Tsuki ga Kirei – 03

I said last week that Akane and Kotarou aren’t in a hurry, but I guess I have to take that back now. Between all the pairing off going on in the run-up to the class trip, and the fact that at some point everyone will be heading off to various high schools, the two can’t sit on their hands forever. That being said, neither has any experience with courtship, so much of their nascent relationship is sustained through the messenger app LINE, as they remain painfully unable to talk to one another in school.

They also have a lot going on, what with Kotarou’s literature club and local festival activities and Akane’s track meet. This eats up the time they could be spending hanging out. Akane’s track buddy Nishio (who tended Kotarou’s wounds) considers him a friend now, and she’s serious about surpassing Akane, at least in track. Akane, meanwhile gets perilously close to being asked out by Hira; it’s only a random exclamation from a nearby party that makes him think better of it.

Kotarou can’t attend Akane’s meet due to his drumming practice, and the show really excels both at capturing the tension involved in waiting for someone you like to text you, and showing just how torturous it can be to have to carry on with your plans that don’t include that person.

Fortunately, fate smiles upon the couple, or rather, volition does. Kotarou isn’t in a hurry to leave the shrine, while Akane, whose phone died, decides to check out said shrine on the off-chance Kotarou is still there. He is, and they have a lovely, if at times understandably awkward, encounter under the beautiful moon.

And feeling both the pressure of time and the auspiciousness of another meeting with the lovely, warm, kind Akane, Kotarou manages to finally ask her out—not with Line, but with words. Not with chance, but with choice. Naturally, we don’t hear her reply, but their once tentative dynamic has already entered a new phase.

Tsuki ga Kirei – 02

This week’s episode is dominated by an interminable sports festival, during which the students, split into four groups of different colors, compete in various physical activities.

But those activities, and the final scores of the teams, don’t end up meaning much. Instead, due to circumstances that occurred during the festival, Kotarou and Akane were able to grow just a little bit closer together.

Much to Kotarou’s surprise, he couldn’t help but be influenced by her to do what he likes and not worry about being embarrassed. Akane doesn’t like being in front of big crowds, but she loves to run, so she runs. Kotarou likes to write, so he might as well show off his work.

Maybe he’ll be teased or mocked by some, but he’s just as likely to be celebrated and cheered on by others. And his dad insinuates that your youth is the time to do what you like—since you may not be able to when that youth is gone!

As for Kotarou and Akane, they play a quiet game of cat and mouse, with Akane often interacting with a potential rival for Kotarou in Hira, another track club member. But it sure seems like he has to be told to go talk to Akane, while Kotarou tracks down Akane and returns her lost, beloved stress “imo” to her, then tells her he thinks she’s fine the way she is, and shouldn’t get embarrassed by running (very well-timed remarks, considering she overheard girls in the bathroom making fun of her).

That night the two fumble with their phones for the right words and stickers to send to one another via LINE, and have a pleasant little virtual chat; one that would have seemed inconceivable just last week. They’re both growing more comfortable with each other little by little. And unlike most of the events in the festival, it’s not a race!

Orange – 10

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Kakeru continues to look and act forlorn, and even Naho in a cheerleader outfit doesn’t change that. What ultimately does is a team effort by Naho, Suwa, Hagita, Azu and Tako, which is not only used to help Kakeru carry a futon (kind of a bizarre errand in the middle of a sports festival, if you ask me).

The metaphor is not subtle, but effective: his burdens will be lighter because they’ll help bear them. Kakeru feels safe enough to reveal the cause of his less-than-stellar mood: he’s unsure if he should be laughing and having fun when his mom could be watching.

Well duh, any mom would want their kid to be happy, and to not let himself be happy would only worry her, jsut as it worries Naho and the others.

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It becomes clear to all that there’s no way they’ll be able to dissuade Kakeru from participating in the relay, so they have to carry it out, doing everything they can on their end to make sure it’s a victory, and hoping fate doesn’t rain on their parade in the form of Kakeru worsening his injury, losing the relay to the blue team, and restart a spiral of regret and self-hatred.

