Renai Boukun – 03

The Gist: Akua meets Guri officially, Akua and Aino work out their troubles, Guri’s love note book gets burned up, everyone is worried their relationships have fallen apart, Tiara-san is introduced, the trouble with the notebook is resolved, everyone is happy ever after. (sorta)

So much wacky goodness happens this week and basically none of it matters in detail. Sure, Akua is chased by a rapacious demonic penguin that cemented her relationship with her brother long ago in their childhood. Sure, Guri’s notebook is burned during a hilarious gender-role-reverse-expetation fight between a bad boy and a squad of scorned ladies. Sure, Tiara-san is one trashy former cupid that god knocked up and her phone has now replaced Guri’s book as the prop of the show.

But the joy of Renai Boukun is just in the timing of all these absurd happenings. The penguin could have been pedo-bear or an 8 bit character or anything random as long as the joke remained that it talked with its eyes. Guri could have lost the notebook in any number of ways — or the relationships could have become at risk through any number of megufins — as long as she basically showed no concern while all the other characters freaked out. Tiara-san didn’t even have to exist — they could just have written ‘love note’ on a new book and had everything else play out the same.

But, despite the lack of importance to any detail, all the precision in how those details play out in sound, framing, gesture and timing works very very well. Giggle on the floor blade sticking out of your head wonderfully well.

“It’s okay! There’s steam and mysterious lights. So people can see anything important.” – Guri, nude in the bathroom

The Verdict: Love Tyrant is almost the complete opposite of QZGS in so far as Love Tyrant doesn’t look special at all and doesn’t try to be cool either. In fact, if the comedy were not so tightly orchestrated, I wouldn’t even think it was trying hard to do that.

In short, Love Tyrant doesn’t take anything seriously in it’s search of fun. Laugh with it as it laughs at anime in general, and the romance genre specifically. Laugh until you puke. And love it!

Tsuki ga Kirei – 03

I said last week that Akane and Kotarou aren’t in a hurry, but I guess I have to take that back now. Between all the pairing off going on in the run-up to the class trip, and the fact that at some point everyone will be heading off to various high schools, the two can’t sit on their hands forever. That being said, neither has any experience with courtship, so much of their nascent relationship is sustained through the messenger app LINE, as they remain painfully unable to talk to one another in school.

They also have a lot going on, what with Kotarou’s literature club and local festival activities and Akane’s track meet. This eats up the time they could be spending hanging out. Akane’s track buddy Nishio (who tended Kotarou’s wounds) considers him a friend now, and she’s serious about surpassing Akane, at least in track. Akane, meanwhile gets perilously close to being asked out by Hira; it’s only a random exclamation from a nearby party that makes him think better of it.

Kotarou can’t attend Akane’s meet due to his drumming practice, and the show really excels both at capturing the tension involved in waiting for someone you like to text you, and showing just how torturous it can be to have to carry on with your plans that don’t include that person.

Fortunately, fate smiles upon the couple, or rather, volition does. Kotarou isn’t in a hurry to leave the shrine, while Akane, whose phone died, decides to check out said shrine on the off-chance Kotarou is still there. He is, and they have a lovely, if at times understandably awkward, encounter under the beautiful moon.

And feeling both the pressure of time and the auspiciousness of another meeting with the lovely, warm, kind Akane, Kotarou manages to finally ask her out—not with Line, but with words. Not with chance, but with choice. Naturally, we don’t hear her reply, but their once tentative dynamic has already entered a new phase.

Sagrada Reset – 03

Two years have passed, as has Souma Sumire, and Asai Kei is a lot more careful about changing the future after losing her. But when client Murase Youka comes to them requesting they revive her cat (recently killed by one of the anime world’s infamous murderous drivers), he dives into the mission with what passes for him as enthusiasm. It would, after all, prevent the client from shedding tears (though she doesn’t strike me as the emotional type) and that’s the reason Asai got into this business with Haruki.

As Asai and Haruki investigate (which leads them to a cat-loving and cat mind-inhabiting informant) there’s an ongoing flirtation being carried out, mostly by Haruki. Sure, Haruki is kind of muddling through, and Asai isn’t the most receptive (he’s seemingly put off when she talks like a cat or asks if she should wear a new yukata or miniskirt), and it might be the stealthiest romance of the season…but it’s a romance in play nonetheless.

