HenSuki – 10 – No Looking Away

Thanks to the photo of him rummaging through her underwear, Keiki is suddenly Yuika’s willing and attentive slave…and Sayuki is hurt to see her master brought so low, especially knowing it’s due to treachery. Still, Yuika manages to maximize her time with him, dressing him up in a butler outfit of her own design, then using him as a porter during a shopping spree.

After shopping, Yuika takes a bath, but screams when she sees a spider, making Keiki come running to her rescue. Yuika sentences him to death for seeing her naked, but quickly softens when, after she steps on his head, his stroking of her head reminds her of her late grandma. After she trips onto her bed, Keiki discovers she stole a pair of his boxers, so just like that, the blackmailing ceases.

As Keiki and Shouma lament another summer without girlfriends (clearly due to their lack of effort and nothing else) the focus shifts to Nanjou Mao, who first uses Keiki as a model for her boyfriend in a shoujo one-shot she’s working on, then proposes he become her “boyfriend” for research purposes…if he’s not dating anyone else.

Considering how strong she comes on and all the blushing, I wouldn’t be surprised if she actually does like him, though like him with his whole Cinderella investigation, or Shouma with his lolicon, she’s simply hiding from the truth; in her case, behind manga-related excuses. After a recharging hug and sniff, Ayano even proposes she and Keiki start dating, but he respectfully declines. As I said, if he doesn’t have a girlfriend this summer, it’s all his stinkin’ fault.

Perhaps, with a photo taken by Koharu on the day he received a love letter from Cinderella, he’ll finally crack the case open and learn which one of the girls in his life gave him her underwear…or if it’s someone new entirely.

My Girlfriend Is ShoBitch – 03

Honestly, one of the worst things about ShoBitch is its title: it should actually be called Watashi no Kanojo wa Totemo Iidesu. (ほんとに私の彼女はとてもいいです。or My Girlfriend is Really Nice). Because Akiho is not a bitch! She just goes way beyond what is decent in normal daily conversation when it comes to analyzing her boyfriend’s sexual preferences.

Now we learn the reason she is the way she is: her mother Fuyumi gave her this “education.” Haruka learns this rather quickly upon meeting Akiho’s mom, while Akiho’s dad is essentially…Haruka, grown up. You can kinda see in his eyes that it’s been a lot of work living with Fuyumi, but the fact that every other aspect of her is perfect (like their daughter), he has no cause to complain.

In fact, Fuymi is almost too dutiful, to the point of making her husband feel like there’s no way he deserves someone so good. Then he remembers: not everyone could put up with all the innuendo…not to mention imbue their daughter with an almost identical attitude towards…that kinda stuff.

The day of Akiho and Haruka’s first date arrives, and Akiho predictably over-analyzes and over-prepares, to the point of deciding that 30 degrees is the ideal amount of head tilt to maximize her attractiveness to her man, which…yeah, Haruka doesn’t care about your head angle, especially when you’ve got such a cute outfit for the date!

Haruka runs into a bit of bad luck when across from him and Akiho is a real-life pervert with what looks like a blow-up doll-kinda thing(?), and Akiho takes comprehensive notes on both that and the movie they go to see, which is far raunchier than Haruka thought it would be.

That being said, Haruka, like Akiho’s father, is built for this kind of relationship, able to take any and all strange comments and requests, and only gently steer her back in the right direction of things veer off too far. Just being with her for the day made him happy, but that only makes Haruka feel bad for letting her research dominate the date.

Haruka says it’s no biggie; they can just go see the cherry blossoms on Sunday. The thought of another date so soon fills Akiho with joy, but she goes right back into her pattern of over-preparation, and she’s so anxious about the day she becomes sleep-deprived and even gets a fever.

After a trip to the (very inappropriate) nurse’s office and her mother picks her up, Akiho vows to get better for Sunday, and Haruka, not getting his hopes up, is shocked to discover on the day of their date her fever has disappeared. Let’s call it an efficient immune system, shall we?

Alas, most of the cherry blossoms already fell before they got there. Akiho is crestfallen, but again, Haruka reiterates that it’s no big deal (not a lot is  big deal to him, unless she’s on her knees before him in the school hall, speaking in a tone of voice that could be easily misinterpreted).

They can always come back next year, he tells her. Insinuating they’ll be together an entire year from now is awfully bold, but I don’t currently see anything getting in their way. I mean, look how happy Akiho is to hear that!

