I shouldn’t be surprised the Natsuyuki Rendezvous finale was different and a little confusing.
We jump way into the future, where the daughter of Rokka and Ryuusuke is making plans for the shop now that her father has died, and we get a line on how he followed Rokka. So the two have passed on, just as Shimao did. Why is Shimao is still floating around the place? Rokka and Ryuusuke apparently have moved on. It becomes clear when you realize he’s been floating everywhere now; he’s not stuck at the flower shop. The final scene is of him floating lazily in the sky. My guess is that while he managed to leave Rokka for good, he died too soon to want to stop living completely; he couldn’t yet get up the desire to leave completely. So he chats up the credulous grandson, shows him the mysterious room (and never have the storybook flowers seemed so menacing, but it was just a joke) and floats away. Guess he was just checking in. I wonder if he’ll leave for good, now that Ryuusuke and Rokka are gone …
The stuff before that, in the forest, took an unexpected turn. I hadn’t considered the fact that Rokka might consider dying to be with Shimao. And it’s interesting that she lets Shimao make the decision for her. At that moment she had no idea what to do. In the end I think that was a weakness in the show. Rokka was too passive. She makes a realization during the episode that she’s one of the reasons why Shimao is so miserable. In that case maybe she should have done something about it. We’re lucky that Shimao had seen enough to realize that the best thing for all concerned was to give Ryuusuke his body back and exit. I’m not sure what prompted this decision, but I could never figure Shimao out anyway.
So it ends happily enough for all concerned. Shimao finally did something right and seems happy just floating in the sunshine. As for me, I’m glad it’s over. This was a good series but the unresolved tensions between the three protagonists remained much the same for too long. It sometimes felt like a chore to watch an episode and see little things happen, but nothing big, until the body switching, and even after that the show spun its wheels. I don’t mind subtlety or complexity in my anime, but I don’t care for wasted episodes, either. On the other hand, I’m glad it was on. We need subtle, complex anime, even if makes mistakes like Natsuyuki Rendezvous did.
Now let’s turn to a couple of much sillier shows. The first, Kono Naka ni Hitori, Imouto ga Iru! 10, stumbles along in its usual dull way. Shougo, thanks to his newly-found genuine sister, gets to bring ALL the girls to the big party. Which is the way it should be. It’s obvious now that his father probably bedded a lot of women even after getting married, so it’s in the spirit of things for him to bring his entire harem. Once there, however, the show botches whatever opportunities for fun it had. Miyabi gets depressed and wanders off, and only Tendou shows any inclination to enjoy herself. The others might as well not have shown up. They hunt for Miyabi, who gets drunk and tries to bed Shougo. Meanwhile, secretary Seri is revealed to be in a plot to disgrace him by bringing up the whole sister thing. My reaction? Let her try, and Yuzurina agrees with me, but at the end we learn she’s actually on Seri’s side (i.e., evil). Not that it matters. Just let the matter out. The man is dead. Sigh.
Binbougami ga! is just as stupid, maybe more so, but it’s also more lively and fun. Episode 11 is the Fanservice Episode, so proclaimed by Bobby and Momou in the opening bit, with a rousing song about tits. I haven’t been so touched since Mayoi Neko Overrun‘s ode to bloomers (which still pops into my head from time to time). The story: everyone in the cast shows up at the public baths at the same time. You can imagine what happens. Yes, the walls come down. Nothing much stands out, except for Keita’s temptation to peek by Bobby. With that and his desire to show Momou and the cat god transform for cash, it’s good to see the boy is prone to greed and temptation like the rest of us. And as an equal-opportunity fanservice episode, the girls and the interested viewers get plenty of glimpses of him as well. Altogether it’s the usual senseless violence and jokes with extra splashing and convenient fog. And since there’s no sentiment this week, it’s a good episode.
The big line in Natsuyuki Rendezvous 10 comes at the end, where Rokka asks Shimao (still in Ryuusuke’s body) where the Ryuusuke she fell in love with went. It’s a nonsensical question because while Shimao told her that it had been him and not Ryuusuke for some of the events, he hasn’t told her exactly when they switched. I’m not surprised he wouldn’t. This episode removes all of the remaining sympathy I had for him. We see him now as he’s always been–egotistical and selfish. Anyway, for all she knows he’s been Ryuusuke for months, even as far back as the time she said she loved him (Ryuusuke). But in terms of the story, unless Shimao is hinting at something when he talks a “last meal,” it’s an important one.
