Yuri on Ice Guide to Episode 2

Last week I revisited episode 1 of Yuri on Ice and that post may have gotten a little bigger than intended (okay, a lot bigger than intended). But we’re not stopping there. We’re onto Episode 2, “Two Yuri’s?! Drama at Yu-topia”. Hopefully you enjoy this rewatch and re-review of one of my favourite anime that I have watched since becoming a reviewer.

Before we get to that, last week I asked on Twitter who everyone’s favourite character was and the results came in proving once and for all that Victor is just plain awesome. Okay, maybe the poll proved that there’s a lot of love for lots of characters, but Victor is awesome.


Episode 2:

Once again, I’m going to start by praising the choice for opening scene this week. The old style dramatic music with Victor walking through the snow (once again on a character is crossing a bridge) pursued by Yakov, and then Victor turning toward him… It’s fundamentally attention grabbing and yet ends amusingly with Victor doing his dramatic farewell scene as though he was heading off to war or something equally dramatic when really he’s kind of just being whimsical and ditching his coach. Although we will learn later there was a bit more thought put into his departure for Japan than the audience is initially aware. This is one thing that Yuri on Ice does very well.

This mix of real character drama with just enough of a twist to make you smile without pushing into full on comedy and ultimately detracting from what should be the focus of the scene. While there are scenes that are definitely just meant to be comedy, mostly Yuri works as a character drama and seeing Victor here in this scene really helps to establish his character a bit more without Yuri’s lens that dominated ever scene we had with Victor in episode 1.

Yuri on Ice Episode 2 - Victor

However, like in episode 1, I am going to comment that the narration by chibi Yuri really just interrupts the flow. We had Victor’s dramatic departure already softened by his smile and antics on the plane and then Minako’s arrival. We’re already back in more comedy mode without this sequence and even if this was the first time watching this series through, we really don’t need the main character to introduce himself again. The rest of the information about him being in denial about Victor’s presence we already understood because of Yuri’s expression, and that Victor has made a giant leap to come to Japan was also already established this episode so there’s just no reason for this narration to exist.

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Unlike last episode though, here Yuri Plisetsky’s anger is a lot easier to understand. His idol who had promised to choreograph for him had just upped and left the country without even a word. And even though Plistesky understands that Victor is pretty impulsive, he’s a teenager who was just ditched by his idol. The shouting that follows is entirely easy to emphasise with. As is the fact that a lot of his anger is misdirected at the other Yuri (then again, later we’ll get a reveal about events that happened earlier that actually make it easier to understand why Plisetsky is blaming Yuri for this one – there’s some very good cohesion in this series in that things make enough sense as is, but then as more pieces come into play it all just snaps together perfectly).

Yuri on Ice- Episode 2 - Yuri Plisetsky

Part of what makes Victor’s character so fantastic to get to know during this series is how dynamic he is. From scene to scene, from mood to mood, he really does follow his whims and that makes him a real joy to see in action. That and his reaction to a pork cutlet bowl kind of reminded me of my reaction the first time I went to Japan. I can definitely understand the joy of having something that yummy put in front of me.

Yuri on Ice Ep 2e

Of course this scene also reveals how callous Victor can be whether intentionally or not. As Yuri and Minako explain that Yuri gains weight easily and so only ate Pork Cutlets when he won something and Victor asks why Yuri had eaten one recently when he hadn’t won anything. While it comes across as an offhand remark, putting yourself in Yuri’s shoes, when his confidence is already low and his idol has just launched that kind of sideways attack, it would definitely hurt. But you can’t really feel annoyed at Victor because there is actually nothing wrong with what he has said. Yuri hasn’t won anything recently. Which actually leaves me in two minds given on the one hand I completely agree that Victor hasn’t said anything actually wrong; and on the other hand I really want to give Yuri a hug. Possibly I’m just too attached to these characters.

Yuri on Ice Episode 2 - Victor

Then of course we have the scene where Yuri has moved Victor into his room and Victor gets very close and hands on with Yuri while making statements that can quite clearly be misinterpreted (and will gladly be misinterpreted even on a first viewing by those who want these two to be together, and will gladly not be by those who insist they are just coach and student). But what we see with this scene is how Victor is hands on and pushes himself into Yuri’s personal bubble. Other than Minako, every other character has so far kept a clear physical distance from Yuri, so Yuri’s reaction of scrambling away is perfectly understandable.