Speaking of ‘getting in the way’, I was glad none of the other girls in Haruka’s circle made an appearance this week; after the last episode I needed a break, and the show shines best when the lead couple is on screen. It was also neat to meet Akiho’s parents—It was essentially like looking into Akiho and Haruka’s future.

Occultic;Nine – 01 (First Impressions)

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The Gist: We are introduced to nine strange individuals linked in some fashion by the occult affiliate blog of high school student Gamon Yuuta, whose operation is staffed by his platonic friend Narusaka Ryouka and fortune-telling idol Aikawa Miyuu. His research leads to him finding a scalped corpse in the office of “paranormal scientist” Prof. Hashigami.

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Why You Should Watch: Whatever else you want to say about O9, it looks the business, with richly detailed, lived-in locales and retro-ish character animation a la Gundam Recon in G. The color palette is diverse and the soundtrack is above average.

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Why You Shouldn’t Watch: This is going to be a longer list, unfortunately. O9 just didn’t…click for me. It could be the pace: there is a lot going on in the early going and with nine main characters to quickly introduce and a ton of extraneous conversation, I found it hard to keep up or care. And it doesn’t really matter how good a show looks or sounds if you can’t find a way in.

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I wasn’t clear on why Yuuta’s buddy Ryo-tas has such a ridiculously large bust, or why the two of them, and the guy who runs their hangout, were trying so very hard to be weird and kooky. Oigakkosan brought this up with Drifters, but I think it’s even more of a problem here: idiosyncrasy is a delicate tool, and it’s used more as a sledgehammer than a scalpel here.

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The rapid-fire banter, inner monologue, and flashes of people’s names all contributed to an over-caffeinated presentation lacking any kind of anchoring element. Everyone is talking about the “Occult”, but only in the most general terms. Kamisama no Memo-cho, Occult Academy, even Persona all featured far stronger opening salvos.

And more than half of the titular nine characters left no impression on me whatsoever, though they’ll surely play larger roles later. The one who left the strongest – Gamon Yuuta – left a negative one; he’s just plain not a likable protagonist. It’s just that with all the shows already out, O9 didn’t quite do enough to make me want to stick around for later.

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Shimoneta – 05

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Shimoneta does not hold back (no pun intended) on the continuing unfortunate results of Anna’s accidental first arousal by Okuma; she is absolutely out of control from start to finish, frightening due to the strength of her convictions (read: delusions), yet also a profoundly tragic figure; a walking, talking, drooling example of everything wrong with her mother’s hardline stance against sex education.

Her mother has kept her bottled up all this time, and now the flood gates are open. Yet so ignorant is she to the basic biology of sex, Anna refers to her discharge as “love nectar”, first mixing it in the dough for cookies made specially for Okuma, then trying to get him to drink it straight from a  bottle where she’s been collecting it. Anna’s complete inability to cope with her lust has turned her into a dribbling, chain link fence-cutting psycho.

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All the while, Anna is apparently lucid enough to keep this erratic behavior secret from her mother, who either trusts her daughter enough not to stick her nose in her business (pretty hypocritical, considering how evasive X Prohibition will be to the rest of the Japanese youths) or she’s simply too busy with the PR campaign to bother noticing Anna melt down.

Public Morals begins a crackdown on the school specifically to dissuade students from storming Yotsuga Forest where the porn stash is believed to be located. Yet Ayame goes anyway, willing to storm the place on her own, no matter the consequences, as a matter of principle, and in hopes she’ll inspire others.

Her suicide mission is interrupted by the cavalry: Fuwa Hyouka found Otome’s lewd drawings Okuma dropped in her lab when Anna was chasing him, and she distributed them to the student body, which came to the forest en masse. She uses all the boys as a diversion against the morality cops, and sends the girls in.

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Sophia’s rally at her daughter’s school is ruined, so Anna goes to the forest and locates both Blue Snow and Okuma (who is in a light disguise). Ayame orders Okuma to save himself, but even when he lands smack-dab in the Cave of Porn, he decides he’s not going to let Anna unmask and punish Blue Snow. He probably realizes the ideal life he imagined with Anna isn’t going to happen.

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He emerges wearing woman’s lingerie, and the sight of his package is enough to make Anna hysterical, as they used to say in olden times. Unaware it’s Okuma behind the pantymask, she’s so ashamed of her body reacting so intensely to another man, she literally jumps off a cliff and flies away, leaving a love nectar rainbow in her wake. That’s right, a love nectar rainbow. I sure didn’t see that coming!