Just before the relay, both Suwa and Kakeru are given extra motivation to win the whole thing: a kiss from Naho, which she neither agrees nor disagrees to (she’s too shocked by the prospect). As for Azusa and Hagita, yeah, this is starting to get old. Just date already. Right now. Do it.

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I never thought I’d get all excited about Emotionally Significant School Relay #937…but with some serious stakes in play, I daresay I was. A strong lead by Suwa starts to erode when Tako and Azu run, but Hagita manages to pass a few people.

After Naho’s leg, Kakeru summons heretofore unsummoned athletic ability and hits the finish tape first, no down cheered on by the telephone-style message constructed by his teammates, ending with the sentiments that they’ll all be together in ten years

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After the race, Kakeru’s grandma recalls a relay in the past that his mother attended not long after getting divorced, when Kekeru looked down-in-the-dumps…until he won, and flashed the same smile he flashed today. So all’s well that ends well; Naho & Co. change the future again, without any further speed bumps in the relay phase.

That only leaves the matter of Naho’s “promised kiss.” When coming in close to bandage his shoulder scrape, Kakeru ends up stealing a little kiss to her cheek before running off, no doubt over the moon. Naho reacts exactly the way you’d expect: stunned silence, followed shortly by a warm expression of acknowledgment in said kiss’s power.

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Orange – 09

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Now that it’s confirmed everyone in Naho’s circle has letters from their future selves guiding them support Naho and Kakeru, we see the first instance of someone other than Naho and Suwa reading their letter and acting on it. In this case, it’s Azusa, whose letters are a lot more fancy and flowery than Naho’s austere correspondence.

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The letter instructs her, during her birthday, to make sure everyone refuses to let Kakeru borrow their umbrella, so that he and Naho can share one and walk home together. It works like a charm, and just like that, Orange has arrived in episode 9 where Momokuri got in it’s second half-episode.

Naho even holds out her hand for him to take, insisting once isn’t enough. But the two still maintain they’re fine with things they way they are, rather than officially going out.

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That’s a not entirely honest position that is put to the test during the sports festival, when the group of friends are to participate in a relay. There are a number of events preceding that race, during which we get a look at everyone’s parents.

Suwa makes sure Kakeru’s grandma comes so he’s not too lonely…but he still feels lonely, because he’s not sure how long it will be before he has to move, before he “disappears.”

Suwa elects to rattle his cage, asking him if it’s really okay to not be going out with Naho, and if it’s really okay with him if he went out with Naho. Kakeru, gloomy and dejected, says that would be fine; not even a bad idea. He’s still speaking from a place of self-hatred and resignation to an uncertain, lonely life in the wake of his mother’s suicide.

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Things take a turn for the worse between Naho and Kakeru when the former dresses Suwa’s wound with the same care she bandaged Kakeru a ways back. The timing sucks, and when Naho offers to dress his wounds too, Kakeru recoils, even slapping her hand away. Immediately ashamed, he scurries off, and Naho wonders what she did wrong (nothing, really).

But Suwa is still optimistic that he’s put Kakeru on the right track to more forcefully and confidently stake a claim and pursue that which he wants – Naho. I’m…less optimistic. Even with the whole circle of friends working toward a single goal, it isn’t going to be easy to bring Kakeru and Naho closer together.

Not when they’re so cripplingly inept at courtship, and possess so little self-worth, thinking the other person too good for them. I don’t envy their friends: this isn’t going to be a smooth ride, and a future where Kakeru is with them is far from assured when he’s still speaking with dark permenance about the certainty of ‘disappearing’.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 16

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—”I wonder if I can like someone again.”
—”I’m sure you can.”
—”When?”
—”Eventually.”
—”I’m sick of this! I want to now! But I can’t right now!”

