Koi wa Ameagari no You ni – 06

Akira is more than just her infatuation with Kondou; she’s just choosing to dedicate all of her headspace to him at the cost of everything and everyone else. I’m not judging her choice—I have no right to, and don’t even really disagree with it—I’m just stating the facts here.

One of the casualties is Kyan Haruka, who has been friends with Akira for ages. Theirs is a friendship that endured being separated for their last year and change of junior high. They said they’d be back together again, and then they were. Then Akira was injured and was torn away from the thing she loved most,  and the primary reason for their hanging out: running.

Haruka now finds herself in the unintentional, unfortunate position of being a constant reminder of what Akira has lost. That can wear down a friendship in a hurry, so when Haruka spots Akira at a bookstore, she’s weary of approaching her (especially after their last, not-so-smooth encounter) and almost seems relieved when Akira’s co-worker appears.

It’s not just Haruka keeping her distance. Even when Akira doesn’t have her head in the clouds about Kondou, when she spots Haruka, her friend is seemingly constantly being orbited by a host of other runners. It’s not intimidating per se, but perhaps too brazen for her to be able to handle.

This week’s episode covers Akira’s latest efforts to court Kondou while Haruka seeks a way to reconnect, and while that’s about it in the plot department—and that’s all very nicely done—what truly made this a treasure (and a 9) for me was the wonderful atmosphere, and the amount of breathing space one has within the episode.

After the flashback to Akira and Haruka, we’re treated to a virtually dialogue-free montage of Akira getting on with her day: missing a bus; trekking in the Summer heat; catching a gorgeous view of the town; and going to work.

It’s a beautiful and effective way of showing us that there is indeed more to Akira than her Kondou crush or Haruka troubles. She’s her own person, living life and taking the time to stop and enjoy its scenery.

While waiting for a bus, Akira hears from two younger girls about the magical romantic properties of a certain rare cat keychain, and attacks the dispenser with her yen, gaining dozens of keychains, but none of them the one she needed.

It’s while she’s obsessively turning the crank when Haruka spots her. She hides at first, but when Akira doesn’t stop buying keychains, she intervenes, as a good friend should.

Their ensuing time together is rather distant, but cordial. After all, these two have no particular beef; they’re both victims of circumstances that have limited their interactions of late. But Akira gives Haruka some duplicate keychains she has, and before parting ways at cram school, wishes her good luck at practice.

Haruka and I both agree that “good luck” is an olive branch on Akira’s part; and an acknowledgement that just because Haruka can run and she can’t doesn’t mean she hates her.

I tellya, the skies just keep getting better and better in this episode, like the brewing thunderstorm near dusk when Haruka does a practice run. She remembers Akira’s smile earlier in the day, as well as the keychain(s) she gave her, and Haruka is suddenly taken back to the day she learned why Akira always ran so fast and far ahead of her despite her protestations.

It’s not because she doesn’t like Haruka, it’s because she loves the feeling and sound of the wind that one only gets from running. When Haruka says she guess she understands what she’s on about, Akira beams so brightly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Haruka fell for her right then and there. She certainly caught the running bug after that day.

Haruka doesn’t want to lose the person who made her realize how fun running was, especially when it was with that person. So the next day she tosses a plastic egg to Akira, who opens it to find not only the rare black keychain she couldn’t get on her own, but a note from Haruka clarifying (or hoping) that their friendship isn’t just about track and field.

I’m guessing Akira is grateful for Haruka’s gift, because it then proceeds to work immediately, and she finds herself in the same library where Kondou happens to be. Akira brings up classic Japanese literature (his fave) and asks if he’d recommend anything; he tells her that’s not the best way to discover books, since everyone has different tastes.

He then invites her to explore the library, which he likens to a sea of books, and see what sticks out. She thinks it’s more of an aquarium than a sea, and her surroundings change to match that feeling. She settles on a track-and-field picture book and the famous Souseki novel Botchan.

Juxtaposed with Haruka standing at a bus stop proudly displaying one of the keychains Akira gave her, Akira stands beside Kondou, offering to borrow a book for him to read. Window by the Wave by Kujou Chihiro jumps out at him. They settle up at the front desk, then walk a little ways together before parting for the night, and I can’t help but think finding that book created the tiniest little rift in their flow.

For while Akira was “called” to the library where Kondou was by her black cat keychain, Kondou seems to believe he might’ve been called there by Window on the Wave, calling the author by her first name. Could this book have been written by his ex-wife?

Finally, while walking home the rest of the way, Akira repeats in her head Kondou’s words about a book “calling out to her”, when all of a sudden a gust of wind kicks up and reveals a majestic full moon.

The sight, sound, and feeling of that wind called to mind the same sensations one experiences whilst running at top speed; the feeling she’s loved far longer than she’s loved Kondou.

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Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 01

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“It’s not what it looks like!”

W-Won’t you make school fun with me?

Even if it isn’t Oscar-worthy stuff, sometimes you simply have to admit you were overly pessimistic and doff your hat an anime for being far better and more interesting than you thought it would be. Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai (A Good Librarian Like a Good Shepherd) managed to be one of those cases.

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Public humiliation fetish?

Part of that is that the show looks a lot better than the promo art suggested, part of it is that all the characters have an intrinsic charm and vitality about them, and most encouraging of all, despite the “shepherd” epithet, this is not a misogynistic show. Sure there’s a boob grab, but it’s incidental to a desperate rescue from a train derailment.

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Ironically, misunderstanding of the material at hand befalls all of Kakei Kyoutarou’s giant school, Shiomi Academy, when out-of-content pics of him groping classmate Shirasaki Tsugumi circulate about the web. But Kakei is no molester. All he’s interested in is reading, and maximizing the time he has to read. He’s like the Katsuragi Keima of books.

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I like. This cat.

He also has a certain degree of precognitive intuition, hence predicting the train would derail, necessitating his grabbing of the introverted Shirasaki. She’s the Sekiya Naru of this show: someone who is tired of being mousy and inert. She wants to start something—even if she’s not sure what that something is—something new.

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That’s what ultimately sways Kakei to join her “Shiomi Happy Project” until Golden Week, despite the possibility it will take time away from reading, and the Student Council President Mochizuki Maho’s objections to him wasting his abilities on”activities with ambiguous goals, objectives, and motivation.”

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Kakei’s position is thus: to him, books “shed light unto the darkness,” but Shirasaki and her Happy Project could be another source of light, so he’s willing to give it a try. He’s joined by his friend Takamine Ikkei and Shirasaki’s friend Sakuraba Tamamo. Once the club members are set, they all receive a text message at the same time.

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It’s congratulations from the titular “Shepherd”, a school legend that grants wishes to those who maximize their potential. We later learn that Kakei himself is a candidate to join “Shepherd”, which really exists and is more than one person. While the promo art and basic synopsis of Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai suggested a potentially iffy harem, what we got was a lot more nuanced and refreshing.

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