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Even SOX are rendered bewildered and speechless, but at the end of the day, they successfully got all of their fellow students to storm the forest, and scored a huge haul of fresh and diverse porn with which Otome can be inspired to create an ever-richer catalogue of illustrations for distribution. They even manage to switch the signatures from other schools with those illustrations, and Sophia makes the mistake of holding one up without looking at it first while on a live nationwide broadcast with no tape delay.

It’s a huge coup for SOX, who were on the cusp of being wiped out, because the scandal essentially stops the X Prohibition Law in its tracks, as well as gets Sophia in trouble. Thinks are looking good for the ero-terrorists, but more challenges lie ahead, one of which is named Anna Nishikinomiya.

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Shimoneta – 04

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At first, Anna seems to be processing her “experience” with Okuma last week by clamping down on school indecency, tightening her grip on public morality as her mother prepares to make a speech at her school on her “final solution” for nipping lewdness in the bud and preserving the purity of Japan’s youth, saving them from their own base urges. Anna is also straight-up avoiding Okuma, making him think she despises him now.

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With a vote on the X Prohibition Law looming, Ayame briefs her SOX team of Okuma and Otome on their next mission, which is to storm a forest where hardcore porn is known to be located (the forest was once the property of a famous pornographer) with a mass of “cherry” boys and girls from school, overwhelming the authorities with numbers. SOX is not the only dirty terror group, but one of several all working to free Japan from the shackles of artificial sexual repression.

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Anna’s mom ends up surprising Ayame by announcing the student vote for X Prohibition will take place the same time control will be lifted from the porn forest. She also unveils the future of oppression: heavy-duty chastity belts that prevent any fooling around in that area by either sex, further closing off that crucial part of the human anatomy to youth a a crucial time in their development. The image is somewhat humorous, but the idea behind it is truly chilling.

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Ayame is pissed off about her plan becoming far more difficult, but she still thinks she can convince the student body to storm the forest IF she can get Otome out of her artistic funk. To do that, Ayame exploits Okuma’s new stalker, who has stuffed his mailbox with love letters and left puddles of saliva on his patio, by putting a note telling her to come in, all while Otome hides in his closet and observes.

Okuma is convinced nothing will happen and Otome will see nothing interesting, but he ends up about as wrong as it is humanly possible to be, as his stalker turns out to be Anna, who is extremely sex-crazed despite having no idea what sex is. She enters Okuma’s apartment, tears his and her clothes off, mounts him, and starts licking him. All she knows is that this feels good, so it must be good, and right, and pure.

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Clearly having no idea the note on Okuma’s door would be so successful, Ayame walks in on this spectacle, and Anna basically grabs her clothes and runs out in embarrassment, yet still in a kind of trance in which she doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with what she’s doing. Why would she? Her parents never told her about this kind of stuff. Yet the burning in her loins cannot be denied.

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It took an accidental kiss during a stalker dust-up, but Okuma’s beloved angel Anna has well and truly broken out of her shell. Her ignorance is such that rather than admit her harsher enforcement measures at school constitute gross hypocrisy considering how she’s been behaving on the side vis-a-vis Okuma, she absolves herself by proclaiming that “love is justice”, and that the more she doles out on others, the more love she’s able to give to Okuma.

Absent any kind of proper education on romance or sex, Anna is quite literally making it up as she goes along. Even more troubling, her authority and pedigree are such that few can dare challenge her improvisatory philosophy. She’s suddenly become quite the hedonist, but she’s playing with porn-burning fire.

Most surprisingly, Anna put her money where dirty-talking Ayame’s mouth is, taking debauchery to levels that make Blue Snow herself blush. Or in baseball terms (Hi Preston!), Ayame has been shouting slogans from the stands, but it’s Anna who rounded second base and slid into third, naked and drooling.

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Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 12 (Fin)

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With the overarching objective of saving Kaori successfully and satisfyingly (if tragically in terms of the cost of Yui) achieved, I had no idea where the show would go in its final act. I’d argue in its post-main-plot-resolution state it was just as successful and satisfying.

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The odd feelings of deja vu and of some kind of ‘absence’ in the astronomy club and in its members’ lives don’t simply go away. On the contrary, the feelings get even stronger for Sou, who is constantly reminded every time he sees something or somewhere that Yui had once been in another timeline. Also, there are lots of coincidences like everyone who had Uchihama Syndrome suddenly waking up…at once.