She loves Ryuusuke, and WE know she fell for him before Shimao’s devious body switching. Just like Ryuusuke can never erase the love she had for Shimao, or would want to (The show makes a point of having him say that he’s fine with that), Shimao can’t erase Ryuusuke. Nor can erase the fact that while she hasn’t been able to let him go, Rokka is doing just fine in running the shop on her own, doing things without him. It will be interesting to see how this pans out in the last episode or two. Meanwhile, this episode gets even more bizarre and chilling than before as Ryuusuke realizes he can’t return to his body now, and Shimao symbolically kills him. Then he has to watch the odd physical couple, one using his body, be all lovey-dovey while he floats about hopelessly. It looks bleak indeed for Syuusuke – until Rokka asks that question.
Kono Naka ni Hitori, Imouto ga Iru! 9 throws out one good thing and one bad thing. The good thing is the new girl Yuzurina, who, right after moving next door to Shougo, tells him that she’s his sister. Nothing new there, but there’s a twist: she has no interest in marrying him. She’s actually a little sister, the type that worries about oniisan with no strings attached. Well, she listens in through the wall, but that’s acceptable in this sort of show, and might actually add to the show’s abysmally low comedy level. What’s more, they do a blood test and it’s positive, all in one episode! We’ll ignore that fact that she’s illegitimate and so it must be kept secret when the next thing you know she’s blabbing about it to all the other girls; an actual little sister overly worried about who he’s bringing home, complicating Shougo’s life won’t hurt the show at all. The bad thing is the formal party coming up, and he must choose one girl. And Miyabi later spots him getting ready to kiss Konoe. Who cares? Shougo, you got a sister now. Choose one girl and let’s end this thing.
Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate 9 has a fascinating bit at the end. They end with Shougo possibly being run over by a truck. This is after a few painful flashbacks where Chisato tries to wake up a dead boy named Daiki by offering him chocolate (thus revealing the origin of her choco-phobia). Yes, it’s incredibly trite, but it was how they went about it. One of those scene or episode-ending comical moments where the girls turn accusingly on a boy and he runs away. The camera is far away, as they often are when you’re ending a scene like this, and it looks for all the world like the episode is going to end right there … Yuuki yells “Run!” and runs … then the truck shows up. In other words they stuck a cliffhanger over a silly moment. The rest of the episode wasn’t bad either. We get the return of Yuina Oosawa, planning on making an elected Yuuki her puppet, and who got suspended for harassing a financial aid student, Yuuki wanting to add a platform plank abolishing just such a thing, leading Chisato to shout at him because it will cost him votes, but really because she’s afraid he’s leaving her behind like Daiki did. Election politics and romance, just like the title says.
Natsuyuki Rendezvous 9 is the most effective episode so far, though in a way it’s the slowest-moving.
There’s only one event, but it’s a big one. As we expected, Rokka encounters Shimao (still in Ryuusuke’s body) up in the mountains. In the scenes that follow it becomes impossible for him to hide the switch, and Rokka realizes she’s looking and talking to, well, basically, Shimao. Naturally, she is completely overwhelmed. At the same time, Ryuusuke is still traipsing about fairyland, books with Shimao’s old illustrations, and the Rokka-fairy turns and calls him “Prince.” His reflection in a drop of dew shows Shimao, a twist I frankly don’t have an answer for, unless Shimao’s begun to come back, and, with his regret in the real world, maybe he is.
