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Finales: Uchouten Kazoku, Genshiken N

October 2, 2013 2 comments
Why the tanuki don't do this more often to humans who try to eat them I don't know.

Why the tanuki don’t do this more often to humans who try to eat them I don’t know.

Uchouten Kazoku‘s final had a big exciting scene in it, but mainly it was a lot of mythical creatures talking about not much. The big scene, Friday Fellows vs. Tengu, was as weird as I expected. Unlike Railgun S, which I watched earlier today, here’s a confrontation that no one expected or really wanted, apart from maybe Yasaburou, because maybe his mother would be rescued, and anyway, it might be fun. And the confrontation, once each side figured out the identity of the other side, WAS fun. Cute, too, with all those little furry creatures running around. I had some problems with it, though. Why do the tanuki not mind so much about one of them getting eaten every year when Yaichiro can scare the shit out of humans with his tiger routine? How can the elder Ebisugawa so easily forget that he’s been denying stories of putting tanuki into stew pots and go on and on to the Friday Fellows about doing just that? How come no one except the odd passer-bys in Kyoto care too much about sudden hurricane gusts or trolleys racing through streets and into buildings where there aren’t even tracks?

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I suppose you can attribute the first and maybe the second to “idiot blood,” the most convenient excuse for possible bad plotting that I’d heard in a while. As for the others, maybe Kyoto is used to weirdness like that. I should visit it some day. Other questions I don’t mind not being answered, such as, what was up with Benten? Today she shows a kinder side and acts like she, like Yasaburou, is just looking for fun. Yet at the end she’s back with Akadama. There isn’t a reason for this that the show is willing to give, and while I liked her capricious side more, I see nothing wrong with it if she’s happy. I wonder if the Friday Fellows are going to continue their yearly ritual (probably). I wonder if Yajiro is going to stop being a frog (probably). I wonder if Kaisei is ever going to let Yasaburou see her (no idea, but I hope so). And I could think of others. However, this show has rolled along, er, eccentrically, since the start, following its own rules, and watching it was entertaining enough that I didn’t mind the unanswered questions, or the idiocy.

One more example of the beautiful background art.

One more example of the beautiful background art.

Genshiken N has no overarching plot worries, and no questions that I needed answers. Some of the characters have worries and questions, and this final episode shows them on the way to answering them for themselves, with the help of everyone.

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Mainly, Hato. He’s been avoiding everyone and hasn’t come to change in Madarame’s room recently, so they coax him out with a road trip, sort of how Ogiue came to terms with herself (and Sasahara) on that trip before. While we still haven’t watched that old scene animated, they throw in some quick flashbacks to make the connection. Not that Hato is in such bad shape as Ogiue was. He’s thinking about his crossdressing and he’s worried about Madarame quitting his job. In a good scene, the two talk at the onsen. Madarame simplifies Hato’s crossdressing dilemma by stating the obvious, and the quitting seemed like the thing to do, so relax.

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Apart from that, there’s nothing much for the episode to accomplish apart from bathing, bonding, and a vote to decide if Hato should be a girl or boy. A nice bit where Kuchiki, moving like one of Kyojin’s abnormal giants, attempting to ambush Hato on his way to the bath (what the fuck is wrong with Kuchiki?), is ambushed himself by Sue, moving like a fighting game character. Sue has done yeoman work for this series from the start. But really, there’s nothing else to say about it, and, oddly for a final episode, nothing to wrap up. It’s as if they had more episodes to go. I hope eventually they do, the manga is still going, and there really isn’t another series like this now, where intelligent, comparatively normal young people follow their passions and discover things about themselves along the way, with no goals in mind, just what they encounter.

One more of Sue.

One more of Sue.

Categories: Genshiken, Uchouten Kazoku

Genshiken N 12, Watamote and Teekyuu finales

September 27, 2013 Leave a comment

Genshiken Nidaime 12 has two stories running in it that are sort of related.

Give 'em hell, Madarame!

Give ’em hell, Madarame!

