Haru has finally properly arrived, tracking down Kyo given
the latter didn’t attend the New Year’s gathering and so Haru wants a fight.
With the exception of Tohru’s excessive concern about a cold (which isn’t
really excessive given her history but of course she won’t bother to say that)
this episode is pretty light and more focused on action and gags than heart but
it still manages to drive the emotions home hard in the second half.
I’ve definitely come to the conclusion, not just this time
round with Fruits Basket, that the biggest issue all of these characters face
is that they don’t ever say what they need to say. Yuki is getting sick but
instead of turning Kyo down for the race he stays silent even though it clearly
wasn’t a good idea to be running around in the cold. Tohru is concerned about
Yuki but doesn’t actually try to stop him. Shigure also is aware of Yuki’s
condition but does nothing to stop him even though he cautions him that if his
body weakens it could be a problem holding his human form.
Kyo is naturally oblivious to anything outside of the idea
of ‘fighting’ Yuki and beating him in the race and it takes a hard face plant
orchestrated by Haru to get Kyo to see anything else. I feel a little bad for
Kyo in that moment, but we’re quickly diverted by the next situation.
And that situation is Haru.
He’s an interesting character even for one of the Soma’s and
his personality being broken by the childhood that he bore is one of the more
obvious and yet equally one of the more entertaining. Once triggered he turns ‘black’
and it is almost as though an entirely new personality has taken hold of him.
While Haru in his normal state is a little bit spacey, almost more
directionally challenged than the Red Blood Cell in Cells at Work was, yet
relatively polite, Black Haru is arrogant, demanding, and violent and not above
using fairly underhanded methods to get what he wants.
While the fighting chaos reigns between Kyo and Haru, Yuki
finally succumbs to his cold and it is while caring for Yuki that Haru reveals
to Tohru why Yuki is special to him. It is such a small thing and yet to a
child so damaged it was the life-line he needed. The right word at the right
time that saved him. There’s a message in that for all of us really.
Then of course we end the episode with a laugh as Tohru, at
Haru’s prompting, calls Yuki by his first name and he transforms into a rat. I
didn’t even know rats could blush.
Another reverse harem time travelling heroine story.
Reverse harem anime are becoming a fair staple of the
seasonal line up with a handful of them coming out each year and the
time-travelling heroine is starting to be a recurring theme. Meiji Tokyo Renka
doesn’t bring a single new idea to the table as we have our standard heroine
(meaning one with little personality outside of wanting to help all the guys
she meets) getting transported back to the Meiji Era and each of the guys is more
or less standard fair.
That doesn’t make this anime necessarily bad, and those who
followed my conversations with Arthifis around this will know that we both kind
of found it charming and fun, but if you are looking at the vast sea of anime,
this one is certainly not a must watch or even one that needs to work its way
to the top of your list anytime soon.
For me, I really liked the parts of this anime that dealt
with Mei’s gift and the spirits she encountered. It had a kind of spirit of the
week feel early on and some episodes threw in a bit of Ghost Whisperer flavour.
These supernatural elements did help set Mei a little bit apart from previous
heroines, gave the boys genuine problems they could not have overcome without
Mei’s assistance, and were also just charming enough stories in their own
However, the bits in-between these charming ghost stories
were largely filled with the usual kind of fluff of eating, encountering issues
with the new time-period, or were tied up with Ougai Mori and Shunzou Hishida
who were the two main male characters that Mei interacted with given she was
living with them (yeah, we had the wonderful moment where Ougai just declared
Mei his finace and they never really do clarify that).
None of these interludes are particularly bad. Some are
amusing, some help us learn a bit more about one character or another. No the
issue is mostly they are forgettable and even now only a few months later I’m
struggling to remember even the names of the other characters or anything
particularly noteworthy about the series.
Visually it is largely unimpressive. Hardly a train wreck or an eye-sore but it just isn’t worth discussing. The opening song is suitable boppy and entertaining (actually almost addictively so) but the overall soundtrack is again, nothing special. That includes Mei’s song about electricity that she spontaneously breaks into during one of the episodes in the later part of the season.
The ending is also largely unsatisfying given the final
decisions made by Mei seem incredibly out of character and without purpose and
the story doesn’t give any time to justify these.
Basically this anime functions and has potential. The characters are largely fun and cute and each of the events that occur along the way are fun enough, but as an overall package this one sits decidedly on the average side of things. While I don’t regret watching it I’m definitely looking back now and feeling that this series was just kind of filler in between other shows and while there was potential for Meiji Tokyo Renka it never really did much with it.
It has been fairly well established at this point that I’m
not a big fan of comedy. Largely this is because a lot of what people tell me
is supposed to be funny I just find either gross or mean-spirited and don’t
find much amusing about it. Then again, what I find to be funny a lot of people
also find gross or just disturbing so to each their own.