That makes sense (in the science of the show), because she came back a lot, and because the human brain is a quantum turing machine (again, in the show), it is capable of retaining information it recorded in other timelines. But still, for now, that ‘temporal residue’ manifests faint echoes or mirages. Enough to get Sou thinking, but not about anything concrete.

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For her part, Kaori seems to be alright after Sou rejected her the previous day. She comes right out and says she feels like she can move forward now, which obviously wasn’t the case when buses kept killing her. Sou’s recollection of the rejection, particularly the reason, are hazy to him (he did hit his head, after all).

Kaori insists he said he only sees them as childhood friends, which suggests that he didn’t say he couldn’t love her because he already loved Yui…because Yui didn’t exist anymore. And yet…he keeps being reminded that someone existed at some point; most strongly when he finds an old mannequin where he had found a naked Yui so many times ‘before.’

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Surprisingly, we head back to the future where an old, worn Sou and a weary Airi continue to look over a comatose Kaori. Here, they’re resolved to the fact that Yui may have failed in her final attempt, though even if she succeeded, the universe they live in wouldn’t necessarily vanish, but continue along in parallel to the one she created by saving Kaori.

When Airi wonders out loud whether Sou only ever saw Yui as a tool, and sent her to the past knowing she would disappear if she succeeded, you can feel her own bitterness and impatience with Sou, as she’s the living, breathing, non-artificial woman right in front of him with whom he could have found happiness had he only let go of the past and let himself.

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The day of the festival arrives, and their planetarium cafe finally goes off without a hitch. But yet again, being there gazing at the stars and hearing the same things he said about them to Yui both in the past and future, Sou starts to get deja vu again and cries, but about exactly what he still isn’t sure.

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He even gets a flash of the night he and Yui gazed at the stars alone, only there’s nothing but a dark cloud where she sat. Compare that to Kaori becoming the most visible person at the school and named Miss Uchihama, and it’s as if the fates of Yui and Kaori were reversed.

Then the school pop idol Karin comes by the club room to regale them of her experience on stage, when for one moment she saw the friend she thought she had but no one else had remembered. Karin, like the club members, had clearly formed a deep enough bond that her brain retained memories and even imagery of Yui even after she vanished.

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That same ability to retain is echoed in a car ride (MAZDA FD RX-7 FTW!!!) in the future with Airi and Sou, who tells her that even if Kaori was saved and Yui never needed to be created by Sou, the memories and emotions still within past Sou’s head will ultimately lead him to create Yui anyway, but for a different reason; one that really capitalizes on the whole ‘chicken or egg’ nature of the show.

Sou won’t be able to stop picking at that mental scab, and when the time comes, he’ll create Yui because he wants to see her again.

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Then, after a worrisome delay, the effects of Yui’s actions reveal themselves in future Sou’s timeline, and Kaori finally wakes up, her mind no longer trapped behind a causality roadblock.

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The resulting passionate reunion and hug is a real showstopper, and yet I noted Sou’s words well: “You came way too late, dummy!” I wouldn’t be shocked if at this point, even this Sou’s love for Yui outstrips whatever romantic feelings he had for Kaori.

That’s not to discount his elation at Kaori waking up, but he isn’t elated because the love of his life woke up; she isn’t that anymore, nor was she ever. He’s elated because his beloved childhood friend woke up, without whom he had been just as lost as she was.

His true love, meanwhile, has yet to be born. It’s a little weird to think that Sou was the creator of his own true love, because that’s a kind of situation ripe for the assignment of sinister undertones in a lot of fiction, be it literary or visual. But if ever there was a case of ‘good playing God’, this is it.

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Let’s not forget that Yui couldn’t have been made without some of the information from Kaori’s brain. It’s as if Sou would have been able to fall for the person Kaori is, if only she were someone else. Yui was that someone else.

As the box beside the computer in the club room glows once more, I have more questions, like ‘if Yui is coming back, how did that happen without a comatose Kaori?’…but the time for questions has ended, and I’m satisfied with the answers I did get, plus the ones to questions I didn’t even ask. This show was a nice bit of light sci-fi romance that I don’t regret sticking with.