I’m going to be clear now, I don’t buy the “they aren’t in a relationship because they don’t kiss or do anything physical during the series” argument. For me, while I would like to see more anime move romances along, the relationship that builds between these two characters is genuine, strong, and clearly romantic, though even I will admit that most of the encounters do leave some ambiguity. That said, one snow-flake doesn’t make a blizzard but if you get enough of them… Still, at this stage (episode 2) the relationship between Victor and Yuri is very ambiguous as are Victor’s intentions so it makes sense that this scene is really open to multiple interpretations.

Yuri on Ice - Episode 2 - Victor and Yuri

I mentioned this in my thoughts on episode 1, but right from the beginning Yuri’s relationship with Victor as a coach is different to how his relationship with Celestino was presented. Here, while we see a significant gap between the two in space, they are sitting on the same level looking directly at each other. Compared to every other relationship we’ve seen with Yuri, we see that despite Yuri holding Victor up as some kind of divine being (he admits himself he’s held him on a pedestal), Victor is working hard to be on the same level as Yuri and to understand him, even if he is doing it in a fairly uniquely Victor manner. At this stage Victor hasn’t tried to teach Yuri anything but he has been keenly observant and asked many questions slowly figuring Yuri out.

Yuri on Ice Episode 2 - Victor and Yuri castle

If we contrast this with Yuri Plisetsky’s recollection of asking Victor to choreograph for him, what we see is Plisetsky looking up and reaching up to Victor for the handshake. The two are never shown as being on the same level in the scene. While it kind of sucks that Victor would blow off a promise he made, while the scene has significance to Plisetsky, it seems to have little for Victor.

Yuri on Ice Ep 2i

That said, while I appreciate the use of the lief motif for Plisetsky in these early episodes (yet another nice musical touch), much like with the shouting at Yuri in the toilet, it is really hard to find a redeeming feature in a character who would kick someone in the back from behind and then stand on their head. While his anger is something that can be understood, these extreme actions which potentially are there for comedic exaggeration, damage the overall character arc Plisetsky takes because it gets the audience fairly off side. I do recall it wasn’t until my second watch through that I appreciated Yuri Plisetsky as anything more than a point of conflict and a catalyst for change.

Yuri on Ice Episode 2 - Yuri Plisetsky

But, it is Yuri Plisetsky’s extremely violent and confrontational approach that finally shows us a little bit of the competitive Yuri who we will see more often. As Yuri listens to Plisetsky’s verbal abuse, he can’t help but smile at being underestimated. This is the first real spark of confidence, backbone, and competitive spirit we’ve seen from Yuri and it is something that the ongoing rivalry with Plisetsky will fuel throughout the series though that isn’t the only thing that brings out these traits. Interesting also that this is the first character Yuri is really shown to be looking down on. While I get Yuri Plisetsky isn’t a tall character, Yuri hasn’t even been shown looking down on the triplets who are children.

Yuri on Ice Episode 2 - Yuri and Yuri

Once again the importance of surprises comes up as Yuri Plisetsky watches Victor skate. He tells Yuri that Victor was torn because no matter what he did no one was surprised any more. For someone as spontaneous as Victor and with his personality, that had to really hurt. It also shows that Yuri Plisetsky is just as much a Victor worshipper as Yuri Katsuki, even if he doesn’t want to admit it.

Yuri on Ice Ep 2l

And so we get another face of Victor. This is where he starts really listening to Yuri’s family and friends about what drives Yuri and his habits. Its a small thing at the moment but it is another building block in the trust the two will build later. Yuri’s been running from Victor and Victor is working to close the space between them. This quiet and contemplative Victor who listens and absorbs information is a stark contrast to his exuberant response to food, his callous laughter and apology to Plisetsky for forgetting a promise, or even the super seductive Victor who approached Yuri just a few days ago.

Just another sidenote: how does Victor not want to pin his hair back? That fringe would drive me absolutely crazy.

Yuri on Ice Episode 2 - Victor

With the next day finally arrived, we see once again Victor’s desire to surprise. He plays the music for the two Yuri’s and get’s their thoughts. He waits until the decide for themselves how the music will be assigned and he overturns it with a single proclamation. Its a deliberate tease to both the characters and the audience and it lands perfectly as it fits entirely with what we’ve seen of Victor’s character so far and the overall idea of surprise that continues to be carried through this series. Now this scene could have been left out altogether and Victor could just be working with one Yuri and introduce his music and then work with the other and introduced the other song. The plot would still function perfectly well, but this scene is exactly what we need to really consolidate all three characters and the relationships that will be built on throughout the season as well as to allow this episode, like the last one, to conclude with a worthwhile surprise.

