Finales, Amnedia, Kimi to Boku II, and Acchi Kocchi 11

Tasogare Otome x Amnesia‘s finale made me want to bang my head against the wall, scratch that, the creators’ heads against the wall.

The usual.

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.

The gang finishes up by messing up a tea ceremony.

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.

Not the moment I’m talking about.

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.

Amnesia and Kimi to Boku 12, Bread 10, Nyaruko 11

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.

The doll character turns out to be pretty cool. They should have woken her up a long time ago.

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.

Meet Ghutatan, a red herring.

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?

Amnesia 10, Kimi to Boku 11, Nyaruko 10

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.

Asa, another victim.

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.

On to a much happier episode.

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.

Amnesia 9, Naruko 9, Shining Bread 8

We know! We knew two episodes ago! Get on with it!

It was clear two episodes ago in Tasogore Otome no Amunesia that the Shadow Yuuko was not going to go away. Unfortunately, Teiichi and Kirie haven’t figured it out yet and Yuuko’s in denial. So when Shadow Yuuko returns we get a lot of running away and trying to escape, first Yuuko alone, then with both her and Teiichi. These scenes are eerie (the running away/towards the school was a good effect) but by then I wanted them to get caught. What Shadow Yuuko wants from Yuuko is what I want, no separate bodies for good and bad feelings, but the whole package. And we’d finally dispense with the “Who am I? I am YOU!” exchanges we’ve heard for three episodes now. Get on with it! And why the hell didn’t Teiichi and Kirie sit Yuuko down and tell her what was going on with herself? They act like it’s a secret. On the other hand, next week we might get a hell of an episode, as Teiici gets to experience exactly what Yuuko went through. The glimpses we saw this week looked terrifying.

Haiyore! Nyaruko-san deserves some credit for at least trying to keep the backstory in place. It seems the now-empty Dreamlands are a perfect way for malign races to invade Earth to steal its anime and games, I mean, its culture, and rogue Yith are planning to do just that. They send one of their kind to warn Nyaruko and the others. Of course, this being the show it is, it’s only an excuse for that Yith to botch the mind-switching so Mahiro and Nyaruko can spend time in each other’s bodies. I hate this concept because it usually leads to endless scenes with the people trying to figure out the opposite sex’s bodies work, but thankfully this show is more interested in cheap laughs. So intent are they to get all the jokes in that whatever attack is coming is delayed until next week. Indeed, any idea of an attack would be forgotten after Nyaruko takes advantage of the situation to declare to the class (as Mahiro) that he loves Nyaruko. It’s a shame the production didn’t switch voices, too, so that the actors could have some fun playing the other’s role.

Shining Hearts 8 is basically an episode where Rick sits around thinking, or thinks while other people tell him things. He makes a delivery to Flora’s Bar and later visits it (asking for milk and not getting guffaws or even a raised eyebrow), since he has learned that Flora, too, washed ashore on this island with no memories of her past. Let’s see, that makes six now, oh, I forgot Dylan the pirate, so it’s seven, over half the cast, hell, everyone in the cast except Medara and the folks up the palace. Rick broods on it. His girls seem happy for the change. Kaguya, now recovered thanks in part to bread, is still getting her bearings, by it seems looking for the moon. Flora has found something new but can’t let go of parts of her past–whatever they are, and Dylan spouts fatalistic philosophical stuff. He saw that huge battleship last week, so no wonder. Meanwhile Medara and the royalty and possibly Hank know more than they are saying, and I think since the castaways outnumber the other regular characters like 2-1, the natives ought to assume some responsibility and fill them in, or at least Rick, since he’s the most curious.

Amnesia, Nyaruko-san 8

Tasogare Otome no Amunesia got very interesting last episode. This week, episode 8 deals with the fallout and stumbles, but it’s early yet.

Kirie’s brand of therapy.

