Tasogare Otome x Amnesia‘s finale made me want to bang my head against the wall, scratch that, the creators’ heads against the wall.
It starts out as a breath of fresh air after the drawn-out events before. Yuuko’s one person again. She’s playful again. And while she now is capable of getting angry, that means she’s a full human being for the first time in the series. She’s delighted. Teiichi is delighted. Kirie is not so delighted and Momoe is almost oblivious. In other words, it’s a return to the happy equilibrium the show had around the beginning. And since it happens at this episode’s beginning, you know it’s not going to last.
I really should have expected it. Yuuko’s hanging around as a ghost because she can’t move on, as previously seen in such ancient manuscripts as Angel Beats. But she’s complete and whole now. Nothing is keeping her, and it looks like she’s going no matter what. As is everyone who faces this situation, they’re resigned to it. Yuuko’s only concern is letting poor Teiichi down gently. That proves impossible. Thus we get a scene where she tries to leave gracefully, but Teiichi won’t allow it. He tries to think of a way out, but he doesn’t have one. Finally, he decides he wants to be there until the very end. This is a resaonable thing to ask and it makes me wonder why Yuuko would be so reluctant to do it.
Then there’s the goodbye sequence. This show has always had a great look to it, full of beautiful images and striking angles, and they use them here to their best effect as the two spend their last moments together. Soon Teiichi can’t hear Yuuko, so they use the notebook. She’s seen as growing less and less visable. Then the pen drops mid-sentence, but before Teiichi can despair she’s fully back for a few seconds, ready for their first and last kiss. It’s a beautiful, moving scene. And then she’s gone.
Now, you’d think they would leave it at that, end the series in the best, bittersweet way. Teiichi is alone but Yuuko is finally at peace. But no. We see later days and Teiichi coming back to life … and, well, you can guess what they do. I know this based on a manga series which might still be going. I also know that though they talked about the schools “seven mysteries,” they didn’t really get back to it. Also, the reason for Yuuko’s return is cheap, but plausable. But it completely ruined a wonderful finale. … And in spite of that, if they announce another season I’ll certainly watch it. The first season had some flaws. The entire Shadow Yuuko story arc went on too long and felt mishandled. But the show gave us good looks at the nature of legends, fear and mob behavior. It was, as I’ve said many times, beautiful to look at. Yuuko, whether whole or not, was a great character. So was Kirie. I wish we could have seen more of her. If not for the ending… geez. Wasted a few good tears on that.
Kimi to Boku II finishes, and the only acknowledgement we see to it being a finale, apart from the lack of a preview, is an upcoming mock exam and Shun worried that he still doesn’t know what college he wants to attend, or what he should choose as a career. It’s perfectly understandable. There’s no reason why you should know what you’re going to do for the rest of your life when you’re 17. The others are also concerned but we get no decisions from anyone. Oddly enough, the show doesn’t bother to look closely at Kaname’s choices; they just show him studying for the mock exam. The centerpiece of the episode is a visit to the tea club where naturally Chizuru makes an ass of himself and the “path of tea” is examined as a career choice. A lovely moment near the end when Yuuta serves Shun some tea (quite properly, too, as if he was already on that path). Yuuta is allowed to show some of the sensitivity and concern for a friend that he and his brother rarely show otherwise. A good way to end this season. I remember moments like this in Kimi to Boku more than I do all the stupid behavior.
Nothing much to Acchi Kocchi 11 until the very end. It’s as disgustingly cute as always. I don’t know why, but I enjoy watching New Years Eve scenes in anime. The trouble is they always have some tradition or other that I don’t know and makes it hard to get the joke. All the stuff about pounding mochi kind of threw me off. The other half is nothing at all except for the last minute, when it looks like the Io/Tsukimi romance might have taken a step forward. You can tell they’re serious about it because they don’t undercut the scene with a gag.
Finally, Tasogare Otome x Amunesia gets around to doing something they should have done episodes ago.