That exchange between a fiercely honest, freshly-heartbroken Saijou Mariya and a savvy, supportive, tissue-providing Suna, says it all: Falling for someone who’s already firmly in love with someone else SUCKS. But it’s also a near-universal feeling we all have at some point in our lives. Even “Nature Is My Master” Takeo felt that way, when he thought Rinko liked Suna and not him.

As such, it’s a near-ubiquitous theme in romance anime. But rarely have I seen it so beautifully—and efficiently!—handled than these last two episodes. Saijou’s arc went by breathlessly quickly, yet still allowed us to get lost in it, in her head, and in all those swirling emotions people in her situation tend to have.

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When she added “…as a person” to her confession to Takeo last week, I knew she actually liked him as a man, you knew she actually liked Takeo as a man, and after a couple periods of class, Suna knew she actually liked Takeo as a man. But Takeo? Forget it. In exchange for all his wonderful qualities, he’s an appallingly oblivious fellow, and that’s okay; I don’t need a perfect protagonist.

But more to the point, he simply trusts Saijou’s words as she spoke them, because he has no reason he knows of not to. He’s convinced he’s not popular with girls…and because neither Ai nor Saijou confessed their love, he has no reason to doubt that assessment of himself, either.

Similarly, Rinko trusts Saijou, and even decides to cultivate a kind of friendship with her, as they find it easy to talk to each other. Rinko is worried about other girls falling for Takeo, but not Saijou, because she said she likes him as a PERSON. That’s enough for Takeo, and it’s enough for Rinko, and neither will be hurt by Saijou continuing this charade indefinitely.

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No, the person who will end up hurt is Saijou herself. When Suna approaches her, she expects to be castigated and comes clean to him: “Yes, I know I’m a cheat, and I’m lying about the extent of my feelings. So what?” She knows the answer: because she’ll never be happy with things like this. At the end of the day, she’s a good person, and isn’t going to try to break anyone up. To her surprise, Suna isn’t concerned with her actions thus far, but rather the emotional toll they’re having on her. He…he cares about her! AS A PERSON!!

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Thanks to Suna, Saijou decides to nip things in the bud. The limbo she’s in is untenable; she has to be honest about her feelings, because Takeo and Rinko will never accuse her of being dishonest. The scene where she finds Takeo alone in the dark classroom, which then fills with gorgeous golden light, is as good a visual metaphor for a weight being lifted as one can ask for. It’s also mighty purty.

Takeo briefly sports an appropriately stunned look, followed by a quick and categorical rejection. But he’s not saying no because he already has a girlfriend; he’s saying it because he loves Rinko with all his heart, for any, all, and no reasons at all. He’s oblivious about a lot of things, but his heart never lets him doubt his love for Rinko for a minute.

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Saijou tells Takeo she wasn’t lying when she said she liked him as a person too, and is able to withdraw with dignity, but once she hits the bench outside, the tears come hard and fast, so it’s good Suna’s there with two(!) boxes of Kleenex to help her through this trying but ultimately necessary time. She fell for the wrong person, but it will pass, and she’ll fall for someone else eventually. Hopefully Suna, AMIRITE!?!

As for Takeo, the sudden realization that there are girls besides Rinko who do like him, make him look upon his constant protestations to the contrary with contempt. All this time he was telling Rinko something he believed was true, but wasn’t. So as soon as Saijou is gone, he runs as fast as he can to Rinko to make everything sparkling clear: it doesn’t matter whether other girls like him or not (sorry Ai!); Rinko is the only girl for him.

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As they walk home hand-in-hand, tears suddenly come to Rinko; tears of happiness, which finally spur Takeo to say “I love you” out loud. Woo! And she says the same. Saijou may have felt like a rival and a possible antagonist last week, but turned out to be neither, but something much, much better: a lifting of the misconception of Takeo’s popularity with girls, a catalyst for the deepening of his relationship with Rinko, and, as we see the next day, a new friend who still wants to call him “master.” Saijou Mariya was another revelation in a show positively stacked with ’em.

