Fune wo Amu – 07

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After another scene illustrating how hemmed-in Nishioka feels, having to force his girlfriend to walk far ahead of him on the way to work, and decline the squid ink paella place lest they be seen there together, we get into the nitty-gritty of manuscript editing.

Matumoto proudly listens as Nishioka and Majime work like a two-part well-oiled machine as they sift through Professor Oda’s extraneous verbiage and cut to the core of what a certain Great Passage word definition should consist of and why.

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It’s just a shame they only have one more month together. This is a show that seems to shift between Majime and Nishioka; the former too often a prisoner within himself, the latter too often a prisoner to outside forces, like the ones that enabled the Passage to survive.

But while Majime is sad to see Nishioka go, as Nishioka seems sad to be leaving something he felt at the time was very important, they’re still pulling for each other in the future, even if that immediate future doesn’t involve working together.

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We simply don’t see any of the aftermath of Majime and Kaguya connecting; only the indication that things are moving along fine, with Majime going to Apricot to sample the first dinner she has full control over; essentially to support her on her next step on the long road to realizing her goals.

Nishioka has a nice girlfriend in Remi, but definitely seems to dislike how careful they have to be in public (not sure why this is, so I’m assuming it’s company policy). It’s nice to see their domestic scenes together as a contrast to the distance they must flub when out in the world, but it can’t go on this way if Nishioka is to be truly happy.

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When Professor Oda calls Nishioka in to bitch at him about the extreme editing to his manuscript Majime has done, as well as to complain about the lateness of his transfer announcement, Nishioka turns up the charm, flattering Oda by saying most other writers need far more editing than he.

It’s when Oda tries to get Nishioka to kneel down in apology to him that Nishioka finally demurs. He feels such grovelling beneath the noble builders of The Great Passage, and instead essentially blackmails Oda with his knowledge of his young student mistress.

With Oda back under control, Nishioka goes a little further, rebelling against the same structures that give weight to his threats against Oda by texting Remi to meet him for dinner at the squid ink paella place. Appearances be damned: he’s going to live and enjoy himself.

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Fune wo Amu – 06

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Majime barely seems to sleep through a night when he’s waiting for Kaguya to reply to his letter, but early in the morning when they finally meet in the hall, he runs away, scared of rejection. If she has bad news for him, he doesn’t want to hear it.

For Nishioka, the time to announce his impending departure from the department comes at an awkward time, but his hand is forced when the elders take stock of the group’s difficulties but looks to the first modern Japanese dictionary, the Genkai, for inspiration, knowing the five of them can do it. Nishioka makes sure they understand it’s four, not five now.

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When Majime hears of this, and of all the extra work not suited for him he may have to take on in Nishioka’s absence, he has a little bit of a freakout, as the pleasant dusk turns dark and foreboding, waves lap at his feet, then solidify into a thick mud into which he slowly descends. All of a sudden he’s become overwhelmed with doubt in both love and life.

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That night, at the boarding house, he goes into the library, a lovely cozy space positively packed with books, to both calm and steel himself. He finds the house copy of the Genkai, and finds an archaic word for chef (translated as “kitchener”).

He realizes a dictionary’s value, like the words within it, change with time. The Genkai is now a repository of Japanese linguistic history. He re-asserts his determination to complete The Great Passage, come hell or high mud.

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He also gains the confidence to ask Kaguya, who has just come home, for an answer to his love letter. Kaguya is caught off guard by his use of that term, and runs up to her room.

Majime is almost certain this means rejection, but it’s the opposite: she merely wanted to read it again, certain that it was a love letter (she wasn’t sure before). In truth, she has feelings for him too.

I loved the subtlety of her motions and the quietness and warmth of this scene. We’ll see how the happy couple proceeds from here.

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 19

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Uhh…that ohagi will have to wait.

Roku and Benio give it their all, but they haven’t seen the true breadth and depth of Yuto’s power until now. He gives Rokuro the choice to join him or die (typical villain offer) and when they don’t cower before him, he actually loses the goofy grin and gets angry.

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Don’t get me wrong, Yuto’s still a major drag, but at least he’s showing other emotions in the face of his foes’ defiance. But as I suspected, this isn’t a one episode-and-done battle (no way it could be), and as powerful and determined as the Twin Stars have become, they still only had one day to prepare. It just wasn’t enough. Not by a long shot.

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Yuto is somewhat surprised by what the duo’s resonance can do, but even their finishing move only causes him to momentarily shed his human skin, revealing his entire body is riddled with Kegare corruption, just like Rokuro’s arm. That’s gotta mess with a guy, which at least explains what a manic, sadistic creep he is.