I’ve been complaining about how Yuuko won’t be whole and healthy again (if you can call a ghost healthy) until she accepts Shadow Yuuko, with all the painful memories and ugly thoughts that come with her, so why don’t they just do it already? Well, I have no idea if Teiichi knew this was the solution at the beginning of the episode, but at least now he was aware of just how much Yuuko had been enduring all that time. But now his touch is painful to her, and she can’t see or hear him. As Kirie says, he’s become a shadow Yuuko of his own; he knows too much. He’s got to solve that before anything can happen.
So he mopes, and fortunately for us there’s Kirie, doing her best “sacrifice my feelings for my beloved’s sake” rant (one of two roles she’s taken lately, the other being a combination foil and infodump girl) to shake him up a little. Now Teiichi takes action and the show finally begins to move. He and Yuuko communicate by writing in a notebook for a while, until given another clue by terribly-unused Momoe and Kirie, he meets the elderly Yukariko. Was Kirie keeping this a secret this entire time? If she really wanted to help Teiichi you’d think she would have let him know sooner than this. But at the time the scene feels unnecessary, well, apart from some news we don’t have any problems figuring out.
After all this waiting the reconciliation scene feels brief, but it’s well done. The problem seemed to be that Yuuko really had no reason to accept her shadow self, and the latter was so full of anger at her treatment (in life and after death) that she’s in no mood to compromise. Teiichi was the key. I said last week that Yuuko had finally gained a witness to her death. Now Teiichi takes advantage of this. Shadow Yuuko is right: he can’t share her pain, but she learns that he can at least empathize with her. Shadow Yuuko has no defenses for this. And when he says that he loves them both, they have every reason to come together again. I had never thought that Teiichi’s love would be the key. After that it feels like a final episode, but we get a bit of weirdness with the bell bracelet, so they’ve got something planned for next week.
Kimi to Boku 12 has Kaname in a funk because his pretty neighbor Shizuna, whom he’s had a crush on since he was a tot (Kaname seems to have a thing for older women), tells him she is getting married. So we get to see him work it out with both Shizuna and her little sister Hisaka’s help (Hisaka seems to have a crush on him, but they don’t force a love triangle on us), but none from his friends. Well, they don’t know, and are thankfully kept out of the loop so they only manage to do damage for one scene. It leads to a lovely scene at the end where Kaname and Shizuna go shopping, and dally on their walk home. Hisaka had insisted that Kaname at least confess to her, but Kaname and Shizuna both know that isn’t necessary. In moments where no words are spoken or at least nothing pertinent is brought up, she makes clear that she knows exactly how he feels and how it makes her happy. It’s a goodbye scene where no one says goodbye. The show excels at moments like this.
Shining Hearts – Shiawase no Pan 10 sets up the forces for a big battle (next week), and it’s going to be a big mess. Xiao-Mei and Hank are in the palace jail when Hank’s doll, having recovered that bit of circuitry, blasts its way down, not to see them, apparently, but because it’s the safest place for Kaguya when the big armored fleet arrives to blast the hell out of the island. They’re after kaguya, and the doll (named Queen!) is her robot servant, in spite of her name. But Kaguya says that will put the island, and all their delicious bread, at risk, so off they fly to the enemy fleet, which starts to shoot at them. Everyone else on the island spends their time running around being useless and staring at the sea a lot. Prince Ragnus learns about the fleet and springs to action–he plays the harp and sings about worlds colliding. The enemy fleet, you see, is full of lizard aliens! We learn this from Dylan the pirate after his damaged ship makes it ashore. Xiao-Mei and Hank make it out of the palace, only to be recaptured. As I said, everyone is useless. And because Rick is troubled, even the bread tastes funny.
Haiyore! Nyaruko-san 11 is pretty messy too. We get introduced to a new character, named Ghutatan, an adorable little girl who, according to Wikipedia, should turn anyone who gazes upon her into a living mummy. So we have an episode mostly about keeping the tot occupied until they figure out what to do with her. But it’s rather a waste because the real story is how Mahiro wants a quiet life but how he’ll actually miss his malign deity pals when they’re gone. He wakes up, and poof, they’re not there, not even Ghutatan (whom he actually got along with). And I’m guessing next week is the final episode. So why introduce Ghutatan in the first place? Why have that stupid chase? Why are their Shoggoth on the roof and why do they start moving down the roof twice?
