Finales: Chihayafuru, Ano Natsu de Matteru, Papa finally catches a break

More goodbyes today. I hope Chihayafuru isn’t saying goodbye forever.

With no tournaments to play, or major crises to confront (minor ones, yes), the show spends time sowing seeds for the next season. We start with the end of the men’s championship and more time with Suo, the four-time champion who seems almost inhuman in his ability to know the card on the first syllable, when technically he should only be able to do so on 7 of them. The show kindly goes into his head and we learn one reason: he knows the reader–not that he’s cheating, and he’s vague about the details, but he says the reader for this tournament has the most love for the Japanese language. In other words, he knows how she reads. Of course, the kids watching on TV with growing despair don’t know this, but it seems odd this hasn’t been discussed before.

Anyway, everyone leaves disheartened except for Tsutomu, too intense to be intimidated, maybe. And so we move into the next part of the show, how they react to watching a player seemingly light-years ahead of them, and in this way we get lovely little scenes where everyone gets a little screen time. Except Nishida. Tsutomu has analyzed Chihaya’s playing and tells her that it isn’t psychic to know so many cards on the first syllable–in fact, she does it herself. It’s a sweet moment when Chihaya, shocked with realization, tries to reward him with a couple candies she had in her pocket, the only thing she has with her. And we get to see Tsutomu’s value to the team at the same time. A similar moment comes later with Chihaya muttering first words and lit-loving Kana basking in the sounds … which is turned on its ear a few seconds later. And, of course, Kana’s little tragedy, which is actually a little funny.

Taichi's new strategy: intimidation.

Taichi and Arata’s moment come over the phone. It’s still hard for me to care too much about Arata, but it’s good to see his little crisis, or rather, his friend’s, get resolved, and Taichi gains some insight on how to get better. Interesting that the male rivals seem to have no one but each other to talk things out. So after every character gets a moment (apart from Nishida … what’s up with that?) we get a fresh crisis for season two, and one more look at Chihaya herself, beautiful but socially inept and nerdy, a bundle of contradictions that gave this excellent show its center. I hope we haven’t seen the last of her.

Stupid boy, that's one of the reasons why we like her.

Ano Natsu de Matteru‘s finale promised to be exciting because the crisis hadn’t finished up yet. Everyone was still running from it.

Well, or fighting it. We learn through the conflict where she must have gotten that tricked-out trailer. We also learn what Manami’s husband does for a living. And by an amazing coincidence they have to do with the chase. I thought Remon had some secrets from the start, it would be the only way to explain her detachment from everything, and her perverse interest, which sounds like a contradiction but isn’t. No, really. So she and her new MIB BFF drive off some alien pods, Rimon flies off with another, and the rest of the gang run interference on the last few, Kaito and Ichika have a lovey-dovey train scene and then reach … The Place.

They carved a message for the future on a TREE?!?

And confusion reigns, well, after Ichika says emphatically that This Is The Place it does. They need proof that aliens were here. How about a glowing cube coming out of the lake. Good enough for you? But it explodes or something, and then we’re in Ichika’s brain, I think, or someones … she says something about Taiko being healed with her cells, so apparently he’s able to go wherever the hell she is, which and sounds looks exactly the same as the reality apart from the disembodied voice talking about visiting earth and falling in love there. So we don’t know if this is an old, similar story or Ichika in future time. Either way the SF in the show just got messy. Oh, the thing left for future humans to discover was carved on a tree. This tree, we learn when we return, is now a rotted stump. Meanwhile I’m still trying to figure out what the cube in the lake was. Isn’t THAT proof enough?

Never mind. The show makes up for it. Pods arrive, we get a tearful farewell scene, I’m waiting for more MIB to rescue them … but they don’t. Ichika leaves. I never expected that. The show about love triumphant becomes one about one happy summer and the bittersweet memories it left behind. It’s sad, it’s not the way I wanted it to end, but it’s beautiful. The love string is intact, though no one gets the one they want, including Kaito and Ichika, but what can you do? They remain friends, watch the footage the filmed together, carry on, and hope for some luck. … Then there’s the ending. I don’t want to say it spoils the mood, but, well …

They had a perfectly good bittersweet ending, but they had to mess with it.

