Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Retro Review: Dear Brother (Oniisama E) episode 17


This is the romanciest episode of this show so far. It's about how Mariko's feelings for Kaoru make Nanako come to terms with her feelings for Rei, with a bitter dash of Fukiko manipulating Rei's feelings for her on the side.

We open the morning after Kaoru checked into the hospital, Nanako and Mariko waiting with flowers in the lobby. Mariko presents them to Kaoru. Mariko says she couldn't sleep out of worry, and coming from anyone else, I would think that was hyperbole.

After Kaoru is like "Thank you, Mariko-san" for the flowers, Mariko gloms onto her and is like

While most of the onlookers mirror my reaction,
Nanako is kind of hilariously like

Back at the beach, Nanako and Tomoko discuss Kaoru's release from the hospital and how surprised they are by Mariko's thing for her. When they talk, Tomoko uses "suki", which could easily refer to non-romantic love, but when Nanako internally comments on it, she uses "koi", which is always a word for romantic love, not platonic. Although regardless of Nanako's interpretation, that scene was pretty gay. Tomoko is like "Dang, Mariko beat me to her" and Nanako takes her seriously, but Tomoko passes it off as a joke. Pretty sure this whole portion of the episode just between Nanako and Tomoko illustrates the difference between the girls at Seiran who engage in queer behavior over the Magnificent Three without actually being queer (or at least not in a remotely self-aware way) because "lol this is a girls' school, akogare amirite" and someone like Nanako.

Writing to Takehiko, Nanako reflects on how she is jealous of Mariko's ability to be honest about her feelings (which I attribute as much to Nanako's feelings having more depth to them as Mariko having less of a filter) and how she's grown to like Mariko quite a bit. Here my girlfriend's like "My opinion of Mariko is still kind of meh" and I agree. Why do I think Nanako's feelings have at least somewhat more depth than Mariko's even though she kind of has your typical "I don't know better yet" thing for an angsty chick is...(my girlfriend: "Because she's the protagonist?") I guess because...eh, hmm, actually, I think it's the opposite and I'm projecting Nanako being more private about her feelings as evidence of there being more depth to them, especially given that she's in an environment that's very friendly to the idea of akogare, but not to actual "I might want to settle down with another lady someday" queerness.

Nanako takes an, uh, old cigarette of Rei's out of her desk and gets ready to light it,
but is cockblocked by her mom being like "You're dad wants to talk to you!"

Fukiko surprises Rei in the morning by picking her up so they can talk about Rei playing in the basketball game. Oh, shit.

When Rei says she had fun playing in the game despite Fukiko squeezing her hand, Fukiko is like "Oh really?" and squeezes harder. (As you might infer, these aren't affectionate squeezes.) Fukiko asks again if she had fun, and Rei is like
Their relationship is pretty well encapsulated by Rei telling Fukiko to let go of her hand and Fukiko pulling it towards her and being like "Never forget that I know what's best for you." Ugh.

Because popping pills has been Rei's way of numbing herself to the general pain she feels about her life, she almost does so after she gets to school- contrast this with how happy she seemed to go out on her way to school earlier. Kaoru conveniently shows up yet again, and stops her. Rei acts like she wasn't being serious, which I don't believe, but Kaoru did lighten her mood and cause her to toss away the pills, so like Kaoru, I am glad when she walks off as harps play and doves fly through the golden sunshine around her. No one ever said this was a subtle show.

Sadface for Mariko because Kaoru can't join her for lunch because of basketball stuff. We see this episode's Chekhov's gun, which is Nanako's latest letter to Takehiko that she brought to school.

Nanako and Mariko see Rei playing a flute surrounded by fangirls, and Nanako-
Well, then.

As a nice way of showing how much of an impression seeing Rei there made on Nanako, we continue to hear Rei's flute music for a bit after the cut to Nanako, Mariko, and Tomoko having lunch elsewhere.

Tomoko (who autocorrect named Tomato) gives Mariko (a.k.a. Mark) tips on how to bake a cake obviously meant for Kaoru, and Nanako, too distracted to participate, leaves to buy a stamp for her letter.

