Fuelling Fiction Through Pain

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Domestic Girlfriend Episode 12

The secret is out and Hina takes it all upon herself (which as the adult in the relationship and the supervising teacher that quite clearly acted in a way contrary to her position it makes sense that she does this). In order to avoid the scandal becoming public, Hina accepts a transfer of position (why she isn’t fired is a question I guess we’ll never understand) and then she vanished from Natsuo, Rui and the rest of the family (though she does send her mother a text). Domestic Girlfriend has been big on these extreme reactions to emotions rather than more measured responses but to be honest at this point this was actually a fairly low-key way to handle the situation.

Hina - Domestic Girlfriend Episode 12

All of which is better than Natsuo’s approach which is to literally hide in his room. I’m going to give full credit to the support cast of Domestic Girlfriend in this instance for not putting up with that. The support they give Natsuo in this episode is phenomenal and Natsuo really hasn’t appreciated Rui enough given everything she’s done for him (of course, her throwing herself at him in the end is all kinds of weird but more or less expected from this story at this point).

Rui - Domestic Girlfriend Episode 12

After being encouraged, shouted at, and dragged to a bath house, Natsuo turns to writing to help deal with his emotions. While at first he ignores the food and other supports Rui brings him, in time it is almost as though the writing provides a release for him and he returns to the world around him.

Domestic Girlfriend Episode 12

Of course, this being the kind of story it is, it isn’t just a personal writing venture. he gives the draft to his teacher who is a writer who just happens to decide to pass it on and the next thing you know Natsuo is winning an award.

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There’s something very unbalanced about Domestic Girlfriend in that some moments are really grounded and touching and then it does things that makes you wonder just what planet these characters are living on. It always takes things just that little bit too far and pushes them past the ability to suspend disbelief.

Domestic Girlfriend Episode 12

That said, for an anime that has been borderline trashy since the beginning, is well outside my usual preferred viewing genres, and is generally full of characters that aren’t all that likeable, there’s been something kind of great about watching this. It is going to make for an interesting review and I’m kind of looking forward to writing it.

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Foolish Hearts and Foolish Choices

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Domestic Girlfriend Episode 11 Review

The drama continues in Domestic Girlfriend but as each of these characters insists on making fairly short sighted decisions I’m more at the point of just kind of watching to see what wrong turn they take next. Rui, for her part actually gets out of this episode fairly unscathed making a number of reasonably sensible choices. The biggest one being to simply push Natsuo away from her thoughts and not hold a grudge against her sister. That could have gotten ugly and certainly would have strained the family relations and so Rui is actually acting the most sensible of any of these characters right at this point.

Rui - Domestic Girlfriend - Episode 11

Unfortunately, Rui being reasonably sensible doesn’t help Natsuo and Hina who are apparently just born to be stupid in love.

Still, before I tear Natsuo down too much, he did do one smart thing this episode (which if I said he’s stupid in love but not actually stupid). Shaken when Rui wins an honourable mention in the writing contest, Natsuo decides he needs to start taking writing seriously if he ever is going to pursue a career as a writer. Fortunately he’s more than determined enough and actually willing to work for it, so the progress made on this front is actually kind of pleasing to see this episode.

Advisor - Domestic Girlfriend - Episode 11

While I still find the adviser guy a little creepy and honestly hard to get a character reading on given he seems to fluctuate in whatever mode they need for the scene, his offering Natsuo advice is actually kind of nice to see and you could actually see these two developing a nice mentor/student relationship. Assuming of course he doesn’t flick back into creepy mode.

Natsuo and Hina - Domestic Girlfriend - Episode 11

However, Hina and Natsuo together are a terrible idea because they both just stop thinking. On a school trip, Hina invites Natsuo to her room to talk. There’s a whole lot of stupid just in that decision. Then Natsuo declares he wants to get more serious with her at the same time that she says they should break up. She then outlines some fairly clear and logical reasons why they should and he just rejects them out of hand. Why worry about reality when you have true love on the table, I guess is the reasoning but it just sounds so dumb. And she accepts it.

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Next thing they are making out and discussing when they fell in love and he even reveals he saw her masturbating that one time… This is while they are on a school trip and she is there in the capacity of the supervising teacher.

But it is all sunshine and roses because he asked her to marry him one day. It really is just a disaster you can’t look away from.

Natsuo and Hina fireworks - Domestic Girlfriend - Episode 11

By the time the end of the episode rolled around you’re just waiting for it and when Hina is called to see the head-teacher you more or less know what’s about to happen. Of course they end it there and I know I’ll watch it next week anyway because this is some great pop-corn worthy melodrama. It’s just terrible and yet unmissable all at once and the only question left is what stupid choices will they make next week?