Yuri on Ice - Episode 2 - Yuri

Of course what follows Victor’s announcement is another fairly savage attack upon both Yuri’s self-confidence. Still, it does shut down any argument and allows the plot to move on without any further delays so I guess we should be happy that Victor can cut right to the point even if he does do it in a pretty savage way sometimes. Though once again we see Victor looking down at Yuri Plisetsky while Plisetsky sets the terms for the skate before Victor turns to Yuri and looks on at almost even level while Yuri merely expresses a desire to eat pork cutlet with Victor. And Victor’s reaction to Yuri’s declaration is the best smile ever complete with sparkling eyes.

Yuri on Ice Episode 2 - Victor

The pieces are all firmly in place for the showdown between the Yuri’s with the direction of the plot hanging in the balance. Still, all the cues have been there to show which direction this is going and which coach/student relationship is going to catch and who is going to be left wanting. Hopefully you will join me next week as I take on episode 3.

Finally, there is genuinely no reason for me to include this image but here it is anyway:

Yuri on Ice Episode 2 - Victor

My original episode review: Yuri On Ice Episode 2

This week I’m asking on Twitter for people to choose their favourite song from Yuri on Ice and I’ll add the results to next week’s review of episode 3.

 


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Karandi James

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3D Kanojo: Real Girl Series Review: Average Is Being Generous

Self-proclaimed otaku with a dislike of flashy girls draws the attention of a flashy girl. Must be love.

Review:

3D Kanojo: Real Girl falls into a couple of pretty obvious traps that prevent this anime from ever rising above being fairly ordinary and actually make it pretty painful to watch at times. And I’m not talking about the characters themselves, though many viewers did seem to find Tsutsui pretty hard to take early in the series as he is a fairly unlikable protagonist (kind of the point though).

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No, what this series does wrong is set up a premise that is pretty standard, made only even vaguely memorable by the strength of the character personalities (whether you like them or not) and then essentially spent the first half of the season eradicating any discernible evidence that the characters ever had a personality outside of their romantic trope. It’s painful to watch as the characters are leached of all defining traits outside of boyfriend and girlfriend from a standard high school romance and even the few attempts to recall that Tsutsui was supposed to be an otaku and Iroha had a reputation for playing around just kind of fall flat as these two generically empty shells of characters go through the motions of every cliche misunderstanding that can occur in such a story.

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Which brings us to the second trap which is that this anime has nothing new to say or bring to the table. While being derivative or basic genre fiction isn’t a death sentence in and of itself, if you aren’t bringing anything new then you have to at least bring your A game and 3D Kanojo: Real Girl is anything but.

I won’t lie. I actually quite enjoyed the first episode. While I didn’t like the main characters, given they were both pretty unlikable, I found them interesting enough and was curious as to how they would come together. Unfortunately, they got together in fairly quick order and then proceeded to do that on again, off again thing where the story would have them being happy and then just throw a random spanner into the works of one or the other’s emotional make-up to have them suddenly get annoyed at the other for being who they were. It didn’t help that literally every issue the two had as a couple could have been solved by a conversation.

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However, the narrative isn’t the only area where this anime falls a little short. The pastel colour scheme and character designs work well enough, but are also fairly unremarkable. Then we had some fairly obvious character off-model moments in the latter half of the season which weren’t a complete game over for the series but certainly made watching it less enjoyable as you had to wonder if one of the characters had just turned sideways or if they’d actually morphed into a different human being.

The OP is also pleasant enough but totally forgettable.

Then we have the support cast who all seem like they might be important. And yet not one of them ever brings anything of consequence to the story. Occasionally they are a catalyst for some kind of drama but then they just kind of fade into the crowd of generic ‘friends’ that Tsutsui somehow has and at the end they all go for ramen.

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Which brings me to my other concern with this series and that is that things get forgotten fairly quickly. Iroha says she can only date for six months. Tsutsui never asks why and the audience never gets an answer. Another character literally frames Tsutsui as a potential child-predator and yet that’s also forgotten. Tsutsui just goes about his normal life afterward and the guy who did it is never actually held accountable for being a liar and making false reports to the police (defamation of character, etc). In fact, he becomes one of the friends in the background. The kids at school go from being completely anti-Tsutsui to exactly as they were at the start which is ignoring his existence, but someone who has gained infamy for potential trouble with the police probably isn’t regaining their peaceful life that easily.

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It all just adds to the overall feeling that no one really knew what the point of this story should be. Nothing has weight and nothing matters. Stuff happens, it is overcome and then the next things happens. While it never becomes unwatchable, nor is there much reason to watch it.