Nanako passes by a flower shop, and the flowers remind her of the corsage she saw on Rei when she was playing the flute.

Later in her school's gym, Nanako remembers Rei playing basketball. Rei shows up, and speaking like she's in a play monologue for the gajillionth time, says she can tell Nanako's there because of love ("koi"). Sadly for Nanako, Rei thinks her feelings are for Kaoru.
Nanako yells that she's wrong, but Rei just laughs while dribbling a basketball and runs off. I feel bad for Nanako, but Rei's behavior is kind of amusingly "wtf" here. 

Nanako tosses rocks into a pond while being like "It isn't Kaoru, damn it." And of course her letter falls out of her pocket when she runs back to class. She notices but can't skip to search for it. And from Nanako's perspective, we see that Mariko's feelings for Kaoru have made her even prettier.

When they have a class break, Nanako retraces her steps, Mariko being like "Watchu doing?" behind her, but has no success.

Mariko is like "Is this letter to a man? *gasp shock*" and like twenty students hear and are like "Whut, a man?", so before Nanako can respond at all, Mariko takes Nanako aside and is like "YOU CAN'T GO OUT WITH A MAN, THEY'LL HURT YOU" before crying into Nanako's arms. That sure escalated quickly.

To calm Mariko down, Nanako says she'll stop looking for the letter, figuring it's a pretty harmless letter, so whatever. But dun-dun-dun, the Sorority's Mona Lisa-sama and Borgia-sama are here to tell her Fukiko wants her to come to her mansion after school.
Have I mentioned that I kind of love this school's nicknames?

We once again see Fukiko's face completely blacked out as her cronies tell Nanako she pissed her off and Mariko is like "Uh-oh, did you make her mad?"

Cut to Fukiko continuing the fine tradition of prominent piano playing by ojousama in yuri, as Nanako waits anxiously. Fukiko's face is almost entirely blacked out as she turns from a window toward Nanako before making it clear she has the letter and knows it's for Takehiko. Fukiko unfairly tells Nanako off for being a potential target for gossip among the gossipy assholes at their school, and for ignoring her order to stop writing Takehiko. Unlike Rei, Nanako obviously doesn't personally give a shit about Fukiko, so she protests that it's just a letter.

Fukiko is like "Can you promise me that this letter-writing couldn't possibly ever lead to something romantic?" and Nanako doesn't answer. Why? Going by the overall show she likes guys too, but I'm not sure that's it in this immediate situation since she could have said yes to get Fukiko to leave her be. Maybe it's because the stress of the situation made her freeze, maybe it was another way to defy Fukiko, since she is one of the few students willing to do that. I think it is open to interpretation.

Fukiko is like "Tear up this letter"
but Nanako still doesn't do anything and starts crying, so she's like "lol it's just a joke" to play the classic asshole card of making it seem like the person you're being a dick to is just oversensitive.

Despite the pain in this episode, it ends on a triumphant note because Nanako decides to mail the letter as quickly as possible, noting that it's all the more valuable because of all the trouble she went through to be able to do so. She happily notes that her heart still goes doki-doki whenever she's around Rei, also.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Psycho-Pass 2: This Show So Far, episodes 1-4


As anyone who followed me on Twitter when Psycho-Pass season 1 aired knows, I loved its first season. I thought it was a thoughtful example of its genre, with a wonderfully-developed female lead ("You really like Akane, don't you?" said my girlfriend as I put the Akane magnet I got at GeekGirlCon on my fridge) and a refreshingly grown-up (for anime) lesbian couple I shipped hard.

This season, we get a new creepy bishounen who wants to overthrow the Sibyl System, Kamui. Kamui has his own following of latent criminals like season 1's Makishima did. Unlike Makishima, Kamui cries, sees himself as helpful to the people he manipulates (while Makishima, evil though he was, made no such pretensions) and has the ability to manipulate other people's crime coefficients so they can be unpunishable by the Sibyl System while committing actual horrible crimes. Makishima's people were just stealthy about what they did. (I just joked to my girlfriend that Kamui is like a more lesbian Makishima because he wants to talk about feelings.)