Once his normal body is back, he separates his two opponents, making sure to get some good devastating putdowns of his sister in before destroying her legs and leaving her to wallow in her weakness and be devoured by some passing Kegare. Rokuro can do nothing, as Yuto puts him in a chokehold.

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Except Benio isn’t devoured. Instead, Kamui appears, having been drawn to a “cool battle” he’s sore he wasn’t invited to. He offers Benio one of his trademark 10-second decisions: he’ll give her new Kegare legs to replace her ruined human ones. But it will mean taking on a curse just like Rokuro and her brother, and she might get lost in the chaos.

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What breaks her out of becoming totally consumed by her new legs are the cries of her name from Rokuro. When he pulls her out of the darkness and into the light, she realizes why it is she feels so warm and at peace whenever she’s around him: she’s fallen in love with the guy.

That love forges Kegare legs that Kamui admits look the furthest thing from impure, as if the love took the raw Kegare material and made it something beautiful and good. Rokuro laments Benio’s decision right up until she darts around like a lightning bolt and shows everyone what those new legs can do.

Thanks to the wild card Kamui—and Benio coming to grips with her feelings—Rokuro and Benio are still in this thing. But Yuto seems pretty dang pissed his sister was “chosen,” and isn’t just going to lay down and be easily defeated.

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P.S. I’ve finally learned how long SnO will be: 50 episodes. That means barring any season-long hiatuses, the show will continue through Fall ’16 and Winter ’17. I’ll be sticking with it to the hopefully-not-bitter end. The extra length bodes well for Rokuro and Benio’s slowly-brewing romance, for which this episode was definitely a landmark.

Sousei no Onmyouji – 18

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This episode followed up on Rokuro’s vow to take care of Yuto by having Benio right by his side every step of the way. After all this time together making each other stronger, it would be silly and futile for him to fight Yuto alone.

We also got a respite episode this week after two straight battles, and the physical and emotional training the Twin Stars do in the 24 hours before the showdown thankfully isn’t limited to a montage, but occupies the entire episode.

Lots of Rokuro and Benio on their own bouncing off one another is always good, and they manage to get over how nervous they are to be holding hands by learning the broad strokes of their resonance ability.

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But Yuto (busy placing lilies on school desks in Magano, the twerp) isn’t just the fuel that allows the Twin Stars to resonate better; he’s also a demon in Benio’s dreams that leads her to run to the dorm for granny’s comfort and advice.

Granny tells Benio it’s fine to run, but warns her not to do anything she’ll regret, as regrets bind you tighter and tighter throughout life. Benio is scared shitless of the battle to come, but she also knows she’ll deeply regret leaving Rokuro alone.

So she re-resolves to fight with him, and Granny sends her on her way. She finds Rokuro still in the basement, asleep after testing his new Red Talisman (which packs such a punch, I worry for their lovenest’s structural integrity).

Rokuro may be impulsive, rude, and a pervert, but Benio still appreciates all the times he and only he showed her “the way out of the darkness.” She’s never expressed herself as brightly before they met. She realizes he makes her better as a person, not just an exorcist, and she does the same with him.

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It’s a relief, then, that when she nods off beside him and they wake up together in each other’s arms, their mutual shock soon turns to laughter. There’s a quick bit more backstory when Rokuro reveals to Benio that his real right arm was eaten by his friends, and while he underwent corruption, he didn’t fully turn, only his arm.

Having learned he had to exorcise a friend of his (a girl who seemed to like him, to boot) on top of everything else, Benio tries to offer apologies both for her initial dismissal of his determination and for her brother’s sins, but there’s no need. Rokuro and Benio are through apologizing to one another. It’s time to get out there, beat that prick Yuto, come home, and eat some ohagi!

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Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – 11

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We’re still in the middle of our journey.

That’s true, both for Kousei, and for us, as this is the eleventh in a 22-episode series. It’s right where we want to be, too: Kousei has, by ‘defiling the sacred garden of competition’, found himself, but he still sucks at the piano right now. He is, in the parlance of Whisper of the Heart, a rough stone that needs polishing to become a gem. That polishing will take time, blood, sweat, and tears…far more than he’s already expended to this point!

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In a shock to precisely no one, Kousei didn’t even make it through the preliminaries; his performance was a train wreck after all, and he stopped in the middle. But he doesn’t care…and that’s what vexes Takeshi so…at first. Tak had always seen Kousei as his HERO; someone who always took the stage alone, never gave up, did amazing things, then left the stage alone. This new, ‘human-like’ Kousei is strange and foreign to him, but in the end, it’s better that he is the way he is now.

