Finales: Tokyo ESP, Free2, Hanayamata

Tokyo ESP ends in about as ridiculous fashion as you would expect.

Just when I thought things couldn't get goofier ...
Just when I thought things couldn’t get goofier …

Episode 11 brings us right around to episode 1, with the parliament in the air, literally, and people rushing to get there and find a way to stop these unstoppable bad guys, who, as it turns out, could be stopped quite easily when you get the right ESPer for the situation. You could say that it’s a way for the show to save animation costs, but it’s always fun to watch good guys beat up bad guys, and what’s more, Rinka did all that beating up without any ESP powers at all. Meanwhile Kyoutaru gets some unexpected help from, er … I told you it would be ridiculous.

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And then we get the expected Rinka/Minami rematch, which was actually some crossing of blades in between speeches about Kyoutarou, good and evil, the show’s usual stuff. The physical fight is pretty much a draw, while Rinka wins the debate by simply not being on the side of a smug, superpowered meglomaniac who plays the piano badly and has the worst lines I’ve heard from a villain in some time. Meanwhile, in the side battle, two kids make short work of Hokusai’s nastiest henchman, including the one holding up the building (which they knew), and there’s some uninteresting effort to stop lots of people from getting crushed. Then another debate, between Koutarou and his new best buddy albatross, and Minami, and then some even weirder people show up, and well, does it matter?

and catch that goldfish!
and catch that goldfish!

The “Professor’s” mad scheme to make a lot more espers doesn’t sound too bad to me. The only people who might argue are those who insist on “us” and “them.” If it becomes “we,” then no problem. Unfortunately, the show doesn’t take that route, and neither do the new espers, all of them apparently lawless. But realism and logic have never meant much to this show. This absence of normality was also one of its charms. It was, in spite of the violence, a cheerful, goofy show, with flying penguins and talking albatrosses and ninja masters in panda suits. And the good guys goofily believed in good and executed violence for its cause. The bad guys fought for evil, or whatever, and had terrible lines. I can’t make myself dislike this show too much.

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Free! Eternal Summer has the expected climax, the big race in the nationals. It’s about as joyous and fun to watch as the season one finale was, each boy finding what they want while they have their final race together, and, just like Ping Pong, it really didn’t matter how they did, and the show finally tells us via a framed picture on the wall, again like Ping Pong. While that bit, and the aftermath where everyone goes their separate ways and keeps working, was immensely satisfying, the stuff that came before wasn’t.

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There was no real no urgency to it. Season one’s arch rival, Rin, was now their closest ally. Haru had pretty much solved his problems in episode twelve. That left us a dull scene where he had to explain what his problems were and everyone had to verify their friendship, especially Makoto. Then there was an even worse scene the night before finals where they basically recapped both seasons in a “Hey, remember when so-and-so …” style that had me consider fast-forwarding, something I almost never do. Well, they pulled out the nice ending, and I’ll say that, like K-ON!! and unlike Chuu2koi, they found reasons to make a season 2 necessary. Graduation is a nice built-in plot device, isn’t it? But I’m glad the series is over, time to give it a rest. Looking forward to Kyoani’s new show.

You're late, Hana!
You’re late, Hana!

Hanayamata 12, like Free!, sticks the landing. It felt a little odd. The girls were prepared to do the festival show without Hana, and there was a nice bit where Naru gives Machi a pep talk, and everyone else is surprised that it’s Naru giving the pep talk, how much she’s grown, etc, and it occurred to me that it might be appropriate for Hana NOT to be there. As they say, Hana might have started the yosakoi club, but it kept going and acquired new members mainly because of Naru. But I suppose that would be unfair to Hana, and the girls want to perform all together, and this is a show with happy, sappy overtones. So here comes Hana!

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I could have done without the “will she make it?” business and the rushing about, but it did give a momentum to things when the music plays and Hana leaps onstage just when the music hits the chorus, well-timed! After that it was dancing, fireworks, and happy-happy, and I was sucked back into the series, for the first time in a while. Never mind all those invented dramas that came before it, or that Hana wasn’t the fairy she seemed to be … I wrote in my introduction to this series that it had cast spell on me that began when the OP hits the chorus and the girls start dancing. It turns out that it was the OP casting the spell. The story that came afterwards could get pretty dismal. But at least they put together a lovely final performance that lives up to that song. But I wonder if the series is casting about for another season. I hope not. It would be about as unnecessary as some other season twos I mentioned in this post. Let’s leave it as it is.

