This weekend featured two brilliantly done episodes from two of my favorite anime this season- Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju with its awkward, dooming, depressed yet poetic and beautiful portrayal of Yakumo’s wanting to die and live at the same time and how rakugo is continuing to haunt him and March Comes in Like a Lion wraps up the Shimada arc with a depressing message on the vanity of hard work and what Rei learned from all this. Masamune’s Revenge loses one of its love triangle members and gains another one. In Scum’s Wish the score between Akane and Hanabi in the ‘Scum Game’ (no it’s not an actual game) now stands 2-0.5 with Akane leading… let’s just say that Mugi gets more than a hug (Seriously, though, this was good episode). Sakie and Takahashi have a genuine conversation in Interviews with Monster Girls. And finally, in Blue Exorcist- the sword is yet to be unsheathed.
Masamune-kun’s Revenge (Episode 9)
What happens in this episode: Neko, due to her sustaining injuries to her heart and her body’s frailty- gets admitted to a hospital after Masamune finds her throwing paper planes from the school’s rooftop. Neko and Masamune talk about hiding their lies (and truth?) for love (and this reignites Masamune’s resolve): she reminisces the time when she and Masamune used to be children. But she doesn’t tell that to Masamune, instead she jokes that he was a random pick from her suitors. With the farewell of Neko from the triangle- a new chub comes to town to deliver the climax to this mediocre anime.
My thoughts: This episode made me realize that this story would be much more enjoyable in manga form- and that probably explains why this anime is so popular on MAL. The anime has dragged this story out a bit too much for the last 4 or 5 episodes; but I am glad it has picked up its pace from last episode. The Neko and Masamune conversation is done pretty well in terms of visuals- the close ups and the lighting made that scene more memorable than any other scene from this anime. I have nothing to say about the new character because I haven’t seen him interacting yet.
Scum’s Wish (Episode 8)
What happens in this episode: The episode takes a small detour and exhibits the chemistry between Ecchan and her cousin (just when I thought the anime had run out of ‘scum-revelation’ cards to put out. Hanabi and Mugi set out to confess to their love interests; and Mugi scores first. Well, not exactly- he gets caught in Akane’s web by thinking he is changing her personality: either that, or Akane was really touched by his words. But Hanabi doesn’t have to deal with the convoluted psychological crap- she just sincerely confesses to Big Bro, and he sincerely rejects her. At the end, the anime cuts from the entwined naked bodies of Mugi and Akane to the isolated shot of Hanabi with the clock reading 10.05 pm (Mugi and her were supposed to meet up at 10)- waiting.
My thoughts: I am glad that Hanabi took a break from trying to be Akane (although I am pretty sure she would go back to doing her thing after finding out that Akane took her boyfriend). Mugi is just a hormone-intoxicated sex maniac at this point; I mean, look at him trying to justify his actions! Even if they were sincere- Akane got him. So, Hanabi is waiting for Mugi to meet up with her, assuring herself that she isn’t alone- I never felt so bad for this character before. Overall, this episode was good and the narrative gathered a lot of heft this week.
Interviews with Monster Girls (Episode 9)
What happens in this episode: The episode starts with Sakie imagining and reciting a sexual encounter with Takahashi (it was funny) and Ugaki calls her and prompts her to make a move on Takahashi by using her aphrodisiac effect on him. Of course, it fails with hilarity but what follows is a heartfelt epiphany on her feelings for Takahashi. The latter half of the episode displays elements of iyashikei anime through some summer sweating and attempts at sweating out cold air- they were kind of amusing but not hilarious.
My thoughts: A lot of my opinions leaked into synopsis… I am glad the anime went back to its sympathizing song on monster girls with that well set realization of what Sakie really feels for him- and that she doesn’t see him as just a generous ‘chalk-holder’ but also a sincere and honest person- the following gag’s expression is one to screen cap, though.