What that does mean though is that while I recommended this
series, the conditional part of the recommendation is that I really didn’t like
it. I can see exactly why lots of people do like it, and I do think it is worth
trying if you are looking for a well produced anime, particularly if you like
comedy, but for me this one was one big swing and a miss.
A lot of the problem is with the central premise which I’m
told is supposed to be ironic or amusing but I find just sad. The idea that
confessing puts you under the power of the other person in a relationship, or
that relationships inherently have one person being more powerful than the
other, really rubs me the wrong way and feels like something from several
decades ago that we really should have just left there. That the main
characters are both portrayed as being quite intelligent and yet at no point
draw the conclusion that perhaps they could be equal partners really just makes
the premise of this one hurt to even think about.
I am told that I should just take this as a joke and not
think about it so seriously, however that’s kind of the problem with comedy for
me. Just because they are joking doesn’t mean I find reinforcing notions that
someone should be in control of a relationship and someone should be submissive
particularly amusing. Nor do I find Shinomiya’s general lack of sex education
particularly funny. It is kind of a social tragedy that she is so ill-informed.
Actually, the fact that they keep telling me time and again
how smart these characters are and yet very little of what they do seems even
vaguely smart kind of reminded me of my problem watching Devil and Realist
where William was supposed to be super intelligent but just struck me as being
kind of an idiot. Shinomiya learning to use Twitter in one episode kind of
highlights the overall problem with the set up where they insist this girl is
some kind of super-genius manipulator and yet instead of looking up
instructions, reading the information, trying things out and noting what
happens, she runs into her maid’s bath multiple times and drags her out to
explain fairly simple concepts. I get the trope of the genius who lacks
common-sense but in this case a lot of what Shinomiya does just makes me want
to face-palm so badly.
However, before you think I’m just out to bash this story for all its worth, there are some great moments for Shinomiya (and indeed most of the cast). The problem is, these moments come seemingly when the premise of the story gets set aside. When we remove Shinomiya from the endless battles against Shirogane and the contrived competitions they establish, and just let her be Shinomiya, a sheltered girl finding small ways to explore the world (such as the episode where she walks to school), we actually have quite a charming character and one worth spending time with. Unfortunately, the anime isn’t really interested in letting the characters just be themselves and continues to force artificial conflict upon them and us over and over again in a tiresome manner.
Fujiwara, the secretary of the student council, is a shining
light in this series. Her character is excellent regardless of context and she
literally brightens scenes just by being in them. She’s also the one character
who is consistently entertaining and amusing partially because she isn’t
working to show off how smart she is and partially because she’s just a well
constructed character who manages to consistently hit the right notes. If you
won’t watch for any other reason, Fujiwara is probably a fairly solid reason to
try Kaguya-Sama: Love is War.
But we should discuss the actual contests the characters get
into. Each episode (or most of them) are split into three sections with each
being a simple vignette where a topic or theme is introduced, we mentally see
how Shinomiya and Shirogane have interpreted the situation to determine how to
‘win’ and then the contest plays out before a winner is decided, or until
Fujiwara unintentionally removes any ability for either character to win. A
narrator sets up each section and at times may seem intrusive and the narrator
also finishes each section by summarising who won or lost and why.
Some of these contests are really straight forward such as
when Shinomiya challenges Shirogane to twenty questions. The problem being that
for someone really smart the answer seems pretty obvious given an exchange in
the set-up to the competition and so the punch line falls a little flat. Other
contests are more abstract such as when they are trying to decide where to go
for Summer vacation.
The end result though is fairly formulaic and while some of
the later episodes move away from this format, over the course of the season,
the majority of episodes will offer more or less the same scenario over and
over again with slightly different dressing on top and perhaps a slightly
different outcome. It is noteworthy that even supporting characters point out
to Shinomiya that her schemes do not work. If the goal is to get Shirogane to
confess, not once has she been successful and yet instead of taking a more
direct approach she persists again and again in her schemes. The same could be
said for Shirogane but far less time is spent with him outside of the student
council so he isn’t quite as filled in as Shinomiya as a character.
If you happen to like this formula or find the skits
amusing, then this one will be golden from start to finish. For those who find
a lack of forward progress in a plot a bit of a sticking point (that would be
me), what it will end up being is fairly frustrating as a series even as some
of these skits will amuse.
What really does elevate Kaguya-Sama: Love is War from just
being another sketch comedy that I didn’t really enjoy, is the production.
Visually this one has a distinct look and is actually fairly impressive with
the creative way it depicts the battles and character emotions. While there
isn’t a lot of movement and certainly no hand to hand combat or anything of the
like, the animation is pretty spot on and far and away of higher quality than
you would usually expect for the subject matter.
The music is also spot on with an opening and ending that
both support the story and are highly entertaining (worth watching the ending
each time as well), and background music and sounds that really help to spice
up what might otherwise become fairly flat content.