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Ultimately, there’s no real way to recommend 3D Kanojo: Real Girl. It won’t be the worst thing you ever watched, but it isn’t really something you need to watch either.

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Yuri on Ice Guide To Episode 1

In case I’m confusing some people, last week I dropped Angels of Death and decided rather than adding another show to my seasonal lineup that I wasn’t all that interested in, I would revisit Yuri on Ice. Now I may have watched this series about a dozen times since it aired, but this time I’m casting a fairly critical and not-at-all-fan-girl swayed eye over this ice-skating bonanza (alright, I’m probably lying about the not-at-all-fan-girl part, but I’m making an effort to be a bit more level headed this time through. Initially I planned to review two episodes per week, however I went a little note taking crazy in episode 1 so decided to just cover the one episode this time around. Hopefully some of you will join me as I revisit this series.

This is going to be a new reviewing experience for me given I’ve never done episode reviews of an anime I’ve previously watched, and I certainly have never done episode reviews where I have already reviewed the episode. Needless to say, I will be discussing things that happen later in the series as I go so spoilers if you’ve never watched Yuri on Ice. I wonder how this will turn out?


Episode 1:

Right from the opening sequence, this anime really grabs the viewer. It’s so quiet with just the sound of the skates on the ice and then Yuri’s narration while the viewer is mesmerised by Victor’s presence on the ice. We see both characters as they were when Yuri first saw Victor on the ice to the present. There are so many links to events and ideas later in the show here as we see Yuri viewing Victor as something greater than a man, we see Victor reaching out toward Yuri, and we are introduced to the idea that Yuri is constantly surprised by Victor, something that he will try to overtake later in the series (for all his lack of confidence Yuri is certainly competitive). Then the opening song, ‘History Maker’ begins with its iconic beginning that even now still makes me smile idiotically just from hearing the first few notes.

Yuri on Ice Episode 1

Yep, definitely lying about the not fangirling part of this review.

The first time I watched this anime, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the commentators. Admittedly, they did explain a few things about the skating at various points, but I was pretty mesmerised by everything else. I don’t know if anything will come of it, but this time I’m pretty determined to actually pay attention to them. And I even finally caught the newscaster’s name: Morooka. Amazing what I can do when I pay attention.

Yuri on Ice - Episode 1

It is however probably worth noting that no matter how many times I rewatch Yuri on Ice, I still find the transition between the normal animation style and the chibi Yuri narrator jarring. Also unnecessary. It just feels like a mismatch with the tone of the rest of the show and one that really does jolt you out of immersion. Part of me would almost prefer the episodes to be recut to remove the few instances where this is used, but the information given by these segments is actually useful. That said, there really should have been a better way to deliver the information. It’s essentially an info dump, and while it is over quickly, it is an intrusion into the narrative.

Yuri on Ice Episode 1

However, I do love Yuri Plisetsky’s first appearance. His slide around the wall before leaning against it with a sigh as he watches Yuri Katsuki enter the bathroom really establishes his attitude, that of someone playing at being a punk. It’s all so deliberate and his entrance into the scene is incredibly graceful and smooth. Which makes his next act of kicking in the door when Yuri is in the toilet, all the more dramatic; exactly what Plisetsky is going for (he is a teenager after all, we can forgive him a little drama).

Yuri on Ice Episode 1

Before we get to the door kicking scene however, we have the phone call from Yuri to his family. Keep in mind, none of the viewers got to see Yuri’s performance on the ice. We know he came last out of the top 6 skaters, but we genuinely have no idea if he actually stuffed up his routine or what happened. But here we see him apologise to his mother and break down into tears. I remember the first time I saw this I wondered if his parents were pushing him or super competitive, but after the first viewing it became quite clear that Yuri’s harshest judge is Yuri himself. When he’s usually so uncertain and indirect with his words here he clearly says, “I’m sorry, I messed up.” There’s no sugar coating or uncertainty in the blame he lays on himself.

Now, I did just say I loved Yuri Plisetsky’s entrance? Well, that already happened. I less love the next sequence when Plisetsky shouts at Yuri Katsuki. Mostly because I’m supposed to be feeling sorry for Yuri who was just crying in the toilet, and secondly because I can’t imagine under what circumstance shouting idiot/moron at someone in a bathroom would actually be an appropriate social norm. While Yuri Plisetsky will grow on me as a character in later episodes, these early moments with inconsistent and fairly extreme behaviour make it harder to really appreciate his journey, that and the fact that we almost always get Yuri Katsuki’s perspective which means a lot of Yuri Plisetsky’s story will go unnoticed. Side note: the music played during this sequence is fantastic.

