Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou – 10

This week, the girls find a train, a radio signal, and a furry companion. As usual, they are absolutely dwarfed just by the vertical scale of the train, to say nothing of its length. Judging by the number of “robot corpses” strewn across its interior, it seems the design had to accommodate robots far bigger than humans.

After Yuuri experiences the boredom of waiting for the train to reach the destination, she and Chito do what I do when possible—head to the front. Yuuri points out that they’re going faster than usual because they’re moving on a moving train. It starts a fun discussion about the rotation of the earth and relative speed.

If there’s a commonality to these little talks it’s that it reveals both that Chito is very bright and just doesn’t have all the words needed to describe the scientific principles she understands, and Yuuri, while perhaps less bright, nonetheless comes to some perceptive conclusions of her own, despite having even less vocabulary than Chito.

At the end of the line they alight from the train and continue through another vast expanse of infrastructure. For a moment, Yuuri picks up something on the radio: what sounded like a sad song.

They look for a way to ascend to where the waves will be stronger, and happen to stop right on an ascending platform…only it either needs maintenance or wasn’t meant to convey humans and kettenkrads, because it moves extremely fast and stops on a dime.

That leads to a great bit of physical comedy as the girls and rig keep moving even when the platform stops; naturally, Yuuri lands on her feet. They’re met at the top by an eerily red sunset and a much clearer and more consistent transmission of the song, which is indeed sad, albeit very beautiful and moving in general, especially combined with the sad sunset.

I especially liked when the graininess of the radio feed gave way to a clear, crisp performance of the song. I just wished they could’ve tuned the radio to something more upbeat; they could’ve used some cheer after that last song.

When they come upon a massive hole—with another massive hole in the level above—Yuuri wonders if it was caused by the battle all the broken weaponry around them was used for. Chito surmises the hole predates the weapons, and that the hole was more recently merely a venue for a later battle. In any case, the image of a tank being repurposed as a fountain by nature and gravity is a sight to behold, especially when Yuuri literally soaks her head.

In what looks like a rocket tube, Yuuri finds a strange creature that neither she nor Chito can quite place, and so settle on “cat.” While they don’t mention it themselves, it very much also resembles those tall white idols they’ve encountered here and there. When the animal makes noise, the radio seems to translate it, even though the animal only seems to be repeating the girls with slight variation.

While the end of the train line and the sunset provided suitable ending points for the first and second vignettes, the third looks poised to continue, as the “cat” follows the girls, who decide to keep it with them for now. As Chito puts it, they’re always throwing things away or using them up, it’s nice to add something for a change.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 12

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It’s the halfway point of Ore Monogatari!!, so did the show do what anime of every genre typically do around this time and throw a new wrench into the works; a new conflict for Takeo and Yamato to overcome? Well, yes and no. But first, it was a pleasure to see Takeo’s athletic prowess on display in areas besides Judo.

He’s a literal wall of flesh at goalkeeper (and scores a goal on the other end by throwing it baseball-style), and surprisingly graceful on the ice rink; like a penguin underwater. The point is, Takeo is physically gifted; extremely gifted, and combined with his kind heart, makes him socially gifted; he’s always surrounded by friends.

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Yamato is just as popular with her peers, though not because she can perform awesome feats of strength. In addition to her kindness and general affability, Yamato is also pretty good at academics. In fact, it’s one thing she’s much better at than the hulking Takeo. So the “conflict”, if you even want to call it that, is borne out of the fact that eventually these two will go to college.

They both want to attend the same one, but Takeo doesn’t want to make Yamato enroll at a substandard one, so he has to study; exercising a muscle he rarely needs to simply because the rest of his body is so extraordinary.

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He initially enlists the help of Suna, but Yamato also starts stopping by Takeo’s place. When Takeo tells his mother Yamato is indeed his girlfriend, Mom and Dad gradually start to spruce the place up, even though Yamato would be the first one to tell them not to go through too much trouble for her.

What I like so much about Takeo’s parents is that A.), they’re both alive, which seems like a minority in anime; B.) they’re still happily married, with a baby on the way; and C.) they genuinely love their son and are both grateful for and protective of him. In addition, as Yamato remarks, Takeo really is a composite of his parents, with nearly equal parts of both of them in his physique and personality. Dad is tan and handsome and flashy; Mom is nurturing yet no-nonsense. Both are badass. Takeo is all of the above.

