The girls prepare for a idol singing competition coinciding with the town’s Taikoboshi festival. Natsumi, who wants to win, is annoyed that Yuka is not taking it seriously; moreso when Yuka suggests they just wish for the win, which would be cheating. When a suden rainstorm threatens to cancel the competition, Rinko’s mom tells her and Yuka to make Teru Teru Bouzus, which end up working, precluding the need for Saki and an uncertain Natsumi to wish on the rock. They perform and win the competition, which Yuka vows is just the beginning of their rise to idoldom.
This was a very feel-good, moving episode that didn’t rely on the happenstances that result from rock wishes, but was fueled purely by the quartet of girls as they practice for what may be their last singing contest as a group, with Saki leaving. All summer we’ve known she’s been leaving, but there are episodes where it casts a pall on everybody else and episodes where it’s not a factor and everyone enjoys life in the moment. We got the latter here, and another instance of the group splitting into twosomes: Natsumi/Saki and Yuka/Rinko, then playing off one another.
Natsumi and Saki are the “grown-ups” of the group; even if they’ve had their immature days, they strike us as more mature than the wide-eyed Yuka and the bashful Rinko. But Yuka proves she’s the most childlike of them all, being the primary propeller of the idol dream she wants to come true for everyone. She goofs off for most of the episode, only watching the concert videos and refusing to practice, but when it’s showtime, she hunkers down and her performance is just as good as everyone else’s. Just as one shouldn’t underestimate Yuka’s ability to perform seriously on the fly, one can’t rule out the possibility of her idol dreams coming true someday.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)
With her mother out of town for a couple days, Natsumi must juggle feeding Daiki, doing her homework, and practicing for an important doubles match against regional champs. Wanting to help, Yuka spearheads a wish that literally splits Natsumi into two people, so one of them can focus on tennis, while the other studies and does housework. When the day of the match arrives, Natsumi panics and makes lots of errors, until the wish wears off, and the Natsumi who got valuable advice from Saki merges with the other, and they bounce back and make a match of it. That evening the four friends attend a night festival where they place their wishes on a lantern.
Like body-switching, doppleganger episodes can be a lot of fun to watch, if done properly, as it was this week. The target of the cloning was Natsumi, who just happened to be in the middle of a week of hell which she might not get through in one piece…so Yuka helpfully wishes up a second Natsumi and presto, things are gettin’ done in Aizawaland. Her initial annoyance with the situation feels right, but so does her realization that having two of you has distinct advantages. Natsumi in particular was a good choice; she’s headstrong, stubborn, and proud, we always wondered how she’d interact with…herself. It’s bumpy at first, but eventually they get into synch.
As Saki tells her, Natsumi can also be single-minded to her detriment; by splitting in two she’s not only able to experience two things at once, but also focus on more than one single goal, in her case, winning her last mach with Saki. She gets advice from Saki as the other her tries to change up her game. Predictably, when she’s still split, the tennis match doesn’t go so well at first (we really enjoyed the graceful and powerful tennis animation, by the way), but thankfully the wish wears off just in time to save face and make the match close. All’s well that ends well, and Daiki never sees both Natsumis at once. Natsumi and Saki have also come a long way, which will make Saki’s eventual departure all the more painful.
Rating: 8 (Great)
Rinko catches a cold and Yuka nurses her back to health. The next day, Yuka gets sick and can’t hang out with the other three. She’s out of commision for four days, during which Natsumi, Rin and Saki take measure of their relationship with her.
This week there were no dates, no girls gettting stuck together or switching bodies. In fact, not much of anything happened at all. Saki and Natsumi agreed to play one final match together at the request of their senpais, but there’s no match this week, while Rin and Yuka both get sick. It’s a quiet, contemplative episode of simply hanging out and existing.
We’re okay with that – not every week needs to be a slapstick comedy based on a granted wish gone wrong. And as always, the girls are fun to watch even when they’re not doing anything. Laid-back anime that’s still entertaining is no easy task, but this series works for us. Also, the whale hallucinations were a nice trippy touch. That Rin is a weird one…
Rating: 6 (Good)
Yuka likes her cousin Takashi, but he’s interested in Saki. While resting on the rock, she accidentally makes a wish that swaps their bodies. Yuka is elated, and is able to arrange a date with Takashi. Saki is furious, and makes everyone wish for them to switch back, but Natsumi and Rinko switch bodies instead. The next day, Yuka goes on the date with Takashi while Saki, Natsumi and Rinko shadow them. When it starts to get serious, Yuka realizes it was a bad idea, since he only sees Saki and not her; Rinko spirits her away before they kiss, and everyone returns to their normal body.