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Running With The Wind and With Your Team

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Run With The Wind Episode 22 Review

I was surprised that nearly half of this episode of Run With The Wind ended up being devoted to King and flash backs of King entering the house. Other than his job hunt, King hasn’t had much characterisation within the story and is one of the characters that I didn’t think had a lot to offer.

Run With The Wind Episode 22 - King

To a point that is true with little being really revealed. On the other hand, this is kind of a good reflective moment for the audience seeing King accepting his failures and himself while he runs, doing something for the first time really since entering college and doing it with a team of people who are depending on him. it is also a nice calm moment before the sash gets handed over to Kakeru.

Run With The Wind Episode 22 King hands the sash to Kakeru

Sorry to say to King, but he was a character that was destined to be fairly forgettable out of the group of ten, and it would have been really cruel to have Shindo’s arc and moment directly followed by Kakeru because no matter how great the moment that came before it, Kakeru’s leg of the race was always going to overshadow the bit that came before it. So King played his role well, and that ten minutes didn’t feel dragged or wasted, but it did make the start of Kakeru’s leg even more exciting because of the build up to it. Haiji’s comment on the phone to Kakeru that he was already the best runner was just kind of perfect and to be honest set up some big expectations for the next leg.

Haiji - To me you are the greatest runner.
Run With The Wind Episode 22

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And Run With The Wind delivered. Kakeru running has always been kind of compelling to watch, and I don’t even like running. This is always achieved through some visual gimmicks that have been used just enough that it isn’t bizarre when they start occurring in this race, but not often enough to overpower the fairly realistic tone the anime has gone for in most other elements. I really liked the visual effect where it was like Kakeru shed a layer of ice or snow from around his body.

However, more impressive than Kakeru just running is the improved mental state we find this character in. Finally he’s running for the sheer love of it and has found a team he wants to run with. He wants to push himself to go further and faster. While I’m not convinced there won’t be a hiccup at the start of the next episode, this start to Kakeru’s run was truly impressive and everything you could kind of have asked for given the journey so far.

Run With The Wind Episode 22  - Kakeru

Run With The Wind remains an incredibly impressive anime in how it has put itself together and how it seems to understand its pacing and characters so well and seems to make the best choices for putting them on display.

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Natsuo, If You’re Going To Lie, Cover Your Tracks

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Domestic Girlfriend Episode 10 Review

Getting caught in a lie seems to be a theme this episode. First we have the literature club adviser away ‘sick’ for multiple days prompting his oh-so-concerned-students to go visit him at his home. Turns out he’s not sick. He’s actually an author, one that Natsuo is a fan of, and he’s just behind on his deadlines. He openly tells his students this while puffing on a cigarette and blatantly says he hasn’t told the school that he’s working on the side.

Um…

Domestic Girlfriend Episode 10
Model Teacher

Are any of the teachers at this school actually going to have any kind of moral or ethical standard?

However, that isn’t really a drama. It is more just foreshadowing lies coming apart which Natsuo, being a wannabe writer, should have paid more attention to given he’s been lying to Rui about where he’s been going for dinner and it is going to bite him.

Domestic Girlfriend Episode 10 Natsuo fall down stairs

The next day at school he’s teasing the girl who like the literature teacher a little bit and she elbows him in the ribs, at the top of a staircase, sending him flying in a way that defies any kind of physics unless Natsuo actually launched himself backwards at the same time as she elbowed him, but let’s ignore that part of the story for now. After falling down the stairs he breaks his leg and so begins Rui in care-taker mode.

Do we even need to discuss how breaking a leg doesn’t prevent his hands or brain from working so why he really doesn’t need his step-sister to share a bath with him? This story has gone for a lot of contrivances in order to create drama and fairly uncomfortable situations like the one we get where Rui is reaching for the soap in the dark bathroom (yeah, you can see where they go with that already). While usually these aren’t too intrusive, the way they blow a broken leg out of proportion here is insane.

Domestic Girlfriend Episode 10 Rui
Pouting Rui is still pretty cute.

Yet, despite how many things he apparently can’t do on his own in this scene because of a broken leg, later on his father apparently has no issue with his son going out in the rain and one crutch to find a missing step-sister.

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Anyway, Rui ends up at the cafe and finds out that Natsuo hasn’t been going to his friend’s place and so calls Natsuo on it, and he lies again. Not only that, at the next opportunity he lies to Rui again saying he’s going to apologise to his friend and off he goes to Hina’s house, where Rui later finds him having confirmed he isn’t at his friends house.