The current Division 1 team dynamic is that Akane is still a seasoned badass Inspector, Gino, now an Enforcer, is more mellow and at peace with himself for sad reasons, the woman who joined the group at the end of season 1, Mika, is now a rather dickish Inspector with 1.5 years of field experience under her belt and a thing for Yayoi, and a couple new folks, Tougane and Hinakawa, have joined Yayoi and Gino as Enforcers.

Re the two new members of the team, I don't care much about them (I don't think anyone does), but I have some thoughts:

  • Tougane's behavior is similar to Kougami's around Akane and he sure is evil-looking in the OP, but I think the obvious signs of him being ~evil~ are a red herring. Unless the writers are counting on us thinking he's a red herring and not really making him one. Unless they're counting on us thinking that they're trying to make us think he's a red herring... I'll stop. 
  • Hinakawa is voiced by Makishima's seiyuu, which either A) indicates he's ~evil~ or B) is just a way whoever made that casting choice decided to fuck with viewers. For now, I think it's the latter. I am ready to be totally wrong about either of these characters, of course.

So far, this season has dealt with a sequence of people Kamui set up to cause horrible shit for the sake of a plan that is becoming clearer.

The most recent Kamui-follower-of-the-week's case ended in a really horrific way. It is the darkest this season has been, but flows logically from what happened in episode 1 of season 1. (What would have happened if a key person hadn't been there?) The ineffectiveness of everyone who wasn't a law enforcement person in the face of immediate danger in this season's most recent episode is frustrating, but follows from what we saw in season 1 of the system fucking with most people's ability to deal with threats that the system hasn't deemed a threat. (i.e. The beating-in-public scene and Akane's inability to attack Makishima halfway through season 1 without relying on a Dominator despite what he was threatening.)

Given how much of the show has been set-up so far, I'm not ready to judge it yet. Imho, what'll make or break this season is how everyone reacts to what happened at the end of episode 4. Mika has been a dick since episode 1, but her attitude didn't result in any really awful consequences until now. Her cowardice failed to prevent the horrible thing in episode 4, and Akane, Yayoi, and Gino are pretty obviously pissed that it happened.

So yeah, Mika sure is a dick. Given how her introduction as an Inspector paralleled Akane's, I expected her to be sort of an Akane II like everyone else who watched season 1. But nope, she really hates latent criminals, including the Enforcers, and doesn't think Akane knows what she's doing.

I don't like Mika, but given her backstory, her behavior makes more sense than a lot of people think. You might recall that when we last saw her during the girls' school arc, she was mourning her murdered friend who she was in love with. And for all she knew, the killer got away. (Of course we know she didn't.) It doesn't make Mika's loathing of all latent criminals any more justifiable than Gino being shitty towards them in season 1 because of his family issues, but it does follow from her backstory. It also helps explain why she doesn't think her co-workers know wtf they're doing. Her still hating them as a group even though one of them, Yayoi, comforted her when she cried over her dead friend and saved her life after she became an Inspector, isn't unfathomable for me either because Yayoi could just be the exception that proves the rule. In real life, there are people who broadly hate certain groups while being fond of individual members of those groups, so yeah, it's shitty of her, but I can see it. Hopefully what happened in episode 4 will will jolt her into realizing she's doing it wrong.

As for her thing for Yayoi, the moment Mika's crush became obvious was funny, but I will not be a happy camper if she gets paired with Yayoi since Yayoi already has someone loads better/Shion. Given that Mika and Yayoi's most recent interaction involves Mika being cowardly despite Yayoi being like "Yo, we need to help these people" and Yayoi being pissed by having her hands tied from being unable to do anything, I don't see that happening, but let's not jinx it, eh?

Anyway, I actually think this season is interesting, but it's still mostly set-up. Hopefully the story will hold together as a whole.

Also, some Yayoi x Shion goodness, please. So far they've been separately competently doing their own thing on their jobs, but I'd like to see them lez it up together more.