So the show gives in to the need for a happier ending. At least they don’t show any more. The HS romance show disguised as a SF story comes to an end leaving a greater impression on me than I expected, mainly because of the characters. Tetsurou and Kanna especially took limited side roles and made themselves stand out, Tetsurou by never seeming to know exactly what he wanted, or being afraid to say it, in spite of his looks and charm, and Kanna … what was it about Kanna? Doomed in love from the start yet the one character you dearly hoped would not wind up alone. I can’t put my finger on how she managed this reaction. In fact, the entire show was like this, more moving than the material deserved. Well done.

Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai! has about the best ending possible. The hardest part was telling Hina that her mother and father aren’t coming back, and if it seems wrong to wait so long, well, how would YOU do it? Sora tells her in the most tactful way possible, after that all you can do is wait for the bawling and the emotional scars to heal. That’s actually more interesting than the rest of the story. We don’t know the full extent of the aunt and uncle’s generosity (I couldn’t tell what that contract Yuuta signed was), but we do see them all moving to a new place at the end, hopefully closer to the girls’ school. But the best moment comes from, as usual, Raika, who agrees to be Yuuta’s “wife,” but only for a day, so Hina would have people to cheer for her at her school’s open house, but they don’t tell us that part until later. And so this forgettable show with a bit of bathos and a little too much inappropriate fanservice ends satisfactorily.

Some near-finales for you: Natsu, Ano Natsu, Last Exile Fam

We’re getting a lot of pre-finale cliffhangers this week, a lot of characters in crises of various kinds, some of more interesting than others. We start with Natsume Yuujinchou Shi, where our boy heads to his first home, but before he gets there he’s assailed by youkai and memories of the past.

Nyanko-Sensei comes too.

The two work together. He needs to pick up a key to the old place from a place he used to stay with a nice couple and their daughter who could not understand him at the time, well, none of them did, but little Miyoko was the only one unable to hide it. This would be a perfect place for Natsume to sit down, have some nice tea, and prove to everyone how happy he is now, but he forgot about the house’s other inhabitant.

This can get hard to watch. Natsume, in fighting off this nasty youkai, displays all the behavior that he used to, and again it’s Miyoko, willing to try again with this now grown up and kind of cute boy who’s paying his respects, who can’t handle it. After Natsume barely escapes the house in spite of the parents’ hospitality and concern she chases after him full of accusations, and we learn a little more about why he upsets her. He was an intruder into her household, and one that seemed to need extra attention, meaning she felt left out. The older, wiser Natume tells her “Don’t worry, I won’t take your family” (a line which perhaps also refers to the youkai), and we leave her thinking maybe about things SHE had forgotten about.

The plot twist at the end suggests that the youkai represents the old memories, at least the painful ones. It works with Miyoko, too; the monster is much bigger now after living under the same roof as her. Or maybe not. When it enters Natsume he can only think of getting home. But which home is he referring to? The original home, or the one he’s saying goodbye to? Next week I believe is the finale, and we’ll get our answer there, though it isn’t hard to figure out. I just hope we’re not done with Miyoko. It’s not good that in going to say goodbye and make amends he reopens old wounds.

The buildup in Ano Natsu de Matteru isn’t as quiet and mysterious as Natsume‘s nor as slam-bang as Last Exile Fam‘s, but it nearly the most compelling I’ve seen this season, and I don’t know how they’re doing it. Well, I have some ideas.

You know, like crashing on a No Contact planet and dating an alien ...

First, we have the love-string. Ichika-Kaito-Kanna-Setsuro-Mio, with Remon stirring the pot (or plot) out of what I thought was just boredom and spite, well, until this episode. We start with Emika, Ichika’s sister, come to rescue her and appalled that she actually wants to stay. After the shock of seeing Ichika dating that little guy, she Emika softens a little, but not so much that she can allow Ichika to stay. Ichika broke the Prime Directive, don’t you know. Our couple seperate, depressed. Ichika gets another reverse pep talk from Kanna, which I thought unfair. Ichika was still trying to sort things out; she didn’t need this sort of pressure. Meanwhile, Kaito works on Emika with little result except for that vague reference of trying to find something on this planet, the first time all episode needed its silly SF side to appear. And, finally, Remon makes herself useful.