That, and Hanazawa Kana’s measured but increasingly warm delivery, keeps me from going all Seika Nono and falling asleep over this show. I’m not going to make excuses, it is slow, and deliberate, and sometimes boring. But last week showed that if one is patient with Sagrada Reset, one has a tendency to be rewarded accordingly.

So it is that Asai’s classmate Minami Mirai (a fan of the occult) ends up suspended above his bed on a (second) saturday morning. Somehow saving the cat resulted in a present very different than the one Asai wakes up to at the start of the episode. And it all has something to do with what Murase was doing while Asai and Haruki were saving her cat. We know she can fly, so that’s a start. But so far, this show solves mysteries in episode pairs, so we’ll have to wait until next week to see where this is going (or where it’s gone).

Tsuki ga Kirei – 02

This week’s episode is dominated by an interminable sports festival, during which the students, split into four groups of different colors, compete in various physical activities.

But those activities, and the final scores of the teams, don’t end up meaning much. Instead, due to circumstances that occurred during the festival, Kotarou and Akane were able to grow just a little bit closer together.

Much to Kotarou’s surprise, he couldn’t help but be influenced by her to do what he likes and not worry about being embarrassed. Akane doesn’t like being in front of big crowds, but she loves to run, so she runs. Kotarou likes to write, so he might as well show off his work.

Maybe he’ll be teased or mocked by some, but he’s just as likely to be celebrated and cheered on by others. And his dad insinuates that your youth is the time to do what you like—since you may not be able to when that youth is gone!

As for Kotarou and Akane, they play a quiet game of cat and mouse, with Akane often interacting with a potential rival for Kotarou in Hira, another track club member. But it sure seems like he has to be told to go talk to Akane, while Kotarou tracks down Akane and returns her lost, beloved stress “imo” to her, then tells her he thinks she’s fine the way she is, and shouldn’t get embarrassed by running (very well-timed remarks, considering she overheard girls in the bathroom making fun of her).

That night the two fumble with their phones for the right words and stickers to send to one another via LINE, and have a pleasant little virtual chat; one that would have seemed inconceivable just last week. They’re both growing more comfortable with each other little by little. And unlike most of the events in the festival, it’s not a race!

Renai Boukun – 02

The Gist: Aino’s sister Akua has come home early and she clearly is frustrated with her brother. However, the real meat of the show is Guri and Akane’s sister getting into weird antics to fulfill their roles as cupids.

Ultimately, they stumble on a sensei and class rep who they want to put together. On the surface, the class rep doesn’t appear to be a willing participant (treating the sensei like he’s her younger brother in need of constant help and scolding).

However, after the class rep (and Guri) are taken hostage during a bank robbery gone wrong (which just so happens to line up with Guri’s plan to take the class rep hostage anyway) it’s revealed that the love is mutual. The class rep had always planned on waiting until after she graduated to let him confess and accept him.

Of course the bank robbers are completely embarrassed and infuriated by how calm everyone is and how much they are being ignored. They even shoot at Akane’s sister and Aino takes the bullet in her defense…not that any of them can die due to being angels now.

Regardless, Akane goes full yandere upon arrival and the police watch on in terror. All is well with the happy ending, though Akua watches on unobserved (and frustrated) at the fringe…

The Verdict: Love Tyrant has a Master Level-sense of timing and breaking our expectations and being sly while doing it. The class rep just oozes a malicious grin at the end of all this, since she’s known more or less all along what’s going on and what she wants.

But there’s also a lot of heart right along side that comedy. The class rep truly wants to experience the ‘work’ of being in love, and not just the realization. It’s a charming sentiment that plays off against the silliness around it. It also makes for a good contrast to the hot (and somewhat automatic) love that’s going on among the love rectangle. Sure, Aino ‘saved’ Akane’s sister, and Akane saved the day herself, but it’s all so jump-first and think later teenager love that you can imagine it all burning out and/or stumbling over itself as different parts of the rectangle fall in and out of love with other parts.

Over all, it didn’t quite hit the same level of surprise as last week, but how could it? The humor is still there though, and it works great. The accidental real hostage situation, the interrogation in the announcement room, and the requited love reveal at the end all worked great. Neat! Go watch it now!