Anyway, have some (partially NSFW) Yayoi x Shion fan art.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Retro Review: Oniisama E (Dear Brother) episode 16


In this episode, Oniisama E becomes a sports show.

We open with Rei chilling in bed, getting a phone call from Kaoru, who is nostalgic for how they used to compete against each other in basketball in middle school. Rei is like "God, not this again" because Kaoru has brought it up before to try to convince her to re-join the basketball team.

Kaoru makes it clear that playing for Seiran's basketball team is like shilling drugs for a crime gang- once you've helped them, you can never really leave.

Next we see Kaoru practicing shooting at Seiran at night, with Rei walking up to comment in a very theatrical/Rei-like way.

Kaoru is like "I'm glad you're here to play!", but Rei is like "No, I just came to school at night to chill", because who doesn't do that. She clearly used the same sixth sense to find Kaoru that she used to find Nanako at the beach.

They have some banter, and Rei is casually like "Oh yeah, one of your fangirls has been watching you from behind that tree." Kaoru is like "Who are you?" to the silhouette that is obviously Mariko. Mariko runs into the woods, and there is a hilarious chase sequence that involves Rei giggling while running sideways through the woods. In a horror show, she would probably make a good villain.
You know Mariko is tsundere for Kaoru because she's like "I-i-it's not like I was hiding in the woods for you, or anything!"

Kaoru humors her, but Rei won't let it go and grills her about why she would be at school at night for no real reason, completely unlike Rei's stated reason. I wonder how many girls come to school at night for no real reason because of Kaoru.

Mariko admits she's worried about Kaoru's condition since her first comeback game is tomorrow, and gives her a nicely wrapped present before running away.
While the hiding-behind-a-tree thing is reminiscent of her behavior when she was obsessed with Nanako, everything else about this scene feel more awkward blushing schoolgirl than creepy, which I think illustrates the shift her character is undergoing. Guess it helps that A) she did realize she became hella creepily possessive and B) even if she didn't and tried the same thing here, a more seasoned student like Kaoru would be harder to pull that kind of thing with than the baby lamb finding its legs that Nanako was when she started Seiran.

We see Nanako in her room, just letting Takehiko know that for once, everything is going pretty well, even though we know whatever allowed Fukiko to find out that Nanako became Takehiko's pen pal will let her know that Nanako ignored her order to stop writing Takehiko.

On the commute to school, Mariko tries to excite Tomoko into wanting to see Kaoru's basketball game with her and Nanako, but Tomoko's too disinterested in sports and too straight for it to work.
Tomoko ribs her about it, but Mariko pretends she isn't interested in butches.
At school, Nanako and Mariko see Kaoru being fangirled over even more than usual, and Mariko is like "Harumph, she doesn't even like that kind of behavior" and walks away.

Nanako and Rei have a short, friendly conversation, and Nanako is extra-chipper while thinking it's going to be a great day.

It's time for the game. Kaoru's coach gives her a pep talk about how doing her best is what's important, but Kaoru responds with the polite version of "Fuck that, I'm going to win." Once she's alone, her speech about winning turns to the subject of her trying to forget lost love and suddenly there are fireflies and she's naked. When I watched this scene next to my girlfriend and went "Awww" she looked just in time to see Kaoru's butt, which was awkward timing.
Fukiko and her two righthand women show up dressed like they're going to a gala to give Kaoru a bouquet. Kaoru effectively tells Fukiko to fuck off because of her treatment of Rei, including the fact that Rei doesn't play basketball because Fukiko forbade it.

The game starts and we get some imagery from the perspective of the students comparing Kaoru to Genji, in keeping with her school nickname. I always found that comparison amusingly inappropriate because Genji is a horrible person, despite the novel he is in wanting us to think otherwise. (But I know, it's Kaoru's looks and grace that are being compared to his even though their personalities are completely different.)

The way Kaoru's basketball dribbling is directed looks a lot like Utena's, so as a bunch of other people have noted, given Oniisama E's very distinct Osamu Dezaki directorial style and obvious influence on Utena, it's pretty clear the way Utena is animated playing basketball is a homage to this series.

