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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Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 01 (First Impressions)

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For many, this new Suzumiya Haruhi property has huge shoes to fill. It picks up in a place where the Disappearance film (one of the longest, but best, anime films ever made, IMO) briefly spent time, namely the alternate universe where Haruhi never assembled the SOS brigade and where Nagato Yuki wasn’t a stoic alien but a shy bookish human girl.

Therefore, technically a spin-off.  This Nagato Yuki doesn’t share much beyond her looks with the Nagato Yuki of the original series(s). This isn’t even a KyoAni production, but rather the work of Satelight. It’s also more of a conventional romantic comedy, nearly devoid of metaphysical, supernatural elements, and the focus will be not on what’s going on with this universe, but what’s going on inside Yuki’s human heart.

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As a moderate-core fan of the Haruhi franchise, I viewed this opening salvo of Yuki-chan not as a safe or cynical dilution of a storied brand, but as another demonstration by that brand’s creators that Haruhi herself and the supernatural trappings weren’t all that endeared us to the series. Placing its solid characters in a less magical setting, while leaving the former main heroine out, gives them a new place to shine, and shine they do!

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That being said, Yuki-chan still has moments of playfulness, with Asakura still exhibiting qualities that could be described, but perhaps she’s really only very athletic and multi-talented. Comparisons to Haruhi’s de facto KyoAni rom-com successor, Chu2Koi, are inevitable, and like that solid franchise, Yuki-chan doesn’t forget to show off now and again, whether it’s a bold punctuating gesture or more subtle, intricate details in the presentation.

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One other advantage Yuki-chan has out of the gate is its built-in lived-in world. Sure, it’s not the exact world we know and love, and in fact, it was specifically portrayed as the wrong world in the film, but the same gang is on hand (save Haruhi) and the same locales as well, with all the differences you’d expect considering the changes to the universe. Asakura is a mom-like protector/mentor figure for Yuki, rather than her hard-headed back-up and rival.

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And in a world without Haruhi, Yuki is free to explore her feelings for Kyon and the best way to express them…and vice-versa. Kyon can sometimes miss the point of things like keeping the lit club going, or the significance of having a Christmas party in said clubroom, but his value to bringing Yuki out of her shell can’t be overstated.

Overall, Kyon comes of as his usual kind, perceptive self, always willingly to call out the quirkiness of his peers (mostly in his head), but also devoted to Yuki and willing to go at her pace, which much like Rikka and Yuuta, isn’t that different from his pace. In this way, after mishaps like Kyon seeing Yuki’s belly, things can be patched up between the two while waiting for the dryer.

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With it firmly established the Lit Club consists only of Yuki, Kyon, and Asakura, the introduction of Asahina and Tsuruya is a little…clunky. The conceit that Tsuruya has the Christmas turkey Yuki is hell-bent on serving for the party, and that she must duel Asahina in various random challenges for said turkey, is a bit random.

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The randomness continues when Asakura and Tsuruya hijack the duel and the episode with an increasingly elaborate, over-the-top antics, which end in stalemate and the two becoming friends. Then again, the fact they shoved Yuki out of the frame so easily speaks to work that lies ahead for Yuki to more strongly assert herself in the show that bears her name, both for Kyon, and for the audience.

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I’m guessing some among that audience are understandably dubious, but I’m not among them. Unless there’s going to be some twist in which this universe suddenly changes, or everyone’s superpowers manifest, it’s probably appropriate to proclaim “Nagato Yuki is dead; Long Live Nagato Yuki-chan.” I’ve definitely room this Spring for a pleasant conventional shy girl rom-com with KyoAni (er, Satelight) flair. Your mileage may vary.

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Stray Obervations:

  • nagatoicI liked that little Iron Chef moment, where Kyon chose to bite the pepper not like the Chairman, but like…Kyon.
  • Let’s just sit back and admire the fact that Asakura managed to get through this entire episode without stabbing Kyon! She deserves a mincemeat croquette.
  • There’s also something very amusing about the way Asakura snatches up Yuki as if she were a ragdoll.
  • I also liked the fact that Yuki wanted snow in the classroom for the party, but Kyon insists she settle for the fact that her name means snow. A technicality, but a good one!
  • She also seems to have a very nuptual aesthetic in mind, what with the five-layer cake and white dress. Perhaps Kyon should just give in and get her a ring for Christmas?

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 1 – First Impressions

Literally “a cross in a maze abroad”, this is a very calm and deliberate slice-of-life that takes place in 19th-century Paris. In other words, it’s probably nothing like anything else this season. There isn’t a hint of magic, fantasy, the supernatural, nor any enemies lurking in the shadows. This is about a meeting of two people who are very different on the surface, but once they understand one another, become fast friends.

It’s a very enjoyable introduction, as the setting is a gorgeous Parisian gallery, and the very apologetic, submissive, yet curious girl, Yune, is a very colorful fish out of water. Fortunately, it’s at a time when all things Japanese are gaining in popularity – different isn’t feared so much as admired for the novelty of its different-ness. Claude, form a long line of metalworkers, is a rather inflexible artist who’s keeping his father’s store going, even as the tide of progress (and electric signs) draws near.

There are a few issues: while I realize Japanese people are smaller than the French on average, especially back then, Yune still seems a bit incredibly undersized for a bilingual young woman apparently old enough to travel all the way to France with a much older man (Claude’s kindly grandfather, Oscar). When a customer muses that she looks like a doll, I’m right with him: she looks a little to much like a doll. While kind of a glaring demerit, it’s no’t a dealbreaker. Rating: 3.5