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Hanayamata 11, Free2 12

Work is going to delay my posts for a couple days, so I thought I’d put these two up now.

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Hanayamata 11 was sweet and infuriating at the same time. It was sweet because, for once, all the tears Hana and the others shed felt right on target. Not too many, not too few. They also used the OP music effectively to heighten the emotions without overwhelming us with bathos. It was infuriating because Hana was stupid enough to not only tell the others that she was leaving a week before the performance, but she didn’t even mention to her loving, doting mom that she wanted to stay one more fucking week and do something very important to her. Surely, if this was that important, her mom would have done something to make it work. It’s also inexplicable behavior for her. She’s always been upfront about what she wants. Why didn’t she say anything to anybody until it was too late to change plans? Argh, Yaya was right. Baka! The saving grace of the episode was Naru’s growth, giving comfort to a friend who dearly needed it.

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Free! Eternal Summer 11, in spite of its usual quality production values, was an underwhelming episode. Rin takes Haru to Australia, meets Rin’s homestay folks, stares at the beach, hears Rin’s story about his time here, and finally visits the Sydney aquatic center and discovers his dream, which is … what? Okay, to keep swimming, but where? I suppose it’s unfair to ask Haru while the new dream is still staring him in the face, but I couldn’t help wondering if he’d go to Australia, since Rin has pretty much admitted he can’t swim unless Haru is near, or back home? Also, the visit was surprisingly mundane. I was happy that there hadn’t been some huge crisis we’d have to watch via flashback, but as it turned out I yawned through most of it. The saving grace was the views of Sydney and the people there, which put me in ind of K-ON’s London visit.

Hanayamata and Akame ga Kill 10, Free2 11

The team is finally assembled, nearly at the end of the series.
The team is finally assembled, nearly at the end of the series.

You can tell a lot about Machi’s personality in Hanayamata 10 by how she joins the club. She just announces that she’s joining, and that’s that … with a little hesitation on the “please take care of me” line. And from there she starts working them to death as if she was the president. True, they should be practicing, but maybe they don’t need the newest member telling them that. On the other hand Azunyan kept doing the same thing in K-ON, but no one ever listened to her. And the club does need some leadership–the big plot crisis in the episode comes when they learn they had missed the deadline for registering for the festival. Happily, despite her snarking, no one is terribly offended by Machi’s behavior, except maybe Yaya, who keeps her mouth shut. And it works out in the end since it was clear from the start that she wanted the practicing mostly for herself. For next week’s invented crisis, Hana’s mom shows up.

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Akame ga Kill 10 is one of the funnier ones. First, we have the ridiculous scene between Tatsumi and Esdeath in her boudoir, in other words, two people possibly getting into a romantic situation who are on complete opposite sides of the conflict. Part of me feared for Tatsumi’s life and the other side said “enjoy it.” Instead, Tatsumi decides to try and convert Esdeath to the rebels’ side, a doomed enterprise but you have to admire him for trying, even if his speeches are still on a simplistic good vs. evil plane. And I thought he did a good job of trying without giving away his identity, that is to say, she didn’t kill him. And I suppose we have to give Esdeath a choice of good or evil, so she can reject it and we can move on.

Tatsumi the spy gets some key intel.
Tatsumi the spy gets some key intel.

Though I wonder if Esdeath and the Jaegers have the brains to recognize Tatsumi anyway, well, apart from Stylish. In the second ridiculous scene, Tatsumi manages to get away from Wave, transforming into his armor, only to have Wave, in his own armor, confront him, and neither side knows who the other is or thinks it through. Well, we have to figure Wave doesn’t have a lot on the ball. They’ve set him up as the empires’ equivelent of Tatsumi: young, a bit guileless, and wanting to do the right thing. He’s even had the type of meeting-the-weird-teammates scenes that Tatsumi had. But he IS the enemy, and I’m interested to see what the show is going to do with him.