The opposing team decides to pile on Kaoru. As they start racking up points, the other students are annoyingly like "Why isn't Kaoru single-handedly fending off this entire team going after her?" even though they know she just got back from being so sick she had to skip a year of school.

Kaoru gets a fresh rush of GUTS or whatever powers anime characters to suddenly pwn their opponents. Her coach is worried, but as an athlete, she is happy to be able to feel like she's pushing her physical limits again. We see that her love of the game can't make her forget her sad lost love because she suddenly looks like she's playing surrounded by nothing but fireflies,
like the fireflies in her sad flashback, but that bit of symbolism is cut short by some girl playing dirty and elbowing her in the chest. If someone intentionally elbowed me in the chest, there is a decent chance I would punch them back, but because Kaoru apparently had surgery there, she bleeds and collapses.

In a moment that probably fueled the Kaoru and Rei shippers, Kaoru refuses anyone's help and calls for Rei.
Rei starts to take her to the infirmary, and Kaoru insists that she play in her stead.

Rei does an awesome job and is cool, but I still feel the need to share this screencap.
Nanako notes that she looks more alive than she has ever looked before. Like me, Nanako finds hyper-competence sexy.

We get a scene of Fukiko being pissed while riding her horse because a Sorority member told her about Rei playing, although she has the comfort of knowing Seiran lost the game.

Rei finds Kaoru at the hospital and recounts the rest of the game, and like Fukiko, they laugh in response, but in a way that shows they're still happy with what they were able to do.

Mariko practically pushes Rei aside to get in and see how Kaoru is. She goes tsundere again, but drops any pretenses when she realizes Kaoru is genuinely glad she came.

Nanako has a realization about Mariko
and quietly leaves with Rei.

The next episode involves Nanako being jealous of Mariko's ability to be open about her feelings for Kaoru, and Fukiko trying to bring Rei back under her control.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

I Enjoyed Playing a Huge Bitch in a Lesbian RPG

I guess weirdly for a nerd, I was never very interested in gaming. I have enjoyed some games, like The Walking Dead computer game (zombies are a hook for me) and what I've tried by Christine Love. And before I played this game, I hadn't played a role-playing game since a miserable middle school attempt at D&D. So given my non-gamer-ness, clearly I am the perfect reviewer for this role-playing game!

Origin story for this game, Blossoms In Winter: my and my girlfriend Amy's friend Ben Lehman birthed a historical m/m role-playing game called Hot Guys Making Out. Amy subsequently convinced influenced (Amy: "Convinced is a strong word.") him to write a lesbian game despite his reservations about being qualified to write one. It is still in development, so you can't buy it yet if you're interested. This review is based on a play test. Since Ben is my friend, there is a conflict of interest here, but if I didn't like the game, I honestly wouldn't be writing a post about it, so take that as you will.

In Blossoms' case, the promise of a lot of lesbian content was good baitbut I wasn't sure how much I would like the actual role-playing aspect of it.

Blossoms in Winter is about two high school girls coming outor not, depending on how you play it. It's set in Taiwan, or as the game puts it, "the version of modern-day Taiwan that appears in TV shows and romance comics." On a smaller scale, it is set in territory familiar to yuri fans, an elite girls' school. Its protagonists are the secretly lonely girl who everyone worships because she is gorgeous, smart, and, most crucially, filthy rich,

Pictured: filthy rich girl Ximen Peiwen
Art by Kamapon

and the earnest, principled scholarship student who attracts bad attention after she and the rich girl hook up.

Pictured: the Yumi/Nagisa/Nanako of this game, Peng Lihua
Art by Kamapon

Peiwen is one of Meihua Girls' Academy's four "Beautiful Blossoms", like Oniisama E's Magnificent Three except that they're all friends. Amy and I played as two of the Blossoms who aren't Peiwen.

The game begins the morning after Lihua and Peiwen sleep together, when the magic of their night together has given way to "Oh shit, what does this mean for us?"

