Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko 12 (Fin; Until the Blu-ray)

Can the wrong in a lifetime’s worth of indifference and passivity be righted in one glorious moment? It kinda is this week, the final episode of Denpa to air on TV. Makoto has been dreading the day of the big game, but Yashiro’s words moved him; he takes a stand and makes his big entrance as the hero for once. And he does a fairly nice job.

I like baseball settings, so I’m not annoyed in the slightest that this episode was all about baseball on the surface. But baseball can be a metaphor for countless things. Baseball is a sport with roles. There are background roles, temp roles, and lead roles. It’s all about specialization. But sometimes, one player has it all on their shoulders. The stress of this leads the ace pitcher of the market district, Maekawa’s dad, to go AWOL.

Sent by his aunt to look for him, Makoto finds him and finds a kindred spirit in terms of how he sees himself, the world, and his role in it. After he convinces him to come back with him, there’s a priceless and extremely hilarious scene where Mr. Maekawa, who has to sit behind Makoto on his bike, sternly interrogates him on his intentions with his daughter. Makoto just has to carrry everyone on his bike…

So yeah, Makoto gets out of his funk and steps out of the shadow of his doubt and fear and just goes for it. He manages to hit Hanazawa’s pitch, but it’s a pop fly until Yashiro apparently changes the wind to carry the ball all the way into the drink for a home run. Unfortunately for him, the only kiss he gets is from his aunt. It would seem that while he may have learned to be more assertive, Makoto still needs a lot of adolescence points before attaining his ultimate goal. The true conclusion will come in a few months. Rating: 3.5

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This week, Mako gets his adolescence on, by sharing awkward silences with Erio and Ryuushi; enjoying girls’ home cooking; having an impromptu sleepover with Ryuushi, Maekawa, and Erio; seeing Ryuushi and Maekawa in bathtowels; talking with Ryuushi alone under the stars; and helping someone else with their adolescence points. What I thought would be a Maekawacentric episode (it was at first, at least) incorporated everyone except Meme, including the businessman with the odd ear tag, who is so into bottle rockets.

Ryuushi is also quite active, believing she needs to compete with Maekawa and Erio for Mako’s affections. While Maekawa seems pretty content and uninterested in being a rival, Erio is more competitive, in her own passive, sheepish way. As for Mako, he’s just going with the flow. It’s worked so far and there’s no reason to believe it won’t keep working out. He’s fine with letting life sweep him along for the ride; after all, it’s how he came to be in a new town in a new home with a new family in the first place. Rating: 3.5

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This week could have been a really big mess: all the women in Makoto’s life end up under one roof, but he’s able to handle it, and they don’t all start grabbing at his limbs. I didn’t think it would descend to that; the relationships at play here are a lot more nuanced. Meme, Erio, Ryuushi and Maekawa all seem to like Makoto, but in different ways. Furthermore, Meme and Maekawa are willing to let Ryuushi right of first refusal where Makoto is concerned.

Of all the females, Ryuushi does seem the most realistic match for Makoto, but (of course) she considers herself a bad person for letting her friends badmouth Erio. Most everyone at school apparently still remember’s Erio; she probably wasn’t any less odd than she is now, and the whole cycling into the sea and dropping out of school doesn’t help matters. Erio also still needs a futon – anyone’s futon – in times when she’s feeling particularly insecure or anxious about the social situation.

Still, despite his lack of experience with girls (which he makes clear he’s well aware of in his narration), Makoto shows poise, if a little denseness where Ryuushi is concerned. The time might come for him to not worry about all the points to be scored from actions he takes, and rather focus on the actions of others, particularly Ryuushi. I don’t think she wants to be “just friends”. An aside: as in most SHAFT series, the close-ups are bangin’. Rating: 3.5

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Makoto goes on a date with the almost sickly-cute Ryuushi and really enjoys himself (although dude…you can’t handle fizzy drinks? wtf…), but he finds himself distracted by thoughts of Erio. What is her deal? Meme tells him (in a rather awkward bedroom scene) not to pry, just leave Erio be, like she does – she just wants to be left alone. While that may be true – Erio is in a futon most of the time – Mako simply can’t let her be. He wants to snap her out of it.

To crush her delusions, he decides to go on a bicycle ride with her in the same bike she rode off a bridge, essentially repeating the incident that caused her present trauma and memory loss. He makes her promise to renounce her claim of being alien if she can’t make them fly in the bike. Not surprisingly, they fail to fly, though they fall spectacularly into the sea and the bike is lost. This seems to awaken Erio a bit; her manner of speaking is much more normal, and she concedes defeat. Mako and Erio re-introduce themselves, as Mako believes this is the true beginnning of their friendship. Even though he didn’t mean to take the game of chicken so far (physics had other ideas), he seems quite happy with the result.

This series is really good with close-ups, particularly those of the female characters of the show. But I noticed some really crappy animation mixed in, as well as lots of poorly proportioned limbs, still shots and other instances were corners were clearly cut, which is a shame, especially when Puella Magi Madoka Magica looked consistently superb throughout. Also, the opening theme is easily the worst I’ve ever heard, and the ending isn’t much better (Etsuko Yakushimaru’s songs all sound the same to be now). Depsite these shortcomings, I’m confident the story and characters will continue to do the heavy lifting here. Rating: 3.5