Hanayamata – 04

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Hannah has Zankyou no Terror (all nines thru three) and Preston has Akame ga Kill (all eights thru four), but it looks like Hanayamata is my rock—the show that has consistently performed a a high level in the first third of its run. That’s especially surprising considering the group we see dancing in the OP is still barely three-fifths complete as of this week’s episode.

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This week the focus shifts to Nishimikado Tami, somebody who is both Naru’s “big-sis” figure and the perfect princess from her fantasy tales, made flesh. Not surprisingly, Tami doesn’t have quite that high an opinion of herself, as she has always worked tirelessly to earn her rich, busy father’s praise and esteem, but not always gotten it.

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All that work includes delving into fields like tea, flower arranging, and piano, all of which are skills a proper Japanese lady supposedly needs to excel in, but in which she has less personal interest than say, ballet, which she had to quit to make time for the other things. Her friend (and the student council president) Machi is worried Tami is still stuck in “little girl” mode, placing far too much emphasis on pleasing Daddy, while neglecting her own passions and goals.

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Machi doesn’t dabble in any of the extracurriculars Tami does, as she’s putting much of her focus into attaining academic rather than cultural excellence. Then again, Machi doesn’t come from an old, rich, powerful family. Tami was raised to believe the Nishimikado name is something that must be lived up to. But at the end of the day, a life-sized doll in a kimono could accomplish the same task; that of being ignored when her father comes home.

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On the other hand, Naru declares “It has to be you,” meaning a doll won’t cut it. It may, but the complex is strong with Tami, and only the slightest hint of discouragement from her father is enough for her to reject Hana’s invitation to join the yosakoi club. It’s a reflex at this point in her life, but one that is almost immediately challenged by a lasting gloom and stinging in the chest that isn’t relieved until she crosses paths with Naru again.

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Having been given the little push she needed to move forward and try something new by Hana, it falls on Naru to do the pushing here, after recognizing the pain she’s in. Tami, in turn, comes around to the idea that she can’t go on deferring her happiness for daddy’s benefit. When she declares her intention to take up yosakoi, I’m certain her dad won’t be pleased, but that’s not her damn problem.

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Stray Observations:

  • Hana believes it’s the duty of every self-respecting Japanese student to eat their lunch on the school roof. I agree.
  • Tami shows off her ninja skillz as she sneaks up on Naru and Hana not once but twice.
  • She’s also still quite good at ballet, despite being out of practice.
  • Eating out and staying out late: mortal sins to Tamihime.
  • I kinda like the fact that I still have no frikkin’ clue how Machi is going to be brought into the fold.
  • MAL’s score of Hanayamata (7.19 as of this writing) feels really low to me. Not sure what they don’t like about it. (Too moe? What does moe even mean?)

Nobunaga the Fool – 12

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Nobu’s plan has failed, his army is in tatters, and scores of his people are dead or maimed, but you’d never guess he was in trouble from his demeanor. We were also a bit surprised that Caesar, still sore over being outsmarted by Nobu in the past, agrees to any sort of truce. We’ll call it an act of deference to Nobu’s sheer grit and audacity. Not only that, but this week, for the first time, you get the feeling Caesar would prefer it if Nobu were an ally rather than a foe.

Almost as much as the tea ceremony itself, we enjoyed the preparation that went into it, particularly that of Nobu and of Ichihime, who insists on being the host. We’ve always really liked the serene strength of Ichihime’s presence, but we always had precious few scenes with her; this episode corrects that by giving her a nice little brother-sister moment at the waterfall, and having her play an unexpectedly crucial role far beyond her services as tea-maker (at which she excels, by the way).

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The show has perhaps been wise to keep her on the periphery, somewhat out of focus, much like Mitsuhide’s trio of kunoichi; these women feel like mysteries compared to the comparatively open books of Jeanne and Himiko. The truth of the matter is, Ichihime is just as bad-ass as her brother (if not moreso)…she’s just quieter and classier about it. And while she’s vowed to always stay by Nobu’s side and support him in all things, you get the feeling she does it because it’s what she wishes, not simply because she’s expected to.