Blue Exorcist- Kyoto Saga (Episode 9)
What happens this episode: Sporangium is still spreading across the forest and things are not looking good because Rin still needs his King Arthur to pull the sword out for him. Bon exhibits his exorcism skills and Renzo continues on his weak-willed soliloquy on running away. Meanwhile, Shiemi gets hyped up with her familiar after a long time (yeah, no joke)… and Yukio reveals some flames- blue flames at that.
My thoughts: This was a less plot hefty episode for an anime in its final quarter. Sure, Renzo put up his angsty ‘I don’t care but I gotta fight now because I have been blessed’-act with Konekomaru, Bon summoned a fire type shield, Shiemi finally managed to summon Nee and Yukio got blue fire in his eyes (wow, that was a lot of things)- the guys are still fighting against awkwardly CG-animated white cloud. These last weeks seem to have more set up than narrative, but I am okay with it- I am not expecting much from this anime, I just want to see Rin pull out his sword in the next episode (that came out wrong, haha).
March Comes in Like a Lion (Episode 20)
What happens in this episode: The Shimada’s two-episode character arc reaches its conclusion with quite a message. Basically, the anime just takes the viewer through the struggle of Shimada through his stomach pains and his mental drag. At the same time, Rei steps into the scene- worried, caring and most, importantly, anxious about his future as a professional shogi player. The episode ends with a smooth transition into Rei’s mind and somehow, the episode becomes a part of his character, too.
My thoughts: This was an episode with brilliant pacing and caringly written monologues. It was interesting how the episode ended being more about Rei than I thought it would. Shimada’s failure was done in quite an excruciating (on hindsight) manner by showing flashes of hope in favor of Shimada. I am not sure whether the anime was intending to do that, but I still think that the visualization had a lot of heft and sense in its execution this episode. I never expected Shimada to win (but I did root for him, he is a beautiful character), but I didn’t expect Rei to directly draw a parallel to himself so spontaneously. Souya’s compliment on Shimada’s blossoming but crushed flower of a plan, consolidated the message that nothing is worse than losing something you so desperately and strongly hold onto. That added some ice cubes to chew on in this cold, cold episode.
Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju (Episode 9)
What happens in this episode: Yakumo is back at performing rakugo (it almost rhymed) thanks some sweet persuasive talking from Shinnosuke. He performs at the prison the gang leader is held at- and as soon as he enters the depth of his performance, Miyokichi appears as the woman singing the snow song and Yakumo is yet again enthralled by his own mind (luckily, he doesn’t undergo another myocardial infarction). But at isn’t the maximum depth Yakumo can get sucked into his rakugo. For some reason or the other, he pays a visit to his regular theater to perform to empty seats (this consolidates that he performs rakugo just for himself). He starts performing his signature piece ‘Shinigami’ with more expression and more immersion into the characters of the story and soon enough, Sukeroku appears before him. After a while, he goes red eyed (as foreshadowed in the opening) and starts to prompt him to kill himself by setting the theater on fire. Yotaro comes to the rescue and Yakumo yet again regrets not dying but with his ego swayed- he still wanted to live when the fires were upon him.
My thoughts: This was such a wonderfully done character trip on Yakumo. I was really whiny with Yakumo last week (I got a bit too sour)- but this week he sure stepped up and did something. Seriously though, I liked the direction during Yakumo’s performance of Shinigami in the first season (I did a breakdown of the performance in January, click here if you haven’t read it) and it was even more expressive with the camera movement and the rapid cuts the animators did even if there was no audience to cut to. This helped to portray the growth of Yakumo as a performer and how dynamic and deft he is in acting out these two characters. It was a joy to watch: can’t say the same thing about the fire and the god of performance, though. Yakumo, you sure that the god of performance is that metal and uncharismatic? (hey, not putting out any insults) But no joke, this is one of the best episodes from this season of Rakugo: it was definitely more poetic and Yakumo’s soliloquy was beautiful to watch.
That’s all for this week. You can read the rest of the episodic mini-reviews from this week in Anilog #15.
Thank you for reading.