And it's about time.

I didn’t think about this show very hard, but it had occurred to me that Remon always seemed to know too much. She befriended Ichika right away. She’s always around, even when you don’t expect her. And we still don’t know what she’s about, but she instigates our beleagered team’s counter-strategy: find the place on the maps that isn’t in the alien database. A first contact might have happened there, meaning the planet will be promoted and fraternization would no longer be taboo. Okay, she got Emika to help by supplying her with gadgets, but don’t tell me Remon’s normal after all the wild stuff she whips out during the chase with the spacecraft. It leads to a great few minutes. Suddenly, they’re all running, the music has picked up, it’s fun as hell to watch. Each character “sacrifices” themselves for our heroes in ways only they can as the tricked-out van rushes to The Place, until the last couple seconds … Well, we’ll have to see what the show makes of that next week.

Sara has every reason to look worried.

Last Exile Fam‘s pre-finale events are the most disappointing. Maybe because nothing really happened that you didn’t expect. No surprises. Luscinia kidnaps Sara and gets her to that cold lace where he unleashes an exile, or something, which blows up a lot of stuff, but it’s unclear exactly what’s going on. Meanwhile everyone back at the fortress is either sad about Lilliana dying or pissed off about the Federation, both, as it turns out, right things to concern oneself with. We Luscinia’s arrogant and single-minded concept of uniting everyone–under the Federation, of course, but we heard that all last week. And there’s no response from the good guys. Bleak bleak pre-finale blues. My guess is that Millia, who’s now got the power, is going to unleash some exile-mojo of her own.

Another 10, Ano Natsu 10, Chihayafuru 23

After watching Another 10 I don’t exactly want to strangle Mei, but only because she’s too cute. I’d just shake her to make that fake eye rattle a bit.

Mei has always been the person in the class that makes everone uncomfortable. Her appearance and demeanor must be a sort of living reminder of the curse they’re under, not to mention a reminder that Countermeasures haven’t worked well this time around. The show sneakily adds a hint of jealousy of Mei over Kouichi, and that’s all it takes for Countermeasures head Akazawa to heap blame for the deaths onto Mei during the most depressing group dinner scene I think I’ve witnessed. Interesting to note that the people who have Matsunaga’s confession tape don’t tell her about it. Their excuse is that they don’t want anyone else to know, and, based on what happened to those two girls last episode, it’s a sensible decision. But Akazawa, as the class rep for death, should normally be included. The tape is interesting indeed. Matsunaga found a way to stop the deaths: send the dead back to death. In other words, kill the person in the class who’s already dead. This makes sense in a backwards way, but it poses other problems. Kouichi states one: could you kill a classmate? The dead person doesn’t know he’s dead, after all. And there is no way to tell … or is there? dum dum dum …

NOW she tells him.

Back to why I want to rattle Mei. She looks at the old photo that Kouichi has finally found (and not mentioned to us) and he’s able to spot the dead person, and so can Mei but for different reasons. Sigh … All this time she’s had the ability to see the color of death in people. Not only the dead, she could see traces of it in doomed people, too. What’s more, she knows who the class’s dead person is! Okay, to be fair, the full implications of being able to see the dead haven’t been important, though it would have been good to know. And you can understand why a young girl with a rather troubled childhood would be reluctant to talk about such abilities, or even use them, hence the eyepatch. But with so much going on she ought to have taken a deep breath, pulled Akazawa or someone aside at least, and LET THEM KNOW! On the other hand, maybe she’s tried but keeps getting interrupted, like what Teshigawara does when she’s about to spill the beans to Kouichi. I bet we’ll have to wait until someone spots something weird in the photo they took; you do realize that’s why they spent so much episode time with them taking it, don’t you? Sometimes it’s not just Mei, I want to strangle the entire series. It can be so good and yet fall into plot devices that come off worse than any of the corpses.

Kanna, screaming. This was a heavy episode.

