Natsuyuki and Binbougami 9, Chocolate 8

Natsuyuki Rendezvous 9 is the most effective episode so far, though in a way it’s the slowest-moving.

Flashback.

There’s only one event, but it’s a big one. As we expected, Rokka encounters Shimao (still in Ryuusuke’s body) up in the mountains. In the scenes that follow it becomes impossible for him to hide the switch, and Rokka realizes she’s looking and talking to, well, basically, Shimao. Naturally, she is completely overwhelmed. At the same time, Ryuusuke is still traipsing about fairyland, books with Shimao’s old illustrations, and the Rokka-fairy turns and calls him “Prince.” His reflection in a drop of dew shows Shimao, a twist I frankly don’t have an answer for, unless Shimao’s begun to come back, and, with his regret in the real world, maybe he is.

Present day.

Reasons why this all works: for one, Rokka now knows something is going on, and now she may be forced to make some decisions about her future, what she can let go. The episode likes to point out that in spite of Shimao’s entreaties she hasn’t gotten rid of anything Shimao asked her to. She kept everything, including the memories. Also, Shimao has an inkling that this is going altogether the wrong way. He hadn’t intended for them to meet up in the forest, meant to string her along, or maybe, deep down, he did, and he now sees how selfish he’s been and what damage he’s doing. Another way this works is through simple storytelling. All those episodes of dallying pay off (well, to an extent), as now they can drag on a moment when Rokka stops Shimao from running (with that ridiculous gait), clutching the back of his jacket, and make it last just enough. The episode switched Shimao and Ryuusuke’s face so many times we’re not sure whom we’re looking at anymore. It’s broken up by Ryuusuke’s adventures in wonderland and its clumsy dwarfs. And all the artwork! This series has always looked good, but nothing yet matches the vivid forest scenes here, the colors and shadows, that make the storybook world look dull by comparison. I wonder if that was intentional? Probably not. Well, I’m still not convinced how good this series is, but this episode makes a strong case for it.

Binbougami Ga! 9 has no introspective scenes, no sentimentality at all, so it’s a good episode. Ichiko and Momiji try to settle their dispute during PE coed tennis, each teaming with two star players, who find themselves victims of powers far beyond them. I felt a little sad for the trauma inflicted on Shion and Gorihara: innocent stereotypes tossed in for one episode. But the gags were mostly good, so who cares? In the second half we meet Kuroyumi, another god of misfortune who’s going to steal Momiji’s thunder but winds up a victim herself–of Ichiko’s cooking. The best bit was her reaction to the stew, entirely off camera, a mass of screams, retching noises with other sound effects thrown in.

This bit doesn’t have much to do with anything, but I think the character’s cute when she’s being sneaky.

Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate 8 tries to be moving and fails because of its inability to make me care about anyone involved. It looks at first like a harem episode. We start with Yuuki pinned down in Satsuke’s room, playing Shogi and hearing some of her backstory along with the flirting she does. Her sister, the drunken Hazuki, abandoned their family years ago and won’t say why. Later we get a scene with Chisato acting weird because she’s afraid Yuuki’s eyes are beginning to wander, though they aren’t a couple in the first place. Sadly, he has to give a “I love you BUT …” speech (this scene also involves a walking squat toilet). Then it’s back to the sisters who do everything they can short of killing each other to lay claim to Yuuki, who is so emasculated by this point he’s got a sign around his neck saying “Prize.” Then we get the tearful family story … which was underwhelming. I can understand Hazuki’s feelings of loyalty to the woman who raised her, but I’d love to hear the mistress’s side of it. She gives birth to a girl, who is taken and raised by another woman, who dies, and now the daughter refuses to accept her biological mother. Well, we get another pathos, or bathos in this show already.

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