So, drama.

Domestic Girlfriend Episode 10

Despite how idiotic the plot is here and how overblown everything is, I can’t say I actually dislike it. Outside of the bathroom scene, I actually quite enjoyed watching the train wreck that is Natsuo’s life right at the moment. Still, wondering how exactly this one will wrap up.

Domestic Girlfriend Episode 10 Anime Maids
Also, random maid montage at the beginning as part of the school festival because why not?

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Making Choices and Hearing Truths

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Domestic Girlfriend Episode 8 Review

For some reason, this week Domestic Girlfriend has added in a new character. A male student at Natsuo’s school who has returned from overseas and intersperses English amongst his fairly over the top dialogue. Not sure what his purpose going forward is but he didn’t serve much purpose in this episode other than to kill some time before Natsuo spotted a rumoured underwear thief and the two of them chased him down.

Domestic Girlfriend Episode 8

Then again, he did manage to make a reason for Rui to get annoyed at Natsuo. Alex asked Natsuo to set him up with Rui and when Natsuo tentatively started trying to get Rui to meet him she slammed a knife down on the counter and stormed out of the room. See, communication is a wonderful thing.

Domestic Girlfriend Episode 8
Awkward

Anyway, that then allows Natsuo to take food to her room which leads to them making out before being caught by Hina.

And all of this drama is simply leading to Natsuo finally having an actual conversation with Hina at the festival they go to, after Hina announces she’s moving out on her own, and the two of them more or less admit they like each other. You know, the whole teacher/student sister/brother thing aside. I love how they didn’t even try to address those issues but we get a hand holding scene at the end so I guess we’re supposed to think its all sweet.

Domestic Girlfriend Episode 8

I’m just waiting for Rui to lose it.

Domestic Girlfriend Episode 9 Review

Unexpectedly, this episode begins with Rui running into Hina’s former flame and the two end up at the cafe, accompanied by the literature club adviser. I keep wondering what ethics or code teachers in Japan are supposed to be following because anime does not do a great job of showing much of a line between teachers and students.

Domestic Girlfriend Episode 9

Keeping going with that same kind of idea we have Hina leaving Natsuo a key to her new place. After a hard day of moving, Natsuo returns and the two have a bit of a kissing session before Hina puts the breaks on the whole thing. It seems really weird that she’s accepted that she is going to be involved in a relationship that is questionable from a number of points of view but she doesn’t seem to want to dive in.

Domestic Girlfriend Episode 9

Not sure that kissing a student at school is a particularly good move mind you if the idea is to keep the breaks on the relationship.

Anyway, Alex joins the literature club so apparently his character is going to keep hanging around. I still don’t get the point of his character mind you but there he is.

Domestic Girlfriend Episode 9
This however sounded and looked delicious.

I will admit I was a little underwhelmed by the developments here and while that is kind of to be expected given this has always been a melodrama, previously I was a lot more caught up in what each of these characters were doing. Now it is kind of going through the motions as we set up for the next train wreck.

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Tsurune Series Review

Tsurune Episode 8 Minato

Overcoming challenges together; Tsurune takes on the emotional scars of its cast and shines.

There’s something just a little bit special about this latest sports anime from Kyoto Animation. The studio is known for being good at handling solid emotionally driven stories with the likes of Clannad on its line up and its also dipped its toes into boys doing sports before with the fan-service laden Free. That perhaps set the bar very high for Tsurune in some viewers’ minds and I do recall seeing a lot of first impressions that went along the lines of ‘as expected from Kyo-Ani’ or ‘nothing special compared to…’.

Tsurune Episode 2 Minato and Who

However, that seemed a little harsh given is something is done well it is done well even if another anime made by the same studio perhaps surpassed it or the studio has done something comparable before. While I’m not going to make the case that Tsurune is some sort of hidden master piece, I will put forward strongly that Tsurune is well worth the watch for those who like getting invested in emotionally driven stories with the back-drop of a sports tournament to keep the plot on track and to ensure that we have an ongoing sense of direction.

Tsurune Episode 1

Tsurune is beautiful. There’s no denying that fact and while I’m certain we could screen cap some less favourable moments, almost every scene is beautifully composed and the use of colour, light and movement are purposeful and interesting. The choice for the majority of Masaki’s scenes early on to be bathed in blue tones (a colour scheme we return to at the end) was very well done and played nicely into a narrative twist in the early episodes. The portrayal of wind and movement as the arrows flew was gorgeous and was taken to its extreme during the final where each shot set a flurry of sparkling leaves flying (okay, they may have taken some liberties with reality but it looks great). And each of the characters, yes the heavily male dominated cast, look fantastic.

