than one person singing, even though Fuuka is the only one singing, which is weird.

Also, because apparently there wasn’t enough animated material in this episode, we cut to a slow pan of the classic “impossibly starry city sky” again and again. Honestly, the episode went to that sky almost as much as the band goes to Denny’s!

The gig complete (and a huge success), Fuuka finally decides she’ll do that solo contract after all. Mind you, this is the band’s second public performance, and she’s leaving the band. The band Mikasa got disowned to stay in. Nice.

Really though, Fuuka is making the right choice. Even though everyone in the band is pretty good, the offer with the cash wasn’t for the band, it was for her. And you gotta look out for number one. I’m not sure where this is going, but this is actually a mildly intriguing development.

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Hibike! Euphonium 2 – 10

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It’s no coincidence Mamiko spends most of a scene scrubbing a pot she burned trying to make dinner. Mamiko wants to make up, not just with her parents, but with her sister as well. She’s scrubbing all the grease and grime that had amassed so that a new pot of soup can be made – a fresh start, without forgetting about what was said or what choices she made in the past.

As Kumiko volunteers to cook in her stead as she scrubs (she’s clearly the better cook of the two), Mamiko lays it all out candidly: how she thought going along with whatever her parents wanted was the adult thing to do, even though she wasn’t an adult at the time; how she resented Kumiko for being able to have fun with band; how she now regrets the choices she made, but is now ready to live her own life, hoping to avoid similar mistakes in the future.

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Kumiko always assumed her folks let her do as she pleased because they’d given up on her, because she had no promise. Mamiko doesn’t believe that; she just felt, as many older kids do, that her parents were taking a different approach with the younger kid; it’s what parents do. And before going to her room for a nap, Mamiko tells Kumiko to live her life too: be a kid when she’s a kid and an adult when she’s an adult; don’t be left with any regrets; learn from your suddenly awesome big sis.

While other friend-reconciling or concert-heavy episodes packed emotional and at times visceral punches, this may be my favorite episode of Euph2, because it’s the most personal one for Kumiko. She reacts to Mamiko’s news of leaving home with a stoic face, but on the train the next day, she suddenly bursts into tears. She is sad her sister is going, even if it’s what her sister wants…and probably needs.

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The episode brilliantly presents Mamiko as a parallel to Asuka, a connection I never really though about, but which makes perfect sense. I love how it’s Kumiko’s sister who provides a timely assist in terms of giving her a usable angle to go after an exceedingly stubborn Asuka.

Asuka is doing almost exactly what Mamiko did at her age, and while Kumiko didn’t do anything about that at the time – indeed, she didn’t even know what was going on, except that her sister was drifting away – she’ll be damned if she’s going to stand by and let Asuka go through with it unchallenged.

Challenge her Kumiko does, and Asuka, at least initially, is ready. She peppers Kumiko’s assertions with doubts like an expert debater. She keeps the focus on Kumiko’s argument rather than her problem, and even gets personal with Kumiko in a not-very-nice way, regarding her typical method of dealing with people.

She questions how someone like Kumiko, who herself tries to avoid hurting or getting hurt; who is “wishy washy” and keeps a safe distance; can expect people to tell her what they really feel, not just about Asuka coming back, but about anything.

 

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Kumiko is disheartened and temporarily stopped in her tracks, but the power of Mamiko’s words ring in her head and mix with Asuka’s euphonium, and Kumiko gets her second wind. Her voice rises in intensisty, tears stream from her cheeks as she confronts the heart of the matter.

She knows Asuka wants her father to hear her at the Nationals, and so does Kumiko herself. And she reminds Asuka that neither of them are adults yet, just high schoolers; and pretending to know everything and think “sucking it up and dealing” is the best course just isn’t right.

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Kumiko delivers an argument even Asuka didn’t quite expect, and moreso, delivers it with an honest passion Asuka can’t help but admire. Kumiko hurt her here, and let herself get hurt in return. The little blush on Asuka’s face is proof that that matters.

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Of course, Kumiko didn’t know if it would work when Asuka is suddenly called away. So when Asuka shows up the next day for band practice, Kumiko is gobsmacked. Many other band members tear up at her return.

