Kageki Shoujo!! – 06 – Such Sins Shall Not Be Endured

The 100th Class is restless. For four months they’ve been subjected to basics basics basics when each of them are anything but. They’re fed up of boring lessons…they want to ACT. Sarasa, never one to shy away from making her thoughts known, whatever they may be, airs the united class’s grievance to Andou-sensei.

He seems miffed by her impression of her, even though everyone agrees it’s as spot-on as her impressions of all the other teachers. They wonder if it’s because it’s so good that it struck a nerve. Such is Sarasa’s performative power.

Oh, it’s also Sarasa’s 16th birthday! Akiya’s older kabuki kolleague took the liberty of delivering sixteen roses to Sarasa under an alias, living as he is vicariously through Akiya and Sarasa’s chaste, minimalist long-distance relationship. But Ai isn’t going to lose to some “frog bot”; so she plays and plays the store lottery until she wins a figurine she knows Sarasa will cherish.

She also uses the opportunity to try to call Sarasa by her first name instead of “Sara…Watanabe-san”, and when prompted by Sarasa herself to do so, Ai is finally able to do it. More than by the figurine, Sarasa is made happiest by seeing her first name in Ai’s handwriting and hearing it in Ai’s voice. I love these two so much it hurts.

I could honestly deal quite well with a Kageki Shoujo!! that’s nothing but Sarasa and Ai hanging out and gradually becoming closer, but we’ve got a whole ensemble to cover here, and the results of spreading the love across multiple Kouka students isn’t bad either!

This week focuses on the other members of Sarasa and Ai’s Group E, who along with the other groups have two weeks to prepare to do a scene from Romeo & Juliet. Rock Paper Scissors is used to determine who plays what role, resulting in the suboptimal pairing of Hoshino Kaoru’s Romeo with Ai’s Juliet. Sarasa has to play the much darker Tybalt.

The role of Juliet was really won by Chika, one of the Sawada twins, but she decides to be the lesser role of Juliet’s nurse, later seeing her sister Chiaki claim the role with giddy elation. Is Chika less ambitious than Chiaki, or is she simply trying to differentiate herself from her sister in order to shine on her own? The twins have just been background noise until now, so I’m looking forward to them getting a bit more fleshed out.

Kaoru, whom I’d forgotten wishes to be a otoko-yaku like Sarasa, does not surrender Romeo to Sarasa. Instead, she takes Group E firmly by the reins and does not spare the whip. She harshly criticizes both Sarasa and Ai for seemingly not giving it their all, then finally snaps at Sarasa for daring to propose they practice on the sidewalk like common street performers.

As with Ayako last week, Ai sees a member of JPX in Kaoru, specifically the leader, who was always angry and never satisfied. She also learns why from the other girls; both of the previous generations of Hoshino women were Kouka performers. Ai bridges the gap between her and Kaoru by acknowledging the pressure Kaoru is under, while also admitting something she deems to be shameful and almost disqualifying for a Kouka actress.

Due to all of her years performing from a young age, she never properly learned to read kanji. Ai tells Kaoru there’s nothing wrong with her having a short fuse or being tough on them; if she’s not tough on them, Group E will fail. And if Kaoru doesn’t want to be the bad guy of the group, they’ll also fail!

Speaking of bad guys, Sarasa has zero experience embodying characters like Tybalt, but while she sucks at reading a script, watching a Blu-Ray of Romeo & Juliet is another thing entirely. She absorbs every moment of the performances on the screen, and the shape and color of every line, like a very tall, very efficient sponge. And lest you think I’m being harsh on Sarasa, I hold living sponges in high regard! We should all wish to live such an elegant existence!

When the time comes for the first-ever Great “Let First-Years Act” Experiment, Andou chooses Group E to go first. As they perform in their tracksuits on a rehearsal stage, the audience (including us) are transported to the fully-dressed performance stage, complete with lighting and costumes. This is a nice stylistic touch.

Kaoru makes a good Romeo, but Andou can see her gaze is uneven, indicating she’s distracted and letting her self intrude on her performance. Chika flubs a line by repeating it, but after a momentary breakdown, remembers Ai’s words about them continuing to the end even if they mess up, and improvises a great save. Ai isn’t bringing true love to the performance (because Sarasa is her true Romeo), and she’s also doing what she was trained to do as an idol: performing to an audience of one. A Kouka actress must perform for everyone.

Then Tybalt takes the stage, and we finally see why Kaoru said what she said earlier about people normally improving gradually. Sarasa isn’t normal. After watching the video, once, she manages to serve up a perfect performance of Tybalt, causing her classmates to audibly gasp in unison. Andou is also impressed by the way Sarasa stands, locks her gaze high as if she were performing to a packed Kouka theatre crowd of 2,500. It is stirring, but in the end, it’s too perfect.

In his critique of Group E, Andou-sensei tells Sarasa flat-out that she will never be a top star of Kouka…not unless she changes. As I am prepared to give my life to defend Sarasa’s smile (not to mention Ai’s), it’s here where I must apply Tybalt’s line “Such sins shall not be endured” and “He is naught but a villain” to Andou-sensei. He is a villain whose sin was turning Sarasa’s smile into a look of pained bewilderment. Curse him!

But here’s the thing…he’s absolutely right, and Sarasa needed to hear his harsh words sooner rather than later, because she wasn’t really acting on that rehearsal stage, she was mimicking what she saw—down to the last precise detail. That is an impressive talent, foreshadowed when she did impressions of the other teachers, but it isn’t acting. Sarasa can’t be a top star of Kouka by simply perfectly replicating what she’s seen and heard. At least, that’s what I think Andou-sensei is on about.

Sarasa will have to change. She may even have to forget everything she knows about performing and start over from scratch. Her friend Ai will be there for her, as will the other girls of Kouka. After all, if there’s one person they want to see on stage more than the Sarasa they’ve already seen, it’s the future Sarasa who has mastered how to deliver performances all her own. I know Ai wants to see that Sarasa, and I do too!

Ascendance of a Bookworm – 03

Bookworm Here! I’m just making nice baskets during the winter, failing at papyrus, inventing pancakes and crochet to make my older sister a pre-baptism hair ornament, and correcting math errors at the guard house! Everyone around me is starting to notice… how this is different from the Myne I was before but what evs? At least there was some character building around me this episode…

As generic Isekai go, Bookworm’s choice to show things being made, and explain process, elevates it from the mayonnaise-eaters at the bottom, but not by much? Coupled with Myne’s father’s miss-reading Myne’s feelings for Otto and the awkward conversation about marriage that followed, and the episode gets a pass. The framing and scene blocking were good too.

Better than Prodigies in a 6/10 sort of way.

Ascendance of a Bookworm – 02 (Second Chance)

This week Myne rides an older boy while pondering being ridden by his younger brother. Also, she’s thinking about parchment and how to get her dirty peasant hands on some. Also she invents shampoo from an avocado fruit. Also she faints while a pig gets slaughtered for her winter sausage. Also she gets a fever again and flirts with the solider who works for her father that is teaching her to write.

Bookworm’s slice of life where nothing of consequence happens format plays out like a run-on sentence. It’s almost watchable, if I’m honest, largely thanks to ongoing character introductions and world building, but Myne remains a barely likable character. We did not learn anything more about her past this week, nor has she recognized the impact of hollowing out her host vessel, nor does she entirely care about anyone around her. She just wants her god damn books and, even though we know she will eventually get them, each moment we wait until she does, will feel like an eternity.

Ascendance of a Bookworm – 01 (First Impression)

Myne was a little peasant girl until she got a fever and God hollowed her out to make room for a recently deceased book enthusiast. Now Myne is a highly educated, book hungry, little girl living in a middle-ages Europe style ‘other world,’ and she JUST! CAN’T! EVEN!

While it’s kinda funny that the librarian was killed off camera by an earthquake/falling bookshelf, the whole indifference to ‘punting’ a little girl’s consciousness and New Myne’s disinterest in Old Myne’s family sorta sours the fun for me?

However, AoaB’s central failure is its utter lack of conflict. We know Myne will gain access to books – not just because, duh, anime – but because the story starts way ahead with a priest talking about her already having done just that! The fact that AoaB is a little wordy, a little slow, and the protagonist is a little hard to feel for doesn’t help. For a rebirth Isekai, I’m just not feeling it.

O Maidens in Your Savage Season – 04 – Fifty Pages of Cute

When Rika maintained a practical, studious appearance, her classmates would say hateful things to her, but when she changes her look and becomes “hot” to girls and boys alike, all the attention and remarks are just as unpleasant. But when she retreats, Amagi follows her and tells her he’s falling for her. Flustered, Rika orders him to write a 50-page report on why, firmly believing he’s only been “hoodwinked” by her makeover and only likes her superficially.

Having already essentially blackmailed Yamagishi into advising the club, Hitoha confronts an inconsistency in his words and actions. If he really has “no appetite” for high school girls, why did he agree to meet one from a chatroom?

His monologue about them being “crude and unrefined,” and his assumption from her words that he was chatting with a “middle aged man,” cause Hitoha to snap. She jumps on Yamagishi, demanding to know if such conduct is “within his expectations,” but just as quickly shoves him back and flees, in part because, well…being on top of Yamagishi aroused her.

When they’re alone again, Hitoha tells Yamagishi as much. Furthermore, she grabs his hand, places it on her chest, and demands that he “teach her the reality” of the material she’s struggling to write about. Even if it’s Hitoha instigating a potential relationship, the power imbalance is clear, and the bottom line is legally she’s still a child while Yamagishi isn’t. So I can’t say I like where this is going, even if I understand it.

In other O Maidens news, Sudou Momoko actually exists as a character!! After a nice one-on-one with Sugawara (who declares Momoko and Kazusa her two best friends), she’s invited to karaoke with a mixed party, but the boys sing songs with sexually explicit lyrics.

One of the boys, Sugimoto Satoshi, can tell she’s uncomfortable, and joins her outside to talk. He reveals that for a long time he’s admired her maturity and confidence from afar, and asks if they can exchange LINE info to keep in touch. Momoko is a little relieved, a little overwhelmed, but also glad that someone out there has been thinking about her.

As she tells Kazusa, with whom she meets up to tell her about Sugimoto, Momoko says she now understands more how Kazusa must feel about Izumi…even if Kazusa hasn’t 100% figured that out.

Back to Rika, who for the second straight day is earnestly approached by Juujou, one of the class “it” gals, but refuses to have lunch with her (it is the same girl who called her names not long ago). Retreating to a thankfully unlocked rooftop, Rika is again chased down by Amagi, who presents her with his report, leaving her to read it alone.

Rika immediately starts poking holes in Amagi’s writing, using the not inconsiderable critical thinking she applies to the literature she writes. But the more she reads it, the fear it’s all skin-deep nonsense fades away when entire pages of “Rika is cute” seem to wash away the bitterness of all the bad things flung at her for so long. Amagi utilizes uses the report as a love letter, ending by asking her out. Rika has a big choice to make!

One of girls who got a lot less time this week was Niina, who as I mentioned was flattered by Momoko’s kind words about her being more than just a pretty face. She’s also the victim of some petty antagonism from Asada, who changes her tone from spiteful to innocent when Izumi shows up. Clearly she sees Niina as an impediment.

Izumi, meanwhile, continues to have cordial, friendly interactions with Niina, which, combined with his increasingly awkward (or as was the case this week, nonexistent) interactions with Kazusa, spells trouble for her. She had the least time this week, and didn’t get anywhere in patching things up.

If anything, when she spots Izumi and Niina on the train and remembers Niina’s desire to have sex before she dies, she only conceded more ground vis a vis Izumi that she simply can’t afford to lose. All the while, it’s becoming more and more impossible to escape into books.

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.

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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