Yuri on Ice - Episode 1

It’s interesting to see the few interactions between Yuri and his coach in this early episode. Again, it isn’t something I noted the first time through, but here we clearly see Yuri walking dejectedly behind Celestino. Neither is really interacting with the other (and previously the coach just gave Yuri some fairly formulaic ignore the online comments advice). There’s no real connection between them at all either through their words or how they are viewed in these scenes. It is so different from when we see Yuri with Victor where they are almost always facing each other or side by side.

Yuri on Ice - Episode 1 - Yuri and Celestino

Okay, I’m skipping past Yuri meeting Victor and the interactions at the train station when he returns home, mostly because I think his mother’s reaction is pretty priceless. When asked if Yuri was in a competition she calmly says he didn’t make the cut and then with undisguised enthusiasm declares that thanks to that he can finally come home. I’m not sure if this is adorable because she is happy her son is coming home, or if this is a little callous given the career he’s worked essentially his whole life for is falling apart around him, or whether it sits somewhere in between the two. Either way, it is clear she loves Yuri and she’s glad he’s going to be home (which is not something that should be taken for granted) and that fact is emphasised a few moments later when she sprints to greet him at the front door.

Yuri on Ice - Episode 1 - Yuri's Mother

After the initial greetings and some conversation that more or less reinforces the point that Yuri doesn’t know what his next step is, he goes out to ‘practice’. After seeing him running through the town we get this shot of him running across the bridge. We’ll come back to bridges many times in this series, but I particularly like this image as it is unclear whether Yuri is running away or running toward something and that kind of matches his state of mind where he is tired of people asking him what his plans are, meanwhile he’s working hard in his own way to figure things out. I also like how the light is in front of him but Yuri is mostly a silhouette in this scene.

Yuri on Ice - Episode 1 - Yuri

While the opening narration clearly established that Yuri has been fixated on Victor for a long time, and this was followed by Yuri’s disappointment that he felt he couldn’t stand on the same stage as Victor, the episode takes another moment to remind us of Yuri’s long-standing fascination with Victor. It does this through introducing his childhood friend and former rink-mate Yuko which leads Yuri to reminisce about his early skating days. While young Yuri is adorable, it is his growing obsession with Victor that really becomes clear from when Yuko first introduced Yuri to him through the TV and magazines, to Yuri acquiring a poodle (just like Victor) and naming it Victor. This clear obsession is actually more problematic than helpful later in the series as it kind of creates a communication block between the two characters, but at least it helps to ground where Yuri is coming from before the show attempts to establish a relationship between the pair.  And then Yuri asks Yuko to watch him skate (and I’ll get back to this in a later post because there’s a clear difference in how Yuri asks her this favour to how he asks Victor later in the series).

There is absolutely something magical about the simultaneous routines between Victor and Yuri. The musical choice is excellent, but everything about the scene just comes together perfectly. Keeping in mind, the audience has not seen Yuri skate prior to now. We’ve heard he failed and made a lot of mistakes, but we’ve not once seen him take the ice. And now, our first impression of him on the ice is that he holds his own against the world number skating the same routine and both of them perform it beautifully. Yuko acts as the audience here and her open mouthed appreciation of Yuri is everything that the audience is feeling (okay, I promised I wouldn’t fan girl, but I love this scene, it is beautiful). This also ties beautifully to the very end of the series where we see the two of them on the ice together, not just doing the same routine in different rinks.

Then of course we get the catalyst for everything that comes after in this series. Yuko’s kids upload the video of Yuri’s skate and it goes viral eventually being viewed by Victor. Where the reactions of most of the other characters are pretty much what you would expect, at this stage Victor is still an enigma. About the only clues we have about him are that Yuri idolises him and that he hesitated when asked what he was going to do next season. So his expression while viewing the video is something that is quite ambiguous and most of us will read it as we like based on what comes after. But still, I remember the first time I saw it and I wondered just what was coming next.

Yuri on Ice - Episode 1 - Victor

And then the episode brings us back full circle to the idea of Victor surprising Yuri. Just as Yuri begins another day he sees the dog and after being told it belonged to a good looking foreign guest he dashes to the bath to be confronted by his idol.

Surprise!

It’s a fantastic opening episode in that it has set up the main character, built in some of the world around him, and already begun moving the plot forward with Victor’s arrival. Whether I’m fan-girling or not, this is a very solid episode 1 for an anime series.

Hopefully you had some fun revisiting this episode and I’ll get to episode 2 next week (though hopefully try not to go quite so note crazy).