And why? Well, Asuka proved she actually is special, at least when it comes to academics, scoring high enough in mock exams to have ammunition against her mom’s assertion she can’t succeed if she stays in band. Asuka takes her place beside Kumiko, and they prepare to practice.

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Asuka isn’t the only one Kumiko is surprised to see: Reina is also there. With everything that’s been going on with Mamiko and Asuka, Kumiko admits she’s kinda let Reina fall by the wayside.

By the look of Reina, I’d guess she’s either pissed off at the lack of Kumiko’s attention (doubtful) or has put the pieces together regarding Taki-sensei and his late wife, knows Kumiko knows, and is angry she didn’t tell her.

It’s almost as if the show intentionally made Reina and Kumiko such wonderful BFFs to this point so that when they hit a bump in the road, which seems to be the case here, it would have that much more impact. Of course, I’m just theorizing at some point. Gotta hear the next piece.

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Hibike! Euphonium 2 – 09

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Kumiko isn’t able to wallow in helplessness over solving her family’s problems for long: her band-mates have a new project for her! Why are Natsuki, Nozomi, Mizore and Kaori all going to her? Why else: Kumiko has proven to have a knack for stealthily helping people with their issues. She can act as coy as she likes: the results of her work are clear for all to see, and this week she’s celebrated for it whether she likes it or not.

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“You’ve always done well.” “There’s something about you.” “You see through people.” “You act like you don’t notice things, but you do…and when it matters most, you always have the right words.” All meant as praise, all of it well-earned. There’s no pretending she isn’t something she is. Kumiko facilitates. She connects. She breaks through to the heart of matters, often forcefully if need be. And she inspires the likes of Reina to want to just as forcefully “peel off” her mask.

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Reina has a lot of choice moments this week, not only when she’s so lovingly and earnestly describing Kumiko, to getting adorably flustered when Taki-sensei rises and shines before her eyes. But she also sees the photo on Taki’s desk, of him with another woman. As talkative as Reina was with Kumiko before seeing that photo, the silence on the train ride home afterwards is deafening.

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Kumiko can’t help Reina on this right now, she’s faced with her toughest challenge yet: Tanaka Asuka. Fortunately for her, Asuka wants to talk, perhaps because she too has witnessed what Kumiko can do. The close-ups of Asuka when Kaori ties her shoe then walks off are downright scary, while the tension in the early parts of Kumiko’s visit to her home is palpable.

But when it comes down to it, Kumiko isn’t there to be tutored, and Asuka isn’t there to tutor her. Instead, Asuka finally opens up to Kumiko, telling her how Masakazu Shindo “was” her father before he and her mom divorced when she was two. She tells her how her determination to make the nationals was borne out of a “selfish” desire to get her father to hear her play. How she hates her mother, but can’t do anything about it.

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It’s here where we see Kumiko, who had entered this mission utterly lacking any semblance of confidence or certainty, goes into, well, shall we say “Euphonium Mode”? She sees through Asuka’s misdirection. She notices her feints and her subtle leadings. And she even has the right words to say at the right time…not because she knows what to say in this situation, but because it’s what she truly believes.

We know from her inner monologue, she wants to hear Asuka play. And so Asuka plays us out, during the end credits. And Kumiko demonstrates another ability we know she’s getting pretty good at: bringing out genuine smiles. The fight to get Asuka back is far from over, but it’s off to a promising start.

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Hibike! Euphonium 2 – 08

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That ominous cold close of Mamiko leaving the Oumae household was a taste of what was to come this week, with Kumiko getting so caught up in family unrest it literally makes her sick. That being said, she isn’t all that involved in said unrest, merely a witness, and not a happy one at that. Her sister Mamiko, who inspired her to get into music, now wants to become…a beautician.

Her Dad warns Mamiko that if she quits college, she’ll be cast out and cut off. Mamiko blames her folks for making her quit trombone (which, to Kumiko’s shock, she never wanted to quit), but Pops only accepts partial responsibility; to him, the blame rests on Mamiko for not being more forceful about what she wanted to do.

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Back at school, Asuka returns to practice, but just as quickly stops coming again after inviting Kumiko to her place to help study for exams, which would be a first. Kumiko quickly becomes quite ill, making the band two euphs down, while Taki informs the band that if Asuka can’t show up for practice, Natsuki will take her place at the Nationals. It’s kind of unsettling how quickly Asuka disappears from this episode halfway in.