Emi certainly sees this as an improvement. As bad as Kousei played, she could hear clearly that he was playing FOR something, or someone, that there was a purpose to him being on that stage beyond playing the sheet music perfectly like a robot. She liked the mischievous Kousei that peeked his head out from behind the curtain, and wants to hear more. And I’m sure she will!

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On the way home from his own loss, Kousei puts on a brave and stoic face, knowing he did his best. But just as Ryouta and Tsubaki did before him, the pang of defeat catches up to him and he has no choice but to run screaming as the train passes. It’s a cheesy scene, but a powerful one, and well-earned.

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Summer approacheth, but Kaori isn’t going to let Kousei rest on his moral laurels. There’s a concert gala at Towa Hall, and they’re going to play together again; this time, Kreisler’s Liebeleid (and I noticed and enjoyed Kaori breaking into German now and then)

Kousei’s mother’s (and, really, his) friend Seto Hiroko, Japan’s top pianist, is an interesting and welcome addition to the cast. Hiroko is super-cool and just happened to be present for Kousei’s self-finding experiment. She’s surprised he went back to the piano, and he tells her about the weird violinist who brought him back into the musician fold, Hiroko was clearly heartened.

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In the flashback, we see a non-evil Kousei’s mom who wasn’t going to make Kousei into a pianist at all “if she could help it”, but it was Hiroko who noticed he had a special gift and insisted his mom nurture it. We know what happened after that. Now, two years later, Kousei’s come out of limbo and wants her to teach him how to play properly again. He owes it to Kaori.

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That brings us to the episode’s climax and the true middle point of the show, in which Kousei finally tells Kaori directly (in a field of fireflies) that it was her that gave him the power and the strength to play. As she had probably gathered, he was playing only for her; sought only her approval and endorsement. This isn’t one of those romantic scenes where the two throw themselves into each others’ arms and kiss, but it was still pretty damn rousing.

So ephemeral and weak. But it’s shining with all its might.

That being said, the show is determined to rain on its own parade by reiterating that NO, Kaori will NOT be around forever for Kousei to lean on. She led him back to the world of music, but no doubt her health won’t allow her to stay on the same path as him much longer. As much as I hate to say it, I just don’t see Kaori lasting until the end of this show.

Which begs the question: how will he deal with her inevitable demise? What or whom will he choose to replace what now seems utterly irreplaceable?

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Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – 10

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Well, let’s just get this out of the way: Kousei’s performance STINKS. He’s literally all over the shop; shifting wildly from the same old soulless human metronome, to banging on the piano like a child wailing in pain, to stopping completely. But none of that matters. This was still a HUGE leap forward for Kousei; life-changingly huge. And it all came down to Kaori.

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The ‘ghost’ of Kousei’s mom kept going on about his “punishment” for rejecting her and her dreams, but more than before, the cuts of her and the deep dark sea are interspersed with cuts of Kaori. She’s in his head more and more as the performance goes on, all but replacing Mom. He keeps his head up, looks at the lights as if they were the shining stars, and tries to finish the performance, even if he can’t be proud of it.

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It’s still a struggle, but after he stops, he again remembers Kaori turning around and saying “Again!” At this point he’s lost the audience completely and disqualified himself from the competition, but his pause in the music is a crucial ‘reboot’ of sorts for his psyche. He fell, but he gets back up and gets back to the ivories, with Kaori constantly in his heart.

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Once he’s playing again, albeit very badly, it occurs to him that Kaori and only Kaori is the one he’s playing for; the only one he wants to reach, just as she reached him so powerfully, both through her performances, but also simply by being there for him, guiding him out of the dark. He starts to channel those emotions through the piano, and his notes ‘shimmer’ as he begins to project to the crowd the imagery of the practice room as Kaori softly dozes.

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Again, his playing changes. It’s not enough to make everyone forget the ugliness before, but it’s still plenty compelling, which is a lot to say for a pianist with a reputation for sticking to the sheet music. Everyone has this priceless “Huh? WTF is going on?” look on their faces, except for the few in the crowd who matter.

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Now that he’s found something to replace the ragged gaping hole in his heart his mother left, Kousei can play with confidence and passion, although perhaps still too raw to make any headway with the judges. But again, that doesn’t matter: this was never about Kousei jumping right back into contention; that’s still a ways off. It was about breaking free, severing his puppet strings, and going his own way, for the sake of the girl he loves.