My original episode review: Yuri On Ice Episode 1


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Tada Doesn’t Fall in Love Episode 13: Who Needs Reality?

Watching this episode I was impressed by how seriously the anime seemed to be taking the story and then we get the post credits scene and Tada Doesn’t Fall In Love officially takes the path of least resistance in the name of happy endings despite common sense.

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From a logical point of view it is very easy to be snarky about this final episode of Tada Doesn’t Fall in Love. And yet, the romance fan within me couldn’t help but be happy that they decided to forego reality and brought the two together at the very end. Of course, there’s no reason why it will work out for a happily ever after given Teresa is still a Princess. I mean, why does she no longer need a body guard? Who just lets the Princess of their country flit off unattended? While the anime also insinuates that Charles and Alec might get together, that seems equally unlikely given their relative stations so while it seems sweet and all, realistically it isn’t all that plausible.

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The ending was always going to make or break this story and to be honest, this ending makes this show a pretty standard romance in the vein of Roman Holiday. It has some smile worthy moments and a few moments that brings us tears, but ultimately, this final episode tells us that this anime is all just fairly standard. While it wants to deal with real human drama, it doesn’t want to do that at the expense of its feel good moments, and so we’ll get an ending that emotionally satisfies even as logic is completely ignored. Still, I had fun with this title this season and I’m glad I watched it through. I’ll get to a full season review soon.

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Tada Doesn’t Fall in Love Episode 12: Who Stole Teresa’s Smile?

While this episode felt overly drawn out, the emotions being conveyed are very real. Tada and Teresa are both hurt by circumstance as truths are finally revealed in Episode 12 of Tada Doesn’t Fall in Love.

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After 11 episodes of watching Teresa smile and be exuberant about life, seeing her this episode was kind of painful as she is resigned to the life she knows she needs to live. her confrontation with Alex over her feelings for Charles, her discussion with Tada, and finally watching her cry in her bed are all fairly heartbreaking. And that’s what this episode did very well. it brought the emotion of the moment. We also see this with Tada as he leaves a little shell shocked and finally, finally, we see him cry.

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However, there’s a lot of downtime in this episode with the scene at the airport dragging on overly long, sightseeing through Larsenberg, and even the flashes to the crew in Japan, all just feel unnecessary to the story being constructed and made this episode feel overly long. It isn’t enough to stop this from being a pretty good episode, but it does stop it from being a great episode.

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Friday’s Feature: It’s In His Kiss

As much as I love my action, dystopian futures, horror stories, and generally violent adventures, deep down inside I have a soft spot for a well told romance story. This comes from an upbringing of watching family friendly romantic comedies with my mother on weekends while folding piles of washing or ironing or other incredibly boring chores but the laughs and sweet stories of all those girls finding their one true love definitely left an impact. Now, if I have a choice of romance or action, I’ll probably pick the action, but every now and then I’m just in the mood for something a little bit sweeter and then out come the romances.

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However, as I sought out anime romances, one thing became incredibly clear to me. There are very few romances that fall into a moderate category. Romances either present as beautiful stories of chaste characters who blush at the mere sight of one another or they present as stories with super aggressive characters who rapidly push the age rating and most people’s comfort zones. And while every now and then we’ll stumble across a story of characters who will actually just fall in love and be a couple, the more common scenario is watching twenty to forty episodes with a couple who have barely managed to hold hands.

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Yes, it is the third season after a 13 year gap, but Sousuke and Kaname finally confidently hold hands.

What this leaves us with, however, is a story that starts reading all sorts of things into fairly mundane actions. The ‘indirect’ kiss nonsense that comes up time and again is one particular example that really makes me roll my eyes. While admittedly, characters probably shouldn’t be drinking out of the same water bottle or sharing a straw or whatever (have these characters never considered glandular fever) the sheer fuss they put up about the possibility of an ‘indirect’ kiss is just insane sometimes. These characters literally melt into puddles of stammering and half the time end up dropping or knocking over the thing they were supposed to eat or drink.

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While this sequence is cute enough in one or two stories, by the time you see it play out again and again and again (don’t believe me, check out the TV Tropes page for indirect kisses and the anime examples) and it ultimately all just gets a bit silly.