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The parents are so excited about Yamato that neither she nor Takeo can actually study, so they go to Suna’s When Takeo suddenly passes out from too much studying, it isn’t treated like any kind of serious emergency, but rather another opportunity for Yamato to snuggle with him. This time, to her horror, Suna walks in on her, but true to form he assuages her guilt, assuring her didn’t see anything and slinks out, basically saying “as you were.”

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This halfway point also didn’t provide any indications Sunakawa has any ulterior motives about being friends with Takeo, but is really just a caring, loving friend; a brother from another mother. This, again, goes against the usual anime romance archetypes, for which I’m glad. While the show was a smidge more ambiguous earlier on, it is now officially patently ridiculous to think Suna will one day try to steal Yamato from Takeo.

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Not only does he not seem to mind that this is the case, despite liking Yamato (in a non-romantic way, as a good match for his bro), but he doesn’t mope about it either. Suna’s not the most social or open guy despite his popularity, but that seems like a conscious choice rather than any kind of impasse or struggle he has to overcome. The show respects how he lives his life. Suna also derives quite a lot of fun and laughs from being friends with Takeo, as we see again when he plays charades during English study.

So the day of a benchmark (read: practice) exam for the three colleges Takeo and Yamato are trying to get into arrives. Both are bundles of nerves, but Yamato gives him moral support before they get started.

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Looking at the various subjects he studied as various enemies to vanquish, Takeo goes into the exam like a warrior entering a gauntlet. But like Yamato did in a previous test, his multiple choice answers are shifted, a mistake he feverishly tries to correct, resulting in a blizzard of eraser filings and a pool of Takeo sweat.

He gets a “D” in two of the three colleges he aimed for, and an “X” in the difficult-to-get-in one Yamato was trying for, but not only did she not get in either, in a nice bit of villainy from Suna, it’s a women’s only college anyway, so he was never going to get in no matter what!

Also, the “D”s aren’t even that big a deal, because it’s just a dry run. He’ll keep studying, Suna and Yamato will keep helping him, and I have every confidence he’ll get to go to college with Yamato, and maybe Suna too.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 11

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I used to dread beach episodes, but that was before I started watching great anime. I knew there was nothing to fear from an OM!! beach episode; on the contrary, I knew it would be a perfect opportunity for both Rinko and Takeo to take another step in their relationship: seeing each other half-naked.

One thing that’s so great about this show is that the straight-laced looking Rinko is the wild one, while the wild-looking Takeo is the straight-laced one. To him, the beach is about swimming and splitting watermelons and crabbing. To Rinko (and the rest of the guys), it’s mostly about the bods.

Rinko’s intense physical attraction to Takeo often overwhelms her, so it’s good she has a safety net of girlfriends who pick out an appropriate bikini for her, with the goal of getting his heart to skip A beat…not stop it!

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For all of Takeo’s words—both spoken and in his head—Rinko is convinced she must be at least as hot as she believes Takeo to be, or else she’s somehow not good enough. That inherent, presumed inferiority makes it tough for Rinko to reveal her swimsuit to Takeo. In fact, she reveals it to him when the sight of his rippling, sun-dappled muscles put her into a trance and she walks right into the line of fire of his watermelon-splitting stick. Thank God Takeo listens when Suna tells him to stop.

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When Takeo removes his blindfold to see what’s amiss, he catches a glimpse of his girlfriend in a bikini for the first time, and while Rinko doesn’t quite realize it, it’s Mission Accomplished. Takeo himself enters a wild hallucinatory episode, and only Suna’s calm words are able to snap him out of it. It takes effort for Takeo not to totally lose his shit over Rinko’s apocalyptic cuteness, and remind himself she’s dressed in clothes suited for the beach, just like him.

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Things continue to go bumpy for Rinko, though. When she daintily approaches him from behind at lunch, intending to snuggle up against him (something she both wants and her friends urge) his turn back at her causes her to execute Shunpo and retreat behind a column. Later, when she tries to casually grab his arm on the beach, she nearly steps on a sand castle.