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Free! Eternal Summer 11 brushes aside most of the old story arc stuff, save for one: Haru’s funk. Since the boy doesn’t show a lot on his face, his teammates and coach notice it when he swims. What’s more, their relay times are rising, they aren’t getting any better, so Haru’s funk is affecting everyone else, though they all seem to be trying. Every now and then throughout the episode, someone comes up and tries to get through to him with no success. Makoto a couple times, the other team members, even Sousuke has a few choice words for him. At least Sousuke gets a reaction other than “Shut up!” The problem here might be that time is passing. People are graduating and making plans, but Haru doesn’t seem to want to accept that they can’t swim together forever, and competitive swimming alone isn’t part of his dream. Well, maybe a surprise visit to Australia (Rin’s weird move at the end of the episode) will shake him up. Something had better; there are only two episodes left and they have to do the national competitions too.

Hanayamata 8-9, Akame ga Kill 9, Zankyou 8, Free 2 10

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Hanayamata 8 sort of ruined all the fun for itself by foreshadowing a disastrous accident onstage. It looked to be a real memory or an anxiety dream, and I can’t tell which because Naru and Yaya have never mentioned it before. Either way, you knew the dream meant a bad thing happening, namely Naru falling down, so I had a hard time enjoying the other parts of the episode. Now, in the dream, little Naru fell down and just cried, and here she still has her wits about her, more or less, so there’s a chance she can recover and the girls can chalk it up to a learning experience. I suppose the next episode (which I haven’t watched yet) will let us know, if they’re not too busy with their new subplot–Sally and Machi’s not-so-great relationship, which I can frankly do without.

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… And episode 9 handled the disaster just right. Before Naru can get too overcome, Yaya, then Hana and Tami are crouched around her, offering their hands. Alas, they extend it too long by doing a scene at school soon after, where it turns out everyone already knows about her fear of audiences, but I guess the show needs a bit of closure like that. Then it’s on to the Sally/Sachi nastiness and way too many scenes of Machi saying spiteful things about Sally, laden with hints of an earlier betrayal she can’t get over, followed by walking off in a huff. Meanwhile, Sally might be quitting anyway, though they don’t really follow up on that. And finally a typically heartfelt scene where we learn the whole background and Tami reveals the truth they could have told us sooner, and right then Sachi is almost turned 180 degrees. Well, I expected nothing more from this show. Well, the good bits were very good.

Introducing the new bad guys, apart from Wave, who's getting his ass kicked.
Introducing the new bad guys, apart from Wave, who’s getting his ass kicked.

Apart from an early training scene where Tatsumi once again swears he will get stronger in honor of another dead comrade (to his credit, he already has), Akame ga Kill 9 switches us back to the silly side, where Esdeath has a new crack team put together. Let’s hope it does better than the last crack team, all killed by two people. They’re introduced as a bunch of doofuses, and we see it through the eyes of Wave, one of the new members and a person who seems a lot like Tatsumi at first; young, naive, optimistic, and dull, so I wonder if he’ll turn out psychotic like Seryu (who’s also a member). Elsewhere, we get an amusing new setup where Tatsumi wins a fighting contest and thus finds himself a reward for Esdeath, who has taken a liking to him. She drags him off while I wonder how much they’ll let us watch of the following scenes. Afterwards, will Tatsumi give another “I must grow stronger!” speech? Really, I can’t remember a show that can get both so bleak and so silly as this one.

A fugitive shouldn't accept parcels with her name on them.
A fugitive shouldn’t accept parcels with her name on them.

Zankyou no Terror is a good series, make no mistake, but then they keep doing stupid things that bring it down. In episode 8 it’s the whole Lisa thing. Mind you, if I was a noble terrorist who’s had to drag an innocent girl along, I’m not sure what I’d do with her either. One thing I would have done, however, is make sure that absolutely no one sees her. Surely they must have known that the authorities have her ID and hence all the information they need. Maybe they could have told her not to even open the door and accept packages in her name, for chrissakes. Admittedly, Lisa shares some of the blame for that; at times she seems to have no common sense at all. If you need further proof of this, look at her fleeing the boys–right into Five’s arms. And meanwhile Shibazaki is suspended but continues hitting the pavement looking for clues, the necessary dull but necessary work of sleuthing and backstory-building that will become important in the next three episodes.

