Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 09

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Who makes a better Shepherd: the one who would guide their sheep along a life path that makes the most of their latent talent, or along the path that would net the sheep the most happiness? The question begs asking, because in the case of the “Song Princess” Misono Senri, those two paths are divergent.

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Simply put, as good as she was, or is, or could be at singing, it just doesn’t make Senri happy anymore, which has led her to neglect her practicing. It hasn’t made her happy ever since she learned her best friend Serizawa would quit if Senri beat her. Senri took a dive, yet still won, and lost Serizawa anyway. Her talent hurt someone dear to her, and caused them to drift apart.

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So why keep singing, when it only gives her pain and reminds her of what she’s lost? If she does keep singing, who’s to say she won’t lose more friends to her talent? Nagi, as Shepherd-in-Training, takes the road of maximum talent cultivation at any cost: Senri must get back on track, or she’s doomed to become ‘just an ordinary student’.

Kyoutarou inserts himself in Nagi’s mission and ends up taking it over completely, taking the other road: the road of happiness. He does this not to one-up Nagi, but because he wants to help his friend. His answer is, if singing is painful, Stop. Enjoy life. Have fun with friends. Don’t worry about the labels others give you. Make your own mark. Do what you want, not what’s expected of you. He even suggests the same of Nagi herself.

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Meanwhile, what do we have here? Oh, just Vice Predient Tokigawa obsessively photographing President Mochizuki and photoshopping her face on Kyoutarou’s body for pleasure. She also seems to be in contact with ‘a’ Shepherd, though which one who can say. I can’t say there’s enough here to work with, so I’ll just move on. :)

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Back to Senri, who takes to Kyou’s advice like a fish to water. Who hasn’t reveled in waking up only to realize you can go back to bed? Such Luxury! Or helping her fellow library club members plan their upcoming festival event. Or goofing off with Kana, who assures her no one in the club will hate her for doing what she feels she needs to do to be happy, even if that’s quitting singing forever.

Tamamo initially takes a sterner position, saying she can’t abide people who waste their talents, but later confides to Kyoutarou (in a scene where she’s very physically close to him) that it was her jealousy speaking; she herself wanted to be an artist, but her family forbade it in favor of a path that would lead to more success, if not more happiness. So she doesn’t really begrudge so much as envy Senri’s situation.

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As the episode progresses, one cannot argue that Kyoutarou’s way has resulted in a much bubblier, happier Senri, who literally makes her mark on him by stamping his hand with a smiley face. When Serizawa confronts him about rumors the Song Princess has quit, Kyoutarou refers to the canary who lost its song.

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Then Nagi confronts Kyoutarou, warning him that he could be condemning that canary to a life of mediocrity. Kyoutarou, who is content to give Senri time to ‘find her song anew’, as it were, wonders why Nagi is in such a damn hurry to ‘fix’ Senri…

That’s when the environs darken and the Shepherd recruiter appears, telling Kyoutarou he’s passed the second exam and can become a Shepherd anytime he wants. They transport to the Grand Library, where the recruiter presents Kyou with Nagi’s book.

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Nagi, as we know, is in a hurry to cast away her past in order to become a Shepherd, but as Kyoutarou learns once he opens that book, that is prohibitively difficult as long as her past is right in front of her: Kyou was her “big brother,” which I assume is a term of endearment, rather than an indication they’re actually related.

This is not so much a huge shock for us considering Nagi’s behavior these past eight episodes, but it definitely puts her in a new light for Kyoutarou, who has the power, if he desires to use it, to ensure she lives a normal life, even if that’s not what she wants.

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Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 05

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DnH is doing a good job balancing all the simultaneous relationships Kyoutarou is cultivating with the various girls in his life. Last week he got a little bit of time with Kana, then made Tsugumi’s year by agreeing to stick with the Happy Project. He spends the first third of this episode with Tamamo, who he noticed is working extra hard for the very, popular and successful club. I wonder if Sayumi realized just how big a favor dressing the club up in cosplay was going to be.

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Anyway, it’s a cute little segment, which like the others, has a way of making one feel like Tamamo is the only girl he’s having these kinds of segments with, even though as I said, all these dealings with these girls is happening concurrently. Not that he’s being a man-whore or anything; it’s the girls, after all, that seem to be interpreting his kindness as a sign he’s interested in romance. And hey, he catches Tamamo clean: no boob or crotch grabs!

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Another girl whose gotten a fair share of Kyoutarou’s personal attention of late is Nagi, who is a suspicious as ever standing in the shadows observing Kyoutarou. We then find out that observing Kyoutarou with the aim of assessing his fitness to be a (The?) Shepherd is her job, handed down by a mysterious suited fellow.