In the first and more “fun” section the Saki/Madarame arc finally finishes. Not only has he more-or-less admitted that he’s had a thing for Saki for years, now he’s forced to go face the rest of the club and discover they all knew about it. Keiko’s idea, of course. But it winds up as more than that as most of the girls that really matter (and two boys posing as girls) posing with him for a harem shoot. They’re doing it to cheer him up, or something, but there’s an element of “real life” in the idea, even if Madarame later says harems don’t exist in real life. Madarame’s harem right now consists of Angela (absent), Hato, maybe Sue (absent), and Keiko (who isn’t permitted in the harem photo–this is real life, after all), and like many harems, most of the characters are unaware they’re in one. That aside, it takes Madarame’s returning to his old self and going on a long spiel, questioning the ratio of girls in a cosplay harem of trap characters, before he really feels better (until Saki shoots him down again). If you told Madarame he had a harem, he would deny it.

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Part two seemed at first like a completely new chapter (it probably was), this one involving Ohno trying to face her future with no job lined up and no real desire to get one. It’s not as “fun” as the first one because the subject is a serious one. It’s made more fun by Yoshitake’s suggestion that she release a cosplay CD of her own, though that might damage her chances for employment. A rambling drunken cosplay scene where this all comes out is further livened up by Tanaka more-or-less proposing to her, though I’m not sure that’s what he intended to do. His future is uncertain as well, but at least he has a direction in mind, and some options. And, to my surprise, they bring Madarame back. I was sure the show was done with him for now, but it turns out, maybe because of the thought he should leave the club soon, he’s just made his future as uncertain as the others by quitting his job. This is going to make the final episode a little less joyful than most of the other shows ending soon.

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And we have the finale of Watamote, and like everyone expected, Tomoko is exactly the same at the end as she was at the beginning. And once again, it’s not that she’s unpopular, really, as no one really notices her. And when they are forced to notice her, they often find her kind of creepy, and it’s just often unfair. In this episode she gets involved in killing a cockroach, but apparently stomping on it just creeped people out. How ELSE do you kill a cockroach? It’s not that she killed the roach, it’s that it was HER killing the cockroach. Apparently those vibes wafting from her isn’t just her imagination. Indifference from her classmates is one thing, forced indifference because they find her repellent is another. Or something. Moving on, it all adds up to an unpleasant show where there’s no hope for the protagonist, everyone knows it, and all that happens is she tries something and it fails or backfires, and she’s as miserable as before, if not worse. I think I kept watching because of a foolish belief that maybe something really would get better for her, and now that it’s over I realize how foolish that idea was. On the other hand, it looked great; they had countless weird ways to portray Tomoko’s angst, my favorite being the cubism face they revived this episode (nice Another
reference too). … Not another season, please. I might feel obliged to watch it, in case, you know, things get better.

Not really a finale.

Not really goodbye.

Teekyuu winds up the season with a gag every five seconds, still way off their best scores of mid-season, but they’re coming right back with a new season, so maybe they can turn it around then.

Uchouten K and Genshiken N elevens

September 17, 2013 Leave a comment

Uchouten Kazoku 11 starts out hopeless and gets hopelesser for a while. The Ebisugawa twins are actually a lot smarter than they’ve been acting, and it isn’t long before Yasaburou is in a cage along with the others.

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But along the way we get a little more insight on the enigmatic Benten, after she rescues Yasaburou. She refers to herself as a tengu. Yasaburou quickly points out that she isn’t one, perhaps because of her cruelty. She’s fully human, even if she can fly, and I wonder if that is what makes at times her go to Yajirou’s well and cry. It might also be the reason for her final indifference to who it is who winds up in the pot, though if that’s the case why did she rescue Yasaburou in the first place? Fondness for him? More likely she wants him to have a fair fight. For whatever compassion and sense of justice she might have, I think she actually doesn’t care who it is she eats that night. Fully human.

Just get on with the story, please.

Just get on with the story, please.

Then we get a lot of teeth-gnashing from Yaichiro, entreaties and calm from their mother, and a pointlessly long taunting scene by the Ebisugawa brothers, or maybe it just seemed long because I want to see their asses get kicked, or maybe their smug act was already stale by episode three. It wasn’t until the very end that we get any sort of rally, as the show plays the Kaisei card and frees … Yashirou, possibly the one least able to do any good. Well, it’s time he stepped up. Next week they’ll play the Yajirou card (the preview gives it away) and we’ll have a rollicking finish, I suppose. I’m afraid I might be a little underwhelmed. There’s so much in this rich world they’ve invented that they can’t possibly fulfill in so short a time.