Hey, that's the other team's line!
Hey, that’s the other team’s line!

Free! Eternal Summer 10 pretty much forgets about Haru’s angst and switches to Sousuke’s shoulder, and his reasons for swimming without the dream of it being on an international stage. He went to see Rin screw up last year and redeem himself by swimming with the good guys, and realizes, after years, that he wanted to swim with people, not alone, against everyone. Well, it wasn’t a flash of insight but something he probably came to realize bit by bit, just as his shoulder problems didn’t come instantly. We learn all this during an emotional argument with Rin, two bros nearly beating the crap out of each other because that’s how they do things, another of those too-long weepy-shouty scenes where the other teammates arrive just at the right time to give emotional support, and, naturally, Haru overhears. Well, it’s settled. Both schools have unified teams, and when the relay comes, it’s genuinely exciting not only because the animation is terrific as usual, but because we have no idea who will win or who to root for.

Tokyo ESP 8, Glasslip 9, Free! 9, Space Dandy 8

I get that way when i study, too.
I get that way when i study, too.

Tokyo ESP 8 is a mixed back of little events to set things up for what looks to be a big battle arc. The Professor and Minami go to work recruiting other people who have taken the goldfish, so to speak, one of them completely indifferent, another a sympathetic victim. Since they must murder someone in order to join, one of them goes for Rinka and gets her ass handed to her, I guess to establish how Rinka’s grown or to get us in on the bad guys’ plan, or both, or neither. Too bad there was a long and pointless Rinka in the amusement park scene before it. They also let Azuma go, a move so weird that everyone on both sides is confused by it, including Azuma. Obviously, they’ve done something to him, but the show has given us no hint of that. All they’ve done is bring him food, keep him from leaving, and argue good vs. evil from time to time. The latter scenes do nothing but exhibit the almost random evil platitudes the bad guys live by. My favorite is that doing good is nothing but arrogance, or something like that. Anyway, he’s out and going back to school, and so are the evil girls, but not for the same reason. And on the WTF level this week, they captured Ayumu being an esper on camera, but no one has noticed that he’s a notable anti-esper’s son.

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Glasslip 9 has more small events interrupted by bigger ones. The big one might be Kakeru’s inability to hear the “fragments,” something that certainly has to do with his mom showing up and hanging around the house. It could simply be the desire to be a part of a family, fulfilled when she’s there (Indeed, his father seems pretty lonely when she’s not around). But she’s leaving again for a long time soon; we’ll see what happens then. Apart from that, we get Yanagi sending Yuki weird poetic texts that I thought were invitations to meet up at first, but no, they’re just weird texts. This is outside her normal behavior, but Yuki doesn’t seem to mind. The final big moment leaves me confused. Sachan invites Hiro and Touko to hang out on a museum balcony after closing to look at the moon, and suddenly they’re discussing Natsume Sousuke and how he translates “love.” “Tsuki kirei da yo?” and suddenly both Touko and Hiro are slowly turning to her like she said something important. Was it a confession to Hiro? With Touko there? Was she expressing her love to both of them, as a way of making up for her earlier meddling? I have no idea.

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Free! Endless Summer 9 was blatant in foreshadowing what would happen this episode. All the talk of college scouts, and the principal declaring him the pride of the school finally got to Haruka. They started the pressure early and kept up the entire time. I wonder, however, if Rin was being his most tactful by talking about scouts and the future between a big race. Surely that can wait until after. In fact, that’s the message Haru should have gotten before, but no one had the brains to tell him. But oddly enough Haru didn’t crack from trying to achieve, instead he lost track of the reasons he wants to swim. He should have been smart enough to ignore all that. And the way he cracked was a splendid moment. He just stopped swimming. As for the other crisis, involving Sousuke’s shoulder, they didn’t get to his race this week, meaning he gets to grimace in pain for longer. Cruel show.