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The buxom Nagi is simultaneously jealous of all the attention her boss is giving Kyoutarou and resentful that he’s seen as having more potential. She’s taken her duty to the extreme by moving next door to him and coming to his house all the time. Things get closer than ever before, and Kyoutarou even whips out the pre-cog power we’ve not seen since he saved Tsugumi to try to see Nagi’s future. Disturbingly, he finds nothing there but a white void and an invisible wall.

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It vexes him, and when he confronts Nagi at school, a chase ensues. Kana and Senri hear him yell something about “last night”, and the rumor mill springs into action. Poor Ikkei and Gizaemon can only sit in the corner, unable to contribute to what is essentially the girls wondering what the heck Kyoutarou is up to. But Kyoutarou has problems that circumvent whatever awkwardness may be brewing in the club room.

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Something’s just not quite right about Nagi, and he finally pays her a visit in her apartment — her dark, empty apartment where she clearly doesn’t really live. She’s got her: she’s the Shepherd who’s been emailing him (though that doesn’t mean she’s The Shepherd; clever wording on her part). And there’s that same Man in Black waiting for him, saying he’s cleared preliminary examination and inviting him to come to the “Magic Library” he’s seen flashes of in his premonitions. Nurturing romances while propelling the mystery forward: this episode was firing on all cylinders.

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Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 04

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Books had always been Kakei Kyoutarou’s Truth; he couldn’t hope to ever encounter anyone as pure, elemental and honest as black words on white paper. So he found companionship in books. He Befriended books. Dated books. Other people were merely obstacles that got in the way of his reading. He saw from a young age how hypocritical and false they often were. Better to get lost in books, which wouldn’t put on airs, betray or hurt him.

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Kyoutarou is kind of a messed-up individual. Sure, all kinds of people loath their birthday, but to have a sepia dream about hospital staff (or something) pretending to have a fun birthday party for him when he knew they’d rather be someplace else? Frankly, treating all people as if they were like that is as silly and wrong-headed as Senri thinking Tsugumi had ulterior motives for nursing her to health.

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Obviously, Kyoutarou’s time in the Library Club has switched on entirely new lights in his world, ones that have nothing to do with books. When he flags down Senri and gets her to believe Tsugumi’s intentions were good, and Senri asks him what good good intentions are, it’s a reflective moment for him. Seeing Senri run from the club mirrored the turmoil in his head regarding whether to stick with it past Golden Week, along with his past distrust of anyone and everyone’s kindness.

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We say “past”, and used the past tense above, because while Kyoutarou still clings to his old reslusive bookworm persona, the reality is he is transforming into something else altogether; something far more sociable. And it’s understandably strange, frightening, and even a little fanciful feeling (the cosplay and the high level of attractiveness of his clubmates also contribute to the “too good to be true” vibe, or rather the “I’ve never felt like this before, so it must not be for me” vibe.

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Sure, it’s a bit bizarre and potentially problematic that every girl in the club seems to have varying levels of feelings for Kyoutarou, as exhibited in how they react to learning Nagi’s his neighbor and has been in his room. The bathhouse segment also seemed to be little more than an opportunity for the girls to be nude, compare boob sizes, but to their credit, the guys stay on their side and don’t try to sneak a peak. Saints! 

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But really, that’s all pretty painless and is over relatively quickly, and the episode moves on to Kyoutarou’s choice: whether to stay with Tsugumi, the others, and the Happy Project, or go back to being alone with his books. Neither choice could necessarily be called wrong, but the latter is certainly safer and more mundane. He’d be returning to a path already well-worn…by himself.

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In the end, even after all the fun and new experiences he’s had, Kyoutarou heads to the library club prepared to take that safer path anyway. “It’s been enough,” he thinks to himself, totally unprepared for a surprise birthday party, suggested and organized by everyone. In he presence of such unbridled joy, Kyoutarou’s heart stirs. It’s a feeling that’s inscrutable now, but like a good book, he wants to dive into it and continue to discover all he can about it, so he decides to stick with the club after all.

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Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 03

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“You don’t have to try so hard.” Nice understated flirting here.

Ah, this episode really tickled my funny bone, alone with my “charm bone”, further solidifying its rightful spot on my Fall watchlist. It’s got comedy, but it’s also got lots of great inter-character chemistry, a carefully-building love polygon, and an overarching mystery…and a lot of heart, to boot.

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Take the several scenes where the whole club is together. Even if they’re not super-crucial to the plot, watching everyone goofing around gives us more exposure to them during downtime, and they’re a ton of fun to watch.

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Keep in mind that Kana joined last week, but it already feels like she was always a part of the gang. When she reacts to the adorable animals Tsugumi sewed on their cushions by teaming up with Ikkei to get Tamamo to tell them what The Fox Says, it’s a very surprising but welcome pop culture reference…at least I think it was!