Reasons why this all works: for one, Rokka now knows something is going on, and now she may be forced to make some decisions about her future, what she can let go. The episode likes to point out that in spite of Shimao’s entreaties she hasn’t gotten rid of anything Shimao asked her to. She kept everything, including the memories. Also, Shimao has an inkling that this is going altogether the wrong way. He hadn’t intended for them to meet up in the forest, meant to string her along, or maybe, deep down, he did, and he now sees how selfish he’s been and what damage he’s doing. Another way this works is through simple storytelling. All those episodes of dallying pay off (well, to an extent), as now they can drag on a moment when Rokka stops Shimao from running (with that ridiculous gait), clutching the back of his jacket, and make it last just enough. The episode switched Shimao and Ryuusuke’s face so many times we’re not sure whom we’re looking at anymore. It’s broken up by Ryuusuke’s adventures in wonderland and its clumsy dwarfs. And all the artwork! This series has always looked good, but nothing yet matches the vivid forest scenes here, the colors and shadows, that make the storybook world look dull by comparison. I wonder if that was intentional? Probably not. Well, I’m still not convinced how good this series is, but this episode makes a strong case for it.
Binbougami Ga! 9 has no introspective scenes, no sentimentality at all, so it’s a good episode. Ichiko and Momiji try to settle their dispute during PE coed tennis, each teaming with two star players, who find themselves victims of powers far beyond them. I felt a little sad for the trauma inflicted on Shion and Gorihara: innocent stereotypes tossed in for one episode. But the gags were mostly good, so who cares? In the second half we meet Kuroyumi, another god of misfortune who’s going to steal Momiji’s thunder but winds up a victim herself–of Ichiko’s cooking. The best bit was her reaction to the stew, entirely off camera, a mass of screams, retching noises with other sound effects thrown in.
Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate 8 tries to be moving and fails because of its inability to make me care about anyone involved. It looks at first like a harem episode. We start with Yuuki pinned down in Satsuke’s room, playing Shogi and hearing some of her backstory along with the flirting she does. Her sister, the drunken Hazuki, abandoned their family years ago and won’t say why. Later we get a scene with Chisato acting weird because she’s afraid Yuuki’s eyes are beginning to wander, though they aren’t a couple in the first place. Sadly, he has to give a “I love you BUT …” speech (this scene also involves a walking squat toilet). Then it’s back to the sisters who do everything they can short of killing each other to lay claim to Yuuki, who is so emasculated by this point he’s got a sign around his neck saying “Prize.” Then we get the tearful family story … which was underwhelming. I can understand Hazuki’s feelings of loyalty to the woman who raised her, but I’d love to hear the mistress’s side of it. She gives birth to a girl, who is taken and raised by another woman, who dies, and now the daughter refuses to accept her biological mother. Well, we get another pathos, or bathos in this show already.
I’ll probably watch Natsuyuki Rendezvous through to the end, but it gets harder and harder. It looks like Ryuusuke has found a way through the ridiculous impasse by the end of the episode, but his impetus, apart from scarily getting caught there forever by dwelling on the past, like Shimao perhaps, are unclear. Fairy Rokka (for want of a better name) said that there was a part of him that wants Rokka to be free; does that mean he’s willing to let her forget him and pursue future happiness, or is it a part of him that actually could not love her? Either way, he’s pissed off about it, probably about his dithering over it and wasting everyone’s time, including those of us watching. Whatever the reason, the show needs some kind of stimulus. I don’t care whether it’s from Rokka meeting Shimao/Ryuusuke while hiking, or Ryuusuke saying “enough!” and booting Shimao out of his body, or … Well, I’ve given up on Shimao doing anything constructive.
Binbougami Ga! lucked out when they brought Rindou along to be a side character. Thanks to her we’ve had two decent episodes in a row. Even the maudlin stuff at the end wasn’t so irritating. One reason is that she’s decided she’s a friend of Ichiko even if Ichiko refuses to accept it. She’s perceptive enough to see beyond Ichiko’s nasty facade and see the human being there, something even Keita hasn’t done. And she’s a tough, broad character who’s capable of a lot of violence. Perfect for this show. And so get the Bad Girls in the class kidnap Ichiko (who’s good fortune apparently isn’t always so abundant), Rindou rescuing her only to find herself with a collapsed building around her, and another mixed reaction scene from Ichiko, which worked because it was her acting on her own impulses. The bit after that with the sob story didn’t work because it’s hard to feel sorry for a girl who rejected all of humanity just because one friend once betrayed her, plus why would she suddenly change? Still, pretty good episode.