Last week, a dark side of Yuuko, her unpleasant memories personified, confronted her. Afterwards Yuuko forgot her happy memories with Teiichi and became dull and grumpy, i.e., the sort of ghost you’d actually expect to see in these sort of series. This is bad for the obvious reason that something’s wrong with her, also because it’s devastating for poor Teiichi, and because the series isn’t nearly as much fun when Yuuko isn’t being playful. Perhaps because of the latter two reasons we spend much of our time with Teiichi, and the girls trying to help him, since Teiichi is in a funk most of the episode. Kirie has a couple of scenes where she states the obvious, this isn’t the same Yuuko, etc, but also reveals her frustration that Teiichi isn’t doing anything to fix this. what are her motives? She has a thing for Teiichi, this should be her opportunity. Maybe she’s doing the “as long as he’s happy” thing, maybe she’s curious about Yuuko herself, or maybe this more compliant, nearly cowardly Teiichi isn’t the boy she fell for and she’s trying to shake him out of it.

Momoe’s brand of therapy.

Momoe has even more scenes. She takes Teiichi’s busted leg as her chance to shower him with aid, feeding him (though his mouth is just fine) and continuously asking him when he’ll be fit enough to return to the old clubroom. She couldn’t be more different than Kirie. She has no clue what happened with Yuuko. She’s all cheer and support. Yet it’s clear that she also wants him to return to his old, stronger self. And it’s she who brings Teiichi to a revelation, when she’s more or less forced to admit her feelings for him. Meanwhile, Yuuko, unseen, is beginning to play her little games again, knocking away Teiichi’s long range shot, knocking Momoe’s omelet away, for the second episode in a row. It seems grumpy Yuuko has some doubts, too.

But so far all we’ve got are scenes where girls try talk to Teiichi while he goes through the emotions of responding. I suppose that’s to be expected, but frankly it’s not terribly interesting. I wanted to get back to Yuuko and solve her current problem. Finally the show does, but it’s both an anticlimax and a clever twist on that old anime standard, boy falling on top of girl (Teiichi’s still using a crutch, after all) and not removing his hand even after he realizes it’s on her boob. Okay, his declaration of love to her just before had softened her up, but that wasn’t an effective moment because we already knew he loved her and thought he did too. But this accidental grope is the thing that brings Yuuko’s memories flooding back, and in a moment we have a double-confession. We got the fun-loving Yuuko back. We’re back to square one with the “shadow-Yuuko” still maliciously hovering around, but maybe now Yuuko is prepared to further heal herself. It’s good they didn’t do it all in one episode. I only wish they hadn’t spent so much time with Teiichi doing so little.

Not bad. The light’s about right. The music’s good. But the knife is a trifle large.

Haiyore! Nyaruko-san 8 continues the vacation arc with an episode where all the characters are sucked into a dating sim and forced to play roles there. Guess who the protagonist is. And he can’t get out until he gets a good end with a girl, or Hastur. I guess since Nyaruko confessed last episode they figured it was Mahiro’s turn, whether he wants to or not. It’s amusing enough. It would have worked better for me if I recognized all of the game and anime references. As it was I only spotted those applying to Haruhi and Working!, and a locked storeroom scene which could have been from Clannad or any number of shows. And those weren’t bad. I kind of wished Mahiro hadn’t taken Nyaruko’s guitar away before she got to sing “Malign Deity Knows.” Or gone farther into Cthugha’s Maria watches Over Us riff. The Asakura bit was pretty good.

Amnesia 7, Shining Bread 6, Acchi 7

The nasty black thing in Tasogare Otome x Amunesia is revealed. Episode 7’s telling is messy, the idea not original, but it’s effective nonetheless.

In order to lull us, the show ignores Kirie’s encounter with the nasty thing last week and devotes several moments to Yuuko’s delightful side, a mock exorcism, messing with Teiichi during PE, sitting on his lap during class–I think having a beautiful girl sitting on my lap during class would be a delightful experience. Instead Teichii is worried, especially when Yuuko gets jealous because Momoe comes on to him. From our perspective, and our knowledge of Yuuko, these are understandable emotions from a lonely ghost who is desperate for attention and can’t get all she needs. Teiichi’s not to blame. He’s got to be do human things, like interact with Momoe and go home at night. But Kirie thinks there’s more to it.

And she’s right. What we have here is a supernatural variation of the “Evil Twin” story, except the twin isn’t going around impersonating the other one. It’s all the ugly emotions that Yuuko doesn’t want to feel rolled into one nasty toothy ball of ugly. Alas, this leads to a number of scenes with lines like “I Am You,” “No! No!” And I’m not sure I buy the premise to begin with. Yuuko’s shown a lot of negative human emotions in her positive form. She’s never been all sweetness and light. On the other hand, the fact that she died (I don’t think Teiichi’s new theory is completely true, but whatever actually happened must be equally dire) and her corpse rotted in a basement means the girl has got to have some issues. Kirie tries to explain this to Teiichi, who might be in a bit of denial himself about the issue.