So, in episode ten of Ano Natsu de Matteru we have not a love triangle but a linear string of people, all of them unhappy except Kaito and Ichika, who have managed to tie a knot at the end (Damn, I’m good with metaphors!). And in spite of its unnecessary SF fru-fru the show has managed to work with the romantic hunt so that we find all the stories compelling, though for me some are more compelling than others. The episode follows them down the line. After a scene or two of Kaito and Ichika being lovey-dovey we start with the moping Kanna, in love with Kaito, who’s visited by Tetsurou, who’s in love with Kanna. Tetsurou leaves and runs into Mio, in love with Tetsurou. All the way down, and climbing back up, things are confessed or coerced. Mio’s already confessed to Tetsurou, but understands the truth. After their scene, Tetsurou meets Kanna again and confesses. She’s the only one to be taken by surprise by any of this. Anyway, she runs off, screaming, and pointlessly confesses to a bewildered Kaito, though she already knows his answer, I guess to make everything clear to everyone. There are a number of sweet moments, such as Mio showing up to comfort Tetsurou after his confession to Kanna, but my favorite bit had to be from the picture above, Kanna, discovering her childhood friend’s in love with her while she’s been rejected by the one she loves, screams about the craziness about it all. They throw in some SF at the end, but who cares, unless one of the unhappy characters falls for Ichika’s sexy sister.

Chihaya, shouting. This is a more light-hearted episode.

Chihayafuru 23 finishes off the tournament and moves on to … nothing much, really. Chihaya doesn’t have to cut her hair after all, thanks to Harada taking the challenge of beating Sudo himself. Chihaya mopes in a locker and comes out. Taichi broods about his love for Chihaya (the first time he’s out and used the word), forbids her to go out with a strange boy who asked her out, and Kana watches it all with frustration. Meanwhile Arata is trying to get his groove back, but apart from a phone call he’s still completely separate from the main story. And there are silly Christmas parties to attend to. It sort of felt like an off-season episode of Cross Game. Little emotional plot pawns moved here or there, people practicing, recuperating, getting ready for the new season. But, damn, it always feels odd when there’s a romantic Christmas moment in a show when in reality it’s nearly Spring.

Bakuman and Chihayafuru 22, Ano Natsu and High School Boys 9

Bakuman II 22 is one of the more lighthearted episodes, and considering the pressures the boys have been under, it’s a relief.

Of course, things are dire at first, with two failed attempts out of three, they have to come up with a decent idea. But Hattori is at their desperation meeting as well as Miura, and he makes the suggestion of “serious humor.” And for the rest of the episode Takagi wrestles with this idea, and I do, too. I like that they acknowedge in this show that there are more types of humor than simple gags. Too many people in the world don’t quite understand how encompassing comedy can be. It isn’t just jokes and gags and punchlines. Whether this will pass in a kids magazine, well, an editor is suggesting it. And back to the story, our boys are fired up about the idea, even if they don’t have a setting yet, or characters.

Serious humor?

Takagi gets a little weird in this episode. He and Saeko tail Hattori for a day, but they can’t really put a finger on why. Half-hearted explanations like how Hattori had manipulated them (not true) are the only reasons we get for them watching him commute to work, meeting with Aiko (the show’s best moment, since she makes another move on him). Normally tailing and disguise situations bug me, but this one has such a lighthearted feel that I didn’t really care. And consider that the boys are supposed to be working on their last-chance idea. Instead they’re sneaking around town. It felt a little like a holiday, and frankly, they need it. Whatever they were up to, it works; by the end Takagi is onto an idea. Another silly escapade concerning Miho’s birthday, and they’re set to go. I kept waiting for something to go wrong, but nothing does. The episode feels too fun for anything really serious to happen. As I said, it’s a relief.

