iDOLM@STER 23 continues the Haruka story, rather, it’s her turn to wander off in a funk and think things out while everyone else worries about her. It’s practically a mirror image of Chihaya’s crisis, though this one has no ridiculous bad guys behind it or painful past to overcome (but she does sit around at home and even meets her younger self, just like Chihaya did). Rather, she’s worried about the future. The drifting apart continues, people still aren’t making it for the New Years rehearsals. Not to mention that the producer is in the hospital because of that trap. One of the weirder moments of the story arc is that while everyone is worried about him, the show pretty much ignores him except for some words of wisdom for Chihaya which sets the girls plan in action. Other words of wisdom come from Touma, Jupiter’s former lead asshat, who’s happier with the smaller-scale productions they are forced into because he enjoys the sense of community. And so on. Meanwhile I waited and worried that there wouldn’t be anything to spice the inevitable reunion up … until a typical kids in the park sequence, where their little voices transform into those of 765 Pro, an unexpected and beautiful moment that made me gasp and fumble for the rewind button. And yes, we get our reunion bit, though everything else felt flat compared to that moment before.
I had a write-up for UN-GO 9 all written up, but it went missing, overwritten, probably, or copied over … Or maybe Kaishou didn’t want me to post the explosive truths contained in that post, so he used that software he made!! YEAH!!! Anyway, episode 11 goes farther out of its limb concerning The Truth. Let me just say that I hope the series doesn’t wind up with a pat conclusion such as “there is no absolute truth or reality.” I hate it when creators do this, unless he’s Philip K. Dick (on the other hand, at least this show’s source material isn’t simply ripping Dick off). But I think Shinjuru agrees with me on this. He seems pretty certain that there is a truth. Not to mention that Inga could force it out of people (But this would explain why he/she’s at a loss when Bettenou’s around). As for the plot, I’ll say again that I suck at mysteries. I was following along quite happily until they got to the humming and the handkerchief and suddenly Shinjuru was running off somewhere, throwing Kazamori at somebody, at which point my eyes glazed over. I didn’t really focus again until Shinjuru held up that invitation. Well, all will be explained next week unless it’s not the truth, or THAT’s not the truth, or THAT’s not, ad nauseum.
The straight line in Bakuman 2 12 is the growing relationship between Miura and the boys, or that’s how it felt like, and looking at it that way it makes a nice contrast with the episode’s theme of love and relationships in general. Starting with an embarrassing text dialogue Kaya jokingly reads aloud, we next get Nagai falling in love with Kato (poor sap), Aoki’s new editor putting the moves on her (what a slimeball), and Aoki’s subsequent meeting with Aiko at college. I had forgotten completely about her, but she’s the one who rejected Takagi because he wanted to write manga, or did he reject her? I forget. Now she meets Aoki, and the scene feels completely different, like the beginning of a romantic story not at all related to Bakuman. Where it will go, I don’t know. But back to the heroes and Miura. The arguments about whether or not to do a gag manga, not to mention the exhaustive research on sales Miura makes, then his saying the wrong thing and having to apologize, after the boys had realized how much work and care he had taken (shown in a gift package full of gag manga with extensive, scrupulous notes) for them, feels like a manga-ka equivalent of any relationship past its first stages and at the point where you start to learn what your lover is really like.
After the trauma of last week, Ben-To 11 comes as a disappointment. Two or three things go on. First, we learn about the Sawagi twins’ happy childhood, kindergartners entranced by a violent bento fight, and we get some more of Kyou (not Kyou)’s dual identities. Then there’s Satou visiting Sen the day after and learning she has a cold, and that’s maybe why she lost. The scene is inflated with the usual Satou fantasies, which never really work for me. Meanwhile other people try to figure out where Othrus comes from. We find out. And the usual Oshiroi bit. Satou loses again to Othrus but we don’t see it. The only interesting thing comes at the end, when some totally unmentioned newcomer, who three years ago beat Othrus so badly they still have nightmares (well, Kyou does. Not Kyou), shows up to do it again. Where did he come from? Why is he messing up with our perfectly good but currently slow-moving story arc? Especially with only one more episode to go?
Tamayura – Hitotose 11 presents us with possibly the most excruciating type of story (for me) imaginable: doing a stage show. Because I’ve done a lot of theatre I know what can go wrong, so I can’t help but feel nervous along with the poor performers. This episode promises to be even worse, for it’s Maon who’s going to perform. But right away they do some things right. First, it’s not a whistling exhibition! (Insert cheers and fireworks here). Rather, it’s going to be a recital drama, where she’s going to stand up there and tell a story, or something. Here’s where the unwelcome pressure comes in. Since it’s for the “Ourselves Festival” she wants to try out her material in her home town, at her family’s inn, for whoever’s around. But word gets out, big posters are made, people invite other people, and soon they have to rent out the Virgo Theatre, a large space where, ironically, Maon has always dreamed of performing. Also, she has no material to try out. What keeps this from getting to be too much is the gentle overall tone of the series. There’s that tranquil piano music playing throughout even Maon’s worst moments of fear. You know the show is not mean-spirited enough for worse-case theatrical scenarios. And while her nervous recitation of a text any 2nd grader could write wasn’t all that great (we are fortunate to only see a little of it), and was no more than a metaphor for her making friends and growing up, everyone watching is a friend. It could have been a lot worse. For one thing, she could have chosen whistling.