We had pretty good episodes focusing on Natsumi and Saki; this week it was Yuka’s turn to take center stage. Only, most of the time, Yuka isn’t in her own green-haired, relatively out-of-shape body, but in Saki’s. When her wish to become Saki comes true, she totally runs with it without hesitation. For most of the episode, nobody is who they should be. We must salute the four voice actresses for nailing one another’s way of speaking and mannerisms, and there were lots of nice touches like Yuka-as-Saki cooling her face with a cola. Natsumi-in-Rinko was so much peppier than she usually is (reminding us of how she played Fam). We love bodyswap episodes (Fairy Tail and DS9 had some good ones), and this one delivered the goods.
The swapping wasn’t just played for laughs. Yuka learned that looking and sounding like Saki is no way to win the heart of her cousin (it’s allowed in Japan, though in decline). Going on a date with him only gave him the idea that Saki liked him, since that’s how he saw her. They made a good couple, but it was a dead end. Ultimately, she’ll have to approach him honestly, as Yuka, if she wants to get anywhere. We kinda feel bad for poor Takashi: about to kiss Saki one minute, and suffering rejection-by-text the next. Both Yuka and Saki kinda ended up toying with his heart. They are some cold witches.
Rating: 9 (Superior)
Car Cameo: A Daihatsu Hijet kei truck pulls up right at the beginning.
Yuusuke insists he saw Daiki’s sister Natsumi flying, and proposes she and her friends may be witches, which angers Daiki because it isn’t like Yuusuke to lie. Yuusuke follows Saki, who learns of his falling out with Daiki, and devises a way for them to make up: she arranges for them to watch them fly again, under the guise that she’s the only witch. The rock doesn’t cooperate, but they make up anyway.
Every week both we and the girls learn one or two new things about the wish-granting big rock. This week, we learned that an identical wish can be wished upon other people (i.e. Yuka and Rin getting stuck together), but the same wish apparently won’t work twice on the same people (i.e. everyone flying.) Which, if that’s true, kinda sucks, since it means no more flying. But regardless of the rock’s ‘rules’, it’s existence and their ability to wish upon it must remain closely-guarded secrets.
If too many people find out, it may ruin it’s power altogether…or even worse, attract the attention of Men In Black who may abduct and experiment on the girls (and it’s just not that kind of anime!) Still, even without the rock working, Saki managed to help Yuusuke and Natsumi’s brother make up. One way or another, the rock brings people together.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)
Car Cameo: A somewhat crude but still identifiable white Honda Integra DC5 (AKA Acura RSX) zooms down the street as Yuusuke stalks Saki.
Natsumi, Yuka, Saki, and Rinko have been inseparable for years, but Saki and Natsumi have a bad falling-out when Saki’s family plans to move away and she doesn’t tell anyone. Yuka and Rin trick them into meeting at the rock on temple grounds where the four of them made a wish years ago which came true. When Rinko idly wishes to fly, the other three wish the same thing and end up suspended hundreds of feet in the air. When they return to earth, Saki stalks away, but the fact remains, a miracle occured that day.
AnoHana was our second-favorite series of 2011 partly because it so effortlessly and seamlessly combined elements of drama, coming-of-age, slice-of-life, with a light sprinkling of the supernatural. That’s similar to what we get here. You have a grouping of old friends, swept up in time and circumstances that wreak havoc on their friendships. There’s Natsumi the serious jock with the carrot top; Yuka the raven-haired goof; Rin(ko) the quiet pinkhead, and Saki, the blonde sourpuss. As they’ve grown older Saki and Natsumi in particular drifted apart, perhaps because they never really got along as well as the other two members of the gorup, or perhaps because the women they’re growing up to be just aren’t compatible personalities.
Whatever the case, the group’s sudden and unexpected flight will definitely plant a seed in everyone’s head about just what’s possible with their wishing stone…or not. When the magic was over, Saki seemed unimpressed on the surface, while Yuka and Rin’s sense of wonder was tempered by their exasperation at not being able to get through to their pessimistic friend. But on the whole, we liked what we saw in this opening episode. There’s lots of really well-drawn and detailed facial expressions, and lots of great voice talent that really breathes life into the characters. This definitely looks to have more drama conflict than, say, Tamayura ~hitotose~, but likely less over supernatural content than AnoHana, and plenty of lovingly-depicted slice-of-life.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)