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In Space Dandy 8, Dandy finds himself in Limbo, a strange place even by this show’s standards. We pretty much figure out what’s going on at the start, but as the one guy says, some people go hundreds of years before they realize they’re dead. While he gets to the conclusion, or rather, is told it by bizarre characters who could have said it from the start, we see him visit all sorts of bizarre places. The series lives up to its capability this week: each thing we see is weirder than the last, and while we marvel at what the artists and designers have brought in this week we begin to wonder things, and not just “who is that girl?” Why the repetitive talk about living only as a prequel to dying? Was the couple at the dinner table trying to feed him hints? What about the chorus of slug-things chanting like monks about life being an avoidance of death? And what about the girl maybe (because who knows?) sacrificing herself to save him, or what she experiences after that? Was that a hallucination before death? Was the entire planet a hallucination before death? Well, it was a very good episode, and there’s no rule that says it had to explain itself to my satisfaction.

Aldnoah and Barakamon 7, Free! 7-8, Akame 7

... and then I'll shoot you.
… and then I’ll shoot you.

Aldnoah Zero 7 was great fun, though there were some nutty coincidences and a bewildering exchange between Inaho and Slaine near the end whereupon Inaho shoots down Slaine’s ship, well, Slaine was shooting too … Not sure where they’re going with that. Looking at it through Inaho’s eyes, this guy has just helped him kill off Femieanne and her ridiculous weapons. The enemy of my enemy and all that. But now he wants to meet the princess, so Inaho thinks he has some ulterior motive. I suppose he’s balancing one guess and another. As for Slaine, why did he fire at Inaho? Did he think that Inaho would try to keep him from the princess? No idea.

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Well, it’s a good way to end a good episode. We saw Inaho use his guile to keep Femieanne at bay, well, Slaine certainly helped. Hell, even Yuki back on the ground was of use. Femieanne was a fun homicidal villain, even giving those fist projectiles names and mourning them when Inaho/Slaine et al picked them off one by one. And she met an appropriate fiery mad villain death. So I’ll forgive the show the incredible dual coincidences of discovering a hidden dock, finding an aldnoah fighter inside, and even (“Oh my god what’s that??”) a fully operational battleship, which Asseylum duly boards and commands. Absolutely ridiculous, but, you see, when you make the rest of the episode entertaining you can get away with it. Instead of “I don’t believe it. What a stupid plot device,” it becomes “I don’t believe it. HELL YES!!” Other shows, take note.

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I seem to have skipped Barakamon 6. No matter. I don’t think whatever those visitors had to say it was very important. Big stuff in this show goes by in passing, anyway. More important this episode is the fishing. We learn hot to catch horse mackerel, and they actually catch some. Handa seems to be at peace with the visitors, even the little prodigy, and a good time is had by all, including me, even if they don’t quite catch the big one. The half-hour moved faster than just about any other episode of any show this season.

What the hell are you talking about?
What the hell are you talking about?

It seems that every time I turn around there’s another Free! episode out, so here’s another two-fer for you. Episode 7 took care of the relay competition in efficient fashion, almost too quickly, meaning there will be another direct confrontation between the schools later on. Everyone’s up for it, though they start dropping hints about future problems, small ones, like Makoto’s slow starts (and his search for an answer kicks off the plot of episode 8), but especially, what’s up with Sousuke and Haruka. In episode 7 Rin confronts Sousuke about his attitude, and the accusations become more abstract as the confrontations become more physical. Sousuke was looking for an answer when he did the relay, but didn’t find it, and is angry, and so is Rin because he didn’t find an answer, leading to Sousuke saying he’s angry he doesn’t have an answer either, while their grabbing each other’s collars and slamming each other into trees. I didn’t know athletes could get so philosophically pointless.

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Still, it was more interesting than episode 8, where Makoto volunteers to coach swimming. He loves it (seriously, he’d be an excellent swim coach, if he could learn to get stern with people), and of course there’s the one boy who is afraid of swimming because of a boating incident, and how to reach him. That part would be routine apart from how he manages the miracle cure. He has the boy swim on his back, so he can see the sky, or ceiling, and it was a moment that saved the episode: along with the usual “don’t be afraid” lines, he give the kid a revelation, a moment of joy. Good work! Apart from that both episodes have the question of what Haruka will do next, which would get almost as philosophically pointless as Sousuke’s issues (though it turns out Sousuke’s issues are more physical than he lets on) if he wasn’t so laconic. But it looks like we’ll get a full blast of it next week, if I remember to watch.