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It would appear his music did in fact reach Kaori, who is moved to tears along with the little girl with the cat. Heck, even his Mom seems to be proud of him moving on in the end. After all, the villainess in Kousei’s mind was a ghost of his own making, forged from guilt and regret over how things with her. That ghost wasn’t something to be defeated, but rather transformed, as Kousei transformed himself this week.

It doesn’t do justice to say he’s merely ‘back’; thanks to Kaori, he’s been reborn; better than ever. Births may be messy and harrowing, as his performance was, but both herald the start of something new, amazing, and full of possibilities. As long as Kaori remains alive.

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Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – 09

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Let’s dig right in, shall we? First of all, I was not expecting the cold open return to the middle of Emi’s performance, and some of it was simply elaborating upon things that were already made clear last week. That being said, the extra attention paid to Emi, and in particular her childhood, provide a baseline with which to compare the very, erm…different childhood Kousei experienced. The modern arrangement of the Chopin matches her past self’s bright-eyed outlook nicely.

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More on that later. I do like how Emi storms off the stage, grabs Kousei by the scruff, and is on the cusp of saying…something important to him, but almost seems to chicken out and runs off to change, disappointing Takeshi. Still, her mission was accomplished; Kousei did hear her, and he was moved to the very core.

Meanwhile…damn, Kaori takes a lot of drugs! Did you put that scene in there to remind us she’s a very sick girl who’s going to die just when Kousei loves and needs her the most? Is the titular “lie” ultimately the lie that everything will turn out just fine? You’re a cruel show, Uso.

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Cruel, perhaps, but also the king of building tension and anticipation to the point our stomachs hurt right along with Tsubaki. Takeshi and Emi may be disappointed in the relatively ‘simple’ Chopin piece Kousei will play (chosen at random by Kaori) but even they’re smacking their lips at the opportunity to see him play again for the first time in years. His slow walk to the stage is full of triumph, as Kousei’s heart and soul and musical will all seem to have been jump-started by the other performances.

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But those of you who thought this would be the day Kousei shook off all of his past trauma regarding the piano thanks to both his friends and admirers…well, you were probably disappointed, but tough noogies. Shame on you anyway; we’re not even halfway through the series; it’s way to early for Kousei to be getting over anything.

There’s an interesting symmetry that further supports why Emi’s story occupied the cold open: Emi was a little girl in the crowd who got extremely inspired by Kousei in the past. Kousei spots a little girl in the crowd and gets extremely rattled in the present. Nice!

But long before Kousei saw the girl with the cat I knew Kousei was going to have a rough time this week. There’s no doubt that Takeshi, Emi and Kaori have moved him deeply, but in the blinding light of their awesomeness, he only temporarily forgot about the darkness lurking even deeper in his psyche that kept him away from the piano in the first place.

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Far from a tale of how Kousei gets his groove back, this episode intercuts Kousei’s initially competent but emotionless performance with scenes of his past when he was abused by his ailing mother (note the same ridiculous pile of drugs Kaori had).

And let’s not beat around the bush here: Kousei was and remains a victim of brutal, unyielding physical and emotional child abuse, and his mother was a coward and a brute undeserving of such a loving, devoted son. Maybe she knew that herself, and so worked so intently on beating that love out of him.

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Takeshi and Emi’s stories of how they got so good at the piano were full of envy, resentment, and longing, but they had it way easier than poor Kousei. And they were embracing music as a means to better themselves (so they could stand on the same level as Kousei), while Kousei purely played to make his mother better, a notion borne from emotion, which his mom hated above all else.

To her, emotion could only corrupt composer’s intended notes. The sheet music had to be followed precisely without the slightest error or embellishment.

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She finally succeeded in making Kousei snap. After a public performance she attended that he had been looking forward to making her happy with, she has nothing but scorn and cane blows for him, and he tells her to just die already. And so complete was her abuse, Kousei blamed himself and those words for her ultimate death shortly thereafter.

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Initially, he kept practicing like nothing was amiss, but one day his ‘punishment’ arrives in the form of his mother’s ghost, taking away his ability to hear the notes and plunging him into the sea. That is again where he finds himself during his attempted comeback.

It’s all in his head; it’s all scar tissue built up by his awful mom, but as long as he blames himself for her death, as long a part of him believes he deserves this punishment, no amount of inspiring peer performances will help him recover what he’s lost. We saw both Kaori and his mother in possession of pharmaceutical galaxies, but it might be Kousei who’s most in need of medication…not to mention therapy.

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