Now, start falling for Suna. Immediately.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 15

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I’m not sure I’ve heard the parable about the bear who danced with the girl, but because Rinko likes big things the way Takanashi likes small things, in her version the girl who dances with the bear comes to like said bear. And so it comes to pass, when Takeo takes an athletically ungifted classmate everyone else is miffed about being in the upcoming Swedish relay under his wing. So just as the door seemed to be closed (for the time being) on Ai, it opens on one Saijou Mariya, she of short statue but ample bust.

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Saijou feels like she’s in the way and, like most people, assumes Takeo is mean, scary, and easily upset, when none of the above are the case. Gradually, as she spends more time with Takeo simply being Takeo, you can see the increased affection growing in her eyes, in the many gorgeous close-ups of her normally reserved for Rinko (and to a lesser extent, Ai). Ironically, it’s running from Takeo out of a misplaced sense of fear that motivates Mariya to run her fastest…along with his constant support.

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When the day of the relay arrives, he tells her, quite simply, just run as fast as she can and pass him the baton. Well, once everyone else passes her, she trips and drops that baton, but remembering his directives, she gets back up, keeps running, and passes that sucker off. Then Takeo does his thing and they win by a landslide. Then the kicker: he congratulates her, then asks her if she’s okay from her spill, and BOOM, without even trying, “not popular with girls” Takeo has finished unlocked Mariya’s heart.

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Let me say one thing: I like Mariya, even though she’s Rinko’s new rival. I like her a lot. She’s cute, she’s kind, and in some ways, she’s a lot more normal than the often eccentric Rinko. Not that eccentric is bad; Takeo is eccentric too (so is Suna, for that matter…and Takeo’s parents…and Ai…aw jeez, what have I done?!). But despite the fact she sees Rinko right there, and Takeo introduces her as “my girlfriend” she still has the guts to give him her gift of a towel (his first, somehow!) to him. This is a girl who knows how she feels, and is honest about her feelings, at least in this instance.

Meanwhile, because Rinko has always felt her grip on Takeo was precarious at best due to her own perceived inadequacies, she seeks advice from her girlfriends on how best to fight for Takeo. Despite Takeo’s protests he’s not popular with the girls, Rinko, to her credit, knows what she saw: Mariya danced with the bear, and liked it. (Oh God, that sounds so wrong!) 

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Mariya is also the recipient of some good luck vis-a-vis Takeo. She goes to the same school and is in his class. Even when she nervously mocks his couple background and matching straps (which IS a bit overkill, if not SO overkill)when she runs after him to apologize and trips down the stairs, she ends up in his arms, and after it’s clear the shoulder-leaning is out due to Takeo and Suna’s imposing height, she gets to choose Takeo to ride piggyback on. Suna really tried to do it so Takeo didn’t have to, but Mariya overruled him.

Unfortunately for Rinko, she chose this afternoon to wait outside Takeo’s school, though Takeo doesn’t act guilty, because he isn’t guilty, because he loves Rinko and is just giving Mariya a hand. When he runs straight back to Rinko after his errand, she can’t help but beam with glee. But in the normal universe where high schoolers of the opposite sex aren’t normally so friggin’ nice to each other—like the universe Mariya normally inhabits—Takeo with another girl riding him still looks bad.

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By the way, I’m not considering Mariya’s non-confession legit. She’s not giving up; she’s just decided to play the long game. She only tells Takeo (with Rinko eavesdropping) that she likes him “as a person”, but we know better, since we’re in her head too. Now that she’s allowed to call him “Master”, she has an excuse to stay by his side as his “student”. Rinko has been enjoying a “Pax Gouda” up until now, but love is war, and the battle has begun.

Takeo won’t be easily swayed—had Mariya had confessed for real here, I’m certain he’d have shot her down without hesitation—he does love Rinko deeply. But Mariya knows that, and I hope she’ll apply the same determination to pursuing Takeo as she did preparing for the relay with him.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 23

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The Sports Festival “Super Playoff” becomes an interminable, all-night marathon of totally non-sporting events such as trivia, whack-a-mole, eating, and chess. But what matters is that both the Red and White Teams agreed on something: that they should keep fighting for victory.