Tasogare Otome x Amunesia 10 promised to be depressing, and it was exactly that, nothing more. Nothing really got to me. We learned some things we didn’t know about the story, is all.
It’s probably because we were expecting it. When we see the living Yuuko wake up and put on her clothes (and get Teiichi’s commentary about watching this embarrassing scene) we know things would get slowly worse. They quickly do. We watch as she argues with her sister about visiting her friend Asa, who everyone thinks has the deadly plague but really has a cold. It’s a complete version of Yuuko Teiichi sees. She gets upset sometimes, but she is still essentially kind. The show makes an odd decision here by showing Teiichi the observer as a young boy. I’m not sure why, but a good reason might come later, when the shit hits the fan a young boy is easier to drag away than a teenage boy. In that form he’s as helpless as a young Yuuko against a mob of ignorant men.
Yuuko and her sister Yukariko sneak in and hear some adults discussing what to do about the plague. They decide to draw lots to choose the red woman, who will decide upon the sacrificial victim. Since we know who the victim is I started to dread the next moments not only for the inevitable death scene, but because it’s obvious by now that Asa will become the Red Woman and pick her. The show makes another interesting choice here. We see (or rather Teiichi sees, or chooses to see) some of the events as a grainy movie shown in a theatre, maybe a way to distance himself. Meanwhile, Yuuko has taken in the now recovering Asa, who then vanishes, and then the tragedy occurs.
It’s painful to watch, Yuuko tossed into the cellar with the shrine, sealed away with a badly broken leg, slowly dying, trying to tell herself that it’s for the best, that now Yukariko and Asa will be safe, but you can’t blame her for letting the rage well up inside, especially when she sees her dessicated reflection in that mirror. But oddly, it’s a small relief that Teiichi (now in his regular form) is there with her, sharing everything she feels. If nothing else, she now has a witness. But we still don’t get a resolution. Now Teiichi knows what Yuuko has separated from herself, but we have known for ages now that the only way out of this is for her to accept the painful parts as well as the good parts. Also, it’s clear that Shadow Yuuko’s anger is misguided. Asa didn’t name her on purpose. If she has any rage, and she damn well should, it should be for those ignorant superstitious men who carried out the cruel ceremony. They were so cowardly that they couldn’t even choose a victim themselves–they had to get an innocent girl to carry the burden. Just thinking about it nearly puts ME in a rage. Well, as I said, the episode was as expected, but the solution’s been obvious for a long time and it’s time they got to it.
Kimi to Boku 2 11 is one of the happier ones. You’d think that the Sports Festival would be another opportunity for the gang to make Kaname’s life miserable, well, more miserable than they usually do, but he’s not part of the festival committee. Instead, Mary is. What little theme they had is that Mary doesn’t seem to have any friends. Since she tries so hard to be self-sufficient it’s no wonder, but here she hangs out a lot with Matsushita and makes herself useful in a number of ways to the extent that the taller classmates are happy to help her out when she DOES need help. A lovely bit where Matsushita sees her in the tennis referee’s chair and marvels at how tall and mature she looks. The other drama involves Yuuta and Yuuki on opposite sides of a volleyball match … and they both get serious. Kaname and Yuuta actually demonstrate some splendid teamwork! Also, come cute bits concerning a girl and one of the show’s trademark cats. Good episode. Nice to see everyone not trying to screw things up for a change.
Haiyore! Nyaruko-san 10 tries a bit of social commentary with the boss foe, a Space Child Guardian, who wants to destroy all earthlings because of their immoral entertainment. Well, we’ve seen Earth celebrated throughout the universe for their entertainment, so there are bound to be some prudes around. Otherwise it’s the usual nonsense, including a Space CQC Jammer Canceler Breaker Eraser Confiner Obstructor Buster Closer, probably the show’s best bit. A tragic looking scene involving the fallen Nyaruko/Mahiro (remember, they’ve switched bodies) is inevitably ruined. And an unexpected but cute but mostly dull bit at the end between Tamao and the Yith who inhabited her body during all this.
In spite of adding little that’s new, Nazo no Kanojo X 9 is the most interesting episode we’ve had in a while.