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Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 11

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Yui is in a predicament. She was sent to the past to save Kaori’s life, but it wasn’t as simple as keeping her away from the runaway bus. Now she’s finally cracked it, and Sou simply won’t leave her alone.

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And then there’s the slightly more pressing matter of…her existence. I’m not sure Future Sou and Airi told Yui, but if she’s successful in saving Kaori, Sou will have never had to create her, so she will cease to exist. That’s not really ideal, because after all this time she’s fallen for Sou and can’t deny part of her wants to be with him.

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Whether or not Sou and the others recall even a faint glimmer of having known Yui before she entered their lives (from the previous times she went back and ended up naked in his arms), on this, perhaps the last time she can come back, Yui finally stumbles on the answer to saving Kaori: by having Sou give her a straight answer.

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With no other ideas, Yui decides to facilitate that course of events. She can no longer afford to be subtle or clever (and in any case that never worked before) so she just comes out and tells Sou that Kaori will confess to him tomorrow, and that he has to give her an answer. The thing is, after how Yui has acted the last few days, Sou takes this in a much different way than Yui intended. It’s almost a case of unintended reverse psychology.

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Kaori reacts the same way when Yui is equally upfront in insisting she harbors no romantic feelings whatsoever for Sou. Kaori isn’t buying what Yui is selling, even if Yui didn’t have possess fragments of Kaori’s memories and personality that come through in her behavior and demeanor.

Kaori can tell Yui’s lying…because she is lying. But Kaori will still confess. No matter what happens, she can’t move forward the way things are. This is also literally true, as every time Sou hasn’t answered Kaori, she’s ended up dead shortly thereafter.

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Things go almost like clockwork on the fateful day, but only in where people are, and when. In terms of what’s said to who, things go far differently than Yui imagined. Despite her feelings for Sou, she never imagined his straight answer to Kaori would be a rejection. After all, they grew up together. Kaori has had so much more time with him! Surely he must return those feelings! Well, he doesn’t…and ironically, it’s thanks to Yui.

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This time Kaori stays at school while Sou chases once more after Yui, who had done her best to say her goodbyes, both to her friends and to the town. But so flags her down just as the bus arrives. It crashes as before, but Yui and Sou avoid it and survive. The loop has been broken.

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It’s here where Sou tells Yui he rejected Kaori…because he really loves her. Yui returns his confession with her own, plus a kiss (get out of the street, lovebirds!), but she knows this is the end for her. Her mission is complete, so she was never created, and she disappears. Put simply, this is time-trippy romantic tragedy done right.

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It’s not the somewhat silly kind of ‘vanishing in his arms’ disappearance either, though she does go a bit translucent. Rather, time continues as if she had never been there. Well, almost. The astronomy club finds Sou at the crash site, and everyone thinks very hard about whether everyone is really accounted for. Furthermore, Sou puts his hands to his lips, where a Yui that never was just kissed him.

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In every physical form, Yui is gone, or rather never existed…even in the group photo, BTTF-style. But somewhere in the hearts and minds of the others, particularly Sou, a part of her still seems to linger. An absence is felt, even if they know not why. Was Sou’s rejection of Kaori negated? Is Yui well and truly gone? Have we really seen the last of her?

I honestly have no idea what’s going to happen in next week’s finale. I kinda like that!

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Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 10

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Who is Furukawa Yui?

Sure, she’s an artificially-created body sent back in time to save Kaori. But that mission has made her far more than that. With each failed attempt that resets the timeline, she amasses more memories and feelings, becoming a more and more integral participant in the mission, rather than a simple observe-and-protect role.

Again and again the universe finds a way to kill Kaori, and Yui feels close to a solution that’s an intricate balance of intricate planning and limited intervention. But working alone without the ability to ask for help from anyone else (for obvious reason) put her at an instant disadvantage against the universe, and it doesn’t play down to its opponent.

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Yui even has time against her. While she’s been able to go back a great number of times (dozens? thousands?), going back has very real consequences. More and more of her afterimages appear, stirring up rumors of ghosts, while anyone who comes in contact with them falls into a coma and never wakes up, a “syndrome” that is probably their consciousness being sucked into a different timeline. Yikes!

After seeing how hard the rest of the Astronomy Club and a haunted Sou in particular worked to make Yui’s mission possible last week, this week did everything from her perspective, and really made a case for just how difficult juggling the cumulative variables has become for her, including one variable that has nothing to do with temporarl oscillations or runaway buses.