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One of my favourite anime romances, Kimi ni Todoke, suffers from being one of those impossibly ridiculous stories. Sawako is a stammering mess of insecurities and doesn’t believe Kazehaya could ever have feelings for her. As a result, when it is first suggested she should date him she flat out states it is impossible. She doesn’t give him the gifts she makes him. She eventually can’t even meet his eyes. All and all, she does everything possible to make herself a cliche shoujo heroine and the type that under most circumstances would drive me half-way up the wall. I don’t know why she doesn’t because I do know that by the end of season one I wanted to slap her for not actually just kissing the guy at the shrine. Nope, you will have to wait until the end of season two before these two will actually kiss and even then, that is as far as their relationship is going. Thirty plus episodes and they finally manage a kiss. Two characters who have been in love with each other since nearly the beginning. To say the pace of that relationship progress was glacial would be being generous.

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Now not every anime romance is quite so insanely slow or chaste. Still, it is interesting how much emphasis is put on the notion of kissing your partner. In some ways it is kind of refreshing and it feels nice to know that the emotional connection between the characters is getting more emphasis then the number of times they can get the characters into the bedroom. Also nice to know that there is a focus on the narrative behind the romance rather than just showing us the characters making out. I appreciate both of these things. At the same time, like with everything else, when there isn’t a variety of relationships and relationship types being shown, it risks normalising some behaviours, marginalising some viewers, and ultimately not providing options so the argument if you don’t like it, don’t watch it, ceases to have weight.

Because a great many people want to watch romance and anime. They may not be after the super shoujo high school girl who blushes to the tips of her ears when a guy picks up her eraser, but they’d like to see a relationship unfold.

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Part of this was why I really enjoyed My Love Story. The protagonist was a male, rather then the girl, and the confession was over and done with four episodes in. The story was about them learning how to be in a relationship rather than getting to the relationship. That doesn’t mean they moved any faster given how long it took them to accomplish hand-holding and the protagonist kissed his best friend (with the aid of some cling wrap) long before he got around to trying to kiss his girlfriend but it still felt a bit different from so many other love stories.

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It was also why I was so puzzled by the number of people who tried to play down Yuri and Victor’s relationship in Yuri on Ice. The ones who claim it wasn’t a kiss and they aren’t engagement rings. Given how little physical connections characters in other ‘romance’ anime have, Yuri on Ice was outright explicit in showing off that relationship. Those two were hugging nearly from the beginning and if hungry stares are the staple of most relationships, just watch Yuri before he starts any one of his skates as he meets eyes with Victor. The average female protagonist has got nothing on that look across the ice and if it was being directed at her she’d probably claim she’d gotten pregnant on the spot.

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Admit it, you want him to be looking at you right now.

Although, the mis-information about pregnancy and sex that comes across in some anime is also a little bit alarming. I kind of get why it happens culturally but at the same time I don’t think girls claiming they’ll get pregnant from kissing a guy really helps get the right kind of information across to people. I’d suggest you not learn sex-ed from anime in the first place, but at the very least they should try to stamp out the more pervasive myths that get flung about.

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However, personal thoughts about romance aside, one thing anime does very well, is really makes those rare scenes, the kiss between the heroine and her hero, truly melting moments. Maybe it is the long wait for it, the build up, the anticipation. Maybe it is the sound tracks, the soft lighting, the sparkles. Whatever it is, one thing I know is that when a couple in anime finally get together and they finally lean in for that kiss, I know I’m usually on the edge of my seat and once or twice I’ve applauded.

Question:

Who was your favourite anime couple and what episode of their anime did they finally kiss in?


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Karandi James

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Tada Doesn’t Fall in Love Episode 11: Too Late

With Teresa’s disappearance, Tada finally realises that he fell in love with her. Be prepared for lots of anguished expressions from the usually stoic title character.

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There’s something wrong with Tada. He’s not taking photos, he’s messing up orders, he’s staring blankly at strangers. The usually unshakable character is definitely a little bit off. And the obvious reason is that Teresa has gone. While it takes most of the episode for this realisation to actually be admitted by Tada, it is obvious from the get-go and kind of cute the way it is depicted. That said, they certainly stretch this as far as it can go in terms of run time and by the end of the episode you just want the revelation so we can get on to the last stage of the story.

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That said, I’m not sure I buy the argument that he couldn’t have taken that picture of Teresa without being in love with her. That kind of implies you can’t take good pictures without falling in love and I don’t particularly like that idea. Still, this episode is mostly lovely and it is a great continuation of this story.

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Karandi James

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Tada Doesn’t Fall in Love Episode 10: Prepare For The Heart Break

Despite the rain clearing this episode, it feels like things have never been more cloudy as Tada and Teresa enjoy their ‘date’ before Tada gets quite a shock at the end of the episode.

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Tada Doesn’t Fall in Love continues to impress with its fairly reasonable handling of the central two characters. They both respond in most situations like fairly normal humans without the extreme anime tropes that so many characters might fall into. Certainly Teresa is similar to many a perky heroine in a love story, but she manages to keep her ebullient nature within the realm of reality, while Tada’s stoicism also feels convincing and is a nice counterpoint.