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Relaaax…she’s just measuring his waist for a costume.

This episode includes two non-members who deal with their status as outsiders in very different ways that fit their characters to a T, even though we’ve seen very little of either of them, they make perfect sense as their stories unfold.

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I guess an ambulance would be overkill in this instance…

Let’s start with Music Princess Misono Senri. The whole first half of the episode we cut to her being alone and miserable. When Tsugumi, Tamamo and Ikkei show her the text referring to her, Senri is confronted by a teacher at the same, scolding her for skipping optional lessons. Then it rains, she doesn’t have an umbrella, and she gets a fever. Tsugumi told her to email her if she needed help, and she does.

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The Library Club mobilizes and Tsugumi takes charge of nursing Senri back to health. Senri is bemused by her “unprovoked kindness” but is too weak to refuse it. By the time she’s in bed on the mend, she’s squeezing Tsugumi tight as if she were her mother. And when Kyoutarou sees that interaction, he catches another glimpse of exactly why he’s a part of “Happy Project.” Sometimes they’re just passing out flyers in costume, and sometimes they’re making a positive impact on the life of someone desperate for love and kindness.

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I love how Tsugumi keeps Kyoutarou appraised of the situation via email; and more to the point, Kyou seems to appreciate the updates. That night, he dreams of being led away by an adult with a suitcase, with someone out of sight saying “don’t go.” Is it a coincidence that he wakes up to the sound of his neighbor and fellow library lurker Kodachi Nagi spamming his doorbell? It is not.

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Something rare happens here: Kyoutarou steals a look…but doesn’t get caught!

Nagi’s tentative, apprehensive observation of Kyou throughout this episode (and past ones); her being disappointed that he doesn’t remember her; the way she casually makes herself at home in his room; his dream…all of it points to Kyou and Nagi having a past that only Nagi seems to remember, but she’ll be damned if she’s going to let Kyou keep forgetting. She just needs to find the right way to refresh his memories — or otherwise just make new ones. That won’t be easy with the bright, shiny Tsugumi around.

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She has it tougher than Senri, who connected with the club simply by receiving an email from the Shepherd saying “a new world is waiting for you after school”, three days before meeting the Library club, who also got a email from the shepherd, saying Senri would “teach them something important.” All very neat and tidy…but to what end? The perceived address of the Shepherd is a long-deserted apartment. Curiouser and curiouser. 

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Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 02

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The Shiomi Happy Project is shaping up nicely. While Ikkei is present as a token second guy (and the less bookish, more enthusiastic of the two), let’s not kid ourselves: a harem is in the making. At various points Kyoutarou has what could be construed as flirtatious moments with Tsugumi, the newest member Suzuki Kana, and the “Song Princess” Misono Senri.

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That last one seems to have some kind of Secret regarding The Past, one she and the school radio host Serizawa Miyu seem to share. As Tsugumi sets the club to work picking up trash on the school grounds to built trust with the student body, the finding of her tuning fork makes Senri the first direct recipient of the Happy Project’s assistance.

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That’s if you don’t count the blonde, Suzuki Kana, who joins the club quickly and seems to fit right in. She seems to be withholding certain information about her circumstances; it could be, for instance, that her old cell phone didn’t break, but she didn’t have one to begin with until Kyoutarou helped her pick one. That, in turn, would mean Kakei, Tsugumi, Tamamo and Ikkei were her first contacts. She just had a lonely vibe about her.

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Speaking of lonely, Kodachi Nagi is on the periphery of this episode, observing the growing club occupying what was once Kyoutarou’s Fortress of Solitude. While it’s pretty clear she’s at least partly responsible for bringing the various club members together (she means to get Senri to join too), when she’s interacting with them, it’s only to tell them to pipe down, which is clearly an act, because they wouldn’t be in there making noise if she hadn’t done…whatever she’s doing!

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One of the side effects of agreeing to participate in Tsugumi’s Happy Project is that he’s becoming a lot more tolerable of things that aren’t books, like people and non-reading activities. He even volunteers to accompany Tsugumi to Senri’s house at night, concerned for her safety. And after seeing her wait outside the door, he finally decides to give her the key to the clubroom, and leave to make copies for everyone.

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Tsugumi means to convince him to stay with her past Golden Week, and she’s off to a good start. Similarly, if Nagi, as a member of “Shepherd” is gauging Kyoutarou’s own shepherding abilities through experimentation, well, she’s off to a good start too…as is the show itself.

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There’s a pleasant, understated earnestness about it, along with a warm, amiable energy. Kyoutarou is aware that conditions around him are shifting rapidly, but not for the worse, and he’s willing to go with the flow and see where Tsugumi’s light takes him.

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