Urabe comes to school with bad or, to some, good bed hair, so Oka fixes her up. Suddenly the class can see her face. Her popularity goes up. Pics are secretly taken and sold among the boys. While this would seem like a positive thing for Urabe, and I think so, too, Tsubaki is not so pleased. He’s found himself in an odd situation. He had himself wanted Urabe to change her hair; it was a shame to keep such a cute face hidden (I personally feel that a lot of girls unnecessarily hide their face with their hair because of low self-esteem), but now classmates, potential rivals, are looking in her direction. Well, what would YOU do if your girlfriend was suddenly revealed to be a beauty? You could bask in the pride that you’re dating her, or you could get jealous and ask her to change her hair back. Alas, Tsubaki chooses the latter. Though it leads to a hair-mussing scene which you can add to the list of things the two (and Oka) find erotic.
Then the show makes a sudden turn as the boys decide Urabe looks like a certain pop idol named Imai Momoka. Naturally Tsubaki buys her photo book and discovers they’re right. In a way it’s sort of sweet, that he would admire a idol because she looks like her girlfriend, but it also feels a little unfair, because part of the attraction is that Momoka does things in the photos he’d like to see Urabe do, like, you know, smile. In other words, he’s falling for an image of Urabe that matches what his image of a perfect girlfriend should be. Well, we soon learn how Urabe feels about THAT (drum solo!). The stated message is that maybe Urabe can be as jealous and possessive as Tsubaki can, but I also think it shows that while you can ask things from your partner, you don’t and can’t actually possess them.
Early in Hyouka 7 I wondered why they were using “the ghost, when examined, turned out to be withered flowers” as its tagline when this is true for mysteries in general, before I realized Hyouka had not yet looked at an actual ghost story before this. Though I thought things fell too conveniently into place, it was an interesting mystery. I just wish from time to time they would present red herrings for Houtarou to sort through. As for me, I was too busy analyzing why Kayo didn’t put her names on things, not why Rie did. The other half of the story, again, is the odd relationship between Houtarou and Chitanda as we see the former observes the latter. Chitanda wants a sister but is blind to the idea that they sometimes don’t get along, she is momentarily disappointed that it isn’t a mixed bath(!), is what we see this week, along with her usual adorable curiosity. Her weekly strategy to wheedle assistance out of Houtarou, along with his weary reluctance, is becoming a highlight of the episode for me. He acts as though he gives in to stop her bugging him, but you have to wonder.
Kimi to Boku 2 10 manages to be not nearly as annoying as last week’s (which pissed me off so much I sped through the second half and didn’t write about it) mainly because it brings poor Mary back into the show after Chizuru’s confession. So we get a lot of the two being embarrassed around each other while the others occasionally wonder what’s going on. That’s fine. Mary is a fun little bundle of insecurities, and she is the only one in the show who can actually knock Chizuru off his pins. And it allows Chizuru to show us more of himself than his loud, annoying side. He’s even given moments of introspection and chances to act gallantly, which he does. Too bad it’s only temporary.
Nazo no Kanojo X 7 has Urabe at her most mysterious, and at the same time at her most “normal,” and childish. Early on, taking a cue from Ako, she visits the flu-ridden Tsubaki, and after drool has been exchanged, leaves, not even showing him the swimsuit she had on underneath her coat, because she was shy. It’s like she goes through the motions of social behavior but doesn’t always understand the reason. Then at the end she almost grows angry at Tsubaki for suggesting she join the track club. We know why he’s doing it, because he didn’t want to hold her back from something she might enjoy. She determines through saliva that he wants her for himself, well, the legs, anyway. Apparently the idea that he wants to sacrifice his enjoyment of their walks together for her sake because he cares about her is too complex for spit to convey. For someone who can share feelings and emotions like Urabe can, she can be awfully insensitive.
The rest of the episode is confusing. Why did Tsubaki recover so quickly when Urabe’s spit wasn’t supposed to work? They switched sensations? Then why didn’t Urabe come down with the flu? On the other hand Ako keeps me entertained not only with the sophisticated and erotic ways that he handles Ueno (she can do better than him, really), but her ability to shake up Urabe and slyly come on to her. What’s her mother been teaching her?