That variable is love. Her love for Sou, in particular. Remember that Yui was originally a prototype for a body that would hold Kaori’s consciousness, freeing her from the body the accident had destroyed. I maintain that some if not most of Kaori either transferred or copied to Yui unbeknownst to Sou or the others.

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If that’s the case, the love triangle of Yui, Kaori, and Sou is really a triangle of two different Kaoris and Sou; one more complication in what’s looking like a mission that was doomed from the start.

At the same time, Yui can’t be passed off as a mere copy or knockoff of Kaori any more than she can be dismissed (or dismiss herself) as a tool; not after everything she’s been through. All of those trips, all of those wonderful memories she has with Sou and the others before Kaori dies, keep building up, and each time she touches The Box they all come surging back.

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Sou may only be joking when he says Yui is like “an old woman” for sitting out in the sun, but perhaps she is very old indeed, in terms of her life experience and the amount of cumulative time and happiness she’s spent with Sou (none of which he could possibly know about).

Right now, with time running out, Yui believes the only way to Kaori is if Sou loves her. Each time we’ve seen her die was before he could properly respond to her, so there’s something to that. But Yui may be overlooking something, because to her this is a Mission and she’s an expendable element. 

Maybe the only real way to save Kaori is for Yui to let herself love Sou. If there’s a part Kaori in her consciousness, the clashing of that part with the Kaori in the past could be what’s triggering the latter Kaori’s death, as if time and the universe were correcting the paradox of two girls with identical love for Sou.

I’ll admit I may be a bit free-wheeling (and way off!) in my theories and analysis here,  but I love how this show really gets the ol’ noggin churning, which can’t be a bad thing!

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Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – 09

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I find stories involving time travel, particularly stories in which the motivation to use time is to save a doomed loved one, compelling by nature. The simple human concept of there being one person for everyone makes the hard-edged sci-fi elements go down more easily for us humans. And if it wasn’t clear by now, Sou believes Kaori is the only one for him.

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However, balancing the technobabble with the ease of emotional connection is not an easy task, and the formula is very precise. This episode is a classic case of having to breathlessly compress so much science and plot into one episode, there is virtually no room left for emotional rests. It doesn’t help that a lot of what goes on is narrated to us by Sou.

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I’ll elaborate on that. Unlike any previous WareMete episode, this one spans many years, documenting the events immediately after Kaori’s accident, which doesn’t result in her death, but rather a coma from which she simply won’t wake up. Those early scenes of Sou sitting wordlessly in her hospital room are the most effective, emotionally speaking.

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But this an ambitious episode that intends to cover a lot of ground, both because Sou has to become that grizzled fellow Yui remembered a couple episodes back, and because the kind of sophisticated, barely even theoretically possible work that needs to be done, requires years to do.

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But precisely because so much time passes in so little running time, covering so much plot, the characters are badly neglected, and feel like they’re standing still. Perhaps that’s the intention: that this is a timeline in which the personal lives of the remaining astronomy club members (sans Kenny, but honestly who cares about Kenny) are essentially sacrificed to finding a way to revive Kaori.

I buy that Sou has no other life, but not the others. This episode’s goal, perhaps, was to get the presentation of this morose “post-bad ending” timeline over with as quickly as possible, as it’s not the timeline that would have happened had Yui successfully saved Kaori. Perhaps a “good ending” really is still in reach.

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But still, an endiing is what one makes of it. After Kaori’s accident, Sou put everything he had into saving her. Just as the episode neglected characters in order to orient everyone to the point when Yui (who we learn may possess a speck of Kaori’s personality) is sent back to the past, Sou neglects Airi throughout the timeline. She’s always by his side helping and supporting, but his gaze never meets her; it’s perpetually pointed backward.

I won’t say this episode was a total waste, because there were facts we needed to learn, yet I can’t deny its essential nature as a more-redundant-than-no plot-dump that did the characters no favors. I could complain that it felt too rushed, but a part of me is glad the show only spend one episode on this timeline, ending with Past Sou finding Yui, completing the time paradox and creating the possibility that things could go differently this time. Whether they’ll go differently enough to save Kaori is anyone’s guess.

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Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 07

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This episode of DnH toyed with my expectations, almost as if it was aware of the fact it’s an underdog on my list (ranked fifth out of my seven shows) and needed to show me something to remind me why I’m watching. Last week it successfully maneuvered a substantial overarching plot and presaged future difficulties and conflicts.