Genshiken Nidaime 11 brings us plenty of Saki, and Madarame, and it winds up being an important one for both of them.

Good old Saki.

Good old Saki.

The show is always interesting when Saki’s around. She doesn’t feel the same restraints the otaku around her do about speaking of certain things, plus, she hasn’t seen everyone in a while and wants to catch up, allowing US to catch up a little with Tanaka and Kugayama (I was happy to learn that the former might open up a cosplay shop. He’s always been the practical sort). And to tease Ohno, and especially Madarame, when she begins to think that with Sue, Angela and Hato revolving around him that it’s “his turn to be popular” (Madarame, in true harem lead fashion, is oblivious). But of course, an episode wouldn’t be complete without everyone some humiliation for our hero, and the conversation soon turns to what hentai stuff he keeps in his apartment. By the way, can you think of another show where this sort of thing is talked about so openly? What if someone peeked into your computer?

The confession doesn't go as planned.

The confession doesn’t go as planned.

This would be fun on its own, but Keiko suggests something I found annoying and intrusive (but so is Keiko) but the other characters don’t really mind, stick Saki and Madarame in the clubroom and have then sort out their “relationship,” i.e., get Madarame to confess so Saki can finally shoot him down and they can move on. I frankly thought this was simply more added cruelty for Madarame, but it turned out to be a lovely scene. Saki already knew but wasn’t going to say anything (until, as she says, she realized this might be hurting him), and her sentences work a balance of “I don’t know what you’re talking about” and “I know exactly what you’re trying to say.” It seemed cruel at first, trying to drag him into saying the three little words, but she also shows a gentleness we don’t often get to see. In spite of what she says about if she didn’t have Kousaka (I don’t believe it for a second), she would never date him, but she is fond of him and wants him to be happy. Madarame never does manage to say the words. But the communication is made, the conversation works, and they’re both relieved to the point of tears. Lovely scene.

Categories: Genshiken, Uchouten Kazoku

Watemote and Genshiken N 10, Teekyuu still slumping

September 12, 2013 2 comments
Trouble is, it's the same as the old show.

Trouble is, it’s the same as the old show.

After a shocking opening bit, Watamote 10 settles down and becomes simply depressing. There’s a seating change and Tomoko suddenly finds herself stuck right in the middle of that group of chatty, flirty kids. I can sympathize with her. Being stuck with in with a group of people who are everything you’re not day in, day out, when you’ve already got social anxieties, that’s a lot of pressure. But it calms down when she finds an alternate place to eat her lunch, it’s pleasant to watch her enjoying her break in peace–until THAT gets taken away, too. That’s a problem with this series. Even when she isn’t being obnoxious about something, the comedy gods conspire to make her miserable anyway. All she wanted was a quiet place to eat lunch. It leads to the saddest scene yet, her eating lunch late, in an empty classroom, the other desks bunched around her like a fortress. The second part shows her deciding to form one of those useless Do Anything clubs you see people make in anime. You can see the punchline a mile away, but once again, she’s trying to do something on her own; the gods should at least toss her a bone. Of course, they ARE comedy gods, and the main reason she did it was to get out of helping her class with cultural festival work, but still … These scenes have two Tomoko fantasies about being in a club. I don’t really get the point of that. As I said, we knew the outcome way in advance. Were they trying to fool us by setting one up as the fantasy to make us believe the next one would be reality? We know this show too well for that.

Ogiue and Hato ponder the fictional potential of Hato having sex with his brother.

Ogiue and Hato ponder the fictional potential of Hato having sex with his brother.

Genshiken Nidaime 10 is another one where we get a look at a character’s unhappy high school experience, in order to reference the shock the character feels when old friends pop by. This time it’s Hato’s turn. It’s not so bad as far as Genshiken flashbacks go, certainly better than Ogiue’s. The three girls, Kon, Kaminaga, and, er, the tall buzz-cut girl, show up out of curiousity, and with a vague sense of guilt for what they pretty unintentionally did years ago. I’m not sure why Hato felt he had to read Kaminaga’s BL stuff in the john, but such triggers are what unfortunate fictional misunderstandings are made of. And it gets mostly straightened out, to the point where Kaminaga can suggest that Hato’s got a thing for his brother and Hato can calmly nod and say he understands where she’s coming from. Ogiue, who’s been trying to keep the peace up to now, adds fictional embellishments. They’re all rotten girls there, even if one of them is a guy.