The role-playing for this game requires only two people, but you'll obviously get a better experience out of what is essentially improvised storytelling within a set of rules if you have more people. Before starting to play, you'll also want to decide if you want to play this game in one sitting, a regular-length three to six sessions, or an epic-length extended game, which might take a dozen or more sessions. I played this game in one sitting.

You also get a list of places in which scenes can happen, and can set scenes in a limited number of them. And there are some other rules to provide structure, but it would be tedious if I listed them all. I didn't have trouble following them, though.

My girlfriend planned on making her character kind of an asshole, in true high school soap fashion, but she wound up being the good cop to the other non-Peiwen Blossom (played by our friend Karen) and I. In the case of Karen's character, she was very guilt trippy towards Peiwen, but slowly, scene-by-scene, I crafted a blackmailing sociopath. Amy compared my character to Fukiko from Oniisama E, if Fukiko had a media empire and spying drones and a sterile, all-white, cushion-covered office in Taipei 101. The drones and office were my invention. My character card simply reads:

  • level-headed, practical, political
  • trades favors
  • from family that owns newspapers and TV station

I just took the potential evil of this character to its logical extreme.

Basically, this game took off for me when I was able to start fleshing out my character and take her deeper and deeper into the abyss. I made her closetedly into Peiwen also (the blackmail entailed her and Peiwen having previously been at a lesbian club at the same time), and the other Blossoms were implied queer also. According to Ben, the Blossoms tend to be played as queer.

So there you have it, folks. As much as I love happy love-love romances, I made my character into a coldly vicious, intentionally destructive bitch in the lesbian thing I had a say in, although it was Peiwen's conglomerate-owning mom who ultimately drove the final conflict to its post-high school conclusion. If you want a gentler game, the nice thing about role-playing is that you can go for that when you play, unless you turn out to have fun being a fictional villain.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Retro Review: Oniisama E (Dear Brother) episode 15


This episode opens with an upbeat ditty playing as Nanako and Tomoko browse dresses for Nanako to wear at the Sorority's post-midterms party on Fukiko's private ship. It's the last day of post-midterm holidays, and the next day, exam scores will be posted. Tomoko aims to be average. Nanako is concerned about her score (although still not as much as your average Sorority member), and Tomoko is like "You get good grades, you're good."

The next day, we soon see that Nanako and Mariko ranked in the top 50. Their celebration is cut short by a Sorority candidate named Nakaya Junko crying and running away because she ranked 73rd because she got too sick to write anything on the first day of exams. (Tomoko notes that's still better than what she got.) The Sorority being as compassionate and sensitive about its members' well-being as it is, you know Nakaya will be fine.

In English class, Nanako thinks about how it's been three months since she fell down the rabbit hole that is this school. She feels more settled, and like weird shit is less likely to happen at this point, hahahahahaha.
(Fyi, the subs at the top are from her teacher's English speech example. It didn't seem as weird before I read it after screencapping it.)

Nanako's perspective reconfirms that even though Seiran has enough architectural and pastoral beauty to make Marie Antoinette's Petit Trianon jealous,
its ruling elite is pretty brutal. Like pretty much everyone at Seiran except Kaoru, Nanako didn't fully put together the implications of the Sorority's rules until she saw them used on someone. (I see what happens with Nakaya being for Nanako what seeing how a typical lower class family's life was like was for Rose of Versailles' Oscar. Obviously a starving family doesn't equal what happens to Nakaya on the horribleness scale, but I just think their respective effects on Oscar and Nanako's awareness of the shitty systemic aspects of the worlds they know, however different their scales, are similar enough to mention.)

At this point I mention the similarities between Oscar, Rei, and Claudine's character designs to my girlfriend Amy and tell her what I think their differences are. And then she pulls up this picture, this one, and this one, and proves that they are triplets. (Amy: "They're cosplaying as each other, basically.")

Anyway, Fukiko pulls a pretty cruel bait-and-switch. (Not sure it's intentional, since I'm not sure she is cognizant of how hurtful a good amount of her behavior is, despite her guilty hallucinations of Rei a couple episodes ago.)

