Chihayafuru 19 is all battle with a little twist. The characters are battling each other.
Chihaya (who lost in the first round) watches Desktomu and Kana finish up their match, even though the bigger fight is over on the B-side, so to speak. They give the Class D match more attention than I thought, especially when we were following it last week. I’m glad they did. Though I know nothing about Karuta I could somewhat follow Desktomu’s strategy of sticking is remaining cards in one area so as to easily guard them, playing the odds. It works for a while, but everyone knows that sooner or later one of Kana’s cards will be chosen, and then the other. Her lead was simply too big. And we have the usual mental narration, first with Desktomu coming up with strategy, and then with Kana, though frankly I don’t remember anything she said. Still, it was a well-done competition scene which ends with a touching moment between the two players.
But it had nothing on the other one. The Taichi/Nishida match was the best match scene of the series so far, and it had no hated rival to root against. Maybe that’s why I could sit back and enjoy it without a knot in my stomach. We only get the tail end. Each player has one card left, and they’re guarding their own. There are six other “dead” cards that could be read. It’s come down to the luck of the draw. Taichi will have none of it. He attacks. The music breaks out of its usual themes by groaning its cellos and scittering its violins (it did the same with the earlier match too–the music this episode was especially effective), and then something magnificent happens. A card is read, Taichi lunges, stops, Nishida blocks … dead card. Without a narrative or any sort of break, the players regroup, wait, the next card is read … dead card. No need to tell us anything. No need to slow things down or even change the camera angle. The show let the match speak for itself. And a tense scene had become even more tense.
It’s almost an anticlimax after that. Nishida helps Taichi get his head back on straight, there’s some comedy at Chihaya’s expense, and almost as an afterthought we learn that Nishida, Kana and Desktomu have all moved up a rank! It’s like it didn’t matter to them. They were too busy playing. So congrats to to the movers-up, and meanwhile, we get another scene with Arata. He hasn’t been around for so long I don’t know if he’s necessary any more.
No one dies in Another 6. We get a brandished knife at the very end, but don’t know who its intended for. Instead this episode is mostly two kinds of talk.
First there’s the good talk. Kouichi and Mei spend a lot of time talking to each other. They don’t have anything else to do. They’re both officially ostracized from the Class 3, while the others get together for lunch, they sit around and talk. When it’s PE they stand around and talk. They seem to like it. You begin to wonder how it was for Mei before Kouichi showed up to share her exile, and it’s fascinating to watch her now. She still speaks in a monotone, but she opens up more. She even smiles. She clearly likes having someone to talk to about this. She’s no longer mystery/eyepatch/death girl, she’s a lonely thing who likes to hang out. How Kouichi feels about this, besides the obvious, and the fact that he liked Mei from the start, might be revealed by that dancing daydream he indulges in. Nothing much plot-wise happens in these talks apart from the growing friendship, and it’s lovely to watch. Also lovely was Mei’s visit to the art club after school, where they welcome her as an old friend. It makes you wonder why she doesn’t spend more time there.
Unfortunately we get a lot of another form of talk: exposition. Kouichi and Mei are still getting to the bottom of this and that means talking to the librarian. The description of names vanishing from the school roster and reappearing again after it’s all over was confusing enough, but the show turns the discussion almost into an interrogation. I’ve seen this before. The protagonist asks questions about something that’s been bothering him/her (actually, us), and the other person gives flat-out answers with almost no hesitation, like they were expecting this question to come up right then and there. Scenes like this never explain the exposition clearly enough for the viewer and the characters have to babble on sounding foolish. It would have been a lot worse if the librarian’s voice actor hadn’t done such a good job replying. He sounded world-weary and resigned, and you could imagine the memories that these questions were giving him. The show does a better job at answering questions, like that odd phone call between Kouichi and his dad which opened up a new set of possibilities. And at the end, maybe to make up for all the talk, the knife appears. The show broke its death streak this week. They need to start a new one.
Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai! 6 is usual bland cuteness with occasional bits that border on the unsavory. It brings up one question. If their old house is standing there empty and the kids’ remaining belongings are there, why the hell don’t the adults let Yuuta and the girls stay there? In spite of the sweet but unconvincing final bit, where they now find they can’t sleep unless they’re close together in a cramped room, it would make their lives easier. They even make a point to show that Miu and Sora’s social lives exist in that neighborhood. It makes absolutely no sense. These in-laws are worse than the ones in Usagi Drop, and THOSE people eventually mellowed. Apart from that question rolling around in my brain, and a moment where Sora thinks over taking a family portrait with her, while Yuuta sadly watches, nothing much else to say. Next week apparently Raiko will meet the kids. Maybe that will liven the show up.
Aquarion Evol 7 … First of all, that music guy didn’t die last week. I’m glad to hear it even though it means we’re going to hear too many more speeches about his soul being torn apart by the perfect melody of Aquarion. Other than that the episode was pure silliness. There’s a ghost legend about a doll, the doll exists, turns out it’s just a shy little thing who can turn invisible, just the sort of vector pilot they need when they’re pinned down by random laser fire! Oh, and another moment where Mikono spots Amata apparently doing something naughty with someone else. They clear it up, but I hope that’s not going to be a weekly thing.