Hyouka 5 surprised me by actually polishing off the story arc. I thought it was one that could go on and on if it wanted to. And the final answers Chitanda was looking for came to her. The only thing that seemed like a stretch was the “lame pun” in English that gave the club journal (and, perhaps significantly, that of the show) its name. Houtarou pulled that one out of thin air. The entire mystery was mundane, as most mysteries are after you solve them, yet the episode itself was vivid and powerful. Nothing new there. With this show I’m getting used to people sitting and talking calmly taking on great significance through imaginative visuals.
And this time there was the added weight of Itoigawa remembering a painful time of her life, to say nothing of Chitanda discovering the what her uncle had said that had made her cry. And when she cried this time (the arc would not be complete until she did), it was, as befitting the atmosphere, done calmly, a few tears and a smile. I kind of wish the club would next investigate what happened to Jun in India, but I suspect that would be too much for the club and this show that does just fine with small mysteries.
Moretsu Pirates 20 patiently unfolds the new story arc. There are things they’re not telling us, just sowing seeds, like the new organization who’s trying to horn in on space, and apparently Marika might get involved. It’s odd to see shady, nasty looking people in black suits snickering about things while their goal is to actually protect the heroine, not do away with her. And we got the fact that someone’s trying to sabotage the annual dinghy race. Why they want to do such an EVIL thing as mess with people in dinghies they don’t tell us. Perhaps the answer lies in Marika’s high school being banned from the thing for interference five years ago. A lot of tasty mysteries. Then we get the mundane silliness of Kane training the girls through some extreme measures, simulations in the Red Spot, windsurfing while the Bentenmaru fires on them, and wearing a tiny Speedo. And, far away from intrigue, little Ai gets lots of chances to show off her navigation skills and radiate sheer joy while doing so. It’s a lovely contrast.
Kimi to Boku 2 8 is one of its sweetest and sneakiest episodes, even though it has a boy who asks too much from a girl and gets it. One irony is that the boy, Shun’s younger brother, Fuyuki, asks to touch Mamiya’s chest at a moment when mother-hen Shun has ceased to worry about him doing ecchi things with her. Another irony is that it’s possible none of the main characters have gotten as far with a girl as Fuyuki has, in spite of their advanced age. The actual moment, and the aftermath, is handled gently, with even the karoake noises stilled. The aftermath has bad vibes but turns comical, and we see that what we’ve got here is just two kids who are trying to figure out their urges. Plus an older brother who worries too much and his friends, along for the ride as usual.
Hyouka 4’s mystery, or continuation of a mystery, doesn’t quite live up to the others so far, but its patient telling and production levels carry it along.
Chitanda agrees, after some prodding by Houtarou so he won’t have to do all the work, to let the other lit club members into her story. They research and meet at Chitanda’s enormous house to present their findings and present theories, except Houtarou, who forgot the theory bit. You’d expect the reverse from him–doing the thinking but not the legwork. Interesting theories are brought up by the other three and promptly shot down, Houtarou goes to the bathroom to think, and comes back with a satisfactory conclusion. The mystery isn’t as interesting because I at least could not connect to what was happening in Japan 45 years ago. I didn’t know that the student unrest went down to the high school level. The kids are working with written records of the time that may have been biased. Apart from Jun being expelled there is nothing concrete. Last week we picked up the clues as Houtarou noticed them. Also, though Houtarou’s thoughts make a plausible theory, it is just that–a theory. Chitanda later has second thoughts about it, and, judging from the previews, Houtarou will have his own next week.
What makes this dull meeting, full of theories and history, interesting are the games KyoAni plays. Apart from the usual detailed animation of the show’s reality, each of the kids’ theories are presented using a different style, texts with letters that grow, twist or fall to the ground, bits that look like they came from revolutionary posters, cartoonish characters, it seems endless. This seems to be KyoAni’s strategy. The show spends a lot of time with people sitting around talking. No matter what they’re talking about, it’s still visually static. Since what they’re talking about is the important thing, they have decided to concentrate on illuminating that as vividly as they can. Which begs the question: how would other studios treat this material? SHAFT? The mind boggles.