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Kumiko is sent home by her friends, and after an odd encounter with the third-year Aoi, she ends up in bed, waking up to find Reina quietly sitting by her bed, waiting to spring into action and take care of her. Reina has taken a bit of back seat to others of late (though she hasn’t become as obscure as Shuuichi), so it’s nice to see her here, and to see how far these two have come in their friendship.

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Reina even gets to witness Kumiko getting fed up at her sister when she barges in to turn off a euph CD. Kumiko doesn’t hold her tongue, and lets Mamiko have it regarding her earlier assertion she never wanted to give trombone up. Mamiko retreats, telling her little sister she’ll “never understand how she feels.” Yikes.

But that’s not where things are left. Mamiko runs into Shuuichi in the lobby on her way out (Shuuichi, whose mother heard Mamiko was quitting college). Shuu’s voice proves crucial in getting Mamiko to introspect, and that night, Mamiko comes back in Kumiko’s room – not to complain or fight, but to ask for a recording of her Kumiko’s music.

There’s been a rift between these two sisters for a long time, not helped by their frustratingly implacable father who only seems to know how to sow and escalate rancor in the household. Maybe they can reconnect through music?

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 33

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This week the Seven Stars meet, Rustal Elion feigns ignorance of Galan Mossa, and he and McGillis cross paths, after he’s fired the first shot across his bow. Rustal has always seen something in the not-related-by-blood adopted son of Iznario Fareed, but he still thinks he has the edge over him as the conflict between their two factions continues to escalate.

If Rustal is still feeling this confident even after losing someone as capable as Mossa, there’s every reason to believe it’s because he’s still got plenty of talent on his side. McGillis will have to pull out all the stops if he’s to prevail.

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Everyone notices Takaki is a glum shell of the cheerful fellow they knew and loved on Mars. Kudelia tries to tell him not to be so down, seeing as how despite all his responsibilities and experiences, he IS still just a goddamn kid. He needs to see more things, broaden his knowledge, and learn how to judge and choose properly, as well as realize there is more than one choice, but infinite ones on the road called life.

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In a welcome scene between Mask-Gaelio and Julieta, we learn that, like McGillis, she was someone with no family who Mossa not only taught to fight but recommended to Rustal. She is who she is because of Mossa, just as McGillis is who he is thanks to Iznario, even though he eventually rebelled against him.

Those similarities aside, Julieta’s fairly narrow frame of mind and simple black-and-white way of seeing things still mirrors Mika, who has followed Orga all this way and will continue to without question.

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As for Orga, this is the week he doubles down on throwing his and Tekkadan’s lot in with McGillis. Due to his dedication to his word he would support McGillis, their fates are intertwined all but irrevocably; if McGillis falls, Tekkadan will fall too (though they still have a degree of security in Teiwaz).

McGillis decides it’s time to tell Orga what he and Tekkadan will get in return for their continued dependable service: he’ll cede Gjallarhorn’s hold over Mars to Tekkadan, essentially making them the Kings of Mars. This arrangement proves McGillis isn’t just using Tekkadan because they’re easy marks: he identifies and believes in them, to the point his own confidence in his success is dependent on being right about them.

Watching them in the early days reminded McGillis of timeless legends. We’ll see if he’s giving them too much credit, blinded by his own romanticism and desire to purify a system he was adopted into.

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When Orga tells his senior staff what McGillis told him – what essentially lies at the end of the rainbow for them when the fighting’s done – Mika, Eugene, Akihiro, and Chad are all for it without question. Kudelia and Merribit are less enthusiastic about more fighting, and Takaki flat out tells Orga he’s done.

His life is not his own to throw away for glory any longer: he won’t leave Fuka behind. He doesn’t mention Biscuit, and how he left Cookie and Cracker, but he didn’t have to for Orga to understand and accept his resignation, not with indignation, but gratitude for what Takaki has contributed to this point.

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Takaki follows Kudelia’s advice and takes a different path than the one everyone, including him, had blindly taken out of loyalty and a desire to protect his freedom. But he has that freedom now, and there’s too much blood in Tekkadan’s future for him to remain.

