Sakamichi no Apollon 5 continues to strengthen its narrow love-story thread with other, minor threads that are just as interesting.
Right now the show prefers to juggle different things (can you juggle threads?) in order to keep one angle from getting stale. Jun suggests the group practice and play a concert at a gaijin bar over Christmas. So we get a few practice scenes, and stiff Kaoru learns to loosen up more. Around that frame we get get more of Kaoru thinking about Ritsuko, and what he saw the other day in the art room. Turns out Sentarou was just posing for Yurika, which I think all of us realized back then, but filter that through Kaoru’s mind and it’s perfectly understandable. One of the delights of this episode was how Kaoru brought it up.
The second ball in the air was the question of having it all, and being ostracized. Kaoru’s felt this way for a while, but now Sentarou, perhaps goaded by this, tells us all about his background, half-white and bullied throughout his childhood, with a family that never accepted him. And while it explains his tendency to work things out with his fists (and why he attends catholic mass), the segment doesn’t work as well. It’s too straightforward a sob story for a show that knows how to be subtle.
Which brings us to a couple surprising twists. The group starts to play at the club and get razzed by a drunk because the Horace Silver they’re playing is too black, and so we got another angle on ostracization to play with. Jun pacifies the crowd by crooning “But not for me” with Kaoru’s help, and indeed the sailors in the club seem to like that better. I’m not about to discuss the intricacies of jazz and race here, but you have to appreciate the irony. The other story twist, about Jun and Yurika, will keep the romance-angst afloat, that is, the only actual story line we have. But the other parts are done so well it doesn’t matter.
Tsuritama episodes have a specific pattern. Yuki tries to learn something about fishing and has a rough time. Another irritation comes up and he storms away and sulks. Haru gets a pep talk. Yuki comes to terms with the problem and manages to accomplish this week’s fishing goal. It’s gotten annoyed with it. Alas, this episode works much the same, but they throw in enough things on the side that I enjoyed it more.
Haru is the one who sets Yuki off, as usual, but this time Haru was clearly in the wrong. It comes after we get scenes of Natsuki’s household, where, natch, everyone loves Haru. While we don’t learn more about why Natsuki and his father “Tamocchan” are having problems–they’d already dropped hints about the waitress–it’s the first time Haru’s seen the situation. It’s what he does next that gets Yuki going off in a huff again, and this time Kate, mediating from her hospital room (but not in bed, sitting up, happy to say) has to scold Haru a little, though you couldn’t really call it scolding. Because it’s Haru being unreasonable this time and not Yuki, I could accept the routine pouting better.
And this means Yuki doesn’t have to work out his issues through fishing all alone. Natsuki is allowing them to cast into the water now, i.e., actually fish. But when Yuki loses a bass when he panics Natsuki doesn’t berate him. No need. Natsuki’s spent enough time with Yuki that he knows the boy is doing his best. Also, he seems to be using the time with his new friends as a way to forget his troubles at home. And he thinks Yuki has relaxed a little, too. Thanks to Haru. Oh, so we get the inevitable make-up bit with Haru to finish things. I’m still not crazy about this pattern, but at least they changed it. Also, Maybe they’ll eventually get back to Yamada, the duck, and, you know, that saving the world stuff. Sometime. All we learned this time is that Haru wants to catch something big.
I sat down with Medaka Box 5 thinking that if it remained true to form, I would drop it. It was even worse. Maybe if they had managed to put the entire aquatic competition into one episode it would have been all right. Maybe if they had used the potential fun of different clubs using different strategies to gain an edge (like they hinted at early on), I would have let it pass. Instead, everyone’s just thrashing about in the water except for this week’s enemies, the swim team. And that might have been all right, too, but then most of the scenes had extra pauses and too many lines in them, especially that nonsense coming out of the announcers booth. We don’t need the ball-basket game explained in such detail, or Shiranui stating the obvious when we all want to see the match. Many of the characters seem to be breathing their lines, like they can’t get any energy up. It’s like no one making this show cares enough to deliver a polished product. Dropped.