Kimi to Boku 7 brings us a better-than-average Valentine episode. The usual scenes where people react to how many/few chocolates someone else got are quickly finished and we get to the main deal, Mary trying to bring herself to give her beloved Shun her gift. The episode avoids doing a Sawako and throws us a curveball, a completely unknown girl from another school shows up with HER chocolate for Shun, naturally Mary’s there to see it. So now we not only get Mary’s frustration, coupled with Chizuru’s concern for her, but also Shun’s complete bewilderment to play with. The other boys toss in asides but basically stay out of the way. Chizuru, for once, is not annoying, and takes a major step forward. Mary is her usual bundle of insecurities. Shun manages to deal with his situation with his usual gentle courtesy. Good episode.
Moretsu Pirates 19, just filler, really. They set up a small crisis when weary Marika loses her captain ring and the Bentonmaru’s crew can’t get the ship to work, but it’s really just a way to get the yacht club girls to meet the actual pirates and do things like exchange hardware and stuffed animals. In other words, they set up a potentially dangerous situation (and don’t forget Marika forgetting to lock the ship… tsk) and make it hardly worth mentioning. I expect that now and I still watch the show.
Finally, Haiyore! Nyaruko-san finished up the kidnapped mom story in a typically inane way. The evil woman, Luhy, wanted Yorika’s help building her company’s next gaming console. The climax (the console will never work because there are no games for it) is followed by another climax (the parent company pulls the plug) which it didn’t need, because of the first climax. Well, Nyaruko has a few good moments, and Cthugha works well with her. And because they couldn’t stretch the story to the end we get a combination beach/hot springs story, with the predicted jokes, to pad out the episode.
It’s hard to tell where Sakamichi no Apollon 5 is going at first. We get a few scenes where the coincidences distract from their purpose. Kaoru just happens to be playing telephone-on-a-string with Sachiko, bringing up the fact that Ritsuko now hates him, when she passes by and takes the can from Sachiko. Sentarou just happens to be passing by while she talks to Kaoru about the boy she likes. Oh, and Ritsuko just happens to meet Yurika in the cake shop. All these scenes do something, it’s just a clumsy way to go about it. Other moments make up for it, like Sentarou coming to Sentarou’s bedroom via tree, and that brief bit between Yurika and Jun, with the odd reaction to the name on the bakery bag. Then the story takes us to a place we didn’t expect.
Kaoru’s father is home, and brings a letter from a former housekeeper which contains his estranged mother’s address in Tokyo. Kaoru goes. Sentarou invites himself along, for no other that I can see plot-wise than forcing him to go through with it, oh, and to provide a scene where they get drunk with two of Jun’s buddies. Kaoru’s mother had never really entered the picture, she’s barely talked about and Kaoru has few memories of her, but to my surprise they hit it off immediately. When she hits the nail on the head that he’s had his heart broken, he can only be upset for a second before he’s laughing along with her. For once Kaoru allows something powerful and possibly painful to come into his life, and the result is something he desperately needed. It all feels like a side trip for the story, but it was a good one.
Nazo no Kanojo 5 brought up something I had never thought about anime beach episodes. I didn’t really enjoy the scenes very much, or the episode, and I think one of the reasons was there were only the two of them. You knew what the scenes would cover, more or less: Tsubaki would see Urabe in a swimsuit and get excited. They threw in a scissors tan line (in a close-up) to heighten the effect. But apart from Tsubaki ogling her, nothing happens. Normally these scenes have a whole group of people and that adds exponentially to the potential interactions. Boy would ogle girl, another girl would be pissed off about it, while other characters provide counterpoint by flailing away at watermelons or playing volleyball. Maybe it’s a sign that the series at this point is at an empasse. Our weird lovebirds are in a holding pattern; unless something in their relationship changes or they make more use of Ueno and Oka, the series will stagnate. Next episode promises to do just that.
Not much to say about Kimi to Boku 2 6. An sad but amusing situation Yuuki finds himself in: the lunchlady he’s in love with is leaving. Their one connection is collectable stickers. He doesn’t go to the cafeteria and see her on her last week because he’s eating convenience store food to collect the stickers to give her a goodbye gift. Other than that it’s another hopeless unrequited love story. Sweet, but the usual.
And I have nothing to say about Nyaruko-San, except this episode, part of a story arc, isn’t up to its usual standards.