Chihayafuru 22 was infuriating. Not the episode itself, which was well-done as usual, but for its events. Chihaya in the second round goes against the former Queen, Yamamato Yumi-San (said several times with excitement and fear early on) or “Yumin.” At the start, she’s interesting. A drab woman who lives for Karuta, who lost her crown to Shinobou last year, she hasn’t gotten her groove back yet. We see her at first as tired, questioning herself. Meanwhile Chihaya is fighting her awe, yet takes the early lead. This goes on for awhile, while I realize that due to the rules of sports anime, the other side must make their comeback soon. Outside, we have some lovely observer moments, such as Kana’s awe of the reader, a seed planted that this might be what she wants to do in her life, and Nishida’s mixed allegences. Chihaya’s her friend, but Yumin belongs in her club. And Yumin’s coach Kitano shows why Harada dislikes him so. And then there’s the comeback, and where I get pissed off. Yumin’s old style, abandoned when she became queen was to contest every close call, lengthening the game, basically, being a jerk. I lost most of my respect for her then, and I lost a lot of respect for Chihaya for getting so rattled about it. Damn, is she going to fall apart every time a opponent dishes out something new? Come on, Chihaya! It gets me madder when I realize that the season is too close to ending for there to be a rematch and a chance for revenge.

To hell with the kiss; this was my favorite scene of the episode.

In Ano Natsu de Matteru 9, secrets come out–at last! First, Ichika has to confess to the whole alien business, like anyone really cares. Honestly, if you found out a good friend of yours was an alien suddenly is sporting an outfit out of the Jetsons, what would you do? Anyway, after everyone settles down from that news (takes half a day for them) it’s on to clearing up who’s in love with whom, well, mainly it’s Kai and Ichika’s turn, and it takes longer for them to get the words out, with all the avoidance, then the alien business did. Along the way, Kanna is amazed that others actually know she’s in love with Kai, but when she spits the words out to Ichika (part of stopping the avoidance bit I mentioned before), it’s the best scene in the episode. I find Kanna the most sympathetic character in the series, the one who isn’t getting what she wants and has to watch someone she likes get it instead. We’ve all been in that situation; there’s no good in it at all. Besides, she was there first. Poor Mio is in the same boat, but I don’t feel as concerned for her. Maybe it’s her looks. Well, there are a couple episodes left. The show might have time for more romances, but I have a feeling they’ll have to deal with more alien rescue pods first.

In Daily Lives of High School Boys 9, Tadakuni doesn’t show up at all, and no one notices. Don’t tell him that it’s one of the better episodes. They get a laugh out of not being able to see a girl’s face, since half the girls in the show are faceless. But the student council are able to see Ringo’s panties–oh, the guilt. We also meet Emi who, in spite of the picture above, is actually pretty normal. … I suppose I could go through each sketch and comment, but I’ll just say again the the episode was better than average.

Eights: Another, Lagrange, Ano Natsu …

When Another began getting plot and exposition heavy in the past few episodes, some of the sense of dread enhanced by the background music suffered for it. This episode is light on exposition, only Matsunaga’s bit near the end really mattered. Just about everything else was mood, and the sounds returned.

Even Another can't resist a beach episode.

And by “mood,” I don’t mean just one. Through much of the episode the episode is light. The kids are off to meet a man who might have saved his class (if he can only remember how) and to visit a shrine that might also have something to do with it, but it’s all on the ocean, at a seaside resort! It’s time to do all the silly beach things we’ve seen in every other anime series. For a while, the music almost gets happy. Kind of a sickly-happy, but happy nonetheless. It feels like a relief. And the kids are so relaxed now that they can divide into teams, the “Countermeasures” vs “Forgotten.” They can be that way because they’ve left town–apparently the deaths only happen there.

The good news is that the boat misses the beach ball. The BAD news is ...

Which reminds me of another great moment of sound in the episode, one where no music is played at all. As they drive out town a huge tanker truck passes by them, very slowly. They say nothing. We only hear the engine noises as it passes. Everyone (including me) is holding their breath, waiting for the disaster, which does not happen. When they pass the town limits, everyone exhales. As for the story, as I said, it’s pretty light until the end, after the wind picks up (you can tell when something bad is going to happen when it suddenly gets windy) that things get dangerous again, the first time since the opening scenes which were more eerie than threatening. And then it’s back to deadly business, and by the way, so much for that notion that leaving town makes you safe. I feel kind of sad. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to give the kids one episode off from worry.