The music and sound design also deserve a special mention as these are truly used to enhance each and every scene. While it might seem to some too calculated or artificial, I found it absolutely complemented the visuals and the narrative and particularly during competitions I found myself waiting for the sound of the arrow being released, the wind, and then the impact as the arrow either hit or missed its target. It was very affective and adding greatly to the overall enjoyment while watching.

On the surface we have a basic story of a character who used to be good at archery who quit after developing target panic (essentially couldn’t hold his draw and released the arrow too soon throwing off his aim). His friend who followed him to high school wants him to get back into the sport as does a childhood friend who has reunited with them. After some resistance, Minato does decide to get back into archery and works to overcome his target panic.

Tsurune Episode 8 - Minato

That story alone could have worked beautifully and yet while that is the frame for the story, Tsurune explores so much more. With five boys coming together (the group of three friends and another two characters), there are plenty of personal conflicts and emotions to deal with as they try to form a team and overcome their own short comings. Where Tsurune surprised me was how well in dealt with Seiya’s story as I had thought he was more of a support character but ultimately he had an incredible arc. The coach, Masaki, also had plenty of solid development and was portrayed as a real character rather than a token adult figure. Even the characters at the rival school began to be expanded upon toward the end and while their arcs seem cut off in the middle it created the feeling that this story and these characters were more real.

Tsurune Episode 11 Masaki

However, at only thirteen episodes and with so many characters not everyone can have their story told. Nanao, despite having some excellent supporting moments, is still largely a mystery as was Ryouhei, despite his childhood friend status. The three girls who were also in the club had a couple of excellent scenes but were largely ignored by the narrative getting to stand on the sides of scenes and really just got used by the plot when needed rather than being fleshed out in their own right. These are small complaints and without more episodes it would be difficult to address these issues, but given the excellent progress so many other characters made it just feels like a shame that others were almost benched.

Tsurune Episode 7

From a plot point of view this is about as standard as it comes as the team overcomes personal conflicts, struggles to qualify and then slowly comes together toward the end of the series. That doesn’t make it less satisfying to watch but if you are after something unpredictable or something that throws in a few unexpected twists and turns Tsurune probably won’t do it for you.

Tsurune focuses instead on maintaining its pace and tone. The focus remains on the characters and their growth. The competitions are the setting which allows that growth to happen and provides complications and set backs, but the story never forgets what its core is.

Tsurune Episode 2

While this isn’t the single most spectacular anime I’ve ever seen, it was an absolute delight to watch each week bringing a bit of calm bliss as I watched the next episode. I grew to care deeply for these characters and loved seeing them rise up and overcoming challenges. All and all, I would recommend giving it a go. While it may not work for you, and if slow pace isn’t your thing it probably won’t, there are certainly worse anime you could try than Tsurune.

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They Are Three Runners Down With Seven To Go

Run With The Wind Episode Review Title

Run With The Wind Episode 19 Review

Run With The Wind continues to be the impressive front runner for the season for me, which surprises me immensely and yet is incredibly satisfying. The race begins for real this week and we watch Prince, Musa, and then Taro as each completes their part of the journey. Each character has had wonderful growth, not just as a runner, and that is impressive given the cast of ten main characters with none of them left feeling neglected.

Run With The Wind Episode 19 - Prince begins the race

Still, Prince was the standout, at least for me. He remains the character who gets the best lines and moments, and his request that Haiji not apologised to him for dragging him into running but that Haiji encouraged him the way any of the characters from his manga might be encouraged was just adorable. Seeing Prince make the finish line at all, and to do so in relatively good time (okay he was last but he barely qualified in the first place) was one of those moments that nearly moved me to tears. Then we got the reaction from the rest of the team, cheering on Prince’s achievement and yeah, there were tears to the point I had to pause the episode.

Run With The Wind Episode 19 - Prince

Despite Prince’s excellent showing, Musa and Taro didn’t let themselves be outshone and I think I love that the most about this show. Each character plays their part and steps up to lead the episode when they need to and steps back when it is time for someone else. Both were reflecting on their journey and I must admit I really enjoyed Taro’s run and learning more about his relationship with his brother. And then of course there was Hana showing up in the final stretch.

Run With The Wind Episode 19 - Taro

But, I will warn you if you haven’t already watched the episode, don’t watch the preview. It just sets your heart hurting and there’s a whole week before we’ll find out what happens. Save yourself the pain and just enjoy the episode and then hope against hope that everyone in the team finishes their leg next week.

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