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Teekyuu 22, by my estimate, has a gag every five seconds, still way off their best. It didn’t help that the show felt it had to explain the rule about a batter intentionally getting hit in the strike zone. That took a dent out of it. They should have called in the Apaches sooner.

Kyojin 21, Genshiken and Uchouten 9

September 3, 2013 Leave a comment

When, last week in Shingeki no Kyojin, the female giant got herself devoured to prevent capture, it meant we’d have to wait a few more dragging episodes before we saw her again. Happily, I was wrong.

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It STARTS that way. From their various locations in the forest the characters talk about the implications, Armin as usual making the most sense, Erwin pondering future strategies and battle philosophies while fleeing. The danger is still there. There is a traitor in their midst and they don’t know who, so there’s an edge to these scenes, but really you want the big girl back. Fortunately, Erwin’s speculation that the traitor may have to transform again is proven true, and we get what we wish. But then it begins to look like another pointless chase through that never ending forest, complete with another Eren “should I or shouldn’t I?” scene, but we get another twist: those elite corpsmen get the upper hand of the giant for a minute or two, then get crushed. … Well, Levi DID say there was no right or wrong answer, right?

And there's the bell for round one ...

And there’s the bell for round one …

It’s on! And it’s also weird as hell, and a bit kinky, especially when Eren straddles her and then pauses, as if he was thinking thoughts he hadn’t considered before. But no, he’s just thinking the usual things, revenge, kill, rage rage rage, the boring stuff he always feels. Meanwhile his opponent, already wounded, is clearly thinking about the battle more than Eren is. She’s on the defensive most of the time, but she’s clearly buying herself time to regenerate and waiting for the right moment, which comes so fast that you’re not sure what happened except the top of Eren’s giant head is falling off. And guess who shows up just in time to watch what happens next?

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Watching what happened next I fully expected to see Misaka actually kill the giantess. We all know that she’s a great fighter, and, unlike Eren, she uses her rage almost like a weapon unto itself, motivating her to make moves on the giantess that would be suicidal for other corpsmen. And we’ve seen enough of the giantess to know that she was afraid. If she hadn’t had that crystallizing ability … But even though Mikasa didn’t succeed, her righteous anger is a joy to watch. The scene also made me think. The giantess hadn’t eaten anyone before. What’s more, I believe she swallowed Eren whole. If she had wanted to kill him she could have mashed him like she does all the others. In other words, she wants Eren alive. This is a giant version of kidnapping. I want to see what they do with this.

Just one of many little conversations in this episode.

Just one of many little conversations in this episode.

Genshiken Nidaime 9, like many of the other episodes, moves along in a leisurely way, tossing out little plot and character bits along the way, until a small crisis I don’t understand in the slightest pops up at the end. Most of it works. They spend too much time with Hato realizing that others might also know about Madarame’s interest in Saki, but they also introduce a bunch of new characters, all of them old friends of the main group who have come to say hello during the festival. It’s fun to see the type of people they used to hang out with. Yoshitake and Yajima’s friends make sense (passionate and mousy), and we’ll learn more about Hato’s next week, including whether they’re actually friends or not. Meanwhile, that room is getting awfully crowded. Plenty of potential for fun next week.

There she is!

There she is!

Uchouten Kazokou 9 is pretty much the same as Genshiken. Little scenes that want to establish characters rather than move plot forward. We get a brief scene between Yasaburou and the professor about procuring a tanuki for their feast, perhaps there to show the prof’s reluctance to find one at all, another scene where the candidates for the election (and I hope both lose somehow) bow before the center stone (with an amusing flashback), one where the tanuki try to get stubborn old Akadama to preside at the election (handled by Yasaburou–contrasting the earlier scene where Ebisugawas try to bar the Shimogamos from the meeting, here the tanuki part to let Yasaburou in), until we get to the main bit, a conversation between Yasaburou and Kaisei, whom we finally get to see, though Yasaburou can’t and maybe never has. Not much to the scene. We already know that the girl doesn’t like her family, but has some sort of affection for Yasaburou, at least. There’s a hint of threat at the end, but we already figure that the Ebisugawas are going to go on the offensive again. Not that I care. And, like every week, the episode breezes by so quickly that I’m surprised when it’s over.