This week initially seemed to change gears completely, starting with the four girls of the library club assembled at the table, each giving their argument for why they’re Kakei’s type. Everyone’s cordial — even clinical — but one can definitely sense conviction for their respective positions in all their voices and expressions.

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When Kakei himself pops into the clubroom, Tsugumi abruptly asks him to go on a date…with all of them. At this point I’m pleasantly bemused — is the show going to be this ridiculous with the harem scenario? — but Kakei doesn’t take Tsugumi seriously, as he reads all night and sleeps in, making him late for the date and giving the girls an excuse to invade his flat, where they each act according to the archetypes they defended in the club meeting.

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Nagi barges in unannounced, further angering the girls (who already suspect something is going on, which they’d be right about, but it’s not quite what they think!) and decides to tag along as a sixth wheel, and the 6×6 Gelandewagen of Love rolls off to the mall. At this point, I was tipping my hat to DnH for apparently making an honest attempt to make this harem thing work; a seeming fool’s errand. I should have been tipped off by the looks the girls had as they walked in formation.

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Also bemusing to the point of suspicion: how civil everyone is throughout this date. While ostensibly competitors for Kakei’s attention and affection, the four girls eschew sniping and instead encourage and assist one another in turn, sticking to their archetypes and carrying them out to their natural conclusions.

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As one girl is engaged with Kakei (they each get a scene of alone time with him), the others analyze their chemistry, first with Tamamo, then Senri, then Kana. As they cycle through these interactions, and interesting thing happened: I the viewer began thinking about the type I go for. Rather than resent or envy Kakei, I became Kakei. And part of what makes a successful harem is being able to see yourself in the guy’s shoes…not having a target on the guy’s back.

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The sequences of mini-dates-within-the-date, also showed me that it’s not really as simple as what type to choose. Sure, I’ve somewhat gravitated towards him and Senri (among the four club girls), but the fact is all four exhibit desirable qualities, to the point that the date is essentially one long pleasant stalemate.

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Oh yeah, the date also bent time, becaue I was sure the episode was four-fifths over when Nagi took Kakei aside to tell him they had Shepherd’s work to do. Instead, that was the halfway point. Not that the date of the first half felt long, but it did feel like it was building towards completion. Little did I know the show had far more in store for us!

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But first of all, the Shepherd mission: having to stop a creepy guy from getting a good look at Tsugumi so he won’t develop a wildly popular love doll in her image is a hilariously awesome job. Better still is the fact that Kakei has to suddenly embrace Tsugumi like a lover to do so — knowing full well it could throw off the Utopian balance of the group date. But he doesn’t want Tsugumi to have to live her life being famous for being the ‘love doll girl’ and so does what he must.

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He’s able to explain away his behavior as an ‘experiment’ he and Nagi were performing to test the girls’ reactions. This in tern gives the girls leave to come clean: the group date was a means of researching and considering their response to a question submitted to the club asking what kind of girl Kakei likes.

Therefore the group date works on two levels: one, as a straightforward if slightly empirical harem date, and as a legitimate social experiment and service…that just happened to also satisfy the girls’ own curiosity regarding Kakei’s preferences, as well as their own latent desire to experience dating him firsthand, rather than just in their heads.

But wait, there’s yet another level to come out of this group date, because Who submitted that request in the first place?

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The answer, of course, is Nagi. The request wasn’t merely a prank (though it was partly that) but a carefully-designed gambit in the fight for the open Shepherd position. Kakei would be the first to admit he’s uncertain about becoming a Shepherd, and Nagi wants to maneuver him out of the running altogether.

Witnessing the girls blanking about the Shepherd research is very disquieting for Kakei, and Nagi warns him that if he were to become one his “book” would be erased; everyone would forget he ever existed. Dates like the one he just experienced would be impossible, as would remaining friends with any of the club girls…or anyone, for that matter.

Such is the price of the power to change peoples’ fates a Shepherd gains. It’s not really an unfair price, but having gone from detached loner to a treasurer of friends since joining the Happy Project, it is a steep price for Kakei. Nagi drove that point home by arranging the date.

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Kakei’s never been more unsure of what to do after the weight of that price comes down on him, but Nagi’s plan doesn’t go as smoothly as she’d like, because he doesn’t drop out right then and there. Instead, he asks her if she’s okay paying the price. When she says she is, he laments that he’d forget her, causing her to drop her armor of resolve and steal a kiss she’s wanted so badly for so long.