I lost my notes for Yuru Yuri 2 8, but I’ll just say that the best part comes at the end, with some of Chinatsu’s grotesque depictions of herself and her beloved Yui come alive. The rest of the episode was just average, maybe because it was relatively normal. I think I like this series better when shows things like Chinatsu’s hair eating ping-pong balls, or that teacher talking about blowing things up followed by the quiet one saying something we can’t hear, in other words, when the series goes off the deep end a little.
Polar Bear’s Cafe 21 has not enough Polar Bear or Penguin and too much Panda, though it’s amusing enough. Panda gets bored and tries to be other animals for a while. The best part is when Llama does the same and becomes a panda, a popular one, too, since he goes all out with the extra service. Poor Llama is starved for attention. The second part would have been annoying, with Panda’s little sister Mei Mei getting a crush on Mr. Handa, but Kana Hanazawa’s voice work rescues it.
Kono Naka ni Hitori, Imouto ga Iru! 6 just limps along. I was afraid it would when we begin with Shougo deciding to help Sagara promote her failing cafe. The usual scenes, planning publicity, getting girls dressed as cat-maids (with tails which reveal their moods). It’s only livened up by the brief appearance of the newspaper perv girl and of Ikusu, both of whom are so different from the other girls that it’s a relief when they show up. There’s a terrible scene when Shougo confronts Sagara about this whole sister business and we get a lengthy and pointless unraveling of her motives which was unnecessary and dull to boot. It’s a little late in the season to say this, but I’m close to dropping this show again.
They made it through the primary with no room to spare, so in this episode of Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate they go off to “camp,” or sorts. The jump from celebration to next stage planning to the camp is so muddled I didn’t realize they were there until Yuuki is cooking and Isara is sucking his bloody finger. We get various uninteresting night scenes, including Yuuki sharing a bed with the gay guy and later getting chased around by girls because he snuck Satsuki’s drunk sister back into her dorm. And Chisato comes onto him in the bath. It’d have been a good night for him if he had any sense. Oh, Satsuki also apparently comes on to him, but I’m thinking that’s more innocent than it looks. It’s a typical, messy episode. I don’t mind a good harem show, but this one has too many other things flying about. Choose a girl, Yuuki, and then focus on the other things the show keeps bringing up and forgetting.
Do I have to talk about Natsuyuki Rendezvous 7? Well, I’ll say this. Shimao has completely screwed up the situation, but not in the way I expected. At the end he’s given Rokka every indication that he’s still around somehow, what with that ghostly appearance and the flower arrangements he left at the shop. Then he leaves for god knows where in Ryuusuke’s body. Ryuusuke, by the way, is still having odd conversations with the idealized little mermaid Rokka, where perhaps a hint as to the future is given, but otherwise he’s simply trying to push giant flowerpots around. Where is Shimao going? Mermaid Rokka did say that the longer this lasts the sadder it gets, after all. Meanwhile, Rokka, after her declaration of love to whomever she’s in love with, possibly the combination of both, can only react to things and wait for phone calls. And I’m finding my self caring less and less about the whole thing.
Due to the Olympics, Kono Naka ni Hitori, Imouto ga Iru! missed two weeks. Now we get episode 5, and I think I would like to thank the Olympics. Last time Konoe confessed to impersonating Shougo’s sister. But he’s still getting phone calls, so it looks like the real sister is on the loose, which I could have told Shougo when Konoe said she wasn’t near that wedding. Besides, we have to keep this story going somehow. You can’t just have a series where a bunch of girls throw themselves at a guy, well you can, and it would probably sell … so they throw Sagara the witch girl at him next. Lots of scenes with her. Well, lots of scenes with every girl, including a new one. We’ll eventually learn that it’s not Sagara (and deal with this moving away plot bit they threw in just to give us something for a cliffhanger) and move on to… possibly the weird school newspaper club girl.