What about Mika? It’s not like Mika is ever going to waver for a second, or fail to obey every order given to him by Orga. But while I said he would never question Orga, but he does comment that this thing they’re working towards is “taking longer than he thought.”

That, and his expression of relief that Takaki threw in the towel, are the closest things to complaints he’s leveled against his big bro. Orga can pick a destination – the very Throne of Mars – but he can’t promise anyone they’ll actually ever get there. And like every leader great and small, that central uncertainty, and the consequences of his decisions, will continue to weigh on him.

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Working!!! – Special – Lord of the Takanashi

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A few months back I voiced my frustration over Working!!!’s apparent reluctance to deliver a proper resolution to the Inami x Takanashi romance, instead ending on a “To Be Continued.” Well, this hour-long special is that promised continuation…and baby, it delivers. All is forgiven.

I still think this could have gotten done in the last couple of episodes of the threequel, but in hindsight, I didn’t mind the material we got instead, as well as this special that gives the resolution plenty of time and space to unfold.

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Because while there are lots of other good things going on in this special—Yamada coming to grips with being reunited with her mom; Popura trying to be the best future chief she can be; Nazuna preparing to take over the world one day—most of the time the focus is where it should be: on our main couple.

Takanashi continues to cross-dress on order from his mother, who would deny him both romance and manhood as long as he’s dishonest about his feelings.

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Yachiyo is concerned about Takanashi (mostly because he’s a good worker and she needs the labor) so when Inami beseeches her for a time when she can run into Takanashi (who had his schedule adjusted to avoid her), the boss is happy to comply.

Inami lies in wait and confronts Takanashi, who is very reasonable with her, and seems to be on the cusp of saying what he should have said a long time ago, but yet again a parent butts in and delays the catharsis; his mother, again, not allowing a son who lies to date anyone.

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The only way this stalemate will be broken is if Inami sallies forth to rescue Takanashi as his knight in…his own work uniform. I love the idea and the symmetry of Inami dressing as a boy to save the one she loves dressed as a girl (especially the little dig Yamada gets in about her wrapping her chest).

But the outfit won’t be enough: Inami must face a gauntlet of Takanashi’s sisters, deployed by her mother to test her. The first challenger is Kazue, but Inami gets past her accidentally by congratulating her on her re-marriage. Okay…maybe this won’t be so hard after all…but that doesn’t mean it isn’t funny!

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Izumi is next, but she’s actually glad Souta ended up with Inami, so forfeits their fight, accepting a forehead flick as defeat even though said flick never reaches her forehead. Just when it looks as if Kozue has Inami’s number (revealing Inami can only fight against men), when her buds show up looking for her, she totally flakes out.

But like Izumi, she’s on Inami’s side. So is Inami’s final challenger Nazuna, who instead tests how nice a person she is by refusing to fight her even though Nazuna seems to be rearing for one.

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Nazuna later becomes a powerful advocate for Inami at their home, where her mother remains unconvinced Souta should be freed. When we see the photo Nazuna produces of her mother as a 17-year-old arguably even tinier and cuter than even Popura, it’s concrete proof of how much people can change, if you just give them the opportunity to do so.

The clincher for Souta’s mom is when Popura shows up, and she realizes her son has changed: he went for the ordinary-sized girl over the tiny one.

Also extremely amusing is the fact Takanashi’s mom keeps that picture of her around her office because despite loathing how tiny she once was, she shares the same love of tiny cute things as her son, which is why she takes an instant liking to Popura, using her as a prayer offering, then attempting to kidnap her as she returns to work, satisfied Souta is on the right track.

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Takanashi brings up his intense affection for all things cute and small, which Inami initially and wrongly mistakes for a soft rejection. Takanashi goes on to say he doesn’t just want to be someone who can proclaim loudly and proudly that he loves tiny cute things; but that he can proclaim that he loves all the things he loves – like Inami.

He finally, finalllllly confesses, she says she feels the same way, he says he’s known that for some time, and she lets him take her hand the way lovers do, without creepy CGI grabbing wands. THANK GOD.

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After that wonderful exchange, and all the fun and hilarious stuff that led up to it, I stand fully propitiated. Working!!! took a while to get to where it ended up (three cours and a special, to be exact), but it got there. It didn’t let me down.