Ironically, it’s Takeo who ruins the castle, when Rinko runs off, embarrassed. But thanks to Suna, whom the girls building the sand castle are more than willing to let take over, Takeo can go after his girlfriend.

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As the sun starts to set, Takeo finds her, sulking by the water. Rinko thinks she’s been “really bad” today, thinking only of herself and causing trouble for others. She’s obviously being too hard on herself, so it’s nice when Takeo sits beside her, she can stop worrying about that and draw one of those Japanese love umbrella things in the sand (which Takeo valiantly protects from the rising tide).

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Takeo doesn’t know if it’s the sunset, the swimsuit, or something else, but Rinko looks particularly beautiful to him there and then. The animation sells it, making great use of color, light, movement, and intimate close-ups. We see Rinko exactly as Takeo does, just as we saw how she sees him.

So in awe of the beauty before him, Takeo finally says not “I love her” in his head, but “I love you” out loud, to her face. She reciprocates the sentiment, adding the modifier “lots”, and if it wasn’t for Takeo’s asshole friends (not Suna mind you, who knew to stay the hell away), they’d have definitely shared their first kiss (with both of them awake) right then and there. That’s okay though; I didn’t feel cheated. That kiss will come.

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After fireworks, they board the bus home, and Rinko and Takeo make plans to hang out again, this time at a fireworks festival, where Rinko will try to get his heart to skip with a yukata, believing she failed to do so in a swimsuit. But she couldn’t be more wrong.

As Takeo looks on, he remarks to himself how these two are so rarely on the same page. Yet it likely doesn’t matter, because they’re both so happy. We the audience know that nothing in either of their heads would change that.

Part of what makes romance so exciting, especially early on, is not knowing everything going on in your lover’s head…and the later realization that what was in their head was everything you wanted anyway.

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One Week Friends – 08

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This week the still newly-forged quartet of friends go on their first summer trip to the beach together. Kaori first suggests it, but things don’t bode well for Yuuki when she indicates it would be “too embarrassing” just to go with him, necessitating the invitation of Shogo and Saki.

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Throughout the trip, everyone has a certain degree of fun, but it’s also tinged with the feeling Shogo and Saki are in the way. When a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors backfires on Yuuki, Saki is with him while Kaori goes with Shogo, but neither Saki nor Shogo can get much out of them, but they’re pretty sure they like each other as more than just friends, but just can’t articulate it; least of all to one another.

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Even when Shogo asks Yuuki flat out if he should “push a bit harder” towards trying to articulate it—someone has to make the first move—but even when Yuuki and Kaori are left alone on a truly gorgeous sunset on the beach, sudden incidental contact spooks him, and while Kaori goes on about all the things she likes and loves, she keeps things general.

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The things holding them back from saying what they need to say to each other, even in the most appropriate times and places to do so, are fairly clear: sheer romantic inexperience, combined with the fear of damaging their present relationship. But one gets the feeling this status quo won’t be enough for them forever. At some point they’ll have to take greater risks.

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Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 3

And…the adorableness continues apace. No surprises here. This week we find out that Yune always wanted to travel to Europe, but now that she’s here she’s still not quite sure what she wants to do, or where else she may want to go next. I have to say, for a little girl to travel from Japan to France may not be all that big a deal these days, in the 19th century it must’ve been a momentous experience.

Claude learns from her and Oscar about Japanese houses and Sumo (leading to some hilariously inaccurate mental images) and how Japanese eat (with what appears to him to be dolls’ bowls and cups). We also learn Yune has an older sister, Shione (that’s funny, after the first episode I had complained that Yune was too young…and she had an older sister all along? Argh.) Yune’s name, it turns out, means “the sound of hot water,” something Claude learns while rather rudely interrupting her letter-writing (although to be fair to him the letter wouldn’t have made it to Japan on the flimsy paper she was using.)

Learning what her name means inspires Claude, who had been suffering from “smith’s block” to that point, uses the kanji “sound” in a sign, and makes a successful sale to a music store. He then buys Yune some high-quality stationary and the two meet after a brief rain to witness a typical but still achingly beautiful Paris sunset, that makes you feel like everything’s right in the world. Meanwhile, the entire Gallerie du Roy is the property of an unpleasant, bratty blonde girl who demands her footman locate the Japanese girl post-haste. Ruh-roh. Rating: 3.5