Another Olympic victim was Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate, and to make up for it they tossed episodes 5 and 6 at us on the same day. During the hiatus I was thinking about dropping the show, and episode 5 didn’t do much to change my mind. The bulk of it was a scene where Yuuki had to make one roll-cake after another for bribing the voters on primary day, while Mifuyu sat around writing romantic fiction about them and one weirdo after another came in the door to do a comic schtick before exiting again. Actually, it was tolerable and passed the time so that the show didn’t have to get back to topics like that murder in the first episode (remember that?) or Isara getting bullied. The primary event scenes had some decent gags in it. Still, you saw the setup coming… instead of his campaign speech Mifuru gives her fiction to Yuuki, too late to get it back …
Happily, episode 6 was better. Rather than do the expected thing and embarrass himself with that speech, Yuuki is forced by different circumstances to improvise–and rescues the story arc. Nothing much could top that so they switch to election result-watching and tossing the odd gag in. Oh, there’s still that stuff that Mifuyu wrote and he read that has to be dealt with, and we got the guy in the mask, a mystery candidate that split the vote, and the bullying and the murder and god knows what else in this messy show, but this epidode ended on a high enough note that I’ll keep watching.
I have nothing concrete to say about Natsuyuki Rendezvous 6, instead all I have are questions. It’s not fair play for Shimao to inhabit Ryuusuke’s body and make moves on her in the first place, but is it really fair to present to Rokka a combination of the two? Rokka’s falling faster for this dual attack, even declaring her love at the end of the episode, but who is she falling in love with? Shimao is also pondering this problem while he says things to her that he would have said when he still was alive, getting responses, but knowing on the other hand that she is now responding to whom she thinks is Ryuusuke. And that includes her surprise and hesitation when he tries something Ryuusuke wouldn’t dare to do. It’s a little pathetic to see him in this situation. Meanwhile Ryuusuke is still hanging out in fairy-land, now converted to Little Mermaid mode (meanwhile Rokka picks up a copy at the library, but after that imagery had started. I’m not sure how that works into anything. And finally, how long is this body switching charade going to go on? In terms of their future happiness it’s not fair to any of them.
I suppose Hasegawa will eventually return to her beloved university in Moyashimon Returns, but as for me I was having too much fun watching all the illuminating cultural events at the harvest festival. The daytime, public activities are bizarre enough with the pulque and slaughtering chickens in front of entire families, or the relatively innocuous appearance of idol Taka Kyoko, and Oikawa and Kei posing for pictures, but the nighttime events for students and faculty make me want to actually enroll in that school. Kaoru and Takuma’s special pre-chewed sake was the perfect topper, but my favorite bit was the way in which associate professors can get tenure even if they are voted down by the full professors. Every time they switch to Hasegawa moping in France the fun drops. For one thing it isn’t like her to be so powerless, and for another, nothing happens. So now that they have the cash for a ticket maybe that side of the story will liven up. I’m going to miss the festival, though.
The wrap-up of Binbougami Ga!‘s two-parter wasn’t as bad as I had feared. It went smoothly, Ichiko coming to the rescue with the tools she had acquired from Bobby, and Momiji’s pointing out that she’s a god of misfortune, not of death. It was actually sweet, with Keita’s family crying their eyes out and all. It was actually tolerable. But enough of that; this show is better at being crazy and finally we get some, though I’m not at all sure what that handkerchief thing was all about. You can explain it away if she’s indeed falling for Keita, or she was going through a funk because of the “he has everything I don’t and vice versa” business, but they also suggested the near-impossibility that he would actually recognize her as that little girl … Ack, I’m tired. Bring back the violence.
Hatsuyuki Rendezvous 5 livens things up with some surrealism.
I had dreaded this moment when Shimao used Ryuusuke’s body; it was almost as troublesome as I had feared. Shimao gets a pass for fumbling around in this new body of his by the fact that he had been drinking, but you wonder what was going through Rokka’s mind as this guy she hired who likes her starts weeping, asking for her to make a bouquet, etc., especially since she has some feelings for Ryuusuke. When things settle down it gets better. Maybe Shimao getting classes and cutting his hair isn’t a bad look for Ryuusuke (which is all I really care about. I still consider Shimao to be an interloper), and Rokka, reminded of meals with her husband, enjoys the one she has with Ryuusuke/Shimao, not knowing the possible reason.