Sagrada Reset – 02

Just when Asai determines Mari is the result of her mother’s ability to create a clone of her never-born daughter, an agent of the “Bureau” (or “Kanrikyoku”), Tsushima, arrives to take her away.

The father left town, and now the mother will do the same, leaving the virtual Mari a virtual orphan. That doesn’t sit right with Asai, so he has Haruki reset, and the formulation of a plan commences.

It’s actually pretty impressive how quickly and efficiently Asai directs the service he and Haruki are likely going to be providing throughout the run of the show: “erasing tears” by resetting and fixing the cause of those tears.

Their classmates assist with their own abilities, but when the one who allows Asai to share his memories with Haruki bristles at the prospect of defying the Bureau, Asai cuts himself with a broken ramune bottle until Tsushima gives permission.

Everything works out perfectly: Asai, with the help of the rest of the group, is able to show Mari’s mother the error of her ways; to stay and continue raising the girl who may not technically be her real daughter, but loves her nonetheless.

With Haruki and his classmates’ combined powers, Asai has gained the power to “erase sadness.” In the process, he’s also managed to awaken some feelings in Haruki, though the road is long.

He discusses this in great detail with Souma Sumire, who is a tough nut to crack: you get the feeling she’s glad Asai may have found his calling, but a part of her also regrets bringing him and Haruki closer together.

Mind you, the relationship between Asai and Haruki doesn’t become a romance overnight. After all, Haruki has only gained back a small portion of the full spectrum of emotions most humans carry and experience. She cuts her hair at his suggestion, but also confuses trust with love. Asai proves it when they kiss and there’s no spark.

Then he undoes the premature kiss by asking her to reset. After seeing what they managed to accomplish with Mari and her mother, Haruki believes following Asai’s lead is her “zeroth rule”, so she complies.

But in the period between Haruki’s Save Point and her Reset, Souma Sumire falls from the bridge, into the river, and dies, as we witnessed at the end of last week’s episode. Seeing her wearing the dress and holding the red umbrella rendered her a dead girl walking, and gave her last conversation with Asai far more significance than he could comprehend at the time.

When Haruki finds Asai quietly mourning on the rooftop, she demands he instruct her to reset…unaware she just did, and it’s too late. When she sees Asai crying, she can’t help but do the same. She’s following his lead, but also realizing that this is what the two of them have to stop from happening to others at all costs.

There’s a huge jump of two years to when Asai and Haruki, now high schoolers, are recruited by Tsushima into a Bureau-sanctioned “Service Club”, where they can erase sadness in an official (and supervised) capacity.

It’s a pretty jarring time leap, to be honest, but it means the first two episodes were always meant to be a prologue in which the pairing of Asai and Haruki was made and their shared calling revealed. Now the real work begins: both the sadness-erasure work, and the emotional-awakening-of-Haruki work.

Renai Boukun – 01 (First IMpressions)

The Gist: A mysterious girl appears on Aino Seiji’s doorstep with warnings of his impending doom…unless he kisses someone in the next 24 hours. Magic is involved, as are the heavens, but the only girl Aino has an interest in is Hiyama Akane, the most popular girl in school, who probably doesn’t know he even exists…

Stop reading this review right now and go watch Renai Boukun because it’s fast, clever and expertly timed comedy. It pokes fun at conventions left and right and it’s utterly hilarious. But you have to watch it right now because the humor relies on unexpected twists and complications and almost any forewarning will ruin it.

The Verdict: While RB is a subpar looking show, from the terrifying human-faced house cat, to the fate of Aino’s parents, to the recurring gag about cosplay, the sheer joy of its antics quickly won my heart. Go watch it now—and I promise to talk about it in greater detail next week!

Tsuki ga Kirei – 01 (First Impressions)

punching

Tsuku ga Kirei, or As the Moon, So Beautiful, is a quiet, wholesome little tale of tender love blooming with the cherry blossoms. It’s the story of a guy and a girl who like each other but have no clue how to initiate contact. The girl, Mizuno Akane, steels herself by kneading her ever-present “squeezie” and attempts said contact; the guy, Azumi Kotarou, is mostly passive, hiding either among his mates or in his books, but observing nonetheless.

In a stroke of dumb luck (or a meet-cute, if you will), both Akane and Kotarou’s families decide to eat out at the same restaurant (sadly, not Wagnaria). From the moment they notice each other’s presence to their closer encounter at the beverage counter, the dinner scene is suffused with tension.