Hell, it almost makes me want to go all the way back to the beginning, this time without the stress of not knowing when or even if things will work out…because they did. So I guess there’s nothing left to say but Thank you, Working!!!, for all the laughter-food!

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Working!!! 3 – 13 (Fin*)

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GODDAMNIT, WORKING!!!. Would it kill you to resolve what has remained a romantic standstill for three seasons?!! Don’t get me wrong; I love Working!!!…but I fucking HATE WORKING!!! sometimes. And as good a start as it gets off on, this episode is unfortunately one of those times. I know, Japanese anime usually tend to focus more on maintaining a status quo than progressing relationships, but Working!!! proved it could buck the trend by finally bringing Yachiyo and Satou together. Is it so much to ask that they do the same with Takanashi and Inami?

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Apparently it is; at least in a 13-episode span. And wouldn’t you know it, it isn’t any particular problem between the two that causes the impasse from continuing. Rather, it’s freaking parents. First, Inami’s estranged father, who crashes Inami’s date with Takanashi when she forgets her wallet, then calls into question Takanashi’s fitness to date his daughter due to his transvestite tendencies (for which his mother can be blamed). Thus, the date goes pear-shaped, returning the two to their status quo of being cordial, even affectionate with one another, but not yet a couple.

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This displeased me. What displeased me even more was that precious minutes of this supposed finale were spent revisiting whether Inami has been cured of her androphobia, or exploring Souma’s scopophobia, or Popura’s atychiphobia. These phobias are all well and good, but the resolution of Yachiyo x Satou gave me hope the same would be done with Inami x Takanashi. Only yet again, Working!!! is dilatory; skittish about resolving its most compelling romantic entanglement, for no other reason than it need to keep going a little bit longer.

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That “little bit longer”, it seems, will come in the form of an hour-long special, in which hopefully the fact that Takanashi flakes out on another get-together with Inami due to the intervention of his mother will be resolved. I certainly hope it does, because frankly, I’m sick of the status quo. I know this is slice-of-life, and it’s a comedy, but I didn’t introduce these serious romantic elements, the show did, and it’s the show’s responsibility to follow through and stop leading me on, damnit!

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Working!!! 3 – 12

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Satou is back and he and Yachiyo are now a couple, but it’s pretty much business as usual at Wagnaria…except for the fact Takanashi is now “Kotori-chan.” Everyone’s a little worried about this, but he claims it’s not a compulsive thing; he’s dressing as a girl (again) to help sort out his feelings for Inami, which seems arbitrary and silly at first, but gradually comes to make more sense by the very end.

Until then, he witnesses Yamada finally learn how to make a proper billing slip, and Kirio plays along that he’s a girl, and manages to get Takanashi to describe the kind of person he likes (which is just a description of Inami) before revealing he knew it was him all along (and getting slugged for it in a way that also calls Inami to mind!).

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Later, Takanashi and Satou notice that Souma has been unusually quiet and un-meddling lately, though they learn it’s just because he purchased a camera that lets him be voyeuristic from a further distance, amassing a large collection of albums full of photos of Wagnaria staff. Takanashi and Satou ending up confiscating the ones of Inami and Yachiyo, respectively. Was it Souma’s intent all along?

As for Popura, she’s called into the break room after work to find Yachiyo and Kyoko waiting for her. I’d be just as worried as she was that she might be in some kind of trouble (no matter how nice they are, a boss can’t arrange a private talk without an underling worrying it’s bad).

Turns out Yachiyo is leaving Wagnaria to use what she’s learned there to fluorish on her own. Satou is aware and supportive, natch. And Yachiyo, Kyoko, and even Satou believe Popura has grown enough to become the next chief, replacing Yachiyo. This has been a long time coming, as we’ve seen Popura thrive all season as her co-workers have been distracted by personal issues.

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Finally, Takanashi’s cross-dressing rather surprisingly pays off. From his perspective, at least, he feels he and Inami can interact a lot more naturally when he’s pretending to be a girl. He’s also in the unique position to ask her if she prefers if he’s a girl or a boy. Suddenly on the spot, Inami answers honestly: she prefers the boy.

