Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 03

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By formally introducing the main character of the Haruhi franchise in just the third episode of a spin-off starring a meek bookworm, Nagato Yuki-kun seems to be issuing a challenge—to itself—can Yuki hold her ground when a charm factory like Hirano Aya’s Haruhi crashes her show, or will she disappear, as the title suggests?

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I would imagine most of the audience turned off by all the show’s changes have already checked out (unless they’re hate-watching). Now it’s up to the show to deliver for the cautiously optimistic viewers who stuck around to see where they’re going with this.

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In terms of Yuki being replaced as the protagonist, that isn’t going to happen, nor would I want it to: Haruhi is a supporting character who just happens to steal every scene she’s in with her charisma, and instant chemistry with Kyon. Their half-hostile, half-flirtatious sparring on display here is nothing new for veterans of the franchise. And listening to two true pros at work in Hirano and Sugita is always a pleasure in and of itself.

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As it has every episode thus far, the show doesn’t forget to give Yuki and Kyon a romantic moment or two to keep their romantic potential active. Here, Yuki gives Kyon an extra-formal thank you for helping her this year, and then prays at the shrine for the courage to tell him her feelings—her real feelings, not the word salad she dropped on Haruhi and Kyon in that cafe.

That being said, I loved how her melon soda refilled when she realized she could call Kyon a friend without anyone thinking it’s weird.

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The new year brings with it more Haruhi, and when she infiltrates North High with her transfer student pet Koizumi Itsuki (who doesn’t appear to be an esper) and moves right in, getting Yuki to agree to make them members and make her Executive President. In an odd moment, it seems like Haruhi heard Kyon’s inner monologue. Was that just an easter egg, or a sign things could get more supernatural?

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That’s going to be another big question: assuming Nagato will still have the greater share of screen time as the official protagonist, how much will the people Haruhi has amassed change? Does she have the same godlike power to make her delusions reality she possessed in the original series? Did the show start out like a conventional, non-supernatural rom-com as a feint?

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I’m skeptical of that. I see this Haruhi as no more a god here than Yuki is an alien or Asahina a future-girl. I’m not saying there’s no way they’ll become those things under extended exposure to Haruhi, but I doubt it. The challenge remains, the lit club is now much louder and livelier (the whole cast does a great job creating the aural chaos of such a club), and Yuki must become louder and more aggressive in order not to be left in the dust.

The good news is, Nagato doesn’t need to grow her hair long enough to put it in a ponytail…though if she really wants to, Kyon won’t stop her.

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Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 02

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Despite the rather disquieting presence of the word “disappearance” (or “vanishing”) in the title, and barring any crazy plot twists, this second episode all but cemented Nagato Yuki-chan’s place as my Official Feel-Good Anime of the season, a position that Koufuku Graffiti occupied this past Winter. Both shows are warm, sweet, and pleasant, if a little lightweight compared to the original series it’s based upon.

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Kyon’s a lucky guy…but we knew this

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Like Ryou in Graffiti, Yuki starts out lonely and depressed, as we see in the flashbacks that break up the Christmas party preparations, which are proceeding apace. Not too long ago, the school threatened to shut the lit club down if Yuki didn’t find more members.

Asakura promises to support her as a friend should, but first Yuki needs to crawl out from under that kotatsu and take action to save the club. In other words, she has to take the lead in taking a stand…and Asakura will follow. She won’t fight her battles for her, but beside her.

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While Yuki is out one night rustling up some grub, a strange girl with yellow ribbons in her long brown hair beckons to Yuki, asking for assistance writing a large rehearsal message for Santa in the park, hoping to “nab” him and “string him up”. This girl’s goal may be unusual and somewhat absurd, but there’s no denying her commitment and dedication to making it happen, going so far as asking a stranger for help…a stranger who forgot her glasses, no less!

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The bizarre encounter inspires Yuki, who is pounding the school pavement the next day, trying to convince strangers to join her club after formally asking Asakura, who gladly joins. She gets turned down by everyone except Kyon. Why does Kyon agree to join? I dunno…maybe he didn’t have anything else going on. Maybe he just thinks Yuki is cute…which she is, especially when working hard for a cause she believes in.

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…And the rest is history…or should I say histurkey? 

I’ll show myself out.

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The party goes off without a hitch. As was the case with Saekano’s Megumi Kato, Yuki is in danger of being edged out by louder (Tsuruya) bolder (Asakura) and bustier (Asahina) personalities, but ends up in the right place at the right time in the end. While she didn’t out-and-out plan to meet Kyon outside (she only wanted to see how the clubroom looked), she realizes it’s the perfect opportunity to confess to Kyon, especially when it starts to yuki. Alas, a Asakura accidentally sabotages the moment, something for which she’s legitimately sorry.

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BAAAAAAAW

 

Fortunately, that isn’t that, as Kyon mistakes a flustered Yuki for a cold one and places his coat on her. This makes him cold, so Yuki switches from words to actions, offering to share the coat with Kyon. The snuggle session that ensues is the totes adorbs highlight of the episode, and another sign that one day at a time, Yuki is drawing closer to world domination living a happy, confident life, achieving what she wants to rather than just worrying about it.

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Which brings us to post-credits. While on their way to the after-party clean-up the next day, Yuki realizes she never got to take that wierdo up on her offer to visit the park to see Santa. That’s when the girl leaps out of the bushes and collapses in the snow. The appearance of Migi Suzumiya Haruhi presents a fresh challenge to Yuki, as she’ll have to work that much harder to defend her position as the protagonist of this show.

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Sabagebu! – 08

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Maya convinces Momoka to model for an amateur photo shoot. Unfortunately, Momoka runs into Fried Chicken Lemon, the light-gun champion she defeated a few weeks back, is in attendance. Worse, the Camera Men of Death show up and go all-out against Momoka to snap her panty shot.

Momoka wins at every turn, thanks to some help from FCL, but is ultimately undone by her own kindness. (end act 1)

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Maya shrugs off Momoka’s post panty-shot photo session fury with the words “there’s no such thing as a bad fan.” Little does Maya know how wrong she is about to be proved at their snowy-mountain top show down with the Immaculate and Pure Womans University Survival Game Circle.

Arriving in santa-costumes (Kaya!) complete with skimpy skirts and reindeer antlers, the girls find themselves out classed by the IaPWUSC. Even Momoka is gun downed quickly.

However, Serious fighting is not on LaPWUSC’s agenda and they proceed to chase Maya and gun off all of her clothing. By the end, she’s naked, in a barrel, floating down a river with the girl’s rabidly swimming after her, eating her own words. (episode end)

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Sabagebu! Eight brings us more than its share of fan service, but it does so in such a mocking, annoyed way that I just ate it up. Just think about it! What other show has the gal to pull out a ‘skin’ episode built around fandom being full of pervs and, regardless of their sympathetic reasons for falling into perv.dom, that they are jerks and pervs and hurting people?

I also appreciated the return of Friend Chicken Lemon. Not as a character per-see (he’s not much of a character, really) but I enjoyed that Sabagebu! has a world—a persistent world—to draw actors from and won’t just toss us a new disposable character every episode.

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“They have so much money to waste” – Momoka after the Camera Men of Death return with more cameras.

The first act really drives home how wasteful everyone is in all their endeavors. From the CMoD’s unending supply of expensive equipment just to score a meaningless panty shot on a girl they don’t know, to Momoka herself, he blasts an uncountable number of hairbands at them to protect herself from being photographed by some meaningless pervs. Again, everything was delivered with Sabagebu’s signature liveliness and humor but it was still social commentary.

Color me impressed!

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In many ways, this week’s second act was also poignant: be mindful of what other’s have experienced, lest you experience it yourself.

That said, this is a smaller message and much more of the arc was devoted to simple abuse of Maya, skimpy clothes and over-the-top things going wrong and, for that, it stood out as the funnier of the two segments!

The Survival Club’s ‘transformation sequence’ in particular was excellent this week, due to the addition of santa-garb. While I do not condone Santa and guns during the X-mas holidays, it sure does make for a humorous juxtaposition.

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Another week and another bubbly half hour of fun from Sabagebu! This show continues to surprise me with its depth and flexibility—and even more so that it doesn’t lose sight of why we are watching in the first place along the way.

Above all, Sabagebu is a funny show and it’s fun to watch. Many many thumbs up!

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