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In the process, neither side really achieves victory, but they do achieve a kind of détente, which is what Momo wanted all along. The festival thus a success, the President nods off on Tenchi’s shoulder and her head gradually slips into his lap…drawing the ire of Ryouko, who retaliates…against Tenchi.

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Some time in the wee hours of the morning, as Sasami patches him up she brings up how Tenchi will be overseeing the dorms soon, though she was told to relay the warning that any member of the opposite sex caught there will be beaten severely. It’s quite the Catch-22 for the already-bruised Tenchi…but it’s also par for the course.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 22

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The next, and what Tenchi believes to be the final event in the sports festival is devised by StuCo Prez Momo herself: Butt Sumo. If you think this is a blatant opportunity for fanservice, well, you’re only half-right, since there isn’t much to see—it’s pretty tame stuff. Instead, it puts Tenchi in the awkward position of having to referee a butt sumo match between to high school girls without staring at their asses too long.

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Momo chose Butt Sumo because she wanted to engage in activity that would put her in close proximity to her adversary (in this case Beni, whose ass is not as strong as her arms and hands), because she wants to talk and be friends. Beni doesn’t want to talk, just win, but both girls fall off the platform (and onto Tenchi’s face), leaving the White and Red teams still knotted up at 1050, necessitating a night overtime.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 21

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The next event in the sports festival is mock cavalry, something I never did in high school. Predictably, things get chaotic fast.

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The pre-fight conflict is whether Gouriki should be allowed to participate, as he’s neither an enrolled student or human. But lord knows who’s human and who’s not among all these kooky characters, and Kurihara wants a good show, so Tenchi allows it.

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Hachiko holds onto her sword, so there are no more tears, and the teams are pretty evenly matched…until Yuki pulls out her latest trump card: a fake spider upon Rui’s face unleashes a terrifying power. The StuCo loses, but Momo never lets go of Hachiko’s hand. Meanwhile, Washuu seems to be monitoring proceedings, and interested in Kinojou Beni in particular.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 20

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ATM! plunges us straight into the first sports festival event, an obstacle course between Hachiko and Yuki that quickly spirals into an extremely free-wheeling affair, what with the use of Hachiko’s bokken and Yuki’s Gouriki-kun.

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There’s order within the chaos, though, as each character acts according to their strengths – and weaknesses. When Gouriki snatches Hachiko’s sword, she reverts to a scared little girl…but Momo, ever the cheerful, inspiring leader, is able to get Hachiko to carry on long enough to recover her sword – and her normal personality.

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Thanks to Touri’s hacking of Gouriki, Hachiko is able to defeat Gouriki and win the race, while Yuki can only slap her cheeks in disbelief and outrage at her defeat. 50 points to the White Team. On to the next event!

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 19

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It’s Bloomertime…which is to say, Touri doesn’t have much changing to do! Although, one would hope she has different bloomers for athletic exertion. While the gym uniform seems to homogenize the students, there are still those who’ll hike their shirts up, like Hana and Rui. Momo is her usual cheerful self, and insists whatever happens, everyone is to have fun; that’s an order, teehee!

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In the teachers lounge, seemingly the only two teachers in the school go over the game plan, but which I mean Kurihara puts Tenchi in armor for his “referee” job, warning him that the sporting events of the imminent festival are based on “local traditions.” It occurs to me that the environs of the school aren’t that different from the environs of the “flashback episodes” in which Momo is just a kid. Also, Kurihara is basically Queen Beryl, if Beryl taught at an all-girls’ school. Which is kinda funny.

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Ultimately, though, not much happens, as this segment brings us right up to the start of the festival without getting into any of the events. The students are assembled like soldiers, and Kurihara announces that extra club materials, funds, and using Tenchi as a servant-for-a-day are all on the line. Tenchi is hearing that last bit for the first time. What abuse is he in for this time?