At this point I imagine the Shepherd remembers their past life even if no one remembers them, and in that regard, this kiss is particularly tragic and poignant, because Kakei won’t remember it or anything about Kodachi Nagi if she’s successful. As she skulks away, she insists she’s “given up everything already”, but it sure seems like she’s trying to convince herself of that rather than it being a done deal.

The two people who seem most suitable for each other are the two contemplating erasing themselves from each others’ lives, which is both tragic and compelling. At this point an unhappy ending for both seems certain. Will that turn around, and if so, how? You have my full attention, DnH.

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Pupa – 05

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If the standard 20-odd-minute anime episode is akin to a pint of beer, that makes Pupa a shot of hard liquor: short, potent, and unforgiving. This one stung more than others because it told the tale of Yume’s birth from her mother Sachiko (Noto Mamiko), who inherently knew she was a monster while she was still in the womb, and tried and failed to abort her.

We’re pretty sure this is the first time we’ve heard abortion mentioned so openly in an episode of anime, but Pupa was far from finished. Baby Yume was born with a full set of teeth and a knowing stare that scared the shit out of her mother, who tried desperately to keep her son Utsutsu away from her; obviously, we know that she failed. Another first? infanticide by utility knife, albeit a failed one owing to Yume’s immortality.

Finally, we see baby Yume scarfing down a bird. So wrong. Faced with this unkillable devil child that now has Utsutsu’s sympathy and trust, Sachiko has a psychotic break, and in the hospital, insists her husband beat her more so she can “feel reality.” Jesus. After this latest stinging, burning, traumatic shot, Pupa’s brevity is starting to make sense: any longer than it is would likely be too much to bear.


Rating: 6 (Good)

 

Pupa – 04

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Introducing Maria: the viral researcher who dresses like a witch and has no qualms about her entire staff being killed when Utsutsu, who had been eaten by Yume, wakes up in one piece, alive and not well. Maria confirms that the siblings’ affliction is a virus called Pupa, and she’s eager to continue “researching” them. With this tidbit-episode, the world of Pupa expands to include science, conspiracy, and potential persecution from the likes of Maria.

Utsutsu has vowed not to repeat his father’s sins and protect Yume, but preserving their “normal life” will require him to resort to abnormal measures, namely let Yume feed off him and only him. But even if they manage to make it work, they’re only upholding the illusion of normalcy. In reality, there’s absolutely nothing normal about them, nor will there be unless they can find the cure. Something tells us Maria isn’t in a hurry to find one.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Tiger & Bunny 15

The main arc (Lunatic) is on the back burner for another week as Tiger & Bunny focuses on its characters. last week saw a lot of Kotetsu and Karina; this week’s all about Sky High (interestingly, I don’t believe we know his real name). Since the first half a lot has changed: the Tiger & Barnaby duo are killing it both in points and popularity, while the perennial “King of Heroes” seems to have lost his mojo. Not surprising, considering how swiftly he was dispatched by Jake Martinez.

As if losing his edge on the Hero side wasn’t enough, he also seems to have terrible luck with women. He meets a wooden, monosyballic yet gorgeous woman on a bench beside a fountain in a park (which is gorgeously presented at all times of day throughout the episode). He mistakes her measured responses as human demureness. It’s pretty funny to see him take advice from Fire Emblem, Dragon Kid and Karina, who believe heartsickness is responsible for his decline.

At first I was taken off-guard by Sky’s naivete, but it turns out he has little or no time to be a playboy; as he spends his nights patrolling the skies over Sternbild. But the woman turns out not to be wooden, but metal, and not a woman at all, but an android named Cis, who escaped from her master and is malfuncitoning (read: goes berserk). She has an excellent, frenetic battle with Tiger & Bunny, during which she sheds her human skin. By the time Sky High finishes her off (ironically, with thoughts of Cis fueling his confidence), he doesn’t recognize her, so for all he knows she’s still out there somewhere. Sky High’s mojo is back.

The episode still managed to shoehorn Barnaby’s connection to Cis’s creator (who worked with his parents; Cis is the apparent culmination of their research), which calls into question what he really knows about his deceased folks. Tiger too, has a bombshell dropped in his lap: a friend warns him the erratic behavior of his powers of late may spell a decline in them; rare but not unheard of amongst the NEXT. Well, he is old. Stay tuned! Rating: 3.5