Fruits Basket – 12 – Someone Scary This Way Comes

This episode starts out so harmlessly…and silly. It’s a new term, Tooru, Yuki, Kyou, and the others are all second years, and the new first year girls are extremely aggressive in making their existence known to Yuki. Tooru is targeted as an “easy mark” by first year boys, and Kyou scares them off with a move that hilariously befuddles her. New first years Momiji and Haruhatsu brazenly flout the dress code: Momiji by wearing half of a girls’ uni; Haru with jewelry and white-over-black hair.

They are immediately singled out by StuCo President Takei Makoto, who seems like a character from another show, even if FB is not above slapstick. This bespectacled dingus has a thing for Yuki, and his two nearly identical female lieutenants are soon won over by Momiji’s cuteness, while Haruhatsu proves he didn’t illegally die his hair by showing him his pubes in the men’s room.

Unfortunately for this half the episode Tooru is just kind of off in the background as all these Soumas bicker and test authority. I’m well aware Tooru was not always the focus of the source material and in some cases was totally absent as the cast expanded, but the broad goofy comedy on display here doesn’t really make a strong case for keeping her out of the anime spotlight.

Tooru does not play a small role in the second half, when she’s confronted by none other than Souma family head, Akito (voiced by Sakamoto Maaya in her best honey-poison imperiousness). Tooru is caught totally off guard by the sudden and very casual encounter, and Akito never says a single thing I am inclined to either take at face value or believe.

The one person Yuki doesn’t want near Akito less than himself is Tooru, so he comes to her rescue, only to be utterly neutralized by Akito, who after all threw him in a dark room and psychologically tortured him for years until Shigure finally put a stop to it by letting Yuki live with him.

So it’s up to Space Cadet Tooru to rescue Yuki-hime, demonstrating quicker thinking than would usually be expected of her in explaining an action that could’ve cost someone else their life (shoving Akito away from Yuki). In the moment, she knew Yuki was in pain, and she did what she had to do to stop it.

In his report to Hatori about the car ride home, Shigure says Akito would later call Tooru “ugly” and not a threat to him, assured that one day Yuki would come crawling back, citing his fear of him as proof. But Akito seems like the kind of person whose threat assessments vary from day to day, or mood to mood. In any case, Tooru is far from safe, nor is Yuki.

Still, Tooru tries to refocus a clearly traumatized Yuki by joining a big ol’ badminton game with the gang. She doesn’t want to waste, or let others waste, the precious time they have, and she has no illusions about that time being infinite, or even indefinite. Something cold could come out of the shadows and freeze these poor warm people and warm life in which they’ve never been happier. But not today. Today, for a little while, they’ll forget their fears and have fun volleying a shuttle around.

Sanzoku no Musume Ronja – 06

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Sanzoku no Musume Ronja’s sixth episode is all about the meaninglessness of conflict but its inescapability. This is an interesting premise to run for an episode, and doubly so for a young children’s show.

I’m honestly not sure what my three year old made of it? Unlike previous episodes, I didn’t read him the subtitles, which left his understanding of the events entirely up to his own interpretation.

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That meaninglessness of conflict is in almost every scene. The bandits and the robbers have a face off at hell’s gap, which results in nothing. How could it? Bolka doesn’t want Mattis’ side of the castle and Mattis cant well jump his mean across the game through Bolka’s men’s spears, can he?

The father’s have a stare down, and restate their dislike of each other, even though we also see them get along as children via a flashback. It seems that Mattis’ dad and Bolka’s father didn’t like each other either and went out of their way to separate the boys at the beginning. Probably because their dad’s did the same thing…

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Later, while Ronja is running through the woods to get away from the conflict of the castle, Birk invades her private time from his perch up in a tree. Ronja is mad, understandably, but even more so because she can’t get away from the fight.

And what’s the purpose of the fight anyway? Birk gains nothing by bothering her and it’s not like the forest isn’t big enough for both of them. (and probably a thousand children more) But they are both there, they are from both from families in conflict and they have no one else to engage with.

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As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t read the subtitles to my child this episode. I didn’t do this intentionally, rather I was called away by work and only returned towards the end of the episode. (I rewatched it later, of course)

I found it interesting that he sat through the entire episode anyway, which is more than can be said for other children’s shows I turn on in French, German or Italian. He really is transfixed by Ronja and, to some degree, must enjoy imagining what they are saying as much as being told about it.

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Sanzoku no Musume Ronja – 05

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I’ve put off reviewing Sanzoku no Musume Ronja’s for a few episodes now. Difficulty in ‘scheduling’ a review time with my toddler aside, this show provides very few opportunities to write more than a summary or note that children really like it.

That isn’t an excuse for me to drop it. On the contrary, I enjoy watching this show. I just don’t have much to say about it.

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To summarize week 5: Ronja meets Birk, the son of the other bandit lord of the forest. Birk was born the same night as Ronja and,like Ronja, has come to emulate his father’s slightly smug, superior attitude. Like their father’s before them, these two immediately dislike each other.

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So, obviously, they have a leaping contest across hell’s gap and, eventually, Birk falls in. As this is a kid’s show, he doesn’t fall to his death but, instead, is saved by luck and Ronja’s rope.

This scene was especially concerning for my three year old, who was enthralled with the leaping back and forth and totally shocked when Birk fell out of view. There was real panic in his eyes and fear to mirror Ronja’s as she tried to pull Birk back up.

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No doubt the following scenes where Mattis shouts at Ronja for ‘making up a story’ touched my child too. We aren’t in a ‘lie to daddy’ phase yet, but he knows being yelled at for doing dangerous things and I’m confident he could project his feelings and assumptions onto Ronja.