That independent will is put on full display at the tea ceremony, which starts out normally enough, but when Nobu notices Caesar is uncomfortable sitting in the traditional manner, he relaxes the protocol, which relaxes Caesar. When things come down to brass tacks, Caesar wants the regalia in exchange for an end to hostilities and a military alliance. At this point we were thinking Nobu could answer either way and figure something out, but he decides to firmly refuse, while still insisting they stop fighting.

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This is because Nobu suspects that Caesar’s boss Arthur, whom Caesar claims to be a Savior King as Jeanne insists it’s Nobu—perhaps there really are two of them?—is a pragmatic sort who’d prefer a minimum of collateral damage in his quest for the Holy Grail (or, like whatever). Caesar agrees to a temporary alliance if he can have Ichihime…and everyone protests but her. Knowing what it would mean if Caesar kept his word, and warning him she’d kill him if he didn’t, she makes another choice for herself and accepts his terms.

The tarot Jeanne draws this week is “The Fool”, and she immediately thinks of Nobu, especially when he loosens protocol at the ceremony. But the real “Fool” turns out to be Ichihime. Freedom, nonconformity, innocence, purity, cheer, possibility, imagination, and genius: these are all qualities she embodies more than anyone else at that juncture. She has become the wild card that could shape the fate of both worlds as much as Nobu, if not more. And after being so cold to her earlier, Mitsuhide seems particularly troubled by her choice. Sorry dude; you had your chance!

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Hyouge Mono 4

I was beginning to give up hope, but after what seemed like months, we are finally graced with the fourth episode of Hyouge Mono. It is a very good one; one about Governor Furuta being one-upped at nearly every turn. First, whilst in the parade, Oda Nagamasu one-ups him in the wardrobe department.

Then, once under the roof of Tea Master Senno, he is seemingly one-upped, in rather crude fashion, but Senno’s deciple, Souji. Souji not only shoots down Sasuke’s appraisal of the hiraguno pot as a “masterpiece”, after hearing Sasuke has only been in the presence of ten masterpieces to his fifty, he question’s Sasuke’s ability to discern a masterpiece at all! Sasuke wavers in his head when asked to appraise a tea jar – not his forte – and is further taken aback when his choice is only considered fourth best by the surly disciple.

Most interesting, however, is Master Senno’s conversation with General Hashiba. It’s a big-eared powwow of sorts. Hashiba asks Senno what’s with his black fetish, including an extremely well-turned black tea bowl. Black means death and mourning in the culture of the land, but Senno defies that culture, calling black an absence of imperfection. He wants to create a similar absense in the realm, and asks – straight up – for the general to assist him in making that reality. In short, he plans a coup. Rating: 3.5

Hyouge Mono – First Impressions

I’m a bit late getting to this series, but it was worth the wait. Hyouge Mono is perhaps the odd-man-out out as all the rest of my Spring watchlist takes place in the present or future. This is the friggin’ sixteenth century we’re dealing with, and I have to say it’s awesome. The extreme formality, the excessive exposition, the life-and-death staring contests, they’re all brilliant. I saw some excellent Noh theatre last month and this recalled that old-fashioned but gorgeous manner of speaking.

What is so curious is how modern the show feels, despite hardly ever betraying its proper time. True, the enormous ship might have been anachronistic, as probably were the guns (my knowledge of Japanese history is sketchy at best), but I’m talking more about the smooth jazz opening and bossa nova ending, as well as the Final Fantasy-esque score that complemented the spectacle nicely. Probably my favorite qualities of this series so far is the kaleidoscope of funny facial expressions and those long, tense silences.

Our protagonist Sasuke is quite the character – imminently watchable. He’s also a bit of a tea otaku – he goes to pieces at the sight of some well-regarded piece of the Tea trade – much like Oreimo’s Kirino would over some eroge. In this episode, it was an admittedly-splendid teakettle. I also like how his Lord is always challenging his devotion and mettle – partially for his own amusement, but also because Sasuke is constantly striving to straddle the role of a warrior with what is perhaps his true self – a hopeless aesthete. I look forward to seeing him wrestle that duality in future. Rating: 4