This leads to the surprising conclusion. My guess is that Yuuko pushed away all thoughts of the terrible thing she did to Teiichi, the way she handles her other bad thoughts, and that means the memory of Teiichi himself. But we already knew what she has to do: open herself up, accept the bad thoughts, and thus become a full human being, er, ghost again.

Actually, Rouna’s a capable fighter. Just don’t ask her to carry anything.

Hey, look! Shining Hearts – Shiawase no Pan 6 has an action scene! Never mind that it’s incompetently handled. Rick swings his big sword and slashes through the skin-tight hood Black Tail was wearing, though no deeper, and if she was so adamant on hiding her identity, why did she turn her head in the sunlight so that Rick (and us) could get a good look at her face and cat ears? Why was Rick appointed to help catch this palace thief when all he does is wind up running around like the rest of the soldiers? Why didn’t Rouna, surprisingly skilled in combat, assist the investigation in the first place? She tracked the thief down pretty easily. Well, we do learn a few things, like Prince Lagunas knowing more about Rick’s past than Rick does. And the fact that Rick does not turn in Xiao Mei to the authorities suggests a tension between the rulers and the commoners that the Imperials’ confiscating two weeks ago hinted at. The rest of the episode is the usual. Dialogue that needed trimming, bread that needed baking.

‘Tsumiki, I can dry your hair for you.’

Acchi Kocchi 7 wipes a few summer activities off its checklist. A trip to the mountains, fishing, barbecue and fireworks. It’s one of the better episodes because the expected jokes are done well. I especially liked Sakaki getting blown up by fireworks a lot. Tsumiki, I think, broke her own cuteness record, but I’m not sure why she would bite Io on the head after Mayoi suggest she sit on his lap.

Amnesia 6, Bread 5

Dusk Maiden of Amnesia 6 gets no closer to its story arc, whichever one it is (the mystery of Yuuko’s death, or that nasty-looking black thing Kirie encounters at the end), but we get a very good tale in the meantime.

It’s day two of the school festival. A blonde woman named … Yuuko … comes to see the ghost but sees nothing. Meanwhile rumors are spreading about a “Woman in Red,” who apparently wants a sacrificial victim. At this point we’re not sure what’s going on. Yuuko isn’t aware of a WiR. But we’ve never seen this blonde girl before, either. It’s pretty clear that she is either that woman or at least someone up to something. On the other hand, she cannot see Yuuko. She doesn’t believe. It’s here where things get messy, not with blood. Indeed, for all the scary images this episode throws at us (and this is a series loaded with vivid imagery), no one dies or is even injured. Just one sliced-open schoolgirl top, I suppose to appease the gods of fanservice.

Through this barrage of disturbing images we finally make out the story, and we get a demonstration of group hysteria and base fear at its ugliest. Blonde Yuuko isn’t quite right in the head, partly because of the unreasonable fear that her name invokes at the school. Her answer, to destroy the ghost, or the legend, anyway. This backfires badly, the students (and why are so many high school students in these shows so damn hysterical over the supernatural?) have been taken over by their fears. They are afraid of the WiR, therefore she exists! By using their fears to destroy a ghost story, she has made them worse. Disturbing irony there. Also ironic is the fact that our Yuuko, a genuine ghost, couldn’t care less if there are stories about her. This was the strongest episode yet, and it makes me curious as to how they’ll approach the actual story arcs when they get to it.

I don’t know how appropriate it is for Shining Hearts – Shiawase no Pan to have a filler episode when the main story is nothing but unconnected bits here and there–people washed ashore, dolls with powers, the government that isn’t explaining anything. But we get one. It’s right out of Yumeiro Patissiere with its cold-hearted guest character, Melty, being heart-warmed by delicious sweet breads. It’s livened a bit by making Melty a standard-issue goth-loli tsundere–and getting Kugumiya Rie to play her. Otherwise there’s nothing to the episode at all. Next week looks to get back to the real action, if that’s the word.