It’s a tension that reminds Kotarou of one of his favorite writers, Dazai, who said “how excruciatingly arduous and unbearable it is to live,” mostly because he just hasn’t mustered the guts to talk to the girl he likes. Not that Akane is having any more success.

Their mutual concession to the acknowledgement of each others’ existence is for Akane to kindly ask Kotarou not to tell anyone at school about their encounter, and her gratitude that he’s in agreement. They continue to exist in close proximity, unable to make a connection right away; waiting for the other person to make a move, or return a glance.

In another stroke of luck, Akane and Kotarou are assigned to the same sports festival task group. Akane is in charge of coordinating communications through LINE (the real-life ‘LIME’ of ReLIFE), but neglects to contact Kotarou, landing him in trouble with the group leader. She makes up for it by helping him with his gruntwork, giving him her LINE ID and even making a bit of physical contact by patting the dust off his back.

That night, she receives a message from Kotarou, who starts batting his light switch cord in celebration of the progress he’s made. When Akane gets the message, she beams like she’s never beamed before in the episode, equally glad that finally she’s made a connection with the guy she likes. Even teasing from her big sister can’t knock her off this high.

The seiyuu of Tsuki ga Kirei’s lead couple put on a clinic of wordless sounds. Sounds of reluctance, tentativeness, disappointment, and frustration. But all the tension pays off with the genesis of a relationship, and one can’t help but root for both of them, as their joy at the end is palpable; the proverbial speck of gold, glimmering faintly at the bottom of a river of grief.

The message from Dazai is clear: anything worth having is something that’s hard to get.

Souryo to Majiwaru Shikiyoku no Yoru ni… – 01 (First Impressions)

The Gist: A girl gets drunk at her high school reunion when she realizes the nice boy she fell in love with, but never made a move on, has become a monk. Later, as she wallows in self pity (and a hang over) that same boy carries her home. Then takes her to bed.

Despite a three minute run time, this is hard to watch. The protagonist is a generic ‘klutzy’ girl and the love interest is what we would consider a date-rapist in the USA. There’s nothing visually compelling about it either, unless you get a kick out of panties and guys helping girls drink water by spitting it into their mouths?

Gross…

Kuzu no Honkai – 12 (Fin)

Last week I joked that I’d be fine with whatever transpired in the Kuzu no Honkai finale…as long as it didn’t feature a school festival. Alas, that’s what we get, and for the most part, it felt like marking time; padding for some closing remarks by Hanabi.

There’s also a time jump from the November festival to March, only for the episode to go back to the festival, which feels fairly weird and not altogether necessary. The jump occurs after Hanabi does some milling around as a stagehand, then ends up encountering Mugi in a supply closet.

What’s going to happen there? Well, I was reasonably sure it wasn’t going to turn into anything steamy, but the jump to March, when Hanabi’s class is now preparing a celebration ceremony for Kanai and Akane’s impending wedding. While being hit on by another guy, Hanabi is “saved” by Ecchan, now sporting shorter hair.

The shorn locks are a not-so-subtle symbol for her having shorn the part of herself that couldn’t live without Hanabi in her bed, and Hanabi is relieved to have Ecchan talking to her again. Ecchan is also correct that Hanabi still wants space and isn’t altogether uncomfortable being alone…though Akane’s olive branch of a rose from her bouquet is an encouragement to, at some point, go looking for her next love.

As we rewind to the festival, we learn that that doesn’t mean a romantic reunion with Mugi. Hanabi goes over a number of reasons why she wouldn’t mind continuing to be with him, but ultimately, she’s a lot happier simply talking with the guy; not having to continue to define their relationship with physical contact. They’re “using their words,” and it feels good to do so.

“Real Love” is what both are after, which is why they decide say goodbye to each other (though whether they remain platonic friends, we don’t know.) After all, they both know what it feels like to be in love, and while they could one day find themselves more deeply in love with each other, neither want to be “saved” in that way, at least not yet.

They don’t want to give up on the possibility that some day, someone will cross their path and they’ll know it’s true love. They decide to live that way, even knowing they could get hurt even worse next time, or may never find that love. They are finally assigning value to themselves; they no see themselves as ‘scum’, or ‘the worst’. They both lost their first loves, but they’re young, and life goes on.

Kuzu no Honkai – 11

While on a train to a weekend hot springs getaway with Kanai (two adults! How often does that happen in anime?) Akane falls asleep (she later blames being with the younger Mugi last night). She dreams she’s in a gallery of all the men she’s had, and all the lines she supposedly crossed, while either not realizing it…or not caring.

The distinction is moot; what matters is the reason: she’s never felt truly connected with anyone. In the dream, Kanai asks her why she “keeps doing this” if, as she herself said, she’s not “suited for it.”

Like last week, there’s only one brief scene involving Hanabi, and it’s one in a situation we’ve barely seen her in: hanging out with high school peers she hasn’t laid with. They view her and Mugi as some kind of ideal couple, and we the audience, like Hanabi, can only roll our eyes and say If they only knew.

When Hanabi tells them how she thinks it’s best if she and Mugi don’t see each other, they call her “such a grownup”, and considering everything she’s been through in such a short time, and the satisfying end result of Kanai’s rejection and Mugi’s, er, “moving on,” I tend to agree.

Even the contrast between the girls’ food orders and her plain ol’ coffee seem to help her exude a wisdom beyond her years. She’s been through some stuff; they haven’t. If they actually have, this show didn’t have time to show it.

Last week Akane didn’t like her dynamic with Kanai, in which she he was occupying far too much of her thoughts for her comfort. Trying to move on by telling all, if anything only intensified Kanai’s feelings for her. She’s in a nonchalant “okay let’s see where this goes” mode when they start off on the hot springs trip, but by the end, she starts to notice her heart beating.

No one has been able to throw Akane off like Kanai throws her off here. He tells her he’s fine with her messing around because he thinks she does it because she likes it, as opposed to never having known anything else. The flaws she’s always thought kept her from connecting are of no concern to Kanai, and his love for her isn’t transactional; it’s unconditional, almost paternal.

That unconditional love, and his desire for her to live a happy life, wipes clean those portraits in her dream gallery, replacing them with the image of her and Kanai. She finally feels connected. It’s something entirely new to her, but she doesn’t dislike it, and the next morning when Kanai goes for it and asks if she’ll marry him, she decides to give it a try.

Now that she’s ready to take that step, her first date with Mugi is more about closure than anything else; even Mugi realizes this. For so long he tried to find out how he could change her, but in reality, the Akane he loved was the one who existed; not the ideal he hoped to help create.

It’s clearly shitty for Mugi to see the change in her once she announces her marriage, knowing he had nothing to do with that change. But like Kanai’s rejection of Hanabi, it’s also freeing. Mugi loved the way Akane was before she changed. But she has, and so I imagine he’ll move on. But he won’t forget her.

It will hurt for a while, but Mugi will be okay, just like Hanabi and Moca and Ecchan will be alright. With Akane and Kanai getting hitched, it will be interesting to see if Hanabi and Mugi attempt a relationship, only not as it was: rather than an pragmatic alliance of “replacements”, a genuine romantic pairing of two people who no longer consider themselves scum.

Kuzu no Honkai – 10

Mugi may have been able to sleep with Akane while Hanabi was rejected, but Mugi isn’t under any illusions the reason is anything other than Akane “just felt like it today”; that she’s role-playing, student-and-teacher; because it seemed like a lark. His connection with her matches the episode’s title: “Fragile and Empty.”

The thing is, Mugi does know Akane better than most, if far from as well as she knows herself. He knows from watching her all these years how she jumps from man to man. In her inner thoughts, she tells us how it was always like that since her first: taking all of a man’s love and giving nothing back; taking all the jealousy of the other women and wrapping herself in it. This is the process by which she assigns worth to herself, and it’s the only process she’s ever known.

She executes the same process with Mugi, “shattering his world” so that she can keep standing. But unlike other men, Mugi knows her game, and wants to change the rules. But he also knows changing her is no mean feat, as she isn’t someone who’s ever fallen for anyone, only had others fall for her.

After scores of random, inconsequential men who simply played the game her way, Akane now finds herself afoul of not one but two very different men. Even though Mugi knows what kind of person Akane is, and even when another man tells Kanai, neither of them flinch in their devotion to her. The difference is, Kanai doesn’t care, and wants her to be herself. Mugi, on the other hand, still wants to change her.

During their aquarium date, Akane racked her brain about what exactly Kanai’s deal was. She felt like she was the one pursuing him by committing so much of her thoughts to him, and didn’t like how it felt, so tried to make the date their last. She thought if she told him enough about who she is (or at least the perception of that person that had been crafted both within and without), but Kanai still stopped her from leaving.

Akane has been unique in Kuzu no Honkai as the only character not “in love” with another. Indeed, Akane may not even know what it is to love someone. She’s been loved by men many times before, and every time she shattered their worlds and danced on the ashes. Now things are different.

Neither Kanai nor Mugi will back down. Both know who and what she is, yet still yearn for something she’s never experienced: a relationship that endures, a prospect that doubtless terrifies all parties involved. But Mugi knows the only way he can change someone else is by starting with himself. That’s advice he got from his pact-mate, Hanabi.

Can Mugi actually succeed, and if he does, where does that leave Kanai? Hanabi, Ecchan, and Moca are in pretty good places emotionally right now, but it feels like Mugi’s still operating deep in that murky soup they once inhabited. Who, if not himself or Akane, will be able to help him out?

Kuzu no Honkai – 09

When this week’s Scum’s Wish starts, Hanabi is alone, and wants to die. When it ends, she still feels alone, but realizes she isn’t, and doesn’t want to die. But first thing’s first: Both Narumi and Mugi reject her on the same day (poor girl!) a trip to a forest getaway with Ecchan is a welcome distraction. Any time her mind is busy is better than not.

Ecchan is looking forward to having Hanabi all to herself, but they find her cousin Atsuya is at the cabin. Atsuya feels like an interloper the whole time, but he’s not just there to mark his territory. In his opinion, Hanabi is a dead end for Ecchan: she’ll never get her to feel how she feels about her. And he doesn’t want Hanabi continuing to string her along.

But this trip was never about “making Hanabi hers”, but about saying goodbye for good. Atsuya in the next room or no, Ecchan still gets one last night of bliss with Hanabi. But after that, she vows to be alone. Hanabi wakes up early, and on a walk with Atsuya he tells her Ecchan can’t be used as a replacement.

After they spend one last day out on the town, as the couple Ecchan had at some point hoped they could be, Ecchan expresses her pride in Hanabi for “going for it” with Kanai-sensei, even though she knew how much the rejection would hurt. She did, in effect, what Ecchan had already done, only Hanabi has been “too nice” to reject her, so she has to break it off herself.

With a heartfelt, genuine display of affection and an intense desire to keep knowing Ecchan and learning more about her, Hanabi manages to secure consideration that Ecchan may come back to her, but it may take a long time. Forgetting how to love someone after loving them for so long, takes time, if it happens at all.

Now down Narumi, Mugi, and Ecchan, Hanabi returns to school in a haze of loneliness and despair. She wouldn’t be out of place in Zetsubou-sensei‘s class. Neko spots her looking forlorn and at first appears eager to gloat about how now, finally, Hanabi is getting her comeuppance; a taste of the bitter medicine Neko’s been tasting for years.

But doesn’t gloat; not really. She also has an earnest nugget of recently-earned wisdom to deliver: being rejected is a kind of liberation. Once one starts doing things for themselves—even something as small as buying and wolfing down a danish—you can start to feel better. And having heard these words from Neko, Hanabi realizes she isn’t alone. Her pain isn’t unique, and it’s not implacable.

The episode closes with Akane at Mugi’s for a “teacher home meeting”, only with the parents not home, it’s actually a booty call. And despite Mugi’s clear discomfort with the premise, she is very insistent that he acknowledge that it is an official teacher meeting, and that he call her “teacher.” Yikes.

On the one hand, Mugi is getting something he’s wanted for years. But there’s no indication he’s succeeding in “changing” her as he vowed to do last week. Instead, he seems to be falling deeper under her control, with no discernible way out as of yet. Hanabi thinks Mugi’s being “tricked.” Akane (at least the one in her head) agrees, but adds that he wants to be tricked; that all men do.

Maybe Mugi will go on like this, content with what he has. Or maybe, in time, he’ll come to see the real Akane as nothing but a replacement for the Akane of his dreams…and that he can’t go on like this.