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 18

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The culture fest and beauty pageant are over, and Tenchi believes his cross-dressing days are as well, but an ardent Saryuu Hana isn’t satisfied. She visits his house to drop off a very well-drawn yuri doujinshi involving herself and “Tenchi-onee-sama.” She also wants Tenchi to cross dress again for the upcoming sports festival, leading to visions of Tenchi in a midriff-baring cheerleader outfit.

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Ryouko and the Jurai sisters can’t help but hear his conversation with Hana, and decide they’ll work hard to make him a sensation. They also sneak a peek at the doujinshi (well, the two older ones do) and are both shocked and a little turned on. The book itself glows with Hana’s love (or lust), both closed and open.

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About that sports festival: both the StuCo and Science Club are vigorously preparing, as is Kurihara-sensei, who dons her “carnivorematrix” garb to whip Tenchi dummies to shards, remarking “this farce is over.” I guess whatever plan she has for Tenchi is going to the next level.

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Kill la Kill – 17

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We’ll say this much: Kill la Kill does a “sports festival episode” like none other. We’ve spoken before about how sometimes a primarily building-up episode can surpass the payoff that follows, for the simple reason that the buildup episode is suffused with boundless promise even a great payoff would be hard-pressed to fulfill.

What we’re saying is, whatever the quality of the payoff that awaits us down the road, it won’t not diminish the excellence of the buildup that took place this week. Despite hardly solving anything, this just might be our favorite episode of Kill la Kill yet. We’re tempted to watch it again immediately, and again after that. Sometimes, buildup can be its own payoff.

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So what was this buildup we’re on about? Satsuki returns to Honnouji and announces a sports festival in her mother Ragyo’s honor. Ragyo oversees the global distribution of life fibers and prepares to head to Honnouji. All citizens of Honnou Town are invited to and issued dress uniforms for the catered affair, including Mako’s fam.

Meanwhile, Mikisugi and Kinagase observe the academy from hidden cameras and complete Ryuuko’s education, telling her the academy and surrounding town are one big laboratory for testing human resistance to life fibers. The student body and townsfolk are the white rats, and the dress uniforms provided by Ragyo are snakes that, when she presses a red button, start to feed on the people.

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The good guys swoop in to the stadium to save the day, stare down the bad guys and “To Be Continued” flashes on the screen in those big chunky red letters…Right? Well, not so fast: as Ragyo is talking (down) to Ryuuko, Satsuki plunges her katana into her own mother’s back, announcing she’s rebelling against the life fibers. Ohoho, now we’re talking.

Especially last week, the show’s been going out of its way to humanize Satsuki and facilitate empathy for her; she was, like Ryuuko, dropped into her current role by her parent, after all. By contrast, Ragyo and Nui, for that matter, only vaguely resemble humans both physically and emotionally.

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In any case, those two are clearly not on the side of humanity—which isn’t to say Satsuki’s suddenly turned into a “good guy”, but she’s certainly become an even more compelling and likable co-protagonist alongside Ryuuko. Frankly, there’s a lot we still don’t know: Ragyo’s fate; Nui’s response; the fate of all those people (save Mataro) being eaten by their clothes; how Satsuki will deal with Ryuuko & Co.; what she’ll actually do with the throne she seeks to take; what the life fibers have to say about all this.

In any case, Satsuki has obviously worked diligently to maintain the illusion of a dutiful daughter while plotting her mother’s downfall behind her back. In reality, for a while now Satsuki hasn’t seen Ragyo as her mother at all, but as a rival to be defeated; and Ragyo has been too blinded by her own splendor and hubris to notice.  Everything that built up to this fresh batch of questions was impeccably engineered for maximum entertainment value. It was at times serious, introspective, fascist, funny, and florid, and took us (like Ryuuko) completely by surprise. We couldn’t have asked for much more.


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

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