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In Akame ga Kill 7, the way they’ve framed the upcoming battle between Bulat and General Liver, it looks like Bulat’s going to get it next episode. The question is whether he can inflict enough damage to Liver first. The fact that he was once Liver’s subordinate isn’t going to help his chances, and I don’t want him stumbling around in confusion during the battle, though that will certainly happen. As for Tatsumi, I don’t expect him to die, so let’s see how strong he can be against Nyau. It was funny to hear that third guy mouthing Tatsumi’s lines about getting stronger; for a moment I thought his imperial arms involved telepathy. But what’s the deal with sneaking aboard that ship? Tatsumi, Bulat’s invisibility doesn’t mean much if you’re chatting away with him on a crowded deck. Elsewhere, the show introduces us to two new characters and immediately slaughters them. Just a reminded not to get too attached to anyone in this series.

Sixes: Free!, Nozaki-kun, Hanayamata

The episode wasn't as dramatic as this shot suggests.
The episode wasn’t as dramatic as this shot suggests.

In Free! Eternal Summer 6 we have the prelims, and while they do have a few races in it, it doesn’t feel all that compelling. The main drama is Makoto deciding to swim against Haruka in the 200m free in order to have a serious race with him. Makoto loses, and he doesn’t mind. That’s really it. Well, it’s nice to see everyone else qualifying for the finals, even Rei, who’s so choked up at barely passing that you’d think he had actually won something. There’s supposed to be some drama with Haruka and Rin going against each other in the 100m free, but they’re buds now, and besides, this rivalry is a work in progress. The more interesting drama is Sousuke disapproving of Rin’s coming second, but we don’t really know what climbed up Sousuke’s butt to begin with, so it’s hard to care. Maybe the relay next week will be more interesting.

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Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun 6 is a solid episode. Hard to say which part is better. In the first story we meet a boy named Wakamatsu who is traumatized daily by Seo in basketball practice, adding to his insomnia, but is instantly put to blissful sleep by Seo’s singing, but he doesn’t know it’s her. He tries to settle the former issue by confronting her on the roof, but miscommunication (Seo is pretty dense after all) leads to one of the show’s better scenes so far. Why do so many characters in the show take inspiration and advice from Nozaki’s shoujo manga? Oh well, what’s hinted at and quickly dropped is that Seo might have a crush on Wakamitsu. I hope they follow up on that.

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I didn’t think the second story could top that, especially since this show can be uneven, but it’s still very good. Nozaki is sick and his three assistants (well, the redhead isn’t there) try to finish his work by the deadline for him. Competence jokes aside (hence the scene’s slow and predictable start), the subsequent fumbling around for background patterns or whatever they’re called, based on their own opinions of the manga’s characters (and people they know) lead to some good moments. It’s especially amusing because it shows Chiyo is as good at playing the fool as she is the straight man. So it’s two good scenes this week. One has Seo but no Chiyo. The other has Chiyo but no Seo. Take your pick.

This scene isn't really that dramatic, either.
This scene isn’t really that dramatic, either.

Hanayamata 6 packs in more of the usual scenes you’d expect in a struggling performing club scene: conditions from the advisor, do well in exams (Hana doesn’t), meaning we get studying scenes, etc etc, until the bit when the advisor relents because Hana is at least trying. Japanese is her worst subject, strange to say, but it seems it’s the literature that’s dragging her down. It’s cute and dull, but livened up by two scenes, one where the girls show off the dancing they’ve learned so far to their fellow students, and Tami’s music turns out to be the show’s OP theme. Since the opening is lovely, its use here carries additional weight. But why are the other girls suddenly so interested? It’s like the first three episodes never happened. And the first bit, where Naru’s father tries to figure out what has brought this change in her daughter, was kind of sweet. But why hasn’t Naru told him yet?