Then, out of the blue, Takanashi invites her to come with him to the store she couldn’t find on her own because she got lost. In effect, a date. He can scarcely believe he did it, but he did, and tomorrow, he’ll be back to being Takanashi. To which I say, bravo! Unfortunately, there’s only one episode of Working!!! left to explore a Takanashi-Inami date, if it actually happens, but if it does and the two can progress a little more, I’ll take it.

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Hibike! Euphonium – 07

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I’ve enjoyed how throughout Hibike! Euphonium’s run it’s found little moments where Shuuichi always seems to gravitate toward Kumiko, who typically acts stiff, even annoyed by her childhood friend’s presence. At the same time, I imagine she’s not just tolerating  it, but legitimately comforted by it.

As we’ll see in the very end of the episode, Kumiko may be taking her bond with Shuuichi, and the easy rapport they have, for granted, even if it’s not intentionally. Their relationship is just one patch of the complex and multi-layered emotional tapestry of Hibike! Euphonium, a tapestry I’ve loved wrapping myself in week to week.

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The band uses their collective souls and breath to create music. But those souls are constantly beset by emotional obstacles—past, present, and future—that undermine their ultimate goal of achieving the level of technical precision and group cohesion necessary to have a shot at the Nationals.

When Kumiko overhears that her longtime friend and neighbor Aoi is thinking of quitting, and Shuuichi confirms it, she won’t believe it. But then, in the middle of practice, Taki can sense her single-handedly “muddying” the rest of the ensemble and calls her out, giving her the perfect chance to announce she is indeed quitting.

She does it abruptly, but her absence from the band is like an open wound from which negative energy festers. The president, Haruka, overtakes Kumiko in running after Haruka, but can’t convince her to come back. Haruka, in turn, has a crisis of confidence that had been brewing long before this most recent setback.

She cries in front of her junior Kumiko, lamenting that none of this would have happened if only Asuka had been president instead of her. It’s Asuka who comes out to the hall with a hanky for her tears. She lays it out to Haruka in very Asuka-esque fashion: If she knew all along really wasn’t cut out to be president she should have refused, as she herself did.

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Haruka takes the next day off, and the wound widens as now two third-years are absent. The show goes on without them, but Taki now notices Kumiko isn’t playing up to snuff. Being troubled does that; and in the sea of raging hormone and emotions that is high school, being troubled is an unavoidable fact of life. But unavoidable and unmanageable aren’t the same thing.

Hibike gets more info from her fellow eupher Natsuki about the civil war that took place within the band right before Kumiko and the first years arrived.  Haruka, Aoi, and the band’s “Madonna” Kaori were combatants and still bear the emotional scars of that war. Natsuki came out of it with a greater sense of commitment to her art, while Asuka remained neutral the whole time, staying above the fray.

Natsuki’s “war stories” invokes a memory for Kumiko from middle school, in which a short-haired girl refuses to accept her. It’s something that haunts her just as her since-resolved estrangement from Reina once did, only she’s not telling anyone about it, despite the fact it haunts her still.

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Meanwhile, Kaori visits Haruka and shakes up her pity party with hot potatoes, milk, and encouragement. She speaks the truth: Asuka may have been “smart” for refusing the presidency, but that doesn’t make Haruka stupid. Well, not just stupid…it took courage, courage that Asuka, for all her perfection, didn’t have, perhaps because logic can do such a good job of legitimizing retreat.

Haruka wasn’t held back by logic. The band was in tatters, but she picked up the remaining pieces, moved forward, and put it back together. If it weren’t for Haruka, there’d be no band for Taki-sensei to conduct. It’s what Kaori believes—and it’s the truth. Aoi’s exit from the band isn’t an indictment on her. Whether Aoi’s genuinely worried she won’t be able to get into a college if she sticks with a band, or she’s just using that as an excuse to retreat, she made her own choice.

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Having obviously picked up on the fact Kumiko is troubled about something she’s not telling anyone about, before alighting from the train Hazuki tells her if she ever wants to talk, she can. Up to this point these two and Midori have largely goofed off and had fun, so it’s nice to see their frienship growing deeper.

But poor Hazuki gets to see firsthand that the universe seems predisposed to putting Shuuichi and Kumiko together again and again, and that Shuuichi doesn’t seem to mind that phenomenon one bit. Yet once he’s aboard and sitting next to Kumiko, she’s immediately scolding him for bringing up Haruka hypothetically quitting.