A lot of love has gone in to the production of Kaguya-Sama and realistically as an anime there’s little to complain about. While it personally doesn’t do a lot for me, there are plenty of people who will adore this story and these characters and the presentation makes it all very palatable. The characters themselves will be a bit hit and miss as will the premise but by and large this is an anime that will work for the majority so if you are curious and haven’t tried it be sure to give it a go.
For the first half of this episode I thought this was an absolutely brilliant way for this series to go out. Really was loving it. And then… well, then we got to the second part. See the whole way through this series I’ve really loved the moments where the characters have been allowed to just be characters and interact rather than the contrived matches between the main pair, so seeing Shinomiya genuinely upset by not being allowed to go to the fireworks and Shirogane and the others rallying to help her was really a great emotional moment with a lot of pay-off.
This was each of the characters at their best. No forced humour or awkwardly intrusive narration. Just a girl upset and the overly dramatic solution with her escaping her house and then her frantic rush to reach the wharf in time, only for it to end in failure. That was so incredibly sad and they held that moment just long enough before Shirogane turned up and delivered such an incredibly overblown line and yet it was utterly perfect for the moment.
Watching them run together, meeting up with Fujiwara and Ishigami and getting in the taxi. Even the taxi driver going all out and probably breaking multiple road rules in order to get them to their destination in time all just worked. It was a well paced, well executed, fun and emotional climax to a series that I’ve found very hit or miss.
And I haven’t even talked about how on point the music was during this episode or how beautiful the fireworks were.
Well then we go back to school.
The president is freaking out because he thinks that he acted foolishly in the moment. Shinomiya is all nervous because she wants to say thank you. The narration is back. The forced conflict is back. Its all just awkward and painful to watch and really about as far from amusing as you can get without actually just sitting in a room full of socially awkward people avoiding eye-contact for ten minutes.
For a brief span I thought episode 12 was actually going to be the episode that made me think overall I liked the series more than I didn’t. But that second half reminded me of everything I find irritating about the entire set up and mostly while there are some great moment overall I’ve mostly found this one misses the mark for me. I’ll be going back through my episode notes and thinking about my final review of this series a lot, but the bottom line is going to end up being that this just isn’t my kind of show.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Well this question kind of comes about in response to a previous one. Hopefully you enjoy it and share your thoughts on it in the comments below. And a always, if you have something to ask me you can complete the survey below or by clicking here. I’d love to hear your question.
I’ve been rewatching Yama no Susume over the weekend and then I saw the Inquiring Minds question about OTP’s… And it occurs to me, why do we always talk about romantic partners? Let’s talk about true friends! The pairs or groups that will always be there together and for each other.
So I guess there are two parts to this question. Firstly why we’re all fixated on romantic partners and shipping characters rather than friendship, and secondly looking at characters that are true friends.
I’m not really sure why, but maybe it is the whole fairy tale upbringing but the whole romantic falling in love and being with the one you love is kind of a standard of stories. As such, having characters fall in and out of love is kind of fascinating. That and it is always so adorable to watch. I’m just not sure I could see the same discussions about two characters becoming good friends and ‘will they – won’t they’ be friends forever debates raging. Okay, maybe as viewers we all just like speculating about a fictional character’s romantic prospects.
So while I’m not sure why we are fixated on OTP’s and falling in love, I do know there are some fantastic examples of friendship that come through in anime. Recently, Run With The Wind has done an excellent job bringing ten guys together and making them feel like genuine friends over the course of its series and it has been nothing but pure joy watching them celebrate each other’s successes and supporting those who might be having a harder time.
Still, the pair that immediately came to mind when I read this question was Chito and Yuuri from Girls’ Last Tour. While I have read some posts that ship these two, I found their friendship to be an utterly believable one and one that really helped carry the anime (given these two were largely the only characters in it). Both were charming in their own way but the way their personalities bounced off the other really sold the show.
You could completely believe that Yuuri would do whatever it took to defend Chito and she would work to get them out of any tight spots (even if her own lack of forward planning was what had gotten them into that spot in the first place). Where Chito would hesitate to act, Yuuri would take the plunge, leading to the pair making discoveries that might otherwise have passed them by. On the other hand you could count on Chito to keep Yuuri from diving into too much trouble and have the longer view of how they would survive and bring knowledge into the discussion. While the two might have had their share of disagreements, such as when Yuuri burnt one of Chito’s books, the two never stayed put out for long because they needed the other one.
The other anime that immediately sprang to mind was School Live. For obvious reasons the girls had to rely on one another but I believe their friendship grew and was really genuinely portrayed throughout the anime. Yuki would not be alive without the support and love of those around her and I believe she knows that very well and each girl contributes something that is needed emotionally for their survival as well as their more practical skills.
Hopefully that kind of answers the question and I’d love to know what you all think so throw us a comment and let us all know.