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The date makes for a perfect pivot point for this narrative and while there is nothing new or surprising in store for us, this is a narrative crafted in the full knowledge that it isn’t trying to break new ground, just trying to tell its story well. The end result is fairly satisfying this week and continues to build on the strengths of the series so far even as we turn toward the end.

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Karandi James

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Tada Doesn’t Fall in Love Episode 9: It Isn’t Not Like That

Teresa perhaps made anime heroine history when she didn’t instantly declared ‘It’s Not Like That’ when Alex called her on being in love with Tada. This anime just continues to be a pretty solid and sweet romance.

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There’s no denying that mini-Teresa and Alex here are adorable and they both grew into fairly beautiful young girls. What I’m loving about this series is it doesn’t seem to be forcing melodrama for the sake of it. Alex asks Teresa point blank if she has fallen in love with Tada and Teresa admits it but also tells her not to worry because she’s going to return home and become Queen anyway. There’s more than enough drama in that situation without bringing in unnecessary complications. As a result, Teresa’s sudden awareness of how she is acting around Tada, and the stiff reactions she ends up with at school, seem very natural and add to an overall charm.

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But she’s also a teenage girl who has fallen in love for the first time. Despite rationally knowing what needs to happen, she’s still very much in love with Tada. That just leaves us with finding out exactly how he feels about her (though it is also pretty obvious) and then the either heartbreaking separation or the happily ever after depending on which way this anime chooses to go. And it really could go either way and be satisfying regardless. Looking forward to Tada and Teresa’s date next week.

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Karandi James

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Spiritpact – Bond of the Underworld Series Review: An Improvement In Every Way on Season 1

After season one’s fairly atrocious start, Spiritpact slowly grew into a semi-decent story. Then season two came onto the scene and it is almost as if this story has finally found its place.

Review:

I really didn’t think much of the delivery of this story back in season one. In fact, my review of it pretty much points out that most of season 1 is pretty tragic:

Despite everything wrong with this show from a production and writing point of view it is telling a really compelling story (it just isn’t doing it well).

But that compelling story that was hidden under the mess that was season one’s delivery was enough to make me go back to season two when so many other shows (The Silver Guardian and Hitori no Shita I’ve just left on hold to binge at some point when I get really bored). Because underneath everything wrong with season one, the characters really won me over and I wanted to see their story.

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And that is where season two – Bond of the Underworld – has excelled. It cut out so much of the clutter and the unnecessary. The comedy elements that were almost a complete failure on every occasion barely appear at all. The focus is narrowed down to three central characters and their interactions and while the background of the complex inter-relationships between these families and their roles are still there, it really doesn’t matter. Not to the main characters and not to the audience. The fact that two of the characters we’re focusing on are actually already dead doesn’t seem to make a lot of difference to how well crafted these characters have become (and believe me, I didn’t see myself claiming You Keika was a well crafted character in any capacity during season 1).

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This focus is expressed clearly through the OP. While the music isn’t great (not bad just not particularly good), the connections between these characters are made clear and this is the focus of what is explored in these 12 episodes with an antagonist in the form of the brother of one of the dead characters who at times seems to want revenge, at others power, and at the core just seems really ticked off about his brother’s fate.

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For those who like a little bit of shounen ai, this season will deliver a fantastic relationship driven drama as You Keika attempts to understand Tanmoku who in turn is trying to come to grips with the death of a former body-guard/friend/potential love interest. These characters interact in the present world as well as walk through the memories they have of the past and learn to see each other in a different light and also learn more about themselves.

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What that means is not a lot actually happens given we spend multiple episodes just memory walking, but those memories are integral to how these characters have been forged into the people we met in season one and facing these memories helps these characters to find who they are going to be and to reaffirm their place and purpose.

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Visually this season has stepped it up a lot. While there are still the very occasional chibi moments, with the vast majority of the stupid comedy cut out and the focus on character driven drama, there seems to be far more effort in making these characters actually look like characters. There are also a lot of close ups of faces in this season. Still, fight sequences and spiritual powers are quite adequately done. They have been better portrayed in other series, but compared to season 1, there’s a massive improvement here.

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Basically, if you endured season one but decided not to go back to season two, I’d urge you to reconsider. This season is superior to the first in so many ways and the story it tells is moving and sweet. I really hope there is a season 3 of this at some point as I’d love to know what the story has in store for these characters next.

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Karandi James

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