Since pleading with Fukiko alone doesn't work, Nakaya asks her two best friends to help her out,
but they don't say anything on her behalf, which I think is loads worse than Fukiko's treatment of her.

Nanako stands up to vouch for Nakaya, though, and tells Fukiko she doesn't think the rules by which she's being judged are valid for good measure. I've seen Nanako criticized as a weak character, but lol she's the only one besides Kaoru vocally questioning Fukiko at their school for a good while in this show. (It reminds me a little of Akane from Psycho-Pass being called weak early on in the show even though she acts on what she thinks is right contrary to the shitty system that controls her world from episode 1 on. She does act in ways you would expect of a rookie cop, like Nanako acts in ways you would expect of a 15 year-old freshman. They both show poor judgment at points, but neither of them is weak.)

Fukiko ends the discussion by being like "Who do you think you owe your Sorority membership to?", leaving Nanako in shock because it confirms the rumors that she didn't get in fairly that she didn't think were true, because they were predicated on her being complicit in getting in unfairly. Mariko gives her the obligatory "OMG don't ever oppose Fukiko, what was that" speech and tells her to apologize to Fukiko with a big bouquet of red roses.

But first we see Nakaya asking two of her Oneesama, drinking tea and smoking in their private waterfront clubhouse(?) for help. Obviously that doesn't work.

When I first watched this episode, I thought Mariko was being melodramatic as usual with her red rose suggestion- not that this was an established custom for people begging pardon from Fukiko- until this scene.
Well, then.

In case we can't tell that Fukiko is being mean, we see her face ominously shadowed as she plays the same piano tune she always plays.

We see the party on Fukiko's private ship the next day, where Nanako can't enjoy herself. Mariko tries to cheer her up (and get her to apologize to Fukiko if she hasn't), but Nanako is just disturbed by how Nakaya could be kicked out just because Fukiko wants it, and how her admittance might have happened the same way.

Fukiko breaks out the champagne, and the party continues at her beachside mansion. Nanako steps outside, and Fukiko follows with her face completely blacked out, which has only happened so far in creepy scenes- and only with Fukiko, aside from Rei when she was high and thought Nanako was Fukiko in the previous episode.
Fukiko suddenly wants to be reconciliatory,
and her apology turns into an "apology."

The bird motif seems to be replaced by moths in this episode. I guess the director wanted to switch it up a bit.
After Nanako accepts her apology, Fukiko hugs her, and this apology gets weirder.
They walk along the water, and Nanako notes Fukiko's physical similarities to Rei. She also feels that Fukiko hates her life like Rei, although she doesn't know why.

Fukiko also somehow knows about Nanako exchanging letters with Takehiko. She presses a promise to stop writing to him out of Nanako, but Nanako intends to keep writing to him, and how would Fukiko find out anyway. (Nanako isn't thinking this through too well, because why wouldn't it be possible for Fukiko to find out it was continuing if she found out about it in the first place? That's some powerful wishful thinking.)

Nanako and Tomoko talk on the phone later, but it's interrupted by a call from Nakaya, who is waiting at a pay phone nearby.

Nakaya tells Nanako about how she's looked up to the Sorority since she was a kid, assuming its members would have the character to justify the prestige and glamour associated with them. Now she realizes it isn't true, and that looking back, she hasn't had a single happy moment as a member of the Sorority. Nanako is shocked because what Nakaya is saying is how she feels but hasn't articulated, and she isn't alone.

Nakaya admits she had a grudge against Nanako for Fukiko's favor towards her, but now sees that she misjudged her.
In a nice parallel to the obligatory red rose apology bouquet from earlier, she gives Nanako a single white flower, because she wants to.
Nakaya tells Nanako she won't ever forget what she did and leaves. Nanako admits what she thinks of the Sorority also,
and even though this is another bittersweet episode, I think Nanako's disillusionment is more sweet than bitter.

The next episode will feature Kaoru's basketball comeback, and conflict involving her illness and Mariko.