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Yet in spite of her typical oh my god why do I have to deal with Shuuichi aura, Kumiko is also unmistakably engaged with him. Be it on a bench, on a bus, under a shelter, or on the train, when they’re together it’s like there’s a bubble around them and they are their whole world.

This is reinforced by the fact neither of them notice Reina’s sitting right next to them on the train. Even the camera didn’t notice. Ninja Reina! Not that she cares. Perhaps she sees what I see!

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President Ogasawara returns the next day to applause and sighs of relief, and the band continues their march towards the competition. If there’s one problem I had with this episode, it’s that it was a bit…stingy with the actual presentation of music. But that’s a small problem, and in fact, it’s actually better for the show to be stingy now, as it’s building up anticipation for the official performance, which I’m hoping will be as powerful as their march at SunFes.

Still, it’s telling that the chair where Aoi once sat remains unoccupied; the other saxophonists didn’t form up around the gap. This is a visual symbol that though the bleeding has stopped, the wound is still there. And it may not be the only one the band suffers as things get more grueling.

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Not only that, we finally get Hazuki bringing Shuuichi up to Kumiko; specifically, working up the courage to ask straight up whether they’re going out. Ending the episode with Kumiko’s simple bemused reaction to the sudden query is perfection. Just as she’s starting to put Aoi’s departure behind her and trying to play up to the standard Taki-sensei demands, Hazuki unwitingly tosses a new wrench in the works.

I don’t quite buy that Kumiko’s has never once seen Shuu as a potential love interest, only as a non-romantic childhood friend and occasional nuisance. In fact, I think part of why she typically regards him somewhat coolly is a result of feelings she’s not quite sure what to do with. Her look at the end here may not be puzzlement so much as a wake up call. With Hazuki’s heart now in the game, it’s time for her to take a position. And that’s got to be terrifying.

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Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3 – 09

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Sonora is discharged early, and congratulates Yura, but when they rejoin the club, she fesses up to zombieing in the final, and calls the organizers,  who contact Meisei, but Rin insists Stella didn’t violate any rules. The C3 club is relieved, but Yura isn’t satisfied. Mutsu and Yachiyo accuse her of sucking the fun out of the tournament, and Yura leaves in a snit.

Yura visits Meisei and talks with Rin, who praises her for her fast improvement. Yura sits out the C3 club’s noodle balloon shoot. Later she meets with Sonora demanding to know more about Rin. Sonora and Rin’s master was killed in action  Rin blamed it on weakness, and vowed to purge all of hers. After thanking Sonora for changing her, Yura tells her she’s leaving the C3 club.

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Yura wanted nothing else but a rematch with Rin, not just to avenge Sonora, but to prove to Rin – and herself – that she’s not weak anymore. Then she makes a rookie mistake, and while the best thing to do is to simply move on, she just can’t. Zombieing was an act of weakness, and the fun-loving C3 club are all to happy to forgive it and continue playing around. Yura isn’t playing around anymore. Like Rin, she airsofts to become stronger, not to have fun.

Yura’s turning to the Dark Side was a long time coming; her philosophical differences with the rest of the team were on full display during the tournament, and this week in the aftermath, when they’re sore at her for trying too hard. As soon as that confrontation was over, Yura knew she could improve no further in the C3 Club. Rin’s team might be a better fit for her, now, but who’s to say she won’t grow restless and unfulfilled there as well, or even start to miss the conviviality of her old club? Perhaps Yura can’t remain happy anywhere long…

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Rin’s not just good at airsoft, she’s also a master manipulator, and Yura is putty in her hands. But Rin doesn’t have any ill will towards her; it’s more likely she wants a new apprentice to mold.
  • On that note, we’re looking forward to seeing how the newer, darker Yura interacts with her Meisei teammates (if that’s where she ends up).
  • Yura sees Rin on the news, being named as the person who helped catch the sniper who shot at Sonora.
  • Rin gives Sonora a beautiful bonsai in the hospital, which is normally bad luck, but Sonora gets out super-fast, so the quesiton is, did Rin know the bonsai would have the opposite effect on her old friend?
  • Having completed the pivot from thinking there’d be more metaphysical stuff in this series, we’re really enjoying Yura’s character arc from wallflower to soldier.