Another 2, Chihayafuru 15, Ano Natsu de Matteru 2

Another 2 sets a mood much like the first episode did.

Daily lives of haunted middle-school boys.

It’s fascinating to watch. When I think about it, very little happened this episode. It was mainly a series of conversations with Kouichi maybe learning in each one just a little more than he knew before. Misaki gives him more vague warnings. The class goof, Sakaki, says a little too much and is stopped by Mochizuki. We meet the school librarian, Chibiki, who tells him to move along when Kouichi had spotted Misaki reading in there. Chibiki gives no indication that he can see Misaki sitting there between them, but he acts as though he’s protecting her. Or maybe Kouichi’s going to be late for class. Who knows? Only the hospital nurse and his relative give him a normal conversation. Oh, let’s not forget the classmate who’s “head of countermeasures,” or Mochizuki, who paints lemons in the style of Munch. Apparently Class 3 needs countermeasures for something. But every time one of them is about to offer a little more explanation, someone shushes them. Kouichi isn’t a complete wuss, he’s snooping about on his own, but he could be a little more proactive. Or maybe he’s just spooked.

This is all done with the same dying grey colors we saw in the first episode. Does the sun ever come out there? There are all those quick and away cuts to mannequins. And the sounds! Wind gusts when Misaki issues a warning. Crows caw at her. School floors creak to great effect. Cell phone signals echo after the phone is put away. And the score! Really, this is the most effective use of sound and music to establish an eerie mood since Ghost Hound, and that was four years ago. It all comes together when Kouichi follows Misaki to the creepy doll store, where he gets a bit of a shock, and so did I. That’s about the only real plot move we’ve had yet, yet the episode flew by without me noticing. And now, at the end, Misaki has revealed something, her missing half, perhaps (Halves is a metaphor they’re tinkering with), maybe the plot will move forward a little quicker. But it doesn’t have to. No hurry.

I had worried that Chihayafuru, otherwise an excellent competition series, was heading too far into fantasy when the Mizusawa team made it to the finals, but since then it’s handled its karuta responsibilities more realistically, and it follows through with this, as everyone on the team winds up where all but one of the contestents will.

Well, she gets five cards (interestingly, Sudo, in the A finals, manages more) against Shinobu, still champion. What’s more, she managed to regain her composure and not fold, AND she manages to turn her defeat into a lesson. She now knows how much better she must get, and has an idea or two how. In other words, it was a learning experience. It’s the best, really the only good outcome for her unless the show was going to dive into fantasy. And to spice up the story, she has made Shinobu remember her, and not only for recognizing her T-shirt.

Second. Always second.

The other main battle, Taichi in the class B final, is just as interesting. This one is at least close. It’s been a long and exhausting day. Taichi is beginning to make mistakes. There’s an excruciating moment where he seems to run through the positions of every remaining card in his head, and I thought he had gone into a mental fugue state and was about to collapse just as Chihahya did two episodes ago, or we’d pan back and see that his opponent had meanwhile snagged five cards. But no. He just loses. This sets up a fascinating moment. Second place. His parents would not approve. And he’s probably second place in Chihaya’s heart, too. Yet he’ll be damned if he lets them see him cry … Then he sees his teammates crying for him. Speaking of Chihaya, she deserves a rebuke for completely forgetting about their matches and having to be told that Taichi was even IN the finals. Oh, well, strip all that aside and this was one of those midway episodes where the heroes lose but grow tougher because of it. After all the drama I could really use a filler episode now, but when Arata comes back it will be drama all over again …

Guess Kanna's mood.

With its opening flashback of Ichika flying about in hyperspace, dreaming of some place with trees and a lake, then crash-landing on earth, Ano Natsu de Matteru 2 starts out as a SF story. But by the end it’s clear that this show’s going to be about the trees and lakes (and high school) rather than hyperspace. That bothersome moment where Ichiga was spotted hugging Kaito while wearing only a towel is quickly glossed over and somehow forgiven (well, not by Kanna) and after that it’s all about normality. Ichika buys clothes. They plan a movie. Lemon (a quieter, more cunning Taiga) gets them drunk. Stuff is said, little of it important. What IS important is that Ichika is going to find all the trees and lakes she wants in this series, and to expect anything more is to expect too much. I’m not sure we’re going to enjoy it asmuch as she will. The show’s going all over the place setting up the situation, and what are they going to do besides make the movie, try to hide that fact that Ichika’s an alien, and have Kanna jealous all the time? But it’s agreeable enough for now.

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