Tokyo ESP 4, Nozaki-kun 4-5

Tokyo ESP 4 winds up its first arc in solid fashion.

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First they have to rescue Murasaki, and it’s pretty easy, considering. In spite of her injuries Rinka beats up several men twice her size and only uses her power to avoid bullets. It’s ridiculous, but she looked so formidable swinging that sword around that I didn’t care much. The rest of it was just as improbable and my capacity to care didn’t go up; I was having too much fun watching Peggy the penguin get pissed off and remove that gang leader’s power, Azuma teleporting several bodies so they wind up landing on the scene’s current bad guy, or Rindou showing up just in time to rescue Kuroi. And we meet the show’s chief antagonist, and wonder why Azuna freaks out, leading to some godlike thing who borrowed Monogatari’s snake motif … Well done.

The bonding takes some interesting turns.
The bonding takes some interesting turns.

They have to settle a few things after that. In the episode’s weakest moment Azuna goes missing and we watch him walking in the rain without an umbrella, and worried Rinka doing the same, without the umbrella, at which point I got tired of watching unhappy people get wet–the same thing happened in the latest Hanayamata as well. Then they find him, making me wonder why they bothered with the whole thing, unless it was to demonstrate one of the bonds the characters are building which Rinka refers to in a voice-over at the end. As for Murasake, she has her own crisis, solved when the gang take her in and her dad shows he’s not such a bad guy after all. These quiet scenes mostly feel like a letdown after the first half’s action, but there were enough good moments in them that, yes, I didn’t care too much.

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Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun 4 stops introducing introducing new characters (but next week we’ll get back to it) and concentrated on Mikoto, the weakest of the lot. Which is not to say he’s incapable of being entertaining, just that he has strong competition. The first story, where he entices Nozaki to play a dating sim, has its moments but its due to Nozaki being himself and imagining himself as the females, thus getting all the answers wrong, but in the end, being right in reality. The biggest problem is that Chiyo isn’t around. I begin to realize just how much the show depends on her, even when she’s just a straight man. But she shows up for the second half, where Mikoto asks Nozaki for help in practicing for a mixer, and her displays of adoration for Nozaki along with her usual glares of annoyance and solid straight-man work help the scenes immensely, as does Nozaki, his height, and his lunk-headedness. Yeah, Mikoto isn’t bad, but he can’t carry a scene without help.

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Episode 5 came moments after I started writing about episode 4, so even though there’s plenty of other shows to write about, I thought “what the hell.” We DO meet a new character, Ken-san, Kozaki’s editor, and learn about Maeno, the former one. What’s interesting about Ken is that he’s shown as a laconic, all-business type, which leads Chiyo to believe he doesn’t like Nozaki. But in the second half we see Ken as a straight man, putting up with Nozaki’s odd experiments to get inside a woman’s head and heart, or at least that of the manga’s heroine. And so we learn that Nozaki isn’t as great a manga-ka as we had been led to believe. So why is he so popular? Part of the fun of Nozaki is he is a big lunkhead who nevertheless perfectly understands young girls, but since then the show has been doing its best to show just the opposite. Unless they’re trying to show that such effortless grace on paper comes from endless hard work and countless mistakes.

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