Not much action in Rinne no Lagrange 8. Bigshot loli Asteria something-or-other flies in and leads an investigation about the little kerfluffle the vox pilots had while in mortal combat. She decides to ban Madoka from flying the Aura vox. The rest is stuff we sort already knew, like the scary legend of the vox losing control, Moid wanting to see the Rin-Ne blossom and Asteria and the, er, let’s see … “Novumundus High Council” that she represents decidedly NOT wanting that to happen. It was nice to be reminded, I guess. Oh, and Earth was nearly destroyed 20,000 years ago (we assume by the vox) and now descendents from other planets are coming back. And the girls bond some more. That’s about it. That Asteria visits the bad guys at the end wasn’t terribly interesting since she’s clearly not one of them. Lan and Muginomi going on strike was cute, though a little out of character. No, not much this episode except that Madoka can’t fly her ship right now.

Ano Natsu de Matteru 8 … FINALLY we get past the love circles, that hemming and hawing over things they need to say (but always get interrupted the moment they try), and back to what REALLY matters: Aliens! Okay, this is not really an alien show, it’s a romantic comedy, but it doesn’t hurt to remind us what Ichika’s main barrier is: she’s an alien. The turn of events comes late in the episode and is a little shocking. All episode Rinon had been worrying his head/body about something, and all of a sudden, it’s here: Alien rescue pod! But now she doesn’t want to go, at least quite yet. “There are things I need to do,” she says, but doesn’t specify the trees and water (I forget) or Kaito. So now Kaito at least knows she’s an alien, and we can finally move on with the next step. Should she stay or should she go? I have to say, that pod was certainly assertive about wanting her to come along. And on the love front, Remon’s diagram shows Tetsuro interested in Kanna, though I’ve seen no actual evidence of that. Moving on …

Chihayafuru 20, Ano Natsu 7, Inu x Boku SS 7

Another surreal Chihaya/Arata meeting.

So much seems to happen in Chihayafuru 20, but we’ll only see the consequences later. First up we get Chihaya and her nearly failing grades, so she can’t to go the next tournament, but study under the tutelage of that sadistic taskmaster Desktomu. But Chihaya really isn’t the focal point here. Taichi goes to the same tournament and runs into Arata, who is starting his comeback run. It’s a friendly, nervous moment. Of course, Taichi is, “deep down,” happy to see him, but think of what Arata’s presence means! One more impossible obstacle in his karuta career AND rival for Chihaya’s affections. He’s so rattled that he doesn’t win, meaning no class A this year. But there’s an interesting moment afterward, talking with Arata (who didn’t win either), who assumes that Chihaya and Taichi are a couple, or that they might be. Maybe that’s what puts the fire in Taichi’s eyes later when he refuses an offer to join class A the easy way, saying he’s no longer running away from his challenges. Meanwhile, Chihaya, this object of desire (who otherwise is shown in this episode as a total slack-off goofball) ditches studying to cheer on Taichi, thus meeting Arata. Lots of underwater imagery ensues, from both her and Taichi. Not sure what that’s about. And later a specific poem is brought up, one that reads like the meeting of long-lost lovers but actually refers to old friends who are gone in an instant, heightening the already ambiguous relationship here. At any rate, everyone now has a goal or two. Arata: Chihaya, Taichi: class A and Chihaya, Chihaya: exams. None of it, save maybe that last bit, will be resolved easily.

Ano Natsu de Matteru 7 clears up all the little spats and misunderstandings in one episode and leaves little to do from here. It’s mainly a series of explanations and revelations. The childhood friend’s explanation was pretty dull, and the only reason we would care is to see how would affect Ichika, but it doesn’t, really. She talks to herself about not being sure or denying her feelings, yet she’s all ready to accept Taichi’s kiss. As for Mio’s little revelation (so to speak), it was absolutely ludricrous and I still don’t know what to make of it, unless she has a more cunning mind, or a bigger sense of humor than she let on. Oh, well, it got a confession out of her. That leaves poor Kanna by herself if you don’t count Remon, who again exists only to screw up other peoples’ lives because she hasn’t got one of her own, and to give off that annoying laugh of hers. Now I don’t know how they’re going to fill the time until the the series ends.

