Kiznaiver – 07

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While Ruru wasn’t literally killed by Maki (obviously), her mother is glad Maki feels guilty for abandoning her as a friend, making her write the final chapter by herself. Half the house is a shrine to Ruru, so the tension runs high in the mother’s presence. They may have known Ruru was going to live a short life due to her chronic illness, but that doesn’t make the pain any less difficult to bear.

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This week we also learn how Maki and Ruru —two loners—met for the first time and became more dear to one another than anyone else. They filled in each other’s manga weaknesses (Ruru’s writing, Maki’s art), and rose quickly as their audience soared.

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But it seems Maki was never a fan of Ruru “joking” about jumping off high ledges, faking a seizure, or getting more romantic with her. Though the last one, Maki knew, wasn’t a joke, nor was she not interested.

Ultimately, it seems more like Maki cut herself off from Ruru in order to be spared the even greater pain she’s endure if Ruru died when they were lovers. This is a very tense but lovely scene because it’s so intimately shot, but also interspersed with art from their manga depicting the same actions.

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The other Kiznaivers don’t know most of this…because Maki hasn’t told them, but also because they haven’t come out and asked. They come up with a plan to become her friend at all costs, not leaving her alone until she realizes there’s no point in resisting any longer; it’s six-against-one, after all.

It’s just really nice to see how much these six have gelled as a group, and how they basically became friends through osmosis, without even realizing it. Chidori in particular notices how Kacchon is changing, but for the better, and how he doesn’t simply allow Tenga to walk all over him, but rather likes having him around.

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As blue and lost as Maki is right now, the six still want her around too, especially Yuta, who tries to use the manga to learn more about what happened. The final chapter is one that Maki never read, and she assumes Ruru “cursed” her to love her and no one else forever and ever.

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That turns out to not be the case, as Ruru, treating the final chapter she wrote alone as a kind of indirect letter to Maki, telling her if remembering her ever gets too painful, it’s okay to forget, because she loved her smile and wouldn’t want her to stop using it.

Yuta manages to get Maki to come out for fireworks, but she’d rather watch everyone swim in the ocean instead. To everyone’s shock, Yuta doesn’t hesitate in running as fast as he can into the water and splashing around like a goon.

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Once Maki has read and understood Ruru’s wish for her, the smile returns to her face, the first smile we’ve seen that wasn’t sinister or fake. And the Kiznaivers feels something that isn’t pain – a weight being lifted from Maki’s heart. She can’t be friends with any of them, she says—because they’re already far closer than friends or lovers.

I enjoyed the resolution to Maki’s impasse with the other Kiznaivers. It felt earned and realistic that these people who so badly want to be her friends would eventually pull her out of the darkness and into clarity, closure, relief, and understanding. It’s also neat how the story of these last couple episodes serves as a real-life extra chapter to the manga Maki and Ruru made together.

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Kiznaiver – 06

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In the OP, which I consider the most excellent of the season, the Chidori is the final of the seven Kiznaivers to run across the screen before the title splash, giving her a certain prominence. But in both of the OP’s character “roll calls”, the one in the middle is Honoka Maki, and in the second one, there’s a dramatic visual stab (and the presentation of the Trigger logo) when she appears.

This, and some of the mysteries surrounding Maki and the someone she says she “killed”, has had me thinking the whole time that the most significant character story to date would eventually come from her, not Chidori. Another piece of the puzzle falls into place in a powerful flashback where Maki’s friend (and apparent manga partner) Ruri nearly leaps to her death before being pulled back by Maki.

Ruri laughs uncontrollably, doubtless because of the profundity of what had just transpired—Maki may call her stupid, but still saved her when it mattered. But Maki is just stunned. Why did Ruri do that? What if she tries it again when she’s not there?

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Maki is toeing a similar line in the present: she may act all aloof, but she still comes to Kiznaiver get-togethers when invited, even if she leaves early without partaking in somen. Nico tries to follow and be friendly with her, but when she calls herself stupid, Maki can’t help but be reminded of Ruri saying the same thing, gets upset, and runs off. But now that she and the other six Kiznaivers’ hearts are connected, everyone feels her pain, and they can’t just forget it.

While she’s still a far more sterile personality, Noriko also seems a bit lonely as the mayor warns her of increasing difficulties in keeping the experiment under wraps. Her time is running out—perhaps in more ways than one, judging from her in-car self-injection—but she’s committed to delivering results. And hey, it’s not as if she hasn’t made real progress with the Kiznaivers.

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Yuta, still trying to maintain his normal life with his ladies, happens to be shown the same manga Maki created, made immensely popular when readers learned she and Ruri were middle schoolers. I like how Yuta is freaked out by the huge eyes, unimpressed by the hodgepodge of themes, but at the same time feels this is a window into Maki that, along with their new connected hearts, can help him get somewhere with her, in terms of helping to lift some of that pain and gloominess.

Maki, for her part, stubbornly rejects any kind of help, even when Yuta offers it unsolicited when her former editor asks her to sign off on a documentary of “Charles Macking”, her nom de plume.

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The editors ignore her refusal to permit such a project and arrive at school to film her. When the cameras are stuffed in her face and everyone hears she’s Charles de Macking-sensei, she starts to lose it right quick. Fortunately, the other six Kiznaivers are given a mission she’s not aware of to “save her”, and they do—at least temporarily, from the camera crew.

It’s great teamwork, but it does nothing to solve the underlying pain Maki feels. Indeed, she seems to be repulsed by any attempt to help her, perhaps because she feels responsible for Ruri’s death, and thus feels she’s no longer worthy of friends, happiness, or pity.

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Maki’s covered it up with her antisocial personality up to this point, but now her comrades know her game, and they aren’t about to accept her continued self-punishment. But rather than pester her more—she still needs to recover form the shock of that camera confrontation—they decide to try to learn more about Ruri, the person whose death caused Maki to fall into this state whom we know precious litle about, besides the fact she was a little bit of a daredevil.

As for Kacchon, he branches off from the others momentarily to express his disappointment with Nori-chan, most likely for giving them a mission involving Maki without Maki’s knowledge; a mission that saved her in the immediate but if anything made her emotional state worse. Noriko, for her part, is as surprised by Kacchon’s words as he is for saying them. She’s being pressed from both sides. I wonder what will happen, and if and how she’ll change, as conditions grow more desperate.

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Sket Dance – 47

Yuusuke sleeps on a bench near the place where his father was killed. A trio of roughs beat him until another good-size guy breaks it up. His name is Taisuke, and he’s the boy who Kyousuke saved from being hit by a car. Taisuke still remembers what the dying Kyousuke told him, and he gives Yuusuke the bag meant for his deceased mother, containing a watch and letters for both her and his not-yet-born son. We also see the circumstances of his mother’s death, as Akane loses control and hits a doctor, who delivers Yuuske but can’t save Haru.

Like most of Sket Dance’s serious efforts, this episode flat out executes. There’s nothing fancy here, its a nice simple story of a kid coming to terms with the fact that certain information had been withheld from him his entire life. The shock of this info still raw in his mind, all he can do is run. He finds himself at the park where his father died fifteen years ago, and he lets punks whale on him almost as a messed-up therapy session. While he works out these issues in his head, everything else just seems peripheral. He’s not even outraged that the first passersby to witness his beating do nothing about it; they’d help, but they fear death.

Last week wasn’t all that clear about when exactly this took place in the Sket Dance chronology, but we learn that Yuusuke isn’t Bossun yet, and he hasn’t met Himeko or Switch and formed the Sket-dan yet, either. This is a Bossun we haven’t encountered yet; one who spent his time rifling through his mother’s possessions. Once he learns about his father’s selflessness and desire to help others, even at the cost of his life, and also realizes he’s not alone as his mother and sister are still just that, well, let’s just say this whole two-parter journey is what made Yuusuke into the Bossun we know and love listening to as he yells at things.


Rating: 4

Oreimo 15 (Fin)

With this final web extra, Oreimo finally comes to a close on a happy note. Disturbed by a cryptic text from Kirino, Kyou totally brushes off a confession from Kuroneko (bastard) and dashes off to L.A. It’s a bit of a shame they don’t spend any time in America at all; he just takes a cab to her dorm, they play an eroge (her first since she arrived) and with a tearful confession of his own, convinces her to come back to Japan.

Kyou must’ve sensed the same thing his father did from those texts: she wasn’t doing to hot, and was going to proceed to keep working hard, perhaps too hard, to reach her goal of becoming a track star. Basically, it wasn’t working out. She swore she wouldn’t contact anyone back home until she beat another runner: three months later and no texts, save the ones instructing Kyou and her dad to toss her collection and trophies, respectively.

While Kyou kinda had to go and snap her out of her stubbornness, it’s still a bit disconcerting he so casually shot down Ruri, especially after her unprecedented spilling of her honest feelings. He made her happy caring for her. But this is a show where the imouto is the star, unfortunately for Ruri. So rather than be happy with an Ayase or Saori or Tamura or Ruri as his girlfriend, Kyou continues to live his life in service of others. He derives his happiness from making others happy. Pfft…what a weirdo! Rating: 3.5

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I really enjoyed Oreimo as a whole, but would have enjoyed it so much more if the multi-talented, cute-as-a-button Kuroneko/Ruri Goko was the focus, rather than Kirino and Kyousuke. These extra episodes have given Ruri the screen time she deserved, and she doesn’t disappoint. Her character’s growth is even more apparent when comparing her to Sena Akagi, who is more or less a nerdier, more perverted version of Kirino and simply not as interesting.

While last week she resented Kyousuke’s doting, this week she is much more receptive to it. Is Kyousuke supporting her simply because his real little sister is absent? That isn’t the whole picture. Even when Kirino was around, the two of them had their own independent rapport. The fact that Ruri can now comfortably hang out in his bedroom and even profess her affection for him (in a manner of speaking) suggests she’s no longer hung up on the belief she’s filling in for Kirino. Kyousuke would prefer he call her senpai, not nii-san.

Ruri is a finisher; when she sets her mind to something, she won’t back down or give up until that something is achieved. She swallows her pride and asks Sena to help with debugging her game. The game even wins an award, albeit for “Most Shitty Game”, but what matters is she got it done, and didn’t compromise her creative vision. The powerful, passionate speech she gives to the game club in her initial bid is one of Ruri’s finest moments. At this point, Ruri is also probably my favorite Kana Hanazawa character. Rather than simply ditzy or cutesy, she really gets to explore the full range of her voice. Rating: 4

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I love the character of Kuroneko – or should I say, Ruri Gokou. This episode only reinforces that esteem. It’s hilarious that once Kyousuke starts doting upon her, she starts almost the exact same act as Kirino, an attitude expressed in the opening theme that is full of contradictions. Even so, I still like her. And she likes Kyousuke, she just doesn’t want him to pity her.

For Kyou’s part, while part of him is lonely without his sister, he’s not really interested in Kuroneko as a surrogate little sister. He even admits this to her, while she’s in his bed, no less! (though obviously, the reason she’s there is perfectly innocent.) He’s stoked from the get-go that she’s attending his school, and that their relationship needn’t be defined solely by Kirino. Tamura, his betrothed, is surprisingly unthreatened by her arrival, even electing to call her by her nickname (it’s pretty funny how long Kyousuke’s known this girl without knowing her name).

And while much of this episode is spent enriching the friendship Kyousuke and Kuroneko as she adjusts to the new school, we’re introduced to another otaku, who while initially quite proper and prudish, turns out to be the homo-game-loving little sister of one of his best mates (in addition to the game programming club president being a long-tenured student and the one who lent him his bike…nice tied loose ends!).

It’s pretty funny to watch Kyousuke and Kuroneko poke and prod until her inner otaku is drawn out for all to see. They even regret doing so to a degree, as they get more than they had initially bargained for. This girl, Akagi, also bends the fourth wall a bit by mentioning there are a lot of anime out there…like the one she’s in. Rating: 4