Kyojin 20, Genshiken N 8, Railgun S 19

August 27, 2013 2 comments
A statement of fact, not an accusation.

A statement of fact, not an accusation.

I expected Shingeki no Kyojin 20 to push Eren into a corner, where he’d have no option but to transform, with a confrontation at the end of the episode (and a giant slugfest next week), but the show makes its own decisions. Eren is pretty much a bystander this week, someone to bounce philosophy and military ethics off of. Elsewhere, at the edge of the forest, Armin does the same (while Misaka says hardly anything and Sasha made me laugh again). Last week they made a big point of trusting your fellow soldiers and superior officers. This week they play with that point a little. Even Levi, loyal to the end, is beginning to wonder if Erwin’s big casualties are worth it. Armin actually has a big speech about how you don’t gain anything unless you’re willing to risk everything. Inspiring stuff, to be sure, but I note that Erwin is always standing in those trees watching other people get slaughtered.

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After they’ve finished beating that concept into the ground, they get to have some fun with the giantess, whom I once again find myself rooting for. Even while restrained by hundreds of wires, she shows off a couple neat tricks, like calcifying her hands covering her nape so the soldiers can’t hack through them. Then, in an odd moment, Levi lands atop her head and talks about nasty things they’ll do to the person inside. The giantess responds by giving a series of dreadful screams, and the regular giants, milling outside the forest, charge in and eat her. So much for the Survey Corps’ plan. And we’re also back to the idea of abandoning everything, because the giantess just did. Were all the bodies worth it? Now we have a traitor in the ranks, as if the Survey Corps didn’t have enough trouble. You have to wonder when the cost of life will prove to be too much …

Madarame cuts through the nervous tension.

Madarame cuts through the nervous tension.

Genshiken Nidaime 8 features another lengthy scene between Hato and Madarame in the latter’s flat, except that this time Hato is dressed as a girl. I could compare and contrast the differences in the conversation between this and the first one, but to some it up, Madarame comes off as more or less the same: a friendly mentor type. It’s been a surprise and sort of a pleasure to watch the man grow up a little, still passionate about the same things, but with more experience under his belt. Early on we had some “He’s a guy! He’s a guy!” inner hysterics while the scene began to play out like an eroge game, but reality came back in after that. Madarame’s not stupid, and neither is the show. It simply likes to play with the contrast between fantasy vs. reality.

... Hato, on the other hand ...

… Hato, on the other hand …

The conversation veers from innocent chat to wild fantasies to chat again, mainly because, even if Madarame seems more sure of himself these days, Hato, a college freshman, certainly doesn’t. At times it looked like he wanted to jump Madarame’s bones. At others, he’s trying to invent an elaborate BL scenario with Madarame, Kousaka, and maybe Saki. While this is mostly internal on Hato’s part, Madarame obviously knew what the lad was thinking, and it’s a sign of his maturity that he doesn’t overreact. As for Hato, Kousaka/Madarame fantasies notwithstanding, I think he’s falling in love with Madarame a little. It would explain why everything his senior does Hato believes to be reflection of his own sorry actions, such as his reaction to Madarame thinking of looking for another job. It might spice up later episodes.

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Taoru Kagaku no Railgun S 19 is essentially a lost child episode, and I’ve seen better ones. They spend the entire show trying to figure out where Febri comes from, and each girl gets to bond with the little tot, including Kongou, who’s not part of the core team. The joke being, of course, that Misaka is the only one that Febri doesn’t seem to like. It takes a garbage robot drone attack, and Misaka’s rescue, to get Febri to change her mind. All terribly predictable. The only nice bit was Uiharu, still a bit lonely without Haruue around, getting to take her home. Nice of the show to give her the opportunity, unless the worst happens and Febri turns out to be some sort of living organic bomb, or worse. Meanwhile, the villains who are monitoring her don’t seem terribly threatening at the moment. That one guy didn’t even recognize Misaka until she wiped out the robots. All those sinister faces in that darkened room, and even Judgement seems to have more on the ball than them. Not a good sign for the bad guys.