It looks like there’s only one story that Inu x Boku SS is going to tell, and that’s the Ririchiyo/Soushi relationship, both forward and backward. All the supernatural stuff is simply there for window dressing. Once again a threat is presented which proves to be not much of a threat at all. However, this one allows Ririchiyo time alone with Soushi so she can yet again try to tell him how she feels. Just how she feels is an interesting question and possibly not clear to her, with her desire to reciprocate his kindnesses toward her while at the same time having her adolescent heart go thumpity-thump-thump when he’s around. However, she again fails to say much of anything, apart from a thank-you, only to get his “I’m a dog” response yet again, and so the episode really goes nowhere. The other tenants, there to add comic relief and so much needed this episode, aren’t that entertaining. There’s really no more to them than we’ve already seen. The exception is Karuta, with her blank looks and sudden action when something REALLY important happens. But it’s not enough to rescue this episode.

High School Boys 6, BRS 3, Ano Natsu 6, Bakuman 19

The student council is tired of doing good deeds.
Daily Lives of High School Boys seems to work best for me when I get the full context. When one of the boys talks about the loneliness of playing NES games I don’t really get what he’s talking about because I don’t play those games. The soccer sketch was a little better. It’s when the stories are more generalized, like the ongoing battle between the sexes, you know, universal truths, that the show gets really funny. It doesn’t hurt when a strange character comes in (like the girl in the picture–who was she again?) and acts weird. Why the hell is she reacting like that? Why did she go off into hysterical laughter? And why is it that so many girls visit the student council of an all-boys school, anyway? I don’t really want to know the answer to any of those questions. Just keep the laughs up.

Yomi's cheerfulness extends to her paintings.

With Black Rock Shooter 3 the Kagari arc is over with for now, time to introduce some new real-life conflicts that will be sort-of mirrored in what’s going on in the fighting world. And we see the barrier between the worlds begin to blur a little. The stuff in reality introduces Yomi’s sad jealousy of Mato’s best friend Yuu, and what happens to the basketball team leader when the boy she confesses to turns out to be a douchebag. Saya, we see, is marking down people who just happen to have counterparts in the fighting world, meanwhile, in THAT world, the new character tries to raise a flock of harmless little things that bear sort of a resemblance to the counselor Saya, though I might be completely off on that, only to have BRS come and kill them all rather nastily. Why? I don’t know. As for the colors, Mato’s dreams of the other world (which Yuu suggest show people helping her bear her pain, though Mato’s in no particular pain and her character is no less violent than the others) we get a blue tears metaphor, which makes sense, since just about everyone cries this episode, even Saya, who, judging from her actions this episode, might be insane, or maybe too connected to the other world … Ah, I give up. The episode was interesting to watch, but I guess it’s too soon for it to start making sense.

Another contrived moment of misunderstanding.

I’m beginning to lose patience with Ano Natsu de Matteru. Episode 6 takes them to Okinawa (I wish tickets like that would fall into my hands that easily. I need a drunken older sister, I guess), where they will film their little movie. And wear swimsuits. Then two more girls show up, Kaori, a childhood friend of Kaito, natch, and a horny thing who just leaps onto Tetsuro. The two boys spend much of the episode fighting off girl attacks while Ichika, Kanna and Mio fume and Remon schemes. Remon gets on my nerves, but I have to feel sorry for a girl who’s got so little going on her own that she has to manipulate everyone around her to have any fun. There’s nothing else in the episode.

The energetic new assistant.

All I could think of during Bakuman 19 was “How the hell is Takashi going to make time to settle in with Kaya with all those deadlines?” Well, other thoughts crossed my mind too, I’m sure, but after watching the boys work so hard and continue to work hard, even if it’s 11th place for a gag manga they don’t really like doing, how can Takahashi find time to do stuff like move in, etc, and especially, how to keep his lovely bride happy? Well, she’s used to the routine by now. This is all the serious plot we get this episode. The rest of it was the usual: friedly rivals all aiming for the top spot in Shonen Jack, until next week, that is. Akina and Seiji’s new manga is a hit. The others react. A nasty confrontation between Akina and the loving couple turns funny at the end. The show’s pretty good at throwing in an odd revelation when things threaten to get too sour.