Meanwhile, Ryuusuke wakes up in never-neverland, which we eventually learn is a page of an unfinished Shimao sketchbook and meets a small, young, perhaps idealized pixie-Rokka. They go off in search of a missing prince (Shimao), and from this we can perhaps assume that Shimao in his life wanted to become Rokka’s prince, but in his own mind was too immature to do so. In MY mind, too, but let that pass. To be fair, we all have these childish fantasies of what we could become. Ryuusuke scores points for being taken aback but not freaking out. I think he realizes that through the fairy-tale images and speech he’s seeing Rokka and Shimao’s relationship from a fresh angle, so he’s interested. Even though he’s unaware that Shimao had taken him over. All in all it’s a refreshing change to this series that had been spinning its wheels before, but will it actually help it get out of the mud? When Shimao leaves Ryuusuke’s body will they fall back in?
Okay, Horizon time. Let me look at my notes. Let me add that I take more notes for this show than any other, and I still don’t know what’s going on.
We start with a feast to celebrate the contract with England. Not surprisingly, it involves lots of meat. The wolf-girl takes care of the vegetables during the opening bit. Tenjo and Cloak Girl, who have began to get along awfully well, are greeted by Milton, a crow, who is then spotted and shot down (symbolically) for something tainted, about the meat, I believe. Talk then turns to the meaning of a symbol found in London where people have vanished and become “lost ones.” A line through a circle, i.e., the London Underground. “Avalon” is also mentioned, but I don’t remember that stop on the line. Tenjo and Cloak Girl are told to test the new bath and upon leaving are accused of being suspicious. And then Asazumi is told to instruct the other girls at the party about what this thing called sex is all about.
The next part actually makes sense. Horizon doesn’t want her emotions recovered if it will cost lives. Sensible, especially since her emotions are WMDs. Toori wants Horizon to have them back and suggests a date at the festival to change her mind. Then the one emotion she DOES have, the Lype Katarrippi, goes missing. Sigh. Tenjo and Cloak-girl have an intimate bath and later talk about Double-Bloody Mary’s execution again, and the start of the Armada war. Then, because one bath scene is not enough for this show, the girls all jump in. Masazumi needs a new spell protection, or something, and a mouse is suggested, but she gets a baby anteater instead. Finally, it’s festival time. Shakespeare (Thomas, not William) sits next to Glasses-guy in the comiket hall and signals the start of something ominous … The sky turns red, and I guess we’ll get more battling next week. You know, I think I’m beginning to understand little bits of this show.
Polar Bear’s Cafe 18 isn’t much, but is it ever? The ghost stories section felt like a missed opportunity to let us know what all these animals are actually afraid of, but apart from Llama’s ghost zebra, none of them held up too well. I would have liked to hear Mandrill’s story, but he’s forced to stop … Part two isn’t much better as it’s just more whining from Panda about having to work all the time. Though I suppose it’s amusing that he considers lazing around as normal behavior but lazing around at the zoo as work.
For Binbougami Ga! 5 Ichiko gets turned into a little girl. This should be all sorts of fun, but unfortunately when she tries to hide from Momiji it means staying with Keito’s family, so a lot more poor happy people scenes. At least this time Ichiko keeps her mouth shut, and since she’s in little girl form the family cuts her more slack. Even worse is her reaction to this family–irritation, well, at least with Keito. I wonder how many episode it’s gonna take before she says “Can this be love … No way!” The only decent moment was the comparison between Momiji and tiny Ichiko’s bust size, and the “Over 9000!” bit they do with it. And, sigh, it’s a two-parter. So expect more of the same next week.
This week, on Moyashimon Returns 5, we learned all about pulque, which I first learned about watching Anthony Bourdain puke it out in his old Food Network show. It’s seen as no less disgusting here. I don’t know why the line outside the fermenting cellar crew booth is so long. Maybe because it’s about the only food at the festival which doesn’t have soy in it. Some of the other stalls looked pretty interesting anyway. Anyway, the lectures by men and microbes push aside the other story arc–Hasegawa is still gone. I was a bit let down that we didn’t get any farther with that. The highlight was the battle: the football and lacrosse clubs try to keep order against an army of housewives set on free produce. They didn’t stand a chance. There wasn’t any reason to devote so much time this part, but this show tends to wander. It’s one of its charms.