Monogatari 6, Titan 19, Genshiken N 7

August 20, 2013 Leave a comment

As usual, it’s hard to keep track of the subtitles with all that scenery distracting me.

In Monogatari Second Season 6, Araragi finally slips back into the main character seat and wastes no time getting girls to talk to him. In fact, we start mid-conversation with someone named Ougi, talking about the paradox of danger associated with traffic lights, and how they’re all red from time to time, for three seconds. I’m trying to connect that with what happens later, but I can’t. Ougi, like all the girls, tells him things, insults him, seems utterly sure of herself, but obviously needs Araragi for something. Maybe we’ll find out what it is later. Then we move on to Ononoki, talking about her experience being dead, as well as Mayoi (who is without her backpack. THAT can’t be good), and Araragi, who has the backpack, though it took me most of the scene to realize it, what with the usual quick cuts to written statements and scenery changes that are odd even for this show..

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The rest of the episode is between Araragi and Shinobou, with more talk about Mayoi, and the sudden realization that he has no time to do his summer homework, a plot device so lame that even the show makes fun of it. So let’s go back in time! The conversations from here on are even more entertaining than usual. Shinobou makes a time portal, Araragi is dubious about stepping through (though he does), and even after, he’s got a lot of questions. It’s been clear to us from the start that Shinobou’s bullshitting her way through this whole thing, she probably just wanted to try out time traveling herself. But she’s never fucked anything up before, has she? And suddenly we’re confronted with the real plot, but the episode’s over. Our hero and his vampire are in a position I certainly didn’t expect, and I have come to expect just about anything from this franchise.

Just as I figured. In Shingeki no Kyojin 19, Eren never gets around to biting his thumb and transforming, but it’s a good episode, anyway.

She's almost got him, and it's early in the episode.

It’s early in the episode. By the end she’s gotten no closer.

It’s marred somewhat by the fact that the female giant, in spite of outrunning them, and Eren saying things along the lines of “She’s right on top of us!” too many times, she never actually catches up. This is one of those fictional things that must be handled just right. You can stretch time to get people’s thoughts in, or in this show’s case, entire conversations, but after a couple of lines like that we start getting impatient for the giant to actually do something besides run and slam whoever’s foolish enough to take her on into trees. It’s up to others to provide the action at this point. Eren does well enough.

Trust us.

Trust us.

That said, you could argue that the whole staring at his thumb for multiple scenes went too far as well. I think this balance worked better because you could see that the lad was actually torn about what to do. He’s got the squad urging him not to do it, he’s got people dying while protecting him as well. Plus, we get the flashback to before, a seemingly failed test plus interesting information about what he needs in order to transform. The self-abuse is only one trigger, the other is that he needs a clear goal, even if it’s to reach for a spoon. Good to know, but then they’re back on the horses and Eren must make a decision: trust Levi and the squad or take matters into his own hands. It’s just enough to make the too-long chase bearable, and then we get a bit of a surprise. But, like Monogatari, we’ll have to wait for next week.

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Nothing much story happens in Genshiken Nidaime 7, either, but, unlike Eren, the show doesn’t need a clear goal to transform into a giant, monstrous epis- … Nah, just forget that metaphor, please. The club turns to what to do for the school festival, or whatever they call it in college, and before long all sorts of anxieties and bad memories come out. Ogiue gets temporary artist-block when she thinks Hato might be a better manga artist than her, while Hato tries and fails to draw a manga, and we get some freakish information about him. He can’t draw unless he’s cross-dressing, and then it’s all BL. The others talk about this weirdness for a while, how it could be a form of self-hypnosis, then it turns to romantic experiences in high school, and a few awkward stories and lots of blushing. It looks like Hato might have the weirdest story of them all, but then Kuchiki interrupts. And in the end, they’re no closer to producing a festival publication than they were at the beginning. Still, it was an entertaining trip. But is Yoshitake right? Do women dress up in order to put other woman in their place? Interesting …