Classroom of the Elite – 01 (First Impressions)

As per a reader’s suggestion, I’ve decided to contribute to our Summer ’17 “reboot” by taking a look at a show I initially overlooked—Classroom of the Elite.

We follow Ayanokouji Kiyotaka, who has enrolled at the prestigious Tokyo Metropolitan Advanced Nurturing School, which sports a 100% college and employment placement rate. Aside from being built on reclaimed land in the bay, TMANS is a fully self-contained “high school city”, and its students given free reign and a generous monthly stipend of 100,000 yen-equivalent points ($903). It’s a neat and efficiently-explained system.

While cliques quickly form, Ayanokouji fails to make any friends, aside from the girl who insists on being friends with everyone (Kushida Kikyou) and the girl who is friends with no one by choice (Horikita Suzune). Thankfully there’s no onslaught of characters: these three are the focus, and rightly so.

Kushida, desperate to make friends with the last holdout, conspires with Ayanokouji to meet with Horikita at the school’s Starbucks. Horikita immediately suspects she’s been set up and storms off, while Kushida sticks around with Ayanokouji, and seems to think that Horikita and Ayanokouji are “close”, even though neither of them would charactarize it that way (aside from their physical proximity in the classroom).

Ayanokouji and Horikita have a lot in common. They use few words (he has trouble getting them out, she prefers not to talk), and both are reasonably thrifty, spending very little of their points over the first month. Meanwhile, all of their Class D classmates spend wildly and talk, goof off, and sleep in class regularly, conduct their teacher Chabashira doesn’t call them out for.

But one of the great things about this first episode is that while laying out this school system, there’s tension that builds amongst all the “debauchery” and carefree-ness. Like the other shoe is about to drop, and it’s going to be a doozy.

That other shoe…turns out to be the fact that monthly stipend is not 100,000 points. It’s just a starting number; henceforth students are judged by merit, and the next stipend determined accordingly; in this case, ZERO. Despite having done pretty well for themselves, our protagonists receive the same valuation as their slacker classmates.

At least they instinctively understood that the money and many temptations around them were all a test that most of the class failed. If they keep failing, they’ll go nowhere, so some serious shaping up is in order. That’s a hell of a hook, ensuring I’ll be back for the next episode.

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Noragami Aragoto – 06

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Usually a bad guy just wants more power, for reasons. But once Kugaha truly gets into why he wanted to “start over” with Bishamon, it wasn’t just to become her new exemplar. He truly believed this was what needed to be done. Bishamon had, after all, forsaken her war god legacy and horded “worthless” regalia, dragged them into her centuries-old grudge against Yato (based on a misunderstanding no less), and got them and herself corrupted.

But in his “selfless crusade” to rid the universe of this “selfish, detestable” Bishamon, he forgot one thing: his place, in the order of things. As Yato remarks when he diagnoses Kugaha’s plan as an elaborate cry for mommy’s attention, gods can do no wrong. They are above the morals of humans, Kugaha included. Her will reflects the will of the universe, and cannot be questioned just because Kugaha doesn’t like it.

More importantly, Kugaha deeply underestimated Yato’s power, especially now that Sekki is two swords, sharper than ever, and no longer conflicted about using deadly force. When Kugaha plays his trump card: his skeletal dragon phantom, Yato and Yukine dispatch it with ease.

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Yato prepares to dispatch Kugaha as well, but Bishamon stands up and shields him, refusing to let Yato touch her treasured regalia. Never again, it seems. The War God who had escalated matters so far so recently is the voice of peace here, recalling how she and Kazuma first met Kugaha, and how he became a valued member of her family. Her words and her apologies cut Kugaha to the quick; I might have even detected a glimmer of shame.

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But once word comes that another dragon Kugaha loosed in the mansion is responsible for killing so many of her regalia, Bishamon knows what must be done; she’s just more merciful than Yato would have been, releasing and exiling him rather than taking his life outright. It’s an act that doesn’t forgive what he did, but acknowledges he believed he was doing right by her as well as himself. But he’s not a god, and he wasn’t right.

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Yato, Hiyori and Yukine then fade out to let Bishamon deal with the second phantom, which carries the lost and still-vocal souls of her regalia. She arrives in the nick of time to save the group of survivors, calls the name of the oldest, a rusty swordstick (in a return to her humble roots), and brings the monster down as her lost children cry out for her.

This is the war Bishamon fights. Not some glorious bout on a barren hill that will be recorded in the annals of history, like Kugaha might have wanted. Instead, Bishamon is constantly fighting a war against neglect and cruelty of the near shore. She adopts those who had nowhere else to go because no one else will, and because she alone has the strength to bear so many.

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When the Ma clan was wiped out, Bishamon lost a battle, but not the war, as she and Kurama started over not by killing herself and resurrecting, but taking the ruins of what remained form her defeat and turning it into a fresh victory, her current Ha clan. And standing beside her during that resurgent win was her trusty exemplar Kurama.

When Kurama awakes to find a healed Bishamon smiling over her, he is ashamed for twice disgracing her, and asks her to release him. But like Kugaha, he’s wrong, and Bishamon can do no wrong. She still needs him in the ongoing war to help as many lost ones as she can. It’s a neverending war, but she is timeless.

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And one reason she needs him so badly is because she is unaccustomed to not holding in the manifest pain of her regalia. This is something she’ll work on no longer doing, so something like Kugaha never happens again. To that end, she’s begun an exchange journal with her regalia that she asks Kurama to add to, after she lifts his exile and asks him to return to being her exemplar. And if the War God can forgive him, it would be the highest insolence to not forgive himself.

This was a gorgeous and moving conclusion to the Kugaha vs. Bishamon arc. It managed to give Kugaha a little more dimension before shipping him off, and succeeded in bringing Bishamon and her family to the forefront as a larger-scale analog to Yato’s little but loving family. And it just may have ended Bishamon’s grudge, which dates back to the show’s last season, which is huge, because maybe henceforth she and Yato can interact civilly!

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Golden Time – 22

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And yea, there was a reckoning. Man, what an emotional centrifuge of an episode. After being unceremoniously dumped by Koko, Banri is more listless than usual, but Nana comes to save the day. When she realizes how hurt Banri is, she even tones down the dark sardonicism she typically employs to distance herself from other humans, and cheers him up as well as one could suspect. If only Banri could have gone for Nana from the start, right?

It could potentially have been a less eccentric love triangle with Linda, since it’s made clear this week that Koko does not fuck around when it comes to breaking up (despite having never done so before). Even before Nana got to him, Koko sent her dad to pick him up and talk to him. Their chat, and his chat with Nana, leave him in a position of bouyant optimism that he can turn things around with Koko the morrow. So did we.

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The next morning at college, and Koko is back to normal. Like the fools that we and Banri are, we fall for the act hook line and sinker as evidence Banri overestimated the severity of yesterday’s tiff. Everything’s back to normal and the happy music plays. Then Koko takes our optimism and CRUSHES us with it, unilaterally broadcasting to him and all their friends that they are indeed broken up and back to being Just Good Friends.

Forget Banri’s existential crisis; it’s as if Koko has gone back to a previous version of herself, bending the conventional rules of socialization to her own whims, and more distressingly, saying things that are patently untrue, a marked departure from the fierce honesty she’d exhibited right up to her apology to Banri (before she crushed us, that is). Mitsuo knows something’s up, and tells Banri not to accept the crazy things coming out of her mouth.

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But…is Koko really all that crazy? Well…yes, but hear us out. She had to find out from the garbage that Banri is on medication for anxiety. She had to find out from the Okamera (the owner of which must still evoke resentment in Koko despite all the progress they’ve made) about the extent of Banri’s condition. She has to hear him begging Chinami not to tell Koko at all costs. Accounting for all of that, anyone, not just a weirdo like Koko, might be inclined to take a long hard look at their feelings.

It puts into perspective all the confident, optimistic things Koko’s said to Banri whenever things were less than peachy. She dumps Banri with that same conviction, but it sounds like she’s trying to convince herself more than the others. When Mitsuo tries to put an end to the nonsense she lashes out at everyone, threatening to avoid them all, then leaving in a huff, insisting she doesn’t care about any of them anyway. It would be easier if she truly meant the things she said, but we don’t believe she does.

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But Banri is so crushed by the dumping, he doesn’t fight back. When he tells Linda, casually resigned, she doesn’t let it pass…and why the hell would she? She had to accept that Banri was with Koko, only for them to break up like it’s nothing? No, sir! Banri brings her past rejection of him into it (partly fueled by what Nana said to him last night), a misunderstanding Linda can’t let fly anymore, and the two let fly at each other in a vicious, raw argument; with shades of the charged fights of Kokoro Connect. Everything that had been under a rock is exposed to the terrible light for all to behold.

Banri learns Linda did love him, but was just too late (and possibly hears about it too late). Linda shouts that he’ll believe in Banri even if he won’t. Mitsuo happens to pop in and Banri tells him everything (what the heck; it’s as good a time as any). Then Koko walks in, not for any interaction with the others, but to give the Festival club Prez her resignation. All Banri can do is rip it out of her hands and glare at her, and she just glares right back. Everything is shit right now: nerves are frayed, tempers are short, nobody is happy, and there’s no solution in sight. It’s GLORIOUS.


Rating: 10

Stray Observations:

  • While things aren’t good with Koko and Linda, it’s interesting to see that Banri’s never been closer or more warm with either Nana or Chinami. So not everything is shit.
  • “There seems to be something going on.” Master of Understatement, President Koshino.