By episode’s end, the second bandit tribe is known to have invaded the northern half of the castle and Ronja’s dad is going to have to deal with that. Easier said than done! That’s 10 foot gap’s defensive advantage cuts both ways!

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As always, Ronja’s strength is it’s central characters. Mom. Dad. Little Girl and now a human friend slash enemy. It’s charming to see Ronja’s expressions and body language ape Mattis’ and I’m starting to accept this would have been much more difficult to achieve without CGI.

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Sanzoku no Musume Ronja – 04

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For my 100th review on Rabujoi, I sat down with my son and watched Sanzoku no Musume Ronja’s fourth episode.  Frankly, it leaves me a bit muddled, reviewer wise. In some ways, this week was even prettier than the previous 3. It’s fall colors are just wonderfully vibrant and little details like dead leaves floating in the lake sell it flawlessly.

The plot moves along too but, for some reason, we get two flashbacks as well and those feel entirely unnecessary. Believable? Maybe? I can understand adults would tell a child the same stories over and over again but it felt arbitrary. Like the episode needed to frame the ending scene as a cliff hanger instead of resolving it.

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Ronja is now more familiar with her surroundings and comfortable doing all sorts of adventure — including a rock climb up her castle’s mountain base.

As with previous outings, Ronja’s sense of wonder and happiness is contagious. My toddler son was absolutely glued to the laptop screen, giving me updates on what Ronja was doing and what she was feeling.

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Another interesting detail is how we see Ronja’s expressions emulating her father’s expressions. She yells at the harpies and squints defiantly just like him. It’s reasonably subtle but you get the sense that she’s daddy’s little girl, with very little of her mother’s common sense and community anchoring.

That isn’t to say Ronja doesn’t love her mother. There’s a lovely bed time song scene that, unfortunately, had dreadful lyrics that don’t culturally translate when you’re reading them to your own child. Still, it’s a lovely scene.

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Then Ronja explores the castle’s guts and, eventually, encounters a boy. We’ve known this was coming since he’s shown in the ending credits, and we can assume he’s the other tribal chief’s son, but it will be interesting to see how these two get on.

Honestly, I’d assumed Ronja would meet him on her own terms BUT on his turf in the forrest. Nice contextual touch that ‘the forrest has gotten too dangerous in early fall due to the harpies (mating season?). Regardless, we can expect a battle of the ‘who’s better at making terrible decisions and jumping across a gorge’ next week.

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As always, Ronja is lovely but you have to go into it knowing that you are watching a children’s story. It’s well produced and watchable by adults (more so than all children’s swill-shows I can think of, actually) but it is for them and not for us.

If you’ve got a little one, and are willing to let them watch age appropriate anime, this is worth a little sit down. It has none of the normal moralistic shove-a-message-down-your-throat of american/british children’s TV and that’s a good thing.

If you don’t have kids and want… well I don’t know what you would want from a meandering children’s tale about growing up and adventure with low stakes? It should be pretty obvious if this one isn’t for you.

Still, even though it’s not for me, Ronja is clearly a great show.

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Sanzoku no Musume Ronja – 03

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Sanzoku no Musume Ronja’s third episode improves upon its opening by focusing on Ronja and giving us a little excitement and just a little life-or-death tension. I wouldn’t call it gripping or high art, but Ronja’s day in the woods is satisfying and a little unusual for child-centric programming.

However, this week’s biggest difference was on my end: I watched it with my 3-year old-son.

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My son’s only question this week? “Where’d this squirrel go?”

My son is a big Studio Ghibli fan and regularly asks for Kiki or Totoro or Spirited Away before nap time. However, he experiences those movies dubbed in English, which made my reading Ronja’s subtitles novel and a bit more like watching an animated book than a cartoon.

No surprise, he was totally transfixed. Ronja’s emotions over-wrote his emotions. For the 15 minutes she was happily running through the woods, he was happy and laughing and for when she was scared by the Gray Dwarves, he was scared too.

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Like the harpies, the gray dwarves are hella creepy!

I must say Ronja is very effective for a young audience. In this episode at least, Ronja had enough action to keep my mind from going numb too. Still, almost half of its run time featured a girl running around laughing at the wonder of the world, without plot or greater purpose than that.

So is Ronja something for an adult to watch alone? No, not really. Ronja lacks that lovely spark at the soul of Ghibli’s other films. Ronja has none of their depth of world nor scenario. it’s just a child’s tale, thankfully missing the obnoxiously educational format of most western children’s programming.

But it is a children’s story first and only.

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Sket Dance 15

With this, Sket Dance has proven it has lost none of the novel, potent absurdity of the best episodes of the first half. Bossun, Himeko and Switch are firing on all cylinders (though Switch has a reduced role this week) attempting to help an extremely frightening-looking wood shop teacher find a wife, then attempting to decode a Visual Kei dude’s cryptic speech.

The first part does a nice job of pulling the rug out from under us in the end. A potential wife arrives who doesn’t care about J-son’s looks, and everything seems to be going swimmingly. But just as the Sket-dan is dusting off thei hands, J-son blows it, and the woman runs out screaming and drives away with screaching tires. Hmm…Sket-dan can’t solve everything.

Perhaps more hilarious were Bossun and Himeko’s interaction with Date (or whatever his real name is), a purple-haired kid who grinds the show to a halt everytime he responds to a question by pausing in a super-dramatic imagined scene. It doesn’t help that everything he says is baffling, and results in Hime putting him in a different wrestling hold each time. Date’s friend